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Discovering Me (Book 1 of Discovering Me Series)

By @ess1223

Dollhouse - Melanie Martinez

{Isabella}

A repetitive buzzing noise pulled me from my dreamless slumber. I slowly opened my eyes, ignoring my headache. The neon red letters read: 5:02. To put my throbbing temple out of its misery, I mustered up the smidgen of energy I had and reached out to silence the alarm. I settled onto my back and stared up at the ceiling. The sun had yet to grace Manhattan with its presence. The lightening darkness and sounds of the city waking from its momentary slumber was comforting; they kept me from being alone with my thoughts.

I pushed back my covers when I had gathered the necessary strength. I put on my robe and tied the plush belt as tightly as possible around my waist as I shuffled to my private bathroom. I kept the lights off as I went to bathroom and washed my hands; it made it easier for me to avoid seeing myself in the mirror for as long as possible. I switched it on when it was time to brush my teeth.

My heart sank when my eyes settled on my reflection. My skin was a lifeless dingy-yellow hue. Heavy bags were saddled under my amber eyes, causing the brown freckles that dusted my cheeks and the bridge of my nose to look more out of place than usual. The chubbiness of my cheeks made my stomach knot. I smoothed them up and over with my fingers, trying to discover and see my cheekbones. I pursed my lips together to help. Even when I could see it, I hated what I saw. Tears collected in my eyes and I shifted them down to the marble countertop. 

I removed my retainer and placed it in its case. I brushed and flossed my teeth without sparing a single glance at myself. I had no choice but to pay attention to it as I went through my daily skin regimen. I’d get a mouthful from Genette if I didn’t. My hair used to be naturally thick and wavy. My mother’s side of the family was from Colombia. As I got older, though, its texture shifted to a hybrid of my father’s Euro-hodgepodge ancestry and limp, brittle noodles. 

Before leaving the bathroom, I went to the scale by the tub. I silently prayed as I stepped onto it slowly, removing my robe. When the digital screen finished calculating, the digital decimal of 80.7 lbs registered in my mind as practically 800. I internally vowed to lose what I could before the party my family was scheduled to attend that evening. 

I dressed in oversized workout clothes and went downstairs in pursuit of the kitchen. I stumbled upon the camera crew as soon as I looked up from the landing. They were filming my stepmother and my three-year-old half-sister Interacting. Genette was personally fitting Sophia in one of the latest fashions from her children’s line in our sitting room. On an ordinary day, she’d have her assistant Candice do it as she barked impossible demands at her. Candice was seated on the side, silently taking notes as Genette acted her heart out to portray a loving mother. 

Soph kept moving her hips and arms, unable to stand still as most young children. 

“You’ve got to stay still. I don’t want to stick you.” Genette looked up at Soph from her seat on the floor with a dazzling, pearly white smile.

“I’m a Ladybug, Mama.” She bounced, her big blue eyes sparkling with innocence. 

“You’re too cute to be a bug. Pick something pretty, Honey.” Genette placed a kiss on her cheek.

“She really likes them. Just let her –” Soph’s male nanny informed her in a hushed tone, off screen.

“CUT!” Genette screamed, standing up abruptly and smoothing down her dress. 

She swiveled towards him. “You don’t talk when that camera’s on! You’re not a part of this family! No one cares about what you have to say!” She snapped. 

Bosworth held his tongue, knowing things would only worsen if he spoke against her. 

Soph hopped off the platform she was standing on and ran over to him. “Nice to buddies, Mama. –” She adorably scolded.

She shifted her attention to B. “Want to play?” She asked with a sweet smile, putting her arms behind her back and swaying from side to side.

He smiled and crouched down to her level. “We’re having a picnic in your room as soon as the people from Mommy and Daddy’s job go home, remember? Play with her for a little while longer.” He urged with sincere kindness. 

Sophia nodded. She walked forward and hugged him as hard as she could.

It was apparent to all of us behind the scenes whom she was most comfortable with, but America never knew. Genette was the supermom that could do it all — run an internationally successful business and get Soph to her playdates. My dad was the charming and handsome patriarch that worked hard to earn the perfect wife and family.

My older sister Audrena and I were from his first marriage. My parents divorced when I was five. I was too young to understand what happened at the time, but my sister explained it to me years later. Our mother, fed up with our father’s work schedule, sought sexual comfort from others. They attempted couples counseling, but their attempt to honor their vows failed when my dad let his pride get the best of him and slept with my nanny, who was a barely legal 20 year old. My mother developed a drug and alcohol problems shortly after he moved out. She lost custody of me when Aud moved out to go to college. We have the same origin, but Audrey and I were treated differently by our father and Genette.

 At 27, she was a promising chemist at a pharmaceutical company. She married her childhood best friend, who coincidentally grew up to be the lead singer of America’s hottest band. Our father practically begged her to be a regular on his show, “spontaneously” stopping by our home to convey a close-knit family. She declined, stating she didn’t want to be in the public eye more than she needed to be. He made do by mentioning her and her accomplishments every fifteen minutes. He made me invisible for the most part. I was present when it would’ve raised questions if I was absent, but I didn’t record talking heads. I wasn’t enabled to welcome America into my personal life, showing them what made me special. He and his producers felt I lacked a sparkle that made me interesting. It was a heavy burden to carry, but I had ballet to turn to. It’s demands gave me something to bury my heart and soul into.

I walked away when the cameras resumed rolling when all of the dolls returned to their places and resumed playing house. I went into the kitchen. I was politely greeted by members of the staff. Their presence was humiliating as I complied my breakfast. I had a rice cake and a master cleanse drink I made using purified water, formaldehyde-free maple syrup, cayenne pepper, organic lemon juice, unrefined sea salt, and cooled laxative tea. It took it with me as I went to our private gym, uncomfortable eating in front of others.

I turned on the light and locked myself in there. I sat down on the bench. I broke my rice cake in half. I ate the first sliver slowly, allowing my body to register that it was taking in food. Unable to stop myself, I granted myself access to the other half ahead of schedule. Disgusted with myself, I was on the verge of crying as I forced down gulps of my revolting drink mixture. When drank an adequate amount, I stood up, shoved in my earbuds, got on the treadmill and ran at a high intensity to achieve a runner’s high. I ran for two hours non-stop. One of my tennis shoes skidding on the sweat pouring from my body is what yanked me out of my alternate reality. I immediately got off the machine, rattled. 

I stripped down to my long sleeved shirt and shorts. I used a towel from the rack to wipe away the moisture sopping from my pores. I momentarily peeled forward my shirt and dabbed beneath it, not daring to work out in just my sports bra. I picked up a bottle of water from the small refrigerator in the room. I sat down on the leg lift bench. I drank it as I did curls, not wanting to lose my momentum. It was also doing a wonderful job of allowing me to block out the fact that I’d be due back at school in only a day’s time. I moved on to performing old dance routines in front of the mirror, doing what I could to perfect each mistake I noticed in the performance recordings. I stopped when I fell ill. I rushed to my room, and got sick behind the privacy of a locked door. 

I took an ice cold shower when my internal hell was over. I put on comfortable clothes and climbed back into bed. I cuddled with my childhood comfort item — a stuffed bunny dressed as a ballerina, and fell asleep. I was woken up hours later by a knock on my door. I groaned and held my head as I sat up slowly. I crept out of bed and unlocked it.

Candice was standing on the other side of the door, holding a garment bag. She offered me a timid smile. 

“Hi, this is your dress for Everett’s record sales party tonight. Genette sent me up here to help you get ready.” 

“Right.” I put a hand in my hair. “Come on in.” I stepped aside and allowed her to enter. 

“Your room is so beautiful.” She mused as she walked in.

“Your boss decorated.”

Her expression saddened. She silently placed the bag on my bed.

“You can say it. The door’s closed.” I coaxed, pointing to it.

“She pays my bills. I’m not allowed to hate her.” She smoothed her hands on her pants, keeping her eyes on my bed.

“I’ll do it for both of us, then.” I stated to put her at ease as I approached my bed.

She spared a glance in my direction. “Your dad is really nice.”

I pursed my lips together. “Mmm.”

She unzipped the bag and revealed the dress to ease the tension my outburst created. It was a pale powder pink ruffled mini dress, with fuchsia waistband, a long bow detail that accentuated the waist, and thin shoulder straps. It looked like a dress suitable for a barbie doll. I knew I would never fit that mold. 

I brought my hand to my mouth and started nibbling on my nails as I analyzed it.

“It’s not exactly your color. I would’ve put you in black – a blue, if she was determined to put you in a pastel. It has a built in corset. At least it’ll do something for your girls.” She offered lightly in condolence.

“I don’t really have those, but – um, it’s beautiful.” I swallowed my distaste for it. “Is it alright if I put this on in the closet? I need to change into formal underwear.”

“Sure, no problem. Privacy’s a thing. I understand.” She waved her hand dismissively.

“I’ll be right back.” I picked up the dress by the hanger and went into my walk-in closet.

I worked on my dress. Using a hanger, I pulled the zipper up by myself. I felt uncomfortable with my shoulders exposed. I shifted through my closet until I found a black motorcycle jacket. I stepped into a pair of black heels. I walked out of the closet when I was done.

Candice was setting on the cushioned bench in front of my bed, working from her Blackberry. She looked up when she felt my presence.

“I don’t understand why we don’t let you dress yourself. You have taste. Your personal arrangements to what we lay out for you tend to suit you better anyhow.” She commented, tucking her dyed burgundy hair behind her ear.

I forced a smile, unsure of how I should respond.

“Sit down at your vanity. I’ll start on your hair and makeup.” She gestured to it.

I went to where I was told and sat down. I looked down at my hands instead of in the mirror. My bare nails looked as though they had recently been caught in a wood chipper. To give myself something to do, I filed them down to smooth edges and painted them black. Things were silent as we worked.

I walked down the stairs with Candice after she finished my makeup. My father was in the foyer. His salt and pepper hair was handsomely parted and smoothed back. He was decked out in an expensive Italian suit and polished dress shoes. He momentarily glanced at his platinum watch, before returning his eyes to his smartphone.

“Hi, Daddy.” I greeted, forcing a smile as I made my way closer to him.

“Isabella.” He stated simply, keeping his eyes on his work.

“Hello, Dr. Hales.” Candice greeted with a smile.

He looked up with a dazzling one of his own. “Candice, how are you? I hope Isabella and her friends weren’t too much trouble for you.” He offered her his hand to shake.

“Uh, no – friends?” She smiled through her confusion.

“The ones that were over earlier. They were walking out as I came in.” He pointed to our personal elevator with his thumb as she returned her hand to her side.

“Oh, no, Sir. Those were models for the fashion show next week. Kurt finished up fittings while I helped Izzie get ready. Genette’s been busy fitting and filming.” She corrected with a flirtatious giggle.

He nodded in understanding, still putting on the charm. “My mistake. You can have the rest of the night off, if Genette hasn’t already given it to you. I’m sure a lovely girl like you has people anxious to meet up with her.”

“Really?!” She beamed. “Thank you so much. My best friend just got a new job. She really wanted to go out to celebrate, but I thought I’d be working past midnight.”

“Go now. I insist.” He nodded to the door.

“You’re the best, Dr. Hales. Thank you.” She waved goodbye before walking off to fetch her belongings.

He watched her butt as she walked away. She switched her hips more than necessary to put on a good show. I continued to stand in the foyer with my back against the wall, watching as all of this took place. He always had a thing for the young ones. Candice wasn’t a day older than twenty-three. There was a reason the live-in nanny was male. Genette wasn’t oblivious.

He finally looked over at me when she was gone. I thought he was going to notice how tired I looked or comment on the amount of makeup I was wearing, like a normal father.

“Genette said something about you wanting a rhinoplasty.”

I looked down at my shoes. “She said I should get a nose job. I just didn’t say ‘no’.” 

“Do you want it?” 

I craved his approval. “Do you think it would make me look better?”

“Everyone could afford to improve their appearance. Nothing major, simply expanding your dorsum a touch. It’d make your nose much more compatible with the rest of your features. It’s too insignificant as it stands and makes everything else appear larger. My partner can do it. He owes me for his wife’s breasts. –“He touched his index finger to the bridge of my nose for a moment.

“If we do it soon, It will be healed nicely by the time school starts in the fall.” He added as he continued to check out my flaw from an objective standpoint.

My chest constricted. I willed myself not to cry because of our close proximity. He lifted his phone and snapped a picture of me without warning.

“Do you mind turning to the side?” He requested innocently.

I swallowed hard and did as told, remaining silent. My bottom lip quivering ever so slightly.

“How is school?” He stepped back and started making arrangements. 

Fine.” I blinked back tears and put my hand on the strap of my crossbody purse to give myself something to do.

“Isabella, we’ve discussed this. Your posture is important. Present yourself with dignity and grace by putting your shoulders back and your head up. Hunching over like that’s doing nothing for your figure.” Genette instructed as she glided down the stairs.

“You look beautiful, Darling.” My father smiled at her.

She was a stunner. There was no denying that. She started modelling at the age of 15. She was had successfully established herself as a designer by 3o, but never ceased to turn heads.

Her spaghetti strapped black dress contorted to every curve on her stick thin figure. Her collagen-inflated lips were smothered in lipstick. It worked wonders for her spray tanned skin. Her golden blonde hair was luminously curled and cascaded down one shoulder.

 “Thanks, Hon.” She placed her cheek on his and made a kissy noise, not wanting to transfer her lip pigment.

“Candice and I did well. You look lovely.” She complimented me, remaining close to him.

“Thanks.” I offered her a small smile.

“I gave her the night off. I hope that’s alright.” My dad told her.

“You should’ve consulted with me first. I’m going to be a whole night behind now; I need to email the interns a new schedule.” She scoffed in annoyance as she removed her phone from her clutch.

“In the car. It’s waiting downstairs. We’re going to be late, otherwise.” He urged.

“Respect what I do, Stew. I do plenty for you!” She snapped at him in a hushed tone as she strutted to the elevator.

The three of us walked outside of our building. Night had fallen. The late spring air allowed it to be warm. They sat side by side in the limousine. I was on the side by myself, across from the mini bar. Both of them diligently worked from their phones, blanketing us in both silence and a blue hue. I did not dare to touch mine, terrified of what I’d find waiting for me. I jiggled my foot and blanked out for the entirety of our ride to the venue. As we pulled up to one of New York’s hottest night clubs, I saw the red carpet laid out and cameras stationed. My parents primped themselves at the last minute. My stomach knotted and I bit the inside of my cheek to distract myself. 

The car door was opened by the driver. They exited first, smiling and holding hands for the eyes that were watching. My ankles trembled beneath me as I joined them outside. A wave of vertigo hit me the moment I reached a standing position. I inconspicuously steadied myself. They walked ahead of me, my father’s arm was around Genette’s waist. I followed the advice she gave me prior to leaving, keeping my shoulders back and my head up. We walked the red carpet together. Most of their photos excluded me, but the ones that did painted us to be the perfect family. I stayed on my mark and forced my smiles. I was rewarded with the ability to drink as long as I didn’t get sloppy. I was sixteen, but they never carded at industry parties, one of very few perks.

There was a line outside the women’s restroom. I walked into the men’s without hesitation. It was completely empty in there. After locking myself inside one of the stalls, I finally let myself break down. I collected a wad of toilet paper and dab my eyes as tears refused to stop falling. I knew I had to get a hold of myself and return to the party. I took deep breaths and stared up at the ceiling. When my tears finally came to a stop, an impulse popped into my mind. Without thinking myself out of it, I forced myself to vomit. I rose to my feet, wiping my mouth off with the back of my hand as it trembled. I tossed in my tissue and flushed. I walked out after taking a deep breath. I wet a paper towel and removed my smeared makeup. I reapplied what I could with what was in my bag. I fixed my hair with my fingers. I rinsed my mouth out and inserted a mint. I wandered out, allowing myself to behave drunkenly to play off using the men’s room.

I walked over to the bar alone. “Two sea breezes and a shot of Grey Goose, please.” I ordered when one of the bartenders made their way over to me.

I placed my hands on the counter and looked down at them. The bar was lit. I allowed myself to be fascinated by the shadows I could make on it by contorting my fingers in subtle ways. Within a matter of minutes, tall narrow glasses were slid over to me. The pink liquid glowed because of the light illuminating the glasses. The short one that was added lastly was clear in color. I tossed it back, swallowing hard to remove the burn. 

“Thank you.” I tipped him before I walked away.

I found an isolated table and sat down. As I drank the first one, I put all the fruit garnishes into the second glass, allowing them to absorb alcohol. I was finished with it in under five minutes. I sipped the second, enjoying the taste and the numbing it would soon create.

“You can’t steal Soph’s dress to drink like an old pro.”

I smiled to myself at the sound of Audrey’s voice. I downed the remainder of my drink and lowered my glass onto the table. She was seated across from me, her full lips were contorted into a playful smirk. Her dark brown hair was down and straightened. She tucked her bangs behind her ear. The way the top of her dress was cut and the way she was angled gave me a rare peek at her d-cup cleavage. She was gorgeous and looked just like our mother. It was hard to look at her for long periods of time.

“You actually look like a rockstar’s wife for once. Your coworkers might learn about your double life, Mrs.Woods.” I picked up an orange wedge.

“Dr. Hales-Woods.” She corrected jokingly. “All are aware. The ones I like came to the wedding. They informed the ones I don’t.” She added.

“Where’s the hubby?” I picked up the other.

“Around here somewhere. Have you eaten actual food? Have one of my mini quiches.” Her tone grew increasingly worried as she watched me.

“We don’t like quiche. You’re the one that calls them lying pies.” I dug out a slice of grapefruit.

“I know. They smelled really good, so I went for it. They taste even better. I cleared a tray to make this pile. There’s bacon.” She pointed to her plate.

“I had a big lunch.” My stomach growled in rebuttal. I started sucking the alcohol from the fruit garnish to shut it up.

“Izzie Bee, –“She called to me sternly.

I looked up. I didn’t realize how drunk I was until I tried to focus my eyes on her. She pursed her lips together instead of saying something. 

“Eat.” She slid her plate closer to me.

My mind jumped to work, counting the calories present. The cheese, bacon, and eggs sent off major warning signs. I picked one up and ate it reluctantly, knowing she wasn’t going to stop pressing me.

“Happy?” I spouted sarcastically, wiping the crumbs from my mouth with my fingers.

 She gave me her glass of water. “Drink it.”

“I’m not — I’m not taking your drink. I’ll get my own.”

“No, you’re drunk.” She snapped in a hushed tone.

“I’m good.“ I started to get up from the table.

She placed her hand on my shoulder and eased me back down to my seat. “Stay. I’ll be back.” She left the table.

I sighed heavily and rested my head in the palm of my hand as my elbow was propped on the table. My eyes drifted shut and I gently swayed in my seat as I enjoyed the ride and the music. 

“It’s strange seeing you with clothes on.” A male voice shattered my drunken dream cloud.

“No – no, go away.” 

“You are so drunk, Princess.” Colt chuckled lightly as he sat down.

My eyes bore into his blur menacingly.

“No need to be feisty, I came bearing a peaceshot.” He slid a shot glass filled with pale yellow liquid my way.

“What’s that?” I pointed to it, leaning into the hand that was supporting my head.

“I know you only do vodka. It’s a lemon drop.”

I tossed it back without hesitation. “We’re not even.” I wiped my mouth off with the back of my hand.

“We’ve been through this song and dance before, Princess. You sit by yourself, acting all dark and mysterious. I come over, you play hard to get, we drink together, and then you get very friendly.”

Anger surged through my body, recalling the fractured memories of our time together. I pushed all of the table’s contents onto him in one swift motion. 

“YOU’RE CRAZY!” He howled.

My legs felt as though they were made of twigs, they shook as I attempted to gain stronger footing. I walked away with as much conviction as I could muster, ignoring the attention I drew. The more I moved, the more light-headed I became. I couldn’t understand what the people around me were saying, like they were speaking an alien language. A horrible feeling crept across my stomach as my vision rapidly depleted. Blurry images soon transitioned into black dots, overlaying everything in my line of sight. And all at once, I lost the will to fight it off and let myself fall.

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