Catriona and Jona

    Five months after Bella moved into her house, there was a  telephone call.  Cat answered it.

     ''It's a man, Bella. He wouldn't give his name.'' She passed the handset to Bella and went back to polishing the spoons.

    ''Yes,'' said Bella.

     ''Hello.''said the voice on the other end. Bella didn't have to ask. She knew Jona's voice as well as she knew her own.

     ''Yes?'' said Bella.

     ''Still want a driver?''

     ''Yes.'' said Bella. She gave the address.


      Jona arrived at 10pm. Bella showed him his room. He dumped a bag on the floor next to his bed and waited. Bella stood staring at him, looking at his face, looking for eye contact again. Receiving only a sidelong glance, she went to leave.

    ''Oh. By the way...'' said Jona,


     ''Do I get a key? I'm going out.''

      There's one for you by the front door.'' said Bella. ''Don't make a noise when you come in.'' She left.

     Jona looked around the room. It'd do. He'd decided after three months that Bella's monthly contribution would come in handy. He'd missed the regularity of it.   He'd been thinking of looking for a job, but this seemed easier,  if all she wanted was ferrying around in the car.   He'd managed to let the flat, after a couple of months of waiting for suitable tenants to apply.  It was the only reason he'd waited this long.

    A door opened in the corridor as he was going towards the front door, and a head poked out.  A girl.  Pretty.  Big, wide eyes.  A timid smile. He nodded at her.

    ''Hi.'' he said. ''Who are you?  Bella didn't say anyone was staying.''

     ''Hello. I'm Cat. I live here. She didn't tell me about you either.'' she said, smiling.  Nice smile, he thought.  She gave a little wave and retreated into her room.


     The following morning, Jona and Cat met properly.  She was washing the breakfast dishes when he came out of his room.

    ''Hello again. Cat.'' he said, sitting down at the kitchen table. ''What's that short for?  Catherine, Kathleen?  Or is that actually your name?''

     Cat laughed.  She had a nice laugh as well as a nice smile, he thought.

    ''Catriona.   Sorry,  I don't know your name.''

    ''Jona.''  he said.

    ''That's.... unusual.''  said Cat.   ''Would you like something to eat, Jona?''

    ''Yeah. I'll get something for myself.    You don't need to wait on me.''    He looked at her.    She was young.    Maybe the same age as Bella.   No.   Probably younger.   It was difficult to tell.   There was a look of wisdom and ... wistfulness about her.   ''Are you like... a housekeeper or something?''

     ''Well...'' said Cat, sitting down opposite him,  ''I'm not really sure.   Bella brought me here a few months ago, and said I could give up my job and she'd pay me double what I was getting.  Plus...  I live here for nothing.   She's nice, Bella.''

    Jona laughed.

     ''I think you're probably the first person who's ever said that about her.  Where is she, anyway?''

    ''Oh, she went out about ten minutes ago.    She didn't say when she'd be back.   She never does.  She's not that chatty, is she?''

    He smiled to himself, thinking of the many occasions in the past that Bella had attempted to chat to him and he'd cut her short.

     ''So now I make myself useful around the house, doing a bit of cleaning,ironing and whatever.   You know.''   She stood up and opened a cupboard, showing Jona a selection of cereals.   ''Help yourself.''  she said,   ''Milk's in the fridge.''

    ''Oh I'll just do myself some toast, thanks.  How'd you meet her anyway?''

    ''Well... That was really weird.''  she said, sitting at the table again and leaning toward Jona.   ''I was sitting in this park, where I used to do a bit of busking with my guitar, and Bella comes over and asks me my name and then says 'I like you.   Come and live in my house.'   I couldn't believe it!''

    Jona stared.   Then he threw his head back and laughed.

    ''That sounds almost exactly like what she did with me, when she met me.   Why did you say yes?''

    She thought for a while, then looked at Jona.

    ''I really don't know.   She was ... unusual I suppose, very direct, and...''    She paused, playing with the sugar bowl.


     ''I thought she sort of reminded me of someone.   Don't know who, though.   Why did you let her come and live in your flat?''

   ''Dunno. Probably the money.''   He told her about the meeting with Bella in the pub on her sixteenth birthday, and how she'd lived with him until five months ago.

    ''Wow.''  said Cat.   ''We must be honoured or something.   Anyway, she looks after me.   Nobody really has before.   A few weeks ago, I was going out with this guy, and I really liked him, but he wasn't right for me.   Bella knew.   I was at his flat one night, and I was about to do something ... really, really stupid....  I must have had a bit too much to drink...      Then Bella turned up.   I never saw him again after that and I'm not sorry.   Bella was right.   She looks out for me.''

    ''Well, this is cosy.'' said Bella, from the doorway.  They hadn't heard her come in.

    ''I see you're getting acquainted. That's good. Very good.''


      Over the next few weeks, Jona and Cat became good friends. Jona was surprised.  He'd never really been close to anyone by his own choice.    But he liked Cat.   He liked her a lot.   Yes, she was very pretty, but he had lots of pretty girls at his disposal.   He just had to turn on the charm and they were his for the asking. 

    Cat made him feel... different.   There was something about her, something vulnerable, that made him reluctant to put on an act. She certainly didn't put on any pretensions herself.   He had a feeling that she was completely genuine.   What you see is what you get.   She didn't fawn over him like most girls did, which was refreshing.

      Life at Bella's house was good, much better than he'd expected it to be, and that was mainly down to Cat.   Maybe they felt a comradeship as Bella's chosen ones.     As good as her word,  Bella handed over a roll of fifty-pound notes every month.    He had to drive her somewhere most days, sometimes having to wait for her in the car for hours on end, but he'd either read, or listen to music, or more often, just sleep, till she returned. Sometimes she just told him to return at a certain time, and then he went back to the house, and chatted to Cat.

     One day, about a month after he arrived, they were in Bella's garden, sitting on a swing chair.

    Cat said,  ''So, are you named after the guy who ended up inside the whale?''

     ''No.'' he laughed.   ''Different spelling.    I'm Jonathan.   I got sick of people calling me Jon, or Jonny, or.... worse still... Jonno.   One day I just started calling myself Jona, and people don't shorten that,''

     ''Didn't you mind Jonathan, then?''  she asked.   ''Ive always liked that name.   It suits you, too.   May I call you Jonathan?''

     He gave her a long look, smiling slightly.

    ''OK...'' he said. ''On one condition.''

    ''What's that?'' She tilted her head, looking quizzical.

    ''You can call me Jonathan if I can call you Catriona.''

     She held her hand out in mock formality, grinning.

    ''Pleased to meet you, Jonathan.'' she laughed.

     ''My pleasure... Catriona.''  They shook hands.  Cat turned her head, hiding a broad grin.

       ''What?'' asked Jona, ''What's so funny?''

       She turned to him, laughing – such a cute laugh, he thought.

      ''Well, most people, when they become friends, they shorten each other's names.''  she giggled.  ''We've just lengthened ours!''

     Bella Pleasance was looking down from her office at the top of her house, observing the happy scene. She was smiling, too.

     Good. Very good, she thought, looking at the two people she liked. If they're getting on so well together, they'll stay here, with me.

     It didn't occur to her to think otherwise.


     Another day, Jona returned from driving Bella somewhere and didn't have to collect her for several hours. He took Cat out for a pub lunch

    ''Catriona, did Bella ever tell you about her parents?'' asked Jona, when they had finished their meal.  

    ''They died when she was fourteen. I know that.'' she sighed. 'Very sad.''

      He leaned towards her.

     ''Bella wasn't sad though.''  he said. ''She didn't talk about them much when she was at my place, but when she did, she looked... pleased that they'd died.''

     ''What are you saying, Jonathan?''   Cat asked, frowning.

      ''She was the only witness when they...fell.... off a cliff.    I mean, how do two adults just fall off a cliff?''   He looked at her.   ''And apparently her only living grandparents had both died in a fall, just a little while before.    Doesn't that seem a bit suss to you?''

     Cat stood up, turning her back on Jona     ''I think I'd like to go home now.    Jonathan,  Bella's nice.    I don't think you should be saying things like that about her.''  she said.  

    She dropped her handbag, scattering the contents over the pub carpet.   Jona bent to gather them up.   Among them was a small photograph, of a middle aged couple.   He picked it up and studied it.   One of the faces made him stop dead, his insides turning to ice.

   ''Catriona, who are these people?'' he asked.

    ''She looked at what he was holding . ''My mum and dad.''  she said, with sadness in her eyes.

    Good grief, Jona thought.  How on earth did Cat miss this? He looked into the flat eyes of Cat's father.  No wonder Bella reminded her of someone.

The End

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