Foreign Tongues

By Chloe Vicino

His parents were angry. That was all he knew for certain. On tip-toes, Luis crept to the corner of the hallway, the television remote still in one hand while the other braced him against the wall. His neck craned around the edge and he tried to make out any words amid the elevated voices that came from his parent’s room at the end of the hall. But the Spanish floated in and out of his ears.

His lip stuck out in a pout and he stepped away from the wall suddenly eager to put as much distance between himself and his parent’s room as possible.

When at last his father emerged, quiet now, Luis was in the living room, sitting up against the far wall.

“Daddy?” He said, uncertainly, and when his father came up close, allowed himself to be hauled into his father’s arms, despite recently declaring himself too big to do so.

“Chiquilín,” his father said, and there was a strange look in his eyes that Luis couldn’t identify. “I love you, hijito. Te amo.”

“I love you too, Daddy” Luis said back, and offered a smile.

His father kissed him on the cheek, hard, and Luis wrapped his arms around his neck, enjoying the familiar feel of it under his hands. “No te preocupes, Luisito, que ya va estar bien. Ya regreso. Solo me voy por un ratito.” The Spanish that spilled from his father’s lips and brushed by Luis’s ear, slower this time, was still in that familiar, meaningless jabber. Comprehension escaped him, so he waited for someone or something to translate the words for him.

His mother appeared at the door. She was still angry, the arms crossed, tight lips kind that is quiet and scary, Luis decided, and hugged his father harder. Luis was almost certain the anger wasn’t for himself. His father kissed him once more, and squeezed him quickly before lowering him to the floor. Squatting at eye level, “Voy a regresar.” Luis stared back at him blankly. Then, “No worry, my boy,” he said in the funny way his father used whenever he spoke English. “No worry.”

Then he stood and looked at Luis’s mother.

“Ya volvere.”

“Veremos.”

His father headed towards the front door and his mother headed toward Luis, her eyes never leaving the retreating figure.

“Daddy? Where are you going?” Luis ventured to ask as his father made to grip the handle. His father turned around and his mother reached down to grab Luis’ hand in hers.

“No te preocupes, hijo. I love you, my son. Vendre a verte luego.”

When the door shut behind his father, Luis had his brows crossed in frustration. His mother released his hand. His father’s words swam without meaning around in Luis’ head, and he tried to force them to explain. His mother dropped down and faced him towards her, and the tight lipped anger was gone. Now, she was sad. After searching his face, with her eyes and with her hand as she traced his cheek with her fingers, she pulled him into her arms and held him tightly, tighter even than his father had. He hugged her back, not knowing what else to do.

“Va estar bien, mi Luisito. Va estar bien. No llores, que todo va salir bien.” She had forgotten that he couldn’t speak Spanish, he decided quickly, frantically. They both forgot. He wanted to cry in frustration, but instead, he repeated his father’s words to him from earlier, one of the only phrases he knew how to speak for himself.

“Te amo, Mommy,” he said, loudly, with a voice that had begun to quiver. “Te amo te amo TE AMO.” She hugged him tighter and when his tears came to stain her shoulder with a big wet splotch, he was wishing desperately that there was something else he could say.


Chloe Vicino lives in Tempe, Arizona, and studied at Arizona State University where she received a degree in English (Creative Writing). She recently spent over a year serving as a missionary in New York City, where she found numerous opportunities to feed her love of listening to people’s life stories, as well as her love of serving her community in every way she knows how. Her stories, though varied in theme and even in genre, are intended to bring the dark places to light, and hopefully, to incite a change to help wounds to heal, and others from being inflicted.

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