Natalie and Greg played host to my brother and me that night. The moment we walked through the front door, Natalie suggested that us four boys go and get changed out of our nice clothes while Greg ordered dinner. Toby conned Gavin into playing Mario Kart with him, so Kyan and I hung out in my room. Rather than just sitting around, Kyan turned on the television sitting on my dresser before he set to work going through my closet.
“What are you doing?” I asked him nervously.
“It’s time to start going through your stuff, Zyan.” Kyan said nonchalantly. “We need to decide what you’re taking home with you tomorrow.”
I couldn’t help but smile at his statement. The idea that I was going home filled me with excitement, and I quickly jumped off of my bed to help my brother.
“Good thing Toby isn’t in here,” Kyan said as he went through the shirts I had hanging up.
“I think he would be purposely trying to distract you from doing this,” Kyan stated with a brief motion towards the pile of clothes that was slowly growing right outside of my closet door. I frowned at the mention of my foster brother’s name and how my moving out was affecting him. “Don’t worry about it, Zyan. Natalie and Greg already have a plan in place to handle the situation.”
“Are you going to tell me what it is?”
“Nope,” Kyan said with a smug grin. “I’m not even going to give you a hint!”
“Rude,” I said disappointedly before Kyan hugged me tightly.
“You’ll love it, Zyan.” He reassured me. “I promise.”
“If you say so. . .”
Once we had finished with dinner, Natalie had Toby pick out a movie for us to watch while Greg went to bed.
“It’s not fair that I have to work in the morning,” Greg said with a pout as he pulled Toby and Gavin into a tight hug.
“Daddy!” Toby squealed out in delight before Greg dropped the boy back onto the couch.
Then, Greg came over to hug Kyan before he finished with pulling me into a tight hug.
“You’re probably going to be gone before I get home tomorrow, buddy.” Greg said only loud enough for me to hear. “I’ll be there Wednesday afternoon to pick you back up, though.”
“Okay, Greg.” I said somewhat sadly. I didn’t want to be without Greg and Natalie, but I wasn’t quite willing to give up my own mom and dad just yet. “Don’t forget about me, though.”
“I could never forget about you, Zyan.” Greg said before kissing my cheek. “I’ll see you Wednesday. Maybe we can go watch a movie or something.”
“I’d like that,” I said with a grin as Greg dropped me back on the couch.
“Me too, buddy.”
Greg gave Natalie a quick kiss before he disappeared upstairs. Kyan slipped his arm around me and pulled me into his side about the same time that Gavin and Toby cuddled into Natalie’s side. I couldn’t help but smile as the movie began. I had another happy memory to file away. One that might even be strong enough to keep the Darkness at bay.
Natalie made breakfast for all of us the next morning before she helped me pack some more of my stuff while Kyan and Gavin kept Toby distracted.
“Remember,” Natalie said softly. “It doesn’t have to all happen today, Zyan. You can take as much time as you need to move all of your stuff out.”
“What if I don’t want to take it all with me?” I asked curiously. “I don’t mean to keep for myself, either.”
Natalie looked at me and motioned for me to continue.
“I mean,” I was getting nervous now. I had the idea earlier that morning as I saw the pile of clothes lying in the middle of my floor. “What if you kept some of it for the next foster kid?”
My foster-mom smiled happily.
“That’s a great idea, Zyan.” She said proudly. “Just let me know what you decide to keep, okay?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I said with a grin.
Natalie and I went through my belongings for about an hour before I finally decided that I had enough set aside to take along to my new home. Then, Natalie pulled me onto the bed beside her.
“Can I talk to you for a moment?” Natalie asked me with a brief smile.
“Of course, Natalie.” I replied as I leaned into her side.
Natalie hugged me gently as she kissed the top of my head.
“Zyan, no matter what happens to you in the future, and no matter where your life winds up leading you, you will always have a bed waiting for you in our home.” Natalie told me as she rubbed my back. “I know you’ve been through a lot; more than anybody your age should ever have had to handle, but you’ve come farther than I ever thought possible. We brought you home in January, Zyan. You were shy, frail, quiet, and very scared of everything. You had more than enough reason to be, too.” Natalie quickly reassured me when she felt me tense up. “Trust me, Zyan. Nothing I am saying is bad in any way. Greg and I think of you as our son, Zyan. We will always think of you as one of our children, and we want nothing more than for you to be a figure in Toby’s life as he grows up.”
“I’m going to be. . .” I started to say, but Natalie put her finger to my lips to silence me.
“Let me finish, Zyan.” My foster mother said with a grin. I blushed as she pulled her finger away and poked me in the side. “Now, Greg and I have been talking about the situation, and we’ve decided that we’re going to move to Lakeside.”
“What?” I asked excitedly. I couldn’t help but throw my arms around Natalie. “Are you serious? Does Toby know yet? Are you still going to foster another kid? What about Greg’s job?”
Natalie laughed and rocked me back and forth in her arms as I fired off question after question at her.
“Relax, Zyan.” She said as she pushed me over onto the bed. “You’ll get your answers, soon enough. First, Toby has been very involved in the discussion, so he already knows about it. I had to have Gavin and Kyan keep him distracted so he wouldn’t accidentally spill the beans. Now,” Natalie glanced at the different piles we had made. “I should probably call Greg and have him grab some boxes on his way home.”
I felt my heart catch in my throat for a moment before I relaxed and leaned back into Natalie’s side.
“I love you, Natalie.” I told her with a shy smile.
“I love you, too, Zyan.”
My mother arrived promptly at three to pick up me and my brother. She smothered both of us with hugs and kisses before my mom went and sat down with Natalie in the dining room. Gavin and Toby helped me put my stuff in the trunk of the car until there wasn’t enough room for anything else. Then, my mother pushed me towards Natalie when it was time to leave. Natalie quickly pulled me into her arms and kissed my cheek.
“I’ll see you Wednesday, Zyan.” My foster-mom said with a grin before she set me back on my feet. “Behave, boys.”
“We will, Natalie!” Kyan answered for the both of us as he pulled me by my hand towards the front door.
Toby and Gavin pounced onto us as we finally made it to the car. Toby sniffled slightly as we exchanged hugs before Gavin pulled the smaller boy back towards the house. My heart broke slightly when I heard the boy that I considered to be my brother sniffle again. I saw him wipe his face before he turned back to wave at me. I waved back at him before Gavin pushed him through the front door. Kyan cleared his throat, making me look at him as my own eyes clouded with tears.
“It’ll be okay, Zyan.” Kyan whispered. “You’re going to see them again on Wednesday. It’s only two days away.”
“It’s not me that I’m worried about,” I told Kyan pointedly before I slipped into the backseat of my mom’s sedan.
I was silent the entire way home as Kyan talked our mom’s ear off. All I could think about was how badly everything was going to affect Toby. I couldn’t get the boy out of my head.
Sarah greeted me at the backdoor with an enthusiastic hug before she pulled me through the house.
“What are you doing?” I asked nervously.
“I’m showing you the piano, baby brother.” She said with a giggle.
“Oh,” I said as I fought to get my legs to start following her.
I stopped dead in my tracks the moment I laid eyes on the shiny black instrument sitting all alone in the center of the antique filled room. Ancient tapestries covered the walls around the room, and there was a painting of an old man with silver hair and blue eyes that hung over a rustic looking fireplace.
“You can play it whenever you want, baby brother.” Sarah said with a grin, drawing my attention away from the large painting. “I promise that mom and dad won’t care in the slightest, Zyan.”
I grinned before Sarah led me back to the dining room where the rest of our family had gathered. We spent a quiet evening together; much like Zyan and I had spent with Greg and Natalie, before Kyan and I were drifting off to sleep. I woke up long enough to see my mother lift me off of the couch, but I was only awake long enough to feel her tuck me into my bed before I slipped back into unconsciousness.
“You’re getting stronger, Zyan.” The old man said as he gazed upon me. I was kneeling in front of him like Kyan and I had done before – but I continued to gaze at the stranger that Kyan referred to as our great-grandfather. The old man smiled at me. His blue eyes didn’t appear as tired as before. Instead, he seemed happy. “We’ll be together again as a family, soon enough, grandson. Just keep focusing on your recovery. You need to be at your strongest when you make it home. . .”
“I am home, though.” I replied.
“Not quite. . .”
“What do you mean?” I asked nervously. What was being hidden from me?
“Have faith, little one.” He told me with a grin. “All of your questions will have answers when the frozen sun burns again.”
“That only creates more questions,” I began to argue but the man held up his hand to silence me.
“That is enough for now, Zyan.” The man chided me. “We await thy return, grandson.”
I sat up in bed in a sweat and glanced down to see that Kyan was still sound asleep. I took a few deep breaths before I slid from the bed to get a bottle of water from the kitchen – not even caring that I was only dressed in my underwear as I navigated the dimly lit hallway. I stopped in the bathroom to pee before I went downstairs. The kitchen was dark, and I was forced to blink as the bright light from inside the refrigerator flooded the kitchen when I opened the door. I spotted the bottles of water in the bottom of the door and grabbed one. With a quick twist of the cap, I had the bottle pushed to my lips and started swallowing greedily. The different medicines that the doctors had given me gave me really bad cotton mouth, and Natalie must have warned my mother about my frequent trips to the refrigerator in the middle of the night. I had just put the cap back on my water when my father spoke from behind me.
“Hey, buddy.” He said softly, I still managed to jump in fright and dropped the bottle. My father chuckled as I struggled to catch my breath. He reached out and hugged me tightly. “Sorry, Zyan. I was trying to be quiet so I wouldn’t scare you.”
“That didn’t work,” I said with a nervous giggle. I kissed his cheek as he rubbed my back for a moment.
“Obviously,” he chuckled. My dad picked my bottle up from the floor and handed it back to me. “Damn, kid. You drank half the bottle.”
“I was thirsty,” I said with a blush.
My dad ruffled my hair and grabbed my water bottle. He took a quick drink before he passed it back to me and scooped me back up into his arms.
“Come on,” he said with a smile. “I’ll take you back to bed. I’ve wanted to tuck you in for a few days now, but your mother always beats me to it.”
I smiled and kissed my father’s cheek again before I hugged him tightly. I could feel his body heat through his t-shirt, and I sighed with pleasure as it kept me from feeling cold. My father was keeping me safe. I couldn’t help but to fall more in love with the man. He chuckled and continued to hold me tight.
We heard Kyan snoring lightly as soon as we turned into the room. My father set me on my feet next to the bed and I quickly slid beneath the thick comforter. My father pulled the blanket up to my neck and kissed my forehead.
“I love you, Zyan.”
“I love you, too, daddy.” I said with a sleepy smile.
“Get some rest, Zyan.” My father said. “I still have another birthday gift to give you tomorrow morning.”
“Another one?” I asked hesitantly. My parents had already decked out my bedroom with a huge flat screen television and a PlayStation 4, not to mention the walk-in closet that was halfway full of clothes.
“This gift is one we give to each of you on your birthday,” my father explained. “No more questions. . .”
I suddenly seen the man from my dreams, and I couldn’t stop the gasp from slipping through my lips at my father’s words.
“What is it, Zyan?” My father asked with worry in his voice.
“Just. . . I had a dream about an old man. . .” I told my father nervously. At first his eyebrows lifted in surprise, but he quickly smiled at me and stroked my cheek. “He wouldn’t answer my questions, either.”
“Maybe, he didn’t have the answers you needed.”
My father froze before he hugged me tightly against his muscular chest.
“I wish I did, baby boy.” He told me. “I really wish I did.”
My father continued to sit with me until I fell back to sleep. He would randomly lean forward and kiss my forehead or the tip of my nose before he would just stare at me with disbelief in his eyes – like he didn’t believe I was even real.
“I feel like it’s a dream, too.” I whispered at some point before I drifted off. I vaguely remember hearing him sniffle quietly before I began to dream about different puppies.
Kyan was spooning against me tightly the following morning. His arms were wrapped around my chest, and Kyan was snoring lightly. I giggled quietly for a moment before I wrested myself loose from his arms and went to the bathroom. I slipped back into the bed when I got back, and Kyan immediately wrapped me in his arms again with a sleepy sigh. I smiled happily as I let myself fall back to sleep.
I awoke later to find Kyan’s side of my bed empty. I glanced towards the window to see the sun shining brightly, and my clock said it was almost ten in the morning. I stretched out in the bed for a minute longer until I realized I had to pee again. I grabbed some shorts and a t-shirt to wear on my way to the bathroom. I turned on the shower and let it warm up while I did what I needed to do. I grabbed a towel from the closet and hung it on the bar next to the shower door before I stripped off my underwear and stepped into the shower.
I took my time to wash my body as I thought about the old man from my dreams. He didn’t appear threatening in any way, and he simply told me that I wasn’t home yet. I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about that, since I was certain that I was closer to being home than I had ever been before in my life. As long as I got to stay with my family, it didn’t matter where we went from here.
“Hey, buddy.” My father greeted me from the kitchen table where he was diligently typing away on the laptop he had in front of him. I noticed an untouched plate of buttered toast sitting in front of him when I stopped to greet my dad. “Did you sleep well?”
I nodded and leaned into his side for a moment before he pulled me onto his lap. I only hesitated briefly before I reached up and grabbed a piece of his toast. He chuckled and tickled my sides before he returned to his project.
“What are you working on, dad?” I asked as I leaned back into his chest.
“Volume Two of another series that I’ve been writing,” he replied. “Volume One took off faster than I expected, so my publisher is pushing me to get this volume out faster than I originally planned.”
“What’s it about?”
“Vampires and werewolves.”
“Nice,” I said with a grin. “I like vampires. Is there a copy of Volume One here that I can read?”
“I have them in my office, buddy.” My father stopped writing to hug me warmly. “I didn’t know you were interested in reading.”
“You’re sort of my favorite author,” I confessed with a deep blush.
My dad laughed and hugged me again.
“I was reading ‘The Touch’ when you got to Greg’s office,” I told him. “I’ve read it at least seventy times by now.”
My father looked at me and smiled in disbelief.
“I can almost quote it word for word,” I said with a giggle before I had a flashback of one of the monster’s beatings. “It got me through a lot of dark times. . .”
“I wrote the book to draw you out of hiding,” he said with a soft smile as he held me close to him. “I’m happy that you were able to find comfort in it.”
“I love you, daddy.” I told him.
“I love you, too, Zyan.”
“Where’s everybody else at?” The house was unusually quiet.
“Your mom managed to drag Sarah and Kyan to the grocery store with her,” my father answered my question with a laugh. “Your brother was very disappointed. He hates going shopping.”
“Your mother can go overboard sometimes,” he said with a mischievous smile. “With Sarah at her side, you and I are going to have the house to ourselves until after noon, at least.”
I giggled at his comment.
“What are we going to do?”
“Well,” my father replied thoughtfully. “I was considering giving you your birthday present, and then I thought that you and I could go get some lunch together.”
“I’d like to go out with you,” I said with a smile.
“Good, because I’m pretty sure that you’re going to want to do a little shopping as well.” My father said smugly.
I glanced up at him curiously before he motioned towards the laptop in front of us. I turned to watch as my father minimized the document he had been working on before he pulled up a web browser. My father typed in an address in the search bar before he pulled up a banking website.
“What’s this?” I asked curiously.
“Just a second,” he replied before he typed in a username and password. Then, the screen changed, and I saw my name at the top of the page. I scanned the page for a moment and saw an amount at the bottom that made me gasp. “When I sold my first book, I created bank accounts for certain people in our family. You and Kyan didn’t get your bank accounts until a few months after you were born. Anyways, each year on your birthdays, your mother and I make a deposit to your bank accounts based on the age that you’re turning. Both of you started out with just one-thousand dollars deposited in your account. Each year we add one-hundred-fifty-percent to the amount from the year before and deposit that.”
“This can’t be right,” I said in disbelief as I continued to stare at the monitor. “There’s over eight-hundred-thousand dollars in this account, dad.”
“You have to remember that you haven’t been around to spend the money like your brother and sister, baby boy.” My dad said with a chuckle. “Plus, that’s not all of your money, buddy.”
“What do you mean?” I asked curiously.
“You own stock in a few major corporations, Zyan.” He replied as if it was no big deal. I just stared at my father. I was dumbfounded by this revelation. “I think you even own a percentage share in a hotel chain.”
“I own a hotel?”
“Only part of it,” my father stated. “Your lawyer has been doing business on your behalf, so I think you should show up at the next shareholder meeting to prove that you’re real. Would you like to see how much you’re actually worth?”
I nodded hesitantly before my father clicked on a tab that opened up another window with a bunch of figures listed on it. It was complete gibberish to me, and I turned to my father for help. He simply pointed at a number at the bottom of the screen. My jaw fell open as the figure was higher than I could possibly imagine.
“Seriously?” My heart was beating rapidly in my chest.
“Yeah, buddy.” My dad said proudly as he hugged me. “Your worth just over twenty million. It looks like you own a percentage share of a technology company, too. ‘Avatar Technologies’. Damn,” he said suddenly.
“What?” I wasn’t sure I could take any more excitement.
“It looks like you’re one of the majority shareholders of the company.” He said with a surprised chuckle.
“That’s Uncle Geoff’s company,” I said quietly.
“Greg’s brother,” I replied. “He gave me my phone. I call him Uncle Geoff and his son Gavin is one of my best friends. We’re family. We were. . .”
My father suddenly hugged me tightly.
“They’ll always be a part of your family that you’ve been building over the past few months, buddy.” He reassured me softly. “No matter what.”
I sighed with relief and my father kissed the top of my head.
“Now, how would you like to go shopping?” He asked to change the subject.
“For what?” I asked nervously.
“For whatever you want, Zyan.” My father chuckled and ruffled my hair. “Are you happy with your room? Do you want a computer or something?”
“A keyboard?” I asked nervously.
“Like I said, baby boy.” My father said. “You can get whatever your little heart desires. You can get clothes, video games, movies. . . Anything, really.”
My stomach growled.
“Or, we can go get food, so your mother doesn’t accuse me of starving you to death.”
I laughed along with my father, and he hugged me again.
“You’ve grown so much in just the past week that I’ve gotten to have you back in my life, buddy.” My father praised me. “You’re the bravest twelve-year-old I know.”
“Thanks, dad.” I told him with a blush. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Zyan.” My father said happily. “Now, let’s go get some food and do our own shopping.”
We stopped at a pizza shop that had a buffet for lunch and my father teased me when I went to the buffet for my fourth plate of pizza. I blushed and laughed along with him. It was nice listening to my father as he told me about the different books he had written over the past decade. I chewed on my pizza slowly as he told me about what it was like raising Kyan and Sarah while also traveling across America to promote his books.
“It helped that your mother was willing to be a stay at home mom, Zyan.” He said with a slight grin. “I’d have never made it without her support.”
My father paid our bill before he loaded me back up into the SUV and drove us to the mall. During the short drive, I spent the time fiddling with the knobs on the radio as I tried to find a station to listen to. Then, my father hit a button and I found myself being swept away by the sounds of “Fur Elise”. I couldn’t help but smile as I sat back in my seat and relaxed.
“Natalie told me that you loved listening to classical music in the car, so I programmed a few stations into the radio for you.” My father informed me with a smile.
“Thanks, dad.” I said softly as I continued to listen to the song.
Our next stop was at the license bureau so we could get a photo identification card for myself. My mom had left a note for my father insisting that it was handled that day. After a short wait to get my ID, we were back on the road so I could spend some of my birthday money.
When we got to the mall, my father handed me a small leather wallet. I opened it up to find a credit card with my name on it, and the photo identification card with my picture in the top corner. There was also some cash in the wallet, and I couldn’t help but smile up at my father.
“It’s only fifty bucks,” he told me as we walked through the mall. “It’s so you don’t have to use your card for little stuff.”
“Thanks, dad.” I said with a grin.
“Where do you want to go, first?” He asked me as he ruffled my hair.
I glanced around for a moment until I seen a shoe store and I pointed at it.
“I want to get some new shoes,” I said excitedly. I had never been able to go just go blow money on myself before. It was my money, and I had enough in my different savings accounts to not have to worry about how much I was spending.
I spent nearly four hours in the mall with my father before I decided that I had enough. We had made six different trips to the SUV so we could empty our hands, and I had several things being delivered that wouldn’t fit in the truck. All in all, it was a fun day for me. My mom called when we were nearly home to ask what was taking us so long.
“I think your son is going to be a shopping bug like you, dear.” My father teased me as he spoke to my mom over the car speaker phone. “Can you have Kyan meet us in the garage? This is going to take a few trips to get everything inside.”
“What all did you buy, Zyan?” My mother asked with a giggle.
“He pretty much bought the mall, Lauren.” My father said with his own chuckle. “He definitely made an impression on a few salesmen, today. Especially, the young man that wouldn’t stop looking at me for permission.”
“Is that so?” My mother asked. “I take it the man learned that Zyan was the boss, today?”
“Definitely, Lauren.” My father chuckled again. “You should have seen it. I had to walk away because I was laughing so hard. The man went pale.”
“You said it was my money,” I retorted. “He had no right to keep asking you for permission.”
My father laughed again.
“I’m not denying anything, Zyan.” My dad said defensively while still laughing. “You had every right to put him in his place. I just wish your mother would have been there.”
“Me, too.” I said with a smile.
“Are you almost home, David?” My mother asked.
“We’re about ten minutes out,” my dad replied as he checked our surroundings.
“Okay, I’ll start getting the rest of dinner ready.” She informed us. “The pot roast shouldn’t be too much longer, anyways.”
“I love pot roast,” I said with a grin.
“Me too, buddy.” My father stated happily.
“I’ll see you both, soon.” My mother said before my dad ended the call.
Kyan and my dad helped me carry everything up to my room, and we rearranged the furniture so there would be a spot for my new desk and computer system that was being delivered the next day. My father left me and my brother to put away all of my new clothes while he went to help our mom finish dinner.
“How much money did you spend today, Zyan?” My brother asked in disbelief as we continued to hang up t-shirts.
“Umm,” I had to think about it for a moment. “I think it was somewhere around ten thousand.”
“Holy shit, dude!” Kyan said in awe. “I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much money at one time.”
“It was kind of fun,” I said with a shrug. “I bought a really awesome keyboard, too. It won’t be here until Thursday, though.”
“Have you played the grand, yet?” Kyan asked.
“No, but Sarah showed it to me last night.” I said with a dreamy smile as I remembered the glossy black grand piano that sat in front of a fireplace in its own room. It took everything I had not to sit down at it last night, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist much longer. “I might sneak in there later so I can play it.”
Kyan giggled at me.
“You don’t have to sneak, Zyan.” He teased me with a smile. “You can play it whenever you want.”
It only took us another ten minutes or so to get the rest of my new stuff put away with Kyan’s help. There were piles of books on my dresser waiting on my new bookshelf to be delivered. My dad was going to help me put it together whenever it decided to show up. I glanced around the room to make sure we didn’t forget anything before I grabbed my cell phone and headed downstairs with Kyan right behind me.
“Did you know that we have a pool?” Kyan asked as we walked down the stairs to the kitchen. I stopped and glanced at him nervously.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea for me,” I told him quietly. Kyan looked at me in confusion for a moment and I stifled the tear that threatened to fall from my eye. I didn’t trust myself to be able to speak anymore, so I just kept walking.
“Zyan, wait.” Kyan said as he hurried to catch up with me. “I’m sorry. I forgot about what happened.”
“It’s alright,” I said softly. “You guys can’t keep holding back just because of me.” I forced myself to smile back at Kyan and he frowned.
“I don’t have to be a mind reader to know that you’re being tore up inside over this, Zyan.” Kyan chided me. “I also know that the memories of what happened haunt you constantly, and I wish that I could take them away from you. I would do anything to take that pain away from you just so I could see you smile without holding back.”
I sniffled as I forced myself to look away from Kyan.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I’m trying. . .”
Kyan pulled me into his arms and held me tightly.
“That’s all you can ever do, baby brother.” Kyan said softly. “Just keep trying to smile. The pain of the memories will fade with time.”
“I’ll always have the scars,” I said before I walked away.
I didn’t stop in the kitchen and passed through quickly without glancing up. I had one purpose on my mind. There was only one way for me to get past the nervous breakdown that was pulling against my senses. I stumbled into the foyer and crossed to the piano with tears blurring my vision slightly. I quickly pulled out the bench and opened the cover before I took a deep breath. I began to play “Amazing Grace”, and I hummed along softly before I couldn’t stop myself from singing. My voice trembled, but the music was actually helping me calm myself down. I yelped when I finished playing and Kyan wrapped his arms around me from behind.
“I love you, Zyan.” He whispered with a tremble in his voice. “I love everything about you, baby brother. You’re perfect just the way you are.”
“I’m sorry I overreacted,” I said softly.
“I’m sorry that I wasn’t understanding,” Kyan replied.
“I love you, Kyan.” I told my brother. “I feel like I’ve always missed you.”
Kyan squeezed me tightly.
“I’m never going to let you leave me, again.” My brother reassured me before he finally let go of me. “Come on. Mom says dinner is ready.”
My stomach growled and we both giggled. Kyan pulled me along to the dining room where our parents and Sarah were already waiting for us. Kyan pushed me towards the empty seat next to our dad while he went and sat next to mom. Sarah sat across from me with a smile on her face.
“What?” I asked suspiciously.
“Nothing,” she said with a grin. “I just can’t wait to see Professor Waterson’s face when you show him that you play like that all of the time.”
I blushed at Sarah’s statement; having forgotten that I was going to the rehearsal with my brother and sister.
“There’s a reason that it’s called ‘rehearsal’, Zyan.” Sarah reassured me when she caught the expression on my face. “It’s when we’re allowed to mess up. Professor Waterson sort of expects it.”
I grinned before I set to work filling myself up with the pot roast my mother had made. Once dinner was over, my father ushered us to his SUV, and headed towards Eastwood High Academy so we could go to orchestra practice. Professor Waterson was pleasant around me during the rehearsal, but he made sure to give everybody else in the group pure hell over their practice session.
“Cynthia,” the man said with a shake of his head as he addressed the other pianist. We were using upright pianos that were sitting back to back, and I could just barely see the older woman’s gray hair over the top of the instrument. “Do you know how many times Zyan has practiced this music?”
“No, sir.” The pianist replied softly. “He’s probably had more time than us to practice it, though.”
Professor Waterson’s eyes flashed with anger before he took a deep breath to calm himself down.
“You’re wrong, Cynthia.” The man said with an edge to his voice. “Today was the first time that Zyan has ever seen this music. Now, do you have any excuses as to why you haven’t been practicing this past month?”
“Sir. . .”
“I didn’t want to actually hear them, Cynthia.” Professor Waterson said as he cut the woman off. “All I want is to hear some improvement out of everyone. Now, I want everyone to practice this week! If you are unable to play the song at the next rehearsal, I will have no choice but to make you guys sit out the upcoming concert.”
There were gasps of surprise and murmuring coming from behind me, but I didn’t take my eyes off of the director. He held up his right hand with the baton in it and I settled my fingers over the keyboard. I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see that Kyan was also ready with his instrument. I saw the man give a four count before he brought the wand down, and I began to play the opening notes of the song we were working on. I heard a violin off to my right, and I could hear Kyan strumming lightly along with his guitar. Only one of the French Horns picked up the melody when they were supposed to, and I swear I thought Professor Waterson’s face was going to explode from anger.
“Enough!” The man said as he waved his baton to bring us all to silence again. “Zyan, what’s my one rule?”
“Never take your eyes off of the Director!” I replied loud enough for Mr. Waterson to hear me. He smiled at me and nodded his head.
“Only four people were ready to start playing when I brought the baton down!” The man practically yelled. “Three of those people are siblings, and the other one was my own son! Now, if this doesn’t change by next Tuesday, we will be holding auditions to replace the lot of you! Dismissed!”
I sat at the piano and waited as everyone else began to pack up their instruments into their carrying cases. Sarah and Kyan were finished first and made sure to grab me before they headed out to the parking lot where our dad was waiting on us.
“Good job, Zyan.” Kyan and Sarah both congratulated me.
“Thanks,” I told them shyly. “I just did what you guys told me to do, though.”
“It was enough to impress Professor Waterson,” Kyan added with a grin. “Trust me, baby brother. You did great.”
“Thanks,” I said.
I smiled as we all climbed into my dad’s vehicle.
“That was awesome, Zyan!” Kyan said as he slid in the backseat beside me. “Professor Waterson was definitely impressed!”
“I have to agree, Zyan.” Sarah said from my right. “How would you feel about joining our band for an upcoming concert?”
“Hey!” Kyan exclaimed happily. “That’s a great idea, Sarah! If Zyan joined us, we’d definitely win the Fourth of July show!”
“What are you guys talking about?” I asked nervously.
“You could help us win the talent show that Crater Lake has every year during the Fourth of July Festival, Zyan!” Kyan explained. “A bunch of groups perform all day, and the judges decide who did the best.”
“What do you get for winning?”
“First, we get five-thousand-dollars,” Kyan explained.
“Why do you need money?” I interrupted him. “Aren’t you a millionaire?”
“It’s not about the money, baby brother.” He said with a smug grin. “It’s about the notoriety.”
“What?” I was even more confused.
“What your brother is trying to say, Zyan, and horribly failing at is that the winning group is invited to perform at any Crater Lake event for the next year.” Sarah explained. “We’ve come in third place for the past two years, and with your talented self as part of our group, we could actually win!”
“Denly plays drums for us, and Hayley plays bass guitar.” Kyan continued on, forcing me to remember who the two names belonged to. Kyan noticed the confused expression on my face. “Heather and Denly are Uncle Derek and Aunt Abby’s kids – our cousins.”
“They were at the party, but you probably don’t remember them since you had to meet a ton of other people that night.” Sarah said.
“I remember Uncle Derek and Aunt Abby,” I stated softly. I vaguely remembered Sarah talking to a brown-haired girl the majority of the day, and I was certain she had been introduced to me at some point, but the memory was hazy. “I take a lot of drugs that affect my memory.”
Kyan and Sarah both busted out laughing and I even heard my father chuckling from the front seat.
“So?” Sarah looked at me expectantly. “What do you say, Zyan? Do you want to join our band?”
I sat there and thought about it for a moment before I finally nodded my head in agreement.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it!”
Kyan and Sarah both hugged me at the same time with cries of happiness.
“I’m going to text Hayley and let her know,” Sarah said with a grin as she pulled out her phone.
“I’m already in the process of telling, Denly.” Kyan said happily from my left.
I grinned and snuggled into my sister’s side. She instinctively put her arm around me as she continued to text our other cousin. I fell asleep sometime during the car ride home, and woke up to my dad carrying me into the house. All I did was smile and hug him as he placed me in my bed and kissed my forehead.
“Goodnight, baby boy.” My father said softly. “I love you. Sleep well.”
“I love you, too, daddy.” I said as I drifted back to sleep.
‘You’re growing stronger every day, Zyan.’ The voice of the old man echoed through my mind as I started to dream about playing the piano.