The orange glow of the setting sun outlined Jennifer Pleasant’s slender face as her hand came to mouth like a magnetized pole, trying to cover her gaping jaw. She stood, motionless, waiting for her teammate to retrieve her words and say she was joking, but Bella looked scarily serious. The last of afternoon sports practices had finished, and the girls were hanging out on the football field as usual to watch the “cute” guys pack up their things. Bella Bachelor had approached her closest and dearest friend, hoping for a sympathetic response. Instead, she was met with a blank, judgmental stare.
“Have a good night, girls,” their Poràdàn soccer coach, Ms. Medeiros, waved goodbye, completely unaware of the serious conversation between the two high school juniors.
“Good night, Coach Medeiros,” Bella returned the wave pleasantly.
Jennifer managed to close her mouth, turn, and smile politely, before whipping her attention back to her best friend. Bella had a smug grin on her face, satisfied with the plans she already made in her mind.
“Don’t you ever do anything crazy?” Bella asked energetically.
She knew it was probably hopeless to convince Jenni. The pretty, petite, co-captain of the varsity girls soccer team was one of the most levelheaded people she knew, but the occasionally impulsive side of her made Bella believe maybe she could convince her. Typically if Bella came up with a wild idea, Jenni would be the one to talk her out of it, or at least rationalize with her, and come up with a better planned. The dark-skinned beauty was excellent at making pro-con lists and deciphering the quickest route to the mini mart, but when it came to plunging head first into a new project or showing up fashionably late to a crazy party or cutting school and take off on a day trip with little warning, Bella was the one to take the lead.
Somehow the term stereotypical “preacher’s kid rebel” fit Bella like a latex glove in a medical office. Bella didn’t want anyone to think she wasn’t fun or that she didn’t have a sense of humor or she never wanted to test the boundaries. Bella would travel all the way to the stars, drink a six-pack on the tip of Luna, and come back on a school day instead of taking a boring biology test or sitting through one of the dean’s latest lectures about her living up to her potential if she could. She understood why Jenni would try and talk her out of her latest brilliant idea. What she didn’t understand was why her friend seemed to think this was anything out of the ordinary.
“Yeah, but I was thinking more along the lines of experimenting with ice cream flavors at Main Street Grocer’s,” Jenni yanked Bella’s arm, jerking her out of the way of a group of skateboarders whizzing by.
“Whoo!” Bella pumped the air with her fist. “Looking good, Orlando!” she whistled at the tanned high school transfer from Osimceana.
The boy grinned, turned around and fake-tipped his baseball cap which was conveniently backward before pumping his foot on the ground to catch up with his friends.
“Bella,” Jenni gasped. “Orlando Centowski is constantly in detention. Why would you want to go out with that loser from Queenstown?”
“Because he’s dreamy,” Bella sighed, purposely focusing her gaze on the senior boy’s rear end as he skated off into the distance, before turning back to Jenni and narrowing her eyes mischievously. “And trouble.”
“With a capital T,” Jenni stomped her soccer cleat to emphasize her point.
“That rhymes with P that stands for pool!” Bella shouted, exasperated, throwing her arms up in the air. “Oh I know. My mother quotes that at me all the time… as if playing pool is the worst thing in the world and leads to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And one beer isn’t going to kill me.”
“Juice will ruin your mind, Bella,” Jenni clucked her tongue.
“Don’t worry, Jenni,” Bella shrugged. “I really prefer the finer things in life… like nectar… and…” her eyes swept to the distant skateboarders. “And Orlando can’t buy me all the gold I want anyway since he’s on parole…” she giggled.
“What? No diamonds?” Jenni snorted sarcastically.
“My dear Jennifer,” Bella interlocked arms with her friends as they walked to pick up their bags. “Diamonds are a blood trade.”
“And gold isn’t?” Jenni arched a brow. “Aren’t they all?”
“Maybe,” Bella shrugged, nonchalantly draping her gym bag over her shoulder. “…but I’d feel better not supporting a dirty trade from Danny’s home country.”
“I’m sure my bro appreciates that,” Jenni leaned into her friend, playfully.
While there was eleven months between them, Jennifer and Daniel acted more like twins than adopted siblings. The three of them had been tight since second grade. Danny had needed to repeat the grade because he had spent the first years of his life in South Af’simica. At first, he was embarrassed by this, but then he came to realize sharing a class with his newly adopted sister meant access to Jennifer’s very pretty best friend. Danny had been crushing on Bella for almost ten years now, and she still enjoyed teasing him along, despite the fact that neither of them had officially asked the other one out.
“So what do you think of my idea?” Bella changed the subject, and by the look on Jenni’s face, she could tell her friend was not pleased. “Come on, Jenni. We’re so beyond this place. This is my big chance to see the world, to explore new heights, to cross oceans.”
“You’re wanting to go to Califorsimia. How is that crossing the ocean?” Jenni frowned.
“I want to see the ocean for starters,” Bella said dramatically. “I want to meet new people and try new foods and stay out all night.”
“Don’t you do that already?” Jenni rolled her eyes.
“I want to be a hippie and live on the beach and stay in the sand all day and swim in the waters and fish for our dinner,” Bella replied, ignoring her friend’s comment. “I want to sleep under the stars and not have to worry about language arts papers or PE credits or sitting through stupid assemblies.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Jenni asked, lowering her voice as an assistant coach walked by. “Why do you have to drop out of school for this? Summer is coming up and we can just go and spend the summer on the coast. I’m sure our parents will be okay with that.”
“I don’t want to wait,” Bella shook her head. “This is the prime of our lives and we’re wasting it in classes all day when we could be out there enjoying ourselves. Come on don’t you want to road trip? I’ve always wanted to road trip. And we could be our own bosses, and the masters of our own schedules… well…” she made a face. “…mistresses of our own schedules.”
Jenni looked as though she was trying not to laugh.
“If it bothers you that much, just take a year off, and when we come back, you can return to school.”
“But we’re minors, Bella,” Jenni protested. “Our parents will never let us go, and truancy officers will make sure we stay in school.”
“Not if they can’t find us,” Bella grinned, reaching in her pocket. “I got us fake IDs. You can be…” she held up the card and squinted as she read. “…Eleanor Rigby. And I can be Maggie May.”
“Aren’t those British Invasion songs?” Jenni grimaced.
“But Eleanor Rigby died in a church and was buried with her name. Why do I get the depressing Miss Lonely Hearts and you get a song about an sexy glamorous older woman?”
“Because… that’s just what they made me.”
Jenni sounded less than convinced. “Named after characters in ancient pop songs from Earth? Really?”
Bella pumped her fist into the sky with a big grin. “British Invasion lives on forever! But really? Who’s going to know?” she used her hand to muffle the little giggle escaping her lips.
“This is insane, Bella. It will never work!” Jenni disagreed.
“Okay, we don’t have to take a whole year, just an extended spring break,” Bella offered. “My parents think I’m going on a school trip to District of Simlumbia, and by the time they figure it out, we’ll be long gone. We can stay the summer and then come back. I already took my finals early so I don’t think they can fail me if I passed them all already.”
“You did what? I didn’t even know you could do that,” Jenni’s eyes opened wide, as she took a step back in shock.
Bella shrugged. “You can do it if you want.”
“Bella… I know you’re a genius and you think you’re too cool for school. But I can’t miss classes. I won’t be a senior next year if I just take off. I won’t graduate. If I don’t graduate, I won’t get into law school. We want to go to law school still, right?” Jenni almost looked like she was about to cry. “Top firms aren’t going to want lazy high school dropouts.”
“I’m not talking about forever. Plenty of students take time off…” Bella sighed.
“Yeah but for good reasons…”
Jennifer’s words hung harshly in the air. Bella flushed. Her friend could be unintentionally cruel sometimes. Bella always knew Jenni was blunt and honest to a fault, but now when she was trying to explain her plans to one of her closest friends, Bella felt Jenni was callously misunderstanding her and criticizing her ideas.
“I just…need a break…okay?” Bella said, exasperated. “I just… I can’t….deal right now. I need to clear my head.”
“Yeah well most people do that with a box of chocolates and a bubble bath,” Jenni said, softening her tone.
“You know what? Whatever,” Bella threw her hands in the air, dropping her bag, and racing out of the school stadium.
“Bella!” Jenni called, but Bella had no desire to return to her friend’s side.
Running across the grass, Bella turned and crunched across the sand toward Lake Misimigan. Jenni may have been co-captain, but Bella always knew she was the faster runner. She figured after she was halfway across that she was probably alone, and she dropped and clutched her knees, breathing heavily. The cool mid-spring air felt nice against her flushed cheeks, and Bella could see the first stars of the night pop into view between wisps of evening clouds.
She knew about her parents money troubles. They tried to keep their disagreements quiet, but after Michael, her little brother was in bed, and Bella was supposedly situated at her desk completing her homework, she could hear Simis and Jocasta arguing in the library or living room downstairs. Between her mother’s student loans for medical school and her father’s low-paying clergyman work, they were barely making ends meet. Bella figured she wouldn’t be able to afford university at this rate anyhow so it was better to just leave. One less mouth to feed, right?
“There’s gotta be more to this life,” Bella said aloud, in dismay.
The hazy blue-violet waters of Lake Misimigan appeared to go on forever, but as Bella squinted, she could see the shores of Simnadia in the near distance. Stupid! Bella kicked a rock with her shoe, feeling the sharp prod against her toe. Great! Bella glanced and realized she tore a hole in yet another pair of soccer cleats. Jennifer didn’t understand. Jenni’s father was a SIMSA engineer and pilot and he made enough money so that Jenni’s mom didn’t need to work. Jenni and Danny were guaranteed a collegiate education. Even with Bella’s grades and athleticism, she wasn’t sure she would get a full scholarship. I guess I’ll have to rely on my good looks, Bella chuckled wryly.
Jenni called out to her friend, hesitantly as she approached, and placed a hand tentatively on Bella’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry if I made you mad,” Jenni sighed.
Bella grunted, and folded her arms across her chest.
“Have you tried praying?” Jenni asked, quietly.
“It doesn’t work,” Bella replied coldly.
“Oh, but it does,” Jenni said, her eyes widening. “Your dad preaches about it all the time, Bella, you should know.”
Bella wondered how the two girls could be best friends, and still, it felt as though Jenni didn’t know Bella at all sometimes.
“Padre hears your prayers, Bella. Maybe you should try praying,” Jenni continued.
“And what? Ask Padre to give me whatever the hell I want?” Bella snapped.
“Well…” Jenni bit her lower lip. “What do you want?”
My parents to stop fighting? My family to have money? To not be in that stupid-ass school? To get off this freaking planet? To not be cursed with a pretty face and feel like every guy wants to get into my pants? Jenni, you have no clue do you?
Jenni had asked the question seriously, but Bella hardly knew how to give a serious answer aloud that wouldn’t alienate or confuse her friend. She didn’t really know what she wanted. That was why she wanted to leave.
“Just do me a favor. Think about it,” Bella brushed by her friend. “…I’m leaving Sunday morning before dawn.”
Author Note: Welcome to La Vita Bella, the first official chapter of the Bella Bachelor Goth story. If you haven’t already, there are two previous chapters (preludes) to this series – The Last Night of Bella Goth and 100 Years. In my Sim world, Jennifer (Jenni) and Daniel Pleasant are siblings, but Daniel (Danny) was adopted from South Af’simica. While they are both in the same grade, Danny is 11 months older than Jenni. Shannon Medeiros is actually a Sim coach from TS2 at Sim State University, although she is an elder in TS2. I just borrowed the name for the girls’ soccer coach. Poràdàn is a person from Empordà, if you remember correctly. I know spring is the wrong season for soccer, but since we’re on another planet, I figured who cares? They could have different sports seasons. Orlando Centowski is also a Sim in TS2, a teen living in Pleasantview, and I decided he was from the land down under… Queenstown, Osimceana a.k.a. Australia/New Zealand. For those of you who like musicals, hope you liked my little reference. 😉 British Invasion…couldn’t help myself… the Beatles… because Simtannican Invasion just didn’t sound right. SIMSA is my Simworld version of NASA – the Sim Space Agency. Padre is the name used for the Peteran God. I hope you enjoyed.
Previous Chapter: Prologue, Part 2: 100 Years
Next Chapter: La Vita Bella, Episode 2, Saltwater and Sunshine