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I told her that love her. She warned me up front that she was prone to running when people displayed affection they could harm her in the long run. I was scared that she would, but that wasn’t my main concern. Her eating habits were. I watched her at each meal to ensure she was taking in all that she should. Though she said she hadn’t done it months, I couldn’t help but worry about her. It hurt me to know she was intentional harming herself. At the same time, it blew my mind that she didn’t let it define her. She wasn’t her eating disorder. She was a person with many facets, sides, and memories like the rest of us. She was still stubborn, impatient, funny, and kind. I still loved that she didn’t take herself too seriously. She kept finding little ways to keep herself entertained. Her laughter had yet to cease to be contagious. And her bright smiles were still intact. I finally understood why the smallest things made her happy. She was a misstep away from no longer existing, knowing that made me shift everything into perspective.
The two of us sat in the library working on a group history project. Ordinarily, we did our school work in one of our suites, but for that particular assignment, we had to use books as sources. I studied her intently instead of working on my half.
“Stop giving me that look.” She kept her eyes on her notebook and continued to write.
“What look?” I returned my gaze to the book I had in front of me.
“The silent worrying and wondering one you’ve been giving me since I told you.” She restated with a twinge of frustration in her voice.
“That’s a little hard not to do. I care.” I lowered my voice whisper when I felt the librarian glared in our direction.
“I’m fine. I don’t need you to babysit me.”
“I’m not –“
She looked up at me. “That’s what it feels like. I’m not broken. I don’t need you to figure out how to fix me.”
“I know. I didn’t mean to — can we talk somewhere?”
“We’re talking now.”
“No, we’re arguing in a library — whisper-shouting. What are we doing? This is idiotic.”
“So my legitimate concerns are stupid now?”
“No, I just –” I sighed. “I need to explain something, somewhere not here. Can we please do that?”
“Fine.” She shoved her notebook into her backpack along with the books she checked out.
We walked for about fifteen minutes in a slightly uncomfortable silence. She was mad at me. That much was clear. What I was about to say had a large chance of making her even angrier, but it needed to be said.
I led her across campus to the vacant field. I immediately sat down at the base of a tree. When she remained standing, I patted the patch of grass beside me as a signal for her to sit down.
“This is weird.” She grumbled.
“Really? Dork dancing, horrible horror movies, and fake spouses, but this is weird?” I looked to her.
She fought off a smile. “Start talking. I’m still ****** at you.”
“I’ve passed up many opportunities to tell you and for that I’m — I mean, I want to say sorry, but I’m not. I was scared. I still am.”
“It’s just me.”
I took a deep breath and pulled out my cellphone.
“This is going to sound far-fetched. To prove that I’m completely serious, I’ll show you. -” I handed it to her.
“Click on the Internet icon and search ‘Prince Milo.’” I instructed.
“Playboy Prince Strikes Again: New Girl Every Week, Listonenia’s Heir Acting Out: Kicked Out of Four Schools in Two Years, Crowned Prince Parties Hard: Hungover at Press Conference, King and Queen Up in Arms: Precocious Prince out of Control. This is you — infamous Prince Milo of Listonenia?” She read the top headlines aloud.
“Yes.” I was too nervous to look at her.
“You told me your parents work for the government. It never crossed my mind that they are the government. You are too, actually. I really am a charity case to you. Philanthropy is a part of your job. Was I so helpless looking my first day that you made it your royal mission to mend me and earn some brownie points back home?” She thought aloud in disbelief.
“Absolutely not! I’ve done some messed up things, but I never toyed with you. I cared — I still do! I didn’t tell you about my family right away. Like someone else I know, I wanted to make a name for myself!”
“It’s not just them. It’s you too. You’re a prince. You can’t really distance yourself from who you are!”She shot her eyes to mine.
“You don’t think I know that? I’ve grown up being watched by everyone. There was a parade after my birth. My first steps were televised. Any friends I make must be submitted to background checks. I have bodyguards that patrol campus, but remain out of sight. I’m well aware of who I am. No one ever lets me forget it!”
She looked down at herself. “Was I checked?” Her voice was soft and timid.
“Everyone here has been.”
“That’s great.” She breathed sarcastically.
“I didn’t want you or anyone else here to get an idea of what I should be and be disappointed when they realize I’m not the person I was born to be. As you can see, I’m the family disgrace. I like to forget.”
“Are you really that bad of a prince though? I can’t really imagine you being disliked to that extent.”
“I act out a lot. They want me to be someone other than myself. I take it upon myself to be the opposite of what they want me to be. I know it’s stupid, but it makes me feel in control.” I was embarrassed saying it aloud.
“What are your parents like?”
“In relation to me, my mother’s very vocal about what she expects. My father is stoic and hardly speaks to me himself.”
“What number are you in line for the throne?”
“2nd, as of now.” I ran my fingers through the blades of grass.
“Do you ever think that they’ll take your title away from you?”
“They’ve discussed it, but their goal is to straighten me out by my eighteenth birthday. They even have a girl they want me to marry. I don’t want the life they’ve arranged.”
“In the words of Isadora Duncan, ‘you were wild once. Don’t let them tame you.’ That’s what I live by, anyway.” She scooted closer to me and took my hand into hers.
I fought off a smile. “You and your quotes.”
“That one was relevant.” She smiled at me. “I like you, but I don’t know if I’d be cool with Prince Milo. He’d probably think I’m weird.” She continued.
“You’d hate him. He’s kind of a *******
“Do you hate him?” She switched to a more serious tone.
I nodded. “Both versions, the blueprint and the rebel.”
“Then you’ll never have to be them around me.”
I brought her hand to my lips and kiss the back of it as I fought back tears. “Thank you for not running away from me.”
“You’re holding my hand. I can’t exactly run without dragging you along.” She joked.
“You gave it to me.”
“I know.” She smiled
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