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The Line

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Malik was fortunate enough to receive a job as a substitute teacher only a month after he had finished collage. Malik was lucky enough to find a small apartment in the same city where he got the job. He was lucky enough that owner of the apartment allowed him to postpone his rent until he got his first payment. He was a ruthless teacher, a ruthless substitute teacher that would not allow students to pass just on their looks; they needed to work for their grade. Everyone was impressed with the efficiency with which he managed to control students and actually make them learn something. Because of this, it was decided that they would allow him to stay there permanently as Math professor.

 

This new position would have to wait until next school year because paperwork would be much easier to deal with then. It was actually perfect; he would move to this city and start his life there. So he will use this summer break to better accommodate his apartment to his needs (since he did travel back home once every month), and to move his stuff here. Luck (bad or good, he was not sure yet) would have it that his lovely little brother (the family brat, but he loved him still) enrolled into collage in the same city. And, of course, his younger brother refused to stay in the dorm (partly because their Mother was too worried he would do something stupid, and partly because he wanted to bug Malik more – or so Malik decided to think).

So instead of enjoying his summer and decorating his new place, he was forced to go look for a new apartment – knowing his brother, his old apartment would not suffice for the two of them. And the job of finding the new place would undoubtedly fall on his shoulders, because his younger brother was too young to be exploring city alone (he will not he alone, Mother, I am here as well… and why did you not hold such concerns for me?!).

 

The school was over and Malik was forced to go apartment browsing instead of wasting his time drinking ice tea somewhere in shade. And the apartments were just awful; people tried to sell apartments with ridiculously low ceiling and as bonus they would leave all the furniture (which was custom made for that apartment and could not be taken out unless demolished). Some people decided that half-finished apartment was a perfects selling material. There was even one apartment where the dirt was supposed to be the floor – THE DIRT! One of the owners also mentioned that he would have to allow his niece to come and stay when she pleases. Shortly after hearing and witnessing all the stupid things people expected out of their apartments, Malik redeveloped a twitch in his right eye that he successfully suppressed ever since the New Year – when he gave up and decided that his students were complete and utter idiots.

 

The search for apartment was concluded with two possible apartments; one was on the outskirts of town (rather spacious one with acceptable monthly rate), and another was in vicinity of both Malik’s school and Kadar’s collage (but had a little flaw that Malik could live with, but would rather not). As most of the decisions in his family go, Kadar needed to approve of his choices and decide which of the two they would get; and Malik already knew the answer but decided not to press the matter.

 

Kadar was sent to Malik on Friday with all kinds of home-made dishes (that their Mother sent mostly for Kadar, but Malik would share the meals). He was tired after 3 hours trip (of course he was) and demanded rest, so they would need to go see apartments tomorrow.

Malik’s apartment only had one bed, which was given to Kadar leaving Malik to survive on the sofa. Unlike his brother. He could easily adapt to this change of comfort.

 

***

 

Malik got up at 8 am, and begun his morning ritual. First he made some coffee, and left it to cool off a bit while he is choosing his outfit for the day. When he is completely sure that his shirt goes with his pants, belt and shoes, he can sit down for some coffee. This time is usually spent reading about new events that occurred in the world using either newspapers, if he could be bothered to pick them up (he could not), or on his phone. This is a ritual taking approximately 30 minutes; that is enough time to get the general gist – people are crazy and they do crazy things across the world. He closes all tabs with a sight (to indicate how disappointed he is in this world), and then proceeded to the bathroom.

 

It is 10 am when Kadar manages to drag himself out of the bed with a frown on his face upon seeing Malik sitting at the kitchen table and impatiently tapping his fingers while waiting for his lazy little brother to get dressed. There is a silent growl and incoherent mumbling, as Kadar closes the bathroom doors shut. There is also a sound of things being knocked over and rather loud ‘fuck’ coming from behind the doors. Malik sighs and his fingers trace his temples as he already knows he will get a headache soon.

 

“I am hungry…” Kadar managed to leave the bathroom alive and half dressed (he had his shirt on, but forgot where he put his pants).

 

“Good morning to you too.” Of course he is hungry “There are some cereals somewhere.  I forgot which one you preferred so I got two random boxes.”

 

“Eeew! You bought the healthy stuff! That tastes terrible you know…” he grabbed the milk from the fridge.

 

“Stop whining and eat your breakfast. If you do not like it, there is fruit on the counter.” He got up to assess the damage that was done to his bathroom. The glass soap container was broken, which left floor messy and slippery, and the bottles of hair shampoo and other beauty products Malik enjoyed using for his long baths were spread everywhere; except for the place they should be.

 

“Even better… No thank you, I will take my chances with the cereals.” There is nothing a generous amount of sugar can’t fix.

 

“And please hurry, I have already announced us to the real-estate agents and they will be expecting us.” Malik liked to be punctual, a trait his brother definitely did not possess. And while Kadar enjoyed his breakfast (or just suppressed the sound of his hunger for better things), Malik cleaned the mess that his little brother was left.

 

“Yeah, yeah…”

 

It was noon before they left the apartment; Malik wore his standard scowl face, and his headache had kicked in. This was a start of a lovely day.

 

***

 

First place Malik decided to show Kadar was the apartment on the outskirts of the town. It was rather spacious with kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, two spacious bedrooms and a study room (which could be used as guest room). They also had a little porch since the apartment was on the ground floor. Malik successfully managed to contain his joy with the overall apartment.

 

Kadar did like the apartment, it had a lot of space and he could avoid his brother oh his especially grumpy days. But the problem was the distance; he would need to take 2 busses and leave an hour earlier to get to collage in time. This was a big minus in Kadar’s book; he insisted they see the other place. Malik was a bit disappointed, he really liked that one, but he knew that Kadar would insist on seeing the one that is closer to his college. He agreed to take them there.

 

It was a 30 minute drive (by car, with air-condition), and excitement could be seen on Kadar’s face. He was excited that there were couple of malls on their way there and he (probably) hoped that apartment was in walking distance to them. And it was.

 

“Why didn’t we come to see this one first?” Malik did see it, he was being forced to show it to Kadar. If it was up to him, he would have picked the other one. This one was not as spacious and there was constant traffic outside.

 

“Because we are expected to share this one.” It makes no sense; if they are paying for the damn thing, why should they share.

 

“Share? Are we going to have a roommate? Because I won’t share my room with anyone.” Kadar never shared; he refused to wear Malik’s old clothes (partly because he wanted new one, and partly because he hated Malik’s rigid style, or lack of it).

 

“No, we won’t have a roommate. We need to share the balcony with the neighbour.” He spat the words out.

 

“And that is it? Only the balcony? I can live with that.” because, who cares about the balcony anyway. And maybe the neighbour will be cool and smuggle him some beer.

 

“And please, do not be so direct in front of the agent, you know, like you was in front of the other one. He does not need to know how much we like or dislike the place.” He parked the car in underground parking lot of the building.

 

“I was not that direct…” he pouted as his doors slammed shut.

 

“ ‘Oh my god, Malik! Did you see the rooms! Oh, oh, oh! And the bathroom! And look at… No, no, no. This one is like 10 bus stops away from my college.’ ” his voice was higher than usual with his hands waving around in the air copying Kadar’s reaction, rather poorly.

 

“I do not sound like that.” he pushed and shoved his brother to stop with the pathetic attempt to copy him. But he may have sounded something like that.

 

“No, you sound more whiney.” He pressed the button to call the elevator. And Kadar was not amused.

 

The elevator came with a ding, and the interior of it had little bench for sitting. Kadar noticed all the floors that were there, and carefully watched as Malik pressed the button for 10th floor.

 

“How in the world can we afford this place?” Kadar was genuinely confused. This is obviously one of those elite buildings designed for higher class people.

 

“How can I afford it?” It needed to be stressed, Kadar was the one spending the money, not earning it. “And the price was lowered because of some accident, and the fact that contractor forgot to put separate balconies.” He just would not drop the balcony sharing thing.

 

“Mom will pay for part of it.”

 

“But that still does not put you in the paying grid.” And they reached their floor. “Remember, behave.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, bla, bla.” He weaved and stepped outside before Malik.

 

The real-estate agent was a woman dressed in a suit with a skirt, high heels, and her hair was immaculately pulled away from her face in a perfect bun. Her glasses were at the top of her nose and her expression was not a happy one. Yes, they were late to their appointment, and she had better stuff to do then wait for them. Kadar just offered a clueless smile while Malik fidgeted with an apologetic smile. She just took a deep breath as response and continues to lead them to the apartment. Malik pulled Kadar by his hand because he was aimlessly roaming the hall.

 

After the agent showed them to the apartment, she left to allow them to browse it on their own. Malik was already here and aware of anything that concerned the location of the apartment, its possible flaws, and the pricing. It was smaller than the previous one, did not have a study room, but it did have one hell of a view; it was overlooking a park with a pond in the middle, and a river on far side of it. Malik was generally not impressed with it (because the balcony had to be shared, and that included the view from it), but Kadar seemed like he has already chosen this one; he chose which room is his, he chose where the stuff will go, he chose where to put TV in the living room, he chose which seat at the table was his.

 

“So you want this one, I presume?” his face was mostly uninterested in response, and already unhappy with the answer he knew he would get.

 

“Hell yea!” he was checking all the cupboards and all the closets to see what was in there, and if anyone left anything interesting. Except for the eating utensils and a few spices, there was nothing to be found.

 

“You are not even going to consider the other place?” a sigh was all he could muster at that point. Of course Kadar wanted this place, and of course they were going to take this one.

 

“Nope.” He was on his way to open the balcony doors and to see what it looked like from outside.

 

“Please just… stay where I can see you.” He went to call agent back in so that they could make arrangements. There was simple furniture in the apartment that was left there to visually suggest the setting of the place, and they could be included into the apartment or taken out – buyer’s choice. Malik decided to keep the furniture since the price would not change significantly and they did need it.

 

Malik and the agent (Amanda), sat at the table and started to discuss the details; how much will it cost (precisely), what are his rights if he decides to buy the apartment, and what are his restrictions. She showed him the contract and pointed out some of the important points of it. He agreed to all the terms, signed, and made a deposit. He was further instructed to inspect the apartment before she returns with the stamped version of contract for all parties involved and actually takes the deposit.

 

It was then that Malik noticed that Kadar was no longer on the balcony, or any of the other rooms. He was sure he did not leave the apartment, since the doors never opened. After checking all the rooms again, including the bathroom, there was only one place left that was left – the balcony. But before Malik even managed to get close to the balcony doors, Kadar ran inside with the stupid smile on his face.

 

“Malik! Malik!” he almost collided with his brother before he managed to stop “You have got to meet our neighbour!”

 

“Kadar… where were you just now?” his voice was low and somewhat threatening.

 

“I was at his apartment! It was awesome! He has all this awesome stuff! His apartment if filled with amazing paintings, pictures, and sculptures, figurines or whatever! And he has this TV. It is like… The wall it the TV!” he got uninterested look from his brother. There is no way the TV could be that big. “Ok, not the wall, but it is huge none the less!” Kadar did say few more things that seemed to praise the neighbour and his choice of furniture, and the rant ended with “You have got to meet him!” while trying to push Malik out to the balcony.

 

“Kadar, I need to inspect the apartment before owner returns so I can report if anything is wrong before we move in.” he did not want risking missing anything that could potentially lower the price of the apartment. Plus, he wanted to see if he should tell the agent to call the repair man in case anything is broken or not working properly; which included checking if all the outlets were working and if there was any water in the apartment. The neighbour could certainly wait.

 

“It will only take a second! Come on, Malik. His name is Altair and he seems like a really cool guy!” Kadar was persistent, he probably wanted to comfort Malik that their (his) choice of apartment was not that bad. “Come on, Malik… You already signed, might as well meet the neighbour.”

 

“Ugh, fine. Make it quick.” It was obvious Kadar would not stop insisting until he meets this amazing neighbour of theirs. So he allowed himself to be dragged out to the balcony. He quickly inspected it; partly to see if it was damaged in any way and partly to see where the imaginary border between their halves should be.

 

Drawn by all the noise Kadar was making (because he was excited about the new apartment and amazing neighbour), said neighbour decided to grace them with their presence; and not just did he stepped outside, he stepped outside shirtless. In all his rambling, Kadar completely failed to mention that their neighbour is hot as hell. Malik turned to give Kadar you little brat face, and Kadar instantaneously gave him I know you have the hots for him face. This is why the little brat insisted on meeting the neighbour.

The neighbour, besides having the body of one of Greek gods, also had amazing set of eyes that shined gold in the sunlight. Only flaw, that Malik could see, was on his lips; there was a scar running across right side of them. It actually added to his charm.

 

“Hello. I am Malik. I am sure my brother informed you that we will be your new neighbours.” He managed to control his voice from breaking and kept his distance, respecting each other’s half of the balcony.

 

“Altair.” He stepped towards them with a smile and puff of smoke. There was a cigarette in his left hand (which Malik failed to see up until that point). Their handshake, or any kind of contact would have to wait until Malik was mentally prepared to deal with this person. First and foremost, the rules should be established.

 

“No, no. As I understand we share this balcony. Now I don’t like vague explanations, so we will make this clear. You keep to your half and we will keep to ours. If you want to smoke, keep it to your side of the balcony. If you want to drink alcohol, keep to your side of the balcony. If you have company over, please advise them that the same rules apply to them.”

 

Altair was not sure what just happened. He looked at Kadar who just shrugged his shoulders, this was first time he heard any of this. He was sure that Malik would just melt at the sight of a well-defined shirtless guy, but obviously he was mistaken. The rules did not seem so hard to maintain, so Altair raised his hands up, surrendering to the rule, and backed off further into his half, cigarette still lit in his hand. “Ok, I will try to remember that.”

 

“Now, if you would excuse me, I need to assess the condition of the apartment. Good day.” He turned around and went back in, mumbling something beneath his breath. For the next thirty minutes, he thoroughly inspected their apartment, making sure everything is in order. Only thing that was wrong with it was missing lightbulb from one of the lamps.

 

Kadar remained outside with Altair. Malik was not sure what they were talking about, nor was he interested in checking. He also failed to notice that Kadar was the one that broke the rule he so specifically made not that long ago, by going into man’s apartment using the balcony instead of front doors. All he was thinking about was when they will move their stuff from his old apartment to here. He would need to pay someone to transport their things along with a few furniture pieces. Scowling his brother would have to wait. For now.

 

***

 

Malik noticed Kadar disappearance after agent and he were done with the paper and money exchange. The apartment was now officially theirs (his) and he could decide what to do with it and how to redecorate it. They could stay here for the weekend (Kadar will probably be thrilled), but he would have to go to the store to buy them something to eat.

 

As he left the apartment and started to lock the doors, he remembered that something was missing. Something annoying and whiny. Kadar was not in the apartment. “That little brat…” there was no helping it now. He will get him when he comes back from the store. This will be a long summer.