by Don Roxburgh


Bella had been out all night. She had never done this before and Mother was frantic. "Hardly a wink of sleep all night" was how she described her nervous state to her husband. Father, as is the way of men, had managed to sleep pretty well, feeling that things wouldn't look too bad in the morning. Mother had wanted to phone the police, but Father had put her off, not wanting any more trouble than was absolutely necessary.

It was a cold, crisp morning with a touch of frost in the air. Mother had just come downstairs and got the fire going, when in walked Bella, cool as anything! She looked rather dishevelled, but wore a self-satisfied look on her face. Bella made straight for he chair in front of the fire and was soon fast asleep.

Mother was speechless for a moment, but only for a moment. She went to the door and called up the stairs, "Bob, John, she's home! Just walked in, sat down and was out like a light."

Bob shouted from the bathroom, where he was shaving, "Well, that's a relief, anyway. Good job I didn't call the police, then."

Having announced the news, mother went back into the kitchen. She turned to Bella, sleeping peacefully and began to vent her pent-up emotions on her. "You good-for-nothing," she began. "Where have you been all night? Sleeping with your boyfriend? Or just wandering round the town? Then in you come, cool as a cucumber and straight to sleep. Not glad to see Mother, oh no! Just want to get comfy and catch up on your night's sleep is it? Perhaps you'll want breakfast when you wake up, eh. Well, I suppose I'd better get it for you, . not that you deserve it!" Her passion thus spent, she began to busy herself with the breakfast. Just as she was putting the first two slices of bread into the toaster, John came downstairs, two-at-a-time, as usual. He bounded into the kitchen and kissed mother on the cheek.

"Morning, mum, what's for breakfast?" Not getting an immediate answer, he went on "So our Bella turned up again, then? Thought she would. Let's have a look at her." He went over to the chair and continued, "Doesn't seem any the worse for a night on the tiles, does she?"

At this, Mother burst into tears. She turned away from the stove and started on at her son. "It's alright for you, but what about me? You're young and carefree, but what about me? I'm the mother in this house. I have to look after you all. I sat up most of the night worrying about Bella, imagining all sorts of things. She could have been run over, or kidnapped, or .I don't know what. And all you can say is she doesn't seem any the worse! You're heartless!"

John put his arm round his mother. "There, there, mother," he said, "she's all right now. We'll just have to try and make sure it doesn't happen again. Now, how about that breakfast?" Somewhat mollified by this, Mother turned back to the stove and busied herself with cooking porridge and making tea. "See to the toast will you, John?" she asked, as the first slices popped up. John obliged, but Bella just carried on sleeping, blissfully unaware of all the activity around her.

The meal was nearly ready, when in walked Father, dressed, ready for the office. He took a look at Bella, scratched his head, and then sat down at the kitchen table. "Queer do this," he said. "Still, she's back now, and we're all relieved. What do you think the police would have said if I'd called them out last night and then had to call them again this morning to say that she'd turned up? They'd call it a waste of police time, wouldn't they?"

Mother was close to tears again, but checked herself and started on her husband. "You men are all the same. Only thinking about yourself. What about me? Don't I get a word of sympathy for all the worrying I've done? All the love and care I've lavished on Bella, and this is how she repays me. And all you can think about is how silly you'd feel if you'd called the police. Men!"

Bob looked a bit sheepish at this and in a conciliatory manner mumbled, "Sorry, love, I wasn't thinking. I expect I'm just relieved there's no harm done." Mother cheered up a bit at this and brought a steaming bowl of porridge over to the table. "Come on then, my boys. Eat up." Then she called across the room, "Bella, wake up! Breakfast's ready."

Bella opened her eyes, stretched sleepily, yawned and got out of the chair. She made her way leisurely across the kitchen. Then, without a care in the world, she sat down and began to lap her bowl of milk.

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