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Us and Them

By @ZoeAmber

Act One / Lillie

Friday / September 20th / 12:04 PM

Have you ever known someone that is so beautiful but just so terrible at the same time?

Well, for me, that’s Hayden Cassidy. Talented wide-receiver, amateur musician, and social butterfly.

I watch him seat himself at the jock table from across the cafeteria. Oh-that’s my thing, by the way. Watching this exquisite creature from afar is as close as I can get for several reasons. Number one, the only things my social anxiety permits me to say to him are smarmy insults and scoffs. And two, because of a long standing conflict between our families, I have spent every day of my young life being raised to despise him and everything he is.

“Jesus Lil,” Mila snaps a finger in front of my face. “I’m pretty sure I saw drool this time.”

I spin myself back around to my lunch before he catches me staring. Mila laughs to herself and dramatically clutches a hand to her chest.

“Why must thine suffer the fate of being the Juliet to his Romeo? It’s time to move on, you gotta get back out there.”

Mila spent one semester reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and now seems to think that she’s mastered Middle English.

“The same goes for you.” I elbow her back. “It’s been almost 4 months since you and Leo broke up.”

Mila shrugs with a smile. I don’t know how someone hasn’t plucked her away yet with her olive skin, long brown hair and pretty hazel eyes. I don’t stand a chance against her with my muted features. In photographs, it’ seems as though I get washed out into the background standing next to her.

The conversation lulls as we finish our lunch and I see my sister Melanie approaching us. Mila is the only person that knows about my crush on a Cassidy, and it’s stayed that way since I met her in freshman year. To say WW3 would happen if any of my other siblings found out about this, is an understatement.

Melanie is one of my five siblings. Both the Masons and the Cassidys have 6 children, which is just one of the annoyingly childish ways this conflict has continued on through the years.

I’m the oldest at 17, followed by Melanie at 16, Eli at 13, my twin brothers Charlie and Georgie at 8 and my youngest sister Rae, at 4.

It’s worth mentioning that this annoying Cassidy affliction didn’t completely start in freshmen year. Hayden and I went to the same grade school and our fathers never realized until they saw each other during one ill-fated parent-teacher night. During those few years, we were friends… until we were taught to hate each other, blindly.

After Mila and I chat with Melanie, she waves goodbye and waddles off to re-join her sophomore friends. I turn back around and take one last longing glance at Hayden. His perfect, sparkling smile, effortless dirty blonde hair and emerald eyes make me swoon.

Suddenly, his eyes connect to mine and I panic, responding with a scowl. He takes it in with an expression I can’t seem to read and suddenly shoots me a smile from across the room. My eyes go wide and my heart stops. It’s not a smirk or a laugh at my expense like the ones I give him. And there’s not an ounce of smugness or arrogance in it. Just a sweet, hearty smile that extends to his eyes. My face involuntarily shows vulnerability in my surprise and you’ll never believe what he does next.

He laughs. Laughs. At. Me. Like he just sunk my aircraft carrier in a game of mental Battleship while I wasn’t looking.

What the heck? He’s still looking at me with that focused look that makes my ears ring when suddenly, someone pulls him back into the conversation. And all the sound in the room drains back and I hear Mila call my name.

“Um… you coming, Lillie?” She folds her arms with a smirk. “Or do guys want to stay here and ogle each other some more?”

My face flushes at the thought. “Shut up.” I giggle and bite my lip.

I pack up my things and we walk toward the exit as I try to bring down the redness in my face. When I get to my locker I see him approaching and go rigid, not because fate is kind enough to send him in my direction for a casual chat, or a spontaneous marriage proposal, or both. No, fate is not kind.

Fate is cruel enough to give my arch enemy the locker next to mine.

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