True to his word, Emit visited every night, but he never pressured her for more. He understood her need to grieve, even if he was still growing learning of Sim customs of marriage, love, and cheating. Bella had decided to stay. She decided she couldn’t face her family yet with the news. She couldn’t tell her precious babies that their father shared a bed with someone else. Well, at least he was Alexander’s father.
Bella found herself wildly speculating and imagining a different life for herself. What if she had stayed with Malcolm? She had cared for that man once too, though not as deeply as she cared for Emit, or grown to care for Mortimer. Malcolm was Cassandra’s father, though he was married to someone else too. Malcolm would have gladly carried on their affair if Bella had successfully blackmailed him. She may have been happy for awhile being a kept woman in the Simiribbean, but even that would have grown old.
She wondered what would be if she ran away with Emit like she planned. They could’ve been happy together. She knew it. She would have fallen in love with him, free of entanglements, if she had broken things off properly with Mortimer. Yet duty and honor prevailed. She married Mortimer that day, and regretted it immensely, then learned to live with it, then even grew to love Mortimer, all in the span of a few years. Was it possible she never really loved her husband? Bella clutched at the necklace around her throat. No, she loved him… or she wouldn’t feel so shitty about the truth of his affair.
Bella set some ground rules. They would remain married for the remainder of the trip. Mortimer would conduct his affairs elsewhere as he had been. Bella would get her own room, and Mortimer was not allowed to visit unless she invited him. He was not allowed to tell his family or hers about the affair, and she wouldn’t grant him a divorce until they sought counseling together in nationside when he concluded his business.
Mortimer agreed to her terms and surprised her with the second-to-last one. He didn’t want a divorce, and refused to grant her one. Legally, he still viewed their marriage binding, and he only wanted to keep Dina on the side for fun. He didn’t love her. Bella found it hard to believe he was sleeping with someone who made him happy, and yet he didn’t love her. Every day they met for a stoic and polite breakfast. Mortimer would kiss her on the cheek and say, “I love you,” almost robotically as he left for the capitol. Bella was starting to believe the word lost all meaning. If he loved her, he wouldn’t have sex with Dina. Period.
Bella changed her hairstyle. She bought her own fedora with a burgundy band. She shopped until she was exhausted. She tried new foods. She visited all the countryside sites. She drank the most expensive nectar. She spoke with her children every night via Sim-ype. She called her parents two times this week.
Deciding to do something more productive with her expense account, Bella decided to join the board of a worldwide philanthropic organization. Yet nothing made her happy. Nothing…
Bella and Emit fell into a quaint pattern – an evening meal on the town square. Most nights, she would insist they sit outside even in the freezing temperatures. She knew Emit preferred the cold. His Xekzo body could only take so much heat.
Emit made her smile and laugh. He would sit across the table and be a sounding board, whatever her emotions of the night. He would listen… truly listen to everything she had to say. He would ask ridiculous questions that always made her giggle. And he always insisted on paying for their meal… with Simoleon coins, of course. Something about the actual tangible money made Bella feel special. It was different than waving around Mortimer’s plastic SIMSA.
“You still haven’t told me much about yourself,” Bella pointed in his direction.
“What do you wish to know? I once told you to ask me anything,” he replied.
“I remember,” she said, shyly, recalling the night months ago when she kissed him.
Ashamed, she wondered why she still wanted to kiss him.
“My entire being is yours, milady, not merely my lips,” he said quietly.
Bella slammed her fist on the table, flushing a shade of her sweater. “Emit, you can’t say stuff like that!”
Why do I feel so guilty for feeling this way? It’s not like the first time I cheated on Mortimer. And yet somehow this was different. Bella folded her arms across her chest. She was annoyed. Annoyed at the truth she finally recognized.
“What is it puzzling you?” Emit frowned. “Did I say something to upset you? Did I put my foot in my mouth?”
“Oh, you learned a euphemism,” Bella quirked a brow, taking a sip of her water bottle from her purse to hide her expression.
“Yes,” he made a face. “I would not wish to stick my foot in my mouth. Only babes can do that. Unless I be a contortionist.”
He lifted his hand to his lips and pouted. Bella tried not to smile. Sarcasm. He picked up on sarcasm. She wanted to fight her feelings for him. She really did. She couldn’t understand why. She couldn’t understand how. She would be perfectly justified in having an affair of her own. Emit would be willing. And yet she had a sobering realization tonight.
For months, no, a year, if she was being honest, she thought it was because she had some sort of duty and loyalty to Mortimer, and yet tonight… she gasped, her hand sliding from the bistro table, she knew differently. She felt this way, not out of fidelity to her husband, but because the man she loved, the man sitting across the table from her, deserved more. He deserved better than her.
“No I do not,” Emit whispered, lowering his gaze.
“You heard that?” she frowned.
He gave a single nod. “I am bound to you.”
“Emit, stop it!” she threw her hands in the air. “Give me one reason. One reason…why you don’t deserve better than me!”
“No, you stop it…” Emit lifted his hands, his tone expressing irritation. “Whatever it is… and listen to me. You are a beautiful, wonderful, funny, intelligent, talented, sexy woman, Bella. I love you. Nothing will change this. You are putting this immense pressure on yourself and holding yourself to this impossible standard, a standard in which your husband has already shattered. No, Bella… you deserve better.”
“You deserve better than Mortimer. You deserve better than Malcolm. You deserve better than me. And whomever you choose, will be the luckiest, most blessed man alive. Or even if you decline to choose any one of us, you will still be the incredible woman you are because you are more than any one relationship to a man and any one role in life, be it wife, lover, mother, actress, daughter… whatever and whomever you may be, Bella, you are special.”
Tears clogged Bella’s vision, and she wondered how in Simterra she was so lucky to enjoy the company of a man like Emit. She could hardly believe him.
“Believe my words, Bella,” he added.
She laughed wistfully, and wiped at her eyelids. He kept reading her mind. It was infuriating. And also endearing. Yet there was one thing he said tonight that was right. She would need to choose. And sooner rather than later.