Chapter 66: Tear in my Heart - Twenty One Pilots
“Is everything alright with Izzie? I wished happy birthday earlier and she seemed fine, but that was hours ago.” Audrey began our phone conversation panicked.
“She’s perfectly fine. She’s out shopping for a prom dress with her roommates.”
“Do you know if our mom called her?”
“She mentioned she had at brunch. She was very upbeat when she spoke of her.” I put one foot in front of the other as I walked the length of my room.
“Good. She has been doing well for over a year, but I still worry. Izzie has grown very attached to her.”
“She has, but I think it is for the best. Izzie’s complete faith in her keeps her on the right track.”
“I believe that to be the case too. They make each other very happy.”
“That’s all I want for her.” I solemnly swore.
“Did I miss something?”
I rubbed the back of my neck. “It will not happen right away. I will finish university first. Childbearing will not occur until after her stage career ends. We have a plan; this has been thought through –“
“Milo?” She calmly disrupted my long-winded proposal.
“Are you planning to ask Izzie to marry you?”
My mouth was desert dry. “We are both eighteen. The marriage will not begin until we are in our twenties. See this as a promise, one I would like to make before we both live in Listonenia.”
“Is it a promise you are making because there is no reason to wait or are you making it because you fear you will drift apart without it?”
“I love her more than anything. We could remain as we are and I know without a doubt in my mind that we would have a very happy life together. Unfortunately, I will have a lot of pressure to fulfill certain duties as I get older.”
“You have to keep taking care of her the way you do. You have protected her in situations where the wrong move could have proven detrimental to not only her reputation, but her health.”
“Izzie has mentioned you get told what to do a lot.”
“Every day of my life. I have more leeway while I am overseas. As soon as I return home, my choices are no longer mine to make. I am a crucial part of a collective image.”
“You need to choose her while you still have the opportunity to.”
“Yes. My parents and most of my family have grown very fond of her, but our advisors are still divided. They are always in our ears. Fighting them is excruciatingly tiring. They generally win.”
“If you choose her now, you have to be prepared to defend her later. I will not watch her be ripped apart from afar.”
“I am prepared to lay it all down for her. I have always stood as a barrier between them and her; that is where I will remain.”
“What about an heir?”
“What about them?”
“When will they start pressuring you to produce one?”
“The day I graduate from university. We will not do it until her stage career is over; we’ve already discussed it.”
“She has the potential to dance for a very long time, perhaps even into her forties. How will that be handled?”
“She will determine the best time to take a break. I will care for them while she trains and we’ll support her when she returns to work.” It took no time at all for me to conceive my answer.
There was a long pause. “Izzie Bee means the world to me. I would not approve of just anyone dating her, let alone proposing, even if it were premature. If I had to choose for her, it would be you, but it is her decision to make. I only steer her away from danger.”
“I can count on you to be supportive and receptive if or when Izzie calls you with the news tomorrow?”
“Yes, I will go as far as to tell Everett all that you have to me to ensure his reaction is positive too.”
“Should I call your mother? I don’t want to disrespect her or lead Izzie to believe I am still skeptical of their relationship.”
“Both of them would be touched that you put forth so much, but I think calling her would be a bad idea.”
“I thought she liked me.”
“She does, but she will project her past partners’ negative attributes onto you. She will tell Izzie to leave you, which is what she should have done when they asked for more commitment.”
“What if Izzie calls her after I ask her?”
“I’ll speak to her tonight. I will talk her down, remind her that this is Izzie’s decision and her life.”
“I can postpone. A riff between the two of them is the last thing I want.”
“She’ll have the same initial reaction regardless of time. She knows how deeply Izzie cares for you. Her emotions will get the best of her when we talk. She will be thinking clearly when she speaks to Iz. What do you have planned for her second birthday?”
“It is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz-themed scavenger hunt. It has taken a year to plan. I will lose my sanity if it does not turn out as it should.”
“Since when has ‘wonderful’ been a part of the title?”
“When it was published in 1900. She read the series last year. I think she will get more of a kick out of the book version.”
“You know her well. The concept itself is enough to make her happy.”
“That’s why I love doing things like this for her. I only do it because I want to, never because I have to.”
“I don’t have my keys.” We were barely beyond the hill when Izzie made the announcement.
“We should go back to get them.”
“Running away together was fun while it lasted.” We turned around.
“Very romantic.” I took her hand back into mine.
“Almost too much so if I really think about it.” She looked over at me with the most beautiful of smiles.
I kissed her forehead. She tightened her hold on my hand.
I helped her walk down the steps without skidding in her heels.
“You look beautiful.” I was sure to tell her when we were on flat ground.
She blushed. “Thank you.” She kissed my cheek.
“She’s blushing. Say something dirty?” Ryan was the first to approach us.
“No, I know how to talk to my fiancée in public.”
“There’s a reason I said yes.”
Elle ran up to us and hugged Izzie with all her might. “M-m-maid of honor?”
Izzie musically giggled. “You will be, but it’s not going to happen for a very long time.”
Elle stepped back and put her hands on either side of Izzie’s face. “You are going to be a pretty, pretty princess and I will hold your train regally, but subtly. You will be the star.”
“A supporting actress for one day only.”
“Only for you, Babydoll, only for you.” She kissed the top of her head and freed her from her grasp.
The varying versions of congratulations were not as uncomfortable as expected. Sami took Dante off our hands according to plan. Reunited with her keys, Izzie was able to get into her suite. She quickly grabbed a jacket and a purse and we were out the door.
“I would buy this if it were in a store.” She examined her ring in the car.
“I thought you would like it. It is a little formal, but you could get away with it being perceived as an ordinary ring.”
She tore her eyes from it and looked at me with insecurity. “Do you want me to change its location?”
“I’m ready to claim you, but I don’t know how you feel about the possibility of large-scale attention on day one.” I was able to hold her hand at the stoplight.
“I told you I don’t care what anyone thinks.”
I kissed her hand in the little time I had left.
“I called Audrey yesterday and told her what I was doing.” I let her know as I drove.
“What did she say?” She pulled down the sun visor.
“She asked very practical questions –“
“As she does.” She corrected her makeup.
“She forced me to really think about us realistically; I was able to come up with the answers with ease. She gave me her blessing. My confidence in my decision grew tenfold.”
“Hopefully she will call mom before I do. I don’t want her to try to take this away from me.”
“Aud texted me this morning to let me know she had and it went well.”
“That takes a load off. I want to be nothing but happy today.”
“You can call her now if you would like. It is going to take a little while to get to where we are going.”
“It won’t take long at all.”
“Take your time. This is important.”
It sounded like a very positive conversation from my perspective. She was laughing and smiling the entire time. She continued the pattern when she called Audrey.
She relaxed in her seat. “How did your parents react?”
“My mom was the first one that I told I wanted to marry you. She told me to be sure. I said I was; she helped me by buying your ‘basket’.”
“Does you dad know?”
“Dante wouldn’t be here if that weren’t the case. He said he thought I’d take more time to get to this point, but he understood. You don’t get to choose when you find a person who is able to understand.”
“I wouldn’t have said yes this summer, not for several years. Liza left and Papi is almost gone. Commitment doesn’t scare me nearly as much as losing you.”
“The fragility of it all changed my mind too.”
“I trust you. I also trust that you will not disappointment me on my second birthday. Where are we going?”
“Boston. I think you will like the evening I have planned for us.”
“I’d hope so. You’ve been planning awfully hard and avoiding me for way too long.”
“I was not avoiding you. I was finalizing everything. There were a lot of moving pieces.”
“You have to describe all of them to me.”
I turned into the parking lot of our first destination. I anxiously awaited her reaction.
“How could you do this to me? You drove me to a closed candy store. Closed, Milo. As in, I can’t go in and get candy!”
“No, we can’t. Look at the sign.” She pointed to it.
“We can.” I unbuckled my seatbelt.
“You rented out a candy store?” She tried to be upset with me, but her face gave away her excitement.
“No, my mother did.”
“Milo.” Her bottom lip poked just a touch.
“She wants you to know she accepts us.”
“I gathered that from the bag.”
“She considers both gifts to be very small. She insisted on more than one.” I moved in close to kiss her.
“I should call her to say thank you.” She pecked me twice more.
“Tomorrow. It is me and you for the rest of the rest of the day.”
She held my hand as we entered the store. She was genuinely sweet the to the staff, making sure they knew she appreciated their extra work. They were the ones that broke the news her tab was completely covered and she could pick out whatever and however much she wanted.
She picked up two hand-held shopping baskets and gave them to me to hold. She grabbed two for herself. She picked through the entire store, cultivating a wide variety of sweet snacks.
“You’re restricting yourself to four baskets?” I waited at the counter as she was checked out.
“This is an amount I can handle. I’d hate for candy to go to waste.”
I carried all of her bags to the car. She carried her candy to pep to the restaurant I drove us to.
“Yay, you didn’t rent this place out.”
“But my father did pay for our dinner prior. He wanted to wish you a happy birthday.”
“I have to call him too.”
She untied her ribbon and shook her hair from its partial up do. She oriented her loose curls in a more adult manner.
I held her door for her as she exited the car and entered the restaurant. It was authentic Italian. Elle told me to take her an Italian restaurant, telling me she was hoping I would take her to Guigino’s on our first date to hear me speak the language.
Our table was intimate and private, romantically lit by a candle. I held the fingers on her left hand with my right ones. Our conversation was our most mature to date; we covered everything, pasts, present, and our conjoined future.
Outside, paparazzi were waiting for us. The glass doors in front of us served as a barrier.
“This is it.” She breathed through her nervousness.
I looked over at her. “I will protect you.”
“You always do.” Her eyes met mine.
I kissed her. I felt her relax a bit when my arm was moved to her waist. I did not start walking until I saw one of my far guards.
The lights were blinding due to the dark atmosphere in which our eyes had adjusted. Iz used her hand to shade herself from the flashes. I was too busying trying to navigate to do the same. The photographers’ silence made it easier to ignore them. I made sure she was safe and sound in the car before getting in myself.
I put both hands on the steering wheel and took a deep breath to unwind.
“My right arm was around you. I had to use my left hand.” She walked on eggshells as she admitted the truth.
“We agreed that it was okay. We’re not going to think about the headlines tomorrow or what anyone thinks. It is still your birthday for a few more hours.” I picked up her hand and held it.
She leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Thank you for today.”
“Thank you for refusing to be anyone other than yourself.”
The ride home felt shorter than the ride to Boston. I insisted on carrying her bags of candy to her room.
“Is Dante staying for the rest of the semester?” She held onto my bicep as we walked.
“He goes home tomorrow. He received one-day clearance.”
“Can we ride with him to the airport?”
“It’s already on the schedule.”
“Thanks, Honey.” She momentarily leaned onto me.
“What do you want to do for the rest of the night?” I waited as she unlocked her suite.
She simply looked over her shoulder. I was quick to follow her through the door.
“Be careful with my candy.” She held open her bedroom door for me.
“I know better.” It was delicately placed on her desk.
“I’m the only one you’re going to be with for a very long time. Worried you’ll get bored?” She stripped off her jacket.
“Not even a little bit.” My eyes slowly scanned her body. “Are you?”
“A little.” She made direct eye contact as a cheeky smirk was planted on her face.
“I’ll do what I can to persuade you.” My arms slithered around her waist.
Our initial kiss was strong, one easy to melt into and take further.
“You asked me.” She breathed against my lips as we made out on her bed.
“Stop thinking.” I sucked her bottom lip.
It spurred her to kiss me with unbridled passion.
“You actually asked me.” She thought aloud as I kissed down her neck.
“Iz, --“ I groaned as I rubbed the thigh hinged onto my waist.
“You really want me; it’s not a hypothetical or a joke anymore. It’s finally set in.”
I leveled my face with hers. “How do you feel about it?”
“Pleasantly surprised and relieved. You want me too.”
“Of course. I love you.“I picked things up from which they were when we paused.
She gained my attention by putting her hand on my face. “Slow.”
“I want to savor the moment.” Her glacial but forceful kiss was all that I needed for persuasion.
It was tough not to move quickly, having had been away from her for so long. I was forced to focus. But her call was a good one. I was able to take in little things I typically missed. I felt much closer to her afterward.
She was quick to fall asleep after we made love. I was unable to do the same. I held her and played with her hair. She rolled over after a while. I crept out of bed and went into the bathroom with my phone. I sat on the edge of the tub and selected the number I wanted.
“What was her response?” My father was the one to answer his office phone.
“Yes. She didn’t even hesitate.” I kept my voice down.
“You do not sound as happy as I expected.”
“Everyone is asleep; I have to be conscious of my volume.”
“There is something more.”
I scratched the back of my head. “Someone leaked our restaurant location. Photographers were waiting outside when we left. I didn’t even think there were paparazzi in Boston.”
“Someone must have contacted media outlets ahead of time. Was she wearing her ring?”
“Yes and I know it was seen.”
“I will have Wilmer press statements, explaining the situation. The breach will be investigated and the parties will be dealt with appropriately.”
“Who I am is the reason I need her, the reason I asked her now instead of at a socially acceptable age. They’ve never been able to reach us here; they chose the worst day to discover our whereabouts.”
“Did her mood dampen after the incident?”
“Not permanently. She was nervous during and apologetic in the car. She was back to normal by the time we were back at school.”
“Why was she apologizing?”
“Her left hand was the only one she had access to. She used it to shield her eyes from the flashes.”
“Tell me you eased her insecurities.”
“I did. It was far from her fault.”
“She is very vulnerable right now, more so than you have ever been or will be. You need to make sure she knows that she has you. Many will try to convince her that she does not.”
“You know I will remain here for her.”
“I do, but I also want to make sure you do not make the same mistake I did the first time. I thought I could back off because she had grown used to their presence. They cornered her.”
“She does not complain. I know to watch her.”
I was calm enough to sleep after our discussion. Izzie’s lamp was switched into the on position. She was lying on her side, angled towards the door.
“You left me.” Her face was soft and her voice was relaxed.
“You were sleeping.” I pulled back the covers on my side.
“You left me.”
“I love you.” I situated myself onto my side.
“You should’ve told me you were upset.”
“I wouldn’t say upset.” I tucked her hair behind her ear.
“It’s okay to be. Just tell me why.“
I fell victim to her doe eyes. “They interrupted your day.”
“For a second. It grounded the day that otherwise would have been too perfect. I like smudges.”
I planted a kiss on her forehead.
Her hand migrated to my shoulder. She massaged it. “Do you feel better?”
“Yes. My father gave me further insight.”
“You should have handed me the phone. I could have thanked him for all he has done for me today.”
“I want you to myself for a little while longer.”
She touched her lips to mine. “You have to be exhausted.”
She reached over and turned out the light. She took my hand and pulled my arm across her body, arranging us in our spooning position. I made myself more comfortable. She wiggled her bottom to do the same and put her cold feet on my legs.
“I love you, Beautiful.” I kissed her shoulder.
“I love you too, but it’s sleepy time.”
I closed my eyes with a smile.