Jump to content
    gor mu
  • Author
  • 2,031 Words
  • 1,687 Views
  • 6 Comments
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 - 10. Epilogue

I took a long drag of the cigarette, letting the stinging substance sit around in my throat for as long as I could before releasing it into the air. The smoke dissipated beyond the balcony and into the street just as a coal-black bumblebee flew by, likely attracted by the cranesbills and begonias of the lovely old lady from the apartment down below.

Today was the day, and I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that.

I heard the iron-framed door slide open behind me, followed by a loud sigh that carried with it the cadence of loving disappointment.

“Again, Lautaro?”

I turned to Valentín with a defeated shrug. He sat down on the other side of the table and placed a kettle on it, hot steam slipping out its spout.

“How long did you manage this time? Five months?”

I took another drag, the final one, and stubbed the filter on the edge of the railing.

“I stopped counting a while ago, to be honest.”

I felt Valentín’s stare on me, but I did not have the strength to engage in that discussion. He knew that, though, so when he spoke, it was about a different thing entirely.

“When are you guys meeting today?”

Well, it was not a different thing entirely. In fact, it was possible I’d broken my hard-earned tobacco temperance due to that very thing.

“At five. I told him to meet up at that café on the corner of Corrientes and Florida, you know the one? His hotel is like, two blocks away.”

Valentín hummed in assent. His lips curved upwards just slightly, all-knowing. He took a sip of mate, poured water on the gourd again, and passed it to me.

“Are you nervous?”

I held the gourd on my hands for a while, letting its heat transfer into my hands. Autumn was just around the corner.

“A little, I think.”

“It must be weird, after all this time.”

“Yeah, kind of. I just don’t know if me feeling nervous is justifiable.”

Valentín chuckled. “It’s too early for you to be psychoanalyzing yourself.”

Standing up, he placed a hand on my shoulder and a kiss on my head, both as warm as the gourd in my hands.

“Are you passing by the workshop today?” I asked. “I left my jacket the other day.”

“Nah, I have class till seven.”

“Oh.” I paused, then took a sip of mate. “Come pick me up?”

He rolled his eyes, but I already knew that was a yes. For the first time in the day, I allowed myself a smile.

It’d been a while since I’d last sat for coffee downtown.

The clinking of silverware, the echo of a dozen simultaneous conversations and the sound of smooth instrumental jazz all faded into a single cacophony in the distance as my eyes focused on the view from the window: fast-paced passersby and traffic gave life to the scene, while storefronts and changing lights dotted it with color, saturated against a beige-grey canvas.

5:22 pm.

He was late. I wasn’t sure why I’d expected any less.

Punctuality had never been Noah Schmitt’s forte.

I took a sip of cortado, only to find it’d turned lukewarm, and caught myself damning the moment I’d chosen to sit inside as the urge to light another cigarette grew awry inside me.

I did not presume to know myself well enough to accurately predict my own emotional reactions to unexpected situations. The last two years of therapy had done much to open my eyes in that regard. But when I received that Facebook message from Noah letting me know he would be in town and he wanted to see me, I managed to surprise myself with the sheer amount of seemingly erratic responses that arose within me.

First, of course, there was shock at hearing from a person from whom I had essentially seen nothing but sterile Facebook updates in three years. Then, perhaps surprisingly, excitement: time and experience had long made me get over my teenage crush and the resentment that followed said crush’s anticlimactic demise; plus, for better or for worse, Noah had been my best friend for over five years – from middle school up until my departure from New Haven – and I could still recount many good memories of the times we spent together.

But for a couple of days now I’d found myself blindsighted by subtle, rumbling nerves; a stomach not full of butterflies but gnats.

5:25 pm.

I was in the process of standing up to go outside and have that smoke when I noticed a tall, sharply-dressed man with a confused look on his face crossing the threshold of the café.

Noah had changed a lot in those three years we’d been apart.

He approached my table after a wave of my hand.

“L?” he greeted unsurely.

These days he wore his hair short. The 17-year old peach fuzz I’d once envied and adored in equal parts had grown into a neatly-trimmed beard.

Had he done a double take as well? To be fair, it was possible I’d changed quite a bit myself.

“Noah. Long time no see.”

He sat down across me. He looked around, as if unsure of what he was supposed to do or say, exactly. It was a strange look on him, my brain instinctively comparing him to the Noah that existed in my memory: confident, carefree, the kind of kid who just walked into places with the certainty that he’d get what he wanted, even if he wasn’t quite sure of what that was even as he crossed the door.

This Noah looked mature enough to recognize confidence alone wouldn’t take him everywhere.

He looked, I thought, a bit more like me.

I said: “You came alone.”

It was an observation rather than a question.

He flashed an abashed smile.

“Yeah, Allie’s sorry she couldn’t come. She’s still a little jetlagged.”

Allie was, I’d learned, his long-term girlfriend and now consecrated fiancée.

Despite the divergence in our life paths it seemed both Noah and I had gotten lucky with our choices in high school sweethearts.

“It’s so weird seeing you after all this time,” he said, and I couldn’t help but agree. “What’ve you been up to? We barely talk these days”

Understatement of the century.

I did not say that.

I spent the following minutes giving a somewhat résumé-like rundown of what I’d done with my life in those three years we’d been apart. Finishing high school, taking a gap year, going to uni, changing my major when I realized I hated psychology with burning passion, and landing my current job as a minor administrative worker at a local public school while I finished my degree to become a social worker.

Then, of course, there were the parts that one does not put on a résumé. My relationship with Valentín. Moving to a small, run-down apartment with him. Saving money between the two of us to get a better place. How he was splitting his time between uni and the workshop.

How much I loved Valentín. I might’ve underscored that part. Probably still not enough.

“Well,” he said once I was done. “Sounds like you’re doing great.”

Almost instinctively, I tried to find any insincerity in his voice. I did not find any.

I cleared my throat. “What about you? Congrats on your engagement, by the way.”

His smile was warm and loving, and I got to see his eyes light up at the mention of his marriage-to-be. He was happy, and I found I was happy for him, too.

“Yeah… You might’ve actually met Allie at some point, she was a sophomore at school when you left.”

I shrugged. New Haven had never known me as the social type, anyway.

“After high school I got into Gateway and Allie – Allie’s a freaking genius, so of course she got into Yale Law. I think you’d like her. But yeah… I realized college life’s not for me pretty early on, so I’ve just been working as a photographer and doing some freelance gigs, nothing crazy. And Allie’s got her mom’s bureau…”

“A little nepotism never hurt anyone, right?”

He laughed. “Pretty much. Well, this trip is mostly coming out of Sylvia’s pocket, so I can’t complain.”

“It’s one hell of a trip, that’s for sure,” I said. “From here it’s Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, right? The whole Andean way.”

He nodded over his cup of coffee. “Yeah, we’re doing most of it on land, it’s much less expensive that way. But Allie loves travelling and, well, you know I’d never even left the Northeast, so it’s a pretty sweet experience.”

“Yeah. I bet…”

We fell silent for a moment, soft jazz softly reappearing into my the forefront of my attention. I focused my gaze on the window again, but even from the corner of my eye I couldn’t help but notice just how much the years had favored Noah. I mentally cut my teenage self some slack for helplessly falling head over heels for him.

His fingers toyed with a sugar packet for an uncharacteristically long moment.

Then, he said: “I’m sorry for dipping on you back then.”

I turned to him. “What do you mean?”

I knew exactly what he meant.

“It’s just… I don’t know. It was weird not having you around. We saw each other every day and one day you just left, and then we never talked anymore. And I know it’s mostly my fault. So, yeah. I’m sorry.”

There had probably been a point in my life, sometime between winter and summer of 2018, when that apology would have meant everything to me.

Today, it was merely welcome. In my mind there was nothing to forgive, the offense long erased from the records. I didn’t know if it was correct to say I’d forgiven him, but I’d certainly forgotten.

“We had our own lives to take care of. Senior year… there was so much stuff going on for the both of us. I don’t hold it against you.”

His lips pursed. His eyes were still on the sugar packet on his hands. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.

Now I couldn’t help but stare at him.

“I just…”

He looked up at me. He had dark brown eyes, sable-brown, like Valentín’s. And yet, they were so much unlike Valentín’s.

“I knew how you felt about me, L.”

I blinked.

He’d known?

Was it funny or cruel? Was it both? It was rotten fruit from a beautiful tree. This was supposed to mean something to someone who no longer existed, someone I no longer was.

No. Instead of meaning, there was the dull prick of an old needle, the lack of an edge not quite enough to deprive it of its sting.

A minute passed.

I found my voice, not without some effort.

“Did you always know?”

He looked out the window, seeking grit in that framed view of busy Corrientes Avenue.

“I don’t know. I guess so, yeah. Part of me always knew.”

I nodded.

What else was there to say?

“I…”

What was I even supposed to feel?

I took a sip of cortado, ice-cold by now.

“I was a kid. I grew out of it. I’m thankful for the friendship we had.”

He nodded, too.

“I’m sorry about that, too.”

I took a deep breath. I would’ve killed for a smoke right then.

“Don’t be. I’m not.”

We bid our goodbyes with the promise of seeing each other sometime within the following three years. It was a sufficiently long time-frame for it to not be impossible. Still, I didn’t fully love the idea of making promises I wasn’t 100% sure I could fulfill.

I walked out into the street, cold with the westward wind. Around me passersby still teemed about. I’d finished my cigarette by the time Valentín’s bike pulled up on the side of the ever-busy avenue.

“You good?”

I put on my helmet and secured myself on the bike, my arms wrapped firmly around him.

“Honestly? Never been better.”

The engine roared. We were going home.

Fin.
So, notes on Southward ending:
1. First of all, thank you so much for reading all the way to the end! Reading your comments has served as great motivation to keep writing when, at times, I've felt like there was no one who'd be willing to read my work.
On a more personal note, when I started writing Southward in August 2020, I was in a stable relationship, and it was my boyfriend who did most of the beta reading during those early chapters. That relationship ended in December, which left me with two problems: 1) I no longer had a beta reader (which made posting the story here all the more helpful!), and 2) I was now facing the daunting task of writing a convincing love story while experiencing heartbreak myself. Hopefully I managed to pull it off 😅
2. Due to all of the reasons listed above, Southward is still, in essence, an early draft. It needs lots of editing, which I would like for it to undergo some day (whether I do it myself or I enlist someone else to do it for me). Right now, however, doing all the editing myself is not really feasible, so unless I pull an editor out of a magic hat, Southward will have to wait.
3. Will there be a continuation? A prequel? Anything? Right now, the answer is: maybe! As I've stated before, I truly do love these characters. I modelled a lot of Lautaro and Valentín (as well as their lives and experiences and the story of Southward itself) after myself and real life people I know and love. So I definitely want to revisit this universe and write more about them some day!
4. Southward is the first long story I've written from beginning to end, but it won't be the last. I want to keep writing for as long as I can (within the constrictions of my work and academic life), so look out for things I might post in the future.
That's it! Once again, thank you for reading, for commenting, and for sticking around and being patient with my messy schedule. It truly has been a pleasure 🥰 For now, dear reader, I bid my goodbye.
Copyright © 2020 gor mu; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 9
  • Love 16
  • Sad 1
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. 
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

Thank you for a beautiful story.And I can appreciate how difficult it was for you to finish.I have a musician friend he's not famous but I think he's very good.He once told me when he has a heartbreaking split some of his best work comes out in song but I imagine it didn't work out for you that way. BTW maybe I have been reading too many stories but I sort of knew when the epilog started they were talking about Noah

Whenever you have an idea in the future and you decide to post it here we will be anxiously waiting. Take care

Edited by weinerdog
  • Like 2
Link to comment

This was a bittersweet moment - it was a beautiful epilogue to wrap up the story, but I'm sad it's over.

As I read the last few chapters I thought we won't be hearing any more about Noah since Lauti has all but forgotten him, but this was a very fitting conclusion considering how the whole story started with the two of them. Also, it gave some kind of closure to Lauti.

I thoroughly enjoyed every word of the story and I'm glad you were able to finish it despite less than ideal personal circumstances. I'll definitely be looking forward to more stories from you! :)

  • Like 3
Link to comment
11 hours ago, weinerdog said:

Thank you for a beautiful story.And I can appreciate how difficult it was for you to finish.I have a musician friend he's not famous but I think he's very good.He once told me when he has a heartbreaking split some of his best work comes out in song but I imagine it didn't work out for you that way. BTW maybe I have been reading too many stories but I sort of knew when the epilog started they were talking about Noah

Whenever you have an idea in the future and you decide to post it here we will be anxiously waiting. Take care

Thank you! Heartbreak can definitely help or propell creative process, but I suppose it just didn't work as well with me. And yes, the ending might've been a little foreseaable, but I think it fits nicely 😊 Take care as well!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
10 hours ago, ObicanDecko said:

As I read the last few chapters I thought we won't be hearing any more about Noah since Lauti has all but forgotten him, but this was a very fitting conclusion considering how the whole story started with the two of them. Also, it gave some kind of closure to Lauti.

It definitely gave Lauti some closure 😊 

10 hours ago, ObicanDecko said:

I thoroughly enjoyed every word of the story and I'm glad you were able to finish it despite less than ideal personal circumstances. I'll definitely be looking forward to more stories from you! :)

Thank you for reading and commenting!

  • Like 2
Link to comment

I stumbled upon this story a few days ago, and have just finished. What a kind-hearted and natural story. I really grew to love the characters, and loved watching such a warm and caring relationship grow. Thank you!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    Sign Up and get an occasional Newsletter.  Fill out your profile with favorite genres and say yes to genre news to get the monthly update for your favorite genres.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..