"You look better. How are you feeling?" Sylvia grabbed a chair in the cafeteria and sat opposite Rilah.
Rilah smiled, "I feel good actually. Cynthia hasn't picked on me and neither have her friends." She bit into her sandwich. "She actually apologized to me. I still don't know if it's a prank."
Sylvia looked skeptical. "I don't know. Or maybe someone forced her to apologize."
"By who?" Sylvia gave her a pointed look. It dawned on her, "Charlie? No, why would he?"
Sylvia rolled her eyes, "Why wouldn't he?"
Rilah thought about the night she had had with Charlie, and a blush slowly spread across her face.
Sylvia smiled knowingly and she grabbed something from the floor. "And to prove my point, throw away that sandwich; Charlie bought you some food." She placed a brown paper bag on the table. Rilah searched through it and came out with two containers. When she opened one, steam escaped from the bowl-shaped container.
"Tempura!" Overjoyed, Rilah dug into the food, having handed Sylvia a fork.
"And how do you know this?" Sylvia asked suspiciously.
"Charlie took me to a Japanese restaurant when he came here that day."
"Ooh, tell me more! What did you guys do?"
"Oh, we ate and went to a circus afterwards. It was so nice . . ." Rilah was cut off as she saw Portia, Cynthia's friend, standing next to her.
"Hey, Rilah. How are you? I see you are eating better these days." She put her hand on the back of Rilah's chair and put her other hand on her hip.
"I'm fine. How can I help you?" Sylvia was suspicious of Portia's behaviour. Charlie may have forced Cynthia to apologize and lay off Rilah, but it certainly wouldn't expand as far as Cynthia's goons being nice.
"Actually I am here offer you help." Without waiting for Rilah or Sylvia to ask with what, she launched on. "I know you think Charlie loves you and will look out for you, but he was actually looking out for Cynthia."
Confused, Rilah asked, "What do you mean?"
"Why do you think that Cynthia is not bothering you anymore? It's because Charlie doesn't want her to get into trouble, that's why. He's protecting her" she emphasized.
"Bull! Charlie despises Cynthia. Everyone who saw him fetch Rilah knows that. That's some papal bull that you just spun." Sylvia was seething. They would stop at nothing, would they?
"Well, Sylvia, seeing is believing." She scrolled through her phone and showed Rilah a picture. In the picture, Charlie was standing outside Cynthia's house, and Cynthia had her hand on his bicep. The moment looked very intimate, and Rilah felt her face drain of colour.
"I'm really sorry Rilah. Men are dogs, and Charlie is not an exception." Sylvia snatched the phone, and glanced at the picture.
"This is fake, or it's misinterpreted. Charlie doesn't even have his hand on her." She tossed the phone back to Portia.
"Believe whatever you want, Sylvia. By the way", she added, standing up, "they went into the house after that and didn't come out for hours." She walked away, knowing that she'd put the last nail in the coffin and at least got through to Rilah; mission accomplished.
"Don't listen to her, Rye. Charlie's my brother and I know he would never do this." She grabbed Rilah's hand and held it between her own.
Putting on a brave smile, Rilah said, "Do what? There was nothing going on between us."
"Rye, don't. You know that there's something special between you and him. Don't be tricked by Portia. Talk to Charlie."
"I gotta go", Rilah pulled her hand from Sylvia's. "I'll see you later." She picked up her bag and made to move but Sylvia stopped her.
"Rilah, come on. I'm sure there's a perfect explanation."
"He doesn't need to explain anything. There's nothing between us." She pulled free of Sylvia and said in a broken voice, "I was just desperate enough to think he could love me."
Everyone in the cafeteria watched as Sylvia shouted for Rilah to come back, while Portia smiled evilly and Cynthia thought of what Charlie would do if he found out.