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Discovering Me (Book 1 of Discovering Me Series)

By @ess1223

Brick by Boring Brick - Paramore

{Isabella}

Three weeks into our trial run, Milo did not occupy my every thought. All of our free time did not belong to each other; we had friends, families, and lives. I understood if he failed to text me back right away and vice versa. Our friendship was stronger than ever. We told each other amusing antidotes and laughed at full volume; we had deep conversations in private; and enjoyed our buddy hobbies, like horrible horror movies.

~

After dinner, I went to Milo’s room to put together Elle’s birthday present. Everett had sent me the tickets. I bought a gift bag, but I wanted to do more than just hand them over. I came up with the idea of creating a Fleeting Moment trivia game using PowerPoint. It was the trifecta of her favorite things: Fleeting Moment, displaying her knowledge, and creative use of a presentation tool. If she answered all of the questions right, which I knew she would, I would give her the tickets and backstage passes. I was sitting on pins and needles, anticipating her reaction.

We sat down on a blanket with pillows in front of his bed, on the bed felt too intimate. It was a Friday night. Free from homework, he watched television and snacked on a bowl of microwave popcorn.

“What if she gets one wrong? Will you let her try again?”

“She is a hardcore fangirl. I’m pretty sure she knows more about them than they know about themselves.” I went online and searched for a picture of Everett to put on the slide I was working on.

“Hypothetically, –“

“No, we’re not going to play this game.” 

“Fine.” He pecked me on the cheek. He used his bed for leverage and hoisted himself off the ground.

“Where are you going?”

“To take my contacts out.”

“I’ve never seen you in your glasses.” I smiled up at him.

“I’d keep it that way if they weren’t dry.” He backed out the room and disappeared into his shared bathroom.

I scooped up a handful of his popcorn. I popped pieces into my mouth as I typed the question and answer with my free hand. He settled into his spot without muttering a word. The black rectangular glasses were too basic to look bad on anyone, but they suited his face. 

“Guess what?” I leaned over and whispered.

“What?”

“You’re still handsome so stop pouting.”

“Do you really find me handsome?” A smirk played on his lips as he looked at me from the corner of his eye.

“I’ve sworn to uphold our oath of honesty, so…yes.” I sighed heavily, rolling my eyes.

“Ignoring the playful reluctance, I appreciate the sentiment.”

I stole a quick kiss. He put his arm around me. I snuggled in close, enjoying the intimacy. We didn’t say much of anything for two hours. I worked on my gift. He watched television.

We didn’t need words for comfort. I always felt connected to him. When I wasn’t speaking, I knew he was reading me. He could count on me to do the same.

“I am finished.” I closed my laptop.

“When are you going to surprise her?”

“Tomorrow. She’s at a student council social tonight.” I put it in my backpack and zipped it up.

“Are you leaving me already?”

“Nope.” I leaned back, still within his arm.

“Would you like to be in charge of the clicker?”

“I rather make out for a little while, if that’s okay.” I flickered my eyes to his lips before returning them to his.

He tossed the controller aside and closed the distance between us. An unpleasant crashing sound was made when it collided with a piece of furniture.

“Sorry.” He cringed.

I smiled. “I like you.” I kept his head in place by cupping his cheeks in my hands.

Our mouths sought each other with increasing amounts of pressure and suction. I shifted my body towards his to keep up. Unaware of the fact that my back was no longer resting on his bed, he leaned into me. I fell backwards, unable to support his weight in my semi-awkward position. He collapsed on top of me.

“Even in your glasses?” I snickered.

“That was you!” He tickled my sides.

I shook my head as I squirmed beneath him, laughing hysterically.

“Admit that you’re the one that made us fall.”

“Never!” I heaved.

He abruptly stopped tickling me and I was able to breathe again.

“You leave me no choice.” He buried his face in the crook of my neck.

He latched his lips to my neck and sucked as hard as he could.

“We said no hickeys!” I swatted his arm.

He grinned against my skin. I guided his face back to mine. “What if someone asks who gave it to me?”

“Tell Elle it’s a bruise from dancing.”

“That I received because you dropped me.” I leaned up and pecked him.

I let my head fall back to the ground. He continued to hover over me.

“I’d never drop you.” He brushed my hair out of my face.

“It happens to everyone.”

“You trust me to keep you safe and to tell you if I’m having trouble supporting a lift. I’m not going to let you down. I’m actually trying.” He allowed his vulnerability to wear on his face.

“Don’t do it just for me.”

“I’m not.” He offered me a smile.

“You won’t be charming my pants off any time soon.” I played with the hair at the nape of his neck.

“That wasn’t my intention. That’s a major thing to ask of someone.”

“I have before.”

“As have I, but it’d still carries a lot of weight if we were to engage. If you were to get pregnant, it would severely affect both of us, regardless of our course of action. It’s nice not to worry.”

“Do you use condoms?”

“Always, but things happen.”

“Me too. I mean, they did. I’m on the pill too. The risk is virtually nonexistent, but it’s still very relevant, if that makes any sense…” I caught myself rambling and allowed my eyes to wander.

“That was probably the most logical thing you’ve ever said.” His playful tone put me at ease.

“Yeah, liking you is pretty out there.” I smirked.

He shook his head as he leaned down to reunite our lips. His torso rested on mine, but his hips remained on the ground beside mine, instead of on top of. We made out for about an hour. We cuddled and watched a movie on cable until I found myself struggling to stay awake. I shuffled back to my suite and turned in for the night.

~

“You made me a PowerPoint?” Elle beamed as she situated herself on the couch in our living room, properly aligning her posture.

“Even better, a Fleeting Moment trivia game.” I set up my laptop the way she ordinarily did.

“Oooo, fun! What’s the occasion?”

“Your birthday.”

“It’s not until December 7th. Today is November 21st.”

“I know. Well, correction: I wasn’t aware of today’s date until just now, but I know your birthday. If you answer all of these questions right, I will give you your birthday gift right now. Trust me, you do not want to wait.” I pointed the lavender gift bag I decorated with glitter.

“I’ve got this. That bag is mine.”

“That’s the competitive spirit I was counting on.” I adjusted the crocheted scarf that adorned my neck to ensure my hickey was covered.

Upon waking up, I discovered my love bite from Milo was more than the little pink patch I recalled viewing before entering dreamland. It was a beet red splotch the side of a quarter. The only foundation I owned that was able to provide full coverage was expensive stage makeup. I wanted to preserve it for its intended use and washing it out of clothes was a pain.

“Are you ready?”

“Bring it on, Babydoll.” She looked her eyes on the television screen.

I pressed the spacebar to load the first slide. “Where did the guys meet? A.) –“

“College. Manhattan School of Music. New York, New York!” She blurted at lighting speed.

I clicked through all of the options.

“Correct!” I imitated a game show host.

“True or False: Mack’s first name is Mackenzie.”

“False. His last name is Mackenzie. His first name is David.”

I played the bell sound clip to articulate her accuracy.

“Two for two!” She threw her hands into the hair.

“You’re doing well.”

She audibly gasped and placed her hand on her chest when a picture of Everett appeared on the screen.

“What is Everett’s middle name?”

“Christopher. Please say there are more Ev-centric questions.” She clasped her hands together and poked out her bottom lip.

“You will not be disappointed.” I revealed another question by clicking a key on my laptop.

“How many tattoos does he have?”

“Three. He has sunrise on water in on the right shoulder. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles is his favorite song and the first one he learned to play on the guitar. The lyrics compose the sun. All of the guys have the band logo in various places. His is on his left forearm. On his chest, above his heart, he has the chemical structure of vasopressin, which is nicknamed the monogamy hormone. It’s what allows men to fall in love and stay committed in a relationship. He got it for Audrey, who’s a chemist, which makes it even cuter.”

I looked over at her in shock. “You’re rooting for their relationship?”

“My love for him is pure and selfless. I love his work and to marvel at his beautiful physique. Audrey is the one he loves. I love their love as result. Their baby is going to be presh.”

I moved on to the next slide, which featured a still from the music video of Audrey’s song. In that particular scene, she and Everett were holding hands as they ran down the hallway of their old high school.

The music video played like a mini movie of their lives up to that point. I was ten years old when the video was in production. Our resemblance and my age made me the obvious choice to cast as the youngest version of Audrey. They found a child actor to serve as my Everett counterpart.

The first scene was of me as Aud and Danny as Ev, swinging at the playground. Both of us jumped off and he broke his arm. I took his hand and led him to his house. He was wearing a cast in the next scene and both of us were at the beach with the people posing as Everett’s family. He couldn’t get his cast wet, so both of us stayed out of the water. We sat in the sand and ate snowcones, poking our tongues out to show off the colors they were turning. Danny and I were replaced by tween actors to depict their middle school years.

Young Audrey was tutoring Young Everett, completely oblivious to the puppy love that was written all over his face. They stargazed in their next segment. Fascinated by science, she kept pointing things out and her eyes were locked on the sky. He played the guitar and only raised his eyes from it to look at her face light up. Things took a turn for the worst in the next part. They stopping hanging out when they hit high school. The tween editions passed each other in the hallway without acknowledgement. Her face was buried in a book and he was entertaining his new group of friends. As they all laughed at the joke he told, he spared a glance in her direction, only to find that she was already gone.

The real Everett and Audrey stepped in to play themselves as seniors. Their first scene was set at night. He found her crying on the swing set they used to play on as kids. He took her hand and helped her to her feet. They walked off, holding hands. Danny and I returned to our seats on the swing and swung, representing the rekindling of their childhood relationship. They attended a school football game with the older versions of his new friends. They spent the entire time sneaking glances at each other. They stargazed again. That night ended in a kiss. There was a montage of the duration of their senior year, ending in graduation. They threw off their caps and gowns, took each other’s hands and ran down the hallway. They burst through the door, which opened up to New York City.

Footage of the members of Fleeting Moment prepping for a show was spliced together with Audrey mimicking the work she did in the lab. The guys walked down the hallway to reach the stage in slow motion. Aud checked her watch and realized she was running late. She rushed to get to the venue as Ev addressed the screaming fans in the audience. He looked to wings before the start of their first song. I was there and quickly morphed into Audrey. She blew him a kiss. Daniel was on stage when the camera panned back to it. He went through the same transition she did. He pounded his fist to his chest and pointed to her, letting her know his heart was hers as he sang for the world. The Everett character, regardless of age, pantomimed the song: 

There you were, pretty as a picture

smart as a whip with the sweetest smile

We took on the world together, always willing to run that extra mile

It was you and me and we never thought about who we’d be, because…

 

Forever young but growing old

Yours is favorite hand to hold

Futures so bright

Hold tight and let’s run

It’s all going to be all right

 

Summer fun, it had just began

Little young, but you were still my number one

You stayed with me, said there’s no where you’d rather be, because…

 

Forever young but growing old

Yours is favorite hand to hold

Futures so bright

Hold tight and let’s run

It’s all going to be all right

 

At night, we watch the stars

In those moments, the world is ours

Think about it, we’ve come so far

Lost touch to stay strong

Your hand I took, you too stubborn to reach 

Thought you had the world mapped out

Truth was you were as lost as me

It’s all good, back now and together we’ll always be, because…

Forever young but growing old

Yours is favorite hand to hold

Futures so bright

Hold tight and let’s run

It’s all going to be all right

Now we stand taller than before

Still so much left to explore

And I need nothing more — than you

We’ll show the world what love can do

And through it all, it’ll still be me and you”

Audrey and I cried the first time we saw the video in its entirety. Along with Everett and Bosworth, we were the only ones that knew why they stopped being friends. Everyone else assumed they naturally drifted apart with age and he found her crying after her boyfriend broke up with her. In reality, it was when we were in the eye of the storm. Our dad was gone, we wished our mom was, and we could only count on each other. Nobody else was allowed to be aware of our pain or what their relationship truly endured. Our father’s show had just been picked up by a network. We were asked to forget our darkness and pretend to be perfect. She backed out of their pursuit of the limelight, never appearing in one of their episodes. As a minor, I belonged to my father. He wanted to be America’s favorite dad without truly behaving as such.

“Six years later and the ‘Audrey’ music video is still their best. The director did a great job of casting. That little girl looks so much like her. I wonder what she looks like now.” Elle thought aloud.

“What’s Audrey’s maiden name?” I pretended not to hear her.

“Easy. Hales. She hyphenates – YOU!” She leaped up from her seat and pointed to me.

“Are you mad? I can’t tell. Please don’t be mad. I wanted a chance to make real friends, not fair-weather ones.” I nervously nibbled on my thumbnail.

“How did I not put this together sooner? My mom’s always binge-watching your dad’s show. I knew you looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t pinpoint where I’d seen you. He’s hot, like George Clooney hot, but he seems really full of himself and not in a sexy way.”

“You’re one of a select few who is immune to his charm.”

“It’s easy enough if you know what to look for. His words don’t match his eyes. How does he treat you?” She pivoted on the balls of her feet and walked in the opposite direction.

I removed my hand from my mouth and ran it through my hair. “I’m tolerated. I need him to survive. That’s the extent of our relationship. ”

She went to where I was and knelt down in front of me. “Say it.” She looked directly into my eyes.

“Burning diamonds.”

“You’re strong, entertaining, and considerate. You are the best friend I’ve ever had, the only person I can casually discuss my OCD with. Heck, I can talk about anything with you. We had a detailed conversation about periods the other day. And most importantly, I love you.” She placed her hand on my shoulder, offering me a half smile.

“Because we’re more than friends, we’re sisters.” I hugged her.

“You’ve saved me from having to make a PowerPoint to visually illustrate that information.”

“And you’re okay with that?” I pulled away from her with a smirk.

“I will be if you finish my game. Fleeting Moment and winning make everything better. Combining both is genius. I’m jealous that I didn’t think of it first.”

“I’ll get back to work. Return to your seat, Contestant.” I shooed her over to the couch.

Elle lived up to her title of The Queen of Facts. She rapidly fired each answer at me as soon as I completed the question. I awarded her the grand prize and bubbled with excitement as she checked it out.

She picked up one of the lanyards and read it. Without warning, she screamed at the top of her lungs.

“What the hell, Elle?!” Sami rushed into the room with Morgan.

“I GET TO MEET FLEETING MOMENT!” She shrieked.

 “With seven people of your choice.” I added quickly.

“WE’RE GOING TO SEE FLEETING MOMENT!” 

“Not if you’ll be doing that the entire time!” Sami scowled.

“It’s my birthday! You have no choice in the matter! Mom, tell her! The boys are going too! AHHH!!! I CAN’T WAIT!” She resumed squealing and stood up to bounce.

“How could you do this to me?! I let you in on my biggest plot of the year!” Sami cried in outrage.

“I wanted to make her happy.” I offered as some sort of condolence.

“I’ll take one for the team, but you owe me! HUGE!” She stormed out.

“For the record, I’m super excited. They’re supposed to be really good live.” Morgan blurted out quickly before trailing after Sami.

Elle bounced over to me and hugged me as tightly as she could.

“You’ve graced me with the greatest 17th birthday present I could’ve ever asked for, even in my wildest dreams. You are the best. The absolute best. You love me so much. I love you and I love you for loving me.” She spoke rapidly, still hopped up on excitement.

“I’m happy you love it. I love you too.” I giggled.

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