“Good. I’ll start. What do you do in your spare time?” David asked.
Bella laughed, “Depends on the day of the week.”
“How about in general?”
“Well, lately I have learned the amusing sarcasm that can be found in reality T.V. shows. I’ve done more shopping that I’ve ever done in my life. I think I’m also working out more… not intentionally though.” It was something she hadn’t really thought much about. Z’s place had a lot of things to do – tennis court, swimming pool, gym, track… always giving her options.
“What kind of work out do you typically do?”
“Mostly running,” she said and continued on before he had a chance to interject, “My turn. How come you didn’t want to celebrate your birthday?”
“My parents spend a lot of time out of town. Dad mostly on business, Mom socially. Heather and I were usually left with nannies.We couldn’t have birthday parties because often they weren’t there. Birthday presents on the other hand… every year like clockwork.”
“Well I’m glad we remedied that,” she told him.
“Best birthday I’ve ever had.”
“Even though I dragged you up on stage with me five times?”
He smiled, “That was the best part.”
“I would never do that with you,” he stated firmly.
“That’s greatly appreciated.”
“Guess that makes it my turn,” he said,”Have you always worked out?”
“Yes. My parents made sure I grew up nutritionally educated. Would you believe I’ve never had soda before?”
“Nope, not at all.”
“It’s true. Sugar wasn’t allowed in my house. If a recipe required it, we used the fake kind. I’ve never had anything sweet.”
For several seconds he glanced between her and the road trying to judge the truth in her words, “You’re serious?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Oh, no, no, no. That is unacceptable. I will fix that tonight.”
“Are you sure that’s a wise idea? We don’t know how I’ll react to sugar.”
That devilish grin returned, “I’ll take my chances.”
“Okay, but just to be fair… I warned you.”
“That you did,” he said. “Your turn.”
“Do you know what you’re going to do after you graduate?”
Tilting her head, “Why not?”
“Because I’m impartial as to how I feel about leaving Heather behind.”
She laughed, “You’ve got to be joking. Worrying about your sister shouldn’t be a determining factor, especially since she can handle herself. I mean, no offense but she’s Queen Bitch at school.”
“None taken,” he grinned, “And I get what you’re saying, but she’s more vulnerable than she shows.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“It’s true,” David said, “Underneath all that bravado is the same shy girl who was forced to make a change.”
“Shy girl? No way we’re talking about the same person.”
“I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but five years ago that wasn’t the case.”
Shaking her head, “I’m going to require proof to believe that.”
“Fair enough,” he told her. “I can show you pictures before her… physical transformation.”
Quietly his jaw rolled back and forth, “Okay, but on one condition. Nothing I’m about to tell you gets repeated or used against her in any way. If you do, I’ll deny I ever told you anything.”
“I promise,” she laughed, “Besides handling her without baggage that old… much more current and fun.”
“Alright,” he paused, “She had to repeat eighth grade. Before her second time around she was the shy chubby girl with dirty black unwashed hair and acne. When she was forced to repeat, she spent the summer getting in shape, got with a doctor to clear up her face, went blonde and found an attitude that didn’t get her picked on.”
Studying him she wondered how much of what he just told her she should accept as truth, but it made perfect sense, “So she’s a bottle blonde… then why does she act so stupid?” As she replayed his statement in her head something fell into place, “Wait a minute, that means she’s the same age as you.”
“Yes,” he nodded, “she’s my twin.”
Shrugging, “We don’t make a big deal out of it since she doesn’t want people to know about failing a grade. Everything is about image now. Guess it helps that we don’t celebrate our birthday with a big party too. And that she’s a junior and I’m a senior… automatically people think she’s younger than me and if they ask her how old she is, she tells them she’s a year younger than she is.”
“Just seems like a lot of trouble to go through.”
“Yeah, but she’s my sister. As annoying as she can be, she’s still the only real family I have. So I’ll do whatever I can to protect her.”
She almost clarified what she meant – it seemed like a lot of trouble just so people thought differently of her. Then she thought about her own transformation. Maybe it did make sense. But the love he had for his sister despite her changes, that made him … wonderful. God, she was in trouble. Even if she didn’t fall in love, she would still care about him. Using him… it would make her no better than his sister. Needing to get off this train she said, “Your turn.”
“What’s it like as an only child?”
“Lonely,” she told him truthfully, “When I was younger it was okay because I got all my parents attention, but as I got older… I wanted more. I asked them one time why they didn’t have any more children, but they didn’t really answer me. Before my grandfather passed I talked to him. He told me that I was their miracle baby. Apparently a couple months before they found out they were pregnant with me they started looking into adoption because after five years of trying they still hadn’t conceived.Six weeks in they found out about me and stopped.”
“Is that how they named you?”
“No,” she laughed. “My dad wanted to call me Christa. According to him I was special because I carried God. My mom wanted to name me Bella because I was beautiful. After some argument they finally met in the middle and gave me both as one, Christabella.”
“That’s a mouthful. Is that why you just go by Bella?”
He grinned, “You never went by anything else?”
Shrugging, “No and I don’t know why. I guess I just got used to it,” she stopped knowing that was partially true. Continuing on, “And I like it better than Christa or Chris.”
Laughing, “I see that.”
They conversed so easily. God, she missed having that flow. Her thoughts returned back to those last two points she discussed with her psychologist. Kissing and dating. Yes!If he tried to kiss her tonight, she would let him. Naturally if things kept going the way they were, she could see them dating. So why did she feel like she was having a heart attack? One answer. Jeremiah…no! No! He is not welcome here. She was on a date with David and he deserved her full focus. Struggling for a second it took five times for her brain to find a box and lock her ex-boyfriend in it. “I’m sorry,what?”
“How did you get into singing?” David repeated wondering where she’d just gone. So far the date was smooth and the conversation was great. Nothing that shouldn’t be talked about had been brought up, but if he didn’t know better he would say that just happened and he wasn’t sure how.
“I was five and my mom found me dancing and singing to The Way You Love Me. She did the typical mom thing and told me how good I was. Believing her I got excited and asked if I could take lessons. I wasn’t horrible at the dancing, but I wasn’t as good as the other girls. I had to work harder than the rest of them, but the singing. I fell in love. Getting solos was the best compliment I could ever have been given. After a few years I stopped with dance class and focused mostly on vocal lessons. I went back to practicing dance a couple years ago because it was fun and a good way to work out. ”
“Is that what you want to do?” he asked.
“I thought so, but it wasn’t until I got into tutoring that I found my true calling.”
She nodded, “I want to teach.”
“That’s admirable,” he told her. She was better than him. Just a fact, he told himself. Even though she could be big in the music world with a strong voice like she had, she wanted to teach. Meaning she would spend her life without the possibility of financial security unless she married well. Boy that was jumping ahead. Okay so there were rumors about how little teachers made, but going to the idea of marrying her when this was only their first real date… too fast.He definitely need to slow his roll.
“So what are you being offered scholarships on?”
“Soccer,” he said unenthusiastically. His parents had been thrilled when he made Captain, even attended his first game.Learning what Bella planned to do put so many things into perspective for him.
“You don’t sound happy about that, why?”
Sighing, he hated this honesty policy, “I guess it just doesn’t compare to teaching.”
“That’s crap,” she told him.
“If you think that playing soccer professionally doesn’t compare to teaching, that’s crap. I think professionals have it just as bad, if not worse. Maybe they don’t sacrifice on money, but they do on privacy.Everything celebrities do is out there for the public to scrutinize. If I got a couple of DUI’s, the people I affect are the ones that care, but the public won’t talk about it. If I decided to shave my head… the people around me…they’ll talk and maybe it makes it into the school paper or yearbook, but I won’t end up in the national inquirer. Sports stars, musicians, actors,actresses… they’re all subject to the same publicity. They get it whether it’s good or bad. Now, I’m not saying teachers don’t get scrutinized, just not in the same way.”
He could only sit there, stunned in silence because not only did she have a valid point, but she managed to put him in his place at the same time. Standing by his first assessment, she was better than him. In more ways than one. “Bella,” he started… “you really are great. You know that?”
“I’m just me. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“And that’s pretty wonderful,” he told her.”So don’t sell yourself short on my account.”
Grinning at him, “I think you are too.”Snapping a hand up, “Don’t bother arguing with me. I can see it in your face.”
“Alright, alright… I won’t argue,” he chuckled. Slowing the car down he took their exit that took them into downtown Carlsbad. Good thing he made their reservation for eight.
“Does this mean we’re almost there?”
“Almost,” he said.
“Are you going to tell me anything about this place?”
“No. You’ll see it when we get there.”
“Are we doing anything after dinner?” she asked.
“I thought we’d go dancing.”
“I’d like that,” Bella replied.
Turning again he slowed the vehicle down as he pulled up alongside a carpeted entrance. “Wait here,” he said putting the car in park then climbing out. He shut the door and walked around to valet podium.Getting a ticket he tucked it in his pocket and then walked back over to the passenger side door as the valet driver headed around to the driver side.Opening Bella’s door he presented her his hand to help her out. Smiling as she took it he glanced up to the neatly cursive word Cello’s that hung above the entrance, “This is where we’re having dinner.” Yeah he went out of the way, but he knew she dated Jeremiah. If they had gone somewhere in downtown Nautica Valley. Hell, anywhere in Rescate county would go back to one of two things for her and he didn’t want her to think about either one. Not tonight. So it was imperative that he go out of his way to make sure that didn’t happen.
“Wow,” she gasped.
This place was exquisite with its canopied and red carpet entrance. Valet parking was standard in this part of town. Entwining their fingers they walked up to the door that was quickly opened for them. Removing his hand from hers he held open the second set for her. Once inside he wrapped an arm around her waist and moved forward to the hostess, “We have reservations.”
“And the name?”
“Warren,” he answered.
“Follow me,” the hostess told them.
She led them up a staircase to a balcony table just as he requested. One of the other reasons why he chose this place was because of the romantic ambiance it created. White lace cloths draped every table with two golden candleholders containing matching lit white votives. All the overhead lighting was low. He helped Bella into her seat first then took his own. Then menus were placed before each of them, the hostess told them their server would be there shortly and she departed.
“This place is gorgeous! You chose well,” Bella claimed.
Opening the menu her eyes popped wide.
“Pick whatever you want, don’t fret over the cost.”
Interrupting her, “But nothing. I can afford it.”
“Are you sure?” she sighed.
“Yes,” he confirmed. His and his sister’s 16thbirthday present were credit cards with no limit. If his parents hadn’t been around before, then they’ve been damn near invisible since those hit their hands. Spending it on Bella only seemed like the right thing to do.