Silence pounded in her ears. She couldn’t take it anymore. She would fill the silence with color… beautiful, glorious color, magnificent color, color she’d never dreamed of, color that birthed stories. Those stories would hold bitterness, anger, deception, and ugly truths, wild, blossoming romances, terrifying thrilling secrets, poignant tales of families searching for loved ones lost in the forests of futility. People would say she was fantastic. People would praise her works. Her brushstrokes would fly across the canvas and no longer would rooms be filled with empty silence, but they’d be filled with the echoes of genius and exceptional talent.
Bella paused in her reverie. Ah, who am I kidding? She’d never be a famous artist. She’d never even finished a single painting let alone a masterpiece. How was she, Bella Bachelor Goth, ever going to become a renowned artist of anything if she never completed anything she started? Exhaling an exasperated sigh, she dropped her arm limply at her side and laid her head against the easel in defeat.
“Is something wrong, dear?”
Her husband’s voice answered her audible annoyance. He was, as usual, monopolizing almost the entire bench. A nearby woman in her early forties kept continually complaining about back pain, and exaggerating her bending movements, but Mortimer didn’t seem to acknowledge. He sat with the same sensually cool confidence he always donned, but at the moment, he had lost his appeal and it left a sour taste.
They hadn’t been intimate since they arrived, mostly because he had been spending nearly every waking minute in La Ville Lumière, supposedly conducting business with associates in order to secure financing for his own firm. When he had arrived back at the resort, Bella had already engaged in a Paint’n’Chill class in the gardens, an evening under the winter stars with painting and nectar. And Bella did like a good nectar. She assumed when Mortimer arrived, and she was already tipsy and halfway to drunk, that he would simply give her the obligatory peck on the cheek and head inside for a shower and his nightly hot chocolate, but instead, he sat on the bench behind the class, clacking away on his laptop, hovering like a hawk, minus the fixed attention she wanted and deserved.
Bella shivered, tugging her scarf closer to her neck, wondering if her painting was remotely good. The teacher, in broken Simlish, explained the various concepts of their winter sky painting, but she had given up long ago and decided to try a vase of flowers instead and some kind of hummingbird. At least I think it’s a hummingbird flying to sip nectar from the flower. At the thought of sipping nectar, Bella reached for her wine glass and sloshed the liquid around.
“Never better,” she said in a deliberately sultry voice.
Mortimer didn’t even glance up as he replied, “I asked if something was wrong, not how you felt.”
Bella sighed, her shoulders slumped. He didn’t seem to care to pay attention to her, but he did feel the need to correct her in front of strangers. Ha, Bella thought miserably. I’d even take a smile in my direction on occasion. He hadn’t touched her once since he helped her from the their rental car four days ago when they visited the only restaurant in town, the Catania Café. Sure, he’d sleep beside her if he didn’t fall asleep on the couch with his accounting books to the droning sounds of late night Champion television. She was feeling neglected and bored, and another day cooped up at the resort, she was sure she’d go insane. She didn’t even have the inspiration to work on her music, and she didn’t have the focus to read through her scripts.
“Did you say something?” she tried aloofly.
Two can play this game, she thought to herself with an inner smirk.
“I just asked if you were all right,” Mortimer answered, letting his fingers rest on his keyboard.
“As if anything could be wrong,” Bella muttered sarcastically, continuing her blue brush strokes on the canvas.
He brought his leg up off the ground, balancing it across his knee, his dark eyes bearing some mild, tired annoyance.
“Why ever would anything be wrong?” she added.
“Hmm.” So did you.
He didn’t say anything, but dropped his gaze back to the papers swirling beneath him, and once again, the only noises to be heard were his fingers pecking on the keyboard and her occasional guttural groans, sadly not for her, though she probably wouldn’t have dignified them with a response even if they were. She almost rolled her eyes, but decided to spare the juvenile tactics.
Her cell phone jingled in her pocket, and her heart almost somersaulted in relief.
“I’m going to take this,” she said, craning her neck to see Mortimer, but he merely grunted.
“Jennifer!” she was happy to hear the voice of her best friend. “Is everything okay? Are the…” she threw a glance at her husband, and exaggerated her next words. “…children alright?”
He didn’t even look up at the sound of her question, and she crunched her toe in the snow-covered grass in annoyance.
“The children are fine. Healthy. John just put both Alexander to bed.”
“Thank you again for watching them so Mortimer and I could get… a romantic vacation away,” Bella nearly gagged on her own sarcasm, but if Jennifer heard it, she ignored it.
“How is Champs les Sims?”
“Can I call you right back?”
Bella collected her painting, returned her wine glass to the dirty dish tub, thanked the instructor, and told Mortimer she was heading back to the room. The man’s face was illuminated by the glow of his laptop and he waved at her, but didn’t bother looking up. She couldn’t help but feel gypped… this was supposed to be their fresh start.
Bella trudged up the stairs to the second floor of the Cloud Nine Spa and Resort, and stuck her keys into the door of the Caramel Suite. Once the door was securely closed behind her, she let her shoulders drop and flopped on the bed. There was something about lying on the stomach on a bed that every girl found comforting even a twenty-three-year old.
“Thank God you called. I’m dying.”
The sounds of banging pots and pans, a tea kettle whistling, a childish voice yelling, and a familiar ‘Here’s lookin’ at you, kid‘ quote from the television set floated through the receiver. Bella smiled, instantly feeling warmed.
“Hold on Bella. Casimblanca is on, the hot water’s done, and Cassandra is hitting ever metal object in the room with my wooden cooking spoon. It sounds like a war zone,” Jennifer said, sounding desperate.
“It sounds like heaven,” Bella rolled over onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. “I’m aching for good conversation even if I’m the only one doing the talking.”
“Now doesn’t that…” Jennifer stopped mid-sentence to correct Bella’s daughter, and the other end of the line became muffled temporarily. “…doesn’t that defeat the purpose of conversation?”
“I just want to hear noise,” Bella twisted a piece of her hair around her fingertip. “It’s duller than whitewashed tombs here.”
“What’s with the church talk?”
“I don’t know. It’s the only metaphor I could think of at the moment.”
“What’s going on? I thought you and Mortimer were going to enjoy this month away, a second honeymoon… and well… you know…”
Bella sighed again. “Me too,” she said, knowing exactly what her friend meant. “But Mr. Goth seems to be infatuated with his work and would rather have a relationship with the love seat than love me.”
“It’s that bad?” Jennifer began, but was interrupted by more banging sounds.
She paused again to silence and scold Cassandra. Bella could hear John’s voice in the background say something along the lines of “time for bed, little lady.”
“I’m sorry to subject you to my children,” Bella apologized.
“Don’t be,” Jennifer said softly, and Bella could practically hear her smile. “This is good practice for John and I, and he is in his element. He will make a wonderful father someday.”
Sadness pricked Bella’s heart, and she wondered if she would ever get a chance to see Mortimer be a good father.
“And we offered for your sakes, though it sounds like things are rough?” Jennifer continued.
“Well I suppose it’s not all terrible. The spa here is fantastic, but I’ve seen more of the masseuse than I have Mortimer,” Bella grunted.
“I’m sorry,” Jennifer sounded genuinely sympathetic. “I thought the time away would do you both some good. You both needed the break badly, and we both know he hasn’t been responding to you much until recently. The vacation was supposed to help that.”
“Everything was great until he decided he wanted to move to Sunset Valley when we return nation side. I can’t believe he started this whole process of finding funding for his own firm without talking to me first. I didn’t realize this trip was a sham,” Bella groaned.
“I’m so sorry, Bella,” Jennifer repeated.
“Now that I disagreed with him, he barely talks to me and when he does it’s help yourself to whatever’s in my wallet if I want to go shopping or hand me the remote; I want to check the stock market as if I’m interested in shopping or stocks!” Bella nearly wailed. “He won’t touch me. Last night it was a peck on the cheek and I’ll be to bed shortly, dear and he ended up catching winks on the couch. I mean, we’ve been married for over two years now and he’s barely noticed me. He’ll sleep in the same bed with me, but he turns over on his side, hogs the covers, and snores. What’s wrong with me, Jennifer? Am I not attractive enough?”
“Oh now, don’t go down that road, Bella,” Jennifer interjected, her mothering tone appearing. “You are a beautiful young woman. Mortimer knows that. He’s just busy trying to provide for you and for your future together.”
“He’s always busy. And it doesn’t matter what I wear or if I take a little extra time on my makeup or pick out especially eye-catching jewelry, he never seems to notice, and frankly I just don’t care anymore,” Bella bemoaned.
“Men are pretty ignorant when it comes to those things, Bella. Maybe you need to try something more bold,” Jennifer suggested.
“Like what?” Bella flopped onto her back and stared up at the ceiling.
“I don’t know…” Jennifer hesitated, and lowered her voice. “Maybe wear something revealing to bed?”
“I could, but I doubt he’d notice even if I was in my birthday suite,” Bella draped an arm across her forehead. “I wish I didn’t come to Champs les Sims.”
“Don’t say that,” Jennifer replied. “You just need to tell Mortimer the truth about how you feel, and be honest with yourself.”
“What are you saying?” Bella frowned.
“Well, is there a reason why you don’t care anymore? Is it because things were easier when Mortimer was just always ignoring you?” Jennifer asked.
Bella narrowed her eyes. It was easier when they gave each other the cold shoulder. Mortimer rescued her from a fire in their home, said he loved her, swept her away to Sim Union, stayed with her through her abuelo’s funeral, whisked her away to Championne, and romanced her for all of three days before suddenly losing interest again. Was it because she said she didn’t want to move to Sunset Valley? A good wife would properly support her husband’s career move, but she would need to give up her career and family and home to do so. A good husband wouldn’t keep a decision this big from his wife, she thought. They barely discussed things and then he went back to working and acting as if she wasn’t important. Does he really love me? Do I really love him? I think I do… after everything he has done for me.
She thought of Emit. He loved her no matter what. He promised to protect her and be by her side irregardless of her marriage. He promised to back off if that’s what she wanted, but he also promised and offered her more love and attention, devotion and passion than Mortimer ever had… and she doubted could. Still, as a married woman and a mother, she couldn’t simply abandon her husband and children, and so Emit would always be a friend. And yet, if she was completely honest with herself, she craved more. Was it possible to be in love with two very different men at the same time?
“Bella, are you still there?”
“Um… yeah… sorry… I…” she trailed off. “I should go. It’s late.”
“Okay, chin up, dear. Try to talk to him and tell him how you feel,” Jennifer said. “Love ya.”
“Love ya too.”
Mortimer returned to the room shortly after her call ended. He acknowledged her, brushed his teeth in the bathroom, and climbed into bed. Bella was hurt. He didn’t even kiss her good night. As she lay on the bed, clutching the covers, she feared that his love for her was just a phase. After attempting to sleep, she propelled herself out of bed. For most of the night, Bella paced back and forth in her hotel room, mentally weighing the pros and cons of loving Mortimer… and Emit. Mortimer’s list far outweighed Emit’s by the mere fact that it had the most logical reasons on it, and yet, Bella felt ready to burst into tears thinking about sacrificing her happiness over and over again for Mortimer – for his career, his reputation, his loyalty, and his life. She felt physically nauseous thinking of moving away from her family… and most importantly, Emit. And yet she knew her duty. She was stuck in this marriage to Mortimer, and she had made her choice. Was it too late for happiness?
Bella forced herself to smile. She would discuss things with Mortimer. She would tell him how she felt, though maybe she’d leave out her feelings for Emit. She would be honest with him about why she didn’t want to leave Pleasantview… at least not yet. Plopping on the edge of the bed, she picked up the room receiver and dialed the front desk. Her call was transferred to the spa, and she made her request. After she was certain all of her needs would be met, Bella hopped in the shower, rinsing the sweat of anxiety from her body. She pulled back her hair so she would look older. Mortimer liked it when she wore her hair off her face as she didn’t look quite so youthful. She freshened her makeup. She spritzed on Mortimer’s favorite scent – a rosewood perfume. Then she headed to the front desk to pick up the final touch – an item on loan for the day from a jeweler in La Ville Lumière. When the shop opened for the day, she planned to call and request a replica. Mortimer would love to take the item home, and she couldn’t think of a better token of her affection.
Arriving at the gated outdoor sauna, Bella was pleased to see the champagne bucket already chilling on ice, the rose petals lined to the hot tub steps, and the candles flickering in their lanterns atop the fence. She squeezed the jeweler’s box in her hand, convincing her wildly beating heart to calm as she figured she was making the right decision. Mortimer would be beyond pleased. Bella decided to add to the moment, stripping out of her clothes despite the chill in the morning air. It would be worth it to see Mortimer’s surprised face. She snagged a cotton towel from the stack on the cart, wrapping it around herself for warmth and decency, just in case there were some early morning peepers. Everything was perfect, she decided. It was Valensim’s Day after all.
She waited… the first hints of pink splashed across the sky, and the stars faded from view. She waited… the birds began chirping, serenading her with their morning songs. She waited… the sun rose higher in the sky, warming her freezing body. Bella frowned. Where was Mortimer?
This was supposed to be a romantic sunrise proposal. She was supposed to say her words, and make a request that they renew their vows. She had even procured one of the most expensive watches – the Simlex GMT Master – 18K yellow gold – a symbol of how proud she was of him, and how she would forgive him for keeping the financing part of their trip a secret, and how she would move with him to Sunset Valley, if only he loved her as much as he claimed. She planned to have the watch engraved with the date they met and the day that they would renew their vows, which she hoped would be here in Championne in a few days. They would kiss, clink champagne flutes, and skinny dip in the sauna she had privately reserved for the next few hours. The hotel had been so accommodating.
Yet Mortimer hadn’t appeared. She worried he didn’t get her message. She dialed the front desk, and asked if they delivered the message to the right room and the right person. The attendant assured her they had. She even called the bellboy who delivered the message to confirm. Bella wrapped herself in a robe, and walked to the front desk to confirm directly with the messenger. He looked nervous as she approached.
“And he accepted the message directly?”
“Monsieur Goth took the card directly from my hand, Madame,” he said, averting his eyes and nervously twitching.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Bella demanded. “I want to know.”
“My Simlish…” he winced and glanced at the attendant, speaking rapid-fire Simcois. “…is bad… bonne journée, Madame,” he tipped his hat.
“No, don’t good day me,” Bella said, irritated. “I went to great lengths to set this up. What happened?”
“Me thinks… my eyes…” he swallowed hard.
Bella glared fiercely.
He looked helpless as he glanced at the desk attendant, frowning as he chattered in a foreign tongue. The desk attendant flushed as she understood what he said, and dismissed him, much to the young man’s relief. The woman looked at Bella awkwardly.
“What did he say? Tell me.” Bella urged.
“He thinks his eyes might be playing tricks on him,” the hotel clerk began uncomfortably. “Madame…” she lowered her voice. “He claims there was a… uh… a woman in a… um…the room with him…”
Bella flushed hotly.
“…they were dressed, and leaving together, and she… um… the blonde…kissed the man passionately, Madame,” the woman looked embarrassed and quickly rushed an apology, “Je suis vraiment désolé...”
Bella stormed up the stairs, moving so quickly that she gasped as she grabbed the second to last stair to regain her balance. She was mortified. The bellhop saw her husband with another woman, dressed indecently, in their hotel suite. And now the front desk clerk knew as well. She wiped the drip of saliva and bile from her lip, and willed herself forward. Storming into the suite, she half-expected to catch Mortimer with his little love affair. Instead, she found a handwritten note on the bed, along with his credit card.
My darling rose, I need to attend to business in La Ville Lumière that takes precedence over your plans. Please have the hotel charge this card for the expenses incurred. Pamper yourself with a shopping day in the village as an apology gift from me.
The letter was signed… M.F. Goth.The handwriting didn’t match what she knew Mortimer’s signature pen strokes to be. Maybe she was paranoid, but as she lifted the letter to her face to make sure she read everything right, she caught a whiff of an familiar scent – an earthy cedar perfume. Dina Caliente!
Bella let the paper slip from her fingertips, and it fluttered to the floor as she processed her shock. Dina wrote the note for him. He couldn’t even be bothered to write his own letter to his wife when he was clearly cheating on her. Then the rage hit, and she reached over and smashed the first breakable item she could find – an antique blue-and-white porcelain vase. He lied to her. He cheated on her. He was cheating on her. And here she was thinking something was wrong with her… that she needed to get over herself and out of her own way and they could be happy. She could sacrifice her career and her family and her home for him, and he could continue on his merry way, bedding two women at once. Then the despair hit, and she hit the bed repeatedly with her arms as she sobbed hysterically, sliding to the floor. This. Can’t. Be. Happening. How could he say he loved her?
Bella stomped out to the outdoor sauna. She kicked all the rose petals away and blew out all the candles. She grabbed the champagne bottle and nearly chucked it into the water, and then she decided against it, popping the cork, and taking a huge swig. She started laughing. She laughed and laughed, until her sides ached. She splashed half the bottle of champagne over her mascara-and-tear stained cheeks and then drank the other half. She didn’t even care.
Then she plopped into the hot tub, towel and all, letting the bottle roll away beneath the deck chairs. She was going to enjoy every millisecond of this romantic surprise she had for Mortimer. Then she would go back to the room and order all the room service her heart desired, and then head into the capitol city and buy the most expensive dress and jewelry she could find for when she confronted Mortimer about his little affair. After all, he was paying for it.