Home > Innocent Princess (Modern Princess Collection #2)

Innocent Princess (Modern Princess Collection #2)
Author: Lauren Helms







Standing in the middle of the small room, I shake what the man upstairs gave me to the right, then a little to the left. My feet ground me as my eyes close, and I move to the catchy beat.

Catchy pop songs are my kryptonite. Take Taylor Swift, for example. I love her older music – her newer stuff is a little too angry for my taste. I'm a happy person by nature, so I'm drawn to a happy melody and fun lyrics. Thank God for all my Spotify playlists. I have one for every day of the week. Music has always been important to me; it makes my unbelievably boring life feel so much livelier. I'll never admit this to a soul, but I'll hear a song and imagine where in my made-up life it would fit in.

Take Shake It Off by our beloved Ms. Swift, for example. I would fit it into the soundtrack that I would lovingly label "Zella Goes to High School". I could imagine being the cheer captain with a loving basketball star boyfriend. Only, he wouldn't be so loving. I'd find out he was going behind my back flirting with the star volleyball player. Cue the song. I'd embrace my inner Taylor and stand up on a lunchroom table, shake it off, and move on.

I know it sounds messed up, but if I had actually attended high school, then maybe I would aspire for less dramatic experiences. Perhaps if I actually lived some of those dramatic events, my imagination would be tamer. The keyword here is experience. Being homeschooled my whole life, living with my mother, who was as strict as a nun, meant I didn't have friends. I didn't play sports, and I sure as heck never got a chance to stand on a lunch table and tell everyone I was going to be all right.

It's a dumb little game I've played for far too many years. Though, I don't play it very often anymore now that I'm out on my own. Well, I'm not truly on my own. I'm away at college, and I live on campus. I'm just out from under my mother's thumb, finally. It only took twenty years.

Somehow, in my third year of college, I've found myself at Camelot University in Society Hill, Florida. Currently, I'm sitting on a stone window sill, in an old guard tower, watching CamU students milling around the grounds. There is a small group of guys playing Frisbee, and I can't help feeling like a creeper now that half of them have removed their shirts. I'm really far up, so it's not like I can see any abs or defined muscles. Plus, it's not like they can see me anyway. Still, I feel the warmth in my cheeks when I think about what it would be like if I were down there with them, standing face to face with a shirtless man.

Oh, man.

I fan my dewy skin to cool down, but also in an attempt to banish the thought from my mind. Pulling my eyes away from the show below, I scan the circular space around me. This particular tower is one of four in the main building, which is an old castle turned university. Since no one is ever up here, the vines are overgrown and crawling up the walls, making it look uninhabitable. I've claimed it as my hideaway.

Since I transferred at the start of a new year, I was able to move in the week before school started, much like all the new incoming freshmen.

I was unpacking my few belongings from my best friend's car when I ran into a guy named Warrick Wells. Tall, athletic build, blonde hair almost white. He looked like he could be a football player. He’s handsome, with his large, blue eyes. He's a student as well but works on campus part-time with campus security. He offered to help me move in, and we've been friends since. It was that very week that Wells showed me this unused space and told me that no one would care or even know if I needed to escape the craziness of campus life. As long as I wasn't doing anything illegal or breaking campus policy, it wouldn't be an issue.

My little hideaway is a godsend. I love this fresh start and campus life, but for someone without any experience in large groups of people, it's nice to escape.

The space is pretty bare and rather drab, but it works. There's an old wooden table to one side of the room and a desk chair that showed up a few days after I started doing homework here last week. When I asked Wells about it, he winked at me. It was sweet that he cared so much.

Wells and Cameron are both so good to me. I can't complain at all. Not that I would ever, but for the first time in my life, I'm making friends. Even though Cameron has been my friend since childhood, Wells was the first new friend I've made in forever. It's nice to find a place I finally belong.

Mailani, my suitemate, on the other hand, is so kind and reserved, but we hit it off instantly. We're completely different in nearly every aspect of our lives. She's shy, and I'm outgoing, but honestly, I don't think I could ask for a better roommate. A smile overcomes my face when I think of all the things I've gained in my life since transferring here three short weeks ago. At home, my boring life consisted of schoolwork, drawing, cooking, and a lot of reading. I love all of those things, but I very rarely had the freedom to really do what I wanted. Here, at Cam U, it's all so new.

Maybe I went a little overboard with my newfound freedom. I joined two different art clubs, so I spend a lot of time in Keane Hall, the art building. I also joined a book club and signed up for a self-defense class. There's so much to do, and I want to do it all.

After sliding off the sill, I walk over to the desk and grab my phone. I have a nice little break between my last two classes of the day. So I grab lunch and spend the afternoon here in my tower. I have to set alarms on my phone since I’ve unfortunately become addicted to social media. It’s another thing my mom wasn't keen on, so I didn't sign up for any accounts until the day I arrived on the Cam U campus. While my friend list is nothing to write home about, my Instagram account is where it's at. I love taking pictures around campus. It's a fun, visual way for me to track all my new experiences.

Nestling back into my cozy, warm-with-the-sun window spot, I slide open my phone. As I scroll through Instastories, my phone rings.

Gah. It's my mother.

Biting my lip, I debate whether to answer. I've talked to her once, and that was on move-in day. The call lasted just enough time for me to tell her I made it and was settled in. I've tried to keep my communications with her to a minimum and only via text.

Hovering my thumb over the screen, I decide not to swipe. I let it ring until voicemail takes over. I know she will leave a message, so I stare out the window and watch the frisbee boys until my phone buzzes with a new message.

I may be mad at my mother, but I'm not strong enough to ignore her completely. She's kept so much control over me that much-needed space would do us both some good.

Bringing the phone up to my ear, I take a deep breath and prepare myself for whatever she had to say.

"Zella, darling, it's your mother."

I roll my eyes. Of course I know who it is, but really, can she really call herself that?

"I know you are on this power trip right now, demanding your space and all." I picture her rolling her eyes as she speaks. "This is getting utterly ridiculous. You need to come home. This is where you belong. You belong with me."

I huff at her words. She doesn't get it.

"There is still time to transfer back here. You've proved your point, I'll give you more space. Just stop this madness this minute, Zella. You are too old for these rash, childish games."

Unable to listen to another word, I hang up, slamming the phone down on the windowsill.

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