Catriona’s Diary: A Tale of Love & Deception

by Norah Deay


This story began as a prompt in a Writer’s Pen meeting;

Mystery: An old diary reveals a love story intertwined with a crime.


I was cleaning the attic in our new house when I found a shoe box stuffed behind a chest of drawers left behind by the old owners. I pulled it towards me carefully, blowing at the dust on its lid. When I opened it my detective instincts took over and I was instantly intrigued by the small green book with the ornate cover that lay nestled on top of yellowed and as it turned out, uninteresting, paperwork. 

The gold leaf from the cover carried into the book and coated the edges of the thin pages. Wondering if I should wear gloves to protect it, I gently opened the cover and read

 Caterina O’Loughlin


 The light wasn’t great in the attic, so I abandoned my cleaning and in no time I was perched on the couch with a blanket draped over my shoulders and the book resting on the coffee table before me. 

 The pages were covered with writing that was both stylish and legible and I pored over the pages, learning about a young girl called Catherine who had travelled to London to work for a cousin of her father’s landlord in Ireland. She’d been fearful of everything when she arrived but as the pages and the weeks and months passed, she grew in confidence and by the time she’d been there a year the days of being a shy peasant girl were long gone. She’d even changed her name to Caterina because of a Russian novel she’d read. 

The family threw a party during her second Christmas and guests came not only from London but from as far away as Edinburgh. There was one guest she mentioned in her diary, Mr D, and it seemed she was a bit bewildered by him. Although she felt more citified now, she was still very sheltered and had no connections with any men. This young man though was different. Caterina was excited and frightened by him. She didn’t know how to BE around him. She knew without doubt that her mistress would be angry with her, and she would lose her position without a reference if she were to associate with him. He told her not to worry, nobody would find out and even if they did, it wouldn’t matter. They were going to marry. 

Despite the risk, Caterina continued to meet Mr. D in secret, their encounters growing more daring and intimate with each passing day. Her diary entries were a mix of elation and fear, a vivid testament to their forbidden romance. However, their love story took a sharp turn when Caterina was gathering herbs from the kitchen garden and overheard a conversation between her lover and a stranger that chilled her to the bone. It seemed that her Mr D was implicated in a string of burglaries targeting the very elite of London society, the circles her employers moved in. 

Torn between her feelings for Mr. D and her moral compass, Caterina’s entries became a battleground of her soul. She knew she had to make a choice. The day before she planned to confront Mr. D, the diary ended abruptly. The next few pages were torn out, leaving me staring at the jagged edges, wondering about the fate of Caterina and her mysterious lover. 

I dug deeper into the shoebox and found a bundle of letters tied with a faded ribbon; hidden beneath the paperwork I had initially dismissed. The letters were from Mr. D to Caterina, filled with passionate declarations of love but also hints of a growing desperation. In his last letter, dated a week after the final diary entry, Mr. D pleaded with Caterina to leave London with him, to escape the noose that was tightening around his neck as the police closed in on him. 

But Caterina’s response was what I found next, a single letter, that must never have been sent. 

She had chosen to stay, to not follow him into a life on the run. She couldn’t condone his actions, no matter how deeply she loved him. The letter was a goodbye, filled with heartache and resolve. She hoped he would find redemption one day, but she could not join him on his path. 

The resolution of the doomed love story left me with a profound sense of melancholy. Caterina’s bravery and moral fortitude were commendable, yet the cost of her decision was palpable through her words. The old diary had not only revealed a love story but a tale of integrity and strength in the face of daunting choices. 

The story of Caterina and Mr. D lingered in my mind as I went about the rest of the evening. It was only when I told the story to my husband, John, that it occurred to me that Caterina and Mr D’s story might be over but for me, it was only the beginning.  

As John listened intently, his eyes reflecting the same spark of curiosity that had captured me, we knew we were about to embark on a journey together, unravelling the threads of a century-old mystery that had woven itself into the fabric of our new home. 

If you enjoyed this story you can read more from the Writer’s Pen group on this page