Beside her, Roderick was sure he’d heard Rella swear under her breath. This was confirmed when she subconsciously slapped her own lips, an action both Sharon and Roderick were very familiar with. As Rella hung up on the caller, Roderick flashed one quick glance at Sharon, whose eyes reflected pure shock as she tried to study Rella’s face.
“Cleo?” Both Roderick and Sharon whispered. Rella responded by running away.
As Sharon held her phone with her back against the wall, Roderick chased after Rella again. “Rella!” he called once he was outside at her, who held her slippers in her hands and ran barefoot. Even on barefoot, she ran faster than Roderick. She didn’t stop until she came near a soccer court, where she fell on the grass. That was when Roderick caught up to her.
“Are you okay?” he asked. She kept her head down and didn’t respond.
A bit forcefully, he turned her head so she was facing him. “You’re Cleo, aren’t you?”
She only looked away.
“How can it be?”
Rella stopped his hand away. “The power of makeup,” she answered quietly, admitting that she was Cleo.
Roderick sat on the grass with her. “I didn’t know you could be so feminine, Cleo-Rella.” He smiled at her. His eyes told her she was forgiven for fooling him.
Cleo-Rella adjusted her position so that her feet were tucked under her dress, her slippers placed on the ground in front of her. “I can be like any other girl. I just don’t like to.”
“What about the jazz-dancing?”
“I’ve been learning how to dance since I was a kid. I like feeling the music in my veins, but I can’t play basketball in a dress.”
“The makeup? The curly hair?” By then, Roderick was smirking.
Cleo-Rella chuckled. “Like I said, I can be feminine. I just like the tomboy style more.”
“Rella never showed up before.”
“You and Sharon broke up over the masked ball, so I went the first time to see why it was worth the breakup. Then, I found out someone could dance as well as I could, so I came back.” Cleo-Rella took her phone out and dialed Sharon’s number.
“You’ve been messing with me this whole time! Don’t talk to me again!” Sharon yelled at her, then hung up.
She sighed. “It seems like Sharon won’t take me back as Cleo.”
Roderick was silent for a moment. Then, he said, “What about us?”
“Us? We’re best buds.” Cleo-Rella snickered bitterly.
“But…you knew I like you.”
“You told Cleo you liked Rella.”
“I like you.”
“You think you like me, because I’m pretty.”
“I liked you before I even saw you.”
“That’s because I could dance.”
Roderick sighed. “Cleo,” he said, “I liked you before I knew you were Rella.”
Still, Cleo-Rella didn’t turn back to him. She pushed his arm away when he reached out, trying to turn her back to him. “Then you liked Cleo and Rella at the same time.”
He sat mutely for a while, merely gazing at her. Finally, he said, “But they’re one and the same.”
Cleo-Rella shook her head. She faced him, glaring. “I’ve been your buddy this whole time. I’ve seen you and all your girlfriends. I’ve seen Sharon move on from one to another. Beautiful people like you and her–and all of them in that basketball team–only want fun. Actually, you’re so good-looking and attractive you could have any one girl. Puck someone else. Don’t mess with me.” Cleo-Rella stood up. She lifted her skirts up a bit and ran from Roderick, leaving her slippers behind. This time, she didn’t trip over her dress. This time, Roderick didn’t chase after her.
What she’d said made so much sense. Deep down, Roderick felt that he was real. Yet, deep down, he knew she wouldn’t be convinced so easily.