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Discovering Me (Book 1 of Discovering Me Series)

By @ess1223

Fly - Hilary Duff

{Isabella}

My emancipation hearing took place that Friday. With one win under my belt, I was in a much calmer state. Even if my request was denied, I knew I had several backup options. A judge was involved, but instead of a formal courtroom, our meeting took place in a courthouse conference room. 

My father couldn’t keep his eyes off of my mother, much to my step-mom Genette’s chagrin. She flipped her hair over her shoulder and subtly tried to perk up her non-existent cleavage on her stick thin body as an attempt to lure her husband back in.

It was a very ironic and oddly satisfying situation to witness. She made me feel so insecure. I finally saw that she attacked me because she was insecure herself.

“Hello, I am Judge Sheldon. I’ll be handling this emancipation request. I read over the docent I was presented by Attorney McMillian. I have a number of follow-up questions. The first one being how did Isabella’s eating disorder go unnoticed for years while in the custody of a world-renowned surgeon?” The judge looked to my parents from her seat at the head of the oval conference table. 

“For the exact reason I’m a world-renown, I work longer and harder than most of the people in my field. I go home exhausted. I hired a nanny to care for my children.” My dad immediately passed the buck to Bosworth.

“Excuse me, sir, but you were incorrect in that assumption. I was primarily caring for Sophia at that time. As a newborn, she required my constant care and attention. On top of that, I was frequently traveling to take Sophia to the modeling gigs Mrs. Hales booked for her. I will say that I am deeply sorry that I wasn’t around enough to notice Izzie’s pain. It bothers me because I care about her.” 

“What are you insinuating?” My father immediately got defensive. 

“You did everything you could not to interact with her. Even when you were home, you acted as if she was invisible.” B responded boldly.

“Yes, I did, because I thought she wasn’t mine until three months ago!” 

“Please elaborate on that, Dr. Hales.” The Judge interjected.

Her voice shook him out of his furious bit of passion. When he realized what he admitted, it took him a second to switch gears. 

“Leslie had several affairs. We found out she was pregnant a month later. I was hardly home. It was far more likely that someone else was the father. Feel free to jump in at any time, Les.” He looked at my mother.

She rolled her eyes. “He’s the one that didn’t want her tested.”

“There is clearly a lot of dysfunction here. Now, Leslie, will you tell me the last time you interacted with your daughter?” The judge attempted to separate them.

“I have seen her almost every day since she has been home from school. We are trying hard to build a relationship.”

“Then why are you not seeking custody?”

She looked at me and smiled softly. “We are the roots of her problems. Not the solution. She needs to be the one that gauges our interactions. She’s more than earned that.”

“Judge, it hasn’t been easy raising these girls, especially Isabella. We’ve done the best we can.” Genette chimed in at random, probably wanting to remind everyone of her existence.

“You didn’t meet me until I was eighteen. Bosworth raised Izzie and Sophia.” Audrey corrected. 

“How dare you bring Sophia into this? She is perfectly happy.” She scoffed.

“Because Bosworth takes care of her.” I replied.

She crossed her arms and glared at Audrey and me.

“Sophia is with us plenty.” My dad half-heartedly argued on Genette’s behalf as an attempt to get her to stop pouting. 

“There are pictures to prove it.” Genette added. 

“Photo ops don’t count. And don’t blame your jobs. I’m with our daughter all the time. The press doesn’t even know her name.” Everett contributed. 

“We’re going to bring Sophia in to see who she feels most comfortable with.” The judge announced to reign in the conversation.

Soon after she paged her secretary, Sophia came into the room holding our grandmother’s hand.

“B!” She cheered and ran up to Bosworth. 

“Would you like to sit with me, Ladybug?” 

She nodded with a bright smile. He put his hands beneath her arms and hoisted her up to his lap. She made herself comfortable and rubbed her eye with the back of her hand.

“Want to color.” She told B instead of acknowledging her parents, who were sitting right across from her. 

“Maggie, do you have her bag?” B looked back at her.

“Yes, it’s in the next room. I’ll go get it.”

She walked out. She came back shortly with her backpack. 

“Thank you.” 

“Who are you?” The judge questioned as she turned to leave the room. 

“Margret Hales, Your Honor. The man out front told me to walk her in.” She explained politely.

“I meant in relation to this family.”

“Stewart’s mother.”

“Have a seat.” The judge instructed. 

Bosworth moved down the table in his rolling chair to create a space beside me. B gave Soph her coloring book and thick crayons to color with. Grandma Maggie took an empty chair and slid it into the open spot before sitting down. 

“Mr. Hales, your ex-wife has agreed to sign away her rights, but you refuse. Why is that?”

“I’ve been cleaning up her messes for seventeen years. I know the recklessness she’s capable of. Leslie has no rights. She just has an opinion, one I do not agree with.”

“You are not home enough for these girls. They need a father.” His mother told him.

“Mom, no one asked you.”

“I was asked here to have temporary custody of Sophia. You need to reevaluate your life choices. You are going through yet another messy divorce. You are busy at work. Your children have always been the last thing on your mind!”

Loud bickering ensued. 

“Isabella, I’d like to speak to you alone in my chambers.” The judge rose from her seat after composing herself. 

I stood from my seat and followed her to her office. She shut the door and sat down at her desk. I sat down in one of the armchairs in front of it. 

“You know yourself better than anyone else. How do you feel their parenting, or lack thereof, has affected you?” She leaned back in her chair.

“I craved their approval for the longest time because they always withheld it. I used to wonder why I wasn’t good enough to love. I got really lost before I realized I’m not the one with the problem. I’m willing to grow, change, and admit my faults. I’m not perfect. I’m never going to be. They feel they can obtain it if they find someone else to blame when things go wrong.” 

“Did you learn this in rehabilitation?” 

“I got the foundation there. I didn’t build it up until I started attending Sella Moora Academy. I made some really awesome friends.”

She smiled. “Do you have means of remaining there next year, even without your father paying your tuition?”

“Yes, I have money in a bank account set up by my mother. That should be in my file.” I pointed to the folder on her desk.

“Where will you be living?”

“With my sister and her husband. I already have a room there. She’s always been really supportive.”

“Why do you feel Sophia needs to leave the home too?”

“Both Audrey and I were forced to grow up too fast because of them. B’s the closest thing she has to a parent. I need to know she won’t be lost and scared while I’m too busy living my life to notice. Grandma Maggie will advocate for her. You saw her in there.” I used my thumb to gesture to the door.

“I will grant your emancipation. Margret will have temporary custody of Sophia. Her parents will be allowed visitation whenever they can squeeze it into their busy schedules. Upon evaluation, she may or may not be permitted to return to one of their homes.” She informed me as she began to write on the stack of papers in front of her.

My heart swelled and a new wave of tears hit. Unlike the ones in the past, those were tears of sheer joy.

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