(Chapter 3 of The Dualists can be found here)
The crowd applauded thunderously. Clover could take no more, and ran from the stage, barely containing her sobbing. “Could someone get her?” The principal asked to a group of teachers, who begrudgingly went after her. “If you don’t mind, Mr. Dedekind, I’d like to talk to her,” Regina said. “But you need to appoint a vice-president. We’re already running late,” he said. “I’m sure the students wouldn’t mind pushing class back a little longer,” she said. The crowd of students cheered. “Fine,” he relented, “But do try to hurry up.” After a bit of searching, she found Clover in the nearest bathroom, crying her eyes out. “Do you have a moment?” Regina asked, through the door of the bathroom stall. “Come to rub your victory in my face some more?” Clover spat. “I-I’m sorry, I know you’re better than that.” “No problem,” Regina said, “To answer your question, I was sent to retrieve you, so the assembly can continue.” “Oh, God, is the whole school waiting on me?” Clover asked, “I’m so sorry, I’ll be right-” “But,” Regina continued, “I’m here to do my job as president. To help you.” “I appreciate the sentiment,” Clover said, “But no one can help me with this. Especially not you.” “I don’t understand,” Regina said, “You said that you believed that I ‘excelled at literally everything.’ So why can’t help you?” “BECAUSE YOU’RE THE REASON I NEED HELP IN THE FIRST PLACE,” Clover said, her anger getting the better of her. “Because I beat you in the election?” Regina asked. “And in that fencing match! And in the science fair. And in math Olympiad. And everything else! You’ve always had a higher GPA, been the star athlete, while I’ve been nothing! I thought that maybe, with this election, I’d finally, finally win against you, but no. I guess you’re just completely better than me in every way. Congratulations.” There was a moment of silence. “I missed you, y’know.” Regina said. “Huh?” “I remember you now. From when I first moved here. You were the girl in my fencing class who was just as good as me.” Clover scoffed, “But you beat me.” “Barely,” Regina said, “I knew I could learn a lot from you. But even more than that, I hoped we could be friends. I was – and still am, I guess – a lot better at fencing than I was at socializing, so I figured that was my best shot at meeting new people. But after that first day, you left. Why?” “Because I hate losing,” Clover said, “Because I was so used to being the best, that I couldn’t handle coming in second.” “I’m sorry,” Regina said, “I am truly, deeply sorry that I hurt you, that I’ve been hurting you, and that I never even noticed.” “But I don’t need your apologies,” Clover said tears returning to her eyes, “I need to win. I need… to know that I’m not a loser.”
“You’re not a loser,” Regina said, earnestly. “Then why do I always lose?” Clover asked, “Why are you always better than me at everything?” “That’s not true,” Regina said. “Name one thing, then,” Clover said, “One way I’m better than you.” “Well, off the top of my head, you’re certainly prettier than I am,” Regina said. “Are you kidding?” Clover asked, “Have you ever looked in a mirror? Have you ever even seen your eyes?” “Er, well, if nothing else, you certainly have bigger-” “Anyway,” Clover said, “that’s entirely subjective. Besides, there’s no skill involved in looking this good. It just happens.” “I guess you’re right,” Regina conceded, “well, you have more friends than me, don’t you? I mean, it wouldn’t take many, and you’re the most popular girl in school!” “My dad is the most popular girl in school,” Clover said, rolling her eyes. Regina chuckled. “I’m being serious!” Clover continued, “He’s rich and well-known, so people hang out with me because they think I can help them be rich and well-known. I’m no one’s ‘friend.’ I’m a ‘connection.’ A rude, unladylike brat that people suffer in the hopes that it’ll pay off later.” “I’m sorry, but… fuck them, and fuck that, in that order,” Regina said. Clover chuckled. “I’m being serious!” Regina continued, “You may have some phony friends like that, but they aren’t even worth wasting breath talking about. You’re a strong person, Clover. Not just because you’re pretty buff, but because you say what needs to be said, even when it’s hard. It would’ve been so easy for you to just half-ass an impromptu concession speech, but the student body deserved to know the truth. So you told them. Because you give a shit.” Regina took a deep breath. “And I’m sure you have friends who appreciate that about you.” “You’re probably right,” Clover said, after thinking it over for a bit, “But ‘probably’ isn’t the same as ‘definitely.’ I need something certain.” Clover thought for a moment. “Then arm wrestle me,” Regina said, “Right here, right now.” “In the bathroom?” Clover asked. “I’m sure we can do it on a desk in a nearby classroom. Like, use it as a surface for arm wrestling,” Regina said. “Fine,” Clover said, “just let me wash my hands first.” After a few seconds, she opened the door to the stall, and walked over to the sink. Her cheeks were dry, but her eyes were still red. As she waited for Clover, Regina realized something. “Wait… did you go to the bathroom?” Regina asked. “Yes,” Clover said, sarcastically, “In fact, I’m still here.” “You know what I meant,” Regina said, “Did you piss and/or shit?” “Since you’re so interested, yes, I did, before you came in. Literally why does it matter,” Clover said. “I don’t know,” Regina said, “It’s just weird imagining you not wearing pants during this whole heart-to-heart conversation we just had.” “I think you imagining it is weirder than it happening,” Clover said, as she dried her hands. Regina realized that she had a point, and dropped it.
In the next classroom over, they sat on opposite sides of a desk, clasping each other’s hands with their elbows on the table. “Oh, wow,” Regina said. “Huh?” “Oh, I, uh, guess I just didn’t expect your hands to be so calloused,” Regina said, regretting having said anything. “Oh, yeah, I guess,” Clover mumbled, “yours are pretty soft.” Regina gave the signal to start immediately after, so neither noticed the other blushing. Though Regina gave it her all, she was overpowered in seconds. “See?” she said, “You’re not a loser.” “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Clover said. “So… how do you feel?” Regina asked. “Better…” Clover said, “Hey, I was just wondering… do you still want to be my friend? I know it was a long time ago, so I understand if you don’t, but-” “Of course I do!” Regina said, “Nothing would make me happier. Actually, maybe if we were also… wait. Never mind. I have to ask you a question first.” “Shouldn’t we be heading back soon?” Clover asked. “This is important,” Regina said, “Did you really want to be president?” “Thanks to you, yeah,” Clover said, “At first, it was just a thing my dad made me do, and then it was just a way for me to finally beat you at something. But then I heard your speeches about how you wanted to help people… I realized that I did, too. Or maybe I just wanted people to respect me the way they respect you. So I could prove that I’m not just a spoiled little brat. To my classmates, to my dad… and to myself.” Clover sighed. “But it wouldn’t have happened. I would’ve just taken credit for someone else’s work, just like I did during the campaign. Because I really am just a spoiled little brat.” “I disagree,” Regina said, “You basically owned your dad in front of the entire school. That doesn’t sound like something a ‘spoiled little brat’ would do.” “Maybe you’re right,” Clover said, chuckling, “but it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m not going to be president.” “But you could be vice-president,” Regina said. “Is that an offer?” Clover asked, incredulously. “It is,” Regina said, “There’s no pressure, but-” “I accept,” Clover said, “Just don’t think this means that we’ll stop being rivals.” “Of course,” Regina said, “Welcome aboard, partner.” She shook Clover’s hand, then started to blush as she realized that she was still holding it from when they were arm wrestling. Just then, the bell went off, indicating that the election assembly was over. “Oh, shit,” Regina said, “We’d better get going.” As they walked through the halls, Clover asked, “So… did you do all of that just because you didn’t have anyone else lined up to be your vice-president?” Regina just laughed and shrugged non-committally.
(Chapter 5 of The Dualists can be found here)