Last Updated September 5, 2023.
In "Pretty Ice" by Mary Robison, Belle is a very judgmental character. She seems cold—like the titular ice of the story—even from the beginning. Instead of sleeping to prepare or being up with excitement about the visit of her fiancé, Belle is up all night doing bills and going over her accounts. When her mother arrives in the morning, she still doesn't feel a great deal of anticipation. Robison writes:
I could see her breath rolling away in clouds from the cranked-down window of her Mazda. I have never owned a car nor learned to drive, but I had a low opinion of my mother's compact. My father and I used to enjoy big cars, with tops that came down. We were both tall and we wanted what he called "stretch room." My father had been dead fourteen years, but I resented my mother's buying a car in which he would not have fitted.
Belle doesn't seem to like either her mother or her fiancé very much. As the story continues, it's clear that she resents them. The reasons for that resentment, however, aren't about the characters themselves. Rather, it results from the absence of her father and how imperfect those around her seem to her. For example, Will has come all the way from Massachusetts to Ohio and she doesn't even want him to sleep at her mother's house. They discuss it in the car on the way back from the train station, saying:
Will got into the back of the car and I sat beside my mother again. After we started up, Mother said, "Why doesn't Will stay at my place, in your old room, Belle? I'm all alone there with plenty of space to kick around in.""We'll be able to get him a good motel," I said quickly before Will could answer. "Let's try that Ramada, over near the new elementary school." It was odd, after he had come all the way from Cambridge, but I didn't want him in my old room, in the house where I had been a child. "I'd put you at my place," I said, "but there's mountains of tax stuff all over."
Everything Will is and does irritate Belle. She's frustrated by his shirt, the ink stains on his face, and his weight gain. She even suggests to her mother that they might want to put off the wedding because he lost out on a grant. It's something that's very sad for him and his career but she only sees it in terms of their financial future together. Even when he's explaining the setback to her mother, Belle is only focused on herself. Belle says that she "had taken a mirror and a comb from my handbag and I was trying for a clean center part in my hair. I was thinking about finishing my bill paying." She's disconnected from the people around her.
It's possible that Belle is this cold because of the death of her father. She thinks of him fondly and compares the similarities she had with him to the disappointing shortcomings of her mother. Robison writes:
My father killed himself with a service revolver. We never found out where he had bought it, or when. He was found in his warm-up clothes—a pullover sweater and pleated pants. He was wearing his tap shoes, and he had a short towel folded around his neck. He had aimed the gun barrel down his mouth, so the bullet would not shatter the wall of mirrors behind him. I was twenty then—old enough to find out how he did it.
In the last moments of the story, when they're lost on the way home, Belle does have a moment of happiness at how still everything is.