“The coffee is good, Mrs. Bachelor,” Mortimer said.
“It’s Doc Bachelor,” Simis said, coming into the room with the biggest grin on his face.
Mortimer smiled. The man had such pride and affection for his wife. “Excuse me, Dr. Bachelor.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Jocasta said, waving her hand. “I don’t mind if you call me Jocasta.”
“I know what your daughter is.”
Both Simis and Jocasta stared blankly at the man as if he had grown a horn between his eyes.
“Don’t worry. I have no intention of telling anyone.”
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Simis spoke first, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Your defensive posture confirms I am right,” Mortimer said, almost smugly, but quickly dissolved into a softer smile. “Bella is… a vampire…” he tilted his head to look at Jocasta. “…and a witch hybrid, am I right?”
Jocasta released a soft gasp, lifting her hand to her mouth. Simis reached over and squeezed his wife’s hand.
“What are you getting at, Mr. Goth?” Simis narrowed his eyes.
“Forgive me,” Mortimer said. “I suspected at the beach last year and then we’ve been writing back and forth and she’s been revealing bits of herself that she isn’t even aware of, but to the trained eye, a person could figure it out.”
“Oh heavens!” Jocasta gasped.
“She doesn’t know that I know, but I think I can help her to control her powers and conceal her identity a bit more so,” Mortimer offered. “I also know about your most recent money troubles…”
“Now wait…” Simis burst out.
Mortimer held up his hand. “I am on the board of the financial institution you have applied for a loan through…and I promise everything is still confidential, but when I saw your names…”
Jocasta and Simis looked at one another.
“…and I made the connection, I figured I could help. I have a proposal for you, Mr. and Mrs. Bachelor, if you’ll hear me out,” he explained.
Simis grunted and stretched out his legs in a defensive posture. Jocasta laid her hand across her husband’s lap and rubbed his thigh reassuringly.
“Let’s hear what he has to say,” she remarked.
“Fine,” Simis grumbled.
“Bella is a bright, beautiful young woman, and I can see that she goes far in life,” Mortimer began. “I know you want what is best for your daughter. Before when I mentioned I know about her condition…”
“We got God to fix that one,” Simis said abruptly.
“Sir, with all due respect, you cannot pray away her supernatural genes… and yes, I know there is witch blood in your line, Jocasta, and vampire in yours, Simis,” Mortimer leaned across the table. “I know you took out a second mortgage to pay for that trip to Al Simhara when Bella was a toddler, and having visited the city myself, I know it is known for mystic healers so I pieced things together.”
Simis made a face, and Jocasta looked pained.
“I know you are wondering why I have paid so much interest to your family, but the truth is, your daughter has incredible gifts that she is suppressing but hardly knows she has… or how to control it, which is dangerous. My family has formed a foundation devoted to the research of paranormal and promoting wellness in the supernatural community, while hunting for cures to deadly diseases that could potentially affect your daughter…” Mortimer continued.
“But the government… and the schools… they aren’t teaching these things. They say that these are the anomalies and not the norm and that we shouldn’t be worried about these kinds of things,” Jocasta interjected.
“Padre will protect our daughter. I have faith,” Simis said, defiantly.
Mortimer shook his head. “Frankly, the government is wrong and they are scared. They don’t want news of an outbreak getting out or the potential that these supernaturals have already integrated into our society. And no offense to your religion, Shepherd Bachelor, but we need to also have reason with our faith, and we need to be reasonably concerned about these things. Science will help us to understand and to protect people like Bella. I understand this to be a house of science…” he glanced at Jocasta, who looked down at her hands and over to Simis. “…and faith.”
“What would you have us do?” Jocasta asked, quietly.
“I have a proposal to make. I will pay for Bella’s medical care and her education. I will pay off your mortgage so you can stay in your home, and I will also help place you, Jocasta, in a top research hospital. I can’t think of a better person to help Bella through all this than her own mother,” Mortimer explained. “You would be studying with the nation’s premier doctors. And I believe the bump in pay will ease your financial burden and help you to focus on your work for the Padre, Simis.”
Simis frowned. “You would do all that? For what? What do you want in exchange?”
“I would like your permission to marry Bella,” Mortimer said simply.
Jocasta’s mouth dropped open and Simis coughed.
“But she’s just a child,” Jocasta interjected.
“You said you’ve been writing her,” Simis narrowed his eyes. “Have you also been visiting her… behind our backs? Is Bella…impure?”
“Hey, I’m an decent guy. I swear I haven’t touched her and today is the first time I’ve seen her in a year,” Mortimer held up both his hands. “Bella will finish university first, and should she choose to get a masters and a doctorate, I will wait for her. I promise to wait until our wedding night.”
Bella stopped dead still in the hallway when she heard the words wedding night. What were her parents and Mortimer discussing? Bella pressed a hand to the wall, hardly straining her ears to hear in the next room.
“I have a contract,” Mortimer set a portfolio on the table, and seeing the Bachelors skeptical look continued, “…to protect Bella’s best interest and all invested parties.”
My best interest? Bella wondered. What was happening?
“Bella will be expected to maintain good grades just like any scholarship, but I will handle all school expenses – whatever she needs… supplies, food, clothing, housing, etcetera.”
“Her friend is going to college with her. They were to room together,” Jocasta said.
“Not a problem. I can make the necessary arrangements,” Mortimer assured.
“That’s all you want? Marriage to my daughter in exchange for all that?” Simis said incredulously. “I will not have my daughter become a lab experiment.”
“Oh no!” Mortimer exclaimed. “Absolutely not. You have my word and it’s in the contract. Bella will not be experimented on and will only receive high level care and coaching. I do, however, expect children in our future. The Goths require an heir. I can…” he glanced at Jocasta. “… expect she is relatively healthy in that department as far as you know and she has not been with anyone else?”
Bella blushed, mortified, placing a hand protectively across her abdomen. A mother? She wasn’t ready to be a mother. She wasn’t ready to be a wife. She backed into the stairwell in complete shock, purposely tuning out so she wouldn’t hear her mom’s response. It was true. She was still a virgin, but how the hell was that Mortimer Goth’s business? She now wished she could run away. She wished she had never written the man. She wished she never met him. This was too surreal. She couldn’t believe what she heard her mother say next.
“Now that we got the details out of the way, why don’t we retire to the living room? It’s much more comfortable there, and Simis and I would like to get to know you better,” Jocasta offered.
“I’d like that,” Mortimer said, standing up. “As much as this is a business arrangement, I would like to think of us as future in-laws. I think it would be more comfortable for everyone.”
In-laws? Bella blanked in the hallway. Marriage? Marry Mr. Goth? She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She ran upstairs to her room, collapsing on her bed in frustrated tears, completely forgetting about the party and her friend waiting for her downstairs. Her parents wanted to marry her off to a much older man. Eleven years older to be exact.
Bella was about to start university. She was about to start her life. The same parents who refused to let her date in high school were now arranging her marriage as if she was a cow directed to mate with a bull. How could they do this? Why were they doing this?
Bella marched downstairs, determined to give them all a piece of her mind. She hesitated in the hallway, losing her nerve after seeing Mortimer was still present.
“I just hope we’re doing the right thing for everyone involved,” Jocasta closed her eyes, feeling the weight of their decision pushing her conscience. “Well, I know we are. It’s just…” she heaved a sigh. “…I need to still process everything.”
“We are,” Simis assured, glancing at his wife.
“I promise I will come around regularly so your family can get to know me better, and learn to trust me. I know this will be a very fruitful partnership,” Mortimer added as if to reassure the couple on the couch.
Only Bella, who was still standing dumbfounded in the hallway, felt like things weren’t right. How can my parents do this to me? What kind of man offers this kind of thing? Is he really that desperate for a wife? Bella couldn’t help but feel the knife of betrayal sticking out of her heart, stabbing her not once… not twice… but three times. Bella raced out of the house, not even caring, even though she knew her mother hated when she allowed the door to slam.
Jennifer Pleasant was still playing the keyboard in the music room when Bella reached the front window. She waited for a moment, listening to her friend’s awful practicing, and wondering if Jenni knew she wasn’t all that good. Her friend smiled and waved one -handedly when she saw Bella continuing to play some terrible rendition of a classical piece.
“Hi, I was wondering if you’d ever come,” Jenni said as Bella climbed through the window. “Are we sneaking out because I think your parents know I’m here.”
“That weird guy I told you about? The one from the beach? Well, he’s here,” Bella said, almost absently as she plopped on the red ottoman.
“Really?” Jennie looked up, her eyes widening with excitement. “Wasn’t he cute?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Bella shrugged, and glanced at her nails. “Um… he’s handsome-ish.”
“Oh swoon!” Jennie sighed dramatically, lifting her hand off the keyboard.
“I think my parents want me to marry him,” Bella stared dead ahead.
“Yeah, he’s going to…well…” she decided against saying anything, realizing she didn’t know all the details, and she was still processing the emotions of all the words she did overhear.
“…we should go. We’re late to Lucy’s party and I have to stop at the store first and pick up something to bring.”
“I thought you said you didn’t have any money.”
“I didn’t. Mister Goth gave me some.”
“That man is Mortimer Goth!” Jennie squealed, and Bella realized she hadn’t told her best friend about the correspondence and suddenly wondered why she kept it hidden.
“Oh my gosh, Bella! You’re so lucky. He came all the way out here? I’ve heard his rich as Simdas or something.”
“It’s not about the money, Jen.”
“Sure, but it helps. Oooo… I wish I had met a rich, handsome guy in Sunset Valley,” Jennie began running her fingers all over the keys in no particular pattern, the notes clashing dramatically and echoing her frenzied excitement. “I’m sure everything will be fine. Your parents wouldn’t let him come if they didn’t think he was a good guy.”
“I guess,” Bella sighed. “Then why do I feel like my parents just sold me up a river?”
“Oh gosh,” Jennie gave a tinkling laugh. “Don’t be so dramatic, Bella. They wouldn’t do that.”
Bella hoped Jennie was right and she was wrong. As Jennie began playing an off-key rendition of the bridal processional, much to Bella’s chagrin, Bella began thinking the whole thing seemed ridiculous. Maybe she didn’t hear them correctly. Maybe they meant something else. But in her heart, she knew she was right.
Previous Chapter: Episode 4, Arrival
Next Chapter: Episode 6, Family