A simple premise; a bold promise To present one story per day,
every day—providing exceptional authors with exposure
and avid readers with first-rate fiction.

Today's Story by Annie Costa

We lived in a small town, went to a small school where most of the people thought small.

Helio Moreira

Helio Moreira moved into the crummy ranch next to Timmy Davis’s house the summer before our junior year. He was fresh off the boat, born and raised in Portugal. While we spent the last days of August going to the beach and Jill’s Creamery, Helio, tan and sweating, would juggle a soccer ball in his backyard, his dad cooking chorizo on a small new grill and his mother, drunk off Port wine, yelling out the kitchen window in a language we had never heard before.

We lived in a small town, went to a small school where most of the people thought small. We were a whitey white, middle income, mostly Christian community, filled with the type of people who never make it farther than the state school a town over. Kids were bored and spent their weekends cruising around, and drinking cheap beers. It was a place made up of gas stations and golf courses– the type of town where grocery stores sell only mild salsa.

When school started that year, Helio became a phenomenon. The teachers were charmed by his accent, and his stories of Portugal. The girls liked his shiny black hair and his flirty kisses on their cheeks. They blushed when he teased them and when he taught them swear words in Portuguese, whispering them into their goose bumped necks. Helio joined the football team, replacing the star kicker when he broke his foot and after all that time spent knocking a soccer ball around, he was a natural. When he kicked a game winning field goal in the final against Brockmon High, he turned into a hero. Everyone wanted to be his best friend or his girlfriend and Helio didn’t seem to mind the attention.

Life continued this way for a while, Helio was voted homecoming king that first year, and fell in with the popular crowd. We’d see him around at parties, beer in hand like all the other kids, telling filthy jokes in broken English. He became our token foreigner, and we couldn’t remember what it had been like before his arrival.

But then he knocked up one of our bubbling blondes and things changed. It was pretty Kelly Simmons. She didn’t tell anyone, except maybe Mackenzie Allen, until she was so big that she didn’t need to tell anyone. Some of us who were in Kelly’s math class remember her getting called into the principal’s office over the intercom, her face reddening as she walked out of the room, hands folded over her belly. We heard from Mike Simmons, Kelly’s older brother that the school called home that night. Kelly’s dad took the call in the room down the hall and reported back to the rest of the family over the sounds of Kelly crying from her room. “It was that new Helio kid,” he said. “The fucking Portagee that everyone seems to love.” Mrs. Simmons cringed as her husband swore and then sat stunned-dumb on the couch as Mike stormed out of the house; heading over to Helio’s to straighten him out.

When he got there Mike banged on the door, screaming and hollering, for Helio to show his face. From inside, loud exotic was playing but it was cut silent as people shuffled around inside, deciding who would get the door. It was Helio’s big uncle who finally appeared, planting a firm calm stance in the doorframe and then eventually yelling angrily back at Mike when he refused to go away.

“Get out here you fucker!” Mike screamed, standing just out of reach of the uncle. Mike stopped for a minute, catching his breath, considering whether or not he should just give up and leave, when he Helio ducked under his uncle’s outstretched arms in the doorway and come to stand on the path leading up to his house. With his arms slacked by his side and his head hung towards his chest, Mike’s punch hit him like a car. Some kid who lived nearby said he saw Helio flip backwards and land in the grass of his front lawn, blood gushing from his lips, and that afterwards as Mike stood there, his chest heaving, pissed to all end, Helio just sat up slowly, and started his retreat back towards the house. And that was it. Mike was done. Helio’s uncle helped him back into the house, and his other relatives peeked their brown eyes around their curtains watching Mike drive away.

From then on in school Helio didn’t smile much, and he stopped coming around to parties on the weekend. His closest friends still talked to him, tried to cheer him up, but there were plenty of people who were mad. They put a fish in his metal locker on a Friday, letting it rot over the weekend, so that the whole hallway reeked by the time Monday classes came. Otherwise they ignored him, or talked about him just loud enough so he could hear, using the typical ammo of dumb high school kids. Helio had impregnated Kelly Simmons and they thought it was his fault, that he had ruined her precious little life the minute he stepped foot in our town.

Kelly got bigger and bigger, and she cried in school a lot too. We felt bad, but what could we do, she was sixteen and about to have a kid. Kelly wanted nothing to do with Helio and pretended she didn’t see him in the hall whenever they passed. One night he sat on her concrete steps waiting for her to come out. He stayed there for hours, but she never showed. When he finally wandered away he looked up at her window and saw her moving around her room, indifferent to the post at her door. Towards the end of the year he made one more attempt to get through to Kelly Simmons, by asking her to prom. But when he asked she let out a crazy little laugh as if to say, Are you serious? This is your fault, my life is screwed because of you, before walking away and shaking her head in disbelief.

She had the baby over the summer, with little attention, in our small hospital; the baby was the darkest in the whole nursery. Someone said that they heard she let him come see it one day, but that seems kind of unlikely. A couple, a town over, who couldn’t have their own kids, ended up taking it off her hands. She came back to school the next fall and acted as though nothing had happened. With the exception of the stretch marks that we could see on her hips when she raised her hand, she was exactly the same as she had always been.

Timmy Davis told us that the Moreiras moved out in October, packing up all their stuff in a couple hours and leaving quietly in the middle of the afternoon. We found out later that they moved to one of the small cities in the northern half of the state- probably to one of those Portuguese neighborhoods, where the smell of grilled sardines drifts over pick-up soccer games, and where large families sit in lawn chairs, speaking loudly and telling stories in their native language. Some of us were sad to lose Helio but most of the school shifted back to generic normalcy in no time. The football team suffered the loss of another kicker, and the girls moved on to other boys. But during our spring semester, when a foreign exchange student from Germany showed up one day, eager to talk to our all-American girls, they smiled and whispered, “Let’s make Niklas feel at home.”

Annie Costa is a fiction writer, currently finishing up her senior semester at New York University. She lives and writes in Manhattan.


To comment on this story, visit Fiction365’s Facebook page.