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Us and Them

By @ZoeAmber


Monday / October 14th / 8:12 AM

The house is silent.


Dormant, for now.

I tip-toe down the stairs, almost as if I make too much noise, it will awaken, and the events of the weekend will flow back through the walls. It’s silly if you think about it. It’s just a guy. But it’s the guy. The worst possible guy she could have chosen. To my family, my sister is dating H****r.

Or was.

Lillie isn’t up. I know she isn’t, because when Lillie rises, the sun rises for her.

The whole house comes to life when she’s around. I bet my Dad has forbidden her to go to school today. Out of his own selfishness and pride, he won’t give her the chance to see Hayden or anyone for that matter.

So he can keep her his own little shining star for a little while longer.

A star he will eventually smother out of existence.

• • • • •

I walk down the hallway and gingerly open my locker. My back pocket vibrates and I see a text message from Adrian.

Heads up. Reanimated corpse at 12 o’clock. It reads.

I don’t have time to react before my locker door is swung closed by Hayden Cassidy, who is now standing in front of me. Face to face.

“Gah!” I jump back a couple of steps, mostly because of who it is, but also because Adrian’s description is bang-on.

Hayden’s usual glowing smile is gone and has been replaced with tired, sunken eyes and cracked lips.

“Uh, heeey… buddy.” I say in an awkward, overly sympathetic voice and extend a hand to pat him on the shoulder as if his body might erode away at the slightest touch.

“How ya been? Good?” I don’t think Hayden and I have ever conversed, so it feels like I’m talking to a Martian or something.

My trained body and mind are telling me to look for an escape route, but he wraps a hand around my forearm like its a noodle.

“Just gimme something, anything.” He asks. His voice is husky, like he’s been awake for days and hasn’t used it until now. He’s asking about Lillie and how she’s doing, which puts a tight knot of anger in my belly. It’s immature for me to blame him for how things are right now, but I can’t help but feel that it’s his fault.

“I don’t know what to tell you” I say, putting some sting on the end of my sentence, unconsciously. I sigh and reset myself. Old habits die hard.

“She’s not coming in today. But my Dad will have to let her come back at some point.” I say. His chest lightens in relief. “Don’t worry, he won’t pull her out of school again.”

The bell rings and that smile of his starts to shine through as he grasps my other forearm.

“Thank you. Thank you.” He gets too close, so I strain my neck away from him.

“Yup. yup, no problem. Okay, too close.” I give him a slight look of disgust. He laughs and jogs away and I put my hands on my hips.

“Cheating on me with my brother?” I hear from behind me and whip around to see Adrian, as if he appeared from the shadows.

“God! What is with you guys?” I say, pushing him into nearby lockers.

“And shut up.”

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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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