Carefully crossing the ravaged threshold of my trashed shack, I heard the shuffling of tiny feet over the newspapers I had put down over the wooden floors when it rained so they would not become warped and saturated. The light had stopped flickering. Just then, something pounced onto my back, shoving me to the ground.

“Ouch!” I yelped.

The person on top of me just exhaled deeply.

Samara.

She had been my best friend since I learned how to walk. She had wavy, jet black hair and behind her mask were striking emerald green eyes. Her mask had a black blob coming down from the center of the forehead and extending down the right side of the face and ending in the corner just above the chin. The lips of the mask were painted light pink, like mine, and everyone else’s. Everyone’s masks were white and black, or white and grey. The only touch of color was the lip shade. Samara’s mask was not the worst mask I had ever seen. Mine, on the other hand, was so dull and ordinary. I had a grey upside down triangle shooting out of the forehead, two black lines across the cheek bones like the African peoples’ war paint I had seen in some of my grandmother’s old National Geographic magazines, and a single dark dot on the left corner above the mouth like a mole or beauty mark.

I could see Samara’s eyes squint up, indicating she was smiling.

“How did it go?” She wondered, helping me to my feet. She was quite a bit shorter than I, but none of our people were short by any means. We typically towered over the superiors in height.

I shrugged, making my over to the grungy old couch that had more off-patterned patches than a maid’s clothing. But when your furniture store is a Junk Yard, you take what you can find. I slumped down onto the cushions. I never felt comfortable on that couch. It took me forever to get situated in a position I could stand.

“I didn’t go through with it,” I replied shamefully.

“What?!” Samara erupted. “Why not?”

“I-I don’t know. I just couldn’t bring myself to crashing their party.”

She crossed her arms. “Not even with your great grandmother’s life at stake?”

I shot her a look. “Why don’t you try breaking half of the rules all in one night and see if you can go through with it while keeping a clear conscience?”

Samara didn’t say anything. Of course I wanted my great grandmother back; I didn’t need her pointing it out all the time. But I wanted to get her back lawfully. I wanted the board to give her back.

Too bad that was not going to happen arbitrarily.

Samara took a seat beside me. She put her hand on my knee.

“I’m sorry,” she muttered. “Look, we can think of another way.”

I sighed, “If I let you continue to help me, you could be getting yourself into more trouble than I’m worth.” Which was little to nothing. I had nothing to lose by getting caught and being punished with a few more years with my mask, even though it was atrocious. I had no family, none except for my grandmother, and no real ties to anything or anyone. Samara was my only friend.

Samara had everything to lose. She had a family – two parents and two siblings, all of whom loved her dearly. She was even engaged. Her father had promised her to the son of his neighbor back when Samara was three years old. If she hadn’t been a hopeless romantic, she would have been totally against the whole arranged marriage thing. Luckily, she and Blade were friends before they started thinking about each other in the terms of love. As for me, no one showed interest in that department.

She snorted. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” She threw an arm around my shoulders. “You think I care about getting in trouble? You think I’m scared of a little danger? I laugh when faced with danger.” Samara let out an over-exaggerated maniacal laugh. I smiled. “If you think for one minute, Aurora Vice, that I am letting you go through this alone, you have another thing coming!”

Suddenly, we heard rasping at the window. Our heads shot in that direction. Through the window of my tiny home, Blade Grover – Samara’s fiancée – stuck his head in. His mask was decorated with one half entirely grey with black lips instead of pink. Samara squealed at the sight of him. I couldn’t tell if it was an excited squeal or a scared squeal.

“Did you do it?” Blade asked me, without paying any mind to his girlfriend.

I shook my head. “No.”

He gave Samara a critical look. She waved her hand at him.

“Don’t pay any attention to him. He was born judgmental.” She cocked her head back and winked at him.

I wanted to change the subject. Thinking about my grandmother would only depress me more. I yearned to know how she was doing in the asylum, if anything had changed, if she had changed.

“Where are you two heading off to?” I asked as Samara rose from the couch. She walked over to the window and tousled Blade’s messy black hair.

“Don’t know, yet,” Blade responded.

“We’re sneaking off,” she told me then turned her head back to Blade. “We don’t need to have a set destination.”

“I think you’re a bad influence on my girl, Aurora.” Blade teased. “She used to be such a goody-toe-shoes.”

If I could have seen Samara’s mouth, it probably would have been gaped open.

“When have I ever been a goody-toe-shoes in my life??” she exclaimed.

I rolled my eyes then waved my hand at them, motioning for them to get out of here. “Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

Blade and Samara exchanged looks. “So, nothing,” they said in unison. I smirked at them and their couple cuteness. Blade held out his arms and she climbed into them. He scooped her out of the window. And then I was alone.

I leaned back on the dingy old couch, placing my head on the arm. I stared up at the flakey ceiling that was leaking and falling apart, and would probably collapse on me within the next year or so. But the material things did not matter.

I’ll find a way to get you back, Grandma. I said to myself. I promise.