I woke up from my comatose state and was instantly ready to give Alissa her desire.
I smiled warmly at her as I sat up and she threw her arms around me with a cry of joy.
"Your sisters are well, I trust," I murmured in her ear.
"Yes! Yes, they are! Oh, thank you, Horatio! Thank you!"
"Anything for you, my love." She pulled back and I tenderly caressed her cheek.
I slid across the bed so she could sit beside me.
I gazed deep into her beautiful eyes. "Are you all right?"
"That is a daft question," she replied. "How could I not be? I am so grateful and so happy now that you are awake again."
There was a slight quiver to her words but I took it to be intensity.
I pulled her towards me once again and began to kiss her. Allowing myself to lower all the walls I had ever put up between myself and Alyssa, I slowly began to ease out her soul.
She stiffened in my arms. I stroked her skin softly, breaking away from the kiss to murmur "It is fine, Alyssa. I will not harm you."
I looked a little deeper into her eyes so that she would be immersed in my own and the pain would be numbed.
"Are you comfortable, my love?" I asked.
"Yes," she murmured, gazing back at me with a slightly troubled expression.
"I missed you while I was asleep, my love," I told her, and I saw her heart melting in her eyes. Yes, that would be the best way. Calm her down completely: ensure she was totally comfortable.
"I was so worried," she murmured back. But there was something more to her troubled expression that I could not comprehend.
"Lie down, my love," I instructed gently, forgetting to respond to her statement. She lay, looking up at me, strangely trying to convey her trust to me as if she had lost it for a moment or as if she was telling me not to do something. But I wouldn't harm her. She knew that. She must still be shaken from her experience the night before. She would be safer in my soul.
It was night time now, as well. The light of the moon poured in through the window.
I smiled as I sat beside Alyssa and stroked her reassuringly.
"Your heart is so pure, my love," I whispered, my voice growing even more intense. Alyssa shivered. I knew my eyes must be burning like flames. But they were subtly burning. Relaxingly. I was encouraging the undercurrent of her thoughts to burn along, so she would feel warm and secure.
"Wh-what are you doing to me?" Alyssa stammered.
"Nothing, my love."
"I feel so ... odd."
"Is it a pleasant odd, my love?" I asked, and she shivered again.
She nodded, seemingly rendered incapable of speech.
"Roll over," I whispered.
She did so without hesitation or questioning my request.
I massaged her shoulder, causing her physical relaxation as well as mental calm. I knew she was still envisaging my simmering eyes.
I kissed the back of Alyssa's neck and knew she would not be frightened anymore.
I stood up and held out my hand. She grasped it and stood up.
I knew exactly the right place to take her soul.
I wordlessly led her down the stairs and out of my house into the forest that surrounded it. She watched me all the while, transfixed by my eyes, her thoughts caught on the sensations she realised she was about to feel.
I led her into a glade beside a lake. The moonlight glinted off the waves and made them shimmer like silver.
I cupped my hands around Alyssa's perfect waist and continued to gaze into her eyes.
"I love you, my love," I murmured.
"I love you too," she whispered.
I leant in and kissed her, gently and tenderly at first, but then increasing the ardour I was conveying to her heart. The kiss deepened to the point where Alyssa was backed up against a lone willow tree.
I gently tugged at her soul again, in a subtle way so she would not notice at first. It slipped easily away from her body's hold on it until it came to the first of nine mental barriers I would have to guide it through. The barriers, in order we would reach them were Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, Silver and Gold. The initial seven symbolised a journey but also destiny: Alyssa's Path. In arriving before the Silver barrier, I would have conquered her emotions and had a profound impact on her heart and mind. Silver would reflect my good intentions, honesty and Alyssa's total willingness to let me have her soul. Gold was ultimate trust and perfect love, but also sacrifice. Crossing the Gold barrier would cause her the most pain. I dreaded the thought of Alyssa's agony but comforted myself with the thought that it would be brief and worth enduring.
The Red barrier I passed through easily. And Orange and Yellow. No pain caused there. The ease of crossing the barriers of the colour of fire was due to the flame of Alyssa's potential hatred being non-existent and the flame of her love and passion burning brightly.
I paused before the Green barrier. I broke away from Alyssa.
She was looking up at me breathlessy.
"It did not harm me," she said in wonder.
"I wasn't rushing, I kept myself calm," I told her.
"Calm..." Alyssa repeated. She looked a little ... disappointed. Impatient. But for me to guide her soul through the next two barriers, I needed this calm. Otherwise, there would be pain.
"Alyssa, sweetheart, we have the whole night ahead of us, do we not?"
She sighed and replied "I suppose so," in a slightly grudging tone.
"Come, now, I bet you could be the princess of serenity if you wanted," I said, lifting her chin where it had sunk. She gazed straight into my eyes and I could see her struggling not to kiss me fiercely.
"Could I?" she asked.
"Of course you could, my love."
I took a quiet deep breath in and out, holding her with a soothing gaze that I hoped would melt away the fire in her heart and replace it with content, gentle love. She smiled contentedly and appeared definitely more relaxed. When I kissed her again, I was rewarded with a tender kiss that was almost shy but extremely endearing in its gentleness. In fact, Alyssa's thoughts had a childlike nature and it was as if we were two youngsters sharing innocent love. I led her soul through Blue and Green with great ease.
Now was the difficult part. I had to encourage Alyssa to be profound yet create a violent tension within her to satisfy the darker shades of the rainbow. Yet not passion. There was a delicate line between dark emotions and passion that I could not cross without hurting Alyssa. This was the part I was most afraid of. This was a point at which pain could begin.
I pulled away from the wonderful, chaste kiss and smiled. "You kiss so well tonight," I told Alyssa.
She smiled back, though there was slight confusion in her eyes. Her smile was inspiration to me, though: comfort.
I led Alyssa to the edge of the lake. I held her hand as we gazed into our reflection.
"What d'you see, my love?" I asked.
Alyssa looked up, surprised by my question. "Why, I see you and I, Horatio. Do you not see the same?"
"I see more than that," I murmured, and to encourage her, I explained. "I see two people, destined to be together. Our Paths have converged. I shall forever travel beside you. Sometimes I'll lead, sometimes I'll follow. At this moment in time, we are sharing some incredible experiences. I am glad for the moon and the stars because they enhance our sense of romance, inspire our imagination. I shall always love you, Alyssa."
Alyssa smiled at me but her eyes conveyed how strange she thought I was behaving.
"Does the night not inspire you too?" I asked.
Alyssa nodded slowly and gazed back into the water. She looked as if she would try to be profound for me, which was all I could ask of her.
"The water of this lake shines brilliantly," she began. "It is like our love which beams radiantly across the land. It is cool and refreshing, like your kiss when I am upset, and it is constantly changing. In the way that water flows and ripples, our love develops and moulds to become more right for us. We will never get bored of each other, just like we will never grow tired of watching the water." Her brow was furrowed - she was evidently struggling.
Alyssa, as a person, was not shallow. She knew what love was - true, meaningful love. But expressing this was difficult, I knew. How do you put into words what you feel, what you see, what the world around you does to you?
Alyssa looked up at me, slight helplessness in her eyes. She did not wish to displease me: she wanted terribly to prove herself to me.
"You are right, my love," I said encouragingly.
Her eyes clearly asked 'What more do you want of me? I give you everything I can'.
"Tell me about the stars, Alyssa," I pressed gently.
Alyssa looked bewildered. She gazed up at the night sky. "They are beautiful," she confessed, still confused.
"Tell me a story."
I sat down on the grass.
She looked down at me. "Why are we doing this, Horatio?" she asked. "Why do you test me?"
"There are more acts than kissing along people's Paths, Alyssa."
Alyssa looked up again. Her troubled look did not escape my notice. Perhaps this would help me with the violent tension she was going to need to feel.
She sighed and began. "The stars shine down from above, awe-inspiring lights in an awe-inspiring vastness. They are guides to the traveller, company and comfort for the lonely, friends of the Moon who quietly whispers to them while they dance in the sky."
"Good," I said, in a voice which urged Alyssa on.
There was a faraway look in her eye as she saw what she described and the frown my statement had caused was fading.
"So many stars. They reflect the multitude of destinies. And they each have a story to tell."
Alyssa's smile widened. "Oh the things they must see! The wonders of friendship and living and ... courting." She blushed slightly. "They watch us - we entertain them - and beckon us to join them in the admiration of this beautiful land."
That was it. Her soul slipped gently through Indigo.
Now she needed to maintain this profoundness while I caused her to feel tense and uneasy. I stood up silently and placed my hands on her waist from behind.
"Oh!" she cried in shock.
I kissed her neck. This was going to be hard for me.
Alyssa tensed as I ran my fingers down her spine. 'Oh dear, a little too close to passion' I thought as I felt her thrill at my touch.
I stepped back. She turned, fixing me with an intent gaze. Ah, more than a little too close to passion.
I stepped back, wanting to finish the transferral of her soul to my body first.
She stepped forwards, her expression serious.
"The stars are almost challenging us to shine more brightly," Alyssa whispered.
"But are they not swallowed up by the blackness?" I asked impulsively, needing to change what she was feeling.
She snapped out of her passion ... and also her profoundness. Oh dear, I was going to have to cause profound fear.
I could do this: I was capable; but I hated the thought of hurting Alyssa.
"What is going on?" Alyssa demanded, confused and a little frightened.
I neared her, holding her eyes with a serious gaze. "I do this for you, my love. Please trust me."
"Okay," she said, not sounding too convicned.
I clasped her hand and said "There is so much blackness in the world. Black in the sky, black in men's hearts, black in the shadows. At times, it creeps up on you - surrounds you - and you feel there is no hope."
Alyssa stood, fascinated by my words (or perhaps my eyes or tonewhich I knew would be burning yet chilling) despite herself.
"There is blackness in art: words of deception or anger or fright, the sound of blackness in haunting or depressing melody. In distressing pieces of artwork, there is the blackness of the tortured soul."
Alyssa looked riveted, impressed and scared.
"Horatio," she whispered.
I put my finger of my free hand on her lips.
"There is fear in love, is there not? For love is a great sacrifice. One always thinks, in the back of the mind, about the possibility of that love ending. Of the bond breaking, of the heart being ripped in shreds."
Now was the time to ease Alyssa's soul through Violet.
"All that blackness," I murmured darkly.
Alyssa gulped. And at the final moment, before her soul got through the barrier, her face set in grim resolution and she said "But there's light."
Alyssa looked confused as she suddenly clutched my waist to support herself.
"Ow," she said in surprise. "There is pain."
I held her tightly but this made the fear go away.
She shook herhead, trying to ignore the pain, and embraced me. "My dear Horatio, you must not think such negative thoughts. There is darkness yes, but there are good things in life too. There is strength and comfort, love and trust." She pulled away and kissed me. "I trust you. I love you. You make me happy, you make me feel special. I am flying when I am with you."
She thought she had figured it out. She thought I was feeling distraught. She thought wrong.
"My love, but pain is still there," I said, a hint of desperation entering my tone as she sat on the ground hugging herself and looking puzzled.
Alyssa looked up at me, smiling comfortingly. "You and I shall help each other through pain." She winced as that caused more pain. All her fear was disappearing, meaning that the Violet barrier was trapping her soul in its sharp embrace.
I dropped to my knees. "Are you not afeared now, when pain has crept upon you so suddenly?"
Alyssa shook her head. "I know you will help me through it." She smiled at me, and the pain increased.
"Alyssa, I have a confession," I said as I held her hand and allowed her to squeeze it.
Alyssa's brow furrowed slightly.
"From the moment of my awakening, I have been trying to remove your soul from your body. Just like you desired."
Alyssa let go of my hand, looking shocked. "You have been doing what?!"
"It is what you wanted," I reminded her, smiling. "I have gotten you through six of the nine barriers between your soul and my body."
Alyssa looked distressed. She stood up and began pacing, an action which greatly confused me.
"But ... you should have told me, Horatio. I needed to know."
"It was going to be a surprise," I said, smiling again. "A present. A sign of my affection for you."
Alyssa turned on me, looking fierce. "You could have hurt me!"
"I had confidence in myself, Alyssa. And in you. I knew you would be capable of getting through the barriers."
"But it is not successful! You hurt me now! Stop it, Horatio! Stop this pain."
Puzzled and troubled, I led her soul out of the Violet barrier, an act which thankfully caused her no pain.
"You had no right!" she cried. There was something more than anger in her eyes. Fear. What could have happened while I was unconscious to cause her fear?
"Alyssa, I do not understand. Are you not pleased?"
"No, I am most defintely not pleased! How could you, Horatio? I thought you loved me."
She repeated the last sentence in a whisper before bursting into tears.
I stood up and hugged her tightly. "I do love you. That is why I have done this. I do not understand; oh, Alyssa, what's wrong?"