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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 - 7. VII.

“Lautaro, don’t you dare let go of me right now or I swear to God.”

“Just remember what I told you, keep your feet straight and your knees bent and you’ll be fine.”

“For fuck’s sake!”

To Valentín’s credit, he didn’t immediately fall on his ass. For a solid half a minute it even looked as if he would manage to stand on the ice on his own, albeit admittedly and expectedly not in the most graceful manner. But then he tried to move and –

It took some effort not to laugh on his face.

“I can’t believe I let you bring me here.”

I allowed myself an evil chuckle, which he eventually came to share from his spot on the ice.

Keeping the weekend plan a secret had been a good call after all.

I helped him to his feet and slowly, but surely, guided him as he made his first successful strides, his legs wobbly and his arms fiercely holding onto mine like his life depended on it.

I’d never taught anyone to skate before, but it felt fitting for the first time to be Valentín. Having him there, on the ice with me, I felt a sort of unmistakable rightness, a sort of home.

He soon got tired of flailing, and after falling a couple of times in a row, he decided to retire for the day. He was nice enough to let me do a couple of rounds on the ice on my own while he watched from the bleachers.

After the last time I attempted to skate in Buenos Aires, I’d come to think it would never feel the way it used to before. That the ice had connections too deeply entrenched to my old life; to snow-white winters in New Haven, to weekend escapades with my mom and dad back when there was such a thing as “mom and dad”.

But this time everything fell into place. It wasn’t just like before. It was better.

And it was better because I was sharing it with Valentín.

His eyes were posed on me when I finally decided I’d had enough and I made my way off the ice.

“Disappointed you didn’t do any pirouettes,” he said, lifting his arms above his head in a crude attempt at emulating a ballerina.

I flicked a finger at him.

“I’m not a pro like that. I just like wandering around.”

He gave me a peck as I sat down beside him.

“We’ve still got like 20 minutes. Don’t you want to keep going for a little?”

“Nah.” I was already taking the skates off. “I couldn’t keep going if I wanted to. I’m way out of shape.”

We spent a quiet moment just sitting there, watching a couple of kids struggling on the ice, their yelps and laughter echoing through the arena.

“My place now?”

It took me a moment to shake from my reveries. “Uh, yeah, sure.”

Only then did I realize that, amid the excitement from skating with Valentín, I’d nearly forgotten about filling him in on the one important development from the week.

“By the way, I should tell you…”

He was already getting up.

“What?”

“Well, the other day I…” The right words were eluding me, as usual. “I, eh, I told mom about us.”

“Oh.”

He didn’t look surprised. He just looked… pensive.

What are you thinking?

“How did she take it?”

I shrugged sheepishly.

“She kind of already knew.”

He made a pained expression, as if he’d known what my answer would be but was still dreading it nonetheless.

His words matched neither the look on his face nor the tone with which they were spoken.

“That’s great.”

By now I recognized this as Valentín’s go-to behavior when something upset him, but I was yet to master the art of getting him to shake out of that.

“So, uhh, let’s get going, then? You have that thing with Marian…”

He flashed a smile that didn’t reach his eyes and nodded curtly.

I only hoped I could figure out a way to find out what he was thinking before it became a problem.

A Redondos song played in the background.

“So is that the carburetor?”

Marian raised the mate gourd at me and gave a congratulatory nod. “Very good!”

Valentín scoffed jokingly from the ground.

“Lucky guess.”

I shrugged as Marian passed the gourd over to me, a complicit look on her face.

For about half an hour now I’d been watching Valentín crouch over a dismembered bike doing God knew what to its engine, and somehow, against all odds, I found that I was really enjoying myself. By then I’d shed away the aversion to sharing the mate Marian had prepared with grease all over her hands, and I was starting to get used to the characteristic odor of cement and motor oil of the workshop.

It was also nice seeing Valentín in his element, doing what he knew best, unwittingly frowning and chewing on his lower lip as he got lost in the flow of his own work. Marian, for her part, was making the most of her well-deserved mid-afternoon snack break and had by then proven to be a gracious, entertaining host.

“How’s math coming along?” she asked over a sip of mate.

A sudden growl from the bike that reverberated across the room briefly delayed my answer. Based on Marian’s silent reaction, I assumed it was a good thing.

“It’s coming along pretty well,” I said, once the residual ringing in my ears had worn off. “Valen’s actually pretty good. I just helped him catch up to this trimester’s contents, but he did the rest of the work all on his own.”

I caught him smiling faintly from across the bike, and he caught me staring in turn.

“Yeah, Marian,” he said, “I’m actually a mathematical genius.”

I said: “I wouldn’t go that far.”

That earned a laugh from Marian and an eye roll from him, but the truth was that Valentín had never really needed my help with math, other than perhaps to get him to sit down and actually focus on the homework for more than fifteen minutes at a time. Once he got the hang of it, though, he was solving the problems faster than me.

Marian stood to put some more water in the electric kettle. For a moment, both she and Valentín regarded the motorcycle intently, serious looks on their faces. Then, Marian made a phew! sound and smiled with ease.

“That’s pretty much perfect, kid.”

Valentín stood up, beaming at the hard-earned results of his work.

“You know, if you keep the math up you could try for engineering at UTN.”

His face immediately soured. “Not you too.”

She shrugged. “Just saying.”

“I actually think it’s a great idea,” I said, and then, when he glared my way: “Just saying.”

He rolled his eyes. “You two are a nightmare together.”

I hadn’t yet come up with a witty comeback when my phone went off and a familiar name popped up on the screen. A pained sigh escaped my lips.

“Sorry, gotta take this.”

I went outside to take the call. A couple of rough-looking old men who were conversing on the sidewalk gave me a once-over when I answered in English.

“Hey, dad.”

I hadn’t spoken to my father since that eventful call a couple of weeks prior, and I couldn’t have said I’d been looking forward to our next conversation.

He let me know the house had been sold, which didn’t take me by surprise, and that he was making plans to come visit us for Christmas, which did take me by surprise. I asked – rather crudely, I later realized – where he would be staying, and sighed in relief when he said that he’d be staying with my grandparents in Pilar; far, far away from me. The relief didn’t last long, though, as it dawned on me that I’d have to go visit them at some point.

All in all, the call went on a little longer than I would’ve liked. By the time I was done, the old men had left and it’d somehow gotten a little chilly.

I was about to make my way into the workshop again when I overheard Valentín talking to Marian.

“...just don’t know what I should do. He seems serious about all this.”

“Well, what about you? Are you serious about this?”

I hid behind the storefront shutters, my heart rate suddenly spiking the only way it could when it was clear that I was eavesdropping on a conversation that was not meant for my ears.

“Of course I am.”

I felt my cheeks redden.

Marian sighed.

“Valen, I think you’re underestimating Sergio. Yes, he’s a little old fashioned –”

Fag is his favorite insult.”

“His and every other straight man over 30’s. He loves you, Valentín. You’re all he has.”

They fell silent after this. I felt like I’d just swallowed a stone and my heartbeat was still bordering cardiac arrest territory, but I figured it was best to go inside now as I’d already taken too long with the call and I did not want to intrude in their conversation any more than I already had.

I took a deep breath and put on my best smile.

“I’m sorry, there’s no way I’m paying thirty-five thousand pesos for a fucking trip to Bariloche.”

Tomás was sitting cross-armed on the school bench, reclining in a way that could only possibly be hurting his back, his long legs sprawled unceremoniously on the floor. Somehow, he simultaneously looked like he owned the place and like he couldn’t fit in, tried as hard as he did.

“Thirty-five is a bargain,” said Florencia, one of the girls in class who’d taken it upon themselves to organize the class’s graduate trip – a longstanding high school tradition, I’d learned. “The other travel agencies are offering us nothing under forty.”

The collective outrage in the room materialized in the form of a dissonant groan, with a few ad-libbed expletives thrown in.

Valentín scoffed beside me. “This girl’s insane.”

I stroked his hand under the table. I knew going on the class trip had been outside his realm of possibilities from the get-go, but it still must’ve felt bad to have to sit through the whole conversation.

Florencia snapped, clearly irritated by now. It wasn’t the first time Tomás had interjected. “Listen, either we take these guys’ offer or we don’t go anywhere. It’s as simple as that.”

Tomás’s answer came swiftly.

“Then we’re not going anywhere!”

Florencia’s face contorted into an angry facade, and after a brief stare down with Tomás, she finally threw her arms up in defeat. She yelled at no one in particular as she stomped back to her seat: “Can’t believe I wasted all my energy on you ungrateful assholes!”

The bell indicating the end of recess rang shortly thereafter, and I let out a relieved sigh as it signalled the end of the dispute as well.

I really hated watching people fight.

The boys all grouped together at the school entrance after the last period, and I followed along, as it befitted my newfound position as an honorary member of the gang.

Nahuel asked: “Man, am I really the only one who wanted to go to Bariló?”

Valentín and Tomás answered at the same time: “Yeah.”

They exchanged a strange look. I suspected they both had different reasons to agree.

“Hey, I wanted to go too, but not for thirty-five thousand pesos,” said Santi. “Also Florencia is crazy.”

Valentín and Tomás both voiced their agreement in unison again. This time, I couldn’t hold back the chuckle.

“But wait,” I said. “Why don’t we just go somewhere else? It doesn’t have to be Bariloche, right?”

Joaco butted in: “My cousin’s class is going to Florianopolis for their graduate trip.”

Valentín shook his head in annoyance: “Dude, we can’t afford a trip to Bariloche, how are we going to pay for a trip to Brazil?”

Tomás, always the unanointed leader of the group, stepped in to reestablish order: “Everybody shut up. We’re not going to Bariloche and we’re definitely not going to Brazil. But we are going somewhere.” Then, as he drew a cigarette to his mouth, he added: “And we’re not taking fucking Florencia with us.”

This time, it was the five of us seconding that statement together.

When playing an instrument, musicians may experience something called flow. Flow is described as a mental state wherein one is completely immersed into the action of playing; your conscious mind shuts off but you’re somehow still in full control, as if your brain focused all of its energy on playing the instrument that’s in your hands.

It had been months since I’d last experienced flow.

In fact, it’d been quite some time since I’d last enjoyed playing the cello. I had to mentally force myself to practice, and I hadn’t seen my instructor in weeks now – at first I’d tried to come up with excuses for my lack of attendance, and at some point he probably just got tired and simply stopped asking why I’d failed to show up.

I set the bow down.

I rummaged through the muddy waters of my conscious mind in search of a reason to keep trying, a rallying cry to power through the mental block and hope that, at some point, playing music would make me feel some type of joy again.

Nothing.

I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. I’d already caught up to all my homework and there was nothing left to do. These days, the logical next step would be to text Valentín, but since school I hadn’t heard back from him at all.

I put on a Redondos song.

What time was it? A ferocious debate on whether to put on a pot of coffee or take a nap raged on in my mind.

The notification bell went off just as the pro-nap party was taking the lead.

“hey” was the simple message Valentín had sent. Soon, however, it was followed by: “can I come over?”

And then, another that shook me awake to the point no mind debate was further needed:

“i told dad”

This is the penultimate chapter 😬 It's also, I believe, the shortest one so far. Was it good enough to make up for that? Let me know in the comments!
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

Excellent chapter.Cliffhanger time.And will Lauti tell his dad?

35 Thousand pesos  is $383 dollars sounds steep for a class trip 

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On 3/18/2021 at 3:06 PM, weinerdog said:

Excellent chapter.Cliffhanger time.And will Lauti tell his dad?

35 Thousand pesos  is $383 dollars sounds steep for a class trip 

It is a lot of money! The story is set in 2018, at which point 35K pesos were about $900 USD (steep inflation is a quintessentially Argentine issue).

On 3/18/2021 at 5:25 PM, drsawzall said:

Looks as if all sorts of matches have been struck, will they spark any fires?

5 hours ago, KayDeeMac said:

So now everyone knows!! Let's hope there is no trouble in paradise!

 You'll have to wait and see 😊

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Ooh I'm all caught up now, looking forward to the next chapter and Sergio's reaction to his son's coming out! 

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