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LMS VI: Let Me Live Tonight 1.12

by winterwolf0100


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

I spent my fourteenth birthday at my grandparents' house, eating cake and skipping school. We had pot roast for dinner, a dish my grandma left in the crock-pot all day-- I could smell it simmering.

They'd moved the TV from their bedroom into mine-- it was mine by that point. It hadn't been stated aloud, but we all knew. My grandpa plugged it in and figured out all the cords while my grandma talked about how they'd never used the one in their bedroom anyway because they always watched it together in the living room, and how teenagers like me needed their own space to do things and since I didn't have a computer, I needed a TV if I wanted to watch something. I didn't have one at my room at home-- my mom didn't like televisions in bedrooms-- but I didn't complain. I watched silently as my grandpa set everything up and my grandma fussed over him.

On my fourteenth birthday, I stayed in bed all day and watched TV. I don't remember most of what I watched; game shows, mainly. Family Feud was one that played all day long on different channels, and I got used to the sound of the buzzer in my ears. My grandma asked if I wanted to do anything special for my birthday, but I didn't. I didn't have the energy for it. I was just excited to eat with both my parents that night. They were coming over for dinner, my grandma said. That's when I would open presents.

I watched Family Feud in a murky haze, people suggesting ridiculous things only for their teammates to clap and say, "Good answer! Good answer!" It was just one of those little lies we tell ourselves, something to make others feel better, to make us feel better. Like when, several years later, I graduated from high school, and I hugged people and said, "We should stay in touch!" And they would say, "Yes, let's get together over the summer!"

I don't mean we were lying. At least, we weren't doing it on purpose. We both meant it at the time. We really did want to get together. We imagined an alternate universe, one where we were close enough friends for me to receive a text out of the blue saying, "Hey, let's get coffee!" And I'd say, "Sure! How does 3 on Thursday sound?"

The lies didn't matter at the time; they're just little. They aren't meant to be lies. They don't come out of malicious intent or some sort of fear. They come out of hope that maybe, this time we'll change what we do.

On my fourteenth birthday, my parents came to my grandparents' house at four, and they didn't stay for long. They drove in separate cars, and they came from different directions. My dad kept a distance from his parents. My mom hugged them. Everything was stiff and still.

"Clay's been watching TV most of the day," my grandpa said, patting me on the back.

"We moved the television set from our room into his," my grandma explained, moving to the kitchen to check on the food. "Dinner should be ready in about an hour!"

I watched my parents guardedly. I'd texted with them. We'd called a few times, though we'd never all been on the phone at the same time. It had either been with one or the other. I'd thought I'd feel better being back with them. Instead, I felt empty.

"How's school been, Clay?" My mom asked, her smile strained. My dad said nothing, arms crossed as he stared after his mother.

"Fine," I said uncomfortably. The room stayed silent.

"I'm gonna see if mom needs help with the food," my dad muttered finally, moving to the kitchen. The air felt thick, stifling, like he was trying to leave as soon as possible.

I remember, even at the time, wondering if he bought that excuse. Did he think I would buy it? Did he think anyone would?

"Clay," my grandpa said, "why don't you show your mom your room?"

I shrugged and turned back towards the hallway. My parents had seen the guest bedroom here before, it wasn't new. But it wasn't just the guest bedroom anymore. I guess that was part of the problem.

My mom followed me back down the hall and cleared her throat as we walked into the room. "It's clean," she noted. I didn't respond. She watched me out of the corner of her eye as she sat down on the edge of my bed. "Stars," she pointed out, looking up at the ceiling as she laid back. She released a long-held breath, tension evaporating off her body.

"Yeah."

"We can get some for your bedroom at home if you want."

I stayed standing, watching how her hair sprawled across the bed. "No," I said finally. That didn't seem right. I couldn't take away that feeling from here and try to put it somewhere else. I knew it wouldn't work. She seemed to know it too, because she didn't act surprised.

"You should go get your dad," she said quietly after we'd stayed in the silence for a long moment. She stared up at the ceiling, eyes fixated on stars. I left the room, wordless.

When my dad and I walked back in, my mom was still in the same position. She heard us come in, and whispered, "We need to tell him."

My dad sighed. "Caroline."

"We need to," she said back softly. I could feel dread building in my stomach.

"It's his birthday Caroline," my dad snapped. "This couldn't wait until the morning?"

"Clayton," my mom said, staring up at the ceiling, not responding to anything my dad had said. "We're getting a divorce."

Cold. That's what the lies felt like. Cold, and rigid. They washed over me, countless memories, the drives, the late nights arguing. My mom dropping me off here a month ago, saying they just needed to work things out. The memories felt suffocating, freezing, paralyzing. I was paralyzed in lies.

"We agreed to do this in the morning!" My dad said, beginning to raise his voice. "Goddammit, why do you have to be so stubborn?"

"I'm stubborn?" My mom asked sharply, pushing herself up to sit on the bed as she glared at my dad. "I'm stubborn?"

"You can't just drop a bombshell like that on his birthday!" My dad shouted. I pushed past him to get out of the room. I didn't want to be here.

"And what, you think he won't notice us not next to each other the entire dinner?" My mom yelled. "He's fourteen Stan! He's not stupid!"

Their voices got fainter, but the words were still clear as I moved into the kitchen. My grandpa looked up from his book and frowned, then stood and walked back to the bedroom.

"You can't even let him have his birthday, that's it?" My dad responded. "You wanna mess it up for him too?"

"Clayton, could you hand me the pepper?" My grandma asked. I grabbed it silently and passed it to her.

"It's not messing things up to tell him the truth!" My mom screamed. My grandma hummed as she stirred the pot roast, ignoring my parents.

"I can't do this with you," my dad said, laughing. He sounded pushed to the limit, and he stomped out of the room, barreling past my grandpa, his dad.

"You can't put it to the side for one night?" My grandpa asked furiously under his breath. "It's his birthday! You couldn't pull it together for one night?"

"It's too late for that," my dad seethed as he opened the front door and slammed it behind him. Only a few moments later, his car started and I heard him drive away. From my bedroom, the sound of my mom crying washed over the house. My grandma kept humming, the tune of an old church song.

On my fourteenth birthday, I ate dinner with my grandparents, but I felt alone. My mom left quietly, trying to hide her tears only a few minutes after my dad left. The house was silent.

My fourteenth birthday was the night my grandparents told me I'd be moving out to go live with my mom again in our house. My dad would be staying at a hotel while he found somewhere else to live. Over the next week, my grandma helped me pack my things, and my grandpa drove me to and from school like nothing had happened. He smiled when he picked me up and he pretended everything was fine. He told me I'd be happy to be back with my parents, back in my home, back in my old neighborhood with the tree that spanned two yards.

It was one of the little lies we tell ourselves, something to make others feel better, to make us feel better. I knew he didn't believe it. He knew I didn't believe it. But we never talked about it. And the day I moved out, I tore down the stars from the ceiling, where they left faint marks, little remnants of their time shining in the dark. I threw them in the trash.

~~~

1541 words


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Stickied -- Fri Feb 10, 2023 4:01 pm
winterwolf0100 says...



Heyyo, thank you for reading! ^^ This is a gentle reminder that this chapter is part of a larger novel, and I would ask that you please don't review it until you have reviewed and/or read the previous parts! You can start here, at the prologue. Thank you! :]




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Sun Jan 29, 2023 11:16 pm
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review! (Also sorry for the review spam—the perils of review day, I'm afraid!)

Aw, well that was depressing. I thought we were going to have a nice chapter where he celebrates his birthday, but no. Knowing this story, I probably shouldn't have expected that in the first place, but alas. You got my hopes up with the melancholy but hopeful beginning of the whole idea of little lies we tell ourselves. This was an even more heartbreaking chapter than the last—Clay can't even have a birthday without something depressing happening.

One thing I thought you did really well was characterizing everyone involved with the fight. Even though Clay doesn't have a super active role, I think the grandparents and parents were written very well, especially how everyone's anger plays off of each other. What stood out to me especially was how the grandmother just kept humming and distracting herself (and Clay, too, to some degree). The humming contrasts with the yelling, and the two things together create this confusing sound landscape that aligns with Clay's emotions in the moment.

That ending, too, was absolutely heart-wrenching. The stars had meant so much to Clay, a comfort against the migraines, his parents' divorce, etc, and to see him throw them away was just devastating. It's a poignant reflection of his frustration just at his life. It was a great choice to have him do that and include it.

I was also surprised by how even though I knew what was coming, I didn't expect it here. In part, I think it was because you'd already established in the previous chapter that the divorce was imminent, so to go to a scene before that was a little strange, because in my mind, they were already divorced. I think it's honestly masterful, though, how you literally tell the readers that they're getting a divorce and yet it still came as a surprise (at least to me). I think it's also due to the fact that you never told us the circumstances of how Clay found out about it, and this way just feels so heartbreaking, like a really bad birthday gift.

Specifics

"It's his birthday Caroline," my dad snapped. "This couldn't wait until the morning?"
...
"He's fourteen Stan! He's not stupid!"


This was one thing I caught; as a general rule, commas are used in direct address, so the names should be separated from the sentence by commas.

Overall: nice job. I think the character portrayals in this (especially during the fight scene) were very well done, and I'm excited to see where the story goes on! I feel like it's been a while since we've seen Dessie, and I'm wondering if the next chapter will be on that storyline more. Until next time!




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Fri Dec 23, 2022 9:10 am
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KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!! Ahh we've come quite far today here...almost at the penultimate chapter. At this point I'm certain I'll hop on over and finish up the last one too. It just wouldn't do to come this far and not to the final one...

First Impression: Taking a nice long sip of water to celebrate that Clay's grandparents are alive and well so even if well we did see Clay's family shatter right there, that felt a lot more like a foregone conclusion and so its not as bad of a feeling as what could have been.

Anyway let's get right to it,

I spent my fourteenth birthday at my grandparents' house, eating cake and skipping school. We had pot roast for dinner, a dish my grandma left in the crock-pot all day-- I could smell it simmering.

They'd moved the TV from their bedroom into mine-- it was mine by that point. It hadn't been stated aloud, but we all knew. My grandpa plugged it in and figured out all the cords while my grandma talked about how they'd never used the one in their bedroom anyway because they always watched it together in the living room, and how teenagers like me needed their own space to do things and since I didn't have a computer, I needed a TV if I wanted to watch something. I didn't have one at my room at home-- my mom didn't like televisions in bedrooms-- but I didn't complain. I watched silently as my grandpa set everything up and my grandma fussed over him.


Well this certainly backs up the divorce theory from everything given it seems that quite clearly this is the place that Clay spends his actually family time. The paranoia about what might be waiting at the end of this chapter or the next one really is strong. Well, let's see what comes.

I don't mean we were lying. At least, we weren't doing it on purpose. We both meant it at the time. We really did want to get together. We imagined an alternate universe, one where we were close enough friends for me to receive a text out of the blue saying, "Hey, let's get coffee!" And I'd say, "Sure! How does 3 on Thursday sound?"

The lies didn't matter at the time; they're just little. They aren't meant to be lies. They don't come out of malicious intent or some sort of fear. They come out of hope that maybe, this time we'll change what we do.

On my fourteenth birthday, my parents came to my grandparents' house at four, and they didn't stay for long. They drove in separate cars, and they came from different directions. My dad kept a distance from his parents. My mom hugged them. Everything was stiff and still.


Well that's definitely showcasing behavior you'd see from the odd uncle and the aunt more than one's actual parents and even the father's own parents being a little distant all just adds up to show us that something rather big has gone on there, something that Clay probably hasn't actually managed to learn yet, perhaps even to this day.

"Clay's been watching TV most of the day," my grandpa said, patting me on the back.

"We moved the television set from our room into his," my grandma explained, moving to the kitchen to check on the food. "Dinner should be ready in about an hour!"

I watched my parents guardedly. I'd texted with them. We'd called a few times, though we'd never all been on the phone at the same time. It had either been with one or the other. I'd thought I'd feel better being back with them. Instead, I felt empty.

"How's school been, Clay?" My mom asked, her smile strained. My dad said nothing, arms crossed as he stared after his mother.

"Fine," I said uncomfortably. The room stayed silent.


Well that's definitely not going well...and we've reached far enough in this story for Clay to become semi reliant on his grandparents that if you were planning on properly crushing him, there's really no better chapter to do it in. Ahhhhh I really hopes all my predictions for this chapter are very, very wrong.

"Yeah."

"We can get some for your bedroom at home if you want."

I stayed standing, watching how her hair sprawled across the bed. "No," I said finally. That didn't seem right. I couldn't take away that feeling from here and try to put it somewhere else. I knew it wouldn't work. She seemed to know it too, because she didn't act surprised.

"You should go get your dad," she said quietly after we'd stayed in the silence for a long moment. She stared up at the ceiling, eyes fixated on stars. I left the room, wordless.

When my dad and I walked back in, my mom was still in the same position. She heard us come in, and whispered, "We need to tell him."


Okayy well that's diving into some interesting territory. Love to see the stars get a mention right before what seems like its going to be a pretty bad situation for the whole family in pretty much just a few more minutes.

My dad sighed. "Caroline."

"We need to," she said back softly. I could feel dread building in my stomach.

"It's his birthday Caroline," my dad snapped. "This couldn't wait until the morning?"

"Clayton," my mom said, staring up at the ceiling, not responding to anything my dad had said. "We're getting a divorce."

Cold. That's what the lies felt like. Cold, and rigid. They washed over me, countless memories, the drives, the late nights arguing. My mom dropping me off here a month ago, saying they just needed to work things out. The memories felt suffocating, freezing, paralyzing. I was paralyzed in lies.


Ohhh well that's a surprise. I really thought the divorce was already official. Well that's a twist that makes things a little less powerful almost, I will take that over the death of the grandparents any day of the week, although well judging from Clay's reactions there he didn't know any of this and did still have hope he held onto. The mom definitely could've timed that far, far better.

"And what, you think he won't notice us not next to each other the entire dinner?" My mom yelled. "He's fourteen Stan! He's not stupid!"

Their voices got fainter, but the words were still clear as I moved into the kitchen. My grandpa looked up from his book and frowned, then stood and walked back to the bedroom.

"You can't even let him have his birthday, that's it?" My dad responded. "You wanna mess it up for him too?"

"Clayton, could you hand me the pepper?" My grandma asked. I grabbed it silently and passed it to her.

"It's not messing things up to tell him the truth!" My mom screamed. My grandma hummed as she stirred the pot roast, ignoring my parents.

"I can't do this with you," my dad said, laughing. He sounded pushed to the limit, and he stomped out of the room, barreling past my grandpa, his dad.


Well that seems to be about as well as that will go. The dad seems to have honestly pulled arguably the smarter move which does surprise me because the earlier chapters seemed to suggest that just maybe he was the worse one, but hmm I suppose this is all very relative because we're seeing this all through such a small lens in the from of Clay's memories.

On my fourteenth birthday, I ate dinner with my grandparents, but I felt alone. My mom left quietly, trying to hide her tears only a few minutes after my dad left. The house was silent.

My fourteenth birthday was the night my grandparents told me I'd be moving out to go live with my mom again in our house. My dad would be staying at a hotel while he found somewhere else to live. Over the next week, my grandma helped me pack my things, and my grandpa drove me to and from school like nothing had happened. He smiled when he picked me up and he pretended everything was fine. He told me I'd be happy to be back with my parents, back in my home, back in my old neighborhood with the tree that spanned two yards.

It was one of the little lies we tell ourselves, something to make others feel better, to make us feel better. I knew he didn't believe it. He knew I didn't believe it. But we never talked about it. And the day I moved out, I tore down the stars from the ceiling, where they left faint marks, little remnants of their time shining in the dark. I threw them in the trash.


Well that's a pointed move. We're back to really powerful statements punctuating the end of these and well, its a bit moment. I'm only just left a little happy at the end of this chapter which is ironic I know, this is arguably one of the worse traumas that Clay has had to witness and on his birthday no less but somehow you've primed me to expect so much worse that this feels somewhat like the lesser of two evils.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, we've dodged the worst of the bullets only to fall straight into a pit of spikes there. I think we're going to perhaps run into a few more things about quite how powerfully this affected Clay but before all that I'm just happy that Clay at this point in time still had his grandparents around in some capacity.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry





A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
— Franz Kafka