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    gor mu
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Southward - 1. I.

I can’t say there have been too many moments in my life that I vividly remember. At least, not with that film-like quality that those few select life-changing instances possess, engraved so neatly into the consciousness that you can actually replay them with acute detail.

The night my parents told me they were getting a divorce is one of those moments.

I’d just come home from cello practice, and I’d known something was wrong the moment I walked in. My dad being home at that hour was a rare enough sight on its own, but the somber looks on my parents’ faces and the thick, palpable tension in the air should’ve been enough of a warning for what was to come.

The two of them sat on either side of the dining table, the remaining empty seat apparently reserved for me.

I gulped down.

“Lautaro, please sit. We need to talk.” The tone in my mom’s voice was unusually serious, and the use of my full name – instead of the usual Lauti or “sweetie” made all kinds of alarms sound off in my head.

“What’s up?” I asked, trying and miserably failing to sound casual. My dad’s gaze was still fixed on the table.

“We have some… news,” my mom said. The blank space at the end of her sentence was filled by a dark, loaded silence.

“News?”

My heart sank. I already knew, but a part of me still wished it wasn’t true.

She was unable to look me in the eye as she answered with those fateful words.

“Your father and I are getting a divorce.”

Silence.

I’d already known. For months now I’d pretended not to hear their fighting across the hall, the awkward, distant silences at dinner, and my mother’s red, puffy eyes whenever I came home from school. It’d been far too obvious; the warnings had all been there.

And yet, the verbal confirmation, the actual word – divorce, it was the worst feeling I could’ve ever imagined.

“Why?” I asked after what felt like an eternity. The question popped up entirely on its own, as if on reflex to put an end to the mortifying silence. After all, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to know. But still…

My mom looked visibly uncomfortable. She kept spinning her wedding ring in her finger and looking up in frustration. Tears welled in her eyes. She dared not give an answer.

I turned to my father, an unsettling feeling starting to burn at the base of my throat. His silence spoke more than a thousand words ever could.

“Well?” I asked again, this time directly at him. “What do you have to say?”

He finally deigned himself to look up at me, but his lips remained stubbornly pursed. The look on his face could’ve only been described as an unceremonious mélange of ire, shame and pity; blood vessels flared up against his stern grey eyes.

Without saying a word, he stood up and left the room.

“Federico!” my mom yelled. “¡No me dejes aquí sola!”

Don’t leave me alone here. The plead, the crack in her voice… There was more than one meaning attached to that sentence.

All of it fell on deaf ears.

The two of us sat there until the sound of the front door violently closing made her jump. Tears were already streaming copiously down her face.

I wanted to comfort her, to say things would be okay. But I couldn’t fool myself and I couldn’t fool her, either. So, I simply sat there with her, not sure what to do.

“I’m sorry, Lauti,” she sniffled.

I swallowed hard, trying to muster the strength to be there for her despite feeling like my entire world was crashing down. “It’s alright, mom…”

“No, it’s not,” she said, giving me a pitiful look. “I’m sorry, Lautaro, but there’s more.”

A shiver went down my spine. “What do you mean?”

She shook her head, looking up, as if disappointed in herself.

“We decided… your father and I…” she sighed. “I cannot stay here any longer. Not with him. I’m going back to Argentina,” she said.

“Argentina?” I asked, trying to wrap my head around her words.

“Yes, with your grandmother,” she said, and made a loaded pause. “And we also decided…”

She bit her lip, stopping the words from coming out of her mouth. She wouldn’t stop spinning the goddamn ring.

“What did you decide?”

“It would be in all of our best interests if you came with me,” she said.

I recoiled, blood draining from my face. “You’re taking me to Argentina?”

She was no longer crying. “Once you’re done with school and out for the summer, we’re going back to Buenos Aires,” she said. “We’ll stay with your grandparents as we settle things. You’ll finish school there.”

Whatever pity I’d felt for her before had completely dissipated, an immeasurable anger taking its stead. This had to be a sick joke. She couldn’t possibly be serious.

“What the fuck?!”

“Lautaro!”

“No, what the fuck, mom? That’s in less than two months!” I said, the tone of my voice rising well past the acceptable decibel. When had I last raised my voice to her? I couldn’t recall, but I knew it hadn’t ended well that time. And it wouldn’t this time either.

“I know this is a lot to take in,” she said, matter-of-factly, with that annoying therapist voice she used whenever she tried to reconcile me with any sort of unpleasant situation. “We can talk about it in the morning, when we’ve all calmed down…”

“What does dad think about this?” I asked, incensed. “Why can’t I stay with him?!”

My mother’s once sad expression morphed into a stone-cold façade.

“Your father and I have both decided this is for the best.”

“This is so fucked up,” I said. “How can you just do this?

I couldn’t understand what thought process had possibly led them to make a decision like this. I was going to leave right before my senior year. I was going to miss my last year in high school, with all my friends, with the town I’d called home for the past ten years. I was going to a country I barely remembered, leaving everything I knew and loved behind. And to top it off…

Noah.

I was going to leave him, too.

The ring on her finger had been finally left to rest, and in my mother’s face there was nothing but the stern expression of a parent determined to discipline their child. I had superseded the limit of what she considered to be an excusable reproach.

“It’s already been decided. You’ll have time to finish your school year at your own rhythm and say goodbye to all of your friends.”

The words came as a sentence, written in stone. Neither my feelings nor my opinions had even been considered to factor in. Just like that, overnight, my life underwent a 180° turn and I didn’t even have a chance to speak my mind.

I cried a lot the days after that talk. At home things remained as usual, with everyone playing a make-believe fantasy of a happy family, even though we all knew we were in the cusp of being separated physically by a good five thousand miles and emotionally by some more. It wasn’t until much later that I learned my father had been cheating on my mom with some of his students for years.

At first I didn’t tell anyone at school about the move. The thought of having that conversation made me want to die a little – the pitiful looks, the empty ‘we’ll miss you!’ before everyone forgot about me and went on with their lives. The only one I knew I wanted to tell was Noah.

But telling Noah… That was a whole different issue.

It wasn’t not that I didn’t want to tell him, because I did. Our friendship, long and deep as it was, undoubtedly warranted it. It was simply that I didn’t know how to tell him, how to even begin that talk.

Especially because it wasn’t the only “big thing” I wanted to tell him.

I spent most of those two months of my junior year silently biding my goodbyes to everyone and everything around. The cooler teachers at school, the distinctive suburban air of my neighborhood’s tranquil streets, the ugly Ikea at Long Wharf – everything I did suddenly seemed to feel like a solemn event.

I also spent those days harboring an unspeakable anger for my parents, whose inner strife had changed the course of my life without my say ever weighing in. I knew I should’ve at least tried to empathize with my father, as I was soon going to be in a whole different continent than him for who knew how long. But in my eyes, even before knowing the whole truth of his actions, he was the main culprit of the vicious crime being committed against me – not least because he’d practically rejected me in refusing to house me until I finished high school. So, I tried my best not to speak with him, and his silent, introvert nature did the rest of the work for me.

I don’t know where I got the motivation to give a damn about schoolwork. Prepping for my US history exam was perhaps the most pointless task to which I could’ve dedicated myself, seeing I was no longer going to live in the country after that summer. And yet I passed all my exams with exceptional scores.

Those days the only comfort I had left was spending time with Noah. I’d go over to his place after school, seeking refuge from the cold war being waged at home. There was a special kind of sadness attached to those hang out sessions, knowing I was merely procrastinating, delaying the inevitable. And every day that passed I felt guiltier for not being able to bring myself to tell him. Those otherwise enjoyable afternoons of listening to music, watching films, playing video games and just basking in the warmth of his presence were marred by the nagging feeling in the back of my head that I was somehow betraying him for hiding the truth from him.

But I knew he could tell something was up. We’d known each other for far too long for him not to notice. We’d been best friends since middle school. Even though we were the same age, he’d always been the older brother I never had, standing up for me against the bullies at school who made fun of my accent, introducing me to all the cool new games that I couldn’t play since my parents refused to buy any sort of console for me. There had always been a reserved seat at each other’s tables, as we spent as much time in the other’s home as we did on our own.

It was a matter of time before he confronted me about it. And eventually, he did.

He mentioned it one of those afternoons, nearly a week before the summer break officially began.

“Are you gonna tell me what’s going on with you?” he asked.

I’d just beaten him in Tekken, one of our go-to 1v1’s. But the celebratory smile mustn’t have reached my eyes, or perhaps I’d sulked around way too much that day. Or week.

I looked up at him. Those sable-brown eyes could’ve burned a hole through my skull. He had a naturally intense gaze like that. Trying to look away was a futile task.

“Nothing. School’s been getting to me, y’know…” No point denying something was up.

He scoffed. A puff of his nose, like a noiseless laugh. Did he have to be so goddamn cute?

“Bullshit. That was the fastest K.O. you’ve pulled on me in months. You should be hollering,” he said, his lips curving upward in a devilish smile. “C’mon, what’s up?”

I sighed. I supposed it was as good a time as any.

Do it quick, like a band-aid.

I looked down at the controller, mindlessly toying with the thumbsticks, trying to organize the thoughts that ran at a 100 per hour through my head. I’d been rehearsing the speech over and over for weeks, but in that instant, the lines vacated the premises.

Fuck.

I finally blurted it out: “My parents are getting a divorce.”

I trembled, knowing that was only the first part. The easiest part.

“Oh, shit,” he said, softly. His voice was like caramel. “I’m sorry, L.”

“Yeah…” I made a pause, waiting for him to add anything else. He didn’t.

So, I had to continue.

Like a band-aid.

“My mom’s moving back to Argentina after this summer,” I said. The tremors again. I still wouldn’t meet his gaze.

Was this how my parents had felt that night, when they’d told me?

“And I’m going with her.”

Silence, for what must’ve been just a mere couple of seconds, but felt like entire hours.

“Are you for real?” he asked.

I tried to decipher the cadence in his voice. Was he angry? Sad? Did he not care? Tears were threatening to burst out of my eyes any second.

I looked up at him, partly to see what his reaction was, partly to stop the tears from coming out.

“Lautaro, are you serious? You’re leaving?” he asked. The expression on his face was crystal clear. Concern, sadness, upset.

“I… –” I couldn’t even finish the sentence without choking up. I’d been holding the secret for so long, trying my best to put up a front… “They didn’t even ask…”

Next thing I knew, his arms were wrapped around me in the most awkward position, and my face was buried deep in his chest. Holding in the tears became pointless that very instant, and soon I’d left a small puddle on his shirt.

“I hate them…” I found myself whispering. He tightened his grip around me.

“Shut up,” he said. I could’ve sworn his voice cracked just a little. “You don’t hate them. You’re just angry.”

We parted from our embrace, and I took a moment to breathe, not minding the fluids that were liberally oozing from every orifice in my face.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier,” I said.

He looked down. “Since when have you known?”

I shrugged. “Just a few weeks.”

He shook his head, and after a long sigh, flashed his best smile – the kind of smile that would never fail to make me feel like the luckiest person alive.

“Don’t sweat it,” he said. “We’re gonna make the most of this summer we’ve got left, right?”

I smiled along.

“Right.”

I still had those weeks of summer to tell him I loved him.

Another one of those vivid memories that I can still replay in my head is the first time I met Noah.

It’d been the winter break during sixth grade. My parents had taken me ice skating for the first time, and as expected, I was terrible at it. I fell ass-first on the ice more times than I could count, and my own mediocrity was starting to irritate me.

A charming, dimple-smiled boy, about my age, noticed my predicament and took it upon himself to help me stand up straight on my skates for more than five minutes.

“Hey, need any help?”

Looking up at him from the spot where I’d fallen for the nth time, my first instinctual reaction was thinking he’d merely come to mock me. My parents were somewhere else across the rink, unable or uninterested in coming to my aid.

“I’m good, thanks,” I’d said, but promptly fell again as I tried to stand up again.

Then he laughed. A pure, honest laugh.

“Doesn’t look like it.” He extended his arm and helped me stand up, and from then on guided me as I made my first full strides, never leaving my side. Even when I finally managed to move on my own, he never strayed too far, making sure my progress was lasting. I would later learn he’d played hockey since he was a little kid – though he left it before high school.

When I finally found my parents, they were across the boards talking to Noah’s dad, seemingly enjoying their children’s newfound friendship. We parted ways with the promise of meeting up sometime for a playdate that never materialized.

When we found each other again in middle school, it was as if we’d been long-lost brothers who’d just reunited. We became inseparable after that. And my love for him only kept growing – until it became clear, at least for me, that the love I felt wasn’t merely fraternal.

School was over in a blink. Prom was a drag, but I made sure to go even if it was just for the photo. Noah didn’t go, of course – he was too cool for that. ‘I’m just gonna chill at home’, he’d said. ‘But you should go’. And so, I did.

In the end, I couldn’t keep my policy of secrecy for too long. After telling Noah, telling everyone else became significantly easier. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected, though I did make a gross amount of empty promises to send postcards from Patagonia.

And I did get to say goodbye with a bang. The weekend after prom, Noah and a couple other friends organized a surprise party at his place, to “depart with honors”. Only my closest circle attended, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I stayed over at his place that night. We were both too wasted to go anywhere, anyway. We slept in the same bed, as we had done before when we were small enough to comfortably fit in his twin-size. Now, with considerable amounts of alcohol and other psychoactive substances in our systems, we’d tacitly decided getting the other couch out was just too much of a hassle.

I stared at him as he slept. Dim moonlight washed over from the window blinds, casting a patterned glow over his terracotta skin. The slightest hint of a peach fuzz was starting to appear on his chin. His springy black coils had grown well past their usual short length into an unruly forest, draped gently over his face.

My heart beat fast. His lips were so close to mine, the tip of his nose only an inch from my own… and yet there appeared to be a force field between us, as if those millimeters comprised a distance that no force of nature could trespass. A distance that physically hurt.

I opened my mouth, but no words came out. Just the stench of alcohol and cigarette smoke.

‘I love you’, I should’ve said. ‘I love you.’

I should’ve screamed it out loud, over and over until he and everyone in the neighborhood woke up and heard me say it with all the might my lungs could muster.

I didn’t sleep at all that night.

I saw Noah a few times after that. I tried to enjoy every moment I got to spend with him as if it were the last – in many ways, they were. We did all the things we’d always promised we would do but never actually got around doing: we had a little jam session, him on the electric guitar (he was really into 90’s grunge) and me with the cello. It was, admittedly, a pretty lame combination, not least because we vibed with completely different genres. But it was still the most fun I’d had since the notice of divorce.

The last time I saw him was the day before mom and I were due to leave for New York to fly international. We had dinner at my place, and we did our best not to let the awkwardness of my parents being there get to us. We watched the last episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, our favorite TV show of all time. There was a certain nostalgia embedded into that series that no other piece of media could convey. It felt appropriate.

Right before he left, well past midnight, he rolled over the bed and dug deep into his backpack. His hand emerged with a large, wrinkly plastic bag with a big blue bow on top.

“An early birthday gift,” he said simply.

I smiled. “My birthday’s in three months.”

“Yeah, but I figured, might as well…”

I took a deep breath. We’d promised each other no tears would be shed that day.

“Thanks.”

He nodded his head. “Open it.”

I tried to ignore his expectant gaze as I opened the gift.

“Well, what do you think?”

I shot him a knowing look, unable to prevent the upward curve of my lips.

“You know damn well I’m not gonna use these,” I said, taking the hockey skates from the bag.

“There are ice rinks in Buenos Aires, I looked it up,” he said, a twinkle in his eyes. “You’ve got no excuse.”

“I guess I don’t.”

My parents were already in bed when I showed him outside. We had to leave early for JFK, but I’d much preferred spending my last hours in New Haven with Noah than being well-rested during the trip.

We stood for a good five minutes by the door, unable to part ways, to actually say that final goodbye. And each second that passed, that promise we’d made was getting harder to keep.

“Well,” he exhaled.

“Well,” I repeated.

“This is it, then.”

I nodded. Fuck. I was definitely going to cry.

“L…” he cleared his throat. At least I wasn’t the only one choking up.

“I love you, man,” he said.

I swallowed hard. My throat felt like sandpaper.

I reached out my hand, and he extended his. A brotherly salute, and nothing more.

“I love you, too.”

Thank you for reading! This story is somewhat based on my own experiences being forced to migrate (or repatriate, in this case) as a teen due to circumstances beyond my control. I would like for this to have a continuation, though I'm not planning on making it too long. I'll appreciate any sort of feedback or comment in general.
Copyright © 2020 gor mu; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

Yes please, continue the story. Maybe after senior year of school in Buenos Aires there's a chance for university or college back with Noah? Or did your own (forced?) repatriation trap you?

Good story so far... but it really cries out for continuation, even if it's more novella than novel.

:read:

Edited by Anton_Cloche
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You have the beginnings of a great story. You have put feelings into it that a lot of readers can relate to. Please continue.

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23 hours ago, Anton_Cloche said:

Yes please, continue the story. Maybe after senior year of school in Buenos Aires there's a chance for university or college back with Noah? Or did your own (forced?) repatriation trap you?

Good story so far... but it really cries out for continuation, even if it's more novella than novel.

:read:

20 hours ago, CLJobe said:

You have the beginnings of a great story. You have put feelings into it that a lot of readers can relate to. Please continue.

13 hours ago, drsawzall said:

I agree with the other comments, please continue!!!

Thank you all! I will continue 😊

 

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Good, because this story needs an end now that you’ve begun. Look forward to more. Thanks, Gor mu.

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Excellent chapter! Forced to move to Argentina just before his senior year started due to his cheating father’s infidelity leaves Lautaro devastated without his best friend. This story has a great premise and a lot of potential. Please continue with the story. I’m definitely looking forward to the next chapter! 😃😡

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Great beginning!  I know I'm late in starting but I am excited to continue reading this story!  It has really gotten my attention.  An all-too-often occurrence in parents divorcing -  they're not even considering what negative consequences this brings to the child (children) !  My heart goes out to both Lautaro and Noah!  Please keep writing Gor mu !!

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