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“The recent riot has brought about questions of security in the lower class districts.”

“Yes, many feel it’s time we allow the police to use greater force with those living in the area, lest any more violent outbreaks occur.”

“Naturally, citizens of the area are strongly opposed to this notion, but many living outside the urban areas are concerned for their safety.”

“The upper class has grown fearful of riots potentially bringing harm to them and their families, but the council says not to worry, as they will have the situation under control shortly.”


Jo couldn’t quite believe the way the story of the riot was being spun by the news anchors. They’d somehow found a way to blame the whole thing on the people of the slums, the people who hadn’t stuck first, the people who acted in self-defense. It was to be expected, most of the news these days was just propaganda for the rich. The government had to give them a common enemy to cover their own tracks, and so they slapped the label of the villain on the undesirables.

Jo’s feet still kind of ached from the shoes she’d worn to the party. She was sat on her couch with her legs propped up on the coffee table, the morning paper tossed to the side. She’d been on another job search, but had become preoccupied with the news somewhere along the way. A knock on the door roused her from her brooding. Emerson nearly fell into the apartment as she swung the door open.

“Sorry dude.”

“It’s fine, I just wanted to ask if you wanted to hang out today. I’ve gotta run some errands in the city, thought you might wanna come?” He seemed strangely nervous, more fidgety than normal at least.

“Yeah sure, let me put on something that doesn’t have a pasta stain on it.” She smiled, waving him in. “I’ll be out in a sec.”

“No problem.” Emerson sat down where Jo had been moments before, starting to regret his decision. She was in and out of her bedroom faster than he’d thought possible. She’d gone from sweats to jeans and a shirt from a band he didn’t recognize.

“Alright, we good to go?” she asked, making her way towards the door.

“Oh, yeah!” Emerson scampered up, having drifted into a daze of sorts. He followed Jo out the door as she shut the lights off.

“Where to?”


Two hours later had them huddled up under the awning of a pizza joint that Jo had been certain hadn’t gone out of business-she was wrong-hiding from the downpour. “Well this bites.” Emerson grumbled, staring out at the streets turned rivers. Jo raised a brow at him. “Sorry, bad choice of words.” Her blank gaze held for a moment before she cracked up and punched his arm lightly.

“Man, I feel like it’s always raining here, wonder if it’s the same outside the slums.”

“I don’t know, somehow I just can’t see it down pouring over a mansion like that witch’s.”

“I wonder if we’ll ever find out.” Jo’s voice had gone soft. She stared at the rain, eyes vacant, lost to a world inside her own head.

“I don’t know.” Emerson said at last. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be happy living in a mansion, with servants and parties, and small talk over Champaign. Still, the very idea that he was forbidden from such things just because of the way he was born was a cloud that would loom over him for as long as he lived. “I’d like to think so.” Hope was their weapon, the only one they were allowed. Guns and harsh words would land them in prison or worse. They had only their thoughts. “God, this has got to be the absolute worst date ever, I’m so sorry.” He groaned, kicking the ground with the toe of his sneaker.

“Wait, this is a date?” Jo asked, blinking back to the present. “Oh my god. I would have worn something nicer if I’d known.”


The rain didn’t let up. As the minutes had ticked to over an hour beneath the awning they’d decided to brave the elements. Such elements had not been kind, but they were unbothered at this point. A person can only be drenched so much after all.

“Dude I’m soaked.” Jo laughed, shaking her head, cackling obnoxiously as water droplets flung everywhere. Emerson hissed and ducked away from the assault.

“Yeah me too, and I’d prefer not to make it worse, thank you very much.”

“Oh please, you’ve got puddles in your shoes, my hair water isn’t gonna make a difference.”

“Whatever.” He grumbled, crossing his arms and wincing at the squelch.

“Come on, how ‘bout we both dry off, change, then we can meet back at my place and watch a movie. Can’t say I’ve got much in the way of food, but I’ve got pizza rolls.”

“Sounds like a plan.” He nodded, giving slightly slippery finger guns as he made his way to his apartment.


And so, for the first time since she could remember after walking home that night at 15, Jo was happy. She didn’t care what was going on. She didn’t care how screwed up the world was, or how it had screwed her over. This moment, this insignificant, miniscule, moment, huddled on her ratty couch under a food stained blanket, watching Monty Python and eating pizza rolls with her neighbor was all that mattered. She wanted to stay.

But that would be too easy, too good.

And life in the slums was neither.

Submitted: September 26, 2018

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