My neighbor, also Leslie, lent Bella a stuffed dog. (I presume she knows it may not be returned in the condition in which it arrived.) I played with it in front of Bella and she watched with curiosity.
The cats like it when I talk with Bella. They come in to ignore her. Circe drinks from her water bowl. Imja jumps up on the dresser to look down on her.
I do pet Bella. I think she leans against my hand when I scrunchy the thick fur under her ears. In any case, she no longer turns away. She sometimes even looks up at me after I stop. She doesn't necessarily have a "why did you stop" look, but at least seems to acknowledge that something has passed between us, something that was more nice than scary.