“I wonder who lives up there.”
Jennifer intently stared at the mansion at the top of the Califorsimian cliffs while Bella arranged her Freezer Bunny beach towel on the sand, making sure the placement was just right so she could gain the perfect tan. The girls had driven out to Sunset Valley for spring break. Somehow, Bella had convinced Jenni to tell her parents they were in Sim City for a school trip, and somehow Jenni had talked Bella out of ditching and dropping out of school. The girls would be back one day before the end of break, and Bella had already had brochures of all the major museums express-shipped to a post office box she rented for the week, and then she edited pictures of Jenni and herself on her computer in front of prominent tourist attractions in the Sim Nation capitol. Her parents would never know.
“Isn’t this sunshine divine?” Bella murmured, kneeling on the soft sand.
“Wouldn’t you like to live in a house like that?” Jenni replied, seemingly unaware of her friend’s question. “I mean, a mansion looking out over the Simistral Ocean. We don’t have anything like that in Pleasantview.”
“Come on, Jenni, quit gawking and lay out with me,” Bella rolled her eyes. “We can’t afford a house like that.”
“Someday, maybe,” Jenni shrugged, plopping down in the sand in an unladylike fashion. “When we’re both lawyers and making buku bucks.”
Bella scowled and turned her face away as she laid her chin on her folded arms, feeling the sun rays already warming her exposed back. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be a lawyer like her father wanted her to be or a doctor like her mother desired. Instead, she liked the idea of lounging all day by the saltwater shores, sipping Simsmapolitans.
“I’ve been thinking about fashion,” she remarked, casually.
“What about it?” Jenni asked, wrinkling her nose as she rubbed sunscreen onto her skin. “You already have the best fashion sense of anyone in our class.”
“Yeah, I was thinking about design or modeling maybe… the next Coco Simel,” Bella said, half-jokingly, half-seriously.
“But who would quiz me on LSAT facts?” Jenni wailed. “Oh shoot!” she added, having accidentally smudged sunscreen too close to her mascara-laden lashes. “Hold up…” she stood up and raced off toward the little bathroom hut to wash out her eye.
While Bella lounged, more people descended onto the beach. She had asked the hotel desk clerk about the hot spots for visiting college co-eds, and was told Sunnyside Strand was one of the best beaches in the city. After about a half-hour, a young lady began strumming island favorites and love songs away on her guitar. Several college students played horse in the water, splashing each other around while trying to maintain a firm grip on their red plastic party cups. Others set up a volleyball net and began bouncing and bopping a ball around in their bikinis and swim trunks. Even members of the press showed up, claiming a brief interview would award discounted beer. Jenni curiously and courageously decided to go for it, having already drank about a quart of liquor from their hotel mini fridge. She returned only after a few moments.
“What happened?” Bella inquired, flipping over onto her stomach.
“It was lame,” Jenni laid on her towel. “The lady was interviewing college students on spring break, and she wanted to see my ID before she would give me a coupon for the Fishbowl.”
“What kinds of questions were they asking?” Bella wondered.
“Oh… this and that…what school you were from… why you came to Califorsimia… some of your favorite places…I guess the Sunset City News is doing a puff piece on best places to visit and such,” Jenni explained. “I’ve never seen a reporter write such furious notes before though. I wonder if it is really just about that kind of crap.”
“Who knows?” Bella shrugged, propping herself up by her elbows.
She found herself wondering about the inhabitants of the beach, how many of them had family in the area, how many were visiting Califorsimia for the first time like she was, how many actually cared that the swimsuit-clad musician was playing the same song again for the third time. She perked when she heard a male voice request one of her favorite songs.
“Oh I don’t do requests,” the woman replied with a light laugh.
Bella scrunched her nose, peering out across the sand. Then why are you playing on a crowded beach, lady?
“Please, I’m having the worst day, and that song always makes me feel better,” the man replied.
Bella’s face softened into a smile. His favorite song? Aw…. she better play it.
“What do I look like a jukebox?” the lady chortled.
Rude, Bella thought, flicking a small crab away from her beach towel.
“How about if I give you a tip?” the man asked, pulling his wallet out of his swim trunks.
“Naw… I already told you…” the woman shook her head.
“…not even for five hundred Simoleons?”
Bella was pretty sure the woman’s jawline matched her own. She gasped. For five hundred Simos, she would get up there and sing the song to the man. The lady conceded and within a moment, she was playing the requested song, even after all her protests.
That’s how you get a job done, Bella thought with a grin, enjoying the music as she crossed her ankles and bobbed her feet in time. The gentleman turned and she could see his face for the first time. Even from a distance, she could tell he was a better-than-average-looking man with his fierce jawline and neat sideburns matching his rather unkempt black hair. Bella didn’t mind. Her own black hair was quite unruly, and something about the softness of his expression intrigued her. She wished she could see his eyes, but the sun was making it difficult to see nearly fifty yards away. The lady guitarist was actually quite good, and Bella found herself transported away into La Vie En Rose. Ah! To see the world through rose-colored classes.
“I’m roasting. Let’s go swim,” Jenni suggested, leaping to her feet.
“Five more minutes,” Bella said lazily, flipping to her back, and shading her eyes from the sun.
“Come on…get in the water, you big chicken!” Jenni teased, racing down to the water.
“Coming…” Bella replied, though she couldn’t help but take one last look at the guy who had captured her attention.
Jenni was already thigh-deep in the ocean when Bella arrived at water’s edge. She took a big breath and plunged in, completely submerging beneath the incoming surf.
“No fair!” Jenni exclaimed, racing out to where Bella had swam.
“If you dive in, you’ll adjust to the temperature faster,” Bella suggested. “It’s much colder than Lake Misimigan.”
Dunking under the water, Jenni soon surpassed her friend, but Bella was taking every nanosecond in and appreciating everything as she glided through the soothing waters. Everything about this place made Bella feel alive and happy. Even the seagull soaring by made her smile. We don’t have seagulls at the lake, she thought.
“I expected it to be bigger,” Bella said, stopping by her friend as they tread water.
“We’re in the Bay, silly,” Jenni teased.
“I know,” Bella laughed, splashing her friend. “So do you regret coming?”
“Uh uh,” Jenni shook her head and giggled.
They played in the water until the spring sunshine slid in between the encroaching clouds. A mystical fog spread its arms across the oceans and encircled the girls as they giggled and talked on a perfect afternoon.
“We should probably head back,” Jenni said, turning toward the shore.
“I think I might stay awhile longer,” Bella said.
“Girl, you shouldn’t be out here in the ocean by yourself,” Jenni said worriedly.
“I’ll be fine. I’m a strong swimmer. I’ll meet you back at the hotel,” Bella insisted.
“Alright,” Jenni turned and began swimming away before turning back and shouting, “Hang loose!”
“What?” Bella laughed.
“Hang loose… or whatever it is they say in Califorsimia,” Jenni explained.
“Silly, I’m going to drink up more sunshine and saltwater,” Bella stretched her arms toward the heavens, welcoming the cool breeze as the waves picked up speed.
Her heart couldn’t be more joyous.
Previous Chapter: Episode 1, The Plan
Next Chapter: Episode 3, Breathless