Chapter 9: With Me - Sum 41
Izzie and I had a few days to enjoy our summer as normal teenagers. By the weekend, I was reinstated as Prince Milo. A museum fundraiser called for my appearance. She viewed it as an opportunity to reassert her image. I was simply glad to have her there with me.
She opened her bedroom door and I was rendered speechless.
Her hair was pulled away from her face and placed in an elegant low bun. Her makeup erased all visible flaws on her skin. Her eyelids faintly glimmered gold. Her eyelashes were thickened and elongated. Her plump lips looked delectable coated with a hint of color. Her gold dangling earrings drew attention to her collarbones, which were tastefully exposed. Her short-sleeved floral dress was at an age-appropriate but still modest length. It singed in her waist and created curves. Her heels accentuated her athletic legs and lengthened her body.
My mind cycled through everything I wanted to do to her.
“Are you okay?” She tilted her head to the side.
I cleared my throat and loosened my tie. “Fine.”
“Are you here to pick me up?” She walked back inside her room. I followed her inside.
“Yes. The car is downstairs.” I leaned against the archway and put my hands into my pockets to adjust my pants.
“Are we riding with your parents?” She spritzed her wrists and neck with perfume.
“No. They are taking their own car.”
“Great. Time to prepare.” She pinned back one of her curly tendrils that managed to wiggle loose.
“My public debut. They have seen a glimpse of me, but have yet to hear from me. I need to be on my A-game.” She checked herself out in the mirror, simultaneously smoothing down her dress.
“I am sure you will dazzle them.” I checked my watch.
She picked up the hand-held purse that was resting on the dresser. Putting one foot in front of the other, she sashayed up to me. I was once again caught in a daze.
“Do I look alright? You keep staring.”
“You are making it difficult for me to think straight.”
“You get one kiss the entire night because I don’t want to get a substantial amount of lipstick on you. Would you like to cash it in now?”
“No, I will exercise patience.” I kissed her forehead.
I held her hand as we walked downstairs. A town car was waiting for us at the main entrance. She entered the car with assistance from a staff member. I sat down beside her. The doors were closed and we were off. The sun was down; twinkle lights draped from rooftops lighted the Listonenian streets. A red carpet stretched from the curb to the main stairs. Cameras flashed like lightning as high-caliber guests walked by. When the car door was opened, it was our turn to take center stage. I exited first. I fastened my suit’s middle button once I was in an upright position. Izzie’s knees were firmly pinned together when she stepped outside the car, not falling victim to the accidental underwear display. I offered her my hand. She delicately put her fingertips in my hand and hoisted herself up with her core strength. It looked effortless. She garnered a firmer grip on my hand when she was standing.
We walked forward. I kept sneaking glances at her as pictures were taken. She worked the camera with ease, giving reporters the shots they needed to further publicize our relationship. They were finally able to put a face to the name. She gave them one they would never forget.
Her poise was maintained when we were inside. Plenty of pointless small talk was made. I shook hands with people whose faces I vaguely remember, but whose names I would never be able to recollect. We were given glasses of champagne as the evening progressed.
Izzie turned so that her mouth was parallel with my ear. “I can’t drink. I’m scared to ask to trade my champagne for water. People might think I’m pregnant. Please help me.”
I looked around to ensure no one was watching before quickly downed my glass of champagne and handed her the empty glass. I took hers and sipped on it. She flagged down a nearby waiter.
“May I have a glass of water?” She put her empty glass on his tray.
“Of course, Miss.” He handed her a glass.
“Do you need anything, Your Highness?” He bowed.
“No, thank you.”
“Thank you for doing that.”
“I want you to feel comfortable.”
“Do you want to kiss me?”
“Yes.” I blurted without thinking.
She leaned in my direction and I planted a firm but appropriate kiss on her. She pulled away smiling.
“Nervous Milo is a good kisser.” She removed the pigment from my lips with her thumb.
I blushed. She giggled and kissed my cheek.
“We need to greet my parents.” I touched my hand to her lower back. We made our way across the room, maneuvering through the patrons in our path.
“Good evening, Your Majesty.” She executed a flawless curtsy.
“Izzie, it is nice to see you here. I hope you are enjoying yourself.” He smiled.
“I am, thank you.”
“Do you have a favorite artist, Isabella?” My mother paused her conversation with the curator to ask.
“Here at the museum or in general, Your Highness?” She politely requested clarification.
“Barbara Kruger is my favorite artist overall. Her work makes a statement about different civil issues in a simple yet captivating way. There is a lot she can do with red, black, white, and gray.” She brought her glass of water to her lips.
“Are you interested in art?” Another curator joined our circle.
“Yes, my sister took me to the Met a lot when she was in college. It started when she took an art history course and wanted to squeeze in time to hang out with me. We kept going after the fact because it was the only place we had intellectual middle ground. We both started from scratch, but learned a lot through reading plaques. I prefer more contemporary work, but there are a few classical exceptions.”
“If you had to rank your top five artists, whom would they be?” They continued to engage her.
“1. Barbara Kruger: I like her fearless approach to social justice, 2. Cy Twombly: his scribbles are hypnotic and the abstract allusions he creates are easy to get lost in, 3. Berthe Morisot: her brushwork and sketchy drawing style create an air of whimsy, 4. Millard Sheets: his painting create surreal alternate realities that come to life with his use of color, And last but certainly not least, 5. Georgia O’Keeffe: I know she is best known for her flower paintings, but I admire her watercolor paintings. Blue Nude is minimalistic, but it has graceful movement.”
They had plenty of follow up questions pending her educated explanations.
“Did you know she was well versed in art?” My father leaned into me.
“No.” I simply stood there and watched her in awe.
“Most of the artists you favor are female. Is female representation your main concern?” My Aunt Francesca casually sipped her wine.
“I identify as a feminist. I believe everyone should have equal rights. However, I like what I like, regardless of the gender of the person producing it. Mental wellness ranks higher on my list of causes.”
“I am unashamed to admit that I have received help for my eating disorder, but it is constantly being thrown in my face as though I should be. I would love to change that, not for myself, but for others. It’s important.”
“Will you begin fundraising post-graduation?” The epitome of wealth adjusted her fox fur shawl.
“I want to get my hands dirtier than that. Money can only do so much. I am still sorting out that dream if I am being honest. Becoming a ballerina is more immediate.”
“You have intentions of working outside of public service?” Their proclamation was flabbergasted.
“Yes, I have trouble sitting still. The arts certainly have merit. Active participation has always been my niche.” She responded with confidence.
“She sure is something.” My father noted.
“She is.” I smiled, my eyes remained locked on her.
She eventually faded out of their conversation and returned to my side.
“I feel like I have been talking too much. I hate talking about myself. I feel so self-important.” She brought her glass to her mouth.
“No, they asked you. You were – um, incredible.” I blushed.
She smirked in my direction. “You’ve been tongue-tied quite a bit this evening.”
“I know.” I looked down.
“I like that I can still do this to you.” She cozied up to me.
I put my arm around her waist.
We decided to leave the party as things were winding down. The temperature typically dropped late at night. I offered her my sport coat and helped her put it on. We walked out the front door, holding hands. We were ambushed by paparazzi. She tightened her hold on me in fear.
I turned to look into her eyes. “You are safe with me.”
She nodded timidly.
“Trust me.” I kissed her.
I took the lead as we descended the steps. I ignored their questions. I allowed her to enter the car first. The door was shut for us and we were rendered safe.
“I’m sorry.” I picked up her hand and kissed the back of it.
“You looked after me. I guess I can forgive you.”
The ride home was a calm one. She rested her head on my shoulder. I was too infatuated with her to look out the window. My hand roamed her side and I periodically kissed the top of her head instead.
“Would you like to come to my room?” I proposed when we were at her bedroom door.
“I won the battle against teen pregnancy this month. My body is currently punishing me for it. I’m not feeling well. I’d really like to cuddle, but that’s probably not what you had in mind.” She pushed her hair out of her face.
“Would you rather I join you in your room?”
“Yes, please. Thank you. Let me shower first. I’ll text you when I’m done.” She leaned up and pecked me on the lips.
We both went to our rooms. I showered, brushed my teeth, and removed my contacts. I was in my pajamas when she texted me. I entered her room. She was lying on her back, her makeup removed, her hair wild, and a rag on her forehead. My new spurt of love for her was unaltered; in fact, I felt an overwhelming urge to take care of her.
“Do you need anything?” I pulled back the covers on my side of the bed.
“Just you. Lay down.”
I switched off the bedside lamp and did as told.
I put my arm around her and she removed her rag before snuggling up to my side.“I felt so bloated and gross tonight. I’m sure it showed.”
“Not at all.” I ran my hand up and down her spine.
“You are just being nice to me.”
“No, I could not take my eyes off of you for several reasons.” I strained my neck trying to kiss her.
She moved her hand to the side of my face and kissed me.
We fell asleep in each other’s arms. I made a point to wake up before her the next morning. I went downstairs to the kitchen after brushing my teeth.
“Prince Milo” The chefs stopped working to bow to me.
“May we assist you?”
“Yes, actually. May I have Isabella’s breakfast?”
“We were almost finished with yours. I –“
“I still want mine, but I was going to serve hers. Maybe I should cook it –“ I thought aloud.
“No! I – mean, no, Your Highness. We have gone over six months without an accident. We will have difficulty explaining to our supervisors why we allowed you to use the appliances after you were banned.”
“I have grown as a cook since winter holiday. Most of my arm hair has grown back. See.” I slid up the sleeve of my pajama shirt.
“I rather not risk it. Her breakfast will be completed in a moment’s time. You may be in charge of decorating her tray. See the serving department.” The head chef pointed me in the right direction with her spatula.
I caught sight of the newspaper when I was selecting a tray. I adjusted my glasses and lifted it to a comfortable line of sight.
The front cover featured the museum, boasting the money rose the night before. Opening the paper, I turned the page after reading all of it. The inside headline read: “Bella of the Ball”; it was followed by a photograph of Izzie and me. She appeared to be in the middle of a conversation; she was utilizing her hands, signifying she was passionate about the subject. I was smiling in her direction in the background. The write up was all about her – her aspirations, knowledge, and how she captivated an audience of people she had never met before. Curators gave testimonials, citing the passion for the arts in someone so young encouraged donors to contribute more to ensure others would be afforded the same opportunity. The picture of our kiss on the steps was on the last page. It was filled with speculation as to the nature of our relationship. It was flattering, but couldn’t be further from the truth.
I folded back the page and nestled it next to the empty flower vase on her tray. As hard as I tried, her tray did not have nearly the presentation quality that one prepared by the staff by the time her food was ready.
I did my best to balance every aspect of her meal. It lightly jiggled as I walked up the stairs. I sighed in relief when I had reached the top of them, only having spilt a drop of her orange juice. I noticed an orchid in a bouquet resting on a table in the hallway. I traded her daisy for it before resuming my journey to her room. I did not account for her bedroom door being closed. I tried to juggle all of it, but her water ended up spilling over the side and onto the carpet. I shook my hand out and continued inside.
She was in the bathroom when I entered. I put her tray on the dresser and wiped my hands on my pants. I fetched a towel from the linen cupboard and cleaned up the mess I created.
“I was wondering where you went.” She hugged me from behind, catching me off guard. My hand knocked over her orange juice, flooding her plate with orange liquid, successfully ruining her French toast. The newspaper and orchid were the only things unscathed.
Her musical laughter made me start doing the same.
“I tried to do something nice.” I wailed in my defense.
“It’s sweet. I love it. I’ll just eat your breakfast like I always do.” She picked up her flower and sniffed it. “This is beautiful. I’ll press it once it dies.”
“In which book?”
“A Brave New World. It is one of the few books I go back to every once in a while. Years from now, I’ll turn a page and find it. I’ll remember the happy memories we made this summer.”
“You are composing quite a puzzle.”
“I might make a memento box eventually. You know, when wearing the bracelet and having other things that remind me of you around is no longer appropriate.”
“Here’s to hoping that day never comes.” I lifted one of her empty glasses.
She picked up the other and clinked it to mine. “What’s that?” She pointed to the newspaper. I shifted to retrieve it, but not bother spoiling it.
She skimmed it and looked up at me. “They have no idea.”
“That is how we see you.”
“You’re kissing up, but I like it.” She leaned up and kissed me. “I’m going to go steal your breakfast now.”
“How are you feeling?” I followed her to the door.
“I’ve certainly been better. –“
I scooped her up in my arms. She laughed when I accidentally bumped her feet on the door frame and had to turn to the side to make it through.