Cat and Mouse moved in together one day. Cat, or 'Catherine' to her parents, was a rotund but largely jolly sort of girl, who worked as a chef. Mouse, who had been called Mouse from birth, was a weaselly and sickly man, a mysteriously undisclosed number of years Cat's senior. They had met on Gumtree and, well, they had each thought the other harmless and neither could afford to live alone. And so, back to our opening, Cat and Mouse moved in with each other one day, into a fairytale ex-council two bed flat with its own lock-up.
Months went by and the two got to know each other better, for better and worse. Mouse found Cat very funny, and she discovered what an excellent listener he was, and they found that they were perfect TV-watching companions (they each knew when to make snide comments and when to shut up). On the other hand, Mouse's inability to wash up after himself, and Cat's propensity for eating anything in her line of site, had been cause for a few terse, cosmetically polite conversations.
People marvelled at their names. Cat and Mouse marvelled at their names too. They decided, quite often, that they should have their own TV show. It could just be the two of them living together, watching TV and being funny. It would be called Cat and Mouse, obviously. Their friends said they would watch Cat and Mouse, if it were on, though these people were largely lying.
Cat and Mouse got drunk together one night, and Mouse told Cat that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever met, and that he hoped he'd live with her forever.
'Yes,' said Cat, 'yes of course I'll marry you!'
Mouse had certainly meant it as a compliment, but not really a proposal. He did not want to embarrass Cat, though, so he kept quiet that night. And the next day, and then for a few days, and then through the engagement party and the sending out of the wedding invitations. The RSVPs rolled in, and it seemed that almost everyone they knew was definitely going to come to their wedding.
One card, he noticed, was from his old Uncle Ratty who was not going to be able to attend. But had sent Mouse a parcel! Inside the expertly-wrapped brown paper parcel, was a jar of fat and a note.
'NOT TO BE SHARED,' it said.
Mouse, secretly and mysteriously devoted to his Uncle Ratty, took the jar of fat down to their small lock-up, just a short walk from the flat. Cat never went down there, afraid as she was of spiders and dust and locks. He left the jar, still in its parcel wrapping and returned to the house. He loved Uncle Ratty's pots of fat, and could not wait to tuck in, once it had matured. He did not notice Cat peering out from behind their living room curtains, nor was he aware then of quite how jealous and inquisitive she could be.
A few days later, Cat was preparing to leave the house, dressed all up in her favourite non-ironic 80s power suit, and Mouse casually asked her where she going.
'A christening!' she responded, shrilly.
'Whose?' asked Mouse.
'A friend's, God, why are you always interrogating me?! Why won't you just let me breathe, Mouse, why?'
She stormed out of the house, down to the lock-up and found the package from Mouse's Uncle Ratty. She was surprised to find that Mouse had been hiding a jar of fat down there. He knew she loved fat.
She battled with her conscience for many moments, almost seconds, and then she popped the lid, scooped her fingers inside, swept them across in a circular motion, and shoved them into her mouth, sucking them savagely until they were fat free. She did the same again and again, until her conscience finally caught up with her, which roughly coincided with her feeling full. She had eaten the first third of the pot.
Cat waited in the lock up for the approximate length of a christening, and then returned home. Mouse was there, flowers in hand, apologising deeply for attempting to invade her privacy by asking her who was having a christening. She said he was forgiven, with her arms folded, to let him know that she was being the bigger man. Mouse asked the name of the newly-christened baby. Panicked, she said the first thing that came into her head.
'Oh,' said Mouse, still tender from their argument, 'that's...' but he didn't finish his sentence because he didn't know what it was.
The following week, Cat left the house. On her way out she saw Mouse looking at her, and asked:
'No! A naming ceremony, actually! Zut alors, where is the trust in this relationship?!'
Occasionally, in moments of high emotion, Cat broke into the language of the kitchen, which is French.
She slammed the door again, and went down to the lock-up again, and ate a little more of the fat, so that half of it was now gone. The fullness seemed to have taken hold earlier this time. When she returned home, Mouse did not have flowers for her, but did ask the name of this one.
'Half-empty,' she said, as she moodily retired to the bedroom to make up.
'Pessimistic hippies,' thought Mouse as he followed Cat into the bedroom.
Cat tried to forget about the fat, waiting down in the lock-up, and she managed it for nearly a month. She, quite shiftily, left the house early one morning, dressed in finery.
'Where you going dressed like that?' asked Mouse, though he almost knew the answer - he thought it would be bris.
'Baptism,' Cat replied.
'Right,' said Mouse. 'Of course you are.'
Cat was enraged, and hissed.
'Are you implying that I'm a liar, Mouse? Are you calling me a big, fat liar? Big fat, fatty bum bum liar, that's me! Why don't you trust me?! Parce que, je suis un vache!'
She broke down into a million dainty tears, and when Mouse tried to comfort her, she flinched from his grasp and slipped out of the door. She went down to the lock up and gorged herself on the remainder of the fat, no longer bothering with fingers, and instead guzzling it straight from the upturned jar. She was famished and it was delicious. Cat was a notorious feelings-eater. she would have devoured the fat even if she hadn't really wanted to, though she had very much wanted to. When she was finished, she remained in the lock-up for roughly the duration of your average baptism, and returned home.
Mouse was sat by the front door, looking sheepish and mousey.
'I'm sorry,' he said, with a tone of deepest apology, 'I'm so sorry I missed... um... Thingy's baptism.'
'All-done!' said Cat, a mite snootily.
'Right - wow - I'm sorry I missed his or her baptism. And I'm sorry I didn't believe you.'
'Yes, well, no harm done,' said Cat, in a tone that strongly implied that some harm had been done. 'Let's let that be the end of it then.'
'Great,' said Mouse. 'The thing is, there's a reason I've been a bit suspicious lately. Do you want to know why?'
Cat shrugged. She definitely did not want to hear the reason. She suddenly felt a bit sick and had a job to keep the fat down.
'You know how people say that if you can't trust, you can't be trusted?' Max continued, disclosingly. 'Well, I've been keeping something from you, my darling Cat, and it's been driving me literally insane. Actually literally insane, Cat!'
'What? Oh, don't worry about that, ha ha.' said Cat, flustering. 'My mummy always said to me that secrets are good for a marriage, anyway. I'm sure you have your reasons, ha ha ha!'
'No,' Mouse said, seriously, 'this is serious.'
He took Cat by the hand and led her back out of their flat, down the stairs and into the lock-up. She prayed quietly for a miracle. With her free hand, she rummaged in her handbag and came across a can of mace and a nail file. She promised herself that she would use them only in an emergency.
Mouse looked into his Uncle Ratty's package and a confused expression fell tentatively across his face. He pulled out the empty jar of fat, held it up to the light and looked quizzically towards Cat. A flash of knowingness landed with a thud on his face.
'Now let me explain...' Cat began, wagging her finger.
Minutes later, Mouse emerged from the lock-up, bolted it shut and returned to the flat. It would be nice, he thought, not having housemates. Nobody to tell him to wash up all the time, or to eat all his food, or to misinterpret drunken protestations.
Yes, he thought, he would be quite happy living alone, quite happy indeed.