Chapter 5: Don't Let Me Fall - Lenka
Meeting his family certainly didn’t go the way I hoped. In a way, I knew walking in that it wasn’t going to be a particularly joyous occasion. The matriarchs wanted him with someone else, someone they felt was leagues above me. The rest of his family was nice enough, especially King Vincent and Princess Francesca. They were made an effort to make me feel comfortable. I really appreciated it and them.
After we left his family, we watched movies in the media room until bed time. Even though the mattress in my room was incredibly comfortable and I was exhausted, I had trouble falling asleep. I rolled on my side and watched the clock’s neon numbers transition. I watched them shift to 1:00 before I deemed sleeping alone as something I was incapable of doing. I climbed out of bed and went to the dresser in my room. I pulled on a gray sweatshirt on over my tank top. I grabbed my cellphone before leaving.
The hallway was dimly, which made it a lot easier to hide in the shadows and avoid the guard members that were on patrol. Okay, I’ll admit that I did start to pretend I was a secret agent on a mission. I even started to hold up a gun created by interlocking all of my fingers except for my index ones. I even rolled on the floor once. l was having so much fun pretending to be a secret agent that I was slightly bummed when I reached my destination.
I tapped on his door lightly. When he didn’t answer, I turned the door handle slowly, careful not to make a sound. I crept into the room and silently shut the door behind me. I was expecting to find him asleep but, he was actually wide awake and webchatting with the guys on his laptop.
He was so focused on talking to our friends that he didn’t notice my presence. Curious as to how long it would take for him to realize I was in the room, I leaned against the wall and watched him.
“She’s far from my favorite person, but she’s smoking hot and has a bangin’ body.” Ryan stated as if it were a fact, instead of his personal opinion.
“Dude, that’s his mom. That’s just sick!” Nick cried.
“I’m just stating facts here, Nicky. Queen Katalina could definitely get it. You agree with me, don’t you, Finn?” Ry retorted quickly.
“Queen K is bangable.” Finn responded in his usual indifferent tone.
“I told you so.” Ryan gloated.
“No, Nick’s right, it is weird that you want me to savor the fact that my mom is attractive to move past the irritating things she does.” Milo had his arms crossed over his chest and his glasses on.
“It’s basic psychology. In order to deal with difficult people, you have to focus on their redeeming qualities instead of their bad ones. And in your mother’s case, her looks are all you have to work with.” Ryan responded.
“I’m glad you decided to explain your reasoning, Dr. Stephens, because your recommendation was starting to sound very incestial.” Finn snarked.
“See! I’m not the only one that saw it like that!” Nick interjected quickly.
" I, Ryan Matthew Stephens, am not an endorser of inappropriate, completely wrong, and illegal mom x son relationships. Now that I’ve officially put that on the record, will you two zip it so that Miles can explain how Izzie made King Vincent stand up to his mother?” Ry proclaimed over-dramatically.
“Well, she stood up to my grandmother when she tried to tell us how we felt about each other. She told her that we love each other. He smiled.”
“Standing up to a former queen is a good 200 on the bad-ass scale.” Finn mused.
“So did your dad say anything or did he just smile?” Nick asked curiously.
“He talked to her. It was a relatively nice dinner. Things did not get really bad until tea. My mother and Nonna were horrible. I remedied it unconventionally.“
“How so?” Nick asked.
“I said that I was renouncing my title on my birthday to move to America to live with Iz and our non-existent child. We were dropping out of high school and I am going to be a cocaine dealer. Things got rather messy very quickly.”
Ryan and Finn busted out laughing.
“What did your parents say?” Nick asked as they continued laughing.
“My dad said nothing. My mother and Nonna started throwing fits.”
“Just to be clear, she’s not -- uh -- have you had -- made love?” Nick stammered.
“Sex. It’s okay to use the word.” Ryan chimed in.
“She’s not pregnant.” Milo stated simply
“What I don’t understand is how Izzie didn’t get mad at you. I’m pretty sure Sami would kill me if I even thought of saying that.” Finn stated.
“She found it funny. She has interesting sense of humor. I did not notify you to talk about that. I hate being here. It makes me change. I do not want it to make her hate me.”
I instantly felt terrible for overhearing such an intimate confession. I wasn’t meant to hear it. He was confiding in them, revealing his fear.
“Miles, you’re not who you were a year ago. You’re not going to react the same to the things that happen over there. Don’t underestimate how well she knows you. She can tell when you’re being yourself and when you’re someone else to please others.” Ryan explained to him thoughtfully.
I was surprised by how sweet his comment was. When you think you know a person, they go and surprise you.
“Thanks for the pep talk, Ry. I really appreciate it.”
“Now all we need to do is figure out how you’re going to get to sleep, knowing Iz is there and you’re not allowed to be in the same room.” Nick thought out loud.
“Oh, Nicky, have you learned nothing from being my roommate? There’s a way to get anywhere if you sneak in the right way. Milo, find a way past the guards, go to Izzie’s room to sleep, then go back to yours before your wake up call. It’s not that hard.” Finn explained.
“But wear your glasses!” The guys blurted out at the same time.
I stifled laughter. Milo rolled his eyes and blushed slightly.
“Whatever, I will. Have a good day.” Milo said biding them farewell.
“No chance. My mom said she’ll ground me if I don’t clean my room to her standards. They are impossibly high.” Ryan told him.
“I’m out too, night.” Finn said before he left.
“Good luck, Miles.” Nick told him kindly before he got offline.
“I am going to need it.” Milo breathed to himself as he shut his laptop. He jumped in surprised when he looked up to see me.
“How long have you been in here?”
“A while. I didn’t mean to scare you or eavesdrop on your conversation. I decided to see how long it would take for you to notice me on your own. I thought it’d take a few minutes tops, but it turns out you’re pretty oblivious when you’re talking to them.” I climbed in bed beside him.
“Great minds think alike.” He smiled over at me.
“I couldn’t sleep.” I admitted.
“Are you tired?” He scooted closer to me.
“Not particularly.” My eyes went a little cross eyed because of our proximity. I leaned in and kissed him. He deepened it by opening his mouth. I followed his lead. He pulled away and removed his glasses.
“Why do you always take them off when we make out?” I asked as he placed them on his nightstand.
“I feel like they get in the way.” He moved in close.
I placed my hand on the side of his face and kissed him. We didn’t take things past kissing. We did it for about an hour before we felt tired enough to sleep.
“How did you get past the guards?” He stared up at the ceiling.
“I’m a ninja.”
“Ry’s right.” I rolled onto my side and looked over at him.
He drummed his fingers on his chest. “It is me I do not trust. Not you.”
“I’m not going to leave you.” I placed my hand on top of one of his and put my fingers in the spaces between.
“That is not a promise you can keep.”
I inched closer to him and rested my head on his shoulder. “I’m not going to let you go without a fight.”
“I love you.” He kissed the top of my head.
“Love you too.” I sighed and closed my eyes.
“Are you going to sleep on me?” He teased.
“I’m just resting my eyes. Keep talking. I’m listening.”
“You cannot fight sleep.”
“Watch me. I can do it with my eyes closed.”
He chuckled lightly. “I would miss this if it went away.”
“Good. I don’t want to be interchangeable.”
“Mhmm. I like it. Apparently, you do too.” I smiled with my eyes closed.
“We should go to sleep. We have long day tomorrow.”
“I need plenty of beauty sleep if we’re going to trick people into thinking I’m pleasant and nice to be around.”
“Be yourself. They will fall in love with you too.” He whispered.
He settled into his spot beside mine and we went to bed.
I woke up early to the alarm I set on my phone. I was careful enough to turn it off before it woke Milo. I pecked him on the cheek and crept out of bed quietly. I returned to my room as discretely as possible. I wanted to make the best impression possible. I ran into no one on my journey.
I showered and changed into workout clothes. We were having a ballroom dance lesson after breakfast in preparation for the ball that night. I was most excited for that aspect of the day. I knocked on my Milo’s door when I was done getting ready. He opened the door, a small smirk gracing his face.
“When did you abandon me?”
“This morning. I have needs too, you know?” I joked.
“I don’t know about you, but I am famished.” He came out into the hallway and shut his door.
“Breakfast sounds great. It’s the most important meal of the day.”
“You do enjoy breakfast.” He smiled over at me.
“Yes. I can’t douse my other meals in powdered sugar without people asking what’s wrong with me.”
He chuckled and draped his arm across my shoulders.
When our breakfast arrived, I smiled like crazy. The plate of French toast with powdered sugar and fruit looked like something ripped from a magazine. It was beautifully plated, artistic even. I felt guilty for digging into it right away.
“The food here’s amazing.” I told Milo between bites.
“It is even better when it is late and I’m drunk.”
I laughed. “I’m sure.”
Wilmer joined us at the table with a binder, a man in his early thirties, and a cup of coffee.
“Good Morning. Calvin, I would like you to meet Izzie. Izzie, this is my assistant Calvin.” He introduced as he organized what he brought along.
I waved with a smile. “I’m sure you’ve read all about me.”
“Yes.” He stated simply.
My smile fell flat and I resumed eating my food.
“Why was I not informed of your very interesting life plans?” Wilmer asked Milo playfully.
“It’s not true.” Milo replied.
“For your sake, I hope not. Both queens, past and present, are still fuming.”
“Is that why you were sent here with back-up?” Milo questioned lightly.
“Among other things. The questions I need to ask are personal. This is not easy or fun for me, but it is my job to know.”
“It always is.” Milo resumed drinking his juice.
“What type of things are you going to ask?” I looked from Milo to Wilmer.
“Have you been intimate?” He asked seriously.
I blushed and glanced over at Calvin, who was ready to take notes. “You’re diving right in there.”
“Tone it down. It is early.” Milo requested as though it was something that had happened countless times before.
“The time does not change the fact that I have to know what goes on within your relationship before it is confirmed by you during your interviews. If you are having sex and not being careful, I am the one who has to hear about it and deal with the aftermath. I want to do neither.” Will explained.
“Don’t share what we tell you with just anyone, okay?” I requested.
“I am working. I am not allowed to share what is disclosed to me with people who do not need to know. I am under contract. We both are.”
“We have.” I admitted.
“Have you been taking the necessary precautions? Have there been any pregnancy scares?”
“Yes and not that I know of.”
“I’ve never thought that I was pregnant. Please say we’re done with the awkward questions.” I dabbed my lips with the napkin in my lap.
“We are. We are going to go over today’s schedule one more time as you eat. After breakfast, King Vincent would like to speak to you, Izzie.”
And when I realized what he had said, looked up at him wide-eyed.
“Without me?” Milo asked in disbelief.
“He specified that he wanted to speak to her alone.”
“May I speak with him now?”
“You WANT to talk to him?” Milo questioned skeptically.
“He was a decent enough guy the last time we talked.” I shrugged.
“Are you sure you do not want to finish your breakfast first?” Wilmer asked in response.
“Positive. I can’t dance on a full stomach.”
“Calvin, do you mind escorting Izzie to the King’s office?”
“Not at all, Sir.” He rose to his feet and buttoned his jacket.
“If you feel uncomfortable, text me. I will be there in a matter of moments.”
“I won’t need you.” I stood to my feet and ruffled his hair.
Milo hadn’t taken me exploring by that point. I looked around wide-eyed and in awe as I followed Calvin. It was different than the way my parents’ penthouse was decorated. It was the real deal – the type of wealth that granted them access to all the wonders the world had to offer. They were untouchable. My father had money, but he was no king. There were only a select few who could afford to live the way they did.
We stopped in front of a set of double doors. I found myself wondering what the big deal was with wide entrances. Was it for style reasons or was there a purpose?
“I will announce you first. Enter when I return.” Calvin instructed simply.
He knocked on the door and entered when addressed. I waited in the hallway, meddling with my necklace and looking around.
“You may enter now. I will be right out here waiting. Once you are done, I will take you back to Prince Milo.” He kept the same clinical expression.
“Thank you.” I remained polite and offered him a smile.
I took a deep breath and walked inside.
“Good Morning, King Vincent. You requested to see me.” I stood near the door, unsure of where to go.
He smiled at me. “Please have a seat, Isabella.” He gestured to one of the upholstered armchairs in front of his desk.
“You can call me Izzie. I’m not trying to correct you or anything. You’re fine. I didn’t mean -- not that you’re not attractive. You are. Milo looks a lot like you. Your son’s really handsome. Wow, this is getting inappropriate. Please make me stop talking. You’re my boyfriend’s dad, a king of an entire country, and I am making a complete and utter fool of myself on every front.” I rambled nervously as I sat down.
He chuckled. “Do you always talk this much?”
“No. I’m bad with dads. My own hates me. That was too much information. You make me nervous, when I’m nervous, I ramble.” I blushed.
He clasped his hands together on his desk. An undeniable look of sympathy adorned his face. I looked down at myself to get away from it.
“You have had a rough year.” He stated gently.
“I hate that you know that. Um, yes, but it’s also been a good one. I’m at a school that I love. I made friends -- best friends in fact. There’s been bad, but there’s been plenty of highlights too.”
“You are brave.”
“No. I’m blessed. I have people that support me and want to see me succeed. I couldn’t have done this without them, your son included.”
I looked up at him. “He is so much more than what you have seen.”
He sighed heavily. “I’m sure he has told you we do not have the strongest relationship.”
“He’s mentioned it.”
He looked down at his hands. “I did not know how to be there for him, knowing it was my fault he hated his life. Things have changed and so have I. ”
“He mentioned that too.”
“The arrangement is over, but I have got my mother pestering me. She wants Osha with Milo. She will grow up to be just like her. I want him to be happy. That is why I am happy you are here.”
“Me?” I questioned in disbelief.
He nodded. “You understand him. He has never been like this before. I mean that in the best way possible. I think you are good for him. He is reading for Christ’s sake.”
I giggled. “It took a while, but I coaxed him into it without his knowledge.”
“I am happy to hear he is appreciated for who he is, not what he is.”
“I love him, clumsiness and all.” I was unable to keep a smile off of my face.
He grinned to himself. “How did you forgive him?”
“It wasn’t intentional. He wore me down and became my best friend.”
“You were friends before you became his girlfriend?”
“I have abandonment issues. I didn’t want a boyfriend, but I wanted him.”
There was a knock at the door and he removed his eyes from mine.
“You may enter.” He announced.
“King Vincent, your signature is needed on these forms.” A woman walked into the room and approached his desk.
“Can they wait? I was in the middle of --”
I rose to my feet. “We can talk later. You’re busy. I’m sure Milo’s worried. He thought you’d make me uncomfortable – you know, the dad thing. I didn’t think so. You’re a nice person. I’m going to stop myself and leave on a high note. It was nice talking to you, King Vincent.”
“Thank you, Izzie.” He smiled at me.
I waved goodbye and strolled out of the room.