Uni Years, Episode 21, No More (LVB)

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.”

Bella gasped.

“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.”

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Uni Years, Episode 20, Question (LVB)

“You’re what?”

Malcolm stared at her in disbelief. Bella could hardly believe it herself when she returned from the doctor a few days ago. It explained her inexplicable desire to throw up all of her food, and the dizzying headaches she had been getting. She had originally chalked them up to stress.

“Yes, I’m pregnant,” she said.

“Are you sure it’s a hundred percent?” he asked weakly.

“Yes, I’m one hundred percent positively pregnant,” Bella grunted in frustration.

Malcolm collapsed on the couch, running his hands through his hair. Bella could tell he wasn’t happy. He was married now, and she was supposed to be getting married in a month. Bella couldn’t believe how badly she screwed up, but she remained resolved to avoid crying, and to stick to her plan.

“Are you sure it’s mine?” he whispered.

“Um… yeah… it takes two to make a baby, Malcolm, and we were having quite a romp in Rio de Simnero,” she said, annoyance creeping into her tone.

“But… but…but…” he blubbered, and then cleared his throat. “We were all pretty drunk, Bella.”

“I think I remember who I slept with,” she snapped.

“So you’re positive it’s mine and not Mortimer’s?” Malcolm asked, seriously.

“Mortimer wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole,” Bella sniffed.

“And not someone else’s?”

Bella furrowed her brow. “You could have a paternity test done, Malcolm, but by that time, I could be settled in Sunlit Tides after going to the papers.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” he gasped, leaping to his feet.

“I would,” Bella snapped, grabbing her abdomen.

This was her ticket to freedom. She would dare. She would dare with every fiber in her being. Malcolm stomped across the room and braced against the piano, seething with anger. She didn’t blame him, but the emotion would motivate him, she was sure of it. He swept his arm aside, knocking a marble dragon statue from its place on the top.

“Damn it, Bella!” he growled, and shook out his hand.

She resisted the urge to ask if he was okay, knowing it would only dampen her determination. She couldn’t afford to feel right now.

“Gah!” he yelled. “My mother brought that back from Shang Simla. Do you have any idea what that costs?”

Bella hiked her chin in the air. “Malcolm, I would think you’d be more concerned about our baby than your precious statue right now.”

“It’s going to be impossible to replace this,” Malcolm exclaimed, as if unable to focus on the bigger picture. “The dragons are one of a kind.”

“And our child is not?” Bella bit out, holding her hands over her stomach.

She promised herself she wouldn’t cry, but she felt the lump forming in her throat.

“No,” he said forcefully. “I mean, yes…” he shook his head in confusion. “Bella, I don’t know. Can you get rid of it?”

“Rid of it?” Bella repeated in an unnaturally high voice. “Like I’m carrying around a bag of trash?”

“Well, this is a grave predicament,” Malcolm said, his shoulders slumping forward as he calmed down. “I think it would be the best thing to do in your situation.”

“My situation!” Bella cried. “This is every bit yours as it is mine! It’s our situation frankly, and I don’t think killing this child is going to help.”

“We wouldn’t be killing it, just helping it leave,” Malcolm disagreed, shaking his head.

“Helping it leave? Ha!” she snorted.

“Bella, you aren’t in a state to be making wise decisions. . .” Malcolm began. “You came to me for help, didn’t you? For money? I’ll pay for it. You don’t have to worry about that.”

“And this is wise?” she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “And who says I’m not in a state to be making decisions? I’m the one carrying the baby. It’s my child. I have as every bit of right to make a decision concerning his or her future as anyone. And what if I don’t want to abort this child? What then Malcolm?”

“You can’t seriously be considering carrying this baby nine months?”

Bella stared at the ground in shock. It was in that moment she made up her mind to spite him in every way possible. If he wanted absolutely nothing to do with this baby, and her, she would leave and find another option. It was a mistake to come here.

“Bella,” he said quietly, then cursed under his breath. “What are you thinking? You’re ruining your future with Mortimer. And my future with Brittany. And you know I love you, and I’ll be with you if you want. But not like this. This is not in our future.”

“We don’t have a future,” she snapped, stepping around him. “Have a nice life Malcolm.”

Bella cried all the way back to Neighborly City. Twice, she barely had time to pull over to the side of the highway and open her door before throwing up. She stopped at a gas station and locked herself in the bathroom to change into more suitable clothes and to let the tears flow without worrying about causing an accident. Malcolm had come at her sideways. She should have expected that. He loved me. Ha! He only loved himself. It was all fun and games until a baby interrupted their plans.

Blackmailing him into letting her stay on his property in Sunlit Tides had been her last hope. With her insurmountable credit card debt and a burgeoning belly, Bella had no future. Mortimer would break up with her for sure, cancelling his generous scholarship and allowance. She wouldn’t be able to graduate and her parents would disown her. Without a way to pay her bills, she would be on the streets for certain. Was getting rid of the baby her only way of ensuring her survival?

Bella pulled up outside the Crumplebottom Estates, and was surprised to see the lights on inside. She saw John Burb’s car in the driveway and she realized they had returned from Dragon Valley. Jennifer had said she was planning to come back a month early to help Bella get ready for her own wedding, after all the help Bella had given her. Bella wasn’t sure she could face her friends yet. She wasn’t sure she could face anyone. She wasn’t showing yet, but she was at least six weeks along.  She pulled her car around back and slumped against the steering wheel. How had her life gotten so screwed up?

The tears flowed fast and free, and Bella choked as she tried to swipe them from her face, but she couldn’t keep up. Before she realized what she doing, she pulled out her cell phone and began dialing. Through blurry vision, she somehow managed to punch in the correct numbers.

“Please… come… please… come…” she begged. “I need you. I need you now more than ever.”

She let the phone slip from her fingers and fall into the abyss of her car. She wasn’t even certain she was still fully coherent, but she somehow managed to pull herself from her vehicle and began walking around the side of her house. As if he had been planning to meet her there all along, Emit appeared in her view. He pulled her into a deep embrace.

“I am here, milady, I am here,” he repeated. “I am here, Bella.”

He said my name?!? She blubbered into the sleeve of his yellow sweater until she had no drops of water left, until her emotions were raw, and her heart felt broken.

“Eh…mit…” she hiccuped. “You…you…ca…came…”

“Shh,” he lifted his hand and brushed a stray hair stuck to her tear-stained cheeks. “I came. I will always come when you need me.  I am here for you, milady.”

Despite her sadness, Bella laughed as she exhaled. He was still calling her by that blasted name. The wind picked up, caressing her cheeks, feeling good against her heated skin.

“It is okay that you dampened my sleeve,” he said softly.

“No, it’s not,” she shook her head, vehemently. “It’s not…”

“I meant, you deserve to cry,” Emit said gently.

“What?” she looked up at him, bewildered. “That’s a funny expression,” she cleared her throat and unzipped her jacket. “I’m surprised you came.”

“Oh Bella, I came. I came because you called me. I came because you said you needed me,” he replied. “What is wrong? I am here to serve, milady.”

“Emit…” she half-laughed and half-cried. “Are you still living with that silly notion that you are bound to me?”

Emit frowned as if surprised by her question. “You entered my space,” he said simply. “I am bound to you.”

“I entered your space?” she chuckled sadly, and puffed hair out of her eyes. “What does that even me?” she screeched, dropping her arms in despair.

“Milady?” he exclaimed, more as a question than a statement.

She fell to the ground, too weary to cry, and he caught her in his arms, to keep her from hitting her head on the exterior of the brick fireplace. He held her head and patted her hair tenderly as she shuddered tearless cries. She curled into his arms for comfort, longing for answers, wishing to undo the past. She wished she had never met Malcolm or Mortimer or made all the dumb decisions she had. She wished she had never come to Sim State University.

“No, you do not,” he said.

“Wha…?” she looked up at him, feeling aching emptiness as she stared into his face.

“You are happy you met me,” he remarked.

She sighed, and leaned her head back against his shoulder. “I am. But Emit… I’m in trouble.”

“I know,” he replied.

“You do?” she asked hoarsely.

“I do… Bella… I… did not want to pry…” he started, and chewed his lower lip. “Bella, milady… I am sorry. I am sorry with the pain I have caused you. What a fool I have been! I left you alone after that night, and I never tried to contact you again. And I know now that I have missed you. Try as I might, I cannot keep myself from you. I cannot keep you from my mind.”

“Thanks…” she snorted, and then covered her mouth, embarrassed. “I think…”

“I have not stopped thinking about you. I have not stopped wondering about you. I have not stopped trying to figure this life out without you. I cannot. I cannot be apart from you, Bella. I cannot. I have been a jerk and a fool,” he reached for her waist, and stopped when his hand touched her abdomen. “Bella!” he gasped, his eyes widening.

“I am… with child…” she confirmed, dropping her eyes, feeling terribly humiliated.

“Bella,” he lifted her chin. “Does the baby belong to the father,  Mortimer?”

“No,” she wailed, jerking free of his grasp as she pushed herself up off the ground. “It’s not his. He… hasn’t touched me. He’s barely seen me. I am marrying a complete stranger in less than five weeks and I’m pregnant with another man’s child.”

Bella hugged herself, waiting for Emit to run away, waiting for him to realize just how hopeless she was, and how much better off he would be somewhere else. Instead, she heard soft footfalls on the squishy grass, and felt his hand on her shoulder.

“I am bound to you, Bella,” he said slowly. “You asked what this means. It means that I will forever be at your side. Even if you should choose another, I will be there… as your protector and deval’le’ac.”

“My what?” Bella blinked rapidly.

“Milady,” he bowed his head. “I am your deval’le’ac… I will work by your side, fight by your side, and protect you. I will see to your needs. I will raise your child with you.”

“You will?” she blubbered, consumed with shock.

“And if you should so choose… I will be your prija’telj… your mate… I will be yours completely, milady. You have only to say the word,” Emit reached for her, and she tackled him with a hearty embrace.
“Oh Emit,” she cried.

“Bella, I have been thinking,” he began. “I have a question for you.”

“Yes?”

Her reassuring tone was all he needed to continue. “Bella, will you marry me?”

“Will I what?” This was the second time today that she had been asked to do something outrageous, but Emit seemed as sincere as possible.

“Bella, do not marry Mortimer,” he said softly. “You need something more than stability in your life. You need someone now more than ever. I want to be that person. Please let me be that person.”

“I’m. . .I’m not the marrying kind,” she blinked. “The only reason I’m marrying Mortimer is because I’m being forced to. I’m a disaster, Emit. A walking, living, breathing disaster. And even if a guy other than Mortimer was foolish enough to want to marry me…I…I…”

“You what?” his lips brushed hers.

“Wouldn’t,” the words melted off her lips as Emit pulled her closer to him and enveloped her with a passionate kiss.

And try as she might, Bella couldn’t resist.

Uni Years, Episode 19, Desperate (LVB)

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.

Uni Years, Episode 17, Sorry (LVB)

“Where the hell were you?”

Jennifer Pleasant waved her arms in a frenzied fury as she chewed out her best friend on the porch of the Crumplebottom Estates. Bella didn’t even have time to explain before Jennifer continued with a string of expletives, grating on her ears. Jennifer never swore. Jennifer was pissed.

“You were supposed to work my shift at the law library yesterday,” Jennifer continued. “And then you didn’t show up. And now… I hope whoever it was that you were doing was worth it because I lost my job.”

“Jennifer!” Bella shouted.

She couldn’t believe how insensitive her friend was. She didn’t realize Jennifer knew.

“Oh yeah, I know,” Jennifer made a face. “I know about the men. Well, at least one of them. Malcolm Landgrabb the fourth, huh?”

Bella’s eyes widened in shock.

“And I know about Mortimer too… I mean, did you really think you could hide an engagement contract from me?” Jennifer snarled.

“Jennifer, calm down… what in Simterra has gotten into you?” Bella threw up her hands defensively, trying to avoid discussing the men in her life.

“I lost my job, Bella,” Jennifer shrieked. “I lost my job and now I can’t pay for law school.”

Bella sighed. “You can get another job, Jen.”

Jennifer balled her fists. “Seriously? I can get another job? Bella, it’s not that easy. The law library was willing to work with my schedule. I’m taking twenty-one credits this year to finish early so I can move with John to Simbernia in the spring.”

“Wait, John’s moving to Simbernia in the spring? You’re moving to Simbernia?” Bella exclaimed.

A hand smacked across her face. Bella’s cheek smarted, and she narrowed her eyes. She didn’t think she warranted a slap.

“Maribella Madelyn Bachelor! I can’t believe you’re my best friend. You don’t know anything, do you?” Jennifer cried. “And you’re so wrapped up in your selfish ways and your sleeping around with various guys that you don’t care one iota about me or anyone but yourself. So who were you with last night? Malcolm or Mortimer?”

Bella grunted. “Neither. Okay. I wasn’t with any guy last night. I didn’t sleep with anyone last night. I swear. I was in an accident on Friday night, and I hit my head.”

“You were what?” Jennifer’s eyes widened, her demeanor shifting. “I don’t believe you.”

“Fine, don’t believe me!” Bella spat out, and then slumped. “But it’s the truth. Look, I’m sorry, Jenni that I cost you your job. I can go and talk to your boss if you want. I’m sorry if you think I’ve been a terrible friend. I’m sorry that you think I don’t care about anyone but myself. I’m sorry. Jennifer. Look, I’m really sorry.”

“Sorry doesn’t cut it,” Jennifer stomped her foot. “I want my friend back.”

“I’m here,” Bella reached out and grabbed her friend’s shoulders. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Jennifer leaned forward, angry tears splashing her cheeks, and she dropped her arms defeated. “You were really in an accident?”

Yeah, we’ll call it that. 

“Yes, and I was unconscious for awhile.”

Jennifer gasped. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Bella rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. “Look, I’m sorry about everything. Will you forgive me? Are we still friends?”

Jennifer eyed her friend sharply. “Yes…” she conceded. “I forgive you. Though I don’t know how I’ll pay for law school,” she admitted sadly. “I can barely afford to move to Simbernia.” Seeing Bella’s confused look, she added, “John was accepted to the agricultural engineering program at Trinity College in Dragon Valley. I thought I told you.”

“No,” Bella shook her head. “I don’t think you did.”

“Yes I did,” Jennifer threw her hands up frustrated. “Bella, you just don’t listen. And you’re never around, it feels like.”

“I’m sorry. We’re both seniors… I’m busy. You’re busy. And sounds like you’re really busy because you’re moving to Simbernia in the spring… with John. I didn’t think you had it in you,” Bella smiled slyly.

“We’re getting married, Bella,” Jennifer sighed heavily.

“What?” Bella’s jaw dropped open.

“Yes, and you would know that if you bothered to check,” Jennifer wailed. “I wouldn’t go to Simbernia with him if we weren’t married. I want to do things right. We’re getting married right after Christmas.”

“Oh wow!” Bella ran a hand through her hair, nervously. “I’m sorry, Jenni. I should have talked with you more recently. Are you going to go to law school there?”

“I planned to start a year from now, but not if I can’t afford it since I lost my job thanks to you,” Jennifer punched Bella in the arm.

“Ow!” Bella rubbed her shoulder. “Seriously, Jennifer, you’ll get another job. Companies will be lining up to accept your application. You’re bright and talented.”

“I’m killing myself trying to finish on time and for what? I won’t be able to afford the life I want now,” Jennifer exhaled in exhaustion. “Not everyone has a benefactor like you do.”

Bella flinched, thinking of Mortimer. It was true. She wouldn’t be here at Sim State University without him. She also wouldn’t be getting married herself without him.

“Are you really going to marry the guy?” Jennifer asked with a whimpering sigh.

“Honestly?” Bella trailed off.

I don’t know. 

“How did you know?”

“Your mom told me everything.”

“You talk with Jocasta now?”

“She’s worried about you.”

“Oh really? How come she never talks to me then?”

“She’s scared.”

Bella had a hard time believing her mother was scared of anything. She stuck her hand on her waist, and jutted her hip.

“Obviously not scared to talk to you and tell someone else everything about my personal business,” Bella grumbled.

“I think she wanted you to have a friend,” Jennifer said softly.

“I’m touched,” Bella rolled her eyes.

“Seriously, Bella, your mom is… she thinks she’s doing what’s best for you… but she’s ashamed of her decisions and she can’t face you,” Jennifer explained.

“Then she should come tell me this herself,” Bella huffed. “Because honestly, she’s pretty much dead to me.”

“Bella!” Jennifer gasped, her eyes filled with sadness. “Don’t say that.”

“What? She hasn’t really seen me or spoken to me in years. Not since she made the deal with the devil in the handsome grey suit,” Bella said. “Who marries their daughter off to a stranger for money? This isn’t the dark ages.”

“But I thought you loved him,” Jennifer protested. “Or do you love Malcolm?”

“How do you know about Malcolm?” Bella glared at her friend.

“Bella… people have seen you on campus. You’re not as discreet as you think,” Jennifer sighed. “You know, I don’t get you…” she flailed her arms. “You have everything, Bella. Brains. Beauty. Men fawning over you. A fully paid for education with room and board. And a guy who wants to marry you and take care of you and your family for the rest of your life. You are risking everything for a silly affair that won’t last because I know he’s engaged too. And you act all ungrateful and hostile toward your parents, but they’re just trying to look out for you and give you a future.”

Bella puckered her lips, a sour expression crossing her face. “You have no idea.”

“No, I don’t. I really don’t,” Jennifer said tiredly. “But I thought as my friend, you’d at least have the decency to talk to me and give me an idea… so I don’t have to learn about these kinds of things from Jocasta.”

Bella frowned. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, I guess you are. I just don’t know if you’re sorry you got caught and I know or if you’re really sorry for screwing with people’s lives,” Jennifer bit out, and she whirled to storm into the house. Her hand lingered on the door handle. “And you should call Daniel. He’s been worried about you too. You should go see him, actually.”

“Why?” Bella rolled her eyes, figuring she had enough of the Pleasant siblings for the day.

“Because the funeral’s today.”

Daniel stood on the lawn of the Urele-Oreshe-Cham House in his blue fraternity jacket, blue sweater, white collared shirt, and dark jeans. He stood, his arms hanging limply at his sides, his hands hovering a few inches from his legs, as he heaved a shuddering sob. Bella hesitated, wondering if she should approach. Jennifer had explained his lover had died. It happened suddenly in the night. The beloved philosophy professor had a heart attack while reading by the fire. Daniel had been present. Bella shuddered. It must have been a nightmare for him.

She couldn’t believe how out of the loop she really was. She had been angry with Jennifer for accusing her of blowing off the job for Malcolm, but the truth was she hadn’t seen him since last spring, since their argument on the central quad. Even so, Bella had buried herself in homework, taking summer classes to avoid another forced vacation in Simspania. That wasn’t the entire reason she stayed on campus. She had hoped to see Emit, but after several days passed, she went to find him in his dorm.

The resident assistant said he moved out for the summer months and was visiting family up north. Bella didn’t even think he had any family on the planet. After several weeks passed, she realized she wasn’t going to hear from him after that night when they had kissed in his dorm room after he had confessed everything.

Bella returned to the Landgrabb Boarding House, came up with some story to be let into his room, and sat on his couch where their make-out session had happened. Nothing more had happened. Emit was a perfect gentleman. He wanted to protect her virtue. He had even said something to that effect this morning when they sat in the lounge. She found herself drawn to the man. She had been about to leave his room when she discovered a leather strand peeking up from the couch cushions. Upon tugging, she discovered a leather journal stuffed into the couch bed. Curiosity got the better of her and she began leafing through the pages.

By the time she finished, Bella was crying.  He wrote with such passion and with such lyrical vocabulary. It was as if he picked the most beautiful words in Simlish and strung them together, composing a masterpiece. He wrote about his agony, about his loathing of himself for abandoning his cause, about his hatred for the pain he had caused on behalf of his people. He wrote about his adjustment to the world and how he craved the life of a simple man and the love of one woman. He wrote about her… about her beauty and his unworthiness to touch the soles of her feet. He called her his angel, and in his last entry, he spoke of his infuriating desire to kiss her lips, and how she had obliged… and now… how he could not be with her, but he was still bound to her. She had sobbed, feeling so incredibly loved by a man she barely knew, by a man who was not human. She wondered where her heart had been all this time.

Bella had spent the summer, trying desperately to find him, and holding vigil for him in case he returned. This morning was the first time she had seen his face since he left, and she was so overwhelmed. How could she tell him she knew? That she knew about the words he wrote? About how he felt? About how she read his journal? She felt a guilty stab of pain, realizing her obsession for Emit had caused her to abandon all others. She had neglected to call her parents, see her brother, and talk with Jennifer, Daniel, or any of her other friends. She had neglected everyone… to her detriment. And now, Daniel was grieving the loss of a man he cared deeply for, and she had to force herself to think about him. 

“Danny?” she called out softly.

“Oh Bella,” he whirled and crushed her to himself, crying into her shoulder.

“I’m sorry… I…uh… haven’t been around,” she said, awkwardly. “I feel terrible. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Bells, I’m just…” Daniel released another pained sigh. “…so glad you came.”

“I’m sorry. I just… Jennifer just told me… and um… I feel bad… I don’t even know when the service is.”

Daniel looked mournful. “It is tonight at nine. The dean of the university wanted the students to be out of night class in case they wanted to come.”

“And you… you were with him?” she bit out, feeling uncomfortable.

She had no idea what to say.

“I’m so sorry.” 

Daniel plunked down on the fraternity steps, dropping his arms over his knees. Bella slid next to him, bracing against the stone foundation.

“It was awful, Bells,” he cried. “I just… I didn’t think it was possible to feel this much.”

“Did you love him?” she whispered.

“Yes,” he said, his eyes brimming with tears.

“Can I ask you a strange question?” she frowned.

He gulped, and nodded.

“How did you know?”

“Know what?”

“Know that you…loved… him?”

Daniel sighed, running a hand through his red hair. “Well… I just did. I felt it… in every fiber of my being…”

“Just like that?” she inquired, feeling heat rushing through her veins at the very thought of love.

“Yeah, I just knew in my heart, in my head, in my gut… everywhere really… that I loved him.”

“And did he love you?”

Daniel lowered his head. “I don’t know,” he said quietly. “In his own way. But he was still married to his wife. And he loved her very much too.”

“I’m sorry,” Bella bit her lip. “I shouldn’t have asked that.”

“No,” he shook his head with a sad smile. “It’s okay. Say… will you stay with me tonight?”

“Here?” she squeaked.

“Yeah,” he reached for her hand. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“Danny…” she hesitated.

A part of her wanted to comfort him. Another part figured she should steer clear of her longtime crush.

“I don’t think I should.”

“Please, Bella, I need you.”

“Daniel, I think you need time to mourn…”

“I don’t want to be alone.”

“Danny, I’ll go to the funeral with you, but then I think you need some time,” she said quietly, lifting her hands to her chest as she started down the cobblestone walkway.

“Please, Bella, stay… I love… you…” he croaked.

What? He couldn’t be saying these things. His lover had just died.

“And I’ve been a fool. I should’ve told you sooner.”

“Daniel, are you drunk?”

“No…”

“Well, then you’re grieving. Grief makes you say and do funny things.”

“I’m in my right mind, Bella. I know what I said and I mean it. I love you. I have always loved you, I think, but it took until Sam’s death for me to have the courage to say these things aloud. I know you are lonely as hell just like I am. We’ve both been lonely for a decade and now we finally have a chance to really be together.”

“Danny, that’s not fair.”

“But now that you’re not with Malcolm anymore and Sam is…” his voice cracked. gone… do you think? Do you think you could love me, Bella?”

His words tugged at her strings, and she hesitated. She could stay. But she didn’t want to give him the wrong idea. How could he say he loved her? How could he say this now? When her heart belonged to another man, and her ring finger belonged to yet another?

“I’m sorry, Danny.”

Uni Years, Episode 16, Healing (LVB)

The shrill ring of the telephone pierced the stillness of the late Simtober air. Bella jolted from her sleep, shaking her head as she tried to collect her bearings. It was the first holiday weekend of her senior year and she had plans to sleep. Lately, she had been hitting the books hard, hoping to finish strong. She didn’t want anything to disrupt her goal of graduating with a 4.0 GPA. That would make her parents proud. Her studies kept her mind preoccupied… so she wouldn’t have to think about her impending wedding… or about a certain alien.

Bella was exhausted as she had pulled several all-nighters recently to pass her mid-terms. Glancing over at the clock, she realized her plans for an early bed time were spoiled as the phone for the third time. It was quarter after ten.

“Hello,” she said, sleepily.

“Hey Bella, it’s Jennifer.”

“Jennifer?” Bella yawned, throwing the bed sheets off. “Do you know how late it is?”

It’s not that late,” her friend protested, and then coughed.

“Hey you don’t sound too good,” Bella said, rubbing her eyes.

I’m not. I’m a nervous wreck,” Jennifer replied. “Last night, I even threw up a little, and now I’ve practically lost my voice. Thank God I don’t need to talk for the LSAT.”

“That’s right. That’s today!” Bella exclaimed, feeling bad she had been preoccupied.

Jennifer had driven home yesterday, and was planning to take the test in Pleasantview tomorrow morning since the test was conveniently available on the Saturday over fall break.

“Good luck,” Bella said. “But I’m sure you don’t need it. You’ll do great.”

Oh I hope so,” Jennifer wailed. “I hope I don’t lose my breakfast halfway through. Listen, I need a huge favor.”

“Oh?” Bella slid her legs off the bed, wiggling her toes before settling her feet onto the wooden floor of her bedroom.

I totally forgot I have to work tomorrow morning,” Jennifer exclaimed. “And I scheduled the test, and now I can’t be in two places at once. Mrs. Lexington will kill me if I don’t show up for my shift, and I’ll probably get fired. I’ve missed eight shifts since I started studying for the LSAT. But I have to take the test tomorrow or I won’t get into law school.”

“What do you want me to do?” Bella frowned, biting her lower lip.

Will you go work my shift for me at the legal library?” Jennifer requested. “I already called Camille, my supervisor. She said Mrs. Lexington won’t be in today so she won’t even know that it’s not me. You can clock in and cover me.”

“What?” Bella arched both brows. “I can’t sub for you.”

Why not? Please Bella, I can’t afford to lose this job. I need to pay for law school somehow, and my parents can’t cover everything with dad’s eye sight declining and you know how depressed he’s been because that means he can’t go back and fly in space. I’m kinda screwed either way so I’ve gotta do something and I’m desperate. Shift is supposed to start at eight, same time as the test, and I work until three. Only seven hours with a half-hour lunch break. Please? Please…work my shift today!”

“Okay,” Bella agreed, now fully awake. “I’ll do it.”

So much for my leisurely day off. 

I owe you,” Jennifer said, before hanging up.

Wide awake after the call, Bella sat up and decided she needed to do something relaxing in order to help herself sleep. Smiling mischievously, she slipped into her red bikini, pulled her pajamas over top, and tiptoed out the front door of the Crumplebottom Estates. It was too late to go to the gym or the Tower pool as nothing stayed open late in this blasted town, but Bella knew where she could hop a little fence and enjoy at least a half hour’s peace in a sauna – her old dorm, the Landgrabb Boarding House.

“Ah!” she sighed audibly, tucking her arms behind her head as she slipped into the hot tub on the deck between the two arms of the dorm. “This is the life.”

Bella closed her eyes, and tried to breathe deeply, hoping the hot waters would have a healing effect on her aching muscles. Sitting at a desk all day poring over books had caused cramps in her neck and shoulders. She could feel the stress of the last few days roll off her back. Staying on campus was the better choice.

The dorms were quiet, and with Jennifer gone, her house was empty. They had been the only two students who had agreed to room at the estates again this year. After spending several months there, Bella couldn’t understand why people claimed it was haunted. The place seemed perfectly nice, although the furniture was a little dated and the wallpaper faded. Bella didn’t mind. She liked only sharing space with Jennifer. It was better this way.

She did have girlfriends, if one could call them that… Kaylynn from her acting classes and the oddly dramatic Dina who had latched onto her ever since that day at the diner, but they were more like acquaintances than true friends, both busy with their own lives. Occasionally, they would all meet for drinks at the Boogie on Down to University Way, and someone would undoubtedly attempt drunken karaoke… or worse… charades. It was a once-a-month humiliation Bella had learned to suffer through in order to consider the girls her friends.

Her only true friend of the opposite sex was Daniel, but he was preoccupied as of late with his professor that he barely had time for Bella. The professor’s wife’s health had taken a turn for the worse, and Daniel was spending more time with him to comfort. Bella shook her head. She didn’t understand the strange relationship between the older and younger man, but then again, her relationships weren’t exactly straightforward either.

“Oh!”

Bella gasped, startled as bubbles splashed up over her head. It was as if someone had turned the jets up higher. Nearby she could hear a student practicing trumpet, and the notes were rather discordant. Someone else opened their window and yelled, “Shut up!” chucking a wadded up piece of paper into the hot tub, water smacking Bella in the face once again. The guy flushed and made an awkward face, mumbling a barely audible “sorry” when he realized where his wad had fallen before closing his window overlooking the deck and snapping his blinds shut. She hadn’t expected anyone to be in the dorms over fall break, and suddenly she felt guilty for sneaking into the hot tub. There goes my quiet evening, she slipped from the sauna and wiped her eyes on her tee shirt, wishing she had remembered a towel.

As she climbed the few stairs up to the main deck between the arms of the one-story building, Bella felt her foot slide across a cylindrical glass. Her knees locked, and she teetered forward first, flailing her arms. What appeared to be a green colored beer bottle, probably leftover from some ridiculous college party, rolled beneath her feet and she heard the glass clank against the wooden steps. In horror, she felt herself fall back… back… back… for what felt like an eternity.

Who left a beer bottle out on the steps? What idiot forgot to throw it away? Stupid frat guys! No wait… I’m not at the frat house with… Daniel… Danny? I always liked his red hair. And Jennifer? I’m supposed to do something… for… Jennifer… tomorrow. What was it? What’s happening to me? Why can’t I think clearly. THWACK! Her head hit the something cold, hard, and rough… and she lost consciousness.

“Bella! Bella!”

The muffled voice came to her ears like it was underwater. She fluttered her lashes and struggled to open her eyes. No, I’m underwater! she realized in horror. Darkness whirled around her, and water assaulted her ears and mouth as her lips parted to shriek, but no sound emerged. Am I imagining this? Is it a bad dream? Am I hallucinating? Bella tried to lift her head, but it was like trying to walk uphill in a snowstorm with twenty pound weights around her neck. What’s wrong with me? Had she broken something? Did she break her neck? Was she paralyzed?

Panicked, Bella smacked the deck with her palm, hearing a voice calling her name and feeling drops of water splashing her nose. Her eyes tore open and she was looking up at what appeared to be a cloudy sky. The rain swept sideways across her face, and she let out a ragged breath, thankful she wasn’t drowning in the hot tub after hitting her head. She tried to move, but she couldn’t find the strength. How long had she been lying on the deck of the Landgrabb Boarding House unconscious?

“Bella, milady?” she heard a frightened voice cry out.

Hefty hands as pale as snow reached through the grey light and scooped around her waist and back. As someone attempted to tug her from the ferocious jaws of the wooden deck, she felt splitting pain shoot down her spine. She felt her body resist and she couldn’t understand why. Panicked tears welled in her eyes as she wondered why she wasn’t moving. Wooden splinters clawed at her back as she was yanked upward. She heard the sound of tearing fabric and immediately following, she felt a burning sensation across her shoulder blades.

Bella was lifted into masculine arms… an angel with the face of a friend. A familiar shock of blue hair waved in the early morning wind. His thick eyebrows furrowed, and his lips parted as he spoke. She strained to hear, but heard nothing but a pounding roar of rain, and yet somehow the area around them remained dry. He carried no umbrella so Bella puzzled as to why rain was no longer pelting her body, and yet all around them, she could hear the storm assault the world.

Her head was spinning. She wondered if she was seeing a mirage… or if this was a dream. Had she died and gone to heaven? Was this the afterlife? Or some strange plane of existence – a perplexing purgatory somewhere in between. She thought back to earlier, remembering what had sounded like a shot through the night. A giant crack and a resounding thud. No I wasn’t shot. She would have felt the bullets enter her body, wouldn’t she? No, it wasn’t a shot. She had hit her head.

“Oh God! I will never forgive myself if she dies,” the male voice cried out desperately. “If I was too late…”

Bella blinked rapidly. Consciousness flooded in overwhelming her senses, the sound of rumbling thunder and the buzz of a dull headache, the smell of freshly falling rain and the sweet scent of red roses, her favorite flower, the sight of a pale ghost of a man surrounded by vibrant colors, the feel of arms, a merciful reprieve from the rigid porch that had served as an unyielding bed for the night, and the taste of lips she never thought would grace her own again. Had he revived her? Had she ceased breathing?

Emit Relevart stood over her, miraculously dry, bracing the torn straps of her bikini with his sleeve, his hand curled against her rib cage, and the other beneath her knees. “Oh my sweet Bella, I have you.”

When she stirred, several hours had past. Bella lay draped across the legs of Emit, her elbow bracing her head, her fingers dangling, barely brushing the white glass coffee table. Outside, the rain hit the window in coordinated sheets, swaying rhythmically in the wind. Emit’s hand rested ever so slightly on her shoulder. He looked relieved when she roused.

“Bella, milady, are you alright?” he inquired.

She tried to sit up. “Emit?” she managed weakly.

“Shh… you will be okay… take your time… you need a few minutes,” he urged, helping her shift to a seated position.

Bella kept her eyes closed, pressing her head against his shoulder. “I…am.. okay?” she repeated, almost uncertain.

“You had a concussion. There was a bottle on the deck. I think you tripped on it getting out of the pool…” he began.

“Pool?” she shook her head, and feeling dizzy, stopped, pressing her fingers to her forehead. “Ooo… that’s a whopper of a headache. Um… no… no pool… hot tub,” she corrected.

“What were you doing here alone?” he asked.

“I…I came to…um… uh…” she stretched as she shifted her head back against the frame. “…relax…” she shifted her hands and braced against the couch. “…I think?”

“I could have been finding you in worse condition,” he remarked. “I am so thankful I found you at all.”

“I’m thankful too…” she grunted, still trying to shift, grabbing her rib cage with her arm. “I think my entire body feels as though it is on fire.”

“You were unconscious for hours. I am not certain how long, but I do know when I found you that you were…worse than you are now,” Emit dropped his head, looking apologetic.

“Then how?” she asked.

“Your supernatural genes… they saved you,” he explained. “In fact, if you had been conscious, the healing may not have happened and you could have been paralyzed.”

Bella shivered, and unconsciously lifted her hands to rub her neck. “My neck?”

Emit shook his head. “Your spine… fractured in three places…healed…” he lowered his eyes. “The vampire… in you… restored your human form.”

She had never been so grateful for her supernatural genes. She had never been more grateful to have muscle aches. It was a sign she was still feeling… and alive.

“Did you…um…” she averted her eyes, embarrassed. “…kiss me?”

“You were unable to be breathing on your own,” Emit stated simply.

“Thank you,” Bella whispered.

“I can help…” he bowed his head and lifted his hands, palms facing up. “…with your pain… if you should so wish, milady.”

Bella reached out and touched his fingers. “What…what…what do you mean?”

“Your witch genes… your aura of healing… you could try on your neck and shoulders… but I can reach the places better than you can,” Emit said, not even flinching when her fingers brushed across his open palm.

“You have witch genes?” she puzzled.

“We created witch genes… remember? I am Xenosi.”

At the sound of the alien name, she shirked, sliding into the comfort of the couch corner. She had forgotten his origins, and that still made her uncomfortable. Emit repeated his offer, and she swallowed hard, nodding her head, and invited his fingers to massage her skin. He lightly touched her head, neck, and shoulders, and trailed his fingers slowly down her back, running over her hips and thighs and shins until she felt every ounce of pain diminish.

“You are a healer?” she said, feeling nervous, despite her moderate comfort level with the alien.

“One of my many talents,” he said casually. “It is one thing I am proud to have from my race and…” his eyes dropped centering on Bella’s chest and the numeral twenty-three on her crop top. “…um…”

Bella felt the heat rising in her cheeks, and Emit’s eyes snapped quickly to her crown, staring over her head as if to make up for his error.

“…you have it too,” he said. “I was looking at your heart.”

Bella clutched her shirt, realizing for the first time she wasn’t wearing her bikini top underneath nor a bra.

“You can see my heart? Do you have X-ray vision?” she flushed.

“No, we are not supermen,” he chuckled lightly, breaking the tension. “I just… you carry your ability to heal in your heart.”

“Oh…” she released her grip on her shirt. “Right. Um… so what happened to my suit?”

“Your straps caught on the wood when I tried to pull you up,” Emit rubbed his head sheepishly. “I am sorry. It tore in the back. I held it together, and I swear on my life I didn’t look.”

Bella smiled. “And if you had? Do you think I’d care?” she asked boldly.

“Please, believe me,” Emit protested. “I promise. I did not touch you or look at you in the way you are implying.”

“What?” she shrugged. “I haven’t seen you since our hot kiss last Simmay in your dorm room. We’re back here again… well, in your dorm lounge. You never called me.”

“I could not,  Bella,” Emit said. “I could not be with you. I permitted myself a joy a time keeper such as myself could rarely have and I bruised your virtue with my careless desires.”

“Careless desires? Emit… you kissed me. I kissed you. I wanted it and I know you did too. You want me,” Bella grunted, annoyed by his backpedaling, feeling almost offended. “And it’s not like I exactly have virtue. I’ve been with other men you know.”

Emit lowered his eyes, almost shamefully. He rubbed his hands back and forth over his pants nervously.

“Then why did you enter my space?” he said, his voice low and almost sad.

“Enter your space?” Bella repeated. “You mean in the bathroom last spring? Emit, you know why. I didn’t know about your silly customs and even if I did, I wasn’t trying to throw myself at you.”

Emit’s cheek flinched. “You think my custom is silly?”

“No, I didn’t mean that,” Bella sighed. “I just… we kissed…passionately…and I wasn’t thinking about…well…sex with you… but I did think you’d call me or try to contact me somehow after it happened. I mean, we both wanted it to happen, right?”

“Bella, you need a man of Simterra, not a grievous coward like myself.”

“Emit, give yourself more credit.”

“I do not see what payment has to do with this situation.”

Bella resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Emit, you are an honorable man.”

“I am a wretched alien.”

“Stop it!” she snapped, more harshly than she meant, and then reached for his hands. “Please… please… do not say such things about yourself. You have come to my rescue more times than I can count.”

“I am indebted to you,” he said, emotionless.

“No, it’s more than that,” she protested. “You care about me. Dare I even say… love me.”

“Love?” he repeated, the lightest flicker of hope in his eyes.

It was all Bella needed to lean in and kiss his lips, something she had wanted to do for four long months. It was something she had thought about, and dreamed about during her summer vacation. It was something she made herself stop wishing for and daydreaming about when she returned to school figuring Emit didn’t want her as much as she found herself wanting him. However, here and now, in his presence, she couldn’t stop thinking about anything but kissing the beautiful blue-haired alien before her. She helped herself to his lips, and hoped he would reciprocate. His lips crushed her own with surprising force, but she didn’t mind. Then he pulled back, a strand of hair falling into his eyes.

“Bella…” he croaked. “You cannot love me.”

“Why not?” she breathed.

“Because I am Xekzo. It is not possible.”

“Anything is possible.”

“There is a hole where my heart should be.”

Bella lifted herself from the couch, tenderly tucking his hair behind his ear and lifting his hand to her lips. She kissed his palm, closing her eyes.

“Then let me heal it.”

Uni Years, Episode 15, Someone (LVB)

Bella tossed and turned most of the night. Finally, at seven in the morning, she heard a knock on her door. A delivery man handed her a huge bouquet of roses, red, her favorites. The card stated they were from M, whom she knew to be Malcolm, with the words “Sorry” scripting across, with no personal note or explanation. Bella gruffly thanked the delivery guy and tossed the flowers carelessly on her desk. If he had showed up last night as promised, I wouldn’t have needed to face Emit alone. 

Staring at the roses, Bella decided she wasn’t going to visit Emit. Instead, in the next two hours, she cleaned her room, shoved all her possessions into bags and boxes, called Daniel, and had him help her move out of her building with his pickup truck. Daniel was only too happy to oblige as recently he had been seeing less of a certain Professor Boyle, as the man’s wife became hysterical just last week, suspecting the affair between the older and younger man. Daniel was distraught and needed a distraction.

Daniel ordered pizza during the drive across town, and Bella protested, insisting she pay given he was the one helping her, but he insisted. They drove up in front of a beautiful redwood estate with a wrap-around porch. Jennifer had mentioned an open room in the house she was renting across town, and it seemed like the perfect solution to sharing a dorm with a Xenosi. Bella wasn’t sure she could be under the same roof. The very thought churned her stomach. She was a chicken, she knew it, but she would be an alive chicken if she never encountered Emit again.

Jennifer was surprised but happy to see her best friend. She explained Victoria, the widow of the late famous puppeteer, Robert Crumplebottom, was only too happy to rent her husband’s lakeside house to bright young students. Apparently, Robert was a patron of education and had donated significant amounts of his fortune to the university. Until this past year, the family summer residence had remained unoccupied, but Victoria had hoped opening the place to university students would bring life and laughter into the home again. Unfortunately, Mrs. Crumplebottom had been unable to find students willing to stay long enough within the walls because the house was supposedly haunted, something about Mr. Crumplebottom predicting his tragic demise on the stage and penning morbid letters in the attic. Jennifer had scoffed at the idea of ghosts and had been the only tenant to stay. She was only too glad to find Bella taking her offer.

Bella managed to settle in, and for the first few days out of the Landgrabb Boarding House, she tried to ignore the gnawing guilt in her abdomen. I should have at least heard him out. Her somersaulting stomach competed with her logical brain. I should report him… but to whom? Her compassionate heart conflicted with her thoughts of anger. He doesn’t seem hostile. 

After the fourth sleepless night, Bella decided she had enough. She didn’t even bother getting dressed or putting on shoes before walking across campus, and knocking on the appropriate door, ready to face the truth. Emit answered, looking as though he had not slept much either, still only in his shorts. He directed her to the couch. Part of her wished she hadn’t come, but another part was morbidly curious, even if it cost her.  She sank onto her couch, dumbfounded by the truth of Emit’s identity. She wasn’t sure how to feel, a whole host of emotions surging through her body. Emit seemed to understand this, as he took a seat on the floor. Before she realized what she was doing, Bella reached out and offered him her hand, pulling him up onto the couch.

“I am xekzo,” he began. “I was born on a colony world of the race you know as Xenosi. We are a fierce and proud race, ruled by the iron fists of our ruthless queens. The men of my race are bred specifically for service. We are, what you would call, second-class citizens. We have no voice in the council. We have no say over what kind of service our bodies are used for, and we are raised with the notion a  from birth that females are dominant.”

“Our queens are living goddesses, the embodiment of O’dam, the spirit of all things living. Their task is to reign ceaselessly in the service of O’dam. None of our former queens have managed to live forever, and so, we, the people, are enslaved to find the answer to immortality, conscripted to find the cure for death. This is why the Xekzos have attacked your world and countless others. We seek eternal life. I am bound by oath to protect my people, and I have just broken my oath by telling an outsider my truth.”

“Why are you here?” Bella interjected with a squeak, and cleared her throat before continuing, “Why are you on this planet?”

“I am considered unique among my people. I have special protein in my blood that allows me to carry time in my cells.”

“Time? Like literal time?”

“Yes I am…timekeeper.”

“What does that mean?”

“It has the meaning of I can travel through time.”

Bella shivered. “But that doesn’t make you a monster.”

“On my home world, I maintain and keep records for people. My father before me did, and my grandfather before that, and my great-grandfather before that.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“”The Xekzos seek immortality and believe they will achieve such a thing through the direct manipulation of their genes. They will stop at nothing to achieve this, and we have warred against countless worlds, abducted countless numbers of people, and meddled in the affairs of every day life for millennia. Someone back in the day decided our women are too pure to suffer through untold experimentation, and our men are needed for breeding and protection, so the Xekzos seek out other races to purify the processes for immortality. It is a shame we all must bear,” Emit dropped his head and sighed before lifting his head with fierce determination as he balled his fists.

“About a century ago, my people were dying from an unknown disease we have come to know as… time anomaly. Instead of choosing to withdraw from our military tactics, we increased our efforts, bringing more and more people for experiments and ruining countless more lives. I was chosen from birth to carry on the tasks of my family, to study as a time apprentice in the temples of O’dam. I was raised and trained with the express purpose of keeping correct records of the timeline,” he explained.

Emit continued, looking wracked with guilt. “I collect dissidents among my people. I collect Sims. I bring them to my people in whatever time they would be most efficient. The Xekzos are trying to rebuild time to reflect their greatness and glory by ruining and ridding the universe of people who oppose them.”

“Are…are…are…you here to kill me?” Bella stammered.

“No,” Emit shook his head vehemently. “I would never kill you, milady. There is a movement of people against the queens. They call themselves the Orbix. It means ‘the eyes which see again.’ We have fought against the queens for a century, trying to take back the power, and restore our honor. They live on a planet called the Orb, and they have come to Simterra and other worlds in order to find a way to stop the spread of the diseases and infirmities that come with supernatural genes and transforming Sims and splicing one race’s DNA with another.”

“The Orbix?” Bella repeated. “I have not heard of them.”

“They have not yet made contact with the governments on Simterra, but they will soon. The Xekzos would kill me if they knew I have defected… if they knew I…am telling you.”

“Then why?” she started, struggling to find the words. “Why did you tell me?”

“I have told you because we have shared space,” Emit said, his rain-colored eyes clouding with lonesome sadness.

“I do not understand,” she shook her head.

“If a woman were to enter my space while I was naked as you did earlier, she would be imploring me to mate with her,” Emit explained.

Bella flushed.

“I would have no choice. I would become bound to her.”

Bella resisted the urge to reach for his hand. Something deep within her cried out for and craved his touch.

“It is the binding,” he said hoarsely. “The urges you feel… they are natural. You project them like waves and I can see them and sense them in my innermost being”

She flushed.

“…and they are what draws me to you, though…” he lifted his hand as if to touch her face, and then lingered a few inches from her cheeks. “…not as strong as the desires of a pure-blooded female of my race.”

Bella flinched, conflicted feelings rising in her chest. Emit dropped his hand and returned his gaze to the floor.

“Your world does not host the same customs,” he said quietly. “I will not hold you to the binding. I will wait until you are ready to have your way, and when we are finished, I would die.”

“Die?” Bella cried out. “This is…” she rubbed the sides of her face. “This is all too much… why…why…why would you die if we…um…were…?” she wasn’t even certain she wanted to know. “…were to have sex,” she burst out.

“I would have served my purpose. I could not do anything other,” Emit replied, his face serious.

“But don’t you have love on your world?” Bella asked, bewildered.

“Love is a Sim concept,” he said blankly.

“No, love is a universal concept,” Bella sat up and took Emit’s hands. “I do not wish you to die. I do not want you to take your own life. I do not want any of this. Emit…  I don’t know what to say, but please don’t die. Your cause… sounds like a noble one. I don’t hate you…” she couldn’t believe what she was saying. “I thought I would,” she made a face. “…but I can’t. You are too beautiful of spirit.”

“You pay me a high compliment, milady,” he bowed his head reverently. “I can hardly look at myself for what I have done. I only wish I had done something sooner. I am a coward. I ran from my service. I ran away from the Xekzos when I recognized the horror of my mistakes. I ran away from the Orbix when I realized I might do them more harm than good. I am cursed to wander through time, struggling to living a normal life on a dozen worlds in a half dozen lifetimes to atone for my mistakes but the real work is being done out there.  And what am I doing? I waste time cleaning pools and obtaining  a university degree.”

Bella covered her mouth to keep from crying. “Emit…” she lifted her hand and turned his face toward her own. “You wanted to be Sim. You wanted to do be normal. I know what that feels like because I want to be normal. You serve with such devotion.”

“It is my nature to serve without question,” Emit cried. “I do now what I can… what I can to help those souls that are lost. I carry them with me in my own soul. I try to reverse the effects of the Xekzo genes. I have tried to help you too, though you would not know it. It is not enough. I have taken the lives of many and pressed them into endless agony for the supposed betterment of my people but it is torture.”

“But you don’t do it anymore, do you?” Bella tried to assure. “There is only so much one Sim can do. You cannot beat yourself up for striving for things that the rest of us want too. You want to be someone. I think you’re someone. Someone special.”

“My sole job is to manipulate time and space so that the outcomes are favorable for my people, regardless of how unfavorable they are for other people,” Emit cried, ignoring her high praise. “I am a traitor to my own people and a monster to everyone else.”

“I do not think you are a monster,” Bella said softly, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Emit, you are not a monster. Please stop saying you are. The man before me is too kind and too wonderful and too sweet to be a monster. Please… please… you are not the thing that you say you are. Not anymore. Not ever again.”

Emit reached out and caressed her face and she flinched, surprised at the tenderness of his touch. His eyes were filled with surprise and gratitude. Her phone began to jingle in her pocket.

“Hold on,” she said softly. “Hello?”

Bella, it’s Malcolm.”

“Great,” she groaned, and to her dismay, realized she did so aloud.

Hear me out, okay?” Malcolm begged.

“What do you want? Aren’t the flowers enough?” she bit out, still annoyed at how he never showed up the previous night.

What flowers?”

Bella was trying not to be distracted by Emit. He was looming behind her. His hand brushed her waist, and she breathed out nervously. Quickly, as to cover up her reaction, she snapped at Malcolm, “Don’t play dumb. You sent me flowers.”

He sounded sincere. “Well, yes, but um… listen, Bella. . .”

“I am!”

You’re not making this easy.”

“Am I supposed to?”

Why are you so angry?”

Why am I so angry? Is it because my entire world was turned upside down and my lover wasn’t here to fix it? Or is it because I haven’t seen him for a long time and he keeps blowing me off? 

Please don’t do this to me.”

“You’re doing this to yourself,” Bella practically growled.

“Are you alright, milady?” Emit nearly breathed in her ear.

Instinctively, her hand reached up for the spot on her neck which he tickled.

“I’m fine,” she nodded to him, and then returned to speaking to Malcolm, “You’re the one who called, and you knew you were going to get this. . .”

Bella, can I come over?” Malcolm cut in.

“When?” she asked sharply.

Now? Bella, I need to see you today.

“No, I can’t. Not now. I don’t have time for this,” she snipped.

But I do,” Malcolm sounded almost desperate.

“I can’t… I’m out… with…someone else,” she nearly giggled because Emit brushed her face with his smooth cheek.

He looked at her in surprise. “You are?” he mouthed.

You are?” Malcolm exclaimed at nearly the same moment.

“I’m. . .”

Bella started to reply, and Emit, nodded in agreement as he moved behind her and caressed her cheek. She closed her eyes, and for a moment, all she could think about was Emit. Suddenly she wanted to kiss him more than anything in the world. . .to feel his pale pink lips against hers. She wanted to drink him in and forget about the Xenosi and about the Orbix, about Mortimer and the forced engagement, about her parents seeming to abandon her, about her strange desire to slaughter animals when there was a full moon, and Malcolm. Most of all Malcolm. Malcolm.

Bella, are you still there? What do you mean you’re with someone else?”

But it was too late, she was lost in Emit’s embrace, and her skin tingled in excitement.

“Do you know. . .” Emit said intimately. “…how much I want to kiss you, milady?”

Her lips were vibrating inches from his, and before all her senses went numb, she respired dramatically, “I’m going to have to call you back.”

The phone slipped from her ear, and she lifted her arms and pressed her hands into Emit’s bare chest as his hands wrapped around her waist. After that, she was lost to all other sights and sounds, engulfed completely at the man in front of her as his lips grazed hers harmoniously.

Uni Years, Episode 9, Secrets (LVB)

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.

“Hello?”

“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?”

“Sure.”

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 can’t.”

“Why not?”

“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.”

Bella flushed.

“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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