Chapter 18: Ways to Go - Grouplove
None of us were drunk when we left my room. We were on the buzz-level where everything was funny. The only person who did not drink was Izzie. She made a promise to Aud and I respected her for keeping it. I am sure the fact that it was legal in my country made it less taboo for the ones that generally strayed away from alcohol. That was not what made me feel like we were in for a good night. They did. I was surrounded by the people who made me feel invincible, even though I knew I was far from it. My dad granted me what I wished for my entire life – the ability to ride out my choices and see where they took me. Not only was what my grandmother did morally repugnant on several levels, it hurt Iz by rubbing salt into wounds she received during her trial against Colt. I was furious. I planned on making her very aware of that fact.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Iz as we made our way to the ballroom.
“You’re going to fall if you don’t pay attention to where you are walking.” She smiled over at me.
I kept my arm draped across her shoulders. “And it will be all your fault.”
“Is that so?” She giggled.
“Mhmm.” I leaned over and kissed the side of her face. “I am starting to rethink this party.” I breathed into her ear.
“You started earlier.”
“I want to go back to earlier and stay there all night.”
A small smirk played on her lips. “You are attending your birthday party. All of these people came here for you. We will spend time together later.”
“Fine.” I pouted.
When we arrived at the ballroom, advisors were manning the doors. The guys and I were escorted to one corridor and the girls were asked to wait at the other. Ryan, Finn, and Nick went before me. Their first, middle, and last names were announced. It was followed by the full name of the girls they were escorting.
I walked out onto the landing of the main staircase when I was instructed to do so.
“Introducing, Milo Ferdinando Giovanni De Luca, Crowned Prince of Listonenia” My name filtered through the speaker system. I looked out at all the guests in the ballroom.
“—Escorting Isabella Mia Zapata of Rumson, New Jersey.”
I immediately glanced over in the direction she would be coming in from. She emerged from the shadows and glided towards me. She kept her eyes on mine, ignoring all of the eyes that were rightfully on her.
She politely curtsied and offered me her left hand when she reached me. I brought her hand to my lips and kissed it. She smiled. I lowered her hand and intertwined my fingers with hers. The two of us descended the stairs. Every couple of steps, I spared a glance in her direction, unable to stop myself.
My dad walked up to us and gave me a hug when we reached the ground. “Are you drunk?” He questioned subtly.
“Buzzed, not belligerent. Do I look it?”
“No, but I thought I would check. Stay out of trouble.” He warned.
I smirked. “I will.”
“Hello, Izzie.” He offered her a warm smile. She leaned into me a little when I returned my hand to hers.
“King Vincent.” She flashed him one of her own, curtsying.
My mother soon joined us. Iz curtsied and wandered off to be with our friends as she hugged me.
“I was wrong. She is much more than what meets the eye. Happy birthday, Darling.” She kissed my cheek.
“Thank you.” I smiled.
“Go be with your companions.” She removed her lipstick from my cheek.
“Milo, come give nonnina a hug.” My grandmother approached me with an innocent smile and her arms outstretched.
I kept my arms at my sides and allowed my anger to appear on my face.
“What’s –“ Her expression faltered, acknowledging my mood.
“I know what you tried to do.” I snapped in a hushed tone.
“What are you –?” She did her best to appear confused.
“I know you did it. She told me.” I reiterated firmly.
“Isabella misunderstood –“
“She did not. You hurt her. In turn, you have hurt me.” I bypassed her.
I didn’t sit with my family for dinner. Instead, I sat with the whole gang at their table. I did, however, get up from my seat to attend to some business at my assigned table. My Dad was sitting at the head of it, quietly drinking his wine as everyone talked around him. I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned back to look at me.
“Is everything alright?”
I nodded. “I was wondering if you wanted to sit with us. This table is a little crowded. You can get to know my friends if you want. There is no pressure.”
He stood up from his seat. “I would love to.” We were about to leave when his mother placed her hand on him.
“Dear, where do you think you’re going?” She said through clenched teeth, appearing to be smiling to everyone else in the room.
“I know I am going to sit with my son.”
“Mother, would you like to join us?” I extended another invitation.
“I need to remain with my parents, but I will surely make time to meet your friends before I leave.”
“I understand. Enjoy your meal.”
“That was pretty heated.” I commented as my father and I walked away.
“She is still questioning my decision. It is aggravating to say the least.”
“Tell me about it. Nonnina tried to pay Iz to break up with me.”
“She did what?” He whispered, looking over at me.
He pursed his lips together. “All of that will dealt with accordingly. Do not let it ruin your night.”
“It’s not. Gin’s softening the blow.”
“I brought my dad.” I announced when we arrived at the table.
All of my friends greeted him as I sat down in my chair beside Izzie.
“Do we have to act normal and sober?” Finn asked no one in particular.
“No. I am aware of your condition. I want to get to know who you are.” My dad was unable to refrain from smiling.
“I’m Elle and you’re you. You’re beautiful everywhere. It’s all over the place. That’s just great. You’re so nice to bring us here for Milo. We love him. And with Iz, so cute – so cute.” Elle slightly slurred, placing her hand on her chest when she talked about Iz and me.
“You’ve got to be honest with me, K.V. I need to know. Have you changed a law so that you could do something that was illegal? I would – like all the time.” Sami mused, holding her booze a little better than Elle.
Her mild repetition made it a little noticeable, but she could pass for sober if she tried.
“K.V.?” He chuckled.
“Nicknames, we do those here. Miles, Iz, Elle, Ry, Nicky or Dad, Mom, and Finn. I’m Sami. Back on topic.” She pointed to each of us.
He chuckled. “I remain above board on everything.”
“What a waste. Countries thrive with a dash of corruption, a heaping helping in some causes – look at the most powerful ones.” Finn contributed.
“That’s why we never put you in charge of anything legal.” Nick looked over at him.
“I thoroughly enjoy the tasks I’m given. I don’t see the problem.”
“His hacking does come in handy.” Ryan vouched on his behalf, chuckling.
For the duration of dinner, my friends and I continued our off-kilter conversation. My father seemed rather amused by all of us. He even joined in on our weirdness and laughter. It was the first time I thoroughly enjoyed dinner at a ball. I know the people I was surrounded by made the difference. I was having such a good time that time flew. Before I knew it, it was time for me to go on stage and make my speech. I was sure to remain sober enough to think somewhat clearly.
“Wish me luck.” I smiled at Iz.
“You don’t need it.”
“But I want it.” I retorted playfully.
“And it’s your birthday?” She smiled widely.
I nodded. She giggled. “Good luck.”
“Do we still have plans later?”
“Depends on your speech. I’ve got to be moved basically to tears.” She joked.
“Basically?” I chuckled.
“In the eyes, but not down the face. Smearing’s not cool.” She gestured to her face with her hand.
I smiled. “I shall try, My Love.” I pecked her on the cheek and rose to my feet.
I made my way onto the stage. I walked up to the podium. I cleared my throat prior to moving close to the microphone. My eyes settled on Iz before I was able to speak.
“The original plan for my life horrified me. If I am being honest, it still does. That is why I will not be doing it. I am eighteen. I am technically an adult, but I know I have ways to go before I am one. I am not in the position to propose or get married, even if it is to the sweetest girl I have ever hit with my skateboard. –“ I smiled.
Izzie blew me a kiss. I winked at her.
“I am still trying to figure myself out, to determine what I want and how I will lead Listonenia most effectively. I am a work in progress. I have plenty of time to do what is expected of me. Those who care to understand my point of view will be patient with me. I am keeping my best friends close. You really are the greatest. --” I gestured to their table.
They all cheered. I smiled uncontrollably.
“I obviously would not be here without my parents. I appreciate them for supporting and loving me, even when I made it difficult. In conclusion, I fully intend to act my age because it is acceptable for me to do so. According to whom? Me. I am the one that has to live with my life choices. I will be the one making them from now on. I am entitled to my own mistakes. They are a part of growing up. That is my primary focus until further notice. Thank you.” I concluded.
The crowd erupted into thunderous applause. For the first time in my life, I felt heard by the people who lead me to believe I didn’t have a say in my life.