Bella awoke alone. Always alone. Malcolm must have already left for class. She squinted her eyes and wondered what time it was. The violet light from the rising sun fluttered through the open curtains. It was early morning.
As she swung her legs over the edge of the bed, Bella realized she couldn’t have been asleep for long. She pressed her hand into the soft tan sheets to give herself momentum, feeling something clunky and metal in her skirt pocket. Standing, she took a moment to gain her bearings, the green and tan striped wallpaper making her feel dizzy. Bella wiped her mouth, feeling a drip of nausea pool, wondering why on earth she only slept a short time. Reaching into her pockets, she also wondered how she could be so careless. Carrying Mortimer’s watch was probably not the best idea when visiting her lover. The timepiece read ten after seven. Bella still had time to return to her dorm and shower before heading to class. If I want to go to class. Oh the universe waking me this early! she cursed as she lifted her fist against the ceiling.
Her other pocket vibrated, and Bella realized she was getting a phone call. Slipping the device out, she hesitantly pressed connect.
“Maribella Madelyn Bachelor!” a highly too chipper voice belonging to Daniel Pleasant chastised her through the phone.
She grimaced, uncomfortable with the sound of her full name.
“Get your butt outside. I’ve been waiting outside for a half hour. Were you taking a five-hour shower again?”
He was outside her dorm? Bella lifted her finger to her lips in bewilderment. Did they have plans? Of course, we had plans. She vaguely recalled him making her promise to meet him for breakfast this morning.
“Um… I’m not… uh… there…” she said hoarsely, and cleared her throat. “Can we take a rain check?”
“You mean I’ve been standing outside Landgrabb for thirty minutes and you’re not even here?”
Bella winced, knowing he meant Landgrabb Boarding House, her dorimtory, but she couldn’t help but feel guilty as she was in Malcolm Landgrabb the IV’s duplex, the man with whom she was having an affair.
“So where are you? Off up a tree?” Daniel teased.
“I’ll meet you for lunch. How’s that?” Bella replied, side-stepping his question.
“Okay… fine… I guess…you’ve got class in twenty minutes anyhow,” he said. “Meet me at the Hot Spot at noon? After your morning classes?”
When Bella ended the call with Daniel, she bit her lower lip. She wasn’t going to class. She had too much on her mind. Instead of returning to her dorm, Bella wandered around Neighborly City for the morning. When she heard the campus clock strike noon with twelve resounding gongs, she realized she had lost all track of time. She didn’t even have time to head back to her room to change. She hoped she didn’t smell terribly bad. She had stayed in her underwear and laundered her skirt and tank at Malcolm’s but she had to escape out the laundry room window when she heard Allegra returning, afraid of being caught and then having to explain herself. Thankfully her skirt was mostly dry, and walking in the spring sunshine helped finish the job. Even so, her hair felt sticky and her skin sweaty. Why hadn’t she thought to shower first? Bella thought about risking Daniel’s anger and rushing back to her dorm to bathe, but decided against it. He would think she stood him up twice.
Bella arrived at the Hot Spot, and Daniel was already seated at a table. The outdoor covered porch restaurant was technically on the university property, but nonetheless, the island-themed grille was a favorite of the locals and open to the tourists that breezed through the small lakeside town. She hesitated as she walked up behind him, wishing she was normal. A normal girl wouldn’t stand up one of her closest friends. A normal girl wouldn’t be engaged to man she did not love. A normal girl could laugh and talk and date whomever she wanted. She might have even dated Daniel.
He was already eating, as it was half past twelve and she was late. She didn’t blame him for starting. He looked cool in his blue shades and blue jeans, a yellow knit sweater tied around his freshly starched white linen shirt. She could smell the laundry soap from where she stood. Daniel was a bit of a neat freak.
“A Simoleon for your thoughts, Bella Bachelor,” he said, looking up, but without turning around, scooping a bite of soup into his mouth.
Bella’s face relaxed into a smile. “Only if I can throw it into the fountain when I’m done telling you and make a wish.”
Daniel reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change, handing her a single coin. “There. Now what were you thinking? Sorry I was starved so I went ahead and ordered.”
“Not to worry. I was just thinking about normality,” she said honestly.
“Normal is overrated,” he shook his head, waving at the waiter. “I’ll go order you some lunch.”
Daniel returned momentarily, and within five minutes, the waiter brought them two bowls of black bean soup, a house special with a pinch of cumin, chopped jalapeno peppers, and a generous dollop of sour cream. A comfortable silence stretched between them as they ate, one that told of deep friendship and understanding. Bella drank in the sounds. Students, teachers, faculty, and campus visitors milled about enjoying the warm spring afternoon. From the stereo echoed sounds of steel drums and the voices of island brothers lifting their voice in song. On the television behind the bar played a soap opera. The bartender clinked glasses with the only patron at the counter, a dark-haired girl named Kaylynn Langerak from Bella’s drama class.
Bella ate her soup and found herself observing Daniel. He could appreciate his appearance – the faded freckles, the disarming smile, the unmistakable twinkle in his emerald green eyes. He was about four and a half inches taller than her, and his efforts to work out were noticeable. Of course, he had to be fit in order to complete his degree. He was a phys ed major. She smiled. She could see how people would be attracted to physique in addition to his lighthearted humor and undeniable charm. She wondered when the last time he went on a date, and immediately began thinking through which friends would most likely go out with him. He caught her gaze.
“What?” he grinned.
“You wore that rainforest aftershave again.”
“That’s what you were thinking about?”
“I like that scent.”
“I could grow a goatee.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
Daniel laughed. “You’re right. Most ladies don’t like facial hair.” He stroked his jaw. “The men might though.”
Bella playfully slugged him in the arm. She waved to Kaylynn, who was still sitting solo at the bar. The girl smiled and crossed her legs as she pulled out a Simspearean play to read while sipping her soda.
“Hey, do you know my friend, Kaylynn?” Bella asked, leaning her elbows on the table.
“Oh no,” Daniel shook his head nervously.
“What? She’s a really great girl,” Bella said. “She’s an excellent actress. My drama coach says all the time that she and I are the best in the class. And she works part-time on nights and weekends at the Sim State Daycare Center on campus for the students with families so you know she’s hard-working and responsible.”
“Sounds like she doesn’t have much time between work and classes,” he said.
“When’s the last time you were on a date?” Bella raised her voice a notch.
“Bella!” Daniel made a face and lowered his head, concentrating on his soup. “I don’t like you setting me up with your friends.”
“She’s awesome. Come on, Danny. She’s kinda a neat freak like you, and she’s great with kids. She might be just a little overly enthusiastic at times, but she does love bowling.”
“Well, now that’s random,” Daniel rolled his eyes, then saw the annoyed look on her face. “Sorry for the sarcasm.”
“I mean, she can bowl ten times better than I can. She was even in a league in high school. And you like bowling, so I thought the two of you…” Bella trailed off.
“Go bowling? I never would’ve guessed.”
“You could do without the immaturity.”
“Sorry, Bells, I’m just trying to figure out why the sudden interest in my love life.”
Bella shrugged. “I just thought it might be fun to set you up.”
“I’m sorta seeing someone.”
“What?” Bella’s mouth dropped open. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Daniel winced. “I don’t want to make a big deal about it yet.”
“Why? Bella asked, cocking her head playfully.
“Sam… is…well… uh…” Josh fumbled for words. “I just can’t… just don’t say anything.”
“Who do you think I’ll be talking to?” Bella frowned.
“Just don’t say anything to anyone, okay?” he muttered.
“Daniel?” Bella narrowed her eyes, and leaned in closely as she whispered, “Are you seeing a dude?”
“No, Bella! Just…” Daniel raised his voice, looking as though he were about the explode, the red rising in his cheeks.
“Sam? Does she go here on campus?”
“He is here on campus, and um…” Daniel corrected.
“I don’t understand but…” Bella hesitated, but seeing the pleading look in his eyes and sensing his frustration, she conceded. “Okay. I won’t say anything.”
They returned to silence, scraping their bowls. Bella wished she hadn’t pushed her friend, but she genuinely wanted to know who he was dating. She didn’t care what gender the person identified with, and she was hurt that Daniel didn’t trust her enough to open up to her about his love interests. Then again, she hadn’t exactly been forthcoming about hers. A biker chimed his bell as he pedaled past the Hot Spot, and Bella glanced up, making brief eye contact with the familiar blue-haired man. She gasped. It was Emit Relevart. She opened her mouth to speak, but decided against it as Emit gave her a curious look and pedaled past. She hadn’t seen him in months. She stared after him until he turned a corner.
“You know that guy?” Daniel inquired.
She coughed. “Why do you ask that?”
Daniel eyed her sharply, sensing the intentional use of a question to answer a question. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
“I asked you first.”
“What about Sam? I already told you I don’t want to talk about it.”
“And I don’t want to talk about this.”
“Well I don’t even know what this is,” Daniel ran his hand through his hair. “Bella, I don’t even know when the last time you went on a date was. And here you are hounding me.”
“I date,” she protested, hiking her chin in the air.
“Who?” he asked, intrigued, leaning his head on his hand. “Well, actually, I know who.”
“You do?” Bella’s eyes widened, and she swallowed hard as her heart began pounding harder.
“Yeah, well…” he shrugged. “I didn’t think you wanted anyone to know and all…seeing as the guy is…um…” he lowered his voice. “…engaged.”
Bella gasped. He knew about Malcolm.
“But hey! It’s your business, Bella,” Daniel lifted his hands in his defense. “I know you’re a smart girl, and you’re one hell of a beauty, so I don’t blame the guy.”
“And his fiance is pretty bitchy from what I know and his parents arranged things for him, I think… I don’t know. That’s what the gossip mags say. I’d be pretty upset if my parents arranged my marriage and all. I can’t blame the guy for wanting someone as amazing as you.”
Bella wasn’t sure what to react to first. She was pleased to hear his compliments, but she wished she could tell him about Mortimer. Maybe it would be good to get that secret off her chest too. She and Malcolm shared the same boat, but were rowing in opposite directions. However, part of the family contract required her to keep things on the down low until she graduated. She didn’t want to breach the contract and risk her family losing their income stream. Then again, she was pretty hypocritical. She was so keen on keeping anonymity, but she was sleeping with another man. Bella grabbed her stomach, feeling incredible guilt.
“You read the gossip mags?” she tried to distract herself.
“Darling, where do you think I get my sense of style?” he smirked.
She chuckled weakly. “You knew?”
“I know,” he said quietly, laying his hand across her own. “But trust me, Bella, I’ll go to my grave with your secret. Look my parents don’t know about me and all… and I’m not quite sure how to tell them. I think it would kill them to know I like both guys and girls. But the guy I’m with… well, he’s great, and kind, and he likes to buy me gifts and all. It’s sweet actually. He makes me feel better about myself than I have in a long time. I just hate to make my parents mad. If they knew…”
“Danny, I think your parents would be more understanding than you think. Hell, they actually talk to you and like you. Sometimes I think my parents hate me,” Bella said sadly.
“They don’t hate you, Bella,” Daniel said softly.
“Your dad seems pretty chill, and open-minded. I had a long talk with him about the vampire feuds in Los Aniegos and he told me about the vamp colony on Luna that he worked with when he was in space. He was the first person who helped me talk about my…” she dropped to a low voice. “…vampire genes and all… I mean, I don’t practice, but he didn’t judge. So if Jeff could accept my supernatural-ness, then he could accept you too, I think.”
“Thanks Bella, I know you’re trying to make me feel better…” Daniel sighed. “But truth be told, the guy I’m with… well…” he winced. “He’s married.”
Bella’s jaw dropped open. Engaged was one thing. Married? She hung her head. She couldn’t say anything. What was she doing? Engaged was practically married. Cheating was cheating.
“He’s a lot older. And his wife…” Daniel trailed off, embarrassed. “…well, she has dementia.”
How old was this Sam guy? Bella wondered.
“Before you wonder… she is well taken care of. She lives in a home with high quality care and he goes to visit her every day. But he’s lonely… and frankly… I am too… so regarding what you’re doing…I can’t judge, Bella, I just can’t…because I’m doing it too.”
Suddenly, Bella understood. She squeezed Daniel’s hand.
“So Bella, I trust your judgments. You know what you’re doing, and so do I… and man… it feels good to get that off my chest,” Daniel visibly sighed, raising and lowering his shoulders.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Just…” she squeezed his hand hard again as if to reassure herself of Daniel’s understanding. “…thank you.”
Author Note: So Emit randomly rode a bike through the scene but because of the angle I couldn’t get a screenshot without redoing the scene but decided to include it. Daniel’s love interest is the recreated Professor Sam Boyle from TS2. Kaylynn Langerak is my own recreation. Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading.
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