Fall morphed into winter. Bella’s spending continued to rage out of control. If there was a definition for shopaholic in the dictionary, Bella was certain her picture would be found next to it. For every dollar her parents sent, she spent double. For every gift Mortimer sent, she bought herself another. She filled her mind with schoolwork, and when she wasn’t studying, she distracted her mind on her soap opera work, and when she wasn’t working, she numbed her mind on magazine gossip about celebrities and dreamed she would one day be one. She filled her room with stuff – most of the time the exact opposite of something she had been given. If Mortimer sent a teddy bear, she bought a dragon. If he bought rose-scented candles, she bought skull candles. If he purchased a white dress, she purchased two black ones.
Christmas came, and Bella stood by the side of her best friend, Jennifer. Of course, being the maid of honor meant duties. She threw an expensive bridal shower and the best bachelorette party Jennifer could have ever dreamed of, and she purchased fancy bridal gifts. Jennifer deserved the best. Bella bought the most expensive spa packages for herself to prepare for the wedding day, and even treated herself to a vacation after seeing the new Mr. and Mrs. John Burb off at the airport, spontaneously purchasing tickets to Big Apple City for the new year to drown her sorrows in wine and bubble baths and kissing strangers in Clock Square after the countdown. Bella was living the life… but it was lonely, and she knew it. She just wanted to spend her last few months in freedom, but instead, she felt further and further enchained.
On the second of Simuary, Bella received the first notice. Then she received a second notice on Simbruary first, and more in Simarch, and the warning of collections. Her bills were stacking and she had no hope of paying them. Her salary as a movie extra, even if she had a small bit part here and there in Specific Hospital, wasn’t enough to cover her mounting credit card debt. Bella knew her parents would kill her if they found out, and she had no idea how Mortimer would react, but he wouldn’t be pleased. Bella asked her boss for an advance, but that only worked one time because she now owed him more than twice her normal salary.
Before the start of Passover season, Bella escaped to the Simardi Gras celebration in Rio de Simnero with the Caliente twins. She knew that jet-setting wasn’t the answer to filling the hole in her heart, and it certainly wasn’t helping her pocket book, but Bella couldn’t help it. She was addicted to the power she felt when she swiped her card, knowing that the money wasn’t coming from her parents or the Goths. Bella indulged in the frivolity, dancing through the streets with purple, gold, and green beads flapping around her neck, flashing random lucky guys who bounced by, and making out with others in the dim-lit corners of raucous bars. She didn’t care who she was with or what really happened because in her drunken sensuality she could abandon her life for a weekend.
As Bella pulled her coat closer to her body, she shivered as an icy blast of wind whipped at her skirt. She thought about taking up a job as a fry cook at the same restaurant her classmate, Nina worked, but the pay was peanuts and she wouldn’t get her paycheck for three weeks. She chatted with Kaylynn about subbing at the day care, but they needed her to pass a background check. Bella figured her drunkenly disorderly stint from freshman year, and public indecency from streaking during rush week sophomore year probably would count against her. She went to see Danny, but he was penny pinching, having just purchased a ring for his girlfriend, Mary-Sue Oldie. They had met at the wedding, and her parents were long-time friends of the Burb family. Bella had been shocked Daniel was getting engaged so soon after the loss of his lover, and his unintentional confession of love for her, but she congratulated him, and realized she was out of luck. She could only do the one thing she had been dreading.
She stood in the solarium beneath a swinging lace fern in a cranberry crepe de Chine gown with an ebony sash and snowflake trellis on the floor-length skirt. It was much too early for evening wear, but she wanted to make an impression – one that was serious, while still appealing. She had been asked by the housekeeper if she wished to keep her coat as the furnace had not been given a chance to heat the entirety of the large house this early in the morning. She shook her head, well aware this would dampen the effect of her sudden appearance. Her hair was perfectly curled, down from its usual position, and flowing free around her shoulders. Bella stared out at the late spring snow, her head tilted elegantly in the early morning light as she watched the flakes fall. The fifth of Simmay was much too late for snow, she puzzled. The housekeeper had instructed her to wait after she said it was urgent she see the master of the house.
When he arrived, he appeared significantly under-dressed in comparison, a brown plaid robe, open and untied, thrown over his black boxer shorts. He looked as though he carelessly dressed after the housekeeper roused him from sleep. He ran a hand through his tousled strawberry blonde locks, and grinned sheepishly.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting you,” he said.
“Mr. Landgrabb, I haven’t come here on a whim. I know you’re a busy man,” she spoke briskly.
“Mr. Landgrabb?” he repeated, rubbing the back of his neck with a cheeky grin. “Why it’s good to see you too, Ms. Bachelor.”
She eluded his outstretched hand in greeting, and brushed past the keys of the upright piano, resuming her position staring out the window, her hands clasped behind her back.
“Oh, perhaps were you expecting a kiss?” Malcolm said, approaching behind her as he wrapped his arms around her waist. “I recall we’re quite good at kissing.”
Bella glared at the snow. “You did more than kiss me last time we were in Rio.”
Malcolm chuckled, pecking her cheek respectfully. “Is that what you came for?”
“No,” she shook her head vehemently. “Simardi Gras was a mistake.”
Malcolm exhaled heavily as he plopped on the brown couch across the room, interlocking his fingers behind his head. “Too bad… it was fun.”
Bella gritted her teeth and balled her fists before composing herself.
“I see you resumed the family trade in Pleasantview,” she remarked as she turned. “Business must be good. This house is nice.”
“You mean my mansion?” Malcolm winked. “Yeah, I suppose it’s big enough.”
“And Ms. Upsnott approves?” Bella said, and what she didn’t add was…of your ridiculous womanizing?
Bella imagined she was not the only one Malcolm had entertained in his home, even after his Simuly wedding to Brittany last year.
He moved from his lounging position to a seated position. “Mrs. Landgrabb,” he corrected. “…prefers city to country life. But not me…” he flicked a stray leaf from the edge of the couch.
“Big fish. Little pond. Same old tactics, Malcolm,” Bella narrowed her eyes.
“Can I get you anything Bella?” Malcolm asked, his eyes twinkling. “Would you like some coffee? A glass of juice? Maybe a pop tart?”
Bella sniffed. “You eat pop tarts?”
“Well,” he began, flexing as he stood. “I do work off all the calories within an hour,” he rubbed his bicep. “So why are you here, Bella?”
“I recall you said you loved me once,” she stated.
Malcolm dropped his arms, his lips parting slightly.
“I also know that your family has recently completed a billion Simoleon merger with the Hogan family for control of their diners,” Bella lowered her eyes.
“So you keep up with the financial section of the Money Market Lane Journal?” Malcolm smirked.
“Nice acquisition,” she remarked. “Pays a pretty penny too. And I heard you inherited control.”
“You need money?” he scoffed. “I can hardly just write you a check, Bella Bachelor. People would be suspicious.”
“How would you like to continue our affair…indefinitely?” she arched a brow.
Malcolm coughed in complete surprise. Bella knew this wasn’t the best plan, but it was the only plan she could think of that made sense right now. She would rather be someone’s mistress for life than trapped as a wife to a man she hardly knew.
“The Hogan family has a piece of property in Sunlit Tides. Now the deed is in the Hogan name, but the property technically was acquired by you in the merger, am I right?” she continued. “I recall you once offering to run away with me, Malcolm, because you loved me, right? And you are about the only person who could successfully hide me from the Goths.”
“Now, wait a minute,” Malcolm straightened to his full height. “Bella, what are you suggesting?”
“I was thinking I might just drop out of school and retire to the Simiribbean. Change my name. Dye my hair. Learn new hobbies. And you could come visit me,” Bella said casually, though hurriedly.
“Bel…I…you want to be a kept woman?” Malcolm’s jaw dropped open. “But…why?”
Bella continued boldly, rushing her words before she lost confidence. “Because I’m expecting your child, Malcolm.”
Author Note: In my Simworld, Passover is the Jacoban and Peteran form of Easter. Simardi Gras is evidently Mardi Gras, or the Fat Tuesday celebration before the start of Passover season. Typically, Mardi Gras is 47 days before Easter. The Eastern Orthodox church has a later calendar than the Western calendar. In my Simworld, Passover (Easter) begins later in the year, following a Devourtarian (my Simworld version of the Orthodox church) calendar. In this year, Bella celebrates Simardi Gras in late Simarch and she visits Malcolm on Passover Sunday in early Simmay.
Clock Square is a play on Times Square. The Hogan family owns the Hogan’s Deep Fried Diner franchise, though it has now been acquired by the Landgrabbs. Hope you enjoyed.