"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"
Zareen stood next to the 'for sale' sign as he watched the movers truck drive away. He silently turned around to face the collection of boxes left in the driveway.
“When mom said we were moving, she forgot to mention that I would be the one doing the actual moving.” Zareen let out a tired sigh.
The movers were only paid to transport their belongings and put up their furniture, leaving everything else for Zareen and his big brother, Tykeim to put up with as their mom ran off to buy necessities and groceries. Well Tykeim was supposed to help out, but the moment their mom's car disappeared around the corner, his older brother left to go explore their new town.
"What, you can’t handle it?" Tykeim asked as he stepped on his skateboard. His lips spread in a mocking smile. “Surely you can unpack this by yourself.”
“Come on, aren’t you tired of always needing my help? It's about time you learned to do things on your own.”
“But mom said-”
“Mom didn’t say that both of us had to move the boxes. As long as the boxes are in the house when she gets back, that's all that matters.”
Before Zareen could protest, Tykeim was off, skating away leaving Zareen behind on their driveway to complete the task left behind by their mother alone.
"Well, these boxes aren’t going to move themselves," he muttered to himself as he approached the pile of boxes.
But Goddess I wish they would Zareen silently complained.Would save me the trouble of working under the hot sun for the next hour or so. However, he thought, if he finishes before his brother gets back, maybe Tykeim would be impressed.
Impressed that Zareen was capable of not only moving all the boxes by himself, but finishing before both him and their mother were able to come home. Zareen would prove that he could, in fact,do something on his own without help, that he wasn’t useless. Certainly not useless, and maybe even impressive enough that he'd finally ask Zareen to hang out with him,spend some time together. The idea brought a smile to Zareen’s face and a burst of energy.
He now confidently stood in front of the pile of boxes, pushing up the sleeves of his yellow hoodie and bent down to pick up a box. Everything was going well for a few seconds until Zareen realized the box was heavier than he was expecting. He grunted as he tried to hold the box, his arms and legs shaking in the process.
"I can make it to the door. I can make it to the door." Zareen chanted to himself through clenched teeth, a drop of sweat running down from his forehead.
He didn't make it to the door. In fact, he wasn’t even able to move a step when the box slipped out of his sweaty hands.
A pair of dark skinned hands caught the box seconds before it could smash into the ground. Zareen blinked at the hands holding the box before slowly raising his head to meet a concerned pair of yellow eyes.
"You alright? You didn't hurt yourself did you?" The stranger asked him. It was a boy who looked around the same age as his big brother.
"I'm fine." Zareen reassured him with a nervous laugh." I guess I'm not as strong as I thought I was."
The stranger put the box down with ease and when he stood up, Zareen had to tilt his head to get a better look at him.
“That’s good. I saw that you were struggling and was afraid you would hurt yourself.”
The stranger had light purple hair that appeared cut in some form of a mullet cascading down elaborately behind his neck, pierced ears and a choker clasped around his throat. A mole sat under his sharp but kind, lemon-yellow eyes. Upon closer inspection, it seemed that not only was the older boy around the same age as Tykeim but also the same height as Zareen’s brother.
“Yeah, thanks for the help. That could've ended badly if you hadn’t stepped in.”
Zareen rubbed the back of his head with his hand with an embarrassed smile. This was the first person he'd met since his family moved to this town, and he'd already made a fool of himself.
So much for first impressions, Zareen thought bitterly to himself. First impressions are everything, his mother had drilled that into him and Tykeim for as long as he could remember. She was the type of woman who cared deeply about her reputation. And would do anything to keep it.
It was already humiliating that Zareen wasn’t strong enough to lift up a box without needing help. It would have been worse if Zareen had dropped the box on his foot or injured himself in some way in front of the stranger.
At least his brother wasn’t here to witness such an embarrassing scene; Tykeim would never pass up on an opportunity to tease him. Though Zareen would rather put up with his brother’s neverending teasing than his mother seeing him like this. Ruining her reputation once again-
"Oh it's no problem!” The stranger reassured happily, snapping Zareen out of his spiraling thoughts. “ I just so happened to be on my way home when I saw you.”
Zareen felt his body stiffen at the stranger’s words.
“Did you just say you live around here?”
“That's right.” The purple haired boy nodded before turning and pointing to the house next door. “I live over there.”
“Huh? So that makes you-”
“The next door neighbor.” He finished for Zareen with a proud smile before dropping his tall body into a bow while offering his hand. “Kiante Francis at your service.”
Zareen blinked in surprise before accepting Kiante’s hand.
“Nice to meet you Kiante, I’m Zareen-Zareen Ellis.”
Kiante let go of his hand and straightened his body, glancing back at the mountain of boxes with a raised eyebrow.
“I see you're moving in but don’t tell me you're putting up all these boxes by yourself?” Kiante asked, with a hint of disbelief in his tone.
“Yeah, I am.” Zareen confirmed, shifting his feet nervously when a frown graced the older boy’s face.
“Surely you don’t expect to get all of this done by yourself?”
It wasn’t as if Zareen had a choice. With both his mom and brother being gone, it was up to him to get the job done. If he didn't, not only would he get in trouble, but his brother would too. And nobody wanted that.
“What about your family? Shouldn’t they be here moving boxes too?”
“Oh my mother went to the grocery store and my brother…”
Well, Zareen had no idea where Tykiem was.
“Both of them just left you here by yourself?” Zareen raised both his eyebrows before shaking his head. “Look, as your friendly next door neighbor, I’ll lend you a hand. It just wouldn’t feel right to leave you out here by yourself, unlike some people.”
Kiante mumbled the last few words under his breath but Zareen didn’t catch it as he was focused on another part of his sentence.
“Wait, you're willing to help me? Just like that?”
He was just kidding, right? Then again, Zareen probably looked pretty pathetic while struggling to hold a single box.
"What, you can’t handle it?"
“It's about time you learned to do things on your own.”
Zareen clenched his fist, digging his nails into the soft skin of his palms.
“It’s fine. I don’t want to trouble you or anything like that.” Zareen forced a smile on his face as he turned down Kiante’s offer.
It was just one box. Just because he couldn't handle one box didn't mean-
“It's no trouble at all. I got some time to kill. Why not spend that time helping my new neighbor move in?"
Kiante smiled and picked up the box Zareen nearly dropped earlier.
"I'm sure you could handle all these boxes by yourself but an extra set of hands will speed up the process."
Zareen stood in place,watching as the purple haired boy began walking towards his house. Kiante turned around when he realized that Zareen wasn’t following him.
“Come on, don’t just stand there. We got work to do.”
Well, it wasn't as if Zareen could stop him. Not only that but oddly, it seemed that Kiante was helping him… out of the kindness of his heart? Not out of pity or annoyance. Not because he was weak. Not only that but Kiante even acknowledged Zareen's capabilities. Zareen felt his tense body relax.
Zareen followed the older boy’s league and picked up a box, one he was actually able to lift, and followed him inside the house.
It was the first time Zareen got to see the inside of his new home. His mother was the only one who visited the house in person before buying it. She didn’t even bother showing his brother and him pictures of the house or its interior. When asked, her only response was that the house fit their needs and that they’ll see what it looks like soon enough before dismissing them with a wave of her hand. Zareen and Tykeim knew better than to question their mother further and let the matter go.
After opening the front door, there was a staircase on the left leading to the shadowy upstairs but Zareen followed Kiante to the right side where the living room was located. Couches and lamps littered the open space but there was enough space left over for the boxes.
They put the boxes down and returned outside to get the rest of the boxes, making polite small talk.
“I’ve never been inside any of our neighbors' houses before.” Kainte said as he put another box down in the middle of the living room. “I don’t know why I was expecting it to be any different than our own house.”
“Oh, does your house look the same?” Zareen asked as he put his own box down right next to Kainte’s box.
“The layout is similar, but our living room isn’t this open,” Kiante pointed towards the kitchen and dining room through the living room arch. “And our living room leads to the kitchen, not the dining room.”
“I guess you could say your house has more privacy compared to ours.”
“Now that you say it, I could see that.” Kiante laughed. “I guess that was one of the reasons why my grandparents picked the house after they got married and had my mom.”
“The house next door belongs to your grandparents?”
“Yep. Even when my mom grew up and moved out of town, they never bothered to move. I guess there wasn’t ever a reason to move out you know?” Kiante smiled.
“Wait-” Zareen glanced at Kiante with blinking eyes.“ You're not from here either?”
“Nope.” Kiante shook his head.“I was born and raised in Honey Hill until I was 5 and moved in with my grandparents.”
“What a coincidence, that's where we moved from.”
“You're right, that is quite the coincidence. Maybe it's a sign.”
“What do you mean, a sign?” Zareen grunted as he picked up another box.
“That we were meant to be neighbors of course.” Kiante answered back, another smile tugging at his lips.
“Speaking of neighbors, is it just you and your grandparents next door?”
“No, my mom is here too. She just joined us a bit later. Anyway, what about you?”
Kiante quickly changed the subject back to Zareen in a blink of an eye without losing his playful smile. Odd, Zareen thought, but he didn’t think much of it as he put down the box he was holding before answering.
“Oh, it's just me, my brother, and my mother.”
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Kiante’s keen yellow eyes glanced around the house. His slender body leaned against the front door frame as he studied Zareen.“Is your father not in the picture?”
After divorcing the father he never met, Zareen’s mother moves his family to Azmarin Pass for a fresh start. As Azmarin adjusts to his new life in Azmarin Pass,he meets his teenage next door neighbor, Kiante. The two quickly become friends much to the displeasure of Zareen’s big brother, Tykeim. As Zareen becomes more attached to Kiante and Kiante’s family, his own family begins to fall apart. This causes Tykeim to come to the realization that Kiante is trying to break apart their family in order to steal his little brother away. However, no one believes him, leaving it up to Tykeim to save his family and his position as a big brother. How far is Kiante willing to go to make Zareen his little brother? Will Tykeim be able to stop Kiante before losing his little brother and family forever? In the end, who will be the true big brother?