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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 - 6. VI.

My legs ached, my chest felt as if I’d just breathed fire, and the sound of my own harsh breathing and my hurried footsteps was all I could hear. I couldn’t pull out my phone to check the time but I knew it was running late.

Blinking signal lights ahead. Fuck it. I heard someone yell an expletive as the side of a car nearly grazed my back. Luckily, the adrenaline rush from nearly getting run over was enough to fuel my marathon all the way to the school gates.

A lone figure waited for me by the door.

“You’re late,” Valentín said across a smug smile and crossed arms, leaning against the wall.

Even as I struggled to breathe through my mouth after running six full Buenos Aires-sized blocks, the sight of him – cuffed sleeves and skinny jeans clinging to his arms and calves – still managed to leave me a little breathless.

“Did you wait out here for me?” Speaking through the urge to cough a lung out was a monumental task on its own.

“Maybe,” he smirked. “Let’s head in. I’m fresh out of attendance strikes.”

Classes these days were not very productive. It was already October and the trimester was about to end, so the ‘fuck it, it’s senior year’ spirit had effectively become the class’s new common sense.

We spent most of the first period together with the rest of the guys. If they still harbored any reservations about Valentín and I being together, they were exceptionally good at hiding it. Aside from a few innocuous allusions, we were pretty much treated the same as always.

This is how it's supposed to be.

The bell had just rang and the rest of the boys had gone off to get something to eat when Lu and Sofi, two of the more popular girls in class, approached us amid giggles. I barely knew either of them, though they’d been nice enough to me when I first arrived at the school. I hadn’t ever really seen them talk to Valentín. They did a little back and forth between each other, as if deciding which one would speak, finally settling on Lu.

“So, um, is it like, true?” she asked, barely containing a nervous chuckle.

I gulped down.

“What is?”

The other girl, Sofi, gave us a once over and shook her head sarcastically.

“Well, you know, that you two are together?”

Valentín and I shared a look, and I tried in vain to read his expression. After a brief instant, a small smirk appeared on his face.

I cleared my throat. When I spoke, it was more so at him than at the girls.

“Yeah. We’re together.”

Before the end of the day, most of the class knew. And though neither Valentín nor I had been particularly worried about everyone else’s reaction, we were pleasantly surprised to find that, for the most part, pretty much nobody cared. Beyond the occasional breach of curiosity and the harmless interventions of an overly curious school secretary, the hot gossip of our budding romance turned lukewarm within just a few hours.

“Well, you look happy.”

I looked up, only then noticing I was grinning like an idiot at my phone screen. My mom looked at me with a raised eyebrow from across the table.

“Oh, yeah just –” I stammered. I wasn’t about to tell her I was texting with Valentín. “Just a funny post…”

She did not look convinced. She did not press it.

“How was school today?”

I did not have to lie about that. “It was good. Pretty good, actually.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” she said over a gentle smile. Then, she appeared to catch herself, straightened up and took up a more businesslike tone: “Your aunt called today to remind me about that conservatory we were talking about before, she said they’re having admissions next month. Are you preparing anything with your instructor?”

I blinked. Of course I’d completely forgotten about that, and I had clearly not prepared anything with my instructor.

“Uh, yeah.”

Her brow wrinkled just the smallest bit, enough to let on just how she felt about my answer.

“You do want to go there, right?”

So much had been happening in my social life during the past few weeks that I’d disregarded all preparations for what came after school. Back in the US I’d had a perfect layout of possible paths and preferences, with different schools, career paths and backup plans just in case. But moving to Argentina had turned my plans to ash, and against my better judgment, the past few months I’d only been able to think about, well, boys.

“I… don’t know?”

She sighed with the full force of a disappointed mother. “Well, try to make up your mind before admissions season ends, alright?”

I looked down.

“Alright.”

The matter of my professional future – or lack thereof – was a serious issue that, needless to say, deserved my undivided attention and warranted some serious thought. So, naturally, after dinner I went straight to my room and returned to the menial comfort of social media for the next couple of hours.

I was getting ready to sleep when the notification bell went off on my phone, and I was slightly taken aback before I remembered I’d turned on all notifications for Noah a few months ago, back when I checked all his profiles religiously, as if waiting for the return of a negligent messiah.

Curiosity got the better of me.

It took me a minute to figure out what the image before my eyes exactly meant, and even when I did figure it out, it still took some effort convincing myself it was real.

A dimple-smiled Noah looked straight at the camera, his arms wrapped around a pretty blonde girl I recognized from school. The caption, simple as it was, read the lyrics of a song I knew very well: “you make me feel like I am fun again.” A heart emoji at the end buried the last remaining bits of unambiguity regarding the nature of the post.

I stared at the phone screen for a good while, letting the realization of what was happening marinate in my brain.

Then I laughed. I actually, audibly laughed, as if somehow this corny Instagram post was the funniest thing I’d ever seen.

Noah and I had played the song to which those lyrics belonged many, many times. We practiced it for weeks before we even managed to play it right in one sitting. When I’d first suggested it to him, I did so fully knowing it was an obvious love song – Hell, it was literally Lovesong by The Cure, the unofficial anthem of angsty alternative teenage love – and hoping he’d catch the hint, that he’d realize what exactly I was trying to say. But he never did. Each time we rehearsed felt like torture.

And now, there he was, so carelessly dedicating it to a random girl he’d never mentioned before, whose relationship with him couldn’t have been longer than the time we spent playing that stupid song.

I plugged the phone to the charger and set it screen-down on the bedside table. As I drifted to sleep, I wondered how Valentín felt about The Cure.

Ω 

The wall felt cold against my back, but the warm feeling of Valentín’s head on my lap and the softness of his hair as I ran my hand through it balanced it out well enough. How we ended up in that position remained a mystery, albeit one I couldn’t say I was upset about.

“So yeah, that’s why I have to start prepping the pieces with my instructor in time for admissions or I’ll be fucked, but like, I don’t even know if I want to go there. I don’t even know if I want to dedicate my whole life to music, you know?”

Valentín nodded softly. He’d been silent ever since the conversation shifted into a monologue on my uncertainties for the future.

“Sorry, am I talking too much?”

He smirked. “Yeah, kinda. But I don’t mind it.”

I pulled his hair, just enough for it to be playful.

“Well, then, what do you think I should do?”

He made a deep, dramatic sigh. He sat up cross-legged on the bed, and I tried my best not to focus too overtly either his messed-up hair or the way his shirt rolled up and left his midriff exposed for the world to see.

He took my hand in his.

“Lauti, I have no fucking clue what it is that you should do. I just know you’re really talented, and really smart, and you’re gonna do great no matter what you choose.”

All efforts to hide the coy smile that resulted from that were for naught. To be fair, it was the nicest thing anyone had told me in a pretty long time.

I cleared my throat. “What are your plans after 5th year?”

He shrugged.

“I don’t know. I try not to think too much about it.”

I gave him an incredulous look. “Are you for real?”

He flashed an impish smile and leaned forward, locking his eyes with mine. The tip of his nose was merely an inch away from mine, and when he spoke I was awash with the scent of his breath. Mint, coffee and something else that I couldn’t well recognize but found myself loving anyway.

“My mind’s been busy with other things lately.”

“Oh? Like what?”

His hand ran from my cheek to the back of my neck, where it remained firmly planted. I felt my heartbeat increase at a comical rate. I was so focused on the brown of his eyes that I didn’t notice his lips making their way to mine until they’d crashed.

I kissed him back as he moved forward to straddle me on the. His other hand manifested on my thigh, then moving up to my hip in a slow, meticulous motion, leaving an invisible trail that only the hairs of the skin beneath my trousers could feel, and sending alarm signals through my entire body.

I broke from the kiss with a gasp for air and a cautionary hand on his chest.

My voice was an anxious whisper: “My mom’s right outside that door.”

That was not the real issue at hand, but it was as believable an excuse as I could come up with right then and there.

He smiled in understanding, but I still caught the hint of disappointment in his eyes. He was gallant enough not to act upon it.

“Anyway,” I cleared my throat, and tried – perhaps without much success – to clear my head, and not think about how this wasn’t the first time this happened. “Don’t think you’re getting away from that conversation so easily, Valen. The school year’s ending in less than three months.”

He shrugged again: shrugging was the gesture that came most naturally to him. “That only means I still have three months to decide.”

The tone of his voice and the expression on his face were clear enough cues for me to let it go. It was clear now that I’d hit a sore spot for him, but I did make a mental note to get back to it at some point.

“I should probably head home.”

Now it was my turn to hide my disappointment.

I walked him to the door, trying to soak in the last few moments I had with him. Making sure my mom wasn’t around, we allowed ourselves a small kiss, chaste compared to the ones we’d exchanged just moments prior, but just as sweet, if not more.

“See you at school tomorrow?”

“Yeah.” I tried to conjure up a smile. “Oh! Before I forget, are you free this weekend?”

He nodded, and that smile was suddenly not so difficult to conjure.

“Cool. There’s something I want to show you.”

Keeping the true nature of my relationship with Valentín from my mother was becoming increasingly difficult.

It was odd, as one would've expected the secret-keeping abilities I’d forged for myself in the heat of my unrequited crush on my childhood best friend through my entire adolescence to arm me with the guns necessary to bear that pressure.

But unlike my hopeless teenage crush on Noah, I actually found myself wanting to tell my mom about Valentín. It’d felt good to be open with the boys and at school, to be able to hold Valentín’s hand around them, even as they poked harmless fun at us. Hell, the little jokes and hollers were even entertaining from time to time. I wanted to let her be part of that. I felt as though both Valentín and her deserved that honesty from me.

So I’d spent those weeks trying to muster the courage to tell my mom.

There was no shortage of opportunities. The usual silences after dinner and whenever she came back from work all felt like open invitations to spill the whole truth, burning in the back of my throat, begging to be released. But for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to speak the words. Every time I’d try to bring it up, my whole body would freeze and my stomach would get tied up in knots, and I’d always chicken out.

It wasn’t that I expected her to be mad at me, or say or even think something insensitive. That wasn’t like her. But that just made my hesitance all the more frustrating.

One night after dinner, having lost yet another battle against myself in the campaign to conquer the unsurmountable mountain of shame and repression that stood between me and telling my mother about the guy I was seeing, the opportunity suddenly presented itself in the most anticlimactic way possible.

It all started with a text from Valentín asking for clues on what I was planning for that weekend. Something about my face must’ve given away the way hearing from him made me feel, as my mom cleared her throat from across the table.

“Is that Valen?” she asked simply.

Deer in the headlights.

“Yeah,” I answered carefully. “We’re meeting up on Saturday.”

She hummed solemnly and returned to silence, briefly leading me to think the conversation was over. I was about to start answering the text when she spoke again.

“You two seem close.” Her deliberate use of the English language only accented the ambiguity of her words, a sort of private, auxiliary code that left the door open to further interpretation.

I looked up at her, probably unable to mask my surprise given the bemused look on her face. I really needed to up my poker face game.

“Well,” I stammered. “He’s, I mean, we –”

She pursed her lips. “You know you can talk to me about anything, don’t you?”

I nodded, now feeling somewhat ashamed. I did know, but the theory was hard to translate to praxis when shame and fear had for so long been my default.

She stood up and went to fish something in her bag. I had to swallow the impulse to tell her off when she fetched a pack of cigarettes and lighter. It’d been years since I’d last seen her smoke, but it was probably not the best moment to reprimand her.

“So,” she said over a long first drag. She was frowning now, but I recognized it as a look of concern rather than upset. “What’s the deal with you two?”

I shrugged. The gesture was meant to suggest nonchalance, but it didn't come as natural to me as it did to Valentín. “I guess… we’re together.”

The admission didn’t come with the relief I’d expected. There was no weight pulled off my shoulders, no sudden untying of the knot in my stomach. It simply felt odd to say it out loud. Not in a bad way, but not in a necessarily liberating, angel-choir-singing, doves-flying-away manner either.

“You guess.” The intonation was closer to that of a statement than a question.

I corrected myself, allowing some assertiveness to slip into my voice. “We’re together.”

She flicked the cigarette ashes on the rim of her half-empty water glass. They made a shallow sizzling sound as they hit the liquid.

“Are you in love?”

There’s this thing about the word “love” in English, a lack of substance. The distance between it and its seemingly obvious Spanish translation – amor, enamorado – was enough to cover the circumference from Buenos Aires to New Haven twice over. I was not yet sure if I loved Valentín in English or in Spanish.

I replied in English.

She meditated on my answer as she finished her cigarette. I couldn’t bring myself to look her in the eyes, though I was nearly certain she wasn’t looking my way either.

“Well,” she finally said. “I’m happy for you. He seems like a nice kid.”

There was no insincerity in her words, despite their apparent simplicity. Honesty, when it came to my mother, usually came in austere wrappings.

“He is.” Then, tentatively, I added: “You don’t seem surprised.”

That earned an odd smile from her.

“Lauti, I’m your mother. I know you better than you think.”

The silence that followed that last sentence was loaded with the suggestion of an unsaid coda that I dared not inquire about.

It wasn’t until after I’d finished doing the dishes and my mother had retired to her room that I felt something close to what I’d been for weeks expecting to feel once the truth about Valentín was out. First, a quaint, almost homely sort of relief, no doubt enhanced by the prospect of being able to hold Valen’s hand at my place without having to worry about what would happen if my mom caught us.

Then came a more abstract – though no less important – comfort, as it dawned on me that for the first time since I could remember, I wasn’t lying by omission to everyone I loved.

For the first time since I could remember, I felt fully me.

It's been a while! A lot has happened in the few months this story has been on hold, and until now I hadn't had the time or energy to bring myself to continue writing. I'm currently close to finishing it, though, so I'll be publishing the next few chapters throughout the week. I hope it's worth the wait!
As always, thank you for reading and I'll be looking forward to comments and feedback 😊
PS: I'm currently sans beta reader and I'm doing all the editing by myself, so please excuse any gross mistakes you may encounter 😅
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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Glad your back we all know how life can happen. Lauti should always tell his Mom everything that way she has no excuse to take out her pack of cigarettes lol.

So In Argentina  they are called trimesters as opposed semesters in the U.S.Trimesters mean something totally different here

I'm curious if Valentin having no thoughts about what he's going to do after fifth year has to do with his family situation

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15 hours ago, drsawzall said:

Welcome back, enjoying the story and looking forward to the rest!!!

Thank you! Glad to know you're enjoying it so far ☺

14 hours ago, weinerdog said:

Glad your back we all know how life can happen. Lauti should always tell his Mom everything that way she has no excuse to take out her pack of cigarettes lol.

So In Argentina  they are called trimesters as opposed semesters in the U.S.Trimesters mean something totally different here

I'm curious if Valentin having no thoughts about what he's going to do after fifth year has to do with his family situation

Thank you! High school academic years in Argentina is typically split into trimesters (periods of three months) instead of semesters. And you're right! There's no excuse not to tell someone smoking is bad 😁

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Then came a more abstract – though no less important – comfort, as it dawned on me that for the first time since I could remember, I wasn’t lying by omission to everyone I loved. 

For the first time since I could remember, I felt fully me.

Summed up so perfectly. Even though the moment when Lauti told his mother didn't feel amazingly special, this is so well worded to express that sense of relief you get when you realise you aren’t hiding a part of your inner being any longer.

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