Bella Jacobs hesitated only a moment before changing her status from “In a Relationship” to “Single.” Her hesitation had nothing to do with how she felt about Mark, and everything to do with the questions she knew were going flood her inbox and phone.
As soon as she changed it, she immediately logged out and closed her laptop. It was less than ten minutes before her sister called. She didn’t answer. Bella wasn’t ready to talk to her about it yet, to Nicole with her perfect life. Nicole would never, could never understand what it was like for Bella, not really. Nicole was pretty, petite and perfect. She had a perfect husband, perfect kids and a perfect house. She didn’t know anything about being overweight, single, and almost thirty.
After staring at the once again silent phone, Bella sighed, got up off the couch, and went into the kitchen. Romeo, the plump tabby that Bella had adopted from the shelter a couple years before, followed her as he always did.
Romeo meowed his charming meow and planted himself by his food bowl. He knew her moods and knew that when she was upset, she made herself indulgent comfort foods. And when she indulged herself, she indulged him as well. Romeo rubbed against her leg purring, waiting for the food that didn’t come.
This evening Bella just leaned against the counter and sighed. Mark, like too many guys she had dated, had been a world-class jerk beneath a thin veneer of niceness. Sure, he had been good-looking, but he was also vain, and it didn’t take long before he began preying upon her doubts of self-worth to make himself feel better. The final straw was when he had the nerve to say to her, “I don’t care what my friends say, I like fat girls”. Looking back at it now, she knew that she had stayed with him too long.
Bella finally obeyed Romeo’s meowing when the meowing turned from charming to imperative. She got some cheese out of the refrigerator to crumble into his bowl.
“I’m not fat. Not really…” she said to Romeo knowing that he would agree.
Bella knew that she wasn’t anyone’s definition of skinny and never had been. She loved food too much. She was definitely full-figured, but Mark had made it sound like she was morbidly obese. He was definitely a jerk.
‘And didn’t his face look shocked when I told him to get out,’ she thought with a smile. ‘A pretty guy like him certainly wasn’t used to fat girls like me doing the dumping.’
What had upset her was that she had known he was a jerk, and had known she was going to break up with him. She just couldn’t get herself to do it before it hurt. Hearing the word ‘fat’ hurt. Knowing that she had been forced into being alone again, hurt. Knowing that, once again, she’d been a fool to believe some guy’s lies, hurt.
Romeo finished the cheese and again rubbed against her legs pulling her out of her thoughts. Bella scooped him up and cuddled him to her ample bosom. She rubbed her cheek against his head as he rubbed his head against her cheek in return.
“But you love me, don’t you, Romeo?” she asked listening to his relaxed purring. “You don’t care how much I weigh or what size dress I wear, do you?”
“Meow,” Romeo answered.
“You’re the last of the good men,” she decided never wanting to let him go.
Bella looked up when the phone rang again. Crossing the room to see who it was it took only a second for her to decide to answer it. Dylan Cole had been her friend since high school. They had been in many of the same classes freshman year, and like every other girl in school she couldn’t help but notice how gorgeous he was. When so many boys were gangly and awkward, he was already tall and lean. He had dark curly hair and bright blue eyes. All the girls fawned over him, including her sister Nicole, who was already a junior.
Bella had been utterly surprised when he had started joking with her in homeroom and then sitting with her during lunch. It turned out that they liked many of the same books, movies, and music so their friendship came easily and naturally. Of course, harboring a secret crush on him for years, she did have to bury her bitter jealousy as he dated one perky cheerleader after another. But what made it a lot easier was that those girls came and went, while their friendship only deepened.
“Hi, Dylan,” she said cradling both Romeo and the phone. “If you say one word about Mark, I’ll hang up.”
“I have nothing to say on the subject,” he reassured her. “What are you up to?”
“Nothing. Taking a bath and going to bed.”
“Sounds great. On my way.”
Bella giggled in the way that only Dylan could make her. “Yeah, right. You can make sure I don’t miss any spots.”
“You know it, gorgeous.” He paused. “Seriously, I’m at the video store; I already picked up a couple bottles of wine. I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”
“Dylan…” Bella allowed the wiggling Romeo to escape from her arms and then crossed into the living room. “Dylan, I really don’t feel like talking about it.”
“Talking about what? I’m bringing over a movie or two and we’re going to have some wine. Maybe I’ll be able to convince you to make me some of your famous mac-and-cheese?” He paused again. “Look, pretty lady, I don’t know about you but I had kind of a crappy day and I’d like to just chill for a while with my best friend. If you really don’t want me to come over, I guess I could go home.”
Bella looked at the framed photo of Dylan and herself by the television. It was taken a few summers before at a Renaissance Faire. He’d convinced her to dress up, and although she’d been uncomfortable at first, it wasn’t long before she was relaxed and having fun. It was always fun with him, and their smiles in the picture were proof.
“Okay,” she said finally. “I’ll even make dinner. What movies are you getting?”
“I don’t know, something stupid with lots of explosions, probably.”
He knew her so well. After yet another break up, the last thing she wanted to see was a movie with even a hint of romance.
“Sounds good. See you soon.”
Bella set a pot of water to boil and then exited to change into her pajamas. ‘Another nice thing about Dylan,’ she thought as she undressed, ‘I don’t have to worry about dressing up in uncomfortable clothes, pretending to be someone I’m not whenever he comes over. He’s seen me at my worst and accepts me just as I am.’
Bella opened the drawer and instinctually reached for her break-up uniform. The ancient sweatpants and ratty tee-shirt was almost a dress code in times like this. But something told her not to. Allowing her hand to drift to it without thought she instead fingered her rose-colored silk lounge set. She had gotten it just in case someone special had ever deserved to see her in it; nobody ever had.
Tonight, though, was the night. Bella slipped into the lounge set adding the fuzzy slippers Dylan had gotten her last Christmas. Quickly checking out herself in the mirror, she returned to the kitchen to start the mac-n-cheese. As a chef, this was, by no means, the most extravagant thing that she could make, but it was Dylan’s favorite. Although Bella didn’t cook for just anyone in her personal life, she always considered cooking for Dylan as something special.
Dylan kissed her hello on the cheek as he usually did, then stopped, took a step back and gave her a wolf-whistle. “Nice jammies,” he said.
She smiled and waved him off. “What movies did you get?”
“Something absolutely terrible called Revenge Served Cold and its even worse sequel, amusingly entitled Revenge Served Warm.” He tossed the bag from the video store onto the couch and followed her into the kitchen with the bottles of wine. “I saw the first one on cable a few weeks ago. It was so bad I swear it must have been a money-laundering scheme.”