"I'm sorry," I said, as I knelt by her unconscious body. I stroked her side.
"Why?!" I shouted at the forest. "Why must it hurt her when I kiss her?! Why must my touch torture her?! WHY?!"
Alyssa's body quivered slightly and I realised it was cold. Picking her up in my arms, I took her to my house. I lay her on my bed and stroked her hair, moving it off her perfect face.
"Why?" I murmured.
I ran downstairs and carelessy tore a strip off a sheet that I needed to take to the washing women. I lit the fireplace in the kitchen and filled a kettle with water. I heated this over the raging fire and then moved it over to the wooden table. I poured some steaming water into a small bowl, and took this and the strip of the sheet upstairs to where Alyssa was stirring slightly.
I sat by her, caressing her wonderfully soft, terribly delicate skin until the water was cool enough for me to soak the cotton and mop Alyssa's brow.
She awoke a few minutes into my gentle application of water to her forehead.
Her eyes widened in fear and she tried to get up, but I gently pushed her down and murmured "It's okay."
A great weakness came over her at my touch and I felt her heart trembling despite the fact I was only touching her arm.
"G-get away from me," she whispered.
I was filled with freat pain and I had to choke back tears. "I don't mean to hurt you, Alyssa," I told her. "I never have and I never will."
"But you have hurt me," she said. She took a deep shuddering breath and said "Each time you kiss me, you cause me great agony."
I looked away. "I know. I cannot help it."
"I don't believe than pain is caused without intention."
I looked at her, unwittingly capturing her in my gaze.
"Don't you?" I murmured softly.
She shook her head. "You are some ... demon. You want to eat my soul. I don't believe you could ever wish me well."
"I don't think you understand," I told her. "I love you."
"Love doesn't cause pain," she whispered.
"But it does!" I exclaimed frustratedly. "I don't know why - it is the way of the world - but each time I try to show my feelings for you, you end up suffering."
Tears filled Alyssa's eyes. "I can't believe you. If love causes pain then why was it the greatest thing I shared with my mother!"
And then she broke into my tears.
I held her, confused. And then I heard it. A depressed thought in Alyssa's beautiful mind.
'My mother's love was the most brilliant thing in my life.'
Her mother died? No! She must be devastated. Poor, poor Alyssa. She didn't deserve this sort of thing! She was my protegida, my protected one. I held her tightly until I heard her whimper. I let go and moved away from her.
"Oh Alyssa," I murmured. "I am so sorry."
"I don't need your sympathy," she snapped. But she did. In her mind, I had also heard how reliant she was on me. How she hated it but how she knew that without me she was nothing.
"Alyssa, can I try something?" I asked, an idea suddenly coming to my mind.
"I don't have a choice," she muttered.
"Yes, you do," I said patiently.
"What is it?" she asked warily.
"I want to try and turn your pain off."
Alyssa looked confused. And then scared. "No!" she yelled, rolling away from me.
I didn't make a move to stop her. "Okay. That's your choice."
She turned towards me. "You're not going to force me?" she asked, with a suspicious look in her eyes.
"Of course not."
Slowly, she moved back towards me. "What would it entail?" she asked in a hushed voice.
"I would ... enter your mind, find the pain and ... quell it with willpower."
"Will it hurt?"
I shook my head.
"Okay," she whispered, looking down.
"I need to look into your eyes," I murmured, smiling.
She looked up.
"So beautiful," I sighed.
My hands found Alyssa's and held them so there was some sort of anchor to the physical world (as much as I would love to lose myself in her mind).
After a few minutes of staring, Alyssa stopped blinking and her thoughts became a humming blank. I casually stepped into her mind and began to search for her pain.
There were pictures here and there, representations of what she thought about (though she wasn't thinking at the moment - she was in a light trance). There was a grave reading 'Mama', a skipping rope which probably represented her childhood, a tree to show her love of nature and a house which probably was a symbol of housework and all household matters. I walked around the serene scene, for a few moments just admiring the surroundings and the atmosphere - which could only be described as feeling like Alyssa.
A bit deeper into her mind, there sat a crying child. The child looked like Alyssa's younger self. I guessed that the pain must be located here.
"Hello," I said gently.
The child looked up, her tear-stained face striking a chord within me.
"H-hi," she stammered.
I knelt down and asked "Are you okay?"
The child shook her head. "No."
"Can you tell me what's wrong?"
"M-my mother died and - and- a man called Horatio keeps hurting me."
I was glad the child didn't recognise me.
"Is there anything I can do to make you happy?" I asked.
"I-I don't think so."
I wrapped my arms around the child. "How about this? Do you like hugs?"
The child relaxed in my arms, her breathing rate calming down. I don't know how long I held her for but eventually, she let go, smiling a little.
"Thank you, mister."
"No problem," I said.
I turned around and started walking away. I left through Alyssa's eyes, walking back into my own and regaining control of my body, I squeezed Alyssa's hands to wake her up.
She blinked and her trance was ended.
I let go of her hands and sat back in my chair, giving her a moment to adjust to reality.
"Th-thank you," she stammered, looking incredibly grateful.
"It was my pleasure to help such a wonderful person," I murmured.
Alyssa reached out and cautiously stroked my cheek.
"Maybe I should've tried to stop you feeling pain at my kiss," I said, sighing.
"No matter. You look slightly weary. Perhaps another time."
"Then you believe I mean you no harm?"
"I don't know what to believe. It's been a very long morning and I am in no mood to be angry at the moment, but perhaps later I will remember why I hate you."
"Will you stay here awhile?"
Alyssa looked into my eyes and seemed to struggle for a moment. But then she replied "I will."
I kissed her, lightly and quickly so as not to cause her any pain, then got up and walked around to lie beside her, content just to feel her presence near me and know her heart wasn't hurting.
She was right. I was tired. I gently dozed off beside her, dreaming about the tranquillity of her mind.