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Us and Them

By @ZoeAmber


I remember the first time I first saw the Masons.

They didn’t even need to open their mouths to show how annoying they were. You know the images of families that are always slapped into those cheap Walmart picture frames? Like a placeholder family? That’s how I saw the Masons. A fake family. With fake smiles slapped over their faces. Disgustingly perfect and flawless.

I remember, back when I was about 12, one of the few times my family succeeded in dragging me to the same Catholic church the Masons attended.

Back in those spite-filled days where appearances were everything and gossip ran rampant. We sat in the back pew, my parents were horrified to come no closer than 10 feet from the Masons at all times.

When suddenly, who but little Miss Melanie Mason came walking to the back of the church to retrieve the gifts and bring them to the altar. Her shoes nearly silent on the carpet.

Her hair and clothes puffed and quaffed to perfection. As she reached the table she caught my eye and I was taken aback by it. To my surprise, there wasn’t a frown, or a smirk, or disdain for me in any way. But simply, a little smile and a wink, just for me, and no one else. Like a message written in invisible ink or a flash of lightning marking the earth. Something that only I saw in that one moment. Given to me by this tiny human being that chose to feel compassion instead of hate. Kindness instead of cruelty.

And in that moment I told myself that something needed to change.

Saturday / October 12th / 4:52 AM

Melanie’s “bed head” may as well have been crafted by an award-winning hair stylist, the way it sticks out to look perfectly imperfect.

I smooth it down as she rubs her eyes. I feel terrible for keeping her up but I couldn’t stand the sound my father’s hoarse voice booming through my brother’s bedroom walls and I’m sure she feels the same.

I don’t have to worry if my Mom was in the pantry, or the garage, or locked up somewhere, with a cup of Bowman’s in her shaking hands, because I know.

But who am I to talk, it’s not like I don’t have a phone that looks like it was made in 1852 in my jacket pocket that’s probably received ten new messages in the time it took me to get here. My parents aren’t the only f****d up parts of my family. 

But to be fair, those text messages aren’t from clients.

They’re from Satan, Himself. My supplier.

People might think dealing is easy. But jumping in with these a******s may as well be like joining the Crips.

This kid, Simon, is only a few months younger than my brother, Hayden, but he acts like he’s in his late 30’s. He’s cold, calculated and dresses like he’s always about to head off to the country club, or get into some A-List party. ‘

Oh, and insane. Like, certifiably sociopathic.

He’s the kind of bad guy you see in movies that acts like your best friend until he takes off your finger with a bolt cutter. I’ve had the pleasure of being in his presence after one of my big deals went south. After he was finished with me, I couldn’t walk for almost two days. Most of the time, I sneak around like I’m an escaped convict and I wake up in cold sweats almost every night terrified that Simon will find out that I’m not meeting my quota anymore.

“Want me to go grab Sherman?” Melanie asks. “It’s getting late–or, well, early or…whatever”

Sherman, in case your wondering, is the affectionately adorned name for Melanie’s old sleeping bag.

When she was 9 her hamster, Sherman, went missing from his cage one day.

It was only until she found him inside of her sleeping bag that she realized that Sherman was more of a Sher-woman considering the dozen other little hamsters that just seemed to appear next to him. Sherman was a good friend of mine, always there for me on nights Melanie couldn’t sleep after one of her father’s bad-temper incidents. And for me when I needed to get away from my father’s lectures.

“Nah, it’s almost sunrise.” I say as I put on my jacket. “But thanks for the offer as always.”

Melanie nods, her eyes now drooping. She walks over and opens her window, letting in a draft of cool air that blows off a side of the blanket draped over her body. I zip my jacket and readjust her blanket around her shoulders.

“Good luck” She says, pulling the blanket closer to her body. “See you Monday?”

I step out onto the roof and send a smirk through her window. “If we survive until then.”

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  1. Kathleen Fazio

    Feb 2, 2022

    omg I love it so much! you are an amazing writer.

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    0 Replies Feb 2, 2022
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