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I was trying my best to deal with the cluttered mess that my life turned into practically overnight. I had the answer to a seemingly important question, it didn’t come with the reward I expected it to. Learning that I was biologically my father’s daughter all along didn’t change that fact that he allowed me to get that close to death without making the slightest attempt to stop me. He had to act when I fainted at Everett’s party; he was put on the spot. I don’t even want to think about what would’ve happened if my blackout occurred in the comfort of our own home. I doubt that I would still be here.
He would’ve kept sweeping me under the rug until there was nothing left. I refused to call a person like that my dad. I was not angry with my mother for being with him. He was aware of her instability. He took advantage of her. She was really trying to turn her life around. She called me the next day to formally apologize for her actions the previous night. I forgave her. She had yet to turn back into the monster I grew up with; I was willing to stick around as long as she didn’t.
In preparation for my lawsuit and petition, I had to do phone conferences and email correspondence with my lawyer. During one of them, I learned that I needed to find someone who would be able to unbiased comment on both my behavior and Colt’s. There was one person that came to mind, someone who was angry with both of us and wouldn’t attempt to lie to save one.
I locked my bedroom door and sat down on my bed. I scrolled through my contacts and clicked on the name I wanted. I brought it to my ear and waited for it to ring. It was sort of a long shot that he’d answer, but I was in a position where I was already risking everything – a little more wouldn’t hurt.
“Hello? Who’s this?”
“Uh, hey, Phil. It’s me, Izzie. I got my number changed.” I brought my hand to my lips and started nibbling on my nails in discomfort.
“Oh. Hey, what’s going on?” He was responsive, but not overly eager to talk to me. It was a step up from what I was expecting.
“Have you heard?”
“Yes, it’s everywhere. For what it’s worth, I know you are telling the truth.”
“I know better than anyone what he is capable of.”
“I need a character witness. You hate both of us for the same reason. You’re as unbiased as it gets.” I cleared my throat.
“You do understand that you’ve painted a target on yourself by doing this, correct?”
“I’m saying ‘bring it on’. Everyone I grew up with has seen me naked at my worst. My reputation’s already terrible. He hurt me in every way imaginable. I don’t have much else to lose. I can’t make everyone forget the picture, but getting justice would allow me to regain some of the dignity he took away without my consent.”
“You have me.”
“Really?” I didn’t bother to hide the surprise in my voice.
“Learning about your eating disorder made everything click into place. You weren’t looking to hurt me or be with him; you attempted to distract yourself with whatever you could. He took advantage of that. I sorta did too. You need support. You have mine.”
“He said he would take me to my house. I fell unconscious. I woke up in his bed to him being painfully rough with me. I needed to drink before hand to feel comfortable being naked, but I knew what I was doing with you. I don’t regret my first time or the others. I felt safe and wanted. ”
I nodded, forgetting that he couldn’t see me. “You were the only one I could trust to an extent.” I resumed nibbling on my nails.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“About my eating disorder?”
“Yes, that.” He acted as if he was if the word itself hurt him.
I looked down at myself. “Obsessing about my weight wasn’t something I viewed as a problem. I didn’t seek help; I was forced into it after I fainted. By then, it was almost too late. I look back on it now and wonder how I dedicated so much time to destroying my body and thought it was the right thing to do.” I admitted.
“Your new boyfriend, did he know before Deux showed him that picture?”
“How do you know about that?”
“Other people were around. They told the whole school you were back.”
“That’s just wonderful.” I spouted sarcastically. “Yeah, he knew, but it didn’t make it any less humiliating. He punched Colin in the face, which was a highlight.” I added with a smile.
He started chuckling. “I saw his black eye. It was pretty gruesome. He told everyone he took up boxing.”
I joined in on his laughter. “Did people actually believe that?”
“Yes, unfortunately. I had my reservations. If he’s anything like his brother, if he really took up boxing, he’d have much more than a black eye.”
“Why do you say that?”
“We fought once.”
“When?” I couldn’t recall them ever getting into a physical fight.
“Last fall. He touched my sister.”
“Eliza? She’s like 15.”
“I know. She turned it last month. They were at the same party. I didn’t go because I’d pulled an all-nighter the night before to finish my college application. She texted me, saying he was making her uncomfortable. I showed up to take her home. I found them in a room alone together. He was all over her and she was lethargic, but coherent enough to cry. I fought him and left with Liza. Our parents took her to the hospital and had evidence collected.”
“I’m so sorry. Is she pressing charges?”
“Yes, with you.”
“So she’s why you’re helping me?”
“Yes, and it is a way for me to apologize to you. School has been **** for her, but I am around to defend her. She’s going to boarding school next year. I’m sorry I let them do this to you and helped.”
“She has really been struggling. She comes home crying each night.”
“I have been there. Tell her to call me.”
“I will. None of her friends are talking to her.”
“Well, I’m here. She needs to know she’s not alone.”
“You sound so different.”
“What do you mean?”
“Stronger. You used to be down for anything.”
“Now I’m fighting back.”
“I like it. I wish I got to see you, not to do anything, just to apologize in person.”
“I wasn’t there very long. -“
There was a knock on my door. I unlocked my door and opened it to find Elle in tears.
“I have to call you back. Something just came up. My lawyer will contact you shortly. Thank you. Bye.” I hung up my phone and slid it into my pocket.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” I led her over to my bed. I sat her down and joined her.
“I got my first B.” She buried her face in her hands.
“Oh, Honey.” I pulled her in for a hug.
“It—It was on a test. I opted out of studying to hang out with Ryan. It might mess up my GPA.” She sobbed into my shoulder.
I rubbed her back. “Can you retake it? Milo and I have done that a few times.”
She kept her head on my shoulder. “She said it was too high of a score to retest. I only needed one more point.”
I would’ve LOVED to get an 89% on a test, but I’m not Elle. I can’t apply my problems to her life. A ‘B’ was a source of panic in her world. I had no right to belittle something that was prominent enough to upset her.
“Say it.” I urged.
“Burning diamonds.” She sniffled.
“You have impeccable organization skills; I’ve seen you work magic with a label maker. Your advice is both accurate and funny. You’re so dedicated to everything you do; you go above and beyond and everything you touch turns to gold. Your eye for fashion is out of this world. You could get a job as a personal stylist in a minute. You are a phenomenal actress. You know a little bit about everything. It’s almost scary how often you’re right. You’re my best friend and I love you.” I pulled back to offer her a warm smile.
“Is it really scary how often I’m right?” She fought off a smile through her tears.
I nodded as I wiped away her tears with my thumbs. “I swear you’re a fairy. It’d explain why you love glitter so much and you live for applause.”
“Like Tinkerbell?” She smiled.
She giggled. “I love it.”
“I thought you would. It’s my job as your sister to know these things.”
“Who were you talking to when I came in?” She dried her eyes on her sleeves.
“Phil. My lawyer said I needed a character witness that would be able to talk about me and Colt. He’s not a fan of either of us, but he has more of a grudge against Colt than me. He won’t tell the jury I’m a saint, which will make them more likely to believe him and side with me.”
She nodded in understanding. “I’m happy that Milo will be there, holding your hand for me. That’s not something you should take on alone.”
“Shoot. He hasn’t told you?” She cursed herself.
“Told me what?”
“He asked his parents to stay in New York for a little bit to be there for you during your petition hearing. They said yes.”
I smiled. “That’s amazing. You’ll be there with me too. In my scrapbook, remember?”
“And in your heart.” She corrected.
I giggled. “Yes, that too.”
“Are you going to tell Miles you called your ex?”
“Phil’s not my ex. He’s a former friend of mine that I’ve slept with. Milo knows I need him to take my side. I told him I was doing it today. He offered to hold my hand during it, but it felt like something I should do solo.”
“Thought it’d get awkward?”
“Big time. Having the past and the current together is never a good idea.”
“I hear ya.” She laid back on my bed.
I did the same and looked to her. “How are you feeling?”
“Less disappointed than before, but still bummed. I should’ve studied instead of hanging out with him.”
“He doesn’t have to be the thing you remove from your schedule. Is there any of your clubs that you’d consider dropping?”
“Debate team. It takes a lot of time to research my argument, then I have to rehearse them, and after that I have to attend meets.”
“Is there any way you can drop it right now?”
She thought to herself for a moment. “I do have an understudy.”
“Do it. Think of all the glorious free time you’ll have – all the powerpoints you’ll be able to make.” I coaxed before she thought herself out of it.
“I did want to squeeze in one about prom attire. That’s it. I’m doing it. I’m lowering my workload.”
“Atta girl.” I cheered her on as she stood up from my bed.
“I might even cancel my book club too. I’m the only one that reads the assigned book every two weeks.”
“Do it. You have all of my love and support.”
“Yeah!” She smiled, empowered.
“Yeah!” I fired right back at her.
“I’m going to do this right now. Thanks.” She blew me a kiss. She removed her phone from her cardigan pocket and walked out of my door.
I called Phil back to explain what happened. He was understanding. We didn’t stay on the phone long after that. We quickly ran out of things to talk about. I notified my lawyer, telling her I locked down Phil as my character witness. I felt really good about how much I had accomplished. And I knew none of my old classmates would be able to contact me as a repercussion of pressing charges against him. I was taking steps forward and none back for the first time in my life.