Bella walked through the door of Jona's studio flat, putting down her small handbag. on a small table by the the door.
''Show me to my room'' she said, and paused, a strange wistful look coming over her features. ''Please.'' As if trying out this word for the first time.
''Oh. Yeah, OK.'' he sat on the sofa. ''It's full of... well, just stuff at the minute.'' he said. ''You'll have to wait a bit till I can shift some of it out.'' He saw a look of rage float over her disproportionate features and leave just as quickly, neutralising her expression to her normal grimness.
''Sleep on the sofa if you want and I'll sort you out tomorrow....so to speak.'' he added with a half chuckle.
He had Bella's attention now. People rarely laughed in her presence, and he was unaware that her feelings for him had just gone up a millistep on the ladder to complete and utter devotion and obsession. Any indication of this would have guaranteed that he would crank up the charm to the maximum level. He was like that.
Jona was from a wealthy family, who had thrown him out at the age of eighteen, six years ago. He was a taker and a user completely without conscience. Psychological testing would have assigned him a very high Machiavellian score, and he was well on his way to being a sociopath. No. He was already there.
He had broken the hearts of his mother and father, one sister, many women and not a few men - the last two days ago. The worst thing anyone could do was to fall in love with Jona. His beauty and charisma were a fatal combination, and he was very proficient in using it to his advantage. He mainly used it for his own amusement.
Bella slept on the sofa that night. Jona went into his room with no word of goodnight or concern for her comfort, but Bella was just glad to be here, within yards of this magnetically attractive force.
In the morning, she washed and re-dressed in the clothes she had arrived in, and helped herself to cereal and tea. Jona came into the kitchen and helped himself to toast and coffee. They took their individual breakfasts into the living room and sat in silence.
Anyone who was not Bella, and anyone who was not Jona, would have felt some awkwardness at this strange companionableness. It was as if they were capable of spending time together in silence, like a longstanding loving couple, but with none of the affection, respect, or regard.
''I'm going out.'' said Bella. He looked up.
''I want a key.'' she said.
''I'll be here. Just ring the bell''
She picked up her bag and left, heading off to buy clothes and some toiletries.
Bella's first week with Jona passed uneventfully in this manner. Around the sixth day, Jona gave her a key. He had, about halfway through the week, sorted out some space for her in the spare room. He knew that she would not add any personal touches to the room, such as putting out photographs or ornaments or things of that kind, so he did not bother to allow or deny her the chance.
She was just someone who lived in his flat.
Somewhere at the beginning of the second week, Bella started to behave slightly differently. She had discovered how much she liked looking at his eyes. It gave her a strange feeling in her stomach. His eyes were the colour of blue denim, flecked with a darker blue, and his pupils were large, like those of a child. His eyelashes were long and abundantly thick. Cows' eyelashes, she thought. Not romantic, but then, Bella was unused to romantic thoughts, and the comparison was accurate enough.
She had discovered something new to her. If you speak to someone, occasionally they look at you. If Jona looks at you, you feel really nice and swimmy and... lovely inside? Yes, that was how it felt.
So she began to develop the art of conversation with Jona. It was a struggle, partly because Bella was new to it, and partly because Jona wasn't really interested in joining in. Half the time the eye-contact thing didn't happen. But when it did... It made up for the other half when it didn't.
And Jona had started to notice the effect he was having. He was amused. He was really going to enjoy this.