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Winter break was torture. I felt like I was intruding on Everett and Audrey’s newly formed family. They did all they could to include me, but I knew they needed time to act as husband and wife and expectant parents. I enjoyed the lack of homework. I stayed busy by working out and dancing. Time zones were a pain to work around, but my friends and I worked hard to stay in touch during our month apart.
Back at school for the spring semester, there was plenty to keep us busy. Aside from classes and gearing up for the spring dance production, we began to prep for Camp Artsy. Elle and Ryan’s power struggle was…passionate. She gave each of us binders with detailed strategic plans. All of our contributions were described and laid out neatly. She made PowerPoints with visuals to make sure everything clicked into place. Ryan was focused more on flash. He said, ‘not only do we have to be good at our jobs, we need to make it difficult for others to focus on theirs’. When they stepped into each other’s territory, a fiery debate ensued.
“Now that we’ve gone over the scavenger hunt, we need to revisit our set-list for the talent show. –” Ryan announced, standing in the middle of the living room.
“Lists.” Elle corrected, standing beside him.
He looked to her. “Why do we need to do twice the works as everyone else? It makes no sense.”
“It makes complete sense. If another group does one of our songs before we have a chance to go, we can replace it with another. Repeat songs will be compared. It results in lower scores for both parties.”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “If we’re better, it doesn’t matter.”
“We can’t guarantee that. That’s why we need a back-up plan — two set lists.”
“You’re in more extracurriculars than any of us. How are you going to have time to perfect two versions of our show?”
“No, absolutely not. We need a break.”
“You just want to party.” She pointed out.
“Who cares what I do with my free-time? Besides, you’re at as many parties as I am.”
“I know. I’m willing to give up my own fun for the good of the team. That’s what being a good leader is all about.” She argued.
“You’re saying I’m not?” He turned his body towards her.
“I’m saying you’re the number one person on your mind.” She turned to him completely and took a step forward.
“Now I’m selfish?”
“You named us after yourself. Of course you are!”
“We’re back here again?!”
“Yes, Ryan, we’re back here again. We made an agreement. Stick to it for once!”
I looked to Milo with a smirk. “Do you think they’d even notice if we sneaked out of this meeting?”
“YOU BEDAZZLED YOUR SHIRT?!” Ryan roared.
“I’M SORRY. I NEEDED A WAY TO FORCE MYSELF TO LIKE A SHIRT WITH YOUR NAME ON IT BY ADDING SEQUINS!”
“It was to be expected. She puts embellishments on everything.” Finn contributed with a wicked smirk.
“Why are you taking her side?!” Ryan cried.
“Well, stop it!”
“Guys, let’s discuss this in a calm manner. Both parties have reasonable concerns.” Morgan mediated.
“Bottom line is: it’s a t-shirt; it’s not worth our friendship.” Nick reasoned.
“Fighting is supposed to happen. It’s natural.” Elle justified their actions, hating the thought of being wrong.
“Like breathing in your case.” Sams chimed in.
“They’ll be going at it for at least another hour. Sami and Finn don’t care and Morgan and Nick are too sweet to rat us out.” He was finally able to answer.
I took his hand and the two of us went to his bedroom.
After shutting and locking his door, Milo turned around and crashed his lips to mine. I draped my arms around his neck and smiled.
“Just to be sure, did we come in here to fool around?” He mumbled against my lips.
I nodded. “It’s more fun than listening to them argue.”
“You have a short attention span.” He put his arms around my waist.
“Shh. I know.” We laid down on his bed.
We were on a new level of intimacy, fondling downstairs. It was a major step, one that required us to be completely vulnerable. I was embarrassed about not knowing what to do, but I trusted him enough to admit it. Though we had done it a couple of times since we returned from vacation, I still needed him to talk me through things sometimes.
I struggled to keep my eyes open and remain quiet as he moved his hand.
“Relax.” He breathed into my ear.
I allowed a moan to escape my lips as my eyes melted closed.
“That’s it.” He coaxed.
I gripped the pillow behind my head and moved my hips in sync with him to increase the sensations.
“Na hahhh” I loud moan slipped out as I arched my back off the bed.
“Shhh.” He pressed his lips to mine to silence me.
It was really building as we kissed but I couldn’t let go. “I can’t.” I whimpered, getting restless.
He moved his hand faster. I held onto his back for dear life and bit his shoulder when I was finally able to cross the finish line to keep myself quiet.
“I finally got you.” He exhaled.
“Sorry it took –”
He silenced me with a kiss. I was still reeling. My mind was a blissful haze and my body was tingling. My hand was on the side of his face and I massaged his tongue with mine. I wanted him so much closer.
“Condom?” I panted when he buried his face in the crook of my neck.
“I don’t have any; I’m sorry.” He sucked on my skin.
I groaned. “Are you kidding me?”
“I’m not, unfortunately.” He was stilled fixated on kissing the planes of my body, his hands roaming them.
“We’ve been over this. We both contribute to –”
“I know.” His face hovered over mine.
“And you ignored me?”
“No, I did not want to be presumptuous.” He smiled as he pressed his lips to mine.
“You should check your wallet.”
“Even you are not stubborn enough to persuade a product to appear. I will get some soon.”
“How could I? I will do anything to see your cute little release face.”He smiled between kisses.
“We’ve discussed staring.” I swatted his shoulder.
“I can’t help it.” He chuckled.
“Fine. I’ll just focus on your sounds more, which are a very close second in terms of enjoyment.”
“Milo.” I whined.
He pulled back to look at me after one final peck. “You have no reason to be embarrassed around me. I love y –your eyes.” It was evident he caught himself from saying those fatal words.
“They’re brown.” I slightly narrowed my eyes at him.
“With flecks of gold. They glow in the right light.” He continued to backpedal.
I looked away and shook my head. “Please don’t do this to me.”
“Do what?” He feigned innocence.
“Say or even think words you don’t mean, especially those. I can’t ”
He guided my face back to his. “I am not pretending to do anything.”
I fought back tears. “That’s so much worse.”
“Why?” He tried to ask as gently as possible.
“Because I hated myself for so long.” I brought my fingers to my eyes and dabbed away the moisture that was collecting.
“My eating disorder.”
“Your what?” His voice was barely a whisper.
“I was a purging anorexic for three years. I was late to school because I had to finish rehab.”
“How bad was it?” He looked at me with such hurt in his eyes.
“I think I was around 75 lbs. I can’t remember exactly. The early days of my treatment are hazy. What I do know is my bones were clearly visible beneath my skin. I felt terrible all of the time and fully embraced it — felt as though I deserved it. The only reason I stopped is because I passed out in a public place and people were forced to notice me. “
“What would have happened without intervention?”
“I wouldn’t be alive. Usually people at my size’s hearts stop. They were stunned mine hadn’t.”
The tears in his eyes broke my heart.
“My dad’s always working. My step-mom hates me. You know about my mom. Aud couldn’t be around as much as she used to. I was having a lot issues at school with my classmates. I just –I felt like I had no one. I thought being beautiful would make it better somehow.” Tears streamed down my cheeks, I used my arm to dry my nose and eyes.
“Do you still think like that?”
“Sometimes when I’m home.” I croaked.
“Have you –?”
I shook my head. “Not since rehab. I talk to Elle or Aud. They calm me down.”
“When did you tell Elle?”
“A few weeks after I started. Relapsing’s common. I don’t want to go back. I can’t go — I don’t want to be her again.” I clenched my eyes shut.
He put his other arm around me and held me close, his warmth and steady heartbeat made me feel safe and secure.
“I’m here too.” He kissed the top of my head.
“You’ve helped me more than you know.” I breathed once I had calmed down.
“I — um, I love you. I know I’m not supposed to say that, but now that I know I might’ve never –” His voice broke.
I scooted upward and rested my forehead against his. “I’m here.” I rested my hand on the side of his face.
He shed a few tears and I wiped them away. We sat in a necessary silence, enjoying our new level of closeness.
“I truly do love you, Iz.” He was more confident.
“I am gathering that.” I pushed back his hair.
He leaned up and kissed me. “Are you going to run away from me?”
“Not yet.” I continued to amuse myself by my fingers through his hair.
“Can I have more than that?”
“You have yet to give me a reason not to trust you.
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