After her conversation with Emit, Bella found new purpose in her step. She had found her out, and one that didn’t require being a kept woman… or eliminating her baby. Bella smiled wistfully as she touched the bathroom mirror, still baffled that Emit would agree to raise another man’s child. She didn’t know what her future held, and how she and Emit would bridge the gaps in their knowledge about one another, but she did know marrying Emit was a much better option than marrying Mortimer.
Mortimer. She felt guilty abandoning him, but only slightly. He was the reason she had been allowed to live the way she had, and yet he was her deepest cause for sorrow. Perhaps she should have tried harder. In a different lifetime, she could have attempted to be the good girl her parents had raised her to be, and actually tried to make sense of a relationship with Mr. Goth. However, she had made her bed and now she needed to lie in it, and truth be told, she had no guarantee, if she stayed, that Mortimer would stay with her, or that he wouldn’t make her pay back every cent of her education.
Yesterday, Bella had walked across the outdoor stage at Sim State University and claimed her diploma. The day felt surreal as Bella chucked her graduate cap in the air along with her classmates as her dad snapped pictures, her brother whistled with his fingers, and her mother even looked somewhat proud as she clapped in a demure way. Bella had locked eyes with Daniel momentarily before he knelt with the ring box in front of Mary-Sue Oldie for a very public marriage proposal. John, Jennifer’s new husband, caught the proposal on video tape, and of course, Mary-Sue said yes.
Bella blocked the sun from her face with her diploma as she struggled in her heels as she walked across the lawn to meet her family, fighting a gust of a sudden wind current. She smiled as she saw Emit clutching his own diploma across the quad, staring as if it was his most prized possession. He had made a real accomplishment. He graduated from a Simterran university without anyone, save her, knowing his true origins and with the hefty language barrier. She lifted her hand to wave at him, and they shared a knowing smile.
She shared a quiet dinner with her parents and brother at the Neighborly Bistro before they returned to Pleasantview. With two weeks left until the wedding, there were still so many preparations needed. Bella stayed overnight, packing up her most important possessions. The moving truck was coming later this morning to carry her other items, but Bella wouldn’t be going home to Pleasantview this afternoon. Emit and Bella would be taking the nine o’clock train to across the border to Simnadia. . She was planning to meet Emit and they were catching the train out of town to Simnadia.
The real reason he spent summers in the northwest territories was to work with the Orbix in their movement against the Xenosi raids on Simterra. Despite having lost the war, the Xenosi still interfered in Sims lives. They would take a boat to Vargfjell,Simshua where the underground, the supernaturals who were secretly fighting the Xenosi were headquartered. From there, Emit would work to book them passage off world so they would never need to worry about the Goth family again.
Bella wrapped herself in a towel. John was out at the store picking up snacks for their drive home in the truck. She didn’t need to worry about him accidentally seeing her. She thought she heard someone faintly calling her name, but she figured she was still addled by the steam.
“Bella!” Jennifer shouted.
“What?” she yelled back.
“You’re not going to believe this. Mortimer Goth is here,” Jennifer called up the stairs.
Bella froze. He can’t be. He didn’t even come yesterday to witness her college graduation, which he paid for, but he was here now?
“What? Are you sure?” she dangled her head over the railing, snapping into focus.
“Yeah, I’m pretty darn sure,” Jennifer replied. “And there’s a woman with him too… in that fancy car of his.”
Bella yanked her head back into an upright position. She leaned against the wall in a panic. What was he doing here? Why would he have driven to Neighborly City when she would have been home this evening? Well… he thinks I would be home.
They had plans to meet up and discuss their vows over dinner at the Fireside Bistro. Why would he come here instead? To surprise her? That didn’t sound like him. And why would he bring another woman? Was it his mother or one of his sisters? Bella hoped to God he didn’t expect her to ride back with his mom and sister.
“Tell him, I’m not decent,” she hissed. “And find out what he wants.”
“O…kay…” Jennifer said, sounding unconvinced. “He looks mad.”
Bella heard the door open with a bang, and in strode Mortimer Goth. He didn’t even have the decency to knock.
“Where is she, Jennifer?” he snapped.
“What? Um… hi… Mr. Goth…” Jennifer stammered. “Why are you here?”
“You know why I’m here,” he narrowed his eyes. “Bella!” he called out for her.
Bella stepped back into the floral wallpaper, covering her mouth to keep from audibly gasping. He was angry… but why? She didn’t want to find out. She turned to walk back into her room, but as she did she heard stomping on the stairs.
“Mr. Goth… Mortimer… please… Bella isn’t feeling well… she isn’t decent!” Jennifer called after him in vain.
Bella didn’t have any time to hide. Mortimer walked across the hall, backing her into a corner. She clutched at her towel, gasping. This was the first time he had seen her undressed, and this wasn’t exactly what she would’ve liked.
“Oh stop acting modest,” he snarled, his face darkened. “I know you’ve been with other men.”
“The real reason you aren’t feeling well is because you’re pregnant, isn’t it?”
Bella released her grip on her towel and flailed to support herself against the wall behind her.
“Mortimer,” she breathed.
“You’re wondering how I know. I know. Bella!” he threw his hands in the air. “I’ve known all along. I didn’t expect you to be celibate for me. Hell, I paid for your college tuition and told your parents I’d wait until you graduated. I knew if I waited I would be letting you have your fun. But I didn’t expect you to get pregnant. I didn’t expect you to be stupid.”
Her eyes watered with tears. “I’m sorry,” she said, shamefully dropping her head.
“Oh hell, Bella! I wanted one thing… one thing my parents didn’t dictate in my life. I wanted one thing they couldn’t control,” he said, sounding almost defeated. “I knew the second I laid eyes on you that you would be that one thing. That you would be my savior.”
Bella’s eyes widened. In all this time, she had never once stopped to consider the fact that he might be just as trapped as she was.
“I knew that if I arranged my own marriage soon enough, they couldn’t do anything about it. I could have control over this one small measure of happiness… this one small part of my life. That you would be the bright spot in the life plan already forged for me,” Mortimer confessed with enthusiastic passion. “And I knew they would have to let me because you were their ticket to more money, those greedy bastards.”
Her eyes snapped wide. Somehow Bella felt defensive about her own future in-laws.
“Because of your supernatural genes, Bella, that you could be a research subject for them, but if I was married to you, I could control it. I could protect you. Hell, I even thought maybe I’d grow to love you. Do you think you could have cared about me?”
Mortimer had hoped she would bring him happiness but somehow thought that by forcing her into an arrangement he would gain her affection. Bella couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She couldn’t believe she felt sympathy for the man who had made her life miserable all these years with one small choice – to snatch her away from the life she could have had. And here he was standing in her hallway with her practically naked, dressed to the nines in his grey three piece suit, spouting about protecting her and loving her.
“We can still fix this,” he said with a heavy puff of air.
Her face soured. “How?” she instinctively covered her stomach. “I won’t let you take the baby away from me.”
Mortimer shook his head. “My darling,” he began, sending shivers through her spine.
How could he use a term of endearment in a moment like this?
“Everything can be fixed… for the right price…” he remarked.
She shifted her balance uneasily.
“I know about the affair with Malcolm.”
Bella felt as though she had just been hit in the gut, and she doubled over in pain.
“His father and my father are golf buddies,” Mortimer said casually. “Pay anyone enough and you can find out details. We discovered about the affair first through Malcolm’s roommate…”
Allegra? Bella looked up at him in surprise.
“And then through his housekeeper.”
She placed her hands on her hips and wheezed.
“You weren’t exactly discreet when you two argued at his house,” Mortimer flicked an imaginary piece of dust from his coat. “But now that I know, it’s no matter. Malcolm and I discussed the situation as gentlemen, and decided it would be best for everyone involved for you to still marry me, and for Malcolm to remain married to Brittany.”
Bella felt pressure roaring in her head.
“We are getting married in less than two weeks so no one would be the wiser and everyone would assume the baby is mine,” Mortimer said nonchalantly. “As for Malcolm not blabbing the truth to the world, well, he would lose his golden goose…”
His family fortune, Bella gritted her teeth.
“…and the milking cow…”
Brittany. For the first time ever, Bella actually felt sorry for Malcolm’s former girlfriend, now wife.
“…and I agreed to stay silent if he would hand over his acquisition of Hogan’s Deep Fried Diners…” Mortimer continued, and seeing her surprised look, he added, “That’s right, darling, you had a good idea blackmailing him and trying to leverage the diners, but you just didn’t have the details right.”
Bella balled her fists. “Why? Why would I go along with this plan?” she howled.
Mortimer took a step toward her, and she flinched, but he gently lifted her chin so she could meet his eyes. “My darling, how long do you think you would last without your medication?”
Panic seized her chest and she would have fallen back if Mortimer hadn’t grabbed her arm to steady her. He’s paying for my Vampro-D, she thought, feeling sick.
“I’m sure your supernatural friend… the one with blue hair… oh yes, I know about him too, and if I were you, I would stop seeing him. You hurt me Bella, choosing other men over me. Have you been with him too?”
Emit! She gasped and Mortimer released his grasp, and she fell into the wall.
“No!” she cried, uncertain if she was answering his question or protesting the entire situation.”
“He and his friends… whom I assume are with the underground…can help you for awhile, but forever?” he offered a sad smile. “Bella, I want to help you. I want to give you forever. Bella, you would die within a month without your pills. That’s the problem with the medication. It makes you utterly dependent upon it once you start.”
She gasped. He was right. After a week, the migraines and sleeplessness began. After two, the hallucinations settled in, and by week three, the delusional behavior.
“And how quickly do you think his supernatural friends could find you another source?” Mortimer confined. “Maybe a potent elixir or an illegal transfusion… or Bella… would you turn to slaying other Sims to satiate your thirst for blood when the delusions and the hallucinations set in?”
“I hate you,” she cried and lifted her arms over her head as if half-expecting Mortimer to strike her.
Instead, he knelt by her side and rested his hand on her knee.
“Bella, I do not mean to frighten you, darling, I am really not so evil,” he said, as if trying to convince himself more than her. “I do not want to see you like this. I don’t want you to have to drink the blood of Sims as a replacement. Oh Bella, don’t you see, I care about you?”
“You care about keeping me,” Bella retorted. “You don’t care about me.”
“Bella, you sang to me on the beach. You asked me to give you my heart and soul and life will always be la vie an rose,” Mortimer reminded, trying to lift her chin, but she turned away. “Darling, I know my life isn’t roses, but I thought you could help things bloom. I could forgive you if you’d agree to come with me. I will still honor the contract and marry you. I will see you have the best care for yourself and the baby. I will build you the best nursery possible. I will make certain you will be happy.”
“How? Throwing money at things doesn’t mean happiness. That’s not how la vie en rose works,” Bella shouted.
” Ah but darling, money makes the world go round. I have decades of watching my parents manipulate anyone and control everything they could. That’s what money does to a person. It corrupts. I know it has corrupted you too because seriously…” he clucked his tongue. “You have racked up quite a little debt now haven’t you?”
Bella let her arms fall limply to her sides in humiliation. How did he know so much?
“Don’t worry, child,” he patted her cheek in a patronizing fashion. “I took care of it. You don’t need to worry that pretty head of yours about money ever again. You can spend whatever you wish. You were my guarantee my parents could not control everything. And I shouldn’t be surprised I couldn’t control you. However…” he pulled down on his vest. “I will follow through on my word and do my best to take care of you for life… more than your supernatural friend could ever dream.”
Mortimer stood. “I will leave you to think about things, but you should know that I expect there to be no more men once we are married. I understand the urges you’ve had in the last few years. I’ve had them myself…”
She stared at him through tear-filled eyes, feeling shattered.
“…I mean, I understand the desire for the company of the opposite sex. You didn’t think you were the only one who had an affair?” Mortimer tilted his head. “A girl from your class…” he straightened his tie. “A Nina Caliente…she has done nicely to meet my needs just as I am sure Malcolm did for you.”
Mortimer started down the stairs, leaving an utterly heartbroken terrified Bella.
“I promise, darling,” he called over his shoulder. “In thirteen days, I will only be faithful to you.”