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Author's note: I woke up one morning and really, really wanted to write something similar to the Titanic. I thought about plots for about two hours and this story was what I came up with. I was so excited by my writing that I finished my story in two days. I couldn't seem to stop writing!
RMS Veendam, 1920
My dress is silky sapphire blue. It clings tightly to my slim curves and flows like water down my legs. Mother forced me into months of horrid dieting to wear it, making the once beautiful dress seem quite detestable. I don’t complain though, as Sylvia helps me into its soft folds. I don’t complain as she curls my mahogany hair. I don’t stop the buckets of make-up brushed across every surface of my face. I force myself into calm obedience. Tonight will make every hour of pointless beautifying worth it.
Only one thing in my life gives me real pleasure, and that’s dancing. When I dance, all my cares and worries fly away. I feel weightless and free. Dancing brings happiness to my life, something it’s all but devoid of any other time.
Mother was quite excited about this cruise that travels from our home in New York to London. She loves high society and the elegance of our magnificent cruise ship. She had no say on the decision to come here, of course, but I can tell she is radiantly happy nonetheless.
Father decided we should go on this cruise. Father decides everything. I long ago stopped trying to resist. Resistance is pointless and almost always ends up with a hand across my face. I rebel in smaller ways, ways he can’t notice. Every time he sends me to buy something, I keep the change. Someday, someday, I will have enough to leave here. Then, I can finally be free.
Sylvia finally finishes my hair and rushes off to assist my complaining mother.
“Annabell, get over here this minute!”
I obediently enter her room, my face an emotionless mask. I am good at hiding my emotions. Right now, I am pretty annoyed at my controlling mother.
“Turn around and let me have a look at you.”
I spin in a slow circle, hating how soft the dress feels against my legs. No dress is worth so many hungry nights.
Now my mother is clucking her tongue. I turn around to glare at her, sick of hiding my emotions.
“What?” I almost snap.
“Your figure.” She shakes her head disdainfully. “No sugar tonight, you hear me?”
“But,” I begin to protest.
“No buts! If I catch you sneaking even a bite of anything containing sugar, it’s no food for a day. You hear me?”
I wince, because I know she’s not exaggerating with this punishment. I fill with rage at the injustice of it all.
“Yes, mother.” I force myself to curtsy and head out the door. I pass my mother’s locket, sitting on a nightstand. She wears it all the time. I know the only reason it’s not around her neck right now is because Sylvia is busy helping her into a ball gown. I snatch it up, and quickly leave the room before she can notice.
The locket is small and silver. I fasten it around my neck, fingers quivering with rage. My mother can do nothing about her missing necklace in public, so I quickly sneak out the door.
The revenge fills me with new energy. That along with excitement for the ball mean I practically skip to the ship’s magnificent ballroom. Giddy with excitement for the freedom of dancing, I fling open the ballroom door and waltz inside.
He told me that the woman I’m looking for should be easily recognized by the silver locket around her neck. I spot her almost immediately in a stunning midnight blue number. I am immediately taken aback by her beauty and elegance. A man asks her to dance and she waltzes across the floor, graceful as a bird. She is surprisingly young. Her face is sweet, her dark brown eyes mischievous. I can’t believe that a girl this young is already married to a wealthy merchant with a teenage daughter. She looks no older than 20, though I know this can’t possibly be true. She must just be one of those people who never ages.
The song ends and I quickly step forward to greet her.
“My name is Hans Sohne.” I say bowing and taking her hand. It is small and soft within my own.
“I’m Annabell Delancey.” She says, preforming a dainty little curtsy. Her hand doesn’t love mine even though the hold is quite unnecessary now. I am glad. It feels nice.
Music sweeps around us and I look into her chocolate eyes.
“Can I have this dance?”
“Of course.” She smiles, revealing dimples.
Then I place my hand around her tiny waist and we waltz.
I’ve danced the waltz hundreds of times in my twenty year life. After joining this agency at the age of 18, often dancing has been part of my assignment. I’m good at dancing. It’s easy to flow with the music and forget everything for those few short minutes.
Annabell is much more than just good at dancing. She’s stunning, graceful, phenomenal. Annabell doesn’t just flow with the music. It’s as if she and the music have become one.
We fly across the dance floor. I want to smile and laugh at the total release and carelessness that comes over me.
All too soon the music’s over and I’ve completely forgotten about my assignment. I’ve completely forgotten that my presence here is for much more than just entertainment. In the sudden silence that follows, I do remember. I realize I’ll have to ask her to dance again, and this pleases me more than it should.
“One more song?” I beg her.
She smiles “You can have as many songs as you want.”
The next song is another waltz and the blissful dancing begins all over again.
But this time, I have a mission.
His name is Hans and I think I’m in love. Some part of me says there’s no way I could fall in love after two dances. I hardly even know the boy! But I push that voice aside and dance like there’s no tomorrow in the arms of my (hopeful) love.
He is not tall, but more medium height with broad shoulders and a cocky grin. His skin is a perfect golden brown. His blond hair falls messily across his forehead and his blue eyes are hypnotic.
I must be going crazy! Love can’t possibly come this fast. I just find him attractive, that’s all. I’d have to know his personality before I could actually love him.
After two dances, he slips away. I have no lack of dance partners, but I am distracted and feel lonely. I wander through the elegant ship corridors and somehow end up in the garden. I stare at the stars and daydream when suddenly a voice interrupts the silence.
“What are you doing so far from the dance?”
I turn, but I already know who it is.
It is Hans.
I’ve completed my job for the night and delivered the locket. Now I wander the ship and make my way to the rooftop gardens. Them, out of nowhere, I see her and call out.
“What are you doing so far from the dance?”
“Just needed some fresh air, I guess. Want to join me?” She scoots over on the bench to make more room.
I sit. I want to know more about this beautiful graceful girl even if it goes against my instincts and my employment.
“So, Annabell…” I begin, but she cuts me off.
“Call me Bella, please. My mother is also named Annabell and I hate it!”
“All right, Bella.” I say, and smile. “Bella’s a beautiful name, I think it fits you.”
She blushes. In the faint light her eyes glimmer like diamonds and reflect the stars.
“Thank you.” She whispers.
“Bella, tell me more about yourself.” I urge her. “What is your family like?”
She grimaces and I wonder what about her family has caused such a strong reaction.
“My family’s terrible.” She says softly. “My mother is controlling and obsessed with high society. My father is horribly mean to us both and always gets his way.”
“I’m sorry.” I say with meaning. I am surprised by her honesty. Then, I realize something.
“But that doesn’t matter anymore. Aren’t you married?”
Now it’s her turn to look surprised.
“Married? I most certainly am not. I’m only sixteen!”
“Someone told me you were married to Rufus Delancey.”
“You’re confusing me with my mother! We do share the same name, after all. Who was it that told you I was married to him?”
I rack my brains for a cover story. There’s no way I could tell her the truth. The truth is that I’ve been trailing her father for more than a month but never seen his wife. The locket was my way to identify her mother. The locket Bella was wearing! Instead, I just say the first thing that comes to my mind.
“I asked about you, and that’s what someone told me.”
“You asked about me?” she says, incredulous.
“Yes I did.”
Bella can’t seem to figure out a response. Finally she speaks up.
“Well, glad that’s all cleared up.” She smiles mischievously. “Did you really think I looked old enough to be married?”
I feel my cheeks flushing.
“No, of course I didn’t. But no one bothered to tell me that there are two Annabell Delanceys!”
“Well, now you know.”
As we speak, thoughts are swirling through my head. This girl is 16 years old, meaning she is 4 years younger than me. I recognized her by a locket, and then delivered the locket to my boss. So was it even the right locket? But much more importantly, what would happen if beautiful Bella discovers I stole her jewelry? Could she ever forgive me?
I can’t believe Hans thought I was my mother! Luckily it sounds like an honest mistake. Being compared to my mother is not a compliment.
I steer the conversation towards Hans. I want to know all about him.
“So what about you?” I ask him. “What is your family like?”
“My dad died when I was ten.” He tells me. “He was a really amazing guy. The best dad anyone could ask for.”
“I’m sorry.” I say. The words seem inadequate for the sorrow and sadness I feel on his behalf.
“Thanks.” He breathes. We sit in silence for a few moments before he continues. “My mom is gone a lot. I think she tries to avoid our home because it reminds her too much of my father. Since 10, I’ve practically raised myself.”
There’s an unsaid contract in the cool air between us. Tonight, we will both be truthful with each other. In a way, this is relieving. I no longer have to pick through sentences and try to discern the truth. Anything Hans says I instinctually know is not a lie. I have never been so open with someone I just met.
“I may as well have raised myself.” I tell him. “My parents are anything but loving. Avoiding them is usually the best route to happiness.”
Hans looks at me and the sorrow is clear in his glowing turquoise eyes. He says nothing, but I understand. He is thinking about our mutual misfortunes of parenting.
We are quiet for a few moments and then conversation moves on to lighter subjects. We talk and talk for what seems like hours. At one point, I laugh so hard that my sides hurt because Hans’ joke is so funny. After a while, there is nothing but silence between us as we sit and admire the moon.
A Shakespeare line comes to my head and leaves my mouth before I can stop it.
“Doubt thou the stars are fire.”
“Doubt the sun doth move.” Hans joins me now, and we whisper together, “Doubt truth be a liar, but never doubt our love.”
The moment is so quiet, so profound.
Somehow I know he feels the same way I do about this flower of love that has begun to bloom between us.
All I can think is “Too fast. Too fast.”
Love is supposed to come slowly after hours and hours spent in each other’s company. Love is not supposed to spring on you like this- so sudden that it takes my breath away. The emotions are so strong that I know I have to leave this quiet garden where we sit alone.
The strength of my feelings scares me. I must leave, it is wrong to get caught up with someone who is directly related to my duty here.
I stand up abruptly. Bella turns to face me, eyes confused.
“Where are you going?”
“Back down to the ball.” I mean to go there alone, but my resolution melts at the horrid disappointment in her voice. “Do you want to come?”
“Yes, of course I do.” She says with a smile that takes my breath away. Bella stands up beside me and takes my hand firmly in hers. I am about to object but it feels good, so good. Instead, our heads remain entwined as we make our way back to the dance floor.
The next few hours are complete bliss: dancing every dance together, never leaving each other’s arms. But I’m overcome by hunger and eventually have to stop.
“Want something to eat?” I whisper in her ear.
“Your hair tickles! And yes, I’m starving. Where’s the food?”
“Sit here.” I say, and find her a comfortable couch. Then I’m off into the crowd, following my nose to a table filled with refreshments.
I immediately realize the problem as Hans approaches me. In his hands are two slices of elaborately iced cake. Across the room, I spot mother and she’s shaking her head- I swear that lady sees everything. But how can I refuse this cake that Hans so sweetly brought me? I mull over excuses in my head as Hans draws nearer and nearer.
I stare at the cake miserably until Hans finally asks me what’s wrong. Once again unable to lie, I tell Hans the truth.
“I’m not allowed to have sugar.”
“What do you mean, not allowed?” Hans asks, confused.
“My mother won’t let me.” I say in a small voice.
“Won’t let you?” His voice is rising now and I see the anger fill his face. His jaw hardens.
I’m touched by Hans’ concern but realize I must calm him down. My mother’s still watching us and I can’t let her see how angry Hans has become.
“Hans calm down.” I plead.
When I get no response, I grab his arm and practically drag him out of the ballroom. Once we reach the hall, Hans finally speaks.
“You weren’t joking when you said your parents were controlling.” His voice is still hard, but I can see he is calming down.
“No, I certainly wasn’t.” I agree.
We walk in silence for a moment.
“I’m so sorry I reacted that way.” Hans says, regret clear in his voice. “It took me by surprise. The anger I felt at your mother…” he shook his head “Anyways, please accept my sincere apologies.”
“Don’t worry, you’re already forgiven.” I tell him.
I can’t believe I overreacted so much to Bella’s stupid controlling mother. I was so angry. I could have punched her mom and screamed at her. Thank goodness I didn’t. No matter how much Bella dislikes her parents, I can tell some part of her must still love them. Sweet forgiving Bella is so good to everyone.
I’ve long forgotten my assignment. My role tonight is finished and I push Bella’s involvement in my mission aside. My feelings for her increase more and more by the minute.
Bella leads me through winding ship corridors. I stop thinking and just focus on the soft feel of her hand in mine.
Suddenly, her hand moving quick as a snake, Bella grabs the handkerchief poking out of my dinner jacket pocket. Then she’s streaking away, fleet as a deer.
“Catch me if you can!” she calls, laughing over her shoulder.
I take off behind her and we begin a wild chase across the boat. Dodging crewmembers and passengers alike, we sprint through the corridors and zigzag through the ship. Finally we end up back in the garden, panting and laughing. She playfully tucks the handkerchief back into my black dinner jacket as we walk into a vine-covered gazebo.
The moon shines high overhead in a cloudless sky. The stars twinkle down on us.
Bella leans against a pillar. Without thinking, I place my hands to the rails on either side of her, my arms from soft walls against escape.
But Bella has no thoughts of escape. Her hands snake around my waste and pull me close. Then her lips are on mine and I stop thinking of anything else.
Her lips are soft and warm and send shivers throughout my skin. My whole body’s tingling and an onslaught of sensations flow in through my lips. I don’t know how long the kiss lasts. All I know is that I never want it to end. This moment, right here, is perfect.
The kiss is too short, so I pull him in for another. We kiss and kiss.
Finally Hans leans back, laughing.
“I have an idea.” he says.
Hans sneaks off and soon returns with a humongous slice of cake and two forks.
“She’ll never know.” Hans murmurs in my ear.
I smile and know he’s right. The cake is delicious. It’s the best food I’ve eaten in forever. We share it, and the cake is gone far too quickly. So, Hans sneaks out and returns with another piece. We eat that one too and sit back, absolutely stuffed.
On the garden bench, we kiss some more. Then we sneak back to the ball and slow dance to perfect flowing melodies. I lean my shoulder against his chest and feel as if I am filled with happiness.
The night ends too soon. The whole evening is a dream and I never want to wake up. But wake up I do, both literally and figuratively, at 6 AM the next morning.
“Mission successful!” Cody crows loudly in my ear. “We did it man!” He slaps me so hard on the back as I sit up, disoriented.
“Did what?” I ask.
“We solved the case! I’ve been up all night, typing up the report. I’m sending the warrant for arrest to headquarters this morning. Hopefully we’ll get a telegraph response within the next few days.”
He thrusts the paper into my hands and I read through our familiar and newly typed notes. At the end is an additional piece that Cody just added this morning.
Warrant for the Arrest
Culprit(s): Rufus Delancey and Annabell Delancey
Crime: Diamond smuggling
Suggested sentence: 10 years imprisonment
Investigator(s): Hans Sohne and Cody Black of the MI5.
Evidence: Investigators Sohne and Black followed the suspected Delancey diamond smugglers for the month of July 1920. At the time, the Delanceys resided in their New York home. Sohne tracked Rufus Delancey and Black tracked Annabell Delancey. They noticed many visits by the suspected to diamond smuggling locations. By tracing bank records, it was determined that Rufus Delancey earned far more per year than is provided by his job as a merchant.
Agent Black noted that the wife Annabell always wore a silver locket. He befriended Annabell under a false name and discovered that the locket was a gift from her husband. When asked if he could hold the locket, Annabell immediately became very protective. Due to this suspicious activity, Agents Sohne and Black had to find a way to investigate the locket more closely.
They followed the Delancey family onto a cruise to London. They suspected the cruise was actually a way of safely carrying the diamonds to London. In London, the MI5 has discovered many diamond smugglers selling diamonds obviously brought from the US. Rufus Delancey became the prime suspect for the diamond smuggler that has been troubling London for years.
At this point in the mission, the only remaining problem was finding the diamonds themselves. Without them, there would not be enough proof against the Delanceys. Agent Sohne slipped the necklace away from Annabell during a ship dance. Agent Black determined that the locket contained a hidden key. After maintaining a search warrant from the MI5, Black entered the Delancey cabin that very night. It was a prime time for investigation because the Delanceys were still occupied by the dance. The key opened a safe which revealed piles of hidden diamonds. No paperwork had been turned into the US about their exportation nor had any paperwork been turned into England about their importation. The diamonds are obviously illegal. Pictures are enclosed.
I pull out the pictures and thumb through them. Sure enough, the pictures show piles of gleaming diamonds. Having gone through all Rufus’s records myself, I know for a fact that these diamonds are not legal.
So, Rufus Delancey is a diamond smuggler. I sit back, my head spinning. I have fallen in love with the daughter of a man I am about to arrest.
I wake up long before my parents and lie in bed for a while. I am so happy I feel as if I could burst.
I dress in a bright colored sundress and then make my way quietly out of our family’s suite and down into the ship’s dining room.
As soon as I enter, a middle-aged man hurries over to talk to me. He seems very excited.
“A pleasure to meet you.” he says, performing an elaborate bow. “My name is Christobald Renaldo.”
I shake his hand and reply.
“My name is Annabell Delancey.”
“A pleasure, a pleasure.” He continues to enthusiastically shake my hand before finally breaking away.
“Ms. Delancey,” he addresses me with surprising formality, “I am from a London ballet company that performs at the Royal Opera House. We are looking for talented young dancers to take on as apprentices. I saw you dancing last night and I think you're what we are looking for. Are you interested in someday becoming a professional ballet dancer?”
I am stunned. All I have ever wanted is laid out right in front of me. I answer with the first question that pops into my head.
“Will I be paid?”
“Yes, of course!” Mr. Renaldo says, looking disgusted that I ever had to ask such a question. “Room and board will be provided for as well.” he pauses for a moment, then repeats “Does that interest you?”
I finally find my voice, and speak out loud and clear.
“When can I start?”
“That’s the spirit!” Mr. Renaldo pats me on the back, absolutely delighted. We go through the breakfast buffet. Then we sit at a table together and Mr. Renaldo tells me the details of the ballet apprenticeship.
My heart is soaring. I’ve finally found the escape I’ve been longing for… and it's better than all my wildest dreams.
I find her probably 3 hours later. She's positively skipping with happiness. I've resolved that now I'll finally tell her the truth. But when I see how happy she is, all my resolution melts away.
"Hey, sweetie." I say, grabbing her hand as she skips by and pulling her into an empty hallway.
Bella gasps and then realizes it's me.
"You scared me!" she cries, but doesn't sound at all mad.
"My apologies." I tell her, grinning. "Now, tell me why you are smiling so big."
"Because of you." Bella says, reaching forward to brush my hair out of my eyes. I can tell there's more to her answer, so I wait.
"I've just been asked to join a London ballet company!" Bella says, smiling so wide her face seems to split in two. "They'll give me a place to stay and everything. This is what I've dreamed of my whole life, not daring to believe it might actually come true. But my dream has come true! It really has!" she laughs, her face full of joy.
"Bella, that's wonderful!" I say, pulling her close for a hug. My mind is forming fantasies that I can't seem to force away. The MI5 is based in London and that's where Bella will be living. I know she's young right now, but if I waited for a few years...
I know this is crazy because we've just met, but I can't help it.
We kiss then, and thinking is impossible. It's just the feeling of her lips on mine, her hands in my hair. My hands rest on her back.
After a while, Bella pulls away.
"Let's explore the ship." she whispers in my ear.
I nod. Holding hands, we make our way through endless ship corridors. We've only been on the cruise five days in our three-week long journey, meaning there are still new places to see and rooms to find. After a while, we decide to sneak into the second-class area. I'm glad no one looked too closely at us; our guilty faces would have given it all away. Enjoying the cloak-and-dagger feeling, we eventually make our way back to first class.
I love this ship, the RMS Veendam. She's huge and top quality. In first class, every room is gilded and filled with elegant furniture. Attendants in blue and red uniforms patrol the halls saying "Need anything, sir?" or "Need anything, miss?"
I would never be able to afford first class myself, but the MI5 paid for my passage on this ship.
The people here are all filthy rich. The men wear suits all the time and the women's dresses follow the newest fashions. Dinner every night is a many course affair with white-coated servers and live entertainment.
I revel in the luxury of it all and enjoy it while I can. All too soon I'll be back in my dingy London apartment.
We roam the ship and talk for hours. At last I can put it off no longer. Lunch has long since past. I must return to my parent's room to dress for dinner. I bid Hans goodbye and hurry down the long ship corridors.
The moment I enter our apartments, I can sense trouble brewing. Sylvia greets me immediately to take my coat. Her constantly present smile is absent and she says nothing.
Filled with dread, I turn to enter the sitting room. My parents are waiting for me, of course.
"Annabell, where is your mother's locket?" my father yells the moment I walk through the doors.
"I don't have it." I say, my voice loud and clear. How could he know that I had the locket? Maybe I can still get away with this!
"Don't lie to us, you disobedient little girl! Your mother saw you wearing the locket!" My heart sinks. "Now get moving, you have one minute to bring it to us!"
I sprint to my room and tear open my jewelry box. I riffle through the drawers and then search my things randomly. Where is it?
"Minute's up." my father yells, "You had better have that locket..." his voice trails off, thick with implication.
I delay as long as I can to continue searching, but at last I am forced to return to the sitting room empty handed.
"Where is it?" his voice is filled with anger and impatience, "This is no time for games, just give us the locket."
"I don't have it." I say.
"Don't have it?" my father's voice continues to rise dangerously, "You just had it last night. Now, WHERE HAS IT GONE?" His fist slams down on the table. My mother flinches, but says nothing.
"I don't know." I say again.
He waits for more, his face seething with anger.
"And...?" he waits for me to fill in more.
"I...I...I think I lost it." I stammer out.
"Lost your mother's necklace? LOST YOUR MOTHER'S NECKELACE?" he slowly advances as the abuse pours out of his mouth, "You stupid little girl, you had NO RIGHT to steal your mother's property! And then you LOSE THE FREAKING NECKELACE! You are an immature filthy piece of SCUM! You are a complete DISGRACE!" Insults continue to stream out of my father's mouth as he draws closer and closer.
I am quivering from both indignation and rage against his insults. I want to scream at him, to punch him so hard he can't get back up. But fighting will only make this worse. I just have to wait a little longer. Then I'm free! I can be a dancer like I always dreamed.
These thoughts swirl through my head until finally he is upon me. Then his fist slams into my face and everything goes black.
I look for Bella at dinner. Where is she?
I watch Bella's father walk in and a woman who must be her mother. The features on the face of Bella's mother exactly match Bella. But her face is sterner somehow, and less open. It greatly detracts from the beauty I've come to appreciate in those familiar features. I recognize the father, of course, due to my endless surveillance missions. The couple sits down together at an otherwise empty table. They look innocent enough for a pair of diamond smugglers.
Throwing all caution to the wind, I decide to join them. My curiosity and worry over Bella's absence overcome my common sense.
I walk over to the table and bow.
"May I join you?"
The father answers in an oily voice.
"Our pleasure." He motions to an empty seat, and I take my place across from Annabell Delancey.
"Hans Sohne." I introduce myself, holding out my hand to Mr. Delancey. He firmly shakes mine.
"I am Rufus Delancey and this is my wife, Mrs. Annabell Delancey."
I shake her hand too. It is small and delicate. Mrs. Delancey's attempted look of harmless feminism is lost by brilliant blood red nails. I think they look terrifying.
We go through the usual pleasantries of "Where are you from?" and "Isn't the weather nice today?" as guests file in around us. Soon our 12-person table is full.
I talk with the people surrounding me and avoid addressing the Delanceys. Mr. Delancey seems like quite the slick character and his wife is scary. But while I converse with my friendly neighbors, I keep an ear on the Delancey's conversation. Finally, I find the information I have been waiting for.
"Where is your beautiful daughter today, Mrs. Delancey?" asks a plump middle-aged woman.
Mrs. Delancey exchanges a quick look with her husband and then laughs lightly. "Oh, the silly little girl just tripped over her own feet! She's in bed and her head aches terribly, poor thing."
The occupants of the table murmur in sympathy, me included. But something seems wrong. Bella's the most graceful girl I've ever met. She'd never just trip over her own feet...
I wake up and my head hurts so bad that I gasp. Immediately, Sylvia is at my side.
"Oh, you poor thing." she murmurs, laying a bag of ice over my eyes. It feels wonderful and I sigh as the cool ice numbs the pain.
"What happened?" I begin to ask her, but then it all comes rushing back to me.
I see my father's face filled with rage, and the fist slamming straight into my head.
It's strange that my father got so mad about the necklace. He rarely does anything worse to me than a slap in the face. Probably the hangover from last night's dance put him in a really foul mood. I can think of no other explanation. The simple silver locket could hardly be considered valuable. It is certainly the plainest piece of jewelry in my mother's collection.
"It was the plainest piece of jewelry." I correct myself. Now the necklace is gone and I have no explanation for why. I was so distracted during the ball (I feel myself blushing) that anything could have happened to the necklace. I certainly don't remember taking it off, meaning the locket was lost sometime during the dance.
My musings are interrupted by the soft voice of Sylvia.
"Do you need anything, miss?"
"I'm fine, thank you Sylvia."
I hear her quiet footsteps leave the room.
Then, I fall into a deep and dreamless sleep.
I wake up in the morning feeling refreshed. My head is still filled with a pounding ache, but it is one hundred times better than yesterday.
I put on a sky blue cotton dress and wait impatiently while Sylvia curls my hair. We work together to obscure my black eye and bruising with a thick layer of make up but the discolored skin refuses to be hidden. After a while my face looks better and I tell Sylvia it is good enough. Then I leave the room quickly before my parents wake up.
I see her in the morning and she looks awful. Her face is swollen and a horrible black eye cannot be fully obscured by make up.
"Bella, what happened?" I ask her immediately, worry clouding my voice.
"I tripped." she tells me quickly. But Bella won't look me in the eye, so I know she's lying.
"You're the most graceful girl I've ever met. I don't think you've ever tripped in your life."
"Yes I have." Bella tells me haughtily.
"I don't believe you." I say. Then my tone switches to pleading. "Bella, please tell me what happened."
She's close to tears, but manages to hold them back.
"He hit me."
"My father." Bella says miserably. " I was so stupid, I stole my mother's necklace because I was mad at her. I wore it to the ball and then.... and then..." she stutters, "I lost it!"
She's shaking now, so I pull her tight.
"He was mad, Hans. So mad." She buries her face in my shirt. I don't know how long I hold her. One thought keeps swirling through my head.
I did this to Bella. All this is my fault. If I hadn't stolen the stupid necklace, none of these things would have happened! The guilt is horrible. I feel sick to my stomach. How could I have done this to my girl?
I wish I could give her father a piece of my mind.
"Just wait," I tell myself "the arrest warrant is on the way."
As far as I'm concerned, the warrant can't get her fast enough.
Eventually I become embarrassed about breaking down so thoroughly in front of Hans. I pull back.
"I'm sorry I bothered you with all this."
"Don't be." he says, with an intensity that surprises me. He gently takes my head in his hands and turns it so that I am gazing directly into his brilliant blue eyes.
"Don't ever be afraid to tell me about your troubles." Hans says, as his eyes burn into mine.
I nod. "But you must promise me one thing in return."
"Anything." he vows.
"Promise you will always tell me if anything is troubling you."
For an almost unnoticeable instant, Hans freezes. Then his face thaws and he smiles.
We kiss lightly and then make our way down to breakfast.
Hans plays with my hair as I finish a humongous plate of scrambled eggs, a biscuit, a croissant and fresh fruit. I am starving after skipping dinner last night.
Mr. Renaldo (the man from the ballet studio) comes to join us. I introduce him to Hans and they talk happily about London.
"You live in London?" I interrupt them, turning to stare at Hans.
"Yes I do." Hans says, and I can't believe I missed such an important fact about him. And if all goes as planned, I'll be living in London pretty soon too!
The next few days speed by. Bella has no more troubles with her family and I begin to relax. I am happy, so happy. I feel as if I am in a brilliant bubble of joy. And right now, Cody is in serious danger of popping it.
He stands in front of me, hands on hips, a scowl painted across his face.
"I saw you kissing Rufus Delancey's daughter this morning." Cody accuses me. "What were you THINKING?" You know that guy's gonna be arrested any second along with his meager excuse for a wife. Do you have any thoughts to this girl's sanity? Were you at least planning to tell her before you come busting into her apartment with two sets of handcuffs meant for her parents?"
"Yes, I am planning to tell her." I say quietly.
"Oh yeah? When? Dude, the arrest warrant is gonna be here any minute. You GOTTA STOP WAITING AROUND!"
"Fine, fine." I sigh. I know he's right. But remember my happy little bubble? Oh yeah, it just burst.
These last few days have been the best of my life. I'm almost floating with joy as I hurry around the room. I choose a beautiful rose-colored dress and carefully apply make up while Sylvia curls my hair.
Sylvia's caught onto my good mood too. She's humming a catchy tune as she artfully twists my hair out of the curlers.
The moment she's done, I'm out of there and searching the hallways for Hans. But when I do find him, his face is all wrong. His usual brilliant smile is gone and has been replaced by a weak imitation.
"Bella, remember when I promised that I'd say if anything that was troubling me?" Hans says, his voice urgent.
"Well, I have something important to tell you right now." his voice is stressed, and he's talking very quickly.
"Hans, what is it? Is something wrong?"
He gently lays a finger over my lips and then leads me down the hallway to room number 13. He unlocks it and steps inside. I follow uncertainly.
"Whatever you think of this, you must only whisper." Hans tells me in hushed tones as he closes and locks the door. He kneals down before me and takes my hand. His eyes burn into my own. "And you must promise to never repeat a word of this to anyone else."
"I promise." I whisper.
He sits besides me, and begins to spin a tale that seems unbelievable. I would doubt every word of it if not for the sincerity that so clearly rings from Hans' voice.
"Before I turned 10, I never understood why my father was gone so much. It seemed natural that he carried a gun. I loved his ever-present dark glasses. After the age of 5, I got my own pair and wore them everywhere. A private jet took us on every vacation. We visited remote islands, filled with people that looked oddly familiar. Some of them could have been twins to my favourite film stars. One time, a man tried to pick my father's pocket. With one easy twist of his arm, my father pushed the man off him and flung him to the ground. The man was knocked unconscious. I should have pieced it together then..." Hans trails off, lost in memories.
"But I didn't figure it out then. I didn't figure it out until my father's funeral. It was held in a private room with no windows. Everyone who attended wore a gun belt and there were armed guards barricaded against the single door. The pastor went on and on about my father's great deeds to the country; his great deeds as a spy. A spy? A spy? I was so confused, and then I was angry with my father for never telling me. I became hysterical halfway through the ceremony and I had to leave.
"I learned everything, then. I learned how my father was a MI5 agent. I learned how my father wanted to tell me everything, but he couldn't. If I had known, I would have been in danger. I vowed then that someday I would become a MI5 agent myself. I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps. He was, and still is, my greatest idol.
"I did become a MI5 agent, and a young one at that. By the age of 18, I was admitted into the agency. Ever since then, I have been on numerous missions. All of them have been under the utmost secrecy and involved huge variations in crimes. And my most recent assignment was to trail your father."
I gasp quietly and turn to stare at Hans. But I say nothing, and motion for him to continue with his story. Hans smiles wryly, and then begins to speak again.
"For a long time the MI5 has suspected your father as a diamond smuggler. His merchant work has a very low income, and yet he is still one of the richest men in Manhattan. For the last month my partner Cody and I have been in charge of trailing your parents."
Hans continues to explain the evidence they have found against my parents as I listen with disbelieving ears. He explains about the locket and how he mistook me for my mother.
"I can never, ever, forgive myself for stealing that locket." Hans tells me, his eyes full of pain. "I caused this." he says, gently touching my fading bruise. "It torments me. How can I ever be forgiven?"
"But you are forgiven." I quickly tell him. I can't stand the horrible pain that clouds his face. "I stole the necklace, it's my fault."
"Please don't say that." he begs, "It was my fault, and I take the full blame."
"Stop it." I order, taking his face in my hands. "I refuse to allow you to feel such guilt over my stupid mistake. Your pain is my pain. As long as you continue to torment yourself so much over this, I cannot be happy. Please. Promise me you will forget about this."
Hans looks at me for a full minute before finally nodding. "I promise."
"Good." I say. "Now please continue your story. I apologize for my interruption."
"No apology is necessary." he kisses my hands before speaking again.
"The locket did contain a key to the safe. And the safe was filled with smuggled diamonds. The warrant for the arrest should arrive any day now." Hans concludes, looking pityingly into my face.
"Really?" I say, not even daring to hope.
"Really." he says gravely.
"That's wonderful!" I exclaim, a huge grin spreading across my face.
"Wonderful?" Hans asks clearly confused. "Bella, did you hear me right? I just said was going to arrest your parents!"
"I heard you just fine. And I'm nothing short of overjoyed." I tell him with feeling. "All my life I've longed for escape from my parents. That's exactly what you are providing me. I am so happy!"
"But aren't you mad at me for not telling you that I'm an MI5 agent?"
"Well, I wish you'd told me sooner of course! But now I know, and that's all that matters."
A huge grin spreads across his face. "I can't believe you're happy about all of this!"
I throw my arms around him. "I can't wait until the warrant arrives!"
The warrant arrives late that night. Cody and I prepare ourselves for the raid.
I lie in bed and can't sleep. Thoughts keep swirling through me head. "My parents are diamond smugglers. They will be arrested within the next few days. Then I'll be free!"
Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by the voices of my parents in the neighbouring sitting room.
"She must be asleep by now." my father says.
"I'll go check." my mother murmurs to him.
I hear her feet sneaking towards my door. I close my eyes and try to breath regularly. I must have passed her inspection because I hear her closing the door and her feet pad back to the sitting room. As soon as my mother returns to the room, I hear my father begin speaking.
"I think they're onto us. The locket must have been stolen due to Annabell's carelessness. The safe has been disturbed. I set a trap so I would know if anyone had opened it. The locket hasn't been returned yet, which has made me really suspicious."
"What are you going to do?" my mother asks.
I hear the sound of rustling. My father must pull something out because I hear a woman (mother) gasp.
"I'm gonna kill them." he says, in a voice that chills me to the bones. "A gun is too loud, but this knife will do the trick. I'll throw them overboard, and no one will be able to trace it back to us.
I'm desperate now. If my parents would just fall asleep, then I could go and warn Hans! My heart is pounding. I have always known my father is cruel, but I never thought he was a murderer.
Time drags by so slowly. My heart is racing and a fear for Hans consumes me. I don't care about my own safety. I am about to give up waiting and just leave, even though my parents may still be awake.
And that's when I hear the pounding at our front door.
Father swings open my door and drags me out by the hair, his other hand over my mouth. He pushes me in the small hallway to the sitting room, where we remain concealed behind the closed door. I hit at him, struggling to get away. That is, until I feel the knife blade pressed to my neck.
"Don't move a muscle." father hisses at me.
The front door opens and two people step inside.
"You're under arrest." an all to familiar voice begins to say.
That's when my father drags me out into the sitting room. I don't dare struggle; the knife is too tight against my throat.
"Drop your weapons, hands up." my father orders. "That is, unless you want me to kill the girl."
I hear the gasp as Hans sees the blade held at my neck. My father has dropped the hand that once covered my mouth and I finally find my voice.
"Don't do it, Hans. He'll kill you both. I'm not worth it." I beg "Please."
The idea of Hans no longer existing is too painful to even contemplate.
I see the resolve in his eyes. Before I can say another word, a gun drops to the ground and Hans' hands are in the air. Cody's gun clatters to the floor as well. A man I've never known is giving his life to save me.
"Pick it up. Pick your gun back up!" I scream. But Hans just shakes his head and stares calmly into my eyes.
He's such an idiot, doesn't he know he's about to die?
"Tie them up." my father orders. Rope is wound around their hands. My mother pushes them into another room and the door is locked.
I am desperate. My own life matters little.
The man who always wins is still clutching a knife to my throat.
"You're not winning this time." I mutter to myself. Then I kick back hard, straight between my father's legs, and twist out from under his grip. I reach out desperately for the guns on the floor, but my mother has already collected them.
"Not so fast." she tells me, her voice quavering slightly.
My father's on the ground and the knife is still clutched in his hands. I have only a matter of seconds before he stands again to rejoin the fight.
"You don't want to kill me." I say, slowly advancing on my mother. The guns quiver, but remain pointed at my face. "How's this going to help you? You must feel some love for me somewhere. Despite everything that's happened, I know I still love you."
Then suddenly my mother's crying. "I love you too." she murmurs. She turns and chucks the guns straight out the balcony door and into the ocean.
Too late, she realizes her mistake. The man who's tormented us endlessly for the last 16 years is back on his feet.
"Go get help." I murmur to my mother. She leaves right away.
I turn to my father, whose face is murderous with rage.
"Looks like love won after all." I say. Then I slam my fist into his jaw. He's so surprised by my attack that he drops the knife. I pick it up.
When a uniformed guard enters the room, he finds a sixteen-year-old girl who has put her father under arrest. She will never see him again. He is sentenced to a lifetime in prison for attempted murder.
The mother has finally realized what matters most in her life. All she's ever longed for is love; love Rufus Delancey would never give. But soon she discovers that she has been looking in the wrong place. Bella's capacity to love is a million times stronger than that of her father. Somehow, through that long horrible childhood, Bella has still retained that love for her mother. And Annabell Delancey has retained that love for her daughter. It ended up that all that horrible dieting was just the mother's strange way of showing she cared.
Throughout Annabell Delancey's 10-year prison sentence (for smuggling diamonds), Bella visits her often. Though Annabell Delancey will never be a true mother to Bella, the two still become good friends. When Annabell is finally released, she finds a home near Bella. The two visit often. The change in Bella's mother is remarkable. She becomes kind, caring, generous, and most importantly, loving.
Bella moves to London and takes on her job as a professional ballet dancer. Her dexterity and grace come to be famous worldwide. They call her Bella Bonita, which means "beautiful Bella".
To Hans, Bella is the most beautiful girl in the world. They spend 4 wonderful years together, and then joyfully get married. A few years later, they have a baby girl. They name her Hannah, after her father. Hannah could not find two more sweet and loving parents anywhere in the world.
And so when our story concludes, hate has been extinguished and love shines brightly in its place.