Chapter 41: Generator Second Floor-Freelance Whales
“Your Highness, may I ask about the scratches on your shoulder?” Gisele sat on the chaise lounge in my walk-in closet.
I was being fitted by the tailor for the formal wear I would be donning during winter holiday events.
“Huh?” I looked up from the phone in my hand.
She pointed to my left shoulder.
“Oh, those. Spontaneous intimacy with a time limit. Usually she remembers to remove her charm bracelet. And yes to the question you are about to ask.” I resumed my text.
“You do not know what I was about to ask.”
“Yes, I do. It is what is always asked when an advisor is made aware of my sex life. You can all stop worrying. Our fear of procreating is on a level that greatly surpasses yours. Some things will never be forgotten as a result.”
Dante galloped into the room wagging his tail. I was his target. He stood up on his hind legs and put his paws on the pedestal I was standing on, trying to gain my attention.
“We will play as soon as I am done with this. I know it is time for your walk.” I told him.
He licked the air and started wagging his tail even harder.
“We do not know what to do for you now that you are an adult. You take care of most of your obligations on your own.”Gisele observed us from her seat.
“What I have been asking you to do for years, leave me be. I will let you know if I need something.”
“I still question your ability to ask for help when you need it. Your pride is still an issue. Isabella told King Vincent that –“
I sighed heavily. “She needs to stop answering his phone calls. When was this?”
“A few weeks ago. Shortly after Halloween, I believe. Your father wanted to ensure the bullying you were enduring was not affecting you emotional state.”
“I am finished, Prince Milo.” The tailor bowed.
“Thank you, Vivek.” I walked off the pedestal.
“That is what she said, but she also stated that it took weeks of observation to come to that conclusion because you’d shut down.”
“That was at the beginning. I am happy.” I stepped into my jeans.
“I see it. You have been smiling at your phone for days.”
“My friends and I have a group chat going.” I fastened the button. I picked my jumper off the ground.
“I assumed it was Isabella.”
“She is a part of it, but she hasn’t contributed anything in a few days.”
“That is not a cause for concern?”
“No, she is having bonding time with her mother. I text her to tell her I love her each night before I go to bed. She does the same. That is more than enough.” I sat down on the bench beside my assortment of shoes after selecting a pair that matched.
“I have it logged that you will be taking Dante out for a walk for the next couple of hours. If you decide to leave the premises, please contact one of us.”
“We go over this quite frequently.” I tied my first sneaker.
“I wouldn’t need to if you listened.”
I smiled. “You said a minute ago that you were getting bored. Pick one, Sell.”
“I will not do that. Instead, I will report back to Wilmer. Do try to be conscious of our rules today. Will has more to deal with than usual because today is your father’s personal day.”
“Personal day? He takes his winter holiday during mine after our Christmas obligations.”
“It is annual and he asks not to be disturbed.”
“It is not our place to ask that question.” She stood from her seat, her eyes still fixated on the data she was entering into her tablet. “Will you be needing anything else?”
“No. Thank you, Sell.”
“Buon giorno, Prince Milo.” She curtsied and left the room.
I escorted Dante outside on his leash. I released him in the back garden, his favorite place to play. I pitched a ball, he bolted after it and faithfully returned to me as soon as it was pinched between his teeth. Playing fetch with him at full force lost its luster after half an hour. I sat down on the nearby bench and divided my time between my phone and him. When he didn’t return in a timely manner, I was stricken with panic. I scanned the area and didn’t see him in sight.
“Dante!” I jogged around in pursuit of him.
“DANTE!” I picked up the pace when I didn’t hear the jingle of his collar.
I found him sitting at my father’s side on a bench in the lily garden. He was content being petted. My father’s eyes were fixed on the wishing fountain that was surrounded by white lilies. Something was deeply troubling him. Dante sensed it. He sat very still, silently comforting him with his presence. I sat down on the other side of Dante.
“Lilliana would have been twenty today.” My father finally spoke. “I had a new patch of lilies planted.” He pointed at them.
“They are beautiful.” I looked at him instead of at the flowers.
“She would have been.”
“Is this what you do every year on what could’ve been her birthday?”
“I had this built for her. That is why it is restricted.”
“Do you come here often?”
“I used to do it whenever I missed Jay. I would sit here for an hour or so and wish that I could go back and redo so many things. I would also wonder how she was and imagine what she would say in response to the dilemmas I was dealing with.”
His somberness was warranted, but I hated seeing him so defeated. He was with woman he loved. He was making positive improvements to the country. Our approval numbers were at an all time high. He had every reason to be happy. Instead of feeling it, he surrounded himself in the sadness that accompanied his biggest loss.
“Why is he so comfortable around you?” I watched Dante cozy up to him.
“We spent the majority of our time together. He has a lounge area and toys in my office. He sits at my feet when it gets late, telling me to go to bed. He shares a room with me. I take him for walks on the beach when I need to get away. He loves Jay too.”
“So essentially, you have stolen my stolen dog.”
“I have not stolen him. He was confiscated to begin with. I have properly cared for him while you have been away at school. I understand why you and Izzie grew to be so fond of him. He is kind-hearted.”
“And a little too brave. He is always going places he shouldn’t and pushing boundaries.”
“Like someone else I know.” He eyed me.
“I stayed on the premises today. I am glad I did. We have important business to take care of. You should marry Jacqueline and propose tonight.”
“Scusa?” He looked to me abruptly.
“Do what you could not do then. Do you think she would say yes?”
He smiled softly to himself. “I do not want to be presumptuous, but I think so. We talk about what our lives could be all the time, but she does not want to be a bride, especially a public one. She feels like it is too late for that.”
“Do it privately. You have already had a televised wedding. You can do it at Christmas. Have your honeymoon during your usual holiday.”
“I cannot do that to the advisors. The citizens could feel betrayed. I would be away. They would be left to deal with the aftermath.”
“I can handle it. Vouch for you in the name of love. I could use practice dealing with press releases. Have your private day. Film it. I’ll be here while it airs. Your wedding will be personal this time; set a precedence for your intimate marriage.”
“Why are you in favor of our union?”
I shrugged. “You have wanted to be with her for so long. Why wait? I think mother will accept it.”
“Ambrose seems like a good match for her. He passed his background check and she speaks highly of him.”
“You speak to her?”
“Jay started making me see a counselor after Will told her excessive stress was making my blood pressure too high. –“ He expressed mild annoyance.
“And you have the nerve to call Izzie and ask her of my condition. I have a legitimate reason to start calling Jacqueline. I need to make sure you are taking care of your heart. That is how –“
“I know. That is why I listened when I was told to build a relationship with Katalina to eliminate a stressor. It has helped significantly. I was harboring a lot of guilt. I feel better knowing she is far happier now than she ever was with me.”
“Will Jacqueline be visiting today?”
“Yes, for a late dinner. She likes to work to excess on this day to keep her mind off of it.”
“We have plenty of time to visit the jewel vault and select an engagement ring.”
“I do not want her to have one of those. She has endured too much at the hands of those who came before us. I can have a collection brought here. I need your help preparing.”
“It was my plan. I would have inserted myself without the invitation if you would not have offered.”
He smiled . “You are more proactive.”
“It is in part because of a pact Izzie and I made the day we started seeing each other. She speaks her mind and I have to utilize my leadership abilities.”
“We were worried for some time that you did not have them, that you were coddled to the point of being apathetic.”
“I repressed them. She saw that, just as I knew she was too scared to raise the voice I knew she had. I did not want to give people the impression that they could depend on me. I was worried about what they would say once I failed. She made me scared of what would happen if I did not. It was selfish at first; I did not want to lose her, but it has evolved past that.”
“Do you still love her?”
“Yes.--” I smiled to myself. “There is a lot to love about her. The level on which she understands me makes it so that I always feel connected to her. I can see myself remaining with her for a long while.”
“That is a wise decision.”
“Let us hope, but today isn’t about me. ”
“I am really going to propose?”
“Yes. Let’s do this.”
I reattached Dante to his leash and the three of us went back inside. It was a whirlwind of an afternoon. He called for my mother’s blessing, which he gained with ease. A large selection of rings was brought to the palace. He chose the lily diamond ring the moment he caught sight of it. We moved on to location and logistics.The stage was all set by her 10 PM arrival. I was asked to join my father for breakfast the next day.
Jacqueline was in the casual dining area with him. Her left hand was out of view.
“Good morning.” I put my napkin in my lap.
Both of them greeted me. Jacqueline glanced in his direction, coaxing him to start the conversation.
“We are not engaged.” He spoke.
“Then why was I asked to come here?” I looked between the two of them.
“I want to say yes, but I need you to be fully aware of what that means.” She answered.
“It is more than me just becoming your stepmother --”
“You seem more than equipped to handle the task of being queen. If my grandmother can do it without people revolting, you can. You are a vast improvement in the ways that matter.”
“Well, yes, that, but before I started seeing your father, I began getting fertility shots. I have plans to go through with zygote intrafallopian transfer as soon as I settle on a sperm donor. If I marry your father, it will be him.” She explained with apprehension.
“The shots have been painful; the hormones have been wrecking havoc on my body; and it has turned into a major financial investment, but I am doing it because I want to bear a child more than anything. It is now or never at my age. Your father is willing to go through this with me again, but I cannot impose that on you without your consent.”
“The advisors have been complaining that things have been getting too quiet around here. I think a baby will satisfy them.“I picked up my glass of orange juice, not skipping a beat.
“But that would mean --”
“I have always wanted a sibling. They will be substantially younger than me, but that just means I will be able to teach them more. Both of you need this. I could never say no to something of this significance.”
“Thank you.” She offered me a stiff smile as her eyes shined with tears.
“I told you he would be receptive.” He put his hand on top of hers.
“It is a lot of change. I did not want to be the one to storm in an turn his world upside down.” She turned to him.
“Now that you know there is nothing holding us back. Will you marry me?” My father removed the ring from his suit’s breast pocket.
“Third time is a charm.” She offered him her left hand.
He slid the ring onto her ring finger. “You will be my wife in one month.” He kissed the back of her hand.
“I wanted to elope the first time. It took you twenty years to finally listen to me.”
“I will stop at nothing to protect you this time. I will make you happy.”
“I would not be here if that weren’t already the case.” She kissed him, putting her hand on the side of his face.
“I am going to be a father again.” He tested out the sound of that as he settled back into his seat.
“Don’t get your hopes up too high. The odds of conceiving are against us.” She picked up her fork.
“I will have specialists brought in immediately; this will happen for us. You will see.”
“I hope so. Milo has turned out well. We would love to be a part of such a family.”
She angled herself towards me. “He told me you were the one who encouraged him.” She smiled at me.
“He loves you. It seemed pointless to me to wait to make it official.”
“I will never try to replace your mother. We will build our own unique relationship. And your possible sibling will not be your replacement. We will both be an addition to what already exists. I want you to know that.”
“I love the sound of that.”
The three of us had a discussion regarding what the immediate future would hold. I was pleased by the turn of events. I was anxious to tell Iz upon our return to school.
I went to Izzie’s suite as soon as I received the text that she was back.
“Will this be a leave and come back visit?” Adam lightly jogged to keep up with my fast paced stride.
“I do not know, but would be safest to assume it will be. I think Morgan is back.”
“What gives you that impression?”
“She lives the closest. There is nothing stalling her.” I swiped us into the building.
I had trouble standing still in the elevator.
“It has only been ten days.”
“A lot has happened and I have hardly spoken to her.”
“Sami might be right about you.” He smirked.
“There is no such thing as loving someone too much.” I walked off as soon as the doors slid apart.
Morgan was the one that answered their front door.
“Is Izzie here?” I walked into the suite. She was usually the one to open it when she called me over.
“Yes, in her room.”
She grabbed my arm when I tried to walk back to it.
“Adam, you can turn to whatever you want to watch. I need to speak to Milo alone for a second.” She kept her eyes on mine as she addressed him.
I stumbled into her room as she dragged me along.
“What is going on?” I crossed my arms as she shut the door.
“Phil’s sister committed suicide. Elle is the one that texted you. She is in there with her now.”
I had spent quite a bit of time with Liza. Izzie took her under her wing throughout their trial. We ate all of our meals together for weeks on end. She was timid around me, but she grew to be very comfortable around Iz. She in turn worked hard to keep her mind off of what was going on around them by introducing her to horrible horror movies and other Izzie customs. They bonded over them, just as we had.
I looked down and swallowed the lump in my throat. “How is Iz taking it?”
“She is taking care of her basic human needs, but she has been pouring over Liza’s journals for hours. She takes notes and highlights things, but she won’t explain why.”
“Did you pry to get this information or did she disclose it willingly?”
“Pried. Elle did. One look and she knew something was wrong.”
“Does she want to see me?”
“I would say so. She has been asking us how you have been. I think she does not want you to worry about her.”
“Too late.” I excused myself from her room and walked into Izzie’s without knocking.
She was seating crossed-legged on the floor by her window. She was surrounded by leather-bound journals. She did not even bothering looking up from the page she was reading. Elle silently waved to me from her seat in the corner. I sat down on the floor in front of Iz. We were separated by her moat of books. Elle tiptoed out to give us privacy.
“My dad got engaged. They are getting married next month.”
She looked up and smiled at me. “I guess you were right. I need to call him later.”
“They will be trying for a baby too.”
“You will be a great big brother, but please don’t carry them.”
“I will not drop them.”
She nodded, giggling.
“You are still mean, but I missed you.” I extended my hand across the dividing line.
She put down her book to take it into both of hers. “I missed you too.” She kissed the back and looked down at it.
“Would you like to be my date to the wedding? It will take place the week after Christmas.”
“Of course. That means we’ll probably get to spend New Year’s Eve together. I’ve never had a New Year’s kiss before.”
“Neither have I. I will call Will and tell him to make the arrangements. That is what happened on my end. How was your mom’s?”
“I am sure they told you what happened.” Her hair created a curtain around her face as she continued to look down.
“You haven’t.” I used my free hand to tuck her hair behind her ear.
“Thank you for treating me normally.” Her voice broke.
“You still are. You said we are not what happens to us.”
Her eyes finally met mine. “I could have saved her.”
“You did everything you could.” I caressed her cheek as tears fell.
“I was almost there. I was hospitalized for my eating disorder before it got to that point. I should’ve known she would too if she wasn’t professionally helped. I should’ve warned those around her. Phil -- he’s just -- a wreck. He has taken a leave of absence from school. I –”
“You checked in on her when you had time. She chose not to reach out to you.”
“I can’t put it off anymore.” She sniffled.
“What are you talking about?” I lowered my voice, worried she was talking about us.
She sat up straight. She wiped her face on her sleeve. “Helping. I am starting a blog. It’s called Going On Life. Life is not what is moving forward, we are – life’s the name of our journey. I am going to tell Liza’s story. I am going to share the completed portion of mine, my immediate plans, and life goals. I’m going to encourage everyone that follows me to do the same – recording themselves telling their stories. The goal is to show people that they are not alone, that tons of other people are standing where they are and are asking the same questions. We are going to continue on it together. –” She used her hands more than necessary to speak, unconsciously displaying her passion.“It sounds crazy doesn’t it? Like I’m really reaching? In my mind it –“ She panic spiraled.
I took her overly expressive hands to mine to catch her attention. “You are trying to change something. The plan is supposed to be crazy. That is what innovation is – a productive spark of insanity.”
She sighed. “She believed in me. I need to do this for her – for people like us. It’s not going to be much, but –”
“One person – that is what constitutes a difference. A single life is a lot.”
“You were pretty quick to jump on my team. Is it because you think I’m cute?”
“Yes.” I maintained a straight face.
She pushed me with my favorite smile of hers, the crooked little one that was an equivalent to ‘I love you’.
“It is a bonus that I fully support what you hope to accomplish and know you have the determination needed to follow through.”
“Thank you for always humoring my silly dreams.”
“They are not silly.”
“Even Butternut Sprinkles?”
“Especially. He was a majestic mini horse. He lived up to the hype.”
The smile returned. She nibbled on her bottom lip after the fact.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No, I sorta need to do this for myself. It is my full circle moment.”
“I will refrain from stealing your thunder, but I have a request.”
“And I might abide by it.”
“I am allowed to make sure you are not losing yourself during your fit of passion. You have needs too; some of this is about you.”
“I can accept that.” She pushed away her books and scooted closer to me.
I put my arm around her. “How have you been sleeping?”
“Well with help from my mom. Human contact has always improved my ability to do it. It started with Aud when I was little.”
“I will stay with you.”
“Please let me have this one. She gets you far more often than I do. Art and I have been discussing the possibility of an intervention.”
“That’s a bit excessive.”
“So is leaving your webcams on whenever your laptops are open so that you can be around each other while you work.”
“Is the problem that I don’t do it with you too?”
“No, I need personal time. The fact of the matter is: she’s your go-to. I want to be it sometimes.”
“But that means I have to listen to our robo baby cry at night. The point of it staying with you was so that I did not have to. It was a part of our deal.”
“You still get to name it.”
“You get absolutely no input now.”
“I was never counting on it.”
“What about Adam?”
“We will do the conjugal visit arrangement. I stay here. He picks me up the next morning.”
“Okay.” She tilted her head up and kissed me.
“Okay.” I breathed when she pulled away.
She rested her head on my shoulder. “Life is short.”
“I still can’t believe it. I keep hoping that I imagined everything; I’ll call her, she’ll answer, and everything will go back to normal.”
I moved my hand up and down her back. “It takes time. You are handling it well.”
“I wouldn’t say all that, but I know she wants me to live my life. She wrote it in her letter.”
“She wrote you a suicide note?” I looked down at her.
“I helps to think of it as a one-sided goodbye. She mailed me a package with her journals, the diamond necklace she received for her last birthday, and the letter. She was more like me than I knew.”
“She really looked up to you. I could see it each time you interacted.”
“That’s why I have to work hard in her honor.”
“What have you done so far?”
She pulled away from me. She picked up a journal. She cozied up to my side with it in her hands. Stripes of florescent post-it notes were sticking out from the pages, lining the edges.
“They are color coded. Pink tabs are goals, yellow are quotes, orange are personal traits, and green are milestones and memories. I only mark the significant ones. I want to truly capture her essence when I record my video about her.” She gave me the book to see for myself.
I opened to a random page. Passages were underlined and notes were taken in the margins. “What does she talk about?” I flipped through the pages.
“Some of it is recaps of her day, but most of it maps out her ideas and dreams. She wanted to be a translator. She enjoyed traveling and studying languages. Her favorite vacation was the one her family took to Greece.”
She nodded. “She liked Greek mythology.”
“You hate it.” I glanced in her direction.
“Yeah, but this isn’t about me. I understand the thrill of being in the place your favorite stories took place.”
“That is why you should go back to New York after graduation.”
“They are incomparable. ” She took the journal out of my hands. She picked up her pen and resumed working.
“I have already decided what I am doing. New York is not the direction I want to go in and I am happy about that. I told you I am not doing this to skirt my life.”
“I am allowed to ask that question. It was in our verbal well-being contract.”
“Are you going to make me regret it?”
“No, I will make it worth your while.” I kissed her cheek.
“I have plans to plant a flower seed in a pot. I’ll grow it out for a bit. The next time you are in Greece, can you take it with you and put it some place beautiful?”
I smiled. “Yes, there are plenty of places on my mother’s estate that fit that description.”
“And while you are there, take a picture of it. I need it for my blog and my scrapbook.”
“I can handle that, Beautiful.”
I left to shower and gather the things I needed for school after a few hours. We ate dinner and retired to her bedroom. I watched television as she worked. I took her pen and journal away from her when it was time for bed, forcing her to go to sleep. She did not argue with me, acknowledging that fact that she was tired.
The students in our life skills class were livelier than usual when we walked into the classroom the next afternoon. Everyone was anxious to begin the most talked about project at SMA, even Finn and Sami didn’t seem too unhappy about it.
“What will their name be?” I asked Iz once we were seated.
“Full names are Dessen if it is a girl, Fitzgerald if it is a boy. Dessie or Fitz is what they will be called.”
“Why do I feel like they are authors’ last names?”
“You know me well. Fitz is for you. I know how you feel about F. Scott.”
“I thought you were not concerned with my feelings.”
“I guess I like you.” She winked at me.
I smiled, glad that she was still playful.
“Quiet down, Class.” Mrs. Brodsky clasped her hands together to grab our attention.
I turned my head to the front of the room.
“We are well into our child development unit. It is now time for you to try your hands at parenthood. It will be difficult. You will be kept up some nights, but if you approach it with the right attitude, it will be rewarding. I—yes, Heather?” Mrs. Brodsky stopped her introduction.
“How are we supposed to care about some robot? If I have to carry around an electronic and have feelings for it, can I just carry around my phone and pretend to be a mom?”
“No. Though it will not age or develop past this point, there are many lessons that can be learned from your baby. It helps if you try to imagine that it will. Fabricate a personality and envision a future for your little one that will –“
Izzie abruptly pushed back her chair and fled the room. I trailed after her without hesitation. My swiftness to handle the situation made Elle sit back down and remain in the room.
She was not in the hallway. I walked in pursuit of the restroom, guessing that she might have run there. I heard crying when I passed the janitor’s closet. I backed up a few steps and opened the door. She looked up from her hands. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. She was sitting on an overturned bucket. I knelt down beside her when she returned her face to her hands.
I shifted to sit beside her and put my arm around her. She put her head on my shoulder. I rubbed her shoulder and kissed the top of her head. I did my best to comfort her as she worked to calm down. She tried drying her eyes on her sleeves. I fetched toilet paper from a roll that was stored on a nearby shelf and tore her a lengthy piece of it.
She dabbed her eyes. “I can’t go back in there.“
“This is the last class of the day and she has already taken attendance. Go home. I will take your things there after class lets out.”
“What are you going to tell her?”
“The truth. She will understand.” I kissed the side of her face and rose to my feet.
I extended my hand to her to help her do the same. I shut the closet door once she had exited. She put my arm around herself. I walked her to the nearest exit.
“I love you.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed my lips.
I smiled down at her. “I love you too.”
She walked outside, wrapping her arms around herself to combat the cold.
I walked back to class with my hands in my pockets. Mrs. Brodsky stopped reading the list of pair assignments when I walked back into the room.
“You and Isabella have boy #2. –“ She gave me both the robotic child, which was resting in a carrier, and a bag filled with items for its care.
I walked back to my seat with them, trying to ignore the eyes on me. Once distribution was over, they were turned on and we spent the duration of class going over basic care instructions.
Juggling my backpack, Izzie’s backpack, baby bag, and baby carrier, I hobbled up to Mrs. Brodsky as the rest of my classmates cleared the room.
“Where did Isabella go?”
“Home. –“ I readjusted my grip on the baby carrier’s handle. “She suffered the loss of a friend to suicide over holiday. I think the talk of the child’s nonexistent future got to her.”
“My condolences. Tell her that she can take all the time she needs to recover.” She held her hand on her chest to express her sympathy.
“She does not want to dwell on it too much, but she was too embarrassed to come back in here after her sudden exit.”
“I understand. Neither of you will be penalized for it, of course. I appreciate you coming to me.”
“It is not something that needs to be hidden. Have a good evening, Mrs. Brodsky.”
“You too, Milo.”
I managed to get out of the door in one piece. I tripped shortly after I entered the hall I accidentally dropped the baby carrier and the robot inside of it started crying.
“I knew it.” Sami laughed hysterically
“He had a lot to carry. This drop shouldn’t count.” Elle smiled as hard as she could to prevent herself from laughing.
Morgan reached down to console the crying fake baby. She cradled it in her arms once she was in a standing position.
“Fine, but he will do it again soon enough and I will resume laughing.” She declared.
“I can help.” Adam took Izzie’s bag from me.
Elle did the same by taking the baby bag. I was left with my backpack and the empty baby carrier.
“Where is Magneto?” I asked Sami as we walked back to their suite.
“Finn’s got them. They are in for some quality bonding time.”
“What does that mean?” Morgan looked over at her.
“He’s doing his part and caring for them. What do you think it means?”
“It is best that I don’t give you any ideas. What is it?”
“It’s female. I was actually hoping for that. Magneto really fits it.”
“Did Iz go with Asher or Fitz for this little guy?” Elle carried her child on her hip.
“Ugh, Asher was way cuter. I told her not to go for it for you, but the girl never listens.”
“Why were you consulted?”
“Why do you THINK I was consulted?” She retorted in the same tone.
“That’s it. Art and I are going through with the intervention.”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s not going to change anything. It will be a waste of time.”
“What did you name your thing?” Sami nodded to Elle’s baby.
“Her name is Shea. We’ve gone with Monroe as her last name. We like the sound of it better.”
Nick nodded. “I appreciate the ability to insert my input.”
“Of course, Babe. You are her father.” She touched her hand to his shoulder.
“What did you name yours?” I asked Adam.
“No, it’s Neal.”
I cracked a smile at his joke. His nerdy humor was something I had grown fond of.
Izzie was in her bedroom. She was lying down on her bed. Our friends put all of our stuff into her room and left to allow her to rest in peace.
“Cuddle with me.” She requested.
I removed my shoes and spooned her from behind.
She held my hand to her chest. “I love having you at my side.”
“Literally or figuratively?” I made myself comfortable.
“Both. I always feel safe.”
“Good.” I smiled softly.“I hate that this has happened to you.” I kissed her shoulder.
“It wasn’t to me. It was to her. It just impacted me.”
“I know I said I could not be your friend, but I have changed my mind. I will always wonder how you are. I rather have a response.”
We sat in silence for a while. “I love you.” I realized she was crying.
“Hey, --” I rotated her onto her back. She looked up at me with her doe eyes. “Don’t waste a smile on tears.--” I wiped some of them away with my thumb. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“No, that’s not what it’s about. She will never get to this point. She wanted to --”
“You need to stop being so selfless for five seconds and realize that you cannot live your life bearing guilt over the fact that she is no longer living hers. I will not let you do that to yourself.”
She exhaled. “You will only see to it that my happiness lasts five seconds?” She spoke after a couple of moments.
“That is -- you just love arguing with me, don’t you?” I fought off a smile.
“You know you love it.”
“I do.” I leaned down and kissed her.
She put her hand on the side of my face to keep me in place. She eventually pulled at my tie and removed it. She moved on to unfastening the buttons of my oxford shirt, pulling the tails from my pants.
“What are we doing?” I struggled to stop.
“I want to be close to you.”
Her amber eyes roped me in immediately. I pulled her polo over her head. I put my hand on the side of her face and resumed kissing her deeply as soon as I had tossed it onto the floor. She resumed unbuttoning my shirt; she pushed it off my shoulders. I sat up and stripped out of my t-shirt. I kissed the side of her face and worked down her neck. She put her hand in my hair.
“You need to remove your bracelet.” I winced when the charms grazed the scratches that were scabbing over.
She sat up and took off both her necklace and her bracelet. She put them on her nightstand. “Let me see your back.”
“Iz, it is fine --”
I showed it to her.
She ran her fingers over my scars. “I am so sorry.”
“It’s not like you did it intentionally.”
She peppered kisses on them. “I still hate that I hurt you. I won’t wear it everyday anymore.”
“You love it. I love that you love it.” I rotated back to face her.
She put her hand on the side of my face. “I love you more.”
“Still wear it. I’ll find you a suitable replacement one day.”
“No, you won’t. You are not allowed to buy me anything.”
“Not until March 23rd.” I corrected, following her lead as she laid back down on the bed.
“Get my tights.” She breathed.
I peeled them off of her legs and settled between them. We were all over each other after that.
“Iz, do you want hot apple--” Elle opened her bathroom door without knocking.
We were over the covers. I was still wearing my pants. Iz was in her skirt. Shielding her chest was a group effort, a combination of her hands and my body.
“When should I come back?” She asked casually, unfazed by the state we were in.
“About --“Iz managed to switch gears, somehow finding her voice.
“Please leave!” I wailed with desperation.
“Geeze, calm it down, Mr. Grumpy Pants. It’s only been eleven days.” She left, shutting the door behind her.
I sighed. “This has got to stop happening.”
“You didn’t have to fuss at her like that.” She pulled my face back down to hers.
I replaced the hand she still had on her chest with one of mine.” I draw that line at you giving me time limits for her. We are going through with the intervention.” I continued our argument between kisses.
“It’s not going to change anything. It’ll be a waste of time.”
“Because that’s exactly what she said, we are doing it as soon as possible.”
“She is my best friend.”
“I am not dating both of you. It is starting to feel like it. I want to be able to have alone time.” I move my hand back to where it was before Elle barged into the room.
She gasped, holding on to my shoulder.
“Can we sort some sort of an agreement after this?” I watched her.
She nodded as she kept her eyes closed.
She nodded and pulled my face back to hers. I lost track of what I was going on about, entranced by her.
“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings by always ditching you whenever Elle calls. That’s not fair.” She gave me a breathless but serious apology as I reached into her nightstand in pursuit of one of our condoms.
“You’re still in your selfishness window. You’re not allowed to think like that.” I leaned over and pressed my lips to hers.
“Okay.” She smiled.
I placed a kiss on her forehead. “Do you still want to do this?”
“Get back to work.” She nodded over my shoulder with a soft smile.
I did as told and returned to her.
“I love you.” She breathed once we were conjoined.
“I love you too.” I initiated kissing and movement.
She clenched her eyes shut and tears delicately streamed down her cheeks at the end; they pricked in mine at the sight of them.
“You should have told me to stop.” Guilt settled like a rock at the pit of my stomach. It hurt worse when I thought of what he put her though for selfish pleasure.
“It’s not what you think.”
“You’re fragile and upset. I shouldn’t have -- I can’t stand the thought of hurting you like --”
“Please.” She rested her forehead against mine.
I anxiously waited for her explanation.
“I realized how much you love me. And --” She sniffled and smiled. “It is overwhelming to know that you’d do anything to make me happy.”
“Please be telling me the truth.”
“I am. I promise.” She initiated more kissing to ease my remaining worries. She snuggled up beside me once we were separated. I held her in my arms as her head rested on my chest. My fingers slowly slid up and down her back.
“Don’t compare yourself to him ever again.”
“I thought I took advantage of you and your situation.”
“You get so caught up in being my protector that you fail to see I am yours too. I would never enable you to do that. The guilt of that would eat you alive.”
I kissed the top of her head.
We sat in a peaceful silence.
I was in a prime position to allow my mind to wander, but it did not deviate from her. I kissed the top of her head as I mentally reeled through all the things I loved about her.