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Author Topic: Homecoming  (Read 6570 times)


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« on: October 19, 2015, 04:12:53 PM EDT »

        He didn't know how much more he could take. The sweltering heat, the smell of seared flesh, the incessant stream of orders being yelled at him. If he spilled the oil, the flames would eat it up and rise to lick at his hands menacingly.

        The young man wiped the sweat from his brow, with the back of his forearm. It felt nice, but the cooling sensation on his head and arm quickly disappeared.

        The sun shone down relentlessly. It was well into setting, but it would still be another hour before it slid out of direct view, past the building behind the young man.

        He wasn't sure how much longer he could go on. He'd been busting his butt for an hour now, and he had at least another hour to go like this. He'd have to work into the night, but at least things would calm down and the heat would cool off, eventually.

        He was going as fast as he could, but it was never good enough. The "Taskmaster" always wanted things done faster, faster, faster. That's what he called him anyways, the "Taskmaster."

        There was one other worker here in the pit, with him and the Taskmaster. He and the other worker got along well with each other, in fact, they were the best of friends. There were other workers too, elsewhere.

        It irked the young man though, that his friend always seemed fast enough for the Taskmaster. His friend was faster, but he didn't think he was that much faster. The Taskmaster did, though. So it went on like that, he being pushed harder and harder each day, and his friend enjoying the Taskmaster's approval.

        Seeing their guests enjoying his hard work gave him some small feeling of accomplishment. However, it was his paycheck that brought him the highest reward from this work.

        It was another hot summer on Corellia, and Balan was working the open air kitchen at Mehzal's Askajian Grill, in Coronet City.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2016, 04:17:58 PM EDT by Balan »
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Re: Homecoming
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2016, 01:00:51 AM EDT »

        Later, at night, after the last customer had left, the last tablecloth had been folded, and the last dish had been washed; Balan came and sat with his friend from the pit.

        As usual, his friend had finished his closing duties first. They now occupied two seats at one of the outlying tables, at the exterior dining area.

        It was a very dark night. After sunset, some clouds had rolled in. They now blocked out the light of the stars and two of Corellia's moons. The third moon wasn't orbiting this side of the planet, then. Both of the young men wished the clouds had arrived sooner and kept out the midday sun, instead. A couple street lamps a little ways away, was practically the only illumination in the immediate area.

        Relatively, it was a very safe area of the city, so they weren't worried about being out after dark. Even Mehzal wasn't worried about the chairs being stolen from outside the restaurant.

        Each of the young men had their feet resting in a chair. "That was a long day," Balan blew out a sigh.

        "Yup," his friend Ausiami, replied. Ausiami had dark brown skin, black hair, and brown eyes. He was born on Corellia 2 years before Balan was, on a different continent. Clomaleena, the city he was born in, was warmer and closer to the equator than Coronet City. His family had moved to this continent, and specifically a suburb of Coronet City, a decade ago.

        "Payday is three days, right?" Balan asked. He was almost 16, now. It was 3 months shy of 2 years, since he had last seen Grennick and Vasira.

        "Mm hmm," Ausiami responded. "I'm getting that new speaker system for my speeder," he said with a big smile. Each of them nursed a drink. Ausiami had a grava berry flavored, sweetened tea. Balan had a Corellian Sweet Ale, a carbonated, non-alcoholic drink. It resembled true Corellian Ale in name only.

        "I'm probably going to get this year's Rounders hologame," Balan replied.

        "Another sports game?!" Ausiami rolled his eyes. "That's all you do!" He prodded, halfway joking.

        Balan started shaking his head, rejecting his friend's statement with a "no." After a brief moment of silence, he continued: "I'm also gonna get the next season of Star Journey."

        Having caught a second wind after resting a bit, Ausiami suggested with a big, silly grin: "how about a little Kick Bag?" He held his hand up and shook a little, semi-spherical, cloth bag filled with tiny wooden pellets.

        Balan sighed again, he was still tired; but thinking about playing Kick Bag and seeing his friend's goofy smile, he suddenly felt energetic again. "Sure," he replied with a smile, as they both got up.

        They started to walk the short distance to the restaurant's parking lot. "Goodnight Ausiami!" Mehzal called out from behind them.

        "Goodnight chef!" Ausiami cheerfully called back.

        The rotund Askajian then turned and lumbered off towards the back of the restaurant, where his landspeeder was parked.

        "See you tomorrow, Mr. Szarci;" Balan called after him, using his last name.

        The large Askajian half waved at him, half shooed him away with his hand as he kept walking, not even glancing back at him.

        Balan rolled his eyes at the ambiguously rude gesture. Turning to his friend he complained, "I've been working here for nine months and I still don't get why he acts like that."

        Ausiami had noticed the gesture too, but had chosen to ignore it. Trying to be jovial and make his friend laugh, he said with a teasing smile: "it's cause you're slow."

        "I am not!" Balan practically bellyached with a scowl.

        "No," his friend decided to tease him some more, "but you're not fast, either."

        Balan knew deep down that his friend just wanted them to have fun after a long day of work, and that that was why he was making jokes instead of reassuring him. He also knew that being told he had mediocre speed was the best he was going to get from Ausiami. Between all that and being tired himself after a long day, he chose to ignore the issue like his friend had, and just unwind. "Come on, Asi" he used his friend's nickname. "Let's go beat our record."

        They played for almost an hour, kicking the bag between themselves trying to keep it off the ground. They did indeed beat their record, by 2.

        "I can't believe that after six months, our record is only 39!" exclaimed Balan.

        "We're almost ready for the pros," Asi joked; then with a serious expression he kidded: "but we need to practice more if we're going to make it."

        Balan chuckled, before saying "it's getting late, I'm going home."

        "Yeah, don't you work tomorrow?" Asi asked.

        "Yeah, but just my four hour shift." Balan normally worked 3 12-hour shifts a week, but sometimes, if they needed him, he worked another dinner shift, which brought him to a full 40-hour week. "You wanna hang out at my place before I crash?"

        "Why not my apartment?" Asi asked. "We could watch a holovid, I've got that surround sound system," he said with a grin.

        “I’d rather not crash on your floor again,” Balan said, thinking: “you really need some furniture in that place.”

        Ausiami quickly gave up. “Okay, fine.” Balan tossed the kickbag to him, and he pocketed it. They then hopped in their respective landspeeders.

        Ausiami had a boat of a land speeder. It emitted a powerful, deep, mechanical whooshing sound as its four large clyndrical turbine engines started.

        Balan’s landspeeder was somewhat smaller, and much less stylish. It was also slower and less powerful, with turbines a little smaller and one fewer in number. Despite the relative lack of power, it was still an advanced machine that could reach speeds of at least 190 kph, according to the owner's manual. Balan hadn’t yet taken it out to open, even area and topped out its speed; and he had enough sense not to do that in the urban setting of Coronet City.

        Ausiami pulled out of the parking lot and sped off towards Balan’s apartment. Balan struggled to keep up, accelerating past the speed limit of 60 kph a little. He tried to compromise between keeping up with his friend, obeying the law, and driving safely. It didn’t work as a traffic light turned red and Balan had to stop.

        He watched Asi’s white Aratech Saidero CR leave him behind. He blew out a sigh, and drove a little above the speed limit the rest of the way.

        Arriving at the skyscraper that housed his apartment, he passed Asi, who’s landspeeder was idling on the side of the road.

        Asi stuck his head out his window, and jokingly taunted “what’re ya keepin’ me waitin’ for?!”

        Balan gave him a mocking smile, feeling some satisfaction at having made him wait, after he had left him in the dust.

        He drove past Ausiami’s landspeeder, to the entrance of the parking garage beneath the apartment complex. He used a keycard on a control pad stationed at the entrance to open the durasteel security gate. He also selected the option on the control pad to let one guest vehicle enter with him.

        They quickly found parking spots, before exiting their speeders and taking an elevator up to Balan’s floor.

        It was an older apartment building, with lower rent. His one-bedroom apartment was on the 73rd floor, towards the middle of the building’s height. This made the rent relatively cheaper also, as the lower and upper floors all fetched higher prices. Still, being in a big city he had to pay high rent; sometimes it was difficult to make ends meet.

        He was seriously considering moving into a studio apartment in an even older building when his lease was up.

        Arriving at his apartment he again used his keycard, to unlock the door. They entered and promptly plopped down on his couch. They started watching an episode of a fictional holovid series about an unexplored region of space. Balan had seen this episode before, but he enjoyed watching them even as reruns.

        The episode was about reuniting long lost family members that had been separated by slavery in an alien culture. This got Balan thinking about his own family, and then Ausiami’s. He realized that he didn’t know much about his friend’s family, so he decided to ask him: “so, Asi, what’re your parents like?”

        “What? Umm. . .my dad works a lot and isn’t around much. My mom’s awesome. . .but, I don’t get to see her as much, since I moved into the city.”

        Balan had halfway expected him to be elusive and not really answer the question; or that if he did open up, that it’d be a long, drawn out, deep answer. Instead, his friend had responded plainly and concisely.

        Balan opened his mouth to tell his whole tragic, complicated life story; but, then remembered how tired they both were and what kind of person Ausiami was: very friendly, but not very apt to discuss deep, emotional subjects in length.

        So, he decided to imitate the style of his friend’s response, and wait until another time to give him the whole spiel.

        He realized it had been a while since Asi had finished speaking, but still Balan waited patiently to be asked about his family.

        Ausiami, growing slightly impatient, asked “well, what about you?”

        Balan then recognized that Asi had been waiting for him to talk about his family. It felt good that his friend was interested in him. He tried to be concise; “well, um. . .” he wasn’t exactly sure how best to start. “Saw my father dead at 10, my brother disappeared, and is still missing.” He had to strongly control himself from talking about being captured by a Sith and then later by a Hutt and a Sith Lord, so as not to overwhelm his friend. He then remembered his mother, and instantly felt ashamed for forgetting about her. “And my mom, well, I don’t know. She was really messed up from dad dying, the last place I remember her being was a hospital here in the city.” He then realized that he had failed to keep his answer short and sweet, he knew it could have been worse, though.

        “That bites, I’m sorry man. . .but, wait. You don’t know where your mom is?”

        “Well, no. . .I don’t.”

        “Have you tried looking for her?”

        Balan suddenly felt guilty. “. . .Um, no. . .” he said sheepishly, before trying to defend himself. “I’ve been focused on just surviving, I didn’t know where she had gone.” He was gradually feeling more and more guilty.

        “Well, maybe you should look for her.”

        Balan, tired and unexpectedly feeling shamed, fumed. He felt indignant towards his friend, who he viewed as somewhat morally irresponsible, for chastising him.

        He tried to stay calm and carefully form his next words. “I was 10, I haven’t seen her in 6 years.” It came out through gritted teeth and with more anger than he had intended.

        His anger was obvious to Ausiami, who returned with his own small amount of indignation. “I don’t know man, I think you would’ve had time in those 6 years to look for her; or at least just go ask Corsec to find her.”

        Balan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He closed his mouth, which had been slightly agape for a few seconds. He thought it was extremely audacious of Ausiami to judge him. The anger, frustration, anxiety, and newfound guilt made it difficult to get his words out; while his friend seemed largely unaffected, just somewhat put off. Balan fought back tears of frustration as they welled up in his eyes. He tried hard to keep his thoughts straight, as he tried to precisely choose his words and formulate a defense.

        “I was locked up in an orphanage for months. . .” he had to stop and swallow the lump in his throat, before he could continue. “She never came for me, no one did. . .” he almost broke down at the implications of that, but he blocked out that line of thinking, for the time being.

        Ausiami rubbed his eyes wearily, and shifted slightly away from him. He suddenly seemed to be shutting Balan out. Swallowing another lump, Balan struggled to keep talking. “I was kidnapped. . .”he swallowed again, “twice.” A tear escaped from his eye, and rolled quickly down his cheek. He instantly got rid of it, with a single swipe of his hand, hoping his friend hadn’t noticed.

        Silence ensued. He waited for Ausiami to reply, who just stared silently at the menu that the holovid displayed.

        Balan regained his composure after a short while. He thought about explaining the timetable of these events to Ausiami, reiterating how he had been a little kid just trying to survive on his own, not thinking of the mother who had become mentally and emotionally unstable, and abandoned him to an orphanage. The tears instantly threatened to come back, he didn’t know why she had put him in the orphanage, but he was determined to not think about it right now.

        He calmed down a bit, as he thought about telling Ausiami about a subject that was actually easier to talk about, then talking about being abandoned; the physical wounds he had been given and the torture he had undergone at the hands of the two Sith.

        Ausiami cut Balan’s ponderings short, breaking the silence. “Well, I don’t know, man;” he repeated. “But if it was my mom, I’d be out there right now, looking for her. I mean, come on, she’s your mom, right?”

        Feeling a little indignant again, Balan quickly concluded that he was too exhausted to go looking for her that night. However, he knew his friend was right, he should be looking for her. He also knew that he could have been trying to find her a lot earlier. If not when he was working as a courier, between the ages of 12 and 14, or when he got to Corellia after the escapade on Nar Shaddaa and had to find a new, legitimate livelihood; then at least in the last 6 months he could have looked for her, after he had gotten the job at the restaurant and things had finally settled down for him somewhat. He was ashamed, he felt so selfish; but he recognized that he had gotten caught up in just trying to stay alive.

        Balan refrained from replying spitefully. He had to fight hard to swallow his pride. He didn’t enjoy looking like a selfish, no-good, bum to his friend. He somehow managed to simply say “yeah. . .” He had to clear his throat before continuing. “I’ll try to find her. . .”

        Another silence ensued, before Balan hit play on the next episode, trying to clear the air. He knew it was a boring episode, with a romantic relationship as a large part of the plot, it would surely put them to sleep.

        Balan took the time to contemplate what they had talked about. Half an hour later, Ausiami was sleeping sitting up on the couch. Balan shut off the holo display and dragged himself to bed. He fell asleep in the 2nd hour of the early morning, committed to looking for his mother.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2017, 04:16:59 PM EDT by Balan »
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Re: Homecoming
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2016, 12:22:35 AM EST »

        Balan slept in. The rest seemed to have done him well, though. His mind must have been working on how to find his mother, because when he tried to remember the name of the hospital she had gone to after his father died, it came to him almost instantly. Coronet Hospital, at least he was pretty sure that that was the one. It was the main medcenter in the city.

        He had a simple breakfast and a quick shower. It being an older, lower-quality apartment, it was the low-tech water variety, not the high-tech sonic kind. Then, he looked up the location of the hospital on his holocomm.

        Balan snickered at his friend, who was still passed out in an upright position on his couch, before leaving for the hospital. He didn’t mind leaving his friend there, he trusted him not to steal or break anything.

        The young man hopped in his goldfish-beige Sorosuub 44-N Landspeeder. The “N” stood for “Noble,” the name of this production series of economy, 4-door landspeeders. He found the name pretentious and disliked the color. He couldn’t complain too much, though. She was in decent condition and he’d gotten her at a bargain price.

        He drove out of the parking garage and through city streets for almost 20 minutes before reaching the large medical center and taking a spot in its parking garage. He walked from his landspeeder, across a windowed skyway, and towards the hospital’s third floor entrance.

        Balan had grown more and more nervous, as he had neared the hospital on the drive over. He wondered what he should say to his mother when he found her; and what she would say to him. He wasn’t sure if she would even be sane or coherent. He had briefly thought about the last time he had seen her.

        In the hours after Corsec had arrived on their homestead and confirmed what she had feel happen-her husband’s, and Balan’s father’s, death-she had gone from inconsolable, to distraught and detached, to almost completely unresponsive.

        Balan figured that the officers had judged her unfit to care for him, at least temporarily. He was whisked off to an orphanage and told that his mom was going to Coronet Hospital, so a doctor could help her “calm down” and be “able to handle the situation.”

        He was also worried about what Corsec or the hospital staff would do if they found out who he was. He was legally too young to be living on his own. So he rented from leasers and worked for employers who didn’t require too much information about him or who didn’t care about the finer points of the law. Unfortunately, they also tended to be less conscientious in general.

        Even though he was paid under the table by the owner of the restaurant he now worked for, he always calculated his income tax and mailed it in annually to the tax administration, as an anonymous money order. His conscious and his mind simply wouldn’t let him steal, even though he was working semi-illegally. He felt better for doing it, however.

        If the hospital staff found out who he was, and that he was still considered missing from the orphanage, he thought they would almost certainly alert the authorities and he would be sent back to the orphanage, and possibly even prosecuted.

        He was scanned for weapons by one of the building’s security scanners as he neared the entrance. No alarms went off. He had left his lightsaber at home, as he did most days, now. The lone human security guard merely watched him for a moment, and returned the boy’s meek smile with a polite nod.

        He took an elevator down to the 1st floor, and made his way across the expansive lobby to the main desk. The lobby had a modern style décor, with extensive use of glass, stainless durasteel, and chrome.

        After waiting in line for almost 15 minutes, fretting over how to handle the situation and what might happen, he took a deep breath and stepped up to the reception desk. The Human woman behind the desk was slender and appeared to be in her early 40’s, with white skin and brown hair and eyes. Her name tag read: “Kelci.” She greeted him pleasantly. “Hello, how may I help you?”

        Still unsure of exactly what to say, he started: “Hi, uh, I’m looking for a patient who was here about, um.” He thought for a brief moment, counting the years. “Almost 6 years ago.”

        She hesitated, giving him an incredulous look. “Um, what’s their name?”

        “Larna Mejplaham” he said. His family’s last name was rather common on Corellia.

        “Please spell that out for me,” she asked unemotionally.

        He spelled it out, as she looked down at her computer and input the information, using her keyboard.

        A couple seconds later she raised her eyebrows slightly. She then asked, “and who are you?”

        It was the question he’d been dreading. “Um,” he cleared his throat. “I’m a relative,” he said vaguely.

        She grew somewhat suspicious at that. “Your name, please.” Annoyance shown in her voice.

        Without his noticing, he grew wide-eyed and started to sweat. He knew that if he gave her the nickname he’d been using as a last name, Tag, that it wouldn’t get him anywhere. He also knew that if he gave his legal last name, he might end up back at the orphanage.

        He had hoped beyond hope that she would just give him the information he needed. On his walk from the parking garage, he had contemplated what he would do if the person he spoke to wouldn’t provide him the information. Fortunately, it looked like she had already brought the information up on her computer. He cleared his throat again and took a deep, calming breath.

        “Kelci,” the receptionist heard an unfamiliar male voice from behind her speak. “I need your help back here.”

        She smiled politely at Balan, excusing herself: “I’ll be right back.”

        She turned and walked back to a closed door in the wall, behind her desk. She opened it, poked her head in. “Did someone call me? I thought I heard someone ask for me back here.”
The three women in the room answered in the negative.

        Suddenly, someone yelled from behind her: “Hey! Get away from that-hey! Where’d he go?!”

        Out in the parking garage, Balan huffed and puffed sitting in his landspeeder. With the assistance of force power he speedily ran the distance of the lobby, and two stories worth of stairs, in about 5 seconds. He then ran, at a more normal speed, the rest of the way to the third-floor exit. Making it that far, he nervously glanced at the guard, before speed walking out the door and to his landspeeder. The guard gave him a questioning look, but didn’t move from behind his desk.

        That sort of high-speed activity requires hyper-fast brain processing and coordination. Being a bit out of practice and shape, the young man was now throughly exhausted, physically and mentally.

        After distracting the receptionist by causing her to hear a voice, he had leaned over and read the information on her screen. After a few seconds, another receptionist had noticed what he was doing, and had yelled at him to stop. He had then sprinted out of there.

        He had found what he had been looking for though. Two things stuck out to him in particular, about his mother’s file. 1st, she had been diagnosed with traumatic muteness and major depressive disorder. 2nd, she had been transferred to Gold Beach Care Facility.

        After looking up the location of the care facility on his holocomm, he pulled out of his parking spot and headed off towards it.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2016, 01:24:43 AM EST by Balan »
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Re: Homecoming
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2016, 03:17:12 AM EST »

        After driving for 45 minutes he finally reached the facility. As he drove through city streets in midday he had to deal with heavy traffic, as countless workers of a plethora of vocations rushed to get lunch and return to their jobs. He eventually reached one of Coronet’s suburbs. Driving through it, he came to the rest home on the edge of the suburb. Behind it were open fields of grassland.

        After parking in the facility’s lot, he sat in his landspeeder, considering what difficulties he might encounter trying to find his mom here. He’d never been to a rest home before, but he worried that they were as strict about security as the hospital was. He worried that they too, might send him back to the orphanage, if they discovered his identity and age.

        After going in circles in his head for several minutes, he decided that he could just run out of there like he had the hospital, if something went wrong. Knowing that he only had an hour and a half before he had to leave, in order to get to work on time, he pushed his concerns aside. He decided to just do it. 6 years had been long enough.

        He exited his landspeeder, locked it, and then walked to the entrance. As he neared the entrance the double doors slid open. There was no security guard here. Past a second set of sliding doors was the lobby. A friendly-looking, young Nautolan woman stood behind a desk to his right. To his left, an old Weequay man using a walker made a beeline for the door. Balan walked further inside as the doors started to close behind him.

        They finished closing as the old Weequay neared them. Balan watched the man’s face as it changed from determined, to frustrated with a hint of hopelessness, as the man angrily muttered in Huttese. His face gradually went blank, and he started wandering around the lobby.

        Part of the significance of what had just happened was lost on the young man, but he felt a little sorry for the old man. Balan walked over to the desk. The Nautolan girl turned from watching the Weequay closely, to smiling ear to ear at Balan.

        “How can I help you?” She very cheerfully asked.

        A little surprised by her exuberance, Balan hesitated briefly before saying with a smile, “hi. I was wondering if Larna Mejplaham was still living here?”

        “Oh?” she said sounding curious, but not suspicious or accusatory. “How do you know her?”

        Hoping she wouldn’t pry any further, he answered honestly. “I’m her son?”

        “Oh! It’s so nice to meet you! Your mother is a sweetie!” She said, even more cheerfully.

        Balan froze for a moment. His mother was alive, and she was here.

        Noticing but not understanding his shocked expression, the girl continued with a smile. “About this time of day, you’ll probably find her in the dining room or the main activities room.”

        “Thank you” he said absentmindedly, forgetting to ask for directions. He turned and started into the building, without a certain direction. He had suddenly gotten even more nervous about meeting his mother, now that it was much more a reality.

        He made his way from the lobby, turning left at a four-way junction into a hallway. The walls were painted a light cream color, lined with historic photos and landscape paintings. He was droning, as he walked the beige tile, going through different scenarios that could possibly happen when he found her. Most of them were negative, some outlandishly so. First he imagined her as happy to see him, then indifferent, then he imagined that she was in a vegetative state, then that she would be enraged at him.

        Snapping out of his thoughts, he realized that he was wandering aimlessly.  He turned around and quickly spotted a directional sign. He soon learned that he should have gone straight instead of taking a left at the junction. He backtracked to the junction, and turned left into the proper hallway. A short ways down the hallway was the dining room.

        Older sentiments, mostly humans, took up about half the seats in the room. They were seated along rectangular tables with nice looking place settings and delicious looking food before them. Uniformed servers, also mostly human, rushed between tables, delivering food, removing used dishes and utensils, and taking meal orders.

        As Balan walked through the middle of the room, between the rows of tables, he searched the faces for one he used to be familiar with.

        He gulped, realizing she might notice him before he saw her. He knew he shouldn’t be so worried about that, though. He reached the far end of the room, not finding her. He turned around to take another look at all the people. To his left was a room with tall, wide windows that let in a large amount of light. An older couple sat on a divan, quietly conversing, behind him to his left. A woman with medium brown hair sat in a powered wheelchair, facing out one of the windows.

        Balan noticed a couple servers staring at him, and suddenly felt like getting out of there. His eyes shied away from them to glance out the windows. They offered a view of the countryside; tall, golden grass waving in the breeze, against the backdrop of large, rolling hills in the distance.

        The woman at the window turned her head to the side. He briefly glanced at her, but he didn’t recognize her.

        Feeling more and more out of place, instinctively he decided to pass back through the dining room and leave it. Taking a few steps, something came together in his subconscious. He stopped and looked back at the woman at the window. She had wheeled her chair around and was starting to leave her spot by the windows.

        It happened slowly, but seeing her whole face, he gradually recognized her. She was his mother!
« Last Edit: May 06, 2017, 11:58:16 PM EDT by Balan »
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Re: Homecoming
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2017, 11:43:25 PM EDT »

        He stood there, frozen. He didn’t know if he should run up to her and hug her, or approach calmly and simply tell her that he is her son. He’d been nervous the whole time, but his anxiety was peaking. His whole body started to tremble slightly, as his adrenaline flowed.

        Seeing his mother, Larna, awoke emotions in him in particular ways he hadn’t felt in years, affection, nostalgia, belonging. Not understanding the feelings, he stopped them. He composed himself mentally and emotionally, and wiped away the tears that had welled up in his eyes. Though, the anxiety returned shortly.

        Larna hadn’t noticed him and was approaching the dining room’s nearest exit. He quickly walked after her weaving between servers, residents, tables, and the server station by the exit. She turned right at the exit, and continued driving her wheelchair down the light cream-colored hall she had entered. Balan, having entered the hallway, was less than 5 meters behind her.

        He opened his mouth to say “hello,” but nothing came out. Being so anxious about the situation, his mind had become particular about it. He felt strongly that he had to do this just right, but he wasn’t sure what would be just right.

        Seeing her rolling away from him, he suddenly felt like he was losing his opportunity. “He-hello,” he blurted out.

        It hadn't been loud enough though, and she kept moving away, a good ten meters separated them now. He started to run after her-feeling a longing for her-but quickly stopped himself, trying to get her attention and greet her calmly, just right. He walked after her as measured as he could, trying not to take too long of strides; too long and they might betray desperate longing.

        The handful of steps he had ran had loudly sounded on the beige tile floor though, and hearing someone running behind her, she stopped. She then steered her chair around with the control pad on the end of the chair’s right armrest. Seeing her wheel around to face him he briefly froze in place, feeling intense uncertainty and anxiety.

        Their eyes met. The ice having been partway broken, his mind stopped being so particular, for a moment. "Hi mom," he said.

        Larna wheeled towards him, but that wasn't fast enough for her. She stood up, took a split-second to gain her balance, and abandoned the chair. She quickly walked to him, and engulfed him in her arms; she squeezed him like she would never let him go.

        He slowly brought his arms up to enfold them around her. After more than several long moments, she pulled back to take a good look at him. Tears filled her newly reddened eyes, and streamed down her cheeks, leaving red streaks behind when she would wipe them away. Her eyes told him that she felt like she had just found something very precious to her, they also showed her utter disbelief at seeing him. Seeing her so emotional, embarrassed and overwhelmed him; but he managed not to pull away, which was what his instincts were pushing him to do.

        Larna pulled him back in and held him tight, before pulling back again. She wouldn't let go of him though, both of her hands gripping his arms, just below his shoulders. She finally spoke "Balan. . .where have you been?"

        His feeling of guilt, over not having looked for her, twinged inside him. "I've-I-"

        "Oh, that's okay." She stopped his stammering short. "Are you okay? Are you alright?"

        Balan was feeling overwhelmed by her questions. He suddenly wanted a little space between him and his mother. He stiffened up and started to writhe slightly. She wouldn't let go of him, though. Her eyes stared straight at him imploring, begging him for an answer. Seeing this, he answered: "I'm fine, I'm alright;" to try to placate her.

        When her eyes asked him for more, he briefly forgot about her incessant hold on him. He didn't know where to begin, but the simplest things came out of his mouth. "I'm a cook. I work in the city, at a restaurant." She was still patiently listening, so he kept on. "I rent an apartment in one of the Old Downtown districts."

        She didn't reply, she just pulled him in again for another tight hug. He was feeling thoroughly smothered at this point. When she let him pull back, he tried harder to break her grasp. He got his right arm free, but she still held onto his left arm solidly. He was getting frustrated, and it showed on his face. He wanted to talk with her, not be coddled and comforted.

        She seemed to have ignored his previous answers, and the scowl on his face. "Are you going to school?" she asked.

        He hadn't gone to school since running away from the orphanage. He missed having other children to play with, he even missed learning math, science, and history. ". . .Ummm. . .no," he looked down and to the side in shame. He knew she wouldn't be happy to hear that.

        "What? Why? You need to be going to school!. . ." She sounded somewhat critical, but mostly just frantic.

        Balan didn't understand why she was getting so upset over this one thing. "I'm alive aren't I?! I'm here now aren't I?!" he thought in retaliation.

        She had been rambling while he was silently talking back, ". . .and you need a proper place to live. Not some dump with spideroaches!" Her imagination was clearly running away with her.

        He was frustrated and put off from conversing with her anymore, and it showed in his frown, his avoiding eye contact, and occasionally rolling his eyes. He thought she would be happy to see him, not so critical.

        She had stopped talking, having noticed him being fed up. Her emotions then hit her all at once. Her face twisted with sorrow, and she again embraced him tightly, beginning to breakdown and bawl. Between sobs she managed "you're, not. . . dead!"

        At first he was horrified at the intense display of emotion, but he started to get a glimpse of how she must have felt, from what she had said.

        Her husband of 16 years, and his father had died; her son, and his brother, had disappeared just before their father had died, and for all they knew was dead himself. Her parents had died years ago, when Balan was very young. Balan himself, had disappeared for 4 years.

        She must have been all alone, not knowing what had happened to her two sons; and then suddenly, he showed up. She was justified in being emotional over it all, he knew. He started to shed a few tears as well, hugging her back.

        After a long embrace, he began to feel uncomfortable again. When he let go of her, she let go, too. She sat back down in her wheelchair, her eyes red and watery, her cheeks red from the tears as well.

        After wiping her nose with a tissue, she said: "it's so good to see you, son. I just can't-. . .believe it." She started to breakdown again.

        He tried to quickly distract her by interjecting, "it's good to see you, too, mom."

        She was starting to cry, and he was struggling to think of something to talk about, to divert her thinking. After a long moment he managed: "so, what's it like here? What do you do for fun?"

        "What?-" the questions were enough to distract her from her emotions, barely. ". . .Oh." She wiped away her tears again, as she thought. ". . .there's not much to do here. I listen to my music and watch Rounders on the holo," referring to a team sport moderately popular in the galaxy's mid-rim.

        He smiled remembering how she and he would watch Rounders games on the holo together. He still followed the same team they had rooted for in the past, the Tyrena Humbabas. He started to talk about how the team was doing this season. They finally slipped into pleasant, mundane conversation for a while. Balan was glad that she had calmed down and wasn't crying anymore.

        After a while the conversation meandered to the topic of their old homestead. ". . .Heh," Balan smiled, reminiscing. “I always had a lot of fun playing catch with dad. I imagined I would play pro rounders one day.” Having mentioned his father, his mother’s face gradually took on an anguished look, and a brief silence ensued. Seeing her losing her composure, he quickly broke the short silence. “Whatever happened to the homestead, anyways?”

        Despite his efforts, she started to cry again. Though he felt extremely uncomfortable, he managed to hold her hand and wait quietly for her to stop.

        After a minute Larna managed to compose herself. She answered his question: “Oh, it’s still there, I haven’t been there since your. . .father died,” she had to force out the last couple words. She sobbed and more tears came, which she quickly wiped away.

        He pressed the subject, “do you still own it?”

        She cleared her throat, “yes. It’s in my name, now.”

        Balan suddenly longed to see his old home. He had always wanted to, but never thought it possible, not knowing its location. With eagerness in his eyes, he asked: “can you tell me how to get back there?”

        “Oh honey, that’s halfway in-between Kor Vella and the Agrilat Swamps. It’s far too dangerous and remote to go there,” she chided.

        “How far from Kor Vella, mom?” he inquired, unimpeded.

        “Almost 26 kilometers- oh, but sweetie, stop thinking about that. It’s too dangerous out there,” her voice took on a mildly stern quality.

        Balan let it drop, thinking that he could find it from the bits of information she had let slip. He tried made an effort to impress them on his mind, repeating them mentally.

        They slipped back into mundane conversation and visited for a while longer, before he realized how late it was getting. He had to rush off to work. Larna tried to get him to stay, so she could arrange for him to go to school, but he pretended not to hear as he ran off back down the hall.

        Later that night, at the end of his shift, he requested a few days off a couple weeks down the road; in order to go see his old home.
If only you could see inside my head. . .
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