Milan Takeda Moves to the Town of Portento
Milan Takeda sat in the passenger seat as his brother drove the rental car from the airport to their new home. His family seemed unable to settle in one city. Moving was harder this time because the Takeda family had managed to stay in Turin, Italy for the last three years. Milan had loved every day of those three years. Had loved becoming part of a community and getting friends. The parents managed to lull Milan into thinking he could belong somewhere, until one rainy afternoon, two weeks ago, when his father came home with the big family announcement.
The Takedas were moving to Portento, a small town in Colorado, USA.
Milan reclined his seat and folded his arms over his chest.
Portento, the name sounded Italian. The town’s founding fathers must have been Italian. Choosing a name like Portento, they must have thought the town represented miracles.
Their father, Kiyo Takeda, worked hard to excite his children into the move. Kiyo was a research scientist working at Biosense, a company that developed drugs for various diseases. Their mother was the Italian in the family. Her name was Ilaria. She was beautiful, full of energy and loved to laugh. She was the reason this move happened without a fight.
“Think of it as an adventure, Milan,” Ilaria told him when he started to protest the move. “Your father is close to unlocking the key behind his research. If he does, then you will be free too, my bambino. Free to enjoy the world, as you want. Meanwhile, your father is all about i miracoli della scienza.”
“The wonders of science,” Milan murmured, tagging his jacket closed. He shivered, drawing his brother’s gaze.
It was a statement. Ayu fiddled with the heat controls, and in seconds, Milan felt warmth start to sip into his body. Ayu pulled over to the curb, slowing down to a stop. Milan started to ask what he was doing, only to have Ayu reach in the backseat for a blanket. He covered Milan with the heavy cashmere tucking the ends around Milan’s shoulders.
“We’ll be home soon. This place is cold in December. I told Papa we should have waited to move in the summer.”
Milan held Ayu’s dark gaze, and forced a smile.
“It’s alright. I’m fine, Ayu.”
“No, you’re not,” Ayu said, pressing his palm on Milan’s forehead. “You’re feverish, and you trying to hide it doesn’t make it better, Milan.”
Ayu shifted away, pressing a button to unlock the trunk, he opened his door and Milan closed his eyes as a wave of cold swept in. He gritted his teeth not wanting to shiver, but he couldn’t help it. Ayu got out, closing the door fast, and hurried to the back of the car.
He was back in minutes with a bottle of water and a brown envelope of medicine. Turning on the light above them, Ayu got two pills from the envelope and helped Milan take them. Once Milan swallowed the antibiotics, Ayu placed the envelope in the console between them, and studied him.
“I know moving is hard and you didn’t want to leave Turin,” Ayu said.
Milan folded his arms under the blanket, his gaze holding Ayu’s dark one.
“I wasn’t protesting for me. I was worried about you.” Milan dropped his gaze to his lap. “I know you didn’t want to leave Christina.”
“You love her. I saw you two in the alcove before we had to leave. She was crying and so were you, Ayu. I don’t want to be the reason you left the girl you like.”
“You’re important to me too. You are my little brother, Milan. Moving here alone would be hard for you. I’m taking a gap year, and will head to university as soon as you’re better.”
“What if I don’t get better?” Milan asked, looking up to meet Ayu’s gaze. “Mom and I, we talked to the doctor about my condition…this CVID immunodeficiency thing, I’ll have to manage it all my life. You can’t stop doing what you want because you worry about me. It’s not fair.”
“Don’t take the gap year,” Milan insisted. “Go back and enter Turin University with Christina. Do it for me, Ayu.”
Ayu shook his head.
“Yes you can.”
“I’ll be upset if you don’t go. You’ll be unhappy, and that will make me unhappy. It will make me sick, and it will be because you didn’t listen to me.”
“Your guilt tripping won’t work.”
Ayu turned off the overhead light, and engaged the car into drive.
“This move is not easy for any of us, Milan. I need to be at home with you. Dad’s always in his lab and Mom will be working now in the town’s hospital. We can’t leave you in the care of the housekeeper and nurses.”
“Turning seventeen in a month.”
“Yeah, well endure my presence by your side until you’re eighteen,” Ayu teased. “I don’t regret leaving Christina, Milan. I love her yes, but she’s not the one.”
“As if you know what the one looks like.”
“Do you know what the one looks like?” Ayu asked him, adjusting his seat belt, as he buckled in for their long drive home.
“I’m sure I will know when he comes along,” Milan sighed. “That is if I can live long enough.”
“Milan, don’t say that.”
Milan turned to stare out the window. It was dark outside. Their flight landed at seven in the evening. The navigation system said the drive to Portento would take an hour and a half to two hours.
“I’m sorry, Ayu.”
“I’ll help you search,” Ayu said, after a while. “When we find him, whoever your one is, they’ll love you, Milan, just as you are.”
Milan closed his eyes and smiled. He didn’t know about the one, but he did know that no one had a brother like Ayu, or a father like Kiyo and a mother like Ilaria. He was content enough with their love. Their unconditional dedication was enough for him, he decided as he drifted off to sleep.
Their new home looked buried deep in what looked like a forest. Milan had never seen so many trees in his life. The town was at least thirty minutes away. He had hoped they would be closer to it, this way he could walk in some days and explore.
Had Kiyo known his thoughts?
Milan held the edges of the blanket over his shoulders, and stared up at the three-story house. It was more modern than their home in Italy. He instantly missed the warmness of Turin, and the ancient walls that had seen millennia of history. This place was too modern, too new, too cold. Light from the tall glass windows on the top floor poured down to the front yard.
Milan walked up the steps to the front door, pausing when the door opened and a short dark haired woman came running out. Milan chuckled when she pulled him into a tight hug, bubbling in Italian.
“Cucciolo, I’ve been so worried about you. I kept wondering why I didn’t just wait before flying here. I should have been the one to come with you. I should have stayed and flown here with you. Are you okay?”
Ilaria stepped back, pressing her warm hands to his forehead. It was impossible to stop this tirade, especially when she referred to him as a little puppy. The only way to end the worry in her tone was to go agree to all her suggestions.
“You are too warm for my liking. Come inside, it’s a warm shower, and off to bed with you. Ayu, polpetto, come here let Mamma hug you.”
Milan laughed at Ayu, when he had to lean down to hug their short mother. Catching Ayu’s gaze, he mimed a meatball, and got a scowl for his efforts. Ilaria’s meatball let go of her and opened the door, stepping into the house.
“Cucciolo, you look pale. Tomorrow, I will stay home with you,” Ilaria said, wrapping an arm around Milan’s shoulders. “I’m worried the traveling will get you sick. It’s almost the holidays. I don’t want you to be sick then.”
Milan wanted to tell her not to worry, but his chest was congested. He knew a bad cold was coming.
His bedroom was fully furnished and on the third floor, with the tall windows showing off the trees in the backyard. The bathroom connected his room to Ayu’s bedroom. Their mother had worked hard to make sure they were comfortable.
Milan wanted to explore but he was too tired. Traveling always left him so tired. The cold was unwelcome, and he was insanely uncomfortable. The discomfort eased after a hot shower, and he wore the warm pajamas his mother insisted he wear. The potato soup she brought in with a slice of bread was delicious; it warmed him deep to the bones. Sliding into bed, Milan sat, his back leaning on the headboard, watching her arrange the things from his book bag on his reading desk by the windows.
“I’ve been looking at schools,” Ilaria said. “Ayu!”
“Yes, Mamma,” Ayu called back from his bedroom.
“Come in here, polpetto. I have news.”
Milan played with the covers, still watching his mother. Ayu entered the bedroom a minute later, and came to join him on the bed, sitting on top of the covers right next to Milan.
“Are you serious about not going to university?” Ilaria asked him.
“I don’t agree with this.” Ilaria arranged a stack of Mario Llosa books on the shelf above Milan’s desk, and then turned to face them. “No son of mine will live without higher education. Yes, Ayu, there is a university close here. I got your records from Turin, and they accepted them. You only need to choose the courses you want, classes start in January.”
“What about Milan?”
“Milan has a decision to make too,” Ilaria said. “Two choices, we can get a tutore, continue your studies as before, but you seemed to like school in Turin. I will do what you want.”
“How far is the high school from here?” Ayu asked.
“There is the public school. It’s not far, though we would have to drop Milan off. They offered a school bus, but I don’t think standing outside is good for your health. You need a ride into school, and someone to pick you up. I can drop you off in the morning.”
“Then I will arrange my classes so that I’m able to pick him up,” Ayu said.
“Marie is also with us,” Ilaria said, smiling when both boys grinned. “She agreed to move here, with us.”
“Oh, that’s awesome. At least there is one person we know,” Milan said.
“Cucciolo, you still have not told me if you will go to school.”
“Is it very different from the one in Italy?” Milan shuddered. “I’ve read stories, the bullying and the cliques—”
“You can choose the international school. This way everyone you find there will be different like you. You’ve been to one in Turin.”
“The international school will cost you,” Milan noted. “You have to pay for Ayu’s university now—”
“Your education is important, to your Papa, to me, Milan. You don’t worry about cost. It is our job.”
“Yeah well,” Milan sighed. “I didn’t like the international school and ended up moving to public school in Turin. It was the only way to learn the language, and get to know the community.”
Milan studied his fingers. Life was about experience. The tutor would mean he would be safe indoors. Not have to face people he didn’t want to. The international school was a strain on his parent’s budget. They had to worry about his health, and Ayu’s university…plus, the students tended to stick to their own little communities.
“I’ll go to the public high school,” Milan said.
“Are you sure?” Ayu asked beside him.
“It will be a new experience,” Milan insisted. “A new adventure.”
“Si, it is,” Ilaria nodded. “Well, that is good news. I will drop by the high school end of this week. You can visit with me if you want.”
Milan nodded, a wave of excitement and anxiety racing through him.
“Where is Papa?” Milan asked.
“Papa is busy working,” Ilaria said. “His lab is now just beyond the trees. This new investor is very keen on finishing Papa’s research. So, Papa will be home when he decides to take a break.”
“He is working too much again. I hope he can make it to breakfast tomorrow. It will be nice to have us all at the table.”
Milan yawned, feeling tired. His yawn triggered Ayu and Ilaria into motion. In minutes, he was horizontal on the bed tucked in to within an inch of his life, and the lights turned down.
Ayu kissed his forehead and left, leaving Ilaria sitting on the side of the bed. She rubbed his chest, and reached out to push his dark curly hair out of his eyes.
“You’re going to be okay,” Ilaria murmured, though her tone sounded as though she was convincing herself. “Papa is close, and at least here we can find the best hospitals to take care of you if things get worse. My cucciolo, mamma loves you very much, you know that, yes?”
“I love you too.”
Ilaria leaned down, filling his nostrils with the scent of fresh citrus, his favorite scent. She pressed a soft kiss on his forehead, and then stood.
“Okay, goodnight. Sweet dreams, my love.”
Milan drifted to sleep in this new strange place, feeling on the edge of a new dawn.