Everything seemed like a blur as Celia dragged her away from the party. Rosalind whined drunkenly, but the fierce autumn wind blew the sound away, or else Celia’s alien mask was a soundproof barrier of rubber. Or, Aliena. She should think of her as Aliena - she had almost fucked up several times tonight. Or maybe fully fucked up. Who knows. Celia was a common name, right? No one would recognize them as the Duke children. Especially not Orlando.
Rosalind tried to slow down, jerking her hand away from her cousin’s. At this speed, the tall girl was starting to lose her balance. She hadn’t thought she would need to practice running in heels. How naive of her.
Rosalind’s attempts to slow down only threw her more off balance as her cousin’s hand rudely jerked her along.
“Hurry Rosalind, I called an Uber and it says it’s waiting,” Celia said. “It took me so long to find you.”
“Well whose fault is that, it’s probably because you got too high,” said Rosalind.
“No, it’s you who got too drunk! Will you look at yourself Rosalind?” Celia whisper-screamed.
“At least let me take off my shoes,” Rosalind said. “Then I can run.”
“Fine but hurry. I’m gonna walk toward him and hopefully he doesn’t drive off but if you take too long we will.” Rosalind knew it was a bluff, the fact that Celia had remained to lecture her instead of actually going after the car proved that.
Rosalind undid the buckles on the strappy heeled shoes she was wearing and stretched out the arches of her feet. Ugh, they looked like such ugly man feet, all red and veiny from the torturous night of dancing in heels. She should have worn high heeled boots instead. She hooked the shoes on her pinky and sprinted down the driveway after her cousin.
“You have the coats, right? Please tell me you remembered to grab our coats,” Rosalind called after Celia. The figure ahead stopped, and a black blob of fabric came flying through the air and hit Rosalind in the face and shoulder.
“Ack!” Rosalind flailed with the bundled up trench coat, still trying to catch up to Celia. She finally managed to right it and snaked her arms in the sleeves. Tied the waistband and buttoned it, so no one could see the black ballet dress underneath. “What about the glasses, Celia?”
“Not so loud!” Celia hissed. She had abandoned all attempts to outpace her cousin and was glancing impatiently between the headlights up ahead and the tall girl drunkenly struggling with the large garment in the grass by the driveway.
“They’re not in the pocket,” Rosalind cried, frantically checking. There was only one thing in trench coat’s right pocket, makeup wipes in a plastic bag. “Do you have them?”
Rosalind watched as the alien headed girl plunged her hands into the pocket of the long tan coat she was wearing over her skimpy Star Trek uniform. “Uh, no, I thought you had them? They’re part of your costume?”
“I have to go back,” Rosalind shouted. She stopped walking toward the car.
“No, Rosalind, we have to catch this Uber,” Celia hissed, pulling her back. Rosalind snatched her arm away and started running back toward the house.
“Ros, we’re gonna be in so much trouble! Stop!” Celia cried after her. “We need to go home now!”
“I’m gonna be in even more trouble if they see me with this eye makeup!” Rosalind shouted back, stumbling as her heel caught a clump of grass. She paused to take them off.
Celia caught up to Rosalind and for the first time looked remorseful. “I’m sorry, they must have fallen out when I was grabbing the coats. You still have the wipes though right?”
“They won’t get all this eyeliner off!” Rosalind sobbed from the ground. Celia took the shoes from her, then pulled Rosalind from the ground with one muscular arm flex.
“Come on, let’s get you home,” Celia said.
“No! They can’t see me like this,” Rosalind blubbered.
“We’ll clean you up in the car,” Celia said. Rosalind nodded, and Celia was finally able to lead her into the waiting Uber. The driver gave them a disapproving stare and peeled away quickly from the curb.
After a minute of wiping away a mixture of black eyeliner and tears, Rosalind felt better - well, maybe not better, but safer, with most of her feminine features crumpled on moist towelettes in a plastic bag in her pocket. “I hope you thought of a good excuse, Celia,” Rosalind whispered. She tucked most of the strands of the black wig under the trench coat. “Are we gonna sneak back in?”
Celia shook her head. “We’re fucked. But mom said if we were back in half an hour she wouldn’t tell dad.”
“He’s not at home?”
“No, he’s giving another speech tonight. Elections are next week, remember?”
Rosalind breathed out a sigh of relief. She didn’t have time to worry about election night, as long as she wasn’t going to be caught by her homophobic uncle. “Dibs on shower.”
“No way, you use mom and dad’s this time.”
“Please? I have to hide the clothes, remember?”
Celia sighed. “Fine. But remember that I am the best ally sister.”
“You’re my only ally sister,” said Rosalind. “I mean only ally. I mean only friend.”
“Ros! Come on,” Celia said. Rosalind felt pathetic that she always had to beg for validation. But she was really glad they had each other at least. Celia had been bullied by their dad more when they were kids because she was butch, but they had both gotten a hard time for being gender non-conforming. That was why Charles was the favorite child.
Celia was the only one of the three of them who was biologically Frederick Duke’s child, but she couldn’t be more different from him. Charles and Rosalind were adopted when Rosalind was five and Charles was two because their parents were, to put it like her uncle/adoptive dad, no good junkies. Duke Senior, as he was called, Fred Duke’s older brother and Rosalind’s dad, ran off on his family and disappeared right after Charles was born. Rosalind’s mom ran out of money without him and turned to dealing drugs to pay the bills. Before long she ended up in prison, and then Fred Duke was there, a pillar of the community, to take in his brother’s kids and give them a much better life.
Charles didn’t remember much about their mother, but Rosalind did. She still went to visit her from time to time. Rosalind - that was the name her mother would have named her baby girl. Rosalind, like her great-grandmother, an old name. Rosalind’s mom was one of the only people who knew The Truth - it was just her and Celia and Touchstone. And now Orlando. And everyone else she met at the party, right?
Their mom, Rosalind’s aunt, did not look happy when the Uber finally pulled up into the long driveway.
She said Rosalind’s deadname; Rosalind winced. Her mom leaned in, squinting. “Why are you wearing eyeliner?” she snapped.
“I lost my Matrix sunglasses, but Keanu Reeves is Asian?”
“Oh, so it’s just yellowface, you’re not trying to look like a girl. Well, that’s fine. But you’re still grounded for a week. Give me your phone.”
Rosalind quickly powered her phone off out of paranoia - now no one could break into it by stealing her fingerprints. Rosalind was a computer enthusiast, and her phone’s security was top notch. She had learned to clear browser history at eleven, about the same time she realized she was not like other boys. Rosalind had always been good at hiding things.
Like how she hid the testosterone blockers and estrogen pills she’d had delivered to a post office box for over a year now. Using a VPN to order them wasn’t overkill, either; she had no idea if her parents were tracking her browsing history. Using Tor, that would be overkill.
Rosalind handed over her phone, knowing all of her data was safely encrypted. “I have to go work on my English essay,” she lied. Or didn’t lie, because English essays could be worked on and worked on and worked on, but she had finished ages ago.
She showered first, careful to scrub every inch of makeup from her body. As long as her uncle didn’t see anything, she was fine; her aunt wouldn’t snitch because there was nothing worse than getting him upset over something homophobic.
She still had her school Chromebook no one knew about. Of course she knew how to get around the restricted websites. She went on Facebook and made a fake account with Rosalind D as the name. Friended Aliena, which was Celia’s account she used to talk to girls. She didn’t know where Celia met these girls - Star Trek fanfiction websites, maybe?
Rosalind then internet stalked Orlando de Boys, hands shaking. He was easy to find. Most of his photos were private, but his profile picture was cute - him in his wrestling uniform with some other members of the team.
Rosalind’s mouse cursor hovered over the send friend request button.
What would a popular jock like him want with a closeted nerd like her anyway?
Celia knocked on Rosalind’s door as she was still trying to decide whether or not to talk to Orlando. Rosalind quickly shut the laptop and hid it under the pillow until she heard her cousin’s soft voice coming through the door. Celia knew about the laptop but Rosalind would still be embarrassed if Celia saw what she was working on.
“How are you doing? Can I come in?” Celia asked
“Yeah,” Rosalind said. Her cousin slipped in through the door and closed it again, plopping down on Rosalind’s queen bed beside her.
“So, it looks like we’re in the clear,” said Celia.
“What happened?” said Rosalind. “I thought you said we were good for the night.”
“Yeah, well it turned out that Charles was actually at the church party we were supposed to be at,” said Celia. “Of course he didn’t see us and he ratted.”
Rosalind frowned. Celia poked her. “Hey, you got to talk to Orlando, right? How was that?”
“Fine, I guess,” Rosalind said stiffly.
Celia bounced on the bed exasperatedly. “What’s the matter? Does he suck in real life or something? You were going on and on about how cute he was after the wrestling match.”
“Dude, I’m - whatever. I don’t know,” Rosalind said.
“I think he was into you,” Celia said, doing that smiling and trying to make eye contact face people make when they’re trying to get you to smile.
“Why would he be into me,” Rosalind said.
“Rosalind!” Celia sang emphatically. “You’re beautiful! You looked so good tonight.”
“I look like a drag queen,” Rosalind said sullenly.
“No you don’t,” Celia said.
“You’re just saying that to be nice,” Rosalind said.
“I promise you don’t!” Celia said. “I think the estrogen is working. Your face looks softer, and your legs are thicker.”
Rosalind shook her head and drew her knees up to her chest, pressing against the tender flesh mounds of her couple months old breasts. “No one’s even noticed. I’m never gonna pass.”
“Well they wouldn’t say anything even if they did notice, would they?” said Celia. “Not if you haven’t come out to them.”
“Are you trying to shame me for not coming out?” Rosalind said.
“NO! God, don’t take everything the wrong way Rosalind,” Celia said. “Jesus H. Christ knows I wouldn’t come out to our parents if I was trans. Hell, I’m not coming out to them as bi if I can help it - not until I’m far far away. But like, once you just start dressing like a woman and stuff people will just - I don’t know, it’ll get easier. I want to help you.”
Rosalind nodded. “Yeah. It’ll be better when we go to college and we only have to see them a few times a year.”
Celia smiled and took her cousin’s hand. “Wherever we go, we’re gonna go together. And we can make lots of queer friends and we can just be ourselves with them.”
Rosalind smiled but just for a second. “But I still won’t be able to change my name with the school.”
“We can go somewhere super liberal like California,” said Celia. “And I’ll fight all your professors and make them call you the right name.”
“Okay,” Rosalind said. “You’re so good, Celia. I’m glad I have you.”
“You have Touchstone too,” said Celia. “And I can introduce you to more people I met online.”
Rosalind didn’t say anything, just hugged her tight.
“Also, I knew you’d chicken out, so Aliena just sent a friend request to Orlando,” Celia whispered in her ear.