Chapter Thirty-Four: Since I Lost You

“I am SO proud of you!” Peter hugged Belle tightly.

“Pa would have been proud.” Bill ruffled her hair.
Belle looked up to the sky with tears in her eyes. After four years of hard study, she'd finally gotten her Law degree.
“You'll be coming home with us?” Bill asked as they walked away from the ceremony together.
“I'm thinking I might stay in Brisvegas. Webster and Maddy are happy for me to stay as long as I need to.” Belle replied, not looking at her uncle.
“You should come back to Pleasantville.” Bill insisted. “Charlie came back a few months ago, he misses you.”
“That's nice.” Belle stiffened. She didn't want to think about him. Not after what had happened.
Peter smiled secretively.
“Beauty should only come home when she's ready.” He said with an air of superiority.
“Stop talking like you know some great secret and we don't.” Bill said dryly.
“Jealous, brat?”
“Get over yourself pipsqueak.”
“I love you two.” Belle grabbed them both in a big hug.
“We love you too.” Peter looked at Bill, and the pair grinned at each other.
“Webster! Tate needs a bath!” Maddy called upstairs to her husband as the little toddler sat with an empty bowl of cake mix, trying to lick the last morsels out and instead getting them all over herself.
“You are SO adorable!” Belle picked the gurgling little girl up as Webster made his way downstairs.
“Come one Mess-Monster, time you got cleaned up!” Webster took his daughter who squealed with delight as her father lifted her up and took her to the bath.
“You guys are so awesome. I hope I have a family like yours one day.” Belle sat at the table and peeled potatoes while Maddy worked around the kitchen.
“Webster's so wonderful.” Maddy gushed. “And when Tate was born, it just completed us.”
Belle continued peeling vegetables. “Are you guys planning on having any more?”
“Nah. One will do us, and she wasn't really planned.” Maddy replied. “We're actually thinking of heading back to Pleasantville.”
“Oh…” Belle said after a pause.
“We want to help your Dad. Plus you need to go back and try to make up with Charlie.” Maddy continued.
Belle squirmed uncomfortably. Fortunately there was a loud banging and a splash from upstairs followed by laughter.
“You two!” Maddy ran upstairs, leaving Belle alone with her thoughts.
Belle was getting ready for bed that night. It had been a week since her graduation, and she was enjoying her little holiday.
She brushed her teeth and pulled on her nightclothes. It was a warm, beautiful night that nothing except the nagging thoughts of Charlie and Pleasantville could ruin.
Belle groaned, and threw herself onto the bed. She couldn't escape the fact that he was back in the country or that she had no reason to stay in Brisvegas. Wasn't the whole point of her education to save Pleasantville anyway? How could she do that if she avoided the city?
The problem was Charlie. He wouldn't be the same boy she left behind. He'd been overseas for nearly four years. He was older, more experienced. Would he hook back up with Sunny again? Would they be able to repair their friendship? Or were the wounds too deep?
Tossing and turning wasn't getting her anywhere, so Belle got up, grabbed a dressing gown and headed out to the back deck, where she found Webster gazing out over the city.
“Can't sleep?” He asked as Belle sat on the chair on the other side of the deck.
“Nope. Still thinking about Charlie and Pleasantville.” Belle sighed. “You?”
“Thinking of Tate.” Webster shuffled in his seat. “It's been years but I miss her so much.”
“She tried to kill us and completely destroyed a University.” Belle narrowed her eyes at him.
“You don't understand Belle. Tater was a good person, I swear.” Webster protested as Belle snorted. “She WAS! Did you see her Will? That business empire that she created is now funding cancer research and supporting our Defence force.”
“Wow.” Belle deadpanned.
“You didn't know her.” Webster continued. “She meant the world to me. We met at school when we had to do a science project together. It was our last year and neither of us had any idea what we were going to do. We started hanging out, I found out that her birthday was the day after mine. She was always telling me that I was special, that I would do something great in life.” Tears were beginning to form in his eyes, but he blinked them back. “I lost my twin sister when we were four, and since that day I'd felt like part of me was missing. Tater filled that void, she was my sister in every sense of the word. Everyone told me to stay away from Tater because she was crazy, but no one told me of the big heart she had.”
“Yeah, a big heart doesn't negate the fact that she was completely psycho.” Belle shook her head.
“She was getting help. I helped her get to a psychologist. She was getting better. Then I moved and everything went wrong.” Webster looked away.
“I knew she was in love with me, but I could never love her that way. That's why I left Brisvegas. I couldn't bear to break her heart so I ran.”
“Doesn't change what she did.” Belle rolled her eyes. “Let her go Webster, she was psycho who needed to be put in an institution and left to rot.”
“She WASN'T Belle! When she got help she was fine! Haven't you seen the business empire she put together, all the people she helped out, all the good that she's done? If I hadn't run away things might have been different…”
“You can't blame yourself.” Belle said.
“You're blaming yourself for what happened with Charlie. You're thinking right now what could have happened if you hadn't left for Brisvegas.” Webster pointed out. “You're going over and over again in your head why you couldn't have just sucked it up and accepted his relationship with Sunny instead of hiding in your studies.”
“I had to study!” Belle retorted.
“You say that, but you don't believe it.” Webster smiled. “You need to go home Belle, if you don't you'll lose Charlie. Not saying he'll off himself like Tater did, but you'll still lose him.”
Belle sat silently. She COULD have taken the relationship better. She could have tried instead of making excuses.
Maybe she did need to go home.
“I might have loved her, you know, if she'd stayed in Brisvegas and continued her business.” Webster said quietly. “I love Maddy, and I'll stay with her forever, but if Tater were still around…”
“She'd make a great aunt to baby Tate.” Belle tried to smile. Webster smiled back.
“Do you think she knows?” Webster looked up at the stars. “Do you think she's watching over us?”
“I wouldn't be surprised if she was.” Belle grinned.
“So you're going home?” Maddy asked with a smile over breakfast the next morning.
“Yeah, it's about time I got back to Pleasantville. I can't hide forever.” Belle shovelled down her bacon and eggs (as good as Maddy is, she couldn't quite compare to Bill).
“We'll probably be a few months behind you. Both of us are looking for work, and Betty Begly has offered to babysit Tate for us.” Webster tried to scoop food into his daughters mouth, and was rewarded with it all over his face and shirt. “Thanks brat.”
“I'm heading out this afternoon, I should be at Dads place before dinnertime.” Belle said. “I've packed most of my things already.”
“We'll drive you to the Bus Interchange if you like.” Webster offered.
“Thanks.” Belle smiled.
She headed upstairs to finish packing. All she needed to do was get the last few clothes in her suitcase and try to stuff the last of her books into another suitcase.
Afterwards, she carefully started packing her last few photos, laptop and other trinkets into her bag. She was putting photos into a box when she saw an old newspaper clipping.
Belle smiled. If you really looked hard (or at least Belle thought) you could almost see the outline of the Lucky Seven Gun in her shorts as she walked out of that doomed Assembly Hall on the fateful day that changed everything.
The pair of them together, with the friends they wouldn't meet until years later, that had been their first mission. Their first win. Belles smile faded however, when in the background of the picture she noticed Sunny, glaring at Belle and Charlie, face full of jealousy.
Hopefully she could fix things up with Sunny too. She couldn't help the pang of hurt and regret mixed with jealousy she felt when she thought of Charlie and Sunny together again, but she vowed to be more mature about it. If Charlie wanted to go to the movies with her every day, then she'd do it.
She finished packing and had one last look at the room that had been hers for the last four years. It was a little bit sad to say good-bye, but it was time to move on.

Belle Masters was going home.

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