Even though Bella had not been single in years, being alone came quite easily to her. She threw herself into her work proudly displayed the photographs she did not sell on the walls at home. Since a child she had loved all living creatures and the world around her, so it was no surprise that most of her work was inspired by these things.
Her parents were so proud of her. They had now both become elders and would boast about their daughters natural artistic abilities during their games of Bridge with their friends or over a pot of tea. They had both long since retired from the movie business but they still adored each other just as much as the day they married.
As time went by, Bella saw her best friend Gaby get married and become pregnant with her first child. At her baby shower, Bella offered her services to take lots of pictures.
She wanted to capture the beauty of pregnancy but what she got was a whole lot more. What she saw was the ultimate unconditional love of a married couple on the brink of starting their own family. As Bella watched her friend’s abundant happiness, she could not help but wish she could find that one day.
Bella drifted around the party that day filled with joy for her friend but also with an overwhelming sense of loneliness. She did not know where she fitted in. It was like she was in no-man’s land. Too old to go out clubbing but not ready for marriage and children. She decided that “if in doubt, pig out,” and headed over to the buffet table. While pilling her plate high with a Garden Salad, she felt a tap on her shoulder.
“Bella Star,” came the voice? Bella spun round to a man who looked just like Gaby’s husband, Brian.
“Yes,” she replied?
“I am sorry to bother you but I am Joey, Brian’s brother.”
That makes sense, Bella thought to herself.
“Well, Gaby was telling me all about what a fantastic photographer you are,” Joey continued. “And I need someone to take a portrait picture of me for my book and was wondering if I could pay you? If its not too much trouble that is?”
Bella liked Joey instantly. She did not normally do this type of work but there was such warmth in his eyes, she could not help but say yes. “Of course,” she replied. “Come to my studio at my house tomorrow and I will get it done for you.”
The following afternoon Joey turned up on time and Bella set him up in the small studio she had built at the back of the house. It was very basic, but for small jobs like this it did just the trick.
While Bella took a few different head-shots of Joey they chatted back and forth. Bella found out Joey was an author and was just about to have his first book published, hence the head shot for the inside cover. Bella was intrigued by Joey’s booked entitled: Dead Simple, and Joey promised to get her a signed copy.
In was nice to be in the company of a man after so long and even though Joey was a bit more serious and clean-cut that her usual type, she found herself flirting with him.
“So, what are you up to now,” Joey asked when they had finished for the day.
“Not much,” Bella replied feeling the butterflies.
“Well I err… wondered if maybe you would like to go and get a coffee or something? I know this great little café in the French District on the edge of Bridgeport.”
“Yeah?” Joey asked blushing.
“Yes,” Bella confirmed blushing back.
Joey was right about the café. It was so pretty and quaint and Bella could not believe she had not known about it before. They chatted all afternoon and into the evening. Joey was so passionate about his writing and Bella sometimes found it hard to get a word in edgeways when he went off on his excitement about his book.
As the sun set over Bridgeport, Joey offered to drive Bella home. Even though she had had a great time, she decided to walk home instead and enjoy the last few days of summer. Outside the café, Joey pulled Bella into a hug. “I would really like to see you again,” he said.
“Me too,” she replied squeezing him back.
Then she set off on the hour’s walk home. She basked in the fresh air and let her mind run through the last few hours of her day with Joey. He was so sweet and so nice and even though he did not make her legs go weak yet, Bella told herself that it was time she went for the nice available guy for a change.
As she approached her house on the hill, she saw a figure standing at her gate. This was not a rare thing as often fans and paparazzi would wait at the gates for her famous parents, but this did not look like a fan or photographer. It looked like Charlie! Don’t get excited, she told herself. He lives thousands of miles away!
“Charlie,” Bella questioned. “What are you doing here?”
As he turned around to face Bella there was such sadness in his face. “Hey Bella,” he uttered. “Sorry to turn up here like this but I just popped back to town to get some things from my parent’s house and have somehow found myself here. I guess I did not know where else to go.”
“It’s ok,” Bella replied. She had not seen Charlie in over two years and it was just nice to see his face. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s so stupid, I don’t want to bore you with it,” Charlie replied looking very awkward.
“Come on it’s me you’re talking to,” Bella replied. “We’re old friends right?”
“It’s just well. She said she couldn’t be number two anymore. Not to a toilet roll company.”
“Sorry who did not want to be number two?”
“Melanie, my girlfriend, well my ex-girlfriend. She just broke up with me. Apparently I was putting my work before her. But she owns her own business so I thought she would understand. I guess not.”
Bella’s heart sunk. So he is here because he has a broken heart.
“And then she said that…”
Bella did not want to hear any more about Melanie. “You know what,” she interrupted. “I have an idea, follow me.”
“Where are we going?”
“Just follow me, you’ll see.”
Charlie followed Bella to her car and as they drove, Charlie continued to moan about the demise of his relationship. “I just don’t get it,” she said she loved me and we were living together and…”
Bella just sat back and listened like the good friend she was. When they had reached the beach, Charlie followed Bella out of the car and trailed beside her. She felt him looking at her and smiling when he saw where they were.
At one stage his hand brushed against hers and she truly believed that he was going to take it in his, but then his hand swung back again and the thunder bolt evaporated.
They arrived at the water’s edge to a burnt out fire pit and a few tree stumps. “Sit there,” Bella instructed bending to re-light the fire.
Charlie watched in silence and when Bella finally sat down next to him she could feel his eyes burning into her. “This is amazing, how did you find this place,” Charlie asked.
“K.C. used to bring me here when we were younger and then I have been coming down here on my own for years. It’s the only place I can really relax and get away from everything. It has healed many a broken heart for me.” They watched the crackling of the fire for a while comfortable in each other’s silences. “I came here after you left a couple of years ago,” Bella continued.
“Yeah I’m sorry about that Bella. I was going to leave you a note but I did not know what to say. I never stopped thinking about you though. Wondering….. What if?”
“Me too,” Bella replied.
They starred each other in the eyes and Bella’s legs went wobbly. She leant forward and kissed him. His lips were just as soft as she remembered.
It was Charlie who pulled away. “Gee Bella. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that i don’t think we should. I don’t want to complicate things….”
“Shhhh,” Bella said putting her fingers to her lips. She did not care about anything else at the moment. She just wanted to be in Charlie’s arms. She pulled him forward again and kissed him even deeper. This time Charlie relaxed and tightened his grip on her too.
Clothes were ripped from each other’s bodies and they made love there and then on the beach under the stars and moonlight.
They slept on a wooden tree bench next to the roaring fire. When Bella woke the next morning the fire had gone out and she was freezing cold. She crept up quietly and clamoured for her clothes quickly getting dressed. She did not want to wake Charlie as she knew he would then be gone, so she just sat and watched him sleeping.
Eventually he began to stir. Bella got up and tried to pretend that she was busy tidying up rather than watching him.
He stretched out and then stood up. “Hi,” he said letting out a shy smile and wave.
“Hi,” Bella replied blushing from ear to ear. She did not know why, but she had never felt so awkward in her life.
She turned her back while Charlie got dressed then they trekked up the beach together in silence.
When they arrived back at Bella they had still not said anything more than “hi” to each other. They stood by the gate and Bella rocked back and forth on her heels waiting for Charlie to say something. Eventually he broke the silence. “I have to go,” he said. “My plane goes in a couple of hours and I have to say goodbye to my folks.”
“I understand,” Bella replied. “You have to go.”
But still he did not move. Instead he took Bella’s hand in his. “Listen Bella I’m really sorry. I have so much going on in my head right now with work and Melanie…” he stumbled at her name. “I’ve just still got some feelings to sort out.”
“It’s ok,” Bella replied. And even though she was sad, she really was ok. She knew that this was going to happen and the night before would not change anything. “You’re in Sim City and I’m here. I understand. You go.”
Charlie looked Bella in the eye and she thought she was going to cry. She leant in and brushed her lips against his.
Then she watched him walk away.
Bella had not noticed that her sister had been collecting the post and had seen the whole thing. April’s heart went out to Bella, she was one of the only people who could really tell the difference between love and lust in her sister and she knew that this was love.
“It’s ok,” she said pulling Bella into a hug. “If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”
As Bella’s eyes glazed over she wished her sister was right.
At the airport Charlie was wondering the same thing. Am I making the biggest mistake of my life not staying, he thought to himself.
“Final Calling for Flight 2503 to SimCity,” came the tannoy. Charlie stood and headed over to the air stewardess to hand her his tickets. “Welcome Sir,” she said waiting for him to pass the ticket over.
Charlie hesitated. He clutched onto his ticket and turned around looking at the exit door to Bridgeport. To Bella. Should he stay or should he go and sort his life out?
“Sir? Sir?” the air stewardess called. “Last calling for the flight.”
Charlie took one last look at the door then turned round and marched onto the place refusing to look back.
One month later Tom Starr, Bella’s father suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away. It was a shock to everyone, especially Allie who could not remember a time without her husband at her side. They had a private funeral and unfortunately Brendan did not make it back from touring in China on time.
That evening, Bella could not face going home with her family. There were just too many tears. Instead she went to Gaby’s who had just given birth to a healthy baby boy they named Billy.
The first thing Bella did when she arrived was call Charlie; she just needed to hear his voice. He was wonderful as always and even made her smile through her tears.
When Bella eventually hung up, Gaby asked what was going on now between her and Charlie.
“Oh Gaby it’s hopeless,” she sighed. “How could we ever be together if I don’t even have my thing figured out and he doesn’t have his? You know? And we were both clear with each other from the start. He is in Sim City and I am here. It would never work.”
“What about Joey,” Gaby continued probing. “How did your date go the other week? Brian said that he really liked you but he has not heard from you since.”
“Joey’s great,” Bella replied feeling guilty about snubbing him. She remembered his face and how sweet he was to her that day at the café. “He is great,” she confirmed to herself.
“Well Joey’s here and he likes you, so maybe you should see how that goes instead.”
“You’re right Gaby. You’re so right.”