Chapter 27: Summer Hair=Forever Young-The Academy is
I woke up pretty early the day my friends were scheduled to leave. I quickly got ready and headed over to Izzie’s room. She opened the door with a smile, still wearing her nightgown. I leaned down and kissed her. She ushered me inside after we parted.
“Packing?” I asked she as she shut her door behind us. I sat down on the couch because her suitcases occupied her bed.
“Yeah, but I’m pretty much done. Elle helped me a lot last night.” She looked around the room at what was left.
“Why are you awake?” She shifted her attention to me after a moment.
“I can sleep when you are gone. It seemed like a waste to do it while you are still here.” I sat down on the couch.
She smiled. “What else are you going to do when I’m gone?”
“Visit Peter Nincompoop, rewatch the reaction video I took when you met a mini horse, skateboard, sail, and do my own packing for SMA. I may even do our summer reading assignment if I have time left.”
“Squeeze ‘video chat and text Iz’ in there somewhere and that’ll sound like a great plan. Oh! And tell Peter I love him. I would be too hard for me to say ‘goodbye’ to him.” She instructed as she resumed folding.
I chuckled. “But easy for you to do it with me?”
“If or when I see him again, it won’t be the same. He’s not going to be a pony anymore; I can’t get away with babying him. You, on the other hand, will be the same person when I see you the week after next. It’d be hard if I thought things were about to change.”
“So what you’re saying is: I am ranked below Mittens and Butternut Sprinkles, but above Peter Nincompoop?” I questioned lightly.
She smiled hard to keep from laughing. “I’m so proud of you for accepting the truth with grace and poise.”
I smirked and shook my head at her. I silently watched television as she resumed packing. Being around her was more than enough. She shut her bags, but left them unzipped when the only items remaining were things she needed to get ready. She sat down beside me on the couch.
I looked over at her with a smile. “Is this your silent way of telling me to go away so you can shower?”
She leaned in and kissed me in response. I brought one of my hands up and tangled it in her hair. She eventually shifted to straddle my waist. She moved her hands to either side of my face and resumed kissing me. My hands were firmly planted on her behind. The intensity of our kisses rendered me unable to think about anything other than her; and I simply couldn’t get enough.
“Do you have a condom?” She breathed into my ear before she started placing kisses down my neck.
It took me longer than normal to register what she said. “In my room.” I internally cursed myself for not bringing one.
“I’m pretty sure I do.” She kissed my lips before standing up.
She lift one of the lids of her suitcases and dug around. When she found one, she returned to me. She placed it in my hand. She went to the door. I stripped out of my shirt and tossed it aside. I eased down my shorts a bit to put it on. She locked the door. She dance back over to me to ease some of the tension. She pirouetted and landed in the spot right in front of me. She hummed a little tune as she danced out of her underwear. She pushed it aside with her toe. She placed her hands on my shoulders for balance. She stepped forward and put her knees on either side of my legs.
“That was cute.” I mused, looking up at her.
“That’s what I was going for.” She breathed, capturing my lips with hers. I exhaled sharply and tightened my hold on her when she returned to my lap.
She peppered kisses on my jawline. She latched onto my neck and sucked.
“Marking your territory?” I struggled to find my voice.
“Maybe.” I felt her smile against my skin. She moved her lips to a different spot and created another one. “One for every week we’ll be apart.” She said with a cheeky smirk when she pulled back to look at me.
“I keep it classy. You’re not allowed to get rid of them.”
“Then it is only fair I do you too. I should not be the only one struggling to figure out how to cover them during the summer when wearing scarves and heavy jumpers aren’t options.”
She tilted her head to the side to give me access. I went to the space between her neck and shoulder. I settled back into the couch and looked at her when I was finished.
“I love you.” I thought aloud. I brushed away the hair that was clinging to her damp forehead. I tucked it behind her ear as I looked into her eyes.
A crooked little smirk eased onto her face. “I love you too.”
I moved my hand to the side of her face. I caressed her cheek with my thumb.
“I changed my mind.” She stated after a moment of thought.
“Saying goodbye. I just want you to say ‘I love you, Beautiful’ and kiss me.” She did her best to impersonate my voice, accent and all.
“What are you going to say back?”
“I’ll keep it simple, but personal – I love you too, Super Prince Charming Man. The kiss needs to be really great to fill in the blanks.” She played with the hair at the nape of my neck.
She shook her head. “You know I hate them.”
“Me too.” I smiled.
She leaned in and kissed me. “Now I’m kicking you out. I need to shower.” She said between kisses.
“I can stay and be good. I will get dressed and watch TV. You will not even notice me.”
“You better keep your hands to yourself.” She kissed me once more.
She stood up and smoothed down her nightgown. I pulled up my pants.
“Would you like to use the bathroom first?” She offered.
I stood up from the couch. “Thank you.” I placed a kiss on her cheek on my way there.
I cleaned myself up, went to the bathroom, and washed my hands. I decided to check out my hickeys in the mirror. I smiled at the sight of them, feeling as though she was leaving a part of herself behind.
“All yours.” I walked out of her bathroom.
“Put your shirt on. You’ll keep distracting me if you don’t.” She patted my chest.
“A promise is a promise.” I replied.
I checked her out as she walked away. She turned her head and caught me looking. I winked. She smiled. She went into the bathroom and shut the door. I picked my shirt up off the ground. I put it on and sat down on the cushioned bench at the foot of her bed with the remote. I settled on a football match. It kept me occupied the duration of her shower and dressing.
“I still can’t believe they’re letting me keep all the clothes and shoes.” She mused as she packed up the remainder of her things.
“You will be able to use them. We won’t, especially with women no longer living here.” I kept my eyes fixed on the television.
“Have you spoken to your mom since she moved?” She switched to a much more cautious tone.
“Yes, I will be visiting prior to going to school. She wants me to know that Greece is my home now too.”
“What about your grandmother?”
I pursed my lips together. “She left yesterday to reside at one of our other estates.”
“If anything changes in fourteen hours, vent to my voicemail, okay? I’ll call you back as soon as we land in New York. If you need someone right away, go to your dad, Will, Aunt Francesca, or your cousin – the one that’s close to our age -- he danced with us on your birthday; I can’t think of his name.”
“Salvatore?” I offered.
“Yes, Sal! I knew it started with an ‘S’ or a ‘C’. I almost said ‘Cal’, but that’s beside the point. You have people. Talk to us.”
I turned in my seat to look at her. “I know. I told you not to worry about me, Beautiful.”
“I just want to make sure you’ll be okay.” She offered me a sweet smile.
“I will. I promised.” I flashed her one of my own. “And if wise decisions are what you hope I continue to make, do not recommend that I turn to Sal. He has no concept of seriousness.”
“Even in difficult situations?”
“Yes. He views excess as the answer to all problems. You saw what he did to Ryan.”
“Ry did that to himself. He didn’t force him to get with his friend.”
“No, but he has this way of spurring people along, making them think their worst ideas are the best ones in existence. He was by my side during my worst benders.”
“Revision: only talk to Sal if you are going to do something productive, like building homes for the less fortunate. Got it?” She craned down and pecked me on the lips.
“I am doing that tomorrow, actually.”
“As punishment for what happened at the beach house?”
“I would not call it punishment per say, they are simply trying to keep me busy with activities now that I will be without constant companionship. I was able to select what I wanted to do. I liked it when we built houses.”
“It was really fun. You had no accidents that day. I was very proud of you.”
“You are terribly mean to me.”
“Did you have more fun there than at the conservatory?”
“Going there is no longer an option.”
“Is your father still spending time with Dr. Rosewood?”
“I believe so, but he has yet to introduce me or disclose the nature of their relationship. We have gotten so much closer, but now, it is as though he is concealing large aspects of himself from me again.”
“Maybe he does not want to involve you until he knows for sure.”
“Everyone else is and that is what makes it difficult.”
She massaged my shoulders. “Ask and he will tell you. You mean the world to him.” She kissed the side of my face after alleviating the tension my muscles held.
“I am going to miss you.”
She slumped and rested her forehead on my shoulder. “You are not allowed to say stuff like that.”
“Happy sentiments only?”
“You know it.”
“I love you.” I rubbed her forearm.
The rest of the morning felt as though it was fast-forwarded. Our final brunch was over in what felt like a blink of an eye. I walked them to the main entrance. We were able to say our goodbyes as their bags were loaded into the car.
“Once again, you’ve shown me a great time on your turf. I will see you soon. Feel free to hit me up at any time.” Ry gave me a quick guy hug. “And thanks for what you said the other day.” He whispered when we were pulled in close.
“Remember it.” I patted him on the back.
“I will.” He was smiling when he pulled away.
“I love your dad for letting us come here. I love you for being you. I can’t wait for school to start. Here’s to hoping time goes by as fast as it seems to do in the summer. Our senior year needs to happen in slow motion, though.” Elle hugged me.
“I couldn’t agree with you more.”
She placed her hand on my shoulder after she pulled away. “Keep an eye on the mayor of Sexy Town for me. This is his time of need.” She instructed in a playfully serious manner.
“Really, you want to go out by hitting on my father one last time?” I warded off a smile.
“Aww, so cute, you think I’m going to stop just because we’ll no longer be on the same continent.” She cooed and pinched my cheek as if she were talking to a baby.
I chuckled and shook my head at her as she walked away.
“I owe K.V. and you big time. You saved me from suburban hell. Thank you for being born, Miles.” Sami patted me on the back.
I breathed a laugh. “Happy to help.”
“Ditto to what she said. I’m not good with emotional entanglements, but if you want a feelings-free interaction, you know who to call.” Finn pointed to himself.
“I really appreciate that. I’d rather not feel all of it all the time.”
“What I’m here for.” He saluted me with two fingers and went to join the others who had already said goodbye.
“I’m glad I was able to be a part of this. There was plenty going on, but somehow it felt normal. I don’t know, being together has this strange effect. This year will be a great one. It sort of has to. I really don’t want it to be over.” Nick was next.
“I understand completely.” I gave him a hug. “Thank you for coming.”
He smiled. “Any time.”
“Thank you so much for everything. I feel honored to have been invited. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to let me know. I imagine now is a very confusing and difficult time. Text me a list of snacks you like. I’ll be sure to bring them to school.” Morgan offered sweetly.
“Thanks, Mom.” I hugged her. She smiled and waved goodbye after I released her. Izzie walked up to me last.
“Just like we practiced.” She her voice shook as her eyes became glassy.
I swallowed hard to remove the lump from my throat. “I love you, Beautiful.”
“I love you too, Super Prince Charming Man.” She offered me a small smile as a few tears escaped her eyes.
I placed a hand on the side of her face and leaned down to kiss her. I kissed her tenderly, doing my best to convey how much loved and already missed her. When we parted, I swiped away her tears with my thumbs. I took her left hand and lifted it to eye-level.
“I’m right here.” I was referring to the charm bracelet dangling from her left wrist. I placed a kiss on the back of her hand.
“And my heart will forever live on your boat. Sail to visit the love I once felt for you.” She joked, sniffling.
I hugged her close one last time. I kissed the side of her face and let her go. She blew me a kiss instead of waving. I pretended to catch it and put it into my pocket. She disappeared inside the limo, just as the others had moments earlier.
I slid my hands into my pockets and watched them leave. The car went through the gates and down the main road. I stayed put until they were a dark speck in the distance. I wanted to be theirs for as long as possible.
I strolled back inside the palace leisurely. I had plenty of time to kill. I ran into my father on my way to the stairs. He was dressed far more casually than I usually saw him, wearing a white polo and khaki pants.
“Care to explain?” I gestured to his outfit with my hand as I kept the other one in my pocket.
He averted his gaze and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m meeting Jacqueline in the east wing in fifteen minutes.”
I glanced at my watch. “At noon on a Friday?”
“For lunch. I have business to attend to later. We have to eat sometime. We thought it would not hurt to do it together.”
“Will you be seeing her again this weekend?”
“We have discussed it.”
“But you are not dating?” I pressed for more substantial information.
“We are friends. How did you hurt your neck?” He studied my hickeys with concern.
“I’m fine.” I covered them with my hand. “May I meet her?”
“Today is not a good day. We have less than an hour to eat.”
“This weekend then?”
“I will ask her and get back to you. I am not trying to replace your mother. You also have no reason to be concerned about Jacqueline’s intentions. They are pure. I assure you.”
“I do not want to leave and learn of your affiliations from third party sources.”
“My schedule is the reason we could not meet tonight. I will rearrange some things and we will sit down and have dinner. How is that?”
“I look forward to it. Have fun.” I smiled.
“It is just lunch.”
“You need to stop lying to yourself.” I touched my hand to his shoulder and resumed walking.
I picked up my skateboard from my room and carried it outside. I kept skating until I fell. Surprisingly, that I didn’t happen until a few hours later. Continuing with my independently productive day, I went to my room and traded my skateboard for my tablet. I went to the formal sitting room on the first floor. There was a grand piano in there. I had the inkling to play. I looked up the piano arrangement of She Moves in Her Own Way by The Kooks. It was still my ringtone for Izzie. She liked it when I played the piano. I figured surprising her with it would be a nice gesture.
I went to extent of wearing a shirt and tie to dinner without stylist consultation. The collar was a good way to cover the love bites I was given earlier.
She rose to her feet as soon as I walked into the dining room. She looked just like her picture – ice-colored eyes, dark red hair, and sun-drenched skin. It was, however, a change of pace to see her in a dress instead of a lab coat. She clasped her hands in front of her and sent a soft smile in my direction.
“It is nice to finally meet you, Milo. I would shake your hand, but the table’s width prevents me from doing so without knocking something over.” She curtsied a bit.
“The pleasure is all mine. I have heard many tales of your greatness, Dr. Rosewood.”
“You may call me Jacqueline if you would like. I felt the need to dress nicer than usual given the time and location, but I was under the impression that this would be an informal but intimate occasion.” She glanced at my father as she returned to her seat.
“It is. He wants to get to know you, learn why I am adamant to spend my limited time with you.”
“Do you mind sharing that answer with me first? I think it would be wise to at least appear to be in agreement.” She smiled as she picked up her glass of water.
“We rarely are. That is why. I have dearly missed my sparing partner.”
The grinned at each other, making eyes.
I was a third wheel watching two people fall more and more in love with each other. I imagined Izzie was at my side to deal with the truth – my father could very easily be marrying someone else in the near future.
“Have you ever baked at the professional level?” I stated without thinking.
“What on earth –?“
“I worked in the coffee shop as a part of their work-study program at the university I attended for my graduate degree. I baked pastries and other desserts. Does that count?” Jacqueline answered without skipping a beat, her smile still intact.
“Yes, yes it does.”
“Izzie?” My father caught on because of my minuscule smile.
“My girlfriend. She said that you have baker eyes. She defined the term as warm and jolly, like you feed people happiness on a daily basis. She will be happy to learn that she was right.”
She chuckled. “She sounds lovely.”
“She is, but I might be biased.”
“She truly is. She is a ballerina, Jay.”
“You know how I feel about those.”
“How do you feel?”
“I love them. We went to the Listonenian Royal Ballet for our first date. I was swept up in their beauty.”
“I was under the impression you enjoyed my company.”
“I never said both was not the case.” She sipped her wine.
More pleasantries were exchanged as the first course was brought out. It was nice, but I could not stop hoping we would talk about something I could not learn by turning on the television or reading a newspaper.
“Were you ever married, Jacqueline?” I looked up from my soup.
“Yes, briefly. It was several years after my relationship with your father concluded. We divorced a year and a half later.”
“Milo, --“ My father scolded in a hushed tone.
“He wants to know the truth, Vin. You cannot be angry with him for that.” She placed her hand on top of his.
She tried to smile at me, but it read as sad. “We had trouble conceiving a child. I was the problem. We were told it was possible, but not guaranteed. A family was very important to him.”
“I apologize for prying.”
“I can tell you know about Lilliana.” Her eyes became glossy and she tightened her hold on my father’s hand.
“I’m sorry.” I looked down at my bowl.
“I was nineteen when I found out I was pregnant. I was terrified, but I wanted to spend my life with her and Vincent. Falling was an accident, one I have recently come to forgive myself for.”
“I never blamed you.”
“Your parents and advisors did. That is why I could not stay.”
“Did Nonna try to pay you?” I asked with caution.
“Yes, to remain quiet about the pregnancy and to thank me for freeing Vincent. I declined her offer. I still loved him. I only left because I was reminded of what happened every time he looked at me. I couldn’t even face myself.” She dried her eyes with her free hand.
“Her behavior, both past and present, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by me any longer. That is why she is residing in Nicchia.” My father tacked on.
“It truly is a new regime.” I mused.
“This is what is best for all of us. I had her leave the small dog you and Isabella are infatuated with.”
“Dante?” A smile tugged at the corner of my mouth.
“He is the smallest one, correct?”
“I asked her to apologize to Isabella; she refused, stuck in her ways. The dog is my way of doing it for her. He should be in your room. He has been in behavioral classes all day. The pup is very active according to staff.”
“He’s the runt. He’s eager to prove himself. We appreciate his charisma and did all we could to foster his confidence. How are you going to make it up to Jacqueline?”
He nervously glanced in her direction. “I have let her know she is the only woman I am willing to pursue.”
“Are you interested in being together?” My eyes darted between the two of them.
“Yes.” A smiled played on her lips as she turned to my father.“You have always been too good at getting what you want.”
He returned the smile she was giving him. “All I said was I would do whatever it took to keep you around if granted a second opportunity.”
My parents never looked at each other that way. They never held hands or cracked jokes; they were tightly buttoned and severe. She was able to make him laugh with gusto and smile with ease. What they were had nothing to do with me, but he would cease it if I had the audacity to say I disapproved. She was not my mother. It was a different dynamic than what I had grown up around, but it was an opportunity to demonstrate my maturity and be brave.
“I support your relationship.”
“You are not obligated to say that. I would understand your apprehension. Divorces are difficult on children.” He tried to downplay the way he was feeling.
“It is a good thing I am no longer one of those. I understand that I still have both of my parents. This is the first time I have seen you like this. I like it.”
“Thank you.” He bowed his head in my direction.
“I know it is important to you.” I resumed eating.
I went to my room after the conclusion of our meal, feeling pleased with the outcome. Dante greeted me at the door, wagging his tail and bouncing at my feet.
“I heard you had a busy day.” I picked him up.
He wormed up to my face once he was in my arms and licked me.
“Keep giving them a run for their money.” I sat down on the couch with him, stroking his fur. “You are carrying on my legacy.“I switched on the television. He made himself comfortable on my chest, relying on me for comfort and attention. If I am being honest with myself, I was using him for the same reasons.