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I knew I was one of the lucky ones in spite of what had happened. I had a family that loved and accepted me for who I am. For the first time in a long time, I looked forward to my birthday the following year. My streak of good luck continued through the week. I landed the lead in Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora. I got some weird looks for laughing when I spotted Milo’s name beside the part of Prince Florimund. He was my prince in real life; I got a kick out of seeing him selected to pretend to be it on stage. Anna was ironically cast as the villain of the show. She was Carabosse, a fairy that crashed a royal party at the beginning of the story and threw a tantrum because she was the only fairy that wasn’t invited. To get back at the king and queen, she put a curse on their daughter, which was me in our production. It was supposed was supposed to make me ***** my finger on my sixteenth birthday and die. The Lilac Fairy couldn’t undo the curse because Carabosse was too powerful, so she amended it by making the ***** make me sleep for 100 years and be awakened by the kiss of a prince. Milo was a lot like the prince he played. Prince Florimund was unhappy, even though he had more than enough possessions; his charmed life lacked what he wanted most — love. In the story, he was shown a vision of the princess by The Lilac Fairy. He was so entranced by Aurora’s beauty and grace that he instantly fell in love with her. But of course, Carabosse refused to let them live happily ever after without putting up a major fight.
I was more than excited for the production. Dancing was the reason I attended Sella Moora in the first place. That production was my chance to prove that they made the right decision when they accepted me. I tried my best to focus on the good aspects of my life and put my identity crisis on the back burner.
I started overloading my schedule to include more dance practice time. Sleeping became easier after my birthday. My new stuffed frog, my ballerina bunny, and Milo as my cuddle buddies certainly helped. I could do nothing more than wait and hope for the best when it came to everything else. In all honesty, I didn’t know which result would be better — finding out he was my real dad or discovering I had one that wasn’t around because he was unaware of my existence.
“Should I ask what you are doing?” I scanned the coffee table that appeared to be filled with resumes and headshots.
Elle shuffled through them deep in thought, her reading glasses rested on her nose. “Selecting a prom date.”
“This looks like a casting call.” I sat down on the couch beside her. I unscrewed the cap of my apple juice.
“It pretty much is. Because I’m not going with a romantic interest, I might as well go with a status booster.”
“Who’s Ryan going with?”
“No. No, absolutely not. That’s never happening.” She immediately became defensive.
“I didn’t say anything. I was simply asking a question.” I smiled.
“I know what you are insinuating.”
“Can you answer the question?”
She shuffled through the papers in her hands. “I doubt he is taking anyone. He likes to attend all parties and dances stag. He’s so anti-commitment that the title ‘date’ is basically ‘wife’ in his eyes.”
“Aren’t both of you running for prom princess and prince?”
“Yeah…” She looked over at me with her peripheral vision.
“I’ll say it once and drop it. He’d outshine all the guys in that pile.”
“He’s too much of a charmer. I can’t think about him like that. I refuse.”
“You are going with Milo?”
“We haven’t discussed it, but I think so. We need to go dress shopping together.”
“Obviously. That’s not even up for debate.”
I switched on the television and enjoyed my juice.
I excused myself from the living room and rushed to my room when Audrey called.
“Hello?” I shut my door.
“The results came in.”
I sat down on my bed as my heart hammered in my chest. “And?” I swallowed hard.
“He’s yours. We have the same father.”
I clenched my eyes shut to stop myself from crying. Tears slipped out anyway.
“Does he know?” I squeaked.
“I don’t know. I have only spoken to you and Mom.”
“Can I talk to you later?” I dried my eyes with the back of my hand.
“Izzie Bee, please talk to me. This is what you wanted, right?”
“I just need time, okay? I have a lot going on.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” I tossed my phone aside and laid back on my bed.
I wondered if confirmation that I was his offspring would create warmth in our ice cold relationship. Only time would tell, but the news only gave me more questions.
I was distracted for most of the day, spacing out and not contributing much in class or socializing with my friends.
“Are you alright?” Milo asked me at lunch.
“Fine.” I pushed my yogurt around with my spoon instead of eating it.
“You don’t look like it.”
“It’s just one of those days. Don’t worry about me.”
“Will you go to prom with me?” Ryan requested casually as he sat down across from Elle.
She looked up from her phone with wide eyes. “Excuse me?”
“Yes or no?” He held eye contact as he rested his elbows on the table.
“Sick of dealing with offers. I am sure you are too. It makes sense. We’ll get few questions.”
“Yes, I am expecting nothing from you in the form of affection.”
“Why?” She pressed.
“God, you won’t take anything for face value, will you?”
“You know I don’t do that.”
He sighed heavily. “You’re beautiful. We both know this. I like you as a person, obviously; we’re friends. My mom’s pestering me about having a date because she wants pictures. You’re the only person I’m willing to go with.” He diverted his eyes, as if he were a bit embarrassed.
She tried hard to fight off a smile. “You need me?”
“I’m not admitting that.” He shot his eyes back to hers.
“Ryan, I’ve got eight guys who were willing to submit resumes to go to prom with me. I need you to give me a reason not to go with them.”
“We kind of have a thing going – a love/hate flirtationship. You know it’s fun. You’d have a better time doing that with me than having a guy that doesn’t know you working overtime trying to impress you.”
“Can I dress you?”
“Can I at least pick out your tie, pocket square, and my corsage?”
She smiled wickedly. “You have so much to learn, Hon. I am going to break you.”
“I’d like to see you try.”
“You will if you agree to my terms and conditions.”
“Fine, no pink.”
“Deal.” She offered him her hand.
He shook it. “I am already regretting this.”
“Oh, you love it. You said so yourself.”
Lunch continued as usual. At least it did at our table. It felt like every other minute someone was getting asked to prom in an elaborate manner – lots of songs, flowers, and candy.
Milo and I remained in the dance studio after class concluded. We even skipped dinner to stay longer. He had Finn and Sami smuggle in food for us. He spent more time watching me than dancing. When our food arrived, he sat down and ate as I continued to do the same leap sequence repeatedly.
“If you keep going at it like that, you are going to hurt yourself.” He called to me from his spot on the floor.
“Practice makes perfect.” I replied breathlessly, restarting.
“You had it perfect an hour ago. What you’re doing now is an accident waiting to happen. And believe me, I know a thing or two about accidental injuries.” He continued.
When I still refused to take his warning seriously, he sighed over-dramatically and stood up. I did my best to ignore him by locking my focus on myself in the mirror. It worked until he grabbed my elevated foot and turned it a bit. After that, he placed his hands on my hips and rotated them slightly. I looked to him for an explanation of what he did; he simply pointed to the mirror in response. I followed his gesture and found that I was positioned perfectly.
“You should stick your landing perfectly now. Try it.” He backed away, folding his arms over his chest.
I gave it a shot. I was pleased to land my leap perfectly.
I looked to him. “How did you-?”
“They are all about angling. You started off doing it the right way. Redoing it a million times has caused your body to shift in ways it’s not supposed to. If you keep over-practicing, you’ll end up with a serious injury by the end of the night; I guarantee it.” He informed me in a serious tone.
“I need the practice.”
“Take a break. Finn and Sami brought you food too. I bet you have not eaten since lunch.”
“Actually, I didn’t eat that. I played in it to make you think I was.” I admitted sheepishly.
“Why?” His expression darkened.
“I don’t feel hungry. It is unintentional.”
“Will you please sit down and eat?”
“Okay.” I followed him back to where he was seated.
We were eating and chatting casually as we ate our dinner when my phone started ringing, or more accurately, meowing.
“I feel like I’m on a farm every time your phone rings.”
“Isn’t it great?”
I saw it was Elle calling and pressed the ‘Talk’ button. “Hey, what’s going on?”
“We have a MAJOR problem!” She exclaimed over-dramatically.
I remained calm, knowing it wasn’t a life-altering issue. She tended to get quiet and serious with things like that.
“Yeah? What’s the problem?” I placed my phone on speaker so that I could resume eating.
“-By the way, you’re on speaker.” I added.
“Oh, okay, Hi, Milo! -” She addressed him cheerfully before she got back into panic mode.
“Anyways, the problem is Morgan has a date to prom!” She cried as if the sky were to come crashing down at any moment.
“How is that a major problem, exactly?” Milo chuckled.
“Don’t laugh at me, Miles! This is serious! She’s going with Jeremy Gillespie, who is admittedly a nice guy for her, but what are we going to do with Nicky? They planned to go as friends. He won’t let me set him up and he refuses to go stag while the rest of us have dates. I’m out of options. It won’t be a great night without him.”
“I think I’ll be able to call in reinforcements.”
“You think she’ll be able to make it?!” Her mood switched to excitement.
“She’ll be home for the summer around prom time. She really liked him. I can’t see her declining.”
“YES! Perfect solution. Thanks.”
“Any time. Need anything else?”
“Nope. That was my only order of business to tackle before my student council meeting. Later, guys.”
“We have not discussed prom. Should I make asking you an extravagant affair?” He looked to me.
“Oh, you wanted to go with me? This is awkward. I’m going with someone else.” I joked.
He chuckled. “Really, who?’
“A guy. He’s super cool. You don’t know him. He asked me to prom telepathically. I mean, how was I supposed to that down? He was in my mind.”
He laughed and shook his head at me. “He sounds incredible.”
I nodded. “But I might reconsider my plans if another offer comes my way.” I looked at him with a crooked smile.
“Isabella, will you grant me the extraordinary honor of accompanying you to prom?”
I pretended to think for a little while. “I guess.” I warded off a smile and rolled my eyes.
He leaned in to kiss me. “Do you really want to go with me?”
“I’m excited. I hardly see you all dressed up.”
“There’s a reason for that.”
“It’s what your alter ego Prince Milo wears.” I stated playfully.
I resumed eating dinner and he put his arm around me. His hand soothingly wandered up and down my side.
When my phone started ringing a second time, my stomach started contorting into knots.
“You’re scared of birds. Why do you have them chirping as your ringtone?”
“It fits the caller.” My cheeks warmed as I brought the phone to my ear.
“Hi, Dad.” I greeted.
“I know you are rightfully able to call me that. I visited your mother today.”
“What do you have to say about it?”
“I didn’t know. I regret many things, all of which concern you.”
I bit my nails.
“I shouldn’t have left. She’s right; I abandon the responsibilities I cannot control. You were the wildest of all. Seeing her today, it just — I didn’t know how much I missed her.”
“She’s doing really well right now. Don’t mess with her.”
“We were together.”
“Did you come on to her?”
“Yes, but she was more than receptive.”
“You know why! ” I cried in outrage.
“I love her.”
“Have you told your wife?” I spat, anger building.
“I can’t -“
“You are a coward and I hate you so much.”
“You are upset. It is understandable. I am here now. Don’t fight me.”
“What does that mean?”
“I will look after you. Your health appears to be adequate, but I do not approve of your boyfriend. He is not good for someone in your state – much too reckless.”
“He loves me. I love him too.”
“You are seventeen. You do not know what that word means.”
“You don’t know me or him.”
“I know his type. You are in your current predicament because of boys like him.”
“Don’t you dare. Don’t pin what happened on my taste in guys!” I chocked up.
Milo kissed me on the cheek and stole my phone. My hands trembled as I subtly dried my eyes.
“Izzie’s phone, Milo speaking.” He pulled me closer. “I am her boyfriend. You were hurting her. That will not happen if I can help it. Be kind to her or I will return to the phone.”
“He says it’s important.” He extended my phone to me.
“What I wanted to say was we should call off the emancipation petition, forget what has transpired, and start over as a family.” He proposed.
I no longer felt tears coming on. He sparked a fire of anger I wasn’t aware I was harboring. I wanted to hit something and scream at the top of my lungs. Instead of doing either of those options, I started laughing.
“No.” I giggled in response to his question.
“No?” I could clearly hear the confusion in his voice.
“You’re a doctor — a great one. You’re on buses and billboards. You knew what I was doing to myself. You looked the other way when I needed you. I’ve always been your daughter. You’re just choosing now to care because you want her and you know we are a package deal. You are so selfish.” I stated boldly.
“Do you understand what you’re doing? Can you see past yourself long enough to understand the repercussions? You could potentially destroy my empire over misunderstandings!” He roared at me angrily.
My chest constricted and it became more difficult for me to breathe. I closed my eyes as I attempted to regulate my breathing.
“Your neglect was not a ‘misunderstanding’; stop belittling me and what I feel. Just to be clear. Do you think what happened with Colt is my fault because I was drinking?”
“You’re underage and you shouldn’t have been there.” He replied as if it were obvious.
“No. That’s not how that works. You’re my father, but you’re not my dad. He would support me. You are only willing to pretend to. I’ll be seeing you in court.” I hung up before he could get another word in.
I called my mom.
“Hello?” She slurred.
“Are you drunk?” I fought to keep my voice even.
“Izzie, Honey, shhh, just listen. I love you. I love you, but I did something really bad. I shouldn’t have done it.” She sniffled through her tears.
“He’s married and he hurt my baby. I wanted it – him. I’m a bad person, so bad.” She continued to spiral.
“No, Mom, no. Please don’t leave me, please.” I pleaded as I joined her in crying.
Milo guided my head to his shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I let you down. I’m so sorry.”
“Mommy, I love you.”
“I am a bad mom. You are a good girl.”
“Please stay. I forgive you.”
“Really?” She hiccuped.
“He should’ve known. Please stop drinking.”
“Okay, okay. I will. For you. I don’t wanna do it.”
“Good.” I smiled. “Now, do I need to call Audrey?”
“No. No. She’d worry. I have you.”
“You sure do.” A new crop of tears flooded in.
“You are smart and nice and – and beautiful too. I made you with my husband. I did something right.”
“Mhmm.” I removed the phone from my ear before I let the sob I was harboring escape from my chest.
“You need to hang up.” Milo whispered.
I shook my head.
“You need to let go. This is too much stress.”
I returned the phone to my ear, ignoring him. I let her talk at me for as long as she needed to, worried she’d do something if I ran away.
“I – I’m tired.” She rambled eventually.
“Do you want to go to bed?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m doing that.”
“I love you, Honey. I’m sorry.” She dozed off.
“I love you too.” I added though the point was moot.
I tucked my head into the crook of his neck and he hugged me tight.
“Stay with me tonight.” He kissed the top of my head.
We cleaned up and walked back to his suite. I showered and changed into a pair of pajamas I left at his place in case of a sleepover. I laid down in bed as he went through his nightly routine. He crawled into bed and spooned with me because I was on my side.
“You can’t be there for them right now. You are dealing with too much.” He held my hand.
“I know.” Teardrops pelted his sheets. I inhaled to remove my congestion.
“Why are you?”
“I don’t want to be like them.”
He placed a kiss on my shoulder.