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Bella (standard:other, 2826 words)
Author: Annemarie St. JohnAdded: Jan 19 2001Views/Reads: 3006/1458Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A small turning point in the life of a Beverly Hills socialite.


It was nearly noon by the time Joan Elizabeth Perdu drove her gold
Mercedes westward out of Beverly Hills, along the Santa Monica freeway 
toward the coast, toward an afternoon that she had been anticipating, 
nervously, for several weeks. Her car was a gift from her anaplastic 
surgeon husband. The personalized license plates on the Mercedes read 
"4BELLA". She thought "Joan" was too common, "Liz" too flippant, and 
"Elizabeth" too formal, so she called herself "Bella". It had for her 
just the right touch of mystery, a continental sound to it that made 
her feel like more than just a Beverly Hills socialite. 

Bella loved the firm, quiet, ride of the Mercedes, and the attention it
always attracted. She especially loved to drive it on these bright, 
clear fall days. She would turn on the radio, roll down the windows, 
and let the wind blow through her dark, short cropped hair. It reminded 
her of younger, happier, freer times. On days like today, Bella longed 
to experience once again the sense of passion and vitality that somehow 
she had lost over the sweep of her life. 

Across town, in a bachelor apartment in Hermosa Beach, Paul Newcomb
stood before his mirrored closet door and brushed his longish brown 
hair into a pony tail, fastening it with a tooled leather barrette. 
With long slender fingers, he combed through his broad, neatly trimmed 
Vandyke beard, then brushed his hands on his jeans. He stood before the 
mirror, striking several poses and carefully noting the effect. He 
winked at himself. "You look marvelous darling," he quipped. 

From the reflection in the mirror Paul surveyed his room. It was
artistic and tasteful, everything carefully orchestrated to work 
together to produce the best effect. Paul's talent was in making 
everything look good. He was an upcoming fashion photographer. 
Portraits of his clients - fashion models, actors, and executives - 
filled every wall of the apartment. Today he would photograph Bella, 
the wealthy, older, Beverly Hills doctor's wife who had made the 
highest bid in the charity auction in which a day with Paul was the 
prize. He relished the thought of an entrée into her social world, and 
the opportunity for increasing his clientele. 

A timid knock at the door interrupted his reverie, and he smiled to
himself at the gentle sound. "So," he thought, arching an eyebrow, "let 
the games begin." 

"Come in, Mrs. Perdu," he called out. "It's unlocked." 

The door opened slightly and Bella Perdu, carrying a small picnic
basket, slipped into the room and quickly pushed the door closed behind 
her and leaned against as if catching her breath after running a great 

"Well," he said, moving close to her, "hello Bella." 

Bella stepped around him and into the small apartment with a movement
like a ballerina. Without saying a word, she put the basket on the 
table and slowly walked around the room looking at the photographs on 
the wall. She moved from one to the next, pausing before each, studying 
it, as if she were on a docent tour in a museum art gallery. As Bella 
studied the photographs, Paul studied her. She was wearing a 
rhinestone-studded white T-shirt tied in a knot at the waist. It was 
two sizes too big for her and hung from her thin narrow shoulders as if 
on a coat hanger. Her tight, faded blue jeans were low on her hips. 
Around her neck was a gold necklace with a large diamond pendant. Her 
hands were soft and smooth, her nails manicured and polished, red as 
new blood. Her face was full of worry. 

"Did you take all these?" she said at last. 

"Each and every one," he said, standing with his hands in his hip
pockets. "Do you like them?" 

"Yes," she said in a very matter of fact voice. "They are quite good.
You have a real talent for capturing the best in your subjects. They 
are all so beautiful, and ..." she hesitated for a moment searching for 
words, "... so believable," and her face seemed to fall just a little. 
Then, brightly, "Look, I've brought you something," she said, offering 

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