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Pleasantview: Chronicles of a Small Town

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It was not a night to be abroad.

The wind howled through the trees, creating a whistling sound, and all around Pleasantview, couples snuggled up to each other, glad that they had chosen to stay in.

All except one.

Bella Bachelor-Goth wrapped her coat tighter around her, trying in vain to keep out the chill that made her very bones ache. She looked up at the condo of her lover. What was she doing? Her husband had looked at her skeptically when she told him she had to go out for a walk this second. He hadn’t said anything, but had looked rather pointedly at the weather outside.

They had become masters in the art of not saying anything.

But she had to see him. Her throat tightened, her heart leapt at the anticipation of what was about to happen. She edged forward, and rang the doorbell with perfectly manicured fingernails.

Moments later, the door opened and Don Lothario invited her inside.

That was the last anyone heard of Bella Bachelor-Goth.

 

Four and a half years later

Cassandra Goth looked at her boiled egg and wanted to throw up.

She had been looking forward to this day for years, ever since she had looked at her future husband and realised where they were going. But now, with the wedding upon her, it was all she could do not to stop her stomach from churning.

She looked up at her father, his stern face watching her. "Eat," he said brusquely. Mortimer Goth said everything brusquely. "You need to keep your strength up."

Cassandra distracted herself from her breakfast by pouring herself some coffee. "I can't help thinking…"

"Yes?" Mortimer said, his eyes already drawn to the morning paper as usual.

"What would Mother make of this, if she were here?'

She saw her father close his eyes, whether in pain or silent remembrance, she couldn't say. "Dad, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up."

"Yes, you should. It's only natural for you to talk about her, today of all days." He gave her a small smile. "And for what it's worth, she'd be proud of the woman you've become. If a little taken aback by your choice of groom."

"She wouldn't approve, right?"

Mortimer frowned. "I'm not sure I do." She felt a surge of irritation, and started to tell him the reasons why she was marrying him, starting with the fact she loved him, but he held up his hand to stop her. "No, we've been through all this. I may not like who you're marrying but I do accept him." He took her hand. "And I hope I'm wrong, and Don makes you happy.'

She smiled at him. It was the best she could have hoped for. "Thanks Dad."

He finished his coffee. "I'd better go wake your brother up. Eat," he said. "You'll need it." And with that, he left Cassandra to her thoughts.

*""
Dina Caliente looked in the mirror, and started the process of putting on her make-up and getting ready for the wedding.

She sensed, rather than saw her sister's presence in the doorway. "You're not seriously going, are you?" Nina Caliente asked.

"I'm part of the family," she said. "It's expected of me."

"Bull," her sister spat. Dina didn't think she'd buy it, but still her heart sank. "The bride hates you, and everyone there still suspects you of murdering your husband."

"All the more reason for going," she said. "People will talk if I'm not there. They'll think I'm guilty."

"They'll talk anyway. And you were cleared by the police. Why are you still concerned about how you look?" Nina said, clearly stirring. "Unless you are guilty."

"Buzz off and leave me alone," Dina said, shooing her as if swatting a fly.

"No," Nina said, coming into the bathroom properly and perching on the bath. "Not until you tell me the real reason why you're going."

"If you're so curious, maybe you should come with me."

Nina looked away. "I've no desire to see Don get married."

"To anyone or just Cassandra?"

She saw her sister glare daggers at her. "Still maybe I should go, if only to stop you getting into trouble."

"Fine. Wedding is at three. I'm leaving at two if you want to come with me."

Nina sauntered out of the room without another word.

Dina turned back to the mirror. She was secretly glad to have her sister there. Nina could be a bitch, but she was always good to have around when trouble occurred.

And trouble seemed to follow the Goth family wherever they went.

***

Daniel Pleasant watched his wife as she patted herself down, checking she had everything.

"Bag, keys, phone - where's my phone?" Mary-Sue rushed back into the living room. "There it is!" She rushed back into the hallway again. "Are you sure you won't come?"

"Someone should stay home and look after the kids," Daniel said, hoping she'd buy it.

Mary-Sue frowned. "They're sixteen, not six."

"Yes and last time we left them alone, one of them decided it was a good idea to invite half of Pleasantview to our home for a party, while they wrestled in the hallway."

"Good point. Still you're sure you won't look in later?"

*Maybe to be polite," Daniel said, with no intention of doing that. He'd make up an excuse later. Like watching the match and losing track of time. Mary-Sue wouldn't be impressed but it was better than her finding out the alternative.

"Well, for goodness sakes, put something smart on, if you do show up."

"Yes, dear," he smiled.

She learnt in for a peck. "See you later. Good luck with the twins."

"Give Cassandra my best!" he called as she left.

One down. Two to go. Then the house would be his.

*"*
Dirk Dreamer came downstairs and watched his father fiddle with his bow tie with shaking hands. He looked so nervous, anyone would have thought he was getting married.

*Here," Dirk said. "Let me," and he finished perfecting the bow tie and brushed his dad's suit down. A sudden jolt of sadness hit him. "This should be mum's job."

His dad's hand came up and rested on his arm for a moment. "I know." A sigh punctuated his statement, then he turned away.

Dirk sensed that something beyond the usual dose of grief and depression was up. "Dad, is something wrong?"

"Nothing, I-" he picked up his keys, fumbled, and dropped them. "Damnit!"

"Gee, Dad, you're a wreck! Are you sure you want to go? Anyone would think you were the one getting married!"

His Dad gave a small smile to that. "I want to go. Cassandra's been good to us."

"Still… if you're having one of your bad days… I'm sure she'd understand."

Darren put a hand on his shoulder. "No. I'd like to be there."

It was rare that Darren was this decisive. Still, Dirk didn't like it. "Well, ok. But at least let me come with you."

"Don't you have a date with that Lilith girl?"

"I'm sure she'll understand," Dirk said as he texted her on his phone although he wasn't as sure as he sounded. They were still pretty new. "Give me a few minutes to change into something more appropriate."

He saw his dad give him a small nod, and went into his room, his heart pounding with anticipation.

Darren was nervous for a reason. And Dirk wanted to find out why.

***

Brandi Broke slammed the door for a moment, trying to drown out the cries of her toddler son.

It had been a month since Skip died, and she was no closer to coping now than she had been when she had been told the news. All around was chaos, empty milk bottles strewn on the floor, the toys that Beau picked up and discarded with little more than passing interest. Even here, the grime and dirt was apparent - the bath needed a wipe, the toilet needed a clean, and Brandi had none of the energy she usually possessed to deal with it.

She sat down on the edge of the seat for a moment, and massaged her head which was threatening to ache. On top of it all, she felt constantly queasy, and, as if objecting to the reminder, her stomach twisted and turned.

All of a sudden, she felt breakfast from that morning rise up into her throat, and she found herself hurling her guts out into the toilet.

She got up, flushed the evidence away, and sighed. It had been happening more and more lately. She thought at first that her grief had physical symptoms. When Skip’s dad had died, he had been in bed with a stomach bug the next day. But he had recovered quickly…

And then it hit her. She’d had terrible morning sickness with Beau too! She counted back the days, and realised she hadn’t had her period either. But it couldn’t have been that… could it?

She counted back further, to the last time she and Skip had been together. Yes, it all worked out. Trying to stop the panic from hitting her, she decided she would need to buy a pregnancy test as soon as possible. Even if she had a nasty feeling, she knew what the result would be.

***
Lilith groaned and turned over on the bed, fresh tears staining the pillowcase. She knew it would happen eventually. Dirk was going off her. Everyone went off her. Even her parents never had enough time for her, unless a lecture was in order.

Still, she thought she’d have a little longer this time. She re-read the text for the hundredth time, not realising she wasn’t alone in the bedroom until it was too late.

“What’s this?” Angela snatched the phone off her and read the text. “Dumped again? Isn’t that a record for you? How long did your relationship with Tyler last again?”

Lilith snatched the phone back. “I’m hardly dumped,” she said, although without much conviction. “He just decided to go to some wedding with his dad after all.”

“Yeah right,” Angela scoffed. “He’s trying to get out of seeing you. What boy our age chooses to go to a stuffy wedding?”

“Piss off, Angela,” Lilith snarled.

Angela made for the door, but Lilith saw her sister couldn’t resist rubbing it in. “I’m off for my date with Dustin. See you later, loser!”

Lilith sighed in frustration, hoping that she could at least be left alone now. No such luck though, with a soft tread on the stairs, and Angela’s hurried goodbye to Dad. Moments later, he was at the door.

“All dressed up and nowhere to go?” he asked.

“Dirk cancelled,” she said into the pillow. She felt her Dad sit on the bed. “If you’ve come here to gloat too, forget about it.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” her Dad said. Lilith scoffed. “I do need a favour though.”

“What?”

“Well, I need the house myself for a while. If I give you ten simoleons, maybe you could buy yourself something nice.”

“Ten simoleons?” Lilith said. “Do you know how much it costs to look this good?” As she said that, she was fully aware that the tears had made her mascara run, and she probably looked a mess. She hoped her Dad wouldn’t pick up on the irony. He didn’t.

“Fine, twenty simoleons,” he said, reaching into his wallet. “But that’s my final offer.”

It occurred to Lilith for a moment to ask why her Dad wanted the house to himself. But the opportunity to rub her sister’s face in it by letting her know she had money where Angela had none was too good to resist. She took the money. “Give me ten minutes to make myself look good and I’ll be out of your hair,” she said.

***
The entrance of the Goth House looked less imposing than usual, with white balloons strewn over the doorway, and flower petals lining the paths. An usherette showed them to the garden but Dina spied Mortimer in the hallway, and told the usherette where she was going. Her sister followed her.

“Mortimer!” she squealed, trying to ignore her sister roll her eyes. She dragged him into a hidden corner of the living room, out of her sister’s gaze, and kissed him full on the lips. “How are you?”

He gave her a soft laugh that didn’t quite reach his eyes, and moments later, the frown returned. “I just want to get through today,” he said quietly.

“I understand,” she said. And Dina did understand. For a while, Don had been the main suspect in Bella’s disappearance. For him to marry Cassandra must have been massively painful for Mortimer. She took his hand. “I’m here for you, if you need me. Do you want me to sit next to you?”

Mortimer smiled then shook his head. “If you sit next to me, we might as well go ahead and announce our relationship. And I can’t do that yet. Especially not today, it’ll take the attention away from Cassandra.”

Dina nodded, even though she was secretly disappointed. This was the wedding of the year. Anyone who was anyone was here. To announce to these society types that she was on the up and up again would have been the icing on the cake. But she kept her protests inward. “OK, I’ll see you later. I’d better track down Nina and find our seats.”

He let go of her hand and moved towards the dining room. But as an afterthought, he turned back. “Dina? Thanks for being so understanding.”

She smiled. “You’re welcome, darling!” She watched him for a moment. There was a certain attraction there for her, if not physical, then in the way he carried himself, like a soldier headed for battle.

Dina turned back and saw her sister, who had apparently seen everything after all, judging by the look of shock on her face. “Are you fucking kidding me!?” she asked.

“Outside!” she hissed, hoping that Mortimer hadn’t heard Nina’s outburst. They moved towards the garden. “What are you trying to do, ruin things for me?”

Nina folded her arms. “Maybe they should be ruined! Dina, what are you playing at? I can give you a million reasons why going after Mortimer Goth isn’t a good idea. Just how long has this been going on anyway?”

“If you must know, not very long. We got to talking one afternoon and things went from there. There’s a lot we understand about grief that other people don’t.”

“Right…” Nina said skeptically. “And the fact he has a shitload of money is all just a big coincidence? Funny how these coincidences keep happening!”

Dina narrowed her eyes. “You wanted me to solve our financial situation. Here I am solving it!”

“I meant, get a job!” Nina said, raising her arms in frustration.

“That’s rich, coming from you! How long have you been unemployed again?”

“But I’ve been looking! I’ve not been a slut, spreading my legs for-”

She was interrupted by a “Hello ladies-” that made her roll her eyes yet again. Don Lothario had obviously seen them arguing and decided to approach them. “Is everything alright?”

“Peachy,” Nina spat. “Why don’t you piss off and get married?”

Don took her aside but even though they lowered their voices, Dina managed to hear every word. “I thought you weren’t jealous?”

“I’m not!”

“So why the bitch act?”

“Excuse me if I don’t enjoy seeing my lover marry someone else!” Dina raised her eyebrows at that, this was new information to her.

“Then why are you here?”

“I’m beginning to ask myself the same question!” But Nina apparently saw that she was hurting Don because she softened. “I’m sorry, I only came along because Dina wanted to be here. I’ll be nice, I promise.”

Don nodded and left them to it. Dina waited for a beat before she laid into her sister. “You and Don Lothario? And you lecture me on my relationships?”

“Piss off,” Nina mumbled, a hint of tears in her voice. “Let’s go and find our seats.”

***
Darren looked up at the Goth Mansion, his heart pounding hard in his chest. The usherette was showing them to their seats, but Darren took Dirk aside for a moment. “You go ahead. I want to talk to Cassandra.”

His son furrowed his brow. “Don’t you think it should wait, whatever you have to say? Cassandra’s gonna be kinda busy right now.”

“No,” Darren said. “It most definitely cannot wait.”

Dirk gave him one last concerned look, and then did as he said.

Darren went into the house, and sprinted up the stairs before anyone stopped him. It took a moment for him to locate Cassandra’s bedroom, but the doors to both Alexander’s room and Mortimer’s bedroom were open, so it was easy to narrow down.

He knocked on the door, and a giggling voice that wasn’t Cassandra’s called out “Enter if you’re handsome and not the groom!”

He opened the door to see Cassandra laugh. “Mary-Sue, you’re terrible! And drunk!” Darren saw that Mary-Sue had a glass of champagne in her hands, and it obviously wasn’t her first. “Darren!” Cassandra exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“I need to talk to you for a moment,” he said, quietly and deadly serious.

It took Mary-Sue a moment to realise he meant alone. “Oh! Right, I’ll um… I’ll see if everything’s ready.” She headed for the door, and Darren moved aside to let her pass. “No funny business, you two,” she winked as she left. He heard her giggles fade as she walked away.

“Well?” Cassandra said, not unkindly. “You’ve got me alone. What is it?”

Darren gulped and, instantly forgetting the speech he had planned, rushed his response. “I don’t think you should marry Don.”

Cassandra folded her arms and frowned. “Oh? And why is that?”

For a second, he was tempted to chicken out, and show concern as a friend. Because he’ll break your heart! he wanted to say. Which was true, Don Lothario was not known for his monogamy. But he summoned courage and stepped forwards towards her. “Because I love you. And I think we should be together.”

End of Part 1