I crept out of Mila’s bedroom window around 5 AM making sure to not stir her in her sleep. I had to admit that it was the best sleep I had gotten since Mila was admitted to the hospital. Sometimes when I closed my eyes, I had flashbacks of her in her blood-soaked dress. I shook those images away, only wanting to picture her as safe and alive. It had nearly been a month since I last her. I went to the hospital every day, mostly for updates when I could squeeze them out of Ms. Torres and was told the same thing, “She’s progressing Phoenix, but she needs to be alone. Go home”.
I was forced to play the waiting game with everyone else and hope that Mila would get better soon. I had to answer endless questions regarding what Nick had done from police officers, teachers, counselors, and other students. Each time, my blood would boil with rage. He was the talk of the town, with most people against him but he also had some supporters. Those supporters actually had the audacity to place the blame on Mila. “Look at what she was wearing, she was asking for something to happen,” they would say. I stood up for her when I was close enough to hear.
As soon as she was admitted, I noticed how empty I felt; How every day at school got duller, how every love song reminded me of her, and how much I needed her. It was then when I was isolated from her when my emotions became clear, I love her. I wanted her to know it, I needed her to know it, and last night she finally did hear it. She did not say it back, but we had nothing but time.
When I got back to my apartment, I tried opening and closing the door slowly in order to not wake up Luke.
“Where have you been?” An angry voice echoed behind me. I turned around, Luke was standing there with his arms crossed. I had completely forgotten to text him that Mila was back.
“Luke, I am sorry. Mila was released last night and time just got away from me,” I told him.
He continued to stare at me angrily but placed his arms down. He sighed and told me to sit down.
“I am just glad you are safe, your highness. Please do not let it happen again.”
I nodded, “Yes, understood.”
“So moving on to the other news on the agenda, Cassandra alerted me about your broken engagement,” Luke said staring directly at me. How could either of them know? I barely broke my engagement yesterday morning. Princess Elle has given me until today to break the news through Mila’s website. No one was supposed to know until later today.
“How did she know?”
“Princess Elle Charlotte of Taran ran off yesterday afternoon. My sources say that she ran off with her lady in training that she was secretly seeing. She left a letter for her brother telling him about the broken engagement. The news spread quickly after that I am afraid.”
I put my face into the palms of my hands and groaned. On one hand, I was happy for Princess Elle. When I first spoke to her, she spoke to me like she was reading off a written script. It was not until later, when I told her about Mila, that she told me about already being committed to another person in her life. However, on the other hand, I knew that my mother and father also knew about the news. I was hoping that I would be the one to break them the news before Mila had published her article. They were going to kill me.
“Do my parents know?” I asked Luke to reconfirm my thoughts.
“Cassandra saw the King and Queen get on a private jet yesterday afternoon. She assumes that they have traveled to Taran to repair the engagement and get the Princess back.”
I nodded. Princess Elle was brilliant even for being so young. She must have had others helping her and protecting them. How else could they have escaped the island without one guard noticing? I was hoping that she would not be caught, for both our sakes. I just had to think about what to tell my parents later.
My parents were already upset with me about my attendance at homecoming and also of the pictures of Mila and I at the dance. However, Jenna, my father’s publicist, was great at her job and paid off a majority of news reporters to avoid any scandals. The rest of the reporters were threatening and it was like no one knew I had even gone to the dance besides the people who actually saw me there.
I pushed away my thoughts and decided to get ready for school. I had left a note for Mila by her bed telling her that I would pick her up today which I had every intention of doing.
I arrived at her house shortly after 6 AM. Mila’s mom opened the door and invited me to some breakfast. I took some sausage and eggs.
“Please, Look after her Phoenix. Today will be rough,” Ms. Torres had told me after she finished her coffee.
I did not get to respond because at that moment Mila had walked into the kitchen. Ms. Torres excused herself as she had to go to work. She gave her daughter a big hug and then proceeded to give me one as well. Mila gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and sat next to me to fill up her own breakfast plate. I could not help it, I looked at her neck. I looked at any indication of Nick’s scarring but found none on the surface level. She must have sensed me staring because she looked right up at me.
“It’s healed,” Mila whispered.
“I did not mea—-I am sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure I’ll be getting a lot of stares today,” She finished before placing a spoonful of yogurt into her mouth.
I got right to it and told her about Princess Elle. I told her about her letter and how everyone close to the situation already knew about the broken engagement. Mila told me that maybe she should not publish anything. I could see the disappointment in her face, but I had something else planned. I wanted Mila to publish the truth. I wanted our people to know that we were being forced into matrimony that was not desired by either party. Mila was the person for the job.
After Mila was ready, we jumped into Barry and were heading to school before Mila told me to head into the opposite direction.
“What for?” I asked.
Mila pulled out a yellow envelope out of her bag and added a few stamps to the corner of the envelope, “I was working on my NYU application in the hospital, thought it was time to send it in and hope for the best,” She said. I knew it was her dream to go to NYU. She had worked so hard these last years to make sure she at least had a shot. I told her that maybe I could even work from New York from time to time just to visit her.
I pulled up to the curb of the post office where Mila had told me to wait. She got out of the car and I saw her kiss the envelope before placing it into the mailbox. She jumped back into the car, “Okay, now I’m ready to face everyone.”
As soon as I put the car in park in the school’s parking lot and got off, I automatically felt the stares on me like I was some walking alien. I walked around the car and opened the passenger door. I grabbed Mila’s bag and threw it over my own shoulder. I could hear the whispers as soon as she got out. She titled her head up with her eyes closed and took in a deep breath.
“Are you ready? I am prepared to skip this whole day of school with you,” I told her.
She opened her eyes and looked at me, “I’m ready.”
I walked Mila all the way to her locker where people had put “Get Well Soon” letters all over her locker. I took the letters off her locker and stuffed them into her bag. She could decide what to do with them later that did not include the pressure of every student staring at her in the hallway.
The first bell rang, “Go to class. I’ll meet you at lunch,” Mila smiled at me.
I kissed her, “You got this. You are the strongest person I know,” I whispered to her before heading down the hall.
I sat down and focused my gaze on the whiteboard in front of me. Mr. Silva strolled in front of the classroom explaining that we had a few weeks left before midterms before jumping into today’s lecture. We were reviewing statistics before I began to zone out which I typically did during this class because I had been studying statistics and economics since I turned five.
“Can Mr. Phoenix James and Ms. Mila Torres report to the main office immediately,” Mr. Mendoza’s voice echoed through the intercom. Everyone in the class turned around to face me. I gathered my things and walked out into the hall. When I got close to the main office, I saw Mila approaching and waited for her.
“Do you know what this is all about?” She asked me. I just shrugged my shoulders. I opened the door for Mila for her to walk in first. The main office had been decorated in skeletons and fake spider webs along with other Halloween decorations. Mr. Mendoza stood in front of the receptionist desk holding two pieces of paper.
“Hello, Ms. Torres. We are pleased to welcome you back. Again, Mrs. Carter is available for free counseling sessions in case you find yourself in need of them. For both of you. On other news, I asked both of you to come here because you two have won Homecoming Prince and Princess. We are pleased to award you with a $100 dollar prize as winners,” Mr. Mendoza handed over the certificates. My name was highlighted at the top along with a small Visa card.
“Thank you, Mr. Mendoza,” I said before we were told we could head back to class.
Mila and I burst into laughter as soon as we got into the hallway, “I can’t believe they voted you Homecoming Prince when you are already a Prince,” Mila said holding onto her stomach after laughing so much.
“Apparently people love us,” I said which felt like the contrary with all the stares we kept getting all morning.
Mila and I headed back into our class and the first half of the day passed by quickly. I went into the lunchroom and purchased a fruit cup along with water before meeting Mila at our usual spot. It felt good being back here. When Mila was admitted to the hospital, I sat with Ava and Jimmy every day. It felt wrong to sit in our spot without her, but now she was back. I caught a glimpse of her smile before she sat right in front of me. It was like her determination was ignited once again.
She brought out her laptop, “Ok, It’s time to write this bad boy.”
She asked me questions about Calida’s marriage laws, the arrangement I had set with my parents, Princess Elle, and the island of Taran. She had managed to draft up a whole article in the span of 30 minutes before the lunch bell rang. She send me an email of it and told me to review it before giving her the okay to publish.
The rest of the school day I felt preoccupied with my thoughts. I began to brainstorm about what to tell my parents. I wondered what they were up to in Taran and what other mess they were trying to put me in. The final bell rang and I waited for Mila to grab her things. We said goodbye to Jimmy and Ava before getting into Barry.
Mila told me all about her day in the car. She told me how it felt good to be back and that everyone was actually very kind to her. I even caught her dancing along to the radio at some points of our drive. It was clear that even though Mila would never be the same after what Nick Collins did to her, there were still parts of her that were brighter than ever. I dropped her off and waited for her to get inside before driving off.
When I got back to the apartment, I threw the car keys on the table and walked towards the living room. I froze right on my tracks when I saw who was sitting on my sofa. I was not expecting to see my mother and father sitting down right in front of me. My mother wore her usual crown right on top of her blonde curled hair. My father stood as he took in my presence. He was dressed in a dark grey suit. They both looked too regal for the environment of this apartment.
“Hello, son. I need you to take a seat. Mr. Luke Aiza has been asked to retrieve Ms. Mila Torres. They will be joining us shortly. It appears that we are long overdue for her audience,” My father said towering over me. I sat down in the seat in front of my mother and stared at her, pleading for any assistance from her. She stared down at the floor.
My only thought was how royally fucked I was.