Chapter 52: The Shade - Metric
I was jolted awake by the ringing of Milo’s room phone. He remained asleep. I shook him until he woke up and laid back down. He reached over to grab the phone from the receiver as I remained within his other arm.
“Hello?” His voice was still husky from sleep.
I closed my eyes. It took no time at all for me to fall back to sleep.
He kissed the top of my head to get my attention. “That was my wake up call.”
“Tired.” I grumbled with my eyes closed.
“You don’t think I am?”
I smirked as I thought of the previous night, but refused to get up or even open my eyes.
“I want to spend time with you before I am forced to watch you from afar. We both have to shower.” He tried once again.
“Little more sleep first.”
“Little more.” He kissed the side of my face.
He allowed me to sleep for twenty more minutes. We brushed our teeth as we waited for the water to warm.
We kissed good morning after depositing the lathered paste into the sink and rinsing it down the drain.
“We have rules.” I kept my arms around his neck as his were on my waist.
“What kind of rules?”
“I don’t want to do anything that could potentially get me pregnant.”
“That is always the case.” He kissed my lips.
“I’m serious. We’re just showering.” I put my hand on the side of his face and forced him to look at me.
“I won’t try anything. Anymore rules?”
“You have to nice to Sal. I don’t want to watch you fight, especially over me.”
“I think I can do that.”
“Know.” He corrected, kissing me.
We showered together, huddling together for warmth. We washed each other’s backs and he helped me rinse the shampoo out of my hair.
He fetched me a towel and bundled me up before getting one for himself.
“You are making it hard to leave you.”
“It is about time we were even.” He kissed the top of my head.
I closed my eyes, smiling.
He put on his glasses and walked towards his walk-in closet with a towel secured around his waist. I followed him, my eyes fixated on his arms and back muscles.
“Promise me you will be civil to Sal today. It is your father’s big day. You cannot make it about you.” I leaned on the doorway.
“I already agreed to that. You made it a prerequisite for our shower.” He sifted through his top drawer.
“That is why I am questioning its sincerity.”
“I have no intention of creating a scene. You were and are right.”
I walked up behind him and gave him a hug. “Good boy.” I placed a kiss between his shoulder blades.
“I did tell him not to go near you.”
“Why?” I kept my arms around his waist and my forehead pressed to his skin.
“He has never been appropriate with you. I will get upset if he does one more thing that crosses the line.”
“So protective.” I teased.
“I know you secretly like that I have a bit of a temper.”
I fought my hardest not to smile. “It can be sexy at times – very few times, so few times that it might as well not count. I repeat: be good today.” I stepped back to allow him to step into his briefs.
“There will be cameras present. I know better than to make a scene.”
“So what you are saying is, someone will be keying into my room soon to make sure I am presentable.”
“They will knock for you. I think their main objective is to ensure our ensembles do not clash. Silly, I know, but they concern themselves with such things.” He bent down to get his towel.
“Can I comb your hair before I leave?”
“No, you will do what you did to it last time.”
I watched as he towel dried his hair. “I promise I won’t. I don’t even have the spray and it’s shorter now.”
“If you start giggling, I will make you stop.”
“I’m not going to mess it up.” I took his hand. We had to cut through the bathroom to get to his room. He sat down on the edge of the bed. I stood between his legs. He put his hands on my hips. I found his natural part and combed it to the correct sides.
“Why is it so fun for you to play in my hair?” He asked when I was done.
“I like taking care of you.”
“I like taking care of you too.” He put his hands on my behind and pulled me closer.
I giggled and put my hands on his shoulders. “I should go.”
The close proximity and position made me kiss him instinctively. My knees were pinned to the sides of his hips. I stopped when he laid back on the bed.
“I want to, but I need to leave before your room is keyed into by staff members.” I placed a kiss on his neck before sitting up straight.
He donned an adorable pouting face. “You will be seated beside my aunt Francisca. I know you like her. An usher will escort you there. ”
“I love you.” I leaned down and kissed him.
“I love you too.”
I kissed him again, lingering longer than anticipated.
I rubbed his shoulder and mustered up the strength to leave. I returned to my room in a robe, leaving my clothes in his room for later retrieval to make our sleeping arrangement less obvious if I encountered someone in the hallway.
Breakfast was served in my room. I had plenty of time to eat it before the styling team arrived. I was not proud of the fact that I had grown used to being primped and prodded by makeup artists and hairdressers. I maintained my identity by chatting with and getting to know them. The wardrobe stylist was the last to arrive. They came into the room with multiple garment bags.
“I thought you would have ‘the one’ nailed down.”
“We did, but several designers delivered dresses to the palace when they learned of your arrival, all vying for the exposure they would receive if you wore one of their garments. Wearing a Listonenian-made garment will help nationalize your image.”
“I am the one they want to dress?” I closed my eyes when gestured to do so by the makeup artist.
“You are the young and beautiful girlfriend of the crowned prince. This is a televised event. You will be seen. Simply select a dress.”
“I can do that.”
“Good. You are scheduled to arrive at the church in an hour. We must move with haste.”
I did as discussed and refrained from thinking of myself as the girl Ophelia described. I was drawn to a short-sleeved sheath dress in a monochromatic teal floral pattern.
My shoes were simple beige pumps. My purse, earrings, and sunglasses were from the latest collections of well-known international designers. My bracelet and bee necklace were all that belonged to me. They were all that I needed to feel comfortable.
I rode to the church in a limousine by myself. I looked out the window, still in awe of the city.
It was utter madness outside of the cathedral. Police officers directed traffic, bleachers were mounted on top of the sidewalk across from the church, and a temporary projection screen was put in place so that the citizens could observe what was going on inside.
I put my hand my hair and tousled it in hopes of making it look its best. I smiled at each person I passed as I walked to the building’s entrance. Once inside, I was escorted to my seat, just as Milo promised. His aunt and uncle were already there, but most of the row was empty.
“Good morning, Isabella, it is lovely to see you again.” She greeted me with a warm smile. She was noticeably pregnant; her hand was resting on her round belly.
“Hello.” Her husband smiled at me.
“It is nice to see both of you too. I was worried I would be sitting with people I did not know.”
“Vincent and Milo would never allow that to happen.”
“Congratulations. When are you due?” I made myself comfortable in my chair.
“Thank you. Less than two months. Here’s to hoping I can remain seated throughout the ceremony. Petra Cabrillo?”
“Your dress. Is it one of hers?”
“Oh.” I looked down at it. “I believe so. The stylists brought all these dresses in and told me to pick one. She wanted to dress me, apparently.”
“I am not surprised. Young designers did the same to me when I was your age; now established ones come to me and plead to make custom wear. We are great advertisement.”
“I understand that being the case for you, but why me?” I adjusted the skirt of my dress.
“They can sense he is serious about you; they see it, we all do. They are trying to get in your good graces now.”
“And we thought we were doing so well keeping it between the two of us.” I tucked my hair behind my ear.
“The dynamic is still a mystery. It is sad, really; they have no idea how darling you are together.”
“I worry their inclusion will change things.”
“It does, but you have to trust that who you are with is capable of adapting. You are the only person capable of determining that.”
I nodded to myself, going over our relationship in my head.
“And she is moving too much.” She struggled to get out of her seat by herself. Both her husband and I helped her.
“What do you need, Darling?”
“To use the ladies room and walk around. Stay here.” She touched her hand to his shoulder before waddling away.
He sat back down.
“You have the family’s approval if that matters to you.” He told me minutes later.
“I doubt Queen Mother Henrietta does. She made her feelings towards me very clear.”
“We have been estranged from her in recent months. She will not be attending the wedding. She may still have her opinions, but we do not hear them as of late.”
“I can understand that. Where is Carlotta?”
“She is one of the flower girls.“
Salvatore and his family joined our row. His eyes fell to the ground the second ours met. His brother separated the two of us. I fidgeted with the clutch resting on my lap, discomforted by the situation. He must have been too; he was a little too interested in reading the program.
“This feels weird.” Walter announced. “You did not even say ‘hi’ to her.” He turned to his brother.
“Ask Milo why that is the case.” Sal removed his phone from his tuxedo’s breast pocket.
I sighed, grinding my teeth. “Trade with me.” I requested from Walter.
He swapped seats with me without complaint.
“He is being more stubborn than usual because I was dragged into your feud. --”
He leaned in my direction and lowered his voice. “He knows I was speaking from pure anger because of what he said. Why on earth would he relay it to you?”
“Because it really upset him. We share everything. He doesn’t tolerate people hurting me, regardless of who they are. He has witnessed too much not to be overprotective.”
“You are the easiest way to get a rise out of him. That is the only reason I said it. Please know I regret it reflecting back on it now.”
“I do, but he is prepared to remain at war with you for as long as it takes for you to back down.”
“I will not surrender to him. He is lucky I was willing to comply with his wishes today.”
“He did what he did because he loves you. Remember that.” I concluded before returning to my original seat.
The ceremony began shortly there after. All that took place was simple yet elegant, they allowed the church itself to serve as decoration. My heart skipped a beat when I saw Milo. He looked fiendishly handsome in his tuxedo. The blue sash fashioned across his body complimented my dress. He maintained perfect posture as he spoke to his father. He subtly smirked when our eyes connected. I winked at him. His grin widened.
Jacqueline was a vision of beauty as she walked down the aisle. Her wedding dress featured a modest train and appeared to be vintage. Her hair was pin back and curled and a gleaming crown encrusted with diamonds rested a top her head. King Vincent looked as though all that he wanted was making their way towards him. I placed my hand on my chest, touched by the way they were looking at each other. I felt eyes boring into me the entire time, but I did not look to see whom they belonged to until the priest began to speak.
Milo had never looked at me that way before. We were on different sides of the world when we made our future aspirations clear. He saw us standing in their place and truly desired to be there.
‘I love you.’ I mouthed.
He smiled and subtly dipped his head to agree.
It was a beautiful ceremony; their joy could be felt by all. Milo walked out of the wedding procession line and took me by the hand, prompting me to leave my first row seat. I clasped his hand tight as we walked down the aisle to exit the church. Flower petals cascaded from the sky. I looked over at him smiling. I was pleased to find him doing the same. We kissed; high on glee and each other.
Cameras were in our faces when we separated. He removed his hand from mine and put his arm around my waist protectively. He guided me through the crowd and got into the first limousine behind the convertible King Vincent and the new queen were seated in the back of.
“Are you alright?” He picked petals from my hair.
“Are you sure? Some got very close --”
“Positive. You’re going to get into trouble for staring at me the entire wedding.” I smiled as I dusted off his shoulder.
“It’s your fault.”
“You are always blaming me for things.”
He leaned in close. “You’re too beautiful.” He breathed against my lips before capturing them with his.
The car divider separated us from the driver and security guard. I tangled my fingers in his hair, using my hands to keep him close. He hitched one of my legs around his waist. We made out with ruthless intensity. He facilitated the continuous build of our kisses and touches.
I went against my body’s pleads and put my hand on top of the one making its way up my thigh in pursuit of my underwear. “Do you have anything?” I panted.
“I don’t even have my wallet.”
He rested his forehead against mine, breathing heavily.
I kissed the side of his face and start of his neck.
He groaned. “You can’t touch me.”
“Then we need to move.”
He shook his head.
“You are so stubborn.” I rubbed my nose against his. I guided his head to my shoulder and held him in my arms as he focused on calming down.
“Did you put any hickeys on me?” I thought to ask when my mind was clear.
“I can’t remember.” He carefully pried himself off of me.
I craned my neck as he scanned for them.
“Two little ones.”
I sighed. “Where?”
“Beneath your ear and on your collarbone.” He touched his finger to both splotches.
I pulled up the collar of my dress and untucked my hair from behind my ear. “Covered?”
“I’m serious. Are they really covered? I don’t want to walk around looking like I have a rash.”
“I sincerely cannot see them anymore.”
“Tell me if that changes.” I pulled down the hem of my dress.
He retied his tie. “Do I have any?”
I ran my fingers through my hair. “No. Your collar complicated things. Do you need me to fix you?”
“Please.” He angled himself towards me.
I restored him to his former glory. “There. Very handsome.” I dusted off his shoulders. “Is my makeup all gross?”
He shook his head. “You look the same as when I first saw you. Beautiful as always.” He kissed me softly.
The royal family had professional pictures taken in a formal sitting room. Everyone was all smiles, even though several configurations required Milo and Sal to stand side by side. They appeared more than cordial with each other at the end. Milo chuckled and pushed him away before walking over to where I was seated.
“Friends again?” I stood up from the couch and smoothed down my dress.
“It’s a start. Are you ready to attend the reception?”
“In what universe would I EVER pass up the quickest opportunity to eat cake?”
“My apologies. I forgot I was conversing with a confectionary fiend.”
“Do you know me at all?”
The reception was in the garden. It was the perfect weather to be outside. The theme was again simple yet elegant. They translated it to fit an outdoor tea party-style gathering. Dinner, cake, speeches, and dancing. We stuck around until the sunset. Milo drove us to the beach house to watch the New Year/wedding celebration fireworks from the water.
“Cold?” He asked as we walked along the dock.
“A little.” I crossed my arms a little tighter.
“Here, take my jacket.” He had long lost his sash and cummerbund, but he kept on the other elements of his suit.
“Will you get cold?” I reluctantly accepted it.
“No, but I put some blankets in the safety kit in case that changes.” He unfastened his cufflinks. “Put these in your purse?” He offered me the white gold circles with his family’s crest on them.
I accepted them and put them in the zip-pouch for safe keeping. I put on his jacket and helped him roll up his sleeves. We resumed walking. I sat down in the white boat he stood beside with his assistance. He gave me the kit. I secured it in its designated spot. He remained standing and untied the knot that kept the boat in place.
The full moon bouncing off of the water served as our light and the soft washes of waves supplied us with music. It was all so peaceful. Surrounded by the vast sea and an endless array of stars hung above, he was what I chose to look at.
“You need to stop looking at me like that.” He disrupted my thoughts, walking from the from the front of the boat to the back.
“Like what?” I cleared my throat.
“You know what.” He challenged me with his eyes as he sat down beside me.
I cheeks flamed. “I was just looking at you. Is that a crime?”
“Not yet, but I can change that.” He leaned back and put his arm around me.
“But I love looking at you.” I situated myself onto my side and angled my head upwards to look at him.
“I will give you all that your heart desires.” He put two fingers on the underbelly of my chin and softly pressed his lips to mine.
“It just wants you.” I swore, moving back enough to have the ability to look into his eyes.
“More is expected. It will appear as though I do not offer you --” His voice was softer, more timid and vulnerable than I had heard it in a long while.
“This is ours. I feel it each time I think of you.”
A soft, but tender kiss served as his “I love you”.
I put my hand on the side of his face and initiated a deeper kiss.
We made love beneath the stars on the floor of the boat. We were tangled together and lying on our sides underneath the blanket, kissing after the fact, still wearing our wrinkled and disheveled clothes. The first eruption of fireworks caused me to jump.
He tittered. “Happy New Year, Beautiful.”
“Happy New Year. Stop laughing at me.” I swatted his chest.
“With you and I do it because I love you.” He stated calmly as he played with my hair.
“Then don’t stop.”
“Never.” He kissed the top of my head.
“We did it on a boat.” I whispered between booms.
He smiled. “All that you hoped it would be?”
I nodded and kissed him with a smile of my own.
We sat up in our cocoon of blankets and leaned our backs against the inner side of the boat, still seated on the floor. He put his arm around me. I put my head on his shoulder and my arm across his torso as we watched the fireworks.
“I don’t care if they know.” I announced when the show was over.
“I just -- I don’t care if everyone knows that we’re destined to do it all. It is what it is.”
“I can’t believe I found you.”
“Found me?” I propped myself up to look at him.
“No need to be defensive.” He smiled. “My other half. All that you have become is rightfully yours.”
“Good boy.” I kissed him and returned my head to his shoulder. “It was a terrifying process.”
“Good terrifying, like riding a rollercoaster -- exhilarating and life-affirming.”
“That better be the case.” He rubbed my arm.
“It is. Don’t you worry.”
“Returning to the topic of our recent boat activities--.”
I cracked a smirk. “What about them?”
“More than worth waiting all day.”
“It was tough. You looked nice and smelled nice and there was all that talk of love --.” I sighed. “I don’t think I’d be strong enough to do it again.”
“Says the person that tried to risk everything three times today. Your car stash facilitated this almost as much as the boat did.”
“I have you to think for me when I forget to. It goes along with the whole other half thing.”
“You are so lucky I like you.”
“I guess.” I rolled my eyes.
“Know.” He kissed the side of my face.
“Know. But I’m still scared.” I turned my head to look at him.
“I have a secret.” He whispered.
“What is it?” I played along, lowering my voice.
“I’m scared too, but I think less.”
“And do more.”
“That’s why I need you.” He tucked my hair behind my ear. “There is so much in that beautiful head of yours.”
“And a moon, sun, stars -- a whole world I want to spend the rest of my life discovering. It’s -- it’s you.”
“And there you go saying pretty things again with your pretty voice.” I formed a half smile.
“My voice is not ‘pretty’.”
“It is. So is your face.”
He sighed and shook his head at me. “I say the things I say because I know you’ll listen -- that you’ll understand because you see something in me too.”
“A brave soul and a kind heart. I know they’re not in my imagination, even when you’re being difficult. You’re bad at hiding things from me.”
“You talked to Sal, didn’t you?”
“I did what I had to do for the one I love. Don’t sue me. I’d lose.”
He kissed the top of my head and pulled me close.
I returned my head to his shoulder. “No rebuttal, Hard-head?”
“No, you enabled me to win. He apologized. It was reluctant and short, but he did it.”
I nudged him.
“It’s over.” He chuckled. “I just want to be in this moment with you.”
“Now I feel bad for still talking.”
“Then shhhh.” He hissed in my ear.
I crawled on top of him, straddling his lap. I tucked my hair behind my ears.
“What are you doing?” He smiled as he put his hands on my legs.
“I have a moon and stars, right?” I put my hand on the side of his face and leaned down to kiss him.
“More.” He breathed before our lips’ connected and pulled my hips forward.