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The Bro Next Door

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Larissa was proud of the apartment she’d found, but currently, she was regretting signing a lease on a walk up. 

“It’s only two floors,” she’d reasoned. “It won’t be that bad.”

And it might not be another day. But on moving day it sucked.

“Hey, you alright?” A voice said from the other side of the box she was hauling. 

“Fine,” she gritted out, saving her breath for hauling up the steps.

“You want some help? Not to imply that you can’t haul all these boxes by yourself, but…”

Her foot found the landing and she dropped the box down. The man on the landing (presumably her neighbor since there were only two units on this landing and they were the top floor) had a mop of brown hair, a large mustache, and was wearing a crop top. 

“I’ve got some friends coming for the heavy stuff later,” Larissa clarified, reaching for the door handle. 

“Cool, bro,” her neighbor said. “If you want more hands, I’m happy to help, though.”

“I’m good.” Why was he so insistent? They may be neighbors but she had no intention of letting strange men into her apartment while she was home alone. 

“Kay, well, see you around. I’m Shitty by the way.”

“Larissa,” she offered a sweaty hand. 

Shitty (was that really his name?) nodded and shook her hand, then jogged down the stairs with a wave. 

Larissa opened the door at last and shoved the box inside, collapsing on the floor. She’d managed several loads but the truck was still very full and her apartment still very empty. Her friends would be here soon but trying to organize art school kids often felt like herding cats, so Larissa wasn’t sure how much help they’d be. Maybe she should take Shitty up on his offer after all.

When her art school friends did arrive, she gave them directions and led the way up to her new apartment. They all marched up the stairs and dumped the first load in the apartment and turned to go back only to run into the neighbor again. 

“Sup,” he waved. 

“Hi,” Larissa greeted cautiously.

“Heard you all in the stairs and wanted to apologize.”

Larissa raised an eyebrow at him. 

“I realized I came on really strong earlier and that may have scared you as a woman alone in a new place. So, I apologize. But I really was offering to help.”

“Yeah, alright,” Larissa conceded, too tired already and they were so far from done. “We’re getting pizza later, too,” Larissa offered. 

He hadn’t really given off a creepy vibe but she did feel safer accepting his help now that she was with friends.  

“Sweet,” he held out a fist and Larissa bumped it incredulously. “Lead the way,” he gestured grandly. 

Larissa started down the stairs, raising her eyebrows to Maggie as if to say “Is he serious?” Maggie hid a laugh in her fist. 

The move in went faster than Larissa had expected it to and Shitty did turn out to be a big help. Now they were all collapsed onto the various pieces of furniture she’d dumped into the front room, leaving arranging for another day and digging into several large pizzas and beer. 

“I’ve got some green back in my apartment if anyone is interested,” Shitty said between bites of pepperoni. 

“You don’t even know us,” Larissa said, narrowing her eyes. 

Shitty just shrugged and took a swig of beer. “You seem cool.”

Larissa looked around. She and her friends did enjoy a bit of pot now again, they were art school kids after all, but she wasn’t feeling it tonight. 

“Maybe another time,” she said. 

“Cool, bro.” 

They all chatted for a while after that, still. Shitty had gone to school up at Samwell and regaled them with slightly unbelievable stories of his time on the hockey team there (there’s absolutely no way he’s best friends with Jack Zimmermann), trading off with Larissa, Maggie, and the others sharing stories of the shenanigans of MassArt.

“You need a nickname!” Shitty declared at one point. 

“Larissa doesn’t really have any good nicknames,” she shrugged. 

“What’s your last name? More traditional anyway.”

“Duan.”

Shitty stroked his mustache and after a moment declared, “Lardo!” 

“What?” she laughed. 

“Combo of your first and last names. Plus it’s funny because you’re so small.”

“Hey!” she protested, but she was still grinning so it fell a bit short on intimidation. 

“Well, I should get out of your hair, I’m sure you wanna crash. See ya later, Lardo. Thanks for the ‘za.”

“Thanks for the help. See ya, Shitty,” she bumped her new neighbor’s fist. 

He grinned back then left. 

Maggie raised her eyebrows meaningfully but Larissa just flicked her off before cracking another beer.