“Can I offer you a lift back to the boarding house?”
Bella pulled up alongside the curb on Wild Horse Lane and rolled down her window, calling to a familiar blue-haired man she was developing feelings for, despite her better self cautioning her. She had just finished a session at the Surround Sound Movie Works. The studio had a contract with Sim State University, purchasing property owned by the college, and in turn, the college would funnel up and coming young actors and actresses from their theater program. And it provided a stipend.
Much to Bella’s delight, she and three other girls in the entire theater arts department were chosen to be extras on the set of a new soap opera Surround Sound was producing called Specific Hospital. Bella would be playing an orderly who trips over her cart of medical supplies when the lead character chases a gunman through the children’s ward. She had one line, “Watch where you’re going!” It was a thirty second part, but it was still a part. And she got to say the line to the dreamy John Simos.
Bella was grateful for the income, even if it was minuscule. Over the past summer, she had lost her stipend from her parents, which was really from Mortimer, because she chose to stay on campus instead of going to Simspania as was planned. She opened a credit card for the first time in her life at the shopping mall last Simmay. It was her way of rebelling against her parents control. She could spend what she liked without them ever knowing about it.
She bought clothes and books and movies. She started a magazine subscription, and bought herself jewelry and shoes. She began driving to Simcago for theater auditions when she had the chance. Mortimer had purchased a car for her, his way of trying to make up for a lack of income, but she still had to pay for gas somehow. When she wasn’t studying or auditioning, Bella drove to Simnadia nearly every weekend over the summer, trying to find Emit. The gas money alone was eating away at her limit on her card.
As she drove out of the movie lot, Bella noticed Emit walking along the street. She hadn’t seen him for a week since he rescued her off the porch of the Landgrabb Boarding House. In all honesty, she had been laying low.
Jennifer was still frustrated, though she was busy with studying and wedding planning, so the girls didn’t cross paths too much even though they shared a house. Bella made sure she ate breakfast after Jennifer had already left for the morning and came back long after her friend and roommate was in bed. Bella wasn’t even sure they had fully made up, but she figured giving Jennifer space for now was for the best.
Bella had also been avoiding Daniel ever since her awkward encounter with him after his partner’s unexpected death. Danny had found her later and tried to take everything back, saying he wasn’t in his right mind, but she knew the truth. Daniel still had a massive crush on her, which he somehow confused with actual feelings, and then acted upon them inappropriately and at an inopportune time. Bella hadn’t wanted to hurt him, but she felt it was best they stop spending time together.
Emit, on the other hand, was a man she didn’t mind spending time with, and frankly, wanted to see more of. She was glad when she spotted the alien as she was driving back to her dorm. She had planned to call him after going for a run tonight, hoping he would meet her for coffee in the morning. She still didn’t have a chance to properly thank him. As she smiled at him from her driver’s side window, she couldn’t tell if he looked annoyed or pleased.
“I prefer to walk,” he responded stoically, then quickly added when he saw Bella’s pouting lips, ”I am taking a rest from running. It is not far to my dorm and I do not mind getting myself to the location.”
“It’s across town,” she shook her head. “Get in.”
“I prefer the open air,” Emit said, sweeping his hand up to the sky. “And the stars. It is peaceful.”
Bella leaned out her car window and glanced up at the sky. “You would think they were twinkle lights on a Christmas tree if you didn’t know better.”
“Huh?” Emit scrunched his face.
Bella turned off her engine, and slid out of her car. “Never mind,” she pressed the car door closed and locked the vehicle. “I was thinking of running myself. Can I join with you?”
Emit shrugged, but said nothing. Bella fell in beside him, struggling to keep up with his stride. His pace was more of a jog, but his legs were much longer than her own. Emit turned into Wild Horse Park, her favorite running spot, and she followed. Rain began to fall, cooling the already chilled autumn evening. As drops of sweat mingled with drops of rain, Bella began to feel better. It was a nice change from the stuffy studio.
“Emit, can I ask you a question?”
He continued swinging his arms back and forth, without looking at her, but nodded.
“What’s going to happen between us?”
“I am not in the right place to have this discussion,” he said tiredly.
“You mean, you’re not in the mood?” Bella griped.
How do you have a conversation about where you stand with a guy when he refuses to talk with you? We kiss and nothing happens. I don’t even know what we are.
“I am not in a mood suitable for the type of discussion you wish to have with me,” he agreed in his own oddly endearing way.
“Well, when will you be in the mood?” she questioned. “We kiss and nothing happens. I don’t even know what we are.”
“I told you I do not believe now is the time to be talking about it,” Emit sighed, almost irritably.
“This is about the alien thing, isn’t it?” she guessed, reaching for his arm. “Honey, we can work around it.”
“Do not call me honey,” he flinched at her touch as if a hot skillet had just burned his arm. “I do not like being referred to as a condiment.”
“It’s not really a condiment.”
“Then a food substance, and this has nothing to do with the Xekzos.”
“Yes, it does. Don’t deny it,” Bella said heatedly, running in front of him. “You’re scared, aren’t you? You’re scared what might happen if you fall for me.”
“I did not fall anywhere,” Emit frowned.
“Gah!” Bella threw her hands up in the air, his misunderstanding of common phrases beginning to grate on her nerves. “Don’t get so uptight about this.”
“I do not comprehend this up…tight,” Emit said pointedly, quickening his pace. “You are feeling tightness in your being and are projecting ill feelings of frustration in my direction and believe me to do the same.”
Well at least he knew that one.
“Please stop avoiding the subject,” Bella’s voice softened, her voice betraying a plea. “I want to figure this out. I want to be with you. I don’t want you to waste your life worrying about something we can easily overcome.”
“It is my life. Is that not a phrase…what you Simterrans say?” Emit flung tartly. “And it is not that easy.”
“No, it’s not your life, you’re living the life of a man who has been exiled from his colony, but that’s not who you really are,” Bella protested.
“What do you suppose to mean?” he stopped so suddenly that Bella almost slammed into him.
“Haven’t you suffered enough? Haven’t you punished yourself enough?” she asked.
“And what about you?” Emit exclaimed. “Have you not suffered enough?”
“Bella, your thoughts betray you. You did not forget I have telepathy, did you? I know you are worried for money and how you spend more than you have.”
Bella flushed. “Who cares what I spend my money on otherwise? It’s a way for me to be independent. I don’t need my parents or Mortimer, and no one will tell me what I can and can’t spend if they don’t know I’m spending it in the first place.”
“You have to return the money.”
“I’ll get a job. I got a job.”
“Perhaps you should talk to Mortimer.”
“Don’t you say his name!” Bella shouted. “I don’t want to think about Mortimer. He doesn’t need to know. He doesn’t even care. He just throws a school and a car and a future at me.”
“You were with a man who did not belong to you. You are engaged to a man you do not love. You do not even see him. Why do you stay with him?” Emit inquired.
“Because… he’s…given me my life,” Bella sighed, exasperated. “I wouldn’t be here having this conversation without him, and I want to be here. I need to be here. Emit, I want you, but it’s his fault we can’t be together.”
“No,” Emit shook his head. “You make your own life and your own choices. Do not blame the man who pays for your college education and your health care for your decisions.”
“How dare you!” Bella reached out to smack him, but he caught her hand. “You don’t know anything about me, do you? You aren’t even man enough to take me!”
“Milady, how can I take what is not mine in the first place?” Emit said, seriously.
Bella flushed, resentment bubbling in her heart.
“Please, I would like to take my leave or I may become less civil,” Emit resumed his run.
Bella held her breath, calling on all her strength to keep from breaking down into tears as she watched Emit jog away, afraid he was running out of her life.