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Discovering Me (Book 1 of Discovering Me Series)

By @ess1223

From Finner - Of Monsters and Men

{Isabella}

“Would you like graham crackers to go with your marshmallows and chocolate?” Morgan giggled as she sat down on the log beside me.

“Nope, they might absorb some of the sugar. I need a rush right now.” I sandwiched a roasted marshmallow between two wedges of chocolate.

“Don’t get worked up before he has a chance to explain himself. Even I’d feel bad if she fell off a cliff.” Elle scrolled through Twitter on her phone, finally able to access her data atop the mountain.

“Don’t stand up for him.”

“I’m not. I’m simply expressing my opinion. I know what they were like in a relationship. Now that he’s free from its toxicity, he’s not dumb enough to go back.“

“What was it like? He never talks about her.”

“Disconnected is the best word to describe it. They barely fought so there was a lot boiling under the surface. She’s the reason I include the hot mess warning in my party slideshow. He looked out for her. He acts before he thinks, but he has a good heart.”

“Saaammiii” I sang her name.

She extended her stick with a flaming marshmallow in my direction. I blew it out. The blackened outer layer crackled beneath my fingers as I slid it off. She removed a marshmallow from the plastic baggy at my feet and returned to her spot by the fire.

Due to her vegetarian dietary restrictions, she was unable to eat them herself, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play in fire. She offered to roast for someone. I agreed, desperate to seal the cracks in my heart with molten goodness.

“Are you screening his texts?” Elle finally tore her eyes away from her phone.

I swallowed the bite I was working on. “I would if I hadn’t left my phone in our cabin to charge.” I broke off another piece of my snack, trying to minimize the amount of goo on my face.

She started typing away on her touchscreen, instead of saying anything in response.

“Are you texting him?”

“Yes. You know I reply to all my texts.”

“Traitor.” I grumbled as I eased another bite into my mouth.

I laid on my back and looked at the stars during the sing-along. The peaceful strum of the acoustic guitars, smell of burning wood, and clear night sky allowed me to refocus.

There were tears in my eyes and my heart ached of disappointment, but I knew all of it would fade eventually. 

I thought of the future and of my dreams. I would still be me and I was well on my way to falling in love with who I was shaping up to be. No one could take that away from me unless I gave them the power to do so.

A minuscule smile crept onto my face as I was reminded of the true prize I was after.

“Mrs. D, may I go to the bathroom?” I heard Elle from a distance.

“Of course. Take a buddy.”

Her face suddenly obstructed my vision of the great void. “You owe me for the wake up call I was given this morning.”

I squirmed to a seated position and stood up from there. “I’m going, but Sami would be more helpful in the event of an animal attack.”

“I’m willing to take my chances.”

We took off in the direction of the woods. Our eyes were dilated by that point. We didn’t need to employ the use of a flashlight to see.

“I’m really surprised you’re willing to squat in the woods. It takes you close to two hours to get ready in the morning.”

“If you don’t stop pointing out everything suspicious in this scenario, I –“

“Psst, over here.” Milo’s voice cut through the darkness.

I tried to turn back. Elle dragged me in his direction. “I thought what we had was special!” I wailed to her overdramatically.

“It is. That’s why I’m doing this. I need to win tomorrow and this tension will make things awkward.” She pushed me in his direction.

“Are you going to be listening the entire time?” I look back at her.

“No, I’ve got headphones.” She pushed the buds into her ears and leaned against a tree, with her back to us.

I looked down at my shoes and put my hands into my pockets.

“Can I know what I’ve done wrong?” His voice cut through the background noise of the active forest.

“Why’d you do it?” My eyes met his.

“Robbie told me they had taken mushrooms. Both of you were by the ledge. I know you can’t swim. I knew how to help, so I did.”

“Is that the first time you’ve seen her like that?”

“No.”

“Is that what you did together?”

“We got high together twice on klonopin and xanax. She stole them from her mom. It was my first weeks at SMA. She was the only one that made a point to get to know me. She partied hard. I did too at the time. I was in no position to turn down companionship.”

“Don’t lie to me. It will make everything so much worse!”

“I’d never lie to you about something like that. I hate myself for it!”

I took a deep breath. “Do you have feelings for her?”

He shook his head. “Only you.”

“I don’t want what you had with her.”

“Neither do I. I ended it for a reason.”

“Not just the drugs. I don’t want to be your number one priority. I can’t make you mine. I have to look out for the one person I’ll always have, myself.”

His face fell. He looked away and rubbed the back of his neck. “In other words, this is over?”

“No, I love you. I just need to know that you’ll respect my need for independence when we move forward with an actual relationship.”

His mouth went agape, but he regained his composure quickly. “Do you mind repeating what you said?”

“You heard me.”

“I still need you to say it again.” He smirked.

“I love you. I want to be with you, but I can’t lose myself in the process.”

“I think I can handle those demands. Are you still mad at me?”

“I’m more peeved than ****** at this point. It hurt to see you with her. I’m not used to feeling jealous. I hated it. I don’t even want to talk about the pills.”

“It meant nothing.”

“To you. Just this morning she thought you were willing to serenade her. I don’t want you to be attempting to shake her off behind my back, behaving too subtly so that you don’t hurt her feelings. A part of you cares about her. Admit that.”

“As a human being. I wouldn’t be involved with you if that weren’t the case. Here’s the text I sent her on my way here.” His phone screen cast his face in a blue sheen as he scrolled through his messages.

I lowered his hands. “I’m going to trust you. Don’t make me regret it.”

“Thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt.”

“What’s the point of having a boyfriend if I can’t trust him?”

“Will you break the no-kissing rule with me?”

I nodded with a smile. He cupped my cheek in his hand and leaned down. I pressed my lips to his. It was a sweet kiss, gentle and loving, but still spark inducing.

 “You taste like pure sugar.”

“You should be used to it by now.”

“I love you too.” He pecked me once more.

“Aww, my ship’s sailing.” Elle dreamily mused, placing her hand on her chest.

“You said you wouldn’t be listening.” I took his hand into mine.

“I meddle because I you need me to. We’re heading back now. Our official story is that both of us went to the bathroom. Then we found Milo, who was lost, and safely escorted him to the bonfire.”

“Why do I have to be the one that got lost?” He complained as we walked.

“It’s dark out and you’ve never been here. Your poor vision is no secret. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I can see fine at night –“ He tripped on a tree root.

I snorted, doing what I could not to laugh.

 “You were saying?” Elle fired back over her shoulder.

“Both of you are mean.”

“I like you.” I placed a kiss on his cheek.

He let go of my hand when we arrived at the clearing. He checked in with the teachers. Elle and I went to my blanket after informing Mrs. Davidson of our return. We laid down and watched the sky together.

“Emilia Violet Woods.”

“What?” She looked over at me.

“That’s my niece’s name. You didn’t hound me for it, but you could’ve. Thanks for being you.”

“I’ll take it to the grave. Cross my heart. You might have a boyfriend now, but you’re not allowed to ditch me. It’s still besties before testies.”

I chuckled. “It would be a waste to have it any other way.”

“Crashed and burned yet?” Sami crammed herself between the two of us.

“Nope, still going strong. You look like the Wendy’s logo with your bright red hair in pigtails.” I giggled, flicking one of the ending curls upward.

“I know. Blame Elle. She got bored and braided it between texts.”

“Shhhh. It’s precious.” Elle guided her head to her shoulder.

“Is there room for me over here?” Morgan walked over.

“Absolutely.” I gestured her down to the open space beside me.                    

She used her blanket to cover the four of us in warmth.

“She got you too?” I smiled when I saw that her hair was braided the same way Sami’s was.

“I kind of like it if I’m being honest. She’s got a gift.”

“Many of them. She’s like the Swiss army knife of people.”

“That’s good. I’ll have to use that one.”

“I can’t see us losing to the Wunderkinds tomorrow. I’m pretty sure they’re all stoned.”

“That’s reassuring. Elle and Ry are sore losers. You didn’t hear that from me.” She remarked lightly.

“I figured.” I breathed a laugh.

“Excited to go home?”

“This is more of a home than I’ve ever had. It’s chaotic and downright dysfunctional at times, but there’s plenty of love too. I feel like I belong.”

She linked her arm with mine. “You do. We’re a family. One that includes several cases of ******, but a family none the less.”

I snorted. “Several?”

“As the group mom, it’s my job to notice things. Batman and Robin are fooling absolutely no one. –“

“Heard that.” Sami snapped.

“You were supposed to.” She fired back without hesitation. “And Narcissus has a soft spot for Aphrodite, not enough to change, but plenty to make him take notice. High school is hyped as the best time of our lives. It’s not. It’s a precursor for what’s to come. Growing up really sucks sometimes. Standing together makes it easier to be brave and tough it out until the end.” Morgan continued.

“And to have a few laughs in between.” I smiled.

“As long as it’s not at others’ expense.” 

“I know you laughed when you saw Mr. Kitty. I regret nothing.”

“You’re still my hero for that.” Elle giggled at the thought, along with the rest of us.

“He was warned.” She shrugged.

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