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Discovering Me (Book 1 of Discovering Me Series)

By @ess1223

Annabelle - A Rocket To The Moon

[Milo]

Our relationship wasn’t based on much, so it wasn’t difficult for me to get over Anna. In two weeks’ time, my anger had even vanished. I finally saw her for what she was, a body with a complex. I wasn’t ready for another relationship, but I was content with my life. I had my friends. I had the freedom to do and say what I wanted, being an ocean away from home. All in all, I was happy. That’s why I didn’t listen as a pretty face with a hideous attitude told her fearful followers that I ruined her life and did something wrong when I ended our relationship. I knew I wasn’t a monster. It’s not like I wanted any of the girls that believed her.

~

Needing to finish my math homework before classes started, I skipped going to the dining hall for breakfast. I managed to work through my hunger by drinking coffee. I knew I didn’t complete brilliant work, but I was more than pleased with the fact that my work was completed by the time I walked to class.

When I walked into the pre-calculus classroom, I noticed a shift in our seating arrangement. Ryan was occupying the seat beside Elle. Izzie was in his usual seat.

“Seat switch?” I questioned as I sat down, removing my backpack.

“Mom asked me to give you the breakfast she packed. It’s an oatmeal bar, juice box, and bacon.” She offered me a paper bag beneath the table.

“Turkey bacon?” I asked as I accepted it.

“Mom makes it her business to know our favorite things.”

I smiled. “I’ll be sure to hug her later.”

“I get to dance today.” She told me as I started eating.

“Really?” I eyed the teacher to ensure she wasn’t watching as I sneaked my breakfast.

“Mhmm. Nurse Miller said everything healed well. That’s probably why I gave you your breakfast instead of eating it in front of you.”

“You’re so mean.” I looked over at her with a smirk.

“I’m sorry. I don’t recall hitting you with a skateboard on your first day.” She retorted playfully.

“The head injury made you forget. There was blood everywhere. It’s a good thing we’re a match. That transfusion saved my life.” I played along.

Her light snickering brought a smile to my face.

After submitting our homework, the teacher started her lesson. I found myself spacing out the moment she started talking about imaginary numbers. I didn’t know how much time had passed when Iz lightly nudged my arm. I looked over at her. She slid her notebook over to me. There, she had written “wanna play tick-tack-toe?” I nodded in response. She quickly drew up a board and made the first move. When she kept beating me, I started cheating. I’d go twice in a row or write over a space she had already declared as hers. She simply scribbled over it in her stubborn manner, instead of getting upset or frustrated with me. That somehow made it that much more fun. I wanted to see how long it would take to get a rise out of her. She met me move for move the entire time, only nudging me playfully when I wouldn’t let her have a turn at all.

“You, sir, are a sore loser.” She said as we packed our bags for biology.

“I didn’t know I was playing with a champion. I had to compensate somehow.” I shrugged.

She shook her head at me, fighting off a smile. We walked to our next class together. Sami was already sitting at our lab bench when we arrived with Ryan. She was smirking widely with her hands clasped on the table in front of her.

“You’re awfully chipper, Half-pint. We’re dissecting today.” He told her as he sat down on his stool.

“No, we’re not.” She retorted simply.

“We’re not?” Iz looked over at her.

She shook her head. Mr. Collins walked in shortly after. He looked a bit disheveled, as though he had been scrambling at the last minute. It made me really start to wonder what Sami had done.

He stood behind his desk and sighed heavily.

“Class, I know you were looking forward to our mice dissection today, but somehow, my order to the company that supplies them was canceled. We’ll be watching a documentary instead. To make up for it, I’ll move frog dissection that we were supposed to do next month to this Friday.” He explained remorsefully.

Iz raised her hand. “The ones we collected?” She pointed to the amphibian tank after he called on her.

“Yes. That’s why I urged none of you to get attached.” He answered as he worked to start the video.

“B-but I named ours Eric.” She stammered in shock.

“Sorry, Ms. Hales, that was not advised. They are specimen, not pets.” He replied half-heartedly.

Sami was fuming in anger. She was feverishly scribbling in her notebook when the lights dimmed and she kept it up for the entire movie. The four of us walked to lunch as a group. Sami was still plotting as she walked. I was scared she’d run into something or someone.

“Now that we’re out of there, please tell me how you cancelled that order.” Ryan asked, taking her shoulders and steering her away from a clump of students.

“I had Watson remote hack his account from the library.” She answered absent-mindedly.

“And he can just do that?” Izzie questioned in disbelief.

“Tech genius.” Sami tilted her head to the side and examined what she had written.

“He’s a graphic artist and freelance programmer. Computers are his specialty.” I further explained, knowing she was too caught up in what she was doing to do so.

“I didn’t know we had that kind of power on our roster. I feel like that should be one of your gang recruitment bullet points.” Iz joked in response.

I smiled over at her.

Her casual walk had a bit of a bounce to it, like skipping was her body’s most basic mode of transportation. I later learned it was because she had trouble sitting still. The moment her ankle started to feel better, it wasn’t uncommon to catch her doing some sort of dance move as she went through everyday tasks. Most of the time it was chasses, but she’d pirouette and leap every once in a while when she thought no one was watching. When she danced, it never appeared to be for an audience. It was more like she was being herself and dancing was a vital part of that.

“Did you really name our group frog Eric?” Ryan asked her.

“Maybe.” A hint of a smile played on her full red lips.

“Why not Kermit or some other famous frog’s name?” He pressed on.

“Because he’s my little prince.”

“We won’t be cutting him open.” Sami reassured as she resumed writing.

“Did you take pictures with him?” I asked.

“Not relevant.” She deflected.

“You did, didn’t you?” Ryan smiled.

“We bonded. I had to show Audrey my new friend!” She cried in her defense.

“Audrey?” I raised an eyebrow.

“My older sister.” She turned to Sami. “We’ll be able to save Eric and his family for sure, right? Flounder looks young. I –“

“You named other groups’ frogs too?” Ryan interrupted.

“It makes it easier for me to explain to Aud what they’ve been up to.” She shrugged as if it were obvious.

“I’ll get all of them out. Don’t worry about it.” Sami answered her.             

“When are we striking?” Iz inquired with her face all lit up.

“We?” Sami stopped working and looked over at her.

She nodded. “I need to see they are happy in their old home.”

“Uh, sure, I guess you can tag along. Watson shouldn’t care. We’ll be going Thursday night. Final plans are TBD.” She slid her pencil behind her ear and tucked her notebook beneath her arm when we reached the dining hall.

I placed my backpack in its designated area. I picked up a tray and went into the food distribution center. I made a sandwich and went to the salad bar for tomatoes to put on it. I wanted to turn around when I saw Anna standing there, arranging the lonely celery sticks she had on her plate with a pair of tongs. I couldn’t do that and still claim I was over her. I shoved my pride aside and walked right up.

“Hello.” I stated simply.

“Hey.” She looked over at me with a small smile, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Are you going to any of the parties this weekend?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“You should. They’re gonna be awesome.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I remained indifferent.

“I’ll see you in class.” She touched her hand to my shoulder for a moment.

I finally bothered to look at her.

“We don’t have to be strangers.” She winked. She walked away, arching her back to draw more attention to what her short plaid skirt was barely covering.

“You might want to wipe the dribble. Someone, probably me or you, will slip in it and sprain something.” Iz called to me teasingly.

I quickly jolted my eyes away from Anna’s back side. I overly focused on constructing my sandwich to overcompensate for my slip up.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you. It was a joke.” She switched to a serious tone.

“That’s how I took it. It’s so easy to forget why we got together in the first place; we have nothing in common. When I see her, she makes a point to remind me and I feel like the idiot I am. Thanks a lot for pointing out my shortcomings.” I added the last part jokingly as I looked over at her.

“Shakespeare didn’t write the part about Romeo and Juliet taking their relationship for what it was, laughing through the embarrassment that accompanies claiming to love a person they knew nothing about, and moving on with the shred of dignity they had left. Take your situation as doing a good job of not becoming a cautionary tale.” She mused as she piled cucumber slices onto her plate.

“It wouldn’t have been the same. And think about it: what other work of literature could be almost unanimously misconstrued by people all over the world, leaving them to mourn the loss of a love that didn’t exist?” I smirked as I waited for her.

“Like every fairytale known to man. Check out the original story of The Little Mermaid if you don’t believe me.” She picked up her tray and started walking with me.   

“Yet you named the frogs after characters in the anifriendd version.”

“Alan Menken is a musical God and Prince Eric was my first crush. They allow me to get over the fact that Hans Christian Andersen’s book is so much cooler. The same is true with Peter Pan.”

“Are you going to make me read to keep up with you?”

“At least the Wikipedia write ups. Trust me. It’s worth it. Your mind will be blown. I found an odd satisfaction in shaking the foundation of my childhood.”

“I’ll try to remember to check it out. I won’t promise anything.”

“I’m still appreciating the honesty.”

We sat down at our usual table. Most of us worked through lunch. Elle and Ry quizzed each other with note cards she made for their film history test. Morgan finished sketches that were due the next period. Finn and Sami were hunched over her scheme blueprints. Nick had his headphones on. The silence Iz and I sat in was comfortable. We tended to have fun conversations, but it strangely didn’t get awkward when things fell quiet.

She was unusually expressive. Her thoughts, emotions, and reactions were always written plainly on her face. It became an internal game of mine to decipher what was going through her mind. I knew I was probably way off base the majority of the time, but it was enough to keep myself amused. I got the impression that she lived in her own little world to do the same. It was so hard to predict her next move; I’d never been around anyone like her before. It made all of her little quirks that much more intriguing. 

We went to the studio separately. She needed to retrieve her dance bag from her room. I had everything I needed in my locker in the dressing room. I went to practice room the moment I was done changing. I was stretching on the floor when Izzie walked in, finally wearing the black leotard and pink tights the girls were required to wear. I immediately noticed that she carried herself a bit differently in dancewear, more confident. She walked over to Ms. G and handed her a note. They spoke for a little while at a volume too low for me to hear. When their conversation concluded, Ms. G looked over in my direction.

“No break her again!” She commanded.

“I –“ I tried to argue.

“No!”

I sighed. “Yes, Ms.G.” I conceded.

Izzie snickered lightly as she made her way over to me.

“You find it so funny when I get into trouble.”

“It’s hilarious.” She smiled cheekily.

I shook my head at her as she sat down on the floor.

“Good. You’re dancing. I was starting to worry that your ability to do it was a myth.” Anna said to Iz as she sat down beside me, soon joined by the other members of her posse.

Izzie looked up from her middle split and at her in disbelief. “Did I do something wrong? Sit on the wrong bench as I laced up my shoes? Put my things in a locker belonging to someone else?” She asked in response.

Anna laughed as though she said the funniest thing in the world. Her friends followed her lead.

“What is this?” I questioned with mild annoyance.

“We just thought Izzie would want some female friends. Right, girls?” She addressed them, looking at me.

They agreed with glossy smiles and false enthusiasm. I rolled my eyes.

“Babe, be nice. That’s what we’re trying to do.” She offered me a sweet smile.

I pursed my lips together.

“He’s so moody.” She spoke to Izzie about me, touching her hand to my shoulder.

I looked at her pointedly as I ground my teeth.

“No, not really.” Iz replied lightly.

Anna’s face fell and she eyed her in disbelief, not used to being contradicted.

“What was that?” She challenged, removing her hand from me.

“He’s got a pretty standard range of emotions. He responds to things in a manner appropriate for Milos.” Iz continued in a casual tone.

I fought off a smile. “All Milos act the same way?” I looked at her.

“I’m probably projecting. Imagining a colony of Milos is a thing I do. Until I get a group of you together and I’m able to observe your behavior, my dream will remain alive and well.” She smiled.

I laughed. She did the same. The girls looked at us as though we had lost our minds.

“I forgot I promised Lex I’d let him stretch me out.” Heather, Anna’s best friend, stood up from the floor.

Anna looked at her in silent outrage.

“She did and it would be like mean if she backed out or whatever. I’ll go with you, H.” Kimber joined her.

Layla silently scrambled off the floor and followed them over to where Alex was posted up. Anna scooted closer to me and put her face parallel with my ear.

“You’re too cute to be weird with her. It’s like – a waste. When you’re done with your charity case, come find me.” She placed a kiss on my cheek. I wiped off the skin she kissed and lost the small inkling of desire I had left for her as she walked away to reunite with her friends.

“I guess I didn’t pass initiation. I think it’s for the best. I was having trouble finding storage for my personality and independent thoughts.” 

I offered her a small smile and allowed my eyes to settle on her. “They are pretty wild and random. I’m not surprised you’re having trouble finding a facility that can accommodate your capacity needs.” I played along, not feeling as up for it as I was before Anna showed up.

“Would you like to watch horrible horror movies on Friday?”

“What?”

“Horrible horror movies. My favorite is Trolls 2. The monsters are referred to as goblins, never trolls. There are hardcore eighties hairstyles and clothes. The props are terrible. There’s low production value. The dialogue is super cheesy and a sex scene in which one of the participants is buried beneath a ton of popcorn.”

I breathed a laugh. “And that’s fun to watch?”

“The best. If you allow yourself to get swept up in the outrageousness, it’s the best inside joke there is.”

“You’re a fan of those?” I smiled.

“Definitely. I don’t need everyone to laugh with me to find something funny.” She resumed stretching.

“Yeah, that’d be great.” I agreed.

“Awesome. It’ll be fun. I promise.”

“Is it an American custom or an Izzie thing?”

“I didn’t come up with the idea, but many have yet to experience it.”

“Izzie thing.” I answered myself.

“Are you making a list of things I do?”

“And checking it twice.” I joked as I mimicked the stretch she was doing.

“I did not know you were Santa. I really need to switch to my best behavior. Wait, since you injured me, I think you sort of owe me a favor. I’ll absolve all hard feelings if you put me on the nice list.” She giggled.

“No, we’re already even. I carried you around campus!” I cried in my defense.

“But, Santa, I really want to have my picture taken with a mini horse named Butternut Sprinkles.” She poked out her bottom lip and pretended to pout.

“You want a mini horse? Why Butternut Sprinkles?” I laughed.

“Just a picture. Don’t question the greatness of that name.” She smiled hard to keep from laughing.

I laughed harder at her explanation. “I’ll see what I can do. I’ve already got the elves working overtime to meet our annual quota.”

“That’s all I ask.” She smiled.

The first half of class was solely dedicated to conditioning and technique. I kept an eye on Iz to make sure her ankle was holding up under the stress of exercise. She took things slow, but all of her movements were so precise. It was remarkable, really, how she could control herself to the point of defying physics. That was the whole concept behind dancing, but somehow it was uniquely hers as well. It was – she was incredible.

After class, I returned to the boys’ locker room to change out of my workout clothes.

“Aren’t you friends with the new girl, Milo?” Jacob called to me as we changed.

“Izzie. Yes, why?” I tossed my t-shirt and shorts into my locker.

“Curious is all. Where’s she from?”

“Manhattan.” I stepped into my khaki shorts. I buttoned them and picked up my polo.

“What’s she into?” He continued.

“Ask her. She’s easy to talk to.” I pulled my shirt over my head.

“I heard she’s weird.” Donnie interjected.

“You heard wrong.” I corrected firmly.

“She’s got a pedobait face, but her ass’s next level. Baby can call me Daddy anytime.” Alex announced jokingly.

The majority of the male dancers weren’t straight, but most of the ones that were audibly agreed with him. Jacob remained quiet and rolled his eyes.

“Don’t talk about her like that!” I roared.

“Dude, I’m messing around. Chill out.” 

“I don’t care what you were doing!” I argued.

“Are you slipping it to her? Is that why you’re so uptight?”

I stormed over to where he was and shoved him roughly. “Chiudere il becco!”

His back smashed into his locker. He quickly rebounded and charged towards me to get a hit in. We were separated by the guys before a fight was able to ensue.

“He’s a moron. Ignore him. He’s not worth going home.” Jacob urged as he held onto me.

I took a deep breath to calm myself down. I shrugged his hands off of my shoulders when I had a firm grip on my emotions. I returned to my locker.

“This summer in New York, I got with Anna!” Alex taunted, still being held back by Donnie.

“That’s a lie.” I put on my socks and stepped into my trainers.

“Ask her! I made her forget all about you!” He continued trying to provoke me.

I slung my backpack over my shoulder. I shut and locked my locker door.

“You have my blessing to keep it up. You deserve each other.” I sneered on my way out of the dressing room.

I was surprised to find Iz already waiting for me. She simply slid a pair of shorts over her leotard and traded her pointe shoes for street ones. She was drinking a bottle of water. I waited until she lowered it to engage her, scared she’d choke.

“Not a fan of dressing rooms?” I asked lightly.

“Is anyone?”

“Good point.” I smiled softly as we made our way to the front door of the building.

We went our separate ways once we were outside. She headed to her dorm and I went to mine. I locked myself in my room when I arrived at my suite. I showered and changed into casual clothes. I sat down at my desk and started on my homework. My phone was in my pocket and still on vibrate from school. It started going off in my pocket when I was half way through my math assignment. I answered without checking the caller ID.

“Yes?”

“Why did you pick a fight with Lex?” Anna demanded argumentatively.

I removed my phone from my ear and looked at it in disbelief. I scoffed and returned it to my ear. “Did you care about him before or after you slept together?” I snarked.

She fell silent. “I – who told you that?” She asked in a small voice, completely switching tones.

“He did. After I shoved him.”

“It was an accident. It only happened one time.” Her voice shook as if she were trying really hard not to cry.

“No, it wasn’t. You didn’t mistake him for me.”

“My – my parents were talking about splitting up. They let me go to New York to keep me out of it. You were so far away. He made me feel wanted. I am so sorry.” Her voice became increasingly shrill.

“Is that why you didn’t call on my birthday?”

A sob escaped her chest, serving as an affirmative answer.

 I looked up at the ceiling to keep tears out of my eyes. “It’s best you leave me alone. I want nothing to do with you. Nothing.”

“Milo, please –“ She croaked.

I hung up and tossed my phone aside. I buried my face in my hands. Entrapped by my thoughts and craving an escape, I lifted the lid of my laptop and logged in. I clicked on the internet icon. I typed “The Little Mermaid” into the web browser. The third link down belonged to the book’s Wikipedia page. I clicked on that and read the summary.

The 700-word essay illustrated a far more relatable story. The Little Mermaid swam to the surface on her 15th birthday and fell in love with a handsome prince, never meeting him, only watching from a far. She saved him from drowning during a great storm, delivering him safely to the shore. She waited and watched as a local girl discovered him on the beach and tended to his wounds. Still love-struck, The Mermaid gave up what made her unique, her beautiful voice and her identity as a mermaid to go on shore and meet him. She was muted and given legs that could make her dance more beautifully than any human before her, but each time she moved she was in excruciating pain.The Witch informed her that she needed to make the prince fall in love with her and get married or she’d disintegrate into sea foam the day after he married someone else. Upon meeting her, The Prince was mesmerized by her beauty and grace, even though she never spoke to him. Most of all, he loved to watch her dance. She did it, even though it hurt her. The Prince’s father ordered him to marry the neighboring king’s daughter. He told The Little Mermaid that he cannot because he loved the girl that found him on the beach. He later found out that the girl that found him was the neighboring kingdom’s princess. They were married. The Sea Witch tried to cut The Little Mermaid a final deal, if she killed The Prince, she could return to the sea. The Mermaid sneaked into his bedroom and found him asleep with his new bride. She saw how happy he was and couldn’t bring herself to do it. She went back into the sea at dawn and was transformed into sea foam. Her sacrifice allowed her soul to live on, but she had given too much of herself to live on in the way she once had.

I picked up my phone and called Iz.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Don’t give up who you are to be something for someone else. They’ll never know you and you’ll be left with nothing.”

“You read.” I could hear the smile in her voice.

“I did. You were right.”

“Have you checked out Peter Pan?”

“That’s what I’m doing now.” I replied as I typed the title into the search engine.

“Stay on the phone with me. I want to hear your reaction.”

“It might take a while.” I warned as I scrolled the webpage.

“Don’t care. I’ll wait.”

“Okay.” I smiled.

I did my best to read the summary as quickly as possible because she was waiting on me.

“Peter killed The Lost Boys when they got too old?!” I cried in shock when I stumbled across that portion of the article.

“Yep. He also hunted pirates for fun. Sometimes when they were battling them, Peter would switch sides and start killing Lost Boys just because. A psychopathic kidnapping murder is glorified as the symbol for eternal youth.”

“Roba da matti.” I thought aloud as I continued to read.

“What’s that language you switch to sometimes?” 

“Italian. In Listonenia, we speak a mix of a it and English. Sorry.”

“Keep it up. It sounds nice. What did you just say?”

“This is crazy.” I translated.

“I know. Isn’t it great?”

“It’s something.” My smile widened. 

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