2 | A Cinderella Moment

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Sundresses, strappy tops, sequined leggings and hosiery were strewn all over the bed and the carpet by the time Anukie Perera was satisfied with her look. She was decked out with silver finery in the form of a puff-sleeved top and a metallic skirt. Peep-toe wedges encased her feet—the final touch to her ensemble.

Across the room, Evanna leaned against the window wall overlooking the impressive cityscape, lost in a daydream with earphones stuck in her ears.

After lunch break, she was wondering with increasing trepidation what she should wear for the party when right after the last bell sounded, Anukie insisted she come to her place. It turned out to be an apartment on the nineteenth floor of a condominium tower not far from the city center.

She was now clad in one of Anukie's dresses—a ruffled, pink affair that was supposedly good on her. At least it's not bright pink. Be grateful, Ev! Ookie's helping you fit in!

It took a few seconds for Evanna to notice the other girl waving. She came to with a start and pulled out her earphones.

"We gotta be going soon," Anukie mumbled, dabbing gloss onto her lips. "You ready?"

Evanna fought down the excitement that rippled through her—followed by apprehension. "Yeah, we can go whenever you're ready."

"Okay, just give me a minute."

"By the way, who exactly were those guys who showed up at our table during lunch break? Are they in some sports team?"

"Armel Meriton is in the rugby team. The whole team would be coming to the party."

"Right, so what about Shane?" Evanna recalled Alcina pecking him on the mouth in greeting, making it amply clear that he was Alcina's consort—which made perfect sense to her.

"He's a Youtube star. He has his original pop songs, though he also does covers. He has a ton of fan girls in Komoreby."

"Oh..." For a moment, Evanna was distracted by the light glinting off a spiraling, green-studded skyscraper in the distance. "So, we're going to Oleanda's place, right? Or was it Sara's?"

"Ollie's. I think we mentioned it, like," Anukie said, shooting her an annoyed look, "a gazillion times during lunch break alone."

Evanna stifled a laugh. "Sorry, I must've zoned out."

The other girl rolled her eyes, clicked shut her mascara tube and grabbed her bag off the messy bed. "C'mon, let's go."

"So, why have you guys picked her place?"

"Ollie's parents aren't around today, and her big sis, who's in charge, doesn't care about what she does—she's probably out with friends too."

As Anukie clip-clopped across the living room and out through the door, Evanna followed behind, carrying her backpack and clothes while tottering on Anukie's wedge heels. Why do these things have to be so clunky?

They were soon inside the elevator, whizzing down to the lower ground floors, where the car park was located.

"Ookie?" Evanna murmured.

The other girl threw her a sideways glance. "What?"

"I've been thinking," she said falteringly, her voice loud in the claustrophobic confines of the elevator. "It must've been overwhelming for you when you moved here, and you had no friends. And those days, you were, well, different. I mean, I can imagine how lost I would've been if you weren't here."

As they steadily descended, Anukie stared at the numbers counting down on the digital display. "It was hard at first, but, well, you get used to things. And you learn to do what you have to do to thrive in life—or you just end up being some loser."

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