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Izzie was completely absent from the remainder of our trip. After her drunken call, she contacted me once – simply saying she loved me. I still felt it in her absence. She had things to sort out, as did I. Life as I knew it would be different when I returned home for summer holiday. My parents’ marriage would be completely dissolved. My mother would return to Greece. I would remain in Listonenia with my father. The country would have plenty to say regarding the matter. Press tours were immanent; our royal family needing to create a united front, despite the absence of a queen. I was most uncomfortable with the prospect of having my father viewed as an eligible bachelor. We hardly got on, but my mother would always be his companion in my mind. The family portrait composed of the three of us illustrated it. I wanted them to be happy, to be relieved from their loveless marriage, but the uncertainty of what was to become of me as a result was worrisome, but it was matter for a different time.
I packed my bags the night prior to our departure. My cellphone vibrated in my pocket as I was finishing up.
Izzie: I’m in the hallway.
I literally dropped the shirt I was holding and walked out to meet her.
I went from getting three little words to being moments away from seeing her in person. It almost felt too good to be true, like I was having a waking dream.
I checked to make sure that Verna was asleep before opening the main door of our suite. Izzie stood in the hall in her pajamas, her hands behind her back. She was initially looking down the hall. When I answered, her eyes met mine with apprehension, as if she was nervous about the way I would react to her.
I hugged her without warning. She melted into me, holding on tight. I took her hand and led her inside. We went into my bedroom. I shut the door, but left it unlocked. She sat down on my bed. I took my seat beside her.
“How’s your hand?” She picked up the injured one and held it in both of hers.
“How long have you been back?”
“About two hours. The plan was to stop by earlier, but Elle cornered me. I was worried you wouldn’t be awake. You hand?”
“Fine. Verna made me take pain medication.”
“They prescribed something too? I thought it was just the splint. I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have-“
“It was over the counter. I regret nothing. I would do it again without hesitation.”
“That’s what worries me about you.” She looked me in the eye.
“That’s what worries everyone about me.”
She warded off a smile.
My heartbeat picked up and I fought the urge to kiss her.
Her effect on me only increased after spending days apart. I wasn’t fully aware of the extent at which I missed her until that moment. It was an almost painful realization; she made me happiest. The term ‘love’ no longer felt like enough.
“Were you sleeping?” She interrupted my thoughts.
“No, I have been having trouble doing that. I was packing.”
“Do you know why?”
“There is a lot going on in my life.”
“It is not all you. There are things happening at home. I am struggling to determine how to respond to it. I am not a hypocrite. I will not be hard on you for doing the same.”
“What’s going on?”
“My parents are getting divorced.”
“They can do that? I am unclear about how monarchies work. I thought you were locked into your title if you were on the throne.”
“It will surely be a scandal, but it is very possible. My mom is going home to Greece. I am to stay with my dad.”
“Is that what you want?”
“I do not really have a say in the matter. I am the crowned prince. I would choose to stay in Listonenia if I was given the choice, though. It is my home, but it will be hard to see her go.”
“Is she being deported?”
“No, nothing like that. They are separating on good terms. She wants to return home to her family. We generally vacation there.”
“So you will be able to see her?”
“Whenever I want to, but this summer will be a media circus. I am not looking forward to dealing with them on top of such a personal matter.”
“I’ll do whatever you need me to. It’ll be me and you.” She smiled as her eyes held mine.
She leaned over and kissed me.
“How have you been? Your drunken call scared me. I expected the worst.” I asked when she pulled away.
She looked down at her lap. “I needed to stop thinking – to turn it all off. It worked until I got angry.”
“May I ask why you went there?”
“My mother doesn’t know who my father is. Who I’ve always thought he was is simply the man that signed my birth certificate to keep up appearances. He sees me as a failure because I was one of his. He couldn’t help her. She didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“It sounds like she did.”
“No. You don’t get it.”
“Then explain it.”
She sighed. “A personality disorder, okay? She has one. It makes her behave recklessly and irrationally. She felt alone. She sought comfort from other men in hopes of curing it. It didn’t come close. When she takes care of herself, she is nice to be around. I had a good time at her house.”
“You visited her?”
“I needed to know the truth – where I came from.”
“They should not define you.”
“In an ideal world, that would be the case, but we both know our parents are a part of our identity.”
“You cannot undo what she has done in one pleasant afternoon. I have held you as you trembled and watched helplessly as you cried. I know that is merely the tip of the iceberg. That is what is most troubling.”
“It is a start – hope for some sort of relationship. She’s been through a lot, hurt in similar ways that I have been. We deserve love too.”
“I do not trust her.”
“Well, your opinion doesn’t factor into my relationship with her!” She retorted defensively.
“I know. I was merely expressing my concern.”
“I’m sorry for sort of snapping at you. It’s just that that’s what everyone keeps saying to me. I’d like to think I am a better judge of character than people give me credit for.”
“I feel this tension between us. I need it gone.” She played with our hands.
“What do you suggest we do?”
“Cuddle — you know, to make up for the other day.“
“Sounds good.” I kissed her. I opened my door and turned off the light to comply with Verna’s rules. Izzie was already beneath to covers when I climbed in bed. I spooned her from behind. She wiggled her bottom, just as she always did to get comfortable and put her cold feet on my legs.
“I know I haven’t been the best girlfriend thus far, but I want you to know that I love you. I wish I knew how to do this.” She held my hand to her chest.
“I’ve never questioned it, Beautiful.”
“You can’t be this supportive. Stop messing with me.” She joked.
“I am not your top priority. We established that beforehand. I know you love me. I love you too. We have always done things in a peculiar manner. Why change what works?”
“I keep expecting you to want a normal relationship, like you’re waiting for me to be able to handle that.”
“I’m not. I would not know what to do with it.”
She kissed my fingers. “We will get through this.”
“What part of it?”
“All of it, everything. We just can’t lose this.”
“The ability to make each other forget everything for a moment and just be unapologetically happy.”
I knew she truly believed it. The determination in her voice had me on my way to doing the same.