For The Daily Post

Bella St.Claire silenced the whistling of the kettle and absentmindedly poured herself a mug of coffee. It was that time of the year, that time that made her remember. She was fifty years old, divorced and single- until 2 weeks ago.
Twenty years ago, when she had tied the knot with Matt St. Claire, she had never imagined that her future would change so drastically. Never had it crossed her mind that Matt would betray her. She had loved him ferociously- tending to his every need and want. She had considered him a soul-mate. Matt, on the other hand, appeared to have had different ideas about marriage. He had fallen for someone else and moved out of their home. The devastation that overwhelmed Bella had taken several months of therapy to alleviate. The pain was still palpable, but mercifully faint because she had learnt to shut down her emotions. It had been two years now since their divorce.
She carried the tray containing her breakfast of coffee and waffles to her balcony. From up here in her penthouse apartment, she could see the bustling in the street below. Bella opened her laptop and logged in. It was time to push the memories away and get to work.
Bella was so engrossed in her work that she did not hear the phone ringing at first. The third ring snapped her out of work and she hurried to get it. Bella’s lips turned up as she heard the voice on the other end. It was of her daughter, Melinda. She missed her terribly as well as her son, Matt Junior. At least, Matt had helped her make two beautiful kids. All grown-up now, they lived and worked abroad and she rarely got to see them. Melinda, guessing how her mother would be feeling at this time of year, had called to check on her. They spoke for several minutes after which, Bella felt slightly better. Valentine’s was just not her favourite holiday. She didn’t let on to Melinda, that she had started dating again. No need to stir up a thousand questions.
Bella ran a successful online magazine, that had provided her with a comfortable lifestlye . She just wasn’t lucky when it came to love. After all that she had been through with Matt, she wasn’t even tempted to contemplate a serious relationship. Bella scrolled down the page and smiled as she saw the views that her magazine had garnered in the past week. Pulling out her phone, she was about to dial Jessica, her personal assistant, when it rang. Bella smiled as soon as she saw the name of the caller. It was Antonio. She pressed the answer button.
The beautiful rich and accented voice floated into her ears, “Hello Belle…”
“Hi Antonio,” she couldn’t help hut smile. She loved it when he called her ‘Belle’.
“I just called to hear your beautiful voice and also confirm for tomorrow. What restaurant would you like to go to? Oh and the club, Freeze or Mints, which do you prefer?”
“I’d love to go to Freeze. We did go to Mints last week and… I booked us a reservation at Carlos’.”
“Well… I guess we have it all arranged then. Meet you at Carlos’ by nine then?”
“Sure.”
Bella hung up. She had met Antonio 2 weeks ago. They had started dating immediately. He was Italian, handsome and five years her junior. Being with him was fun and the age difference did not bother her. For the first time in 2 years, she felt care-free and ready for adventure. As long as she didn’t fall in love with him- she was safe. Snapping out of her reverie , she picked up the phone and dialled Jessica.
February 14th arrived bright and cold. By eight-thirty pm, Bella was ready and eager to get the night started. Her chauffeur arrived at a quarter to nine and off she went to have a fantastic night-she hoped. Antonio was already there when she arrived, looking resplendent in a black tux. The mischievous twinkle in his eyes belied the Seriousness of his stance.
Bowing over Bella’s outstretched hand and gently stroking it, he winked before straightening up and hugging her warmly. After a gentle kiss on the lips, they headed into Carlos’. It was a fine dining restaurant that lay on a strip of highland overlooking the ocean. Antonio had reserved window seats and from there they could watch the waves crashing on the rocks. The ambience of the restaurant was warm and romantic. Red roses had been placed on vases on every table as well as candles. Rose petals also littered the marble floor. The overhead lights had been dimmed, the candlelight further exaggerated the atmosphere. Crystal bowls of love shaped chocolates served as the centrepiece on every table between the vase and candles. It was all beautiful.
Bella and Antonio settled in their seats and the maître d’ hurried over to them rolling a cart with a bottle of champagne  in an ice bucket. He picked up the bottle and opened it with a flourish saying,
“Compliments of the house!” He filled their glasses and scurried away to welcome another arriving couple.

The two lovebirds clinked their glasses and sipped the wine. As they were perusing the menu, a waiter smartly dressed in red and black approached them.
Antonio caressed Bella’s palm and said, “Ready to order, Belle?”
“Yes… I’ll have the baked halibut. You, honey?” she smiled sweetly at Antonio. He nodded and told the waiter he would have the same.
While they waited, they talked and laughed and kissed. Just then, their orders arrived and the halibut tasted as beautiful as Bella expected. After chasing down the fish with the champagne, they had strawberry sorbet for dessert. A pianist entertained all the dining couples until the band took over. Antonio led a giggling Bella unto the dance floor. He cracked jokes as they danced. Bella hadn’t laughed this much in months. Antonio was perfect.
Shortly after, they headed to Freeze. The place was packed but Antonio had already made a VIP reservation . The DJ was excellent and the atmosphere- electric.
By 3am, Bella’s chauffeur arrived. Arriving at Antonio’s apartment, they had one last lingering kiss before he hopped out.
“Belle…” he mouthed, as her car pulled away.
Bella reluctantly tore her eyes from his and reaching from her phone dialled Jessica’s number. She looked up to see that they were fast approaching her penthouse.
“Hello Jess. You can settle my invoice with Jay’s Escorts. The 15-day date has been fulfilled.”
“Will do, ma’am.”
“Oh, and give Antonio 5 stars,” she smiled.
“Yes, ma’am,” Jessica replied.
Bella sank back into the seat and watched as the buildings sped past  as they headed home. She stared at her phone and smirked- thinking, ‘there’s a price for everything.’
She reached deep within and shut her heart once more.

THE END

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