Alyssa?

"Alyssa?" I asked, bewildered by the vision of her perfect form before me. Surely I was hallucinating. "What are you doing here?"

"I ... I was following Lupin."

"Lupin? He is not here - I would have sensed it. And why would he not be with you? You are courting, are you not?"

Alyssa looked confused. "You know we have been spending time together?"

I nodded. "I fully encourage it. I don't deserve you, Alyssa. Remember, I called you shallow."

Pain flashed across her face. My heart ached to go and beg for her  forgiveness but it was better this way. If she stayed away from me, she would never be hurt again.

"I didn't ask to be brought here," she murmured.

"And I didn't ask for you to be sent. So I shall find Lupin for you and return you to him - I don't know what he was thinking."

"He says I am torn," she blurted out.

I stared at her. "Torn?"

She averted her eyes, blushing. "I still think about you, despite what you said. I still remember the ... good times."

I sighed. Alyssa was far too good for me. Why had I ruined my chance with her? What could have possibly induced me to be cruel to her? Now she was lost to me - I couldn't love her again.

Though I did love her. More profoundly than she'd ever know - but she wasn't to know. It was my duty to break this relationship cleanly. And yes, Alyssa's heart would be broken, and yes, so would my own, but this was my punishment - the consequences of my rash actions.

"I don't," I lied.

Alyssa swallowed hard. "You lie. For some reason, you lie. I don't believe you." But in her eyes I could see uncertainty and terror. Her mind was screaming 'Don't do this to me'. But I had to do this - this was what I was due.

"Of course you believe me - what reason have I to lie?"

She wanted to say something, but she couldn't. She desperately wanted to come up with a reason, explain my actions and reassure herself that I still loved her but she couldn't. She didn't have any evidence, only a dim hope that I might still care for her and a few months' worth of painful, delightful memories that didn't really prove anything.

"Come on, let's go and find Lupin." I had an idea that he might be in that magical garden of his. I strode forwards and reached for her hand.

She drew away, stumbling backwards. "No! I won't believe you."

"Well, that is your choice, Alyssa, but I must assure you I'm not lying." I kept tight control of my voice, trying not to let on how much this was hurting me too.

"I love you, Horatio," she said, trying to delay the end. She didn't really know that she loved me but she would be willing to convince herself she did if things might end up that way.

"You can't, Alyssa," I said calmly, though inside I was screaming at the outrageousness of such a statement. "I am not one you could care for."

"You are," she pleaded.

"But what reason have you to love me? I never once saw you since that night we parted. And how could what we had ever be reproduced? Every memory is tainted, our souls are tainted. All that's left to destroy is our hearts and those are breaking as we speak. Can't you feel yours fall into ruin? I don't want that to happen to you, Alyssa. Go and rescue it - take Lupin as your lover. Come, you don't want to hurt him, do you?"

Alyssa looked petrified, as if I were a monster rather than the subject of her affections trying to tell her that her love was a lie.

"Stay away from me," she cried as I stepped forwards again.

"There, you see," I said, smiling. "You don't love me. Close your eyes and you'll be reunited with Lupin."

I hated myself for doing it but I flicked a switch in my voice, making the tone smooth and irresistible - hypnotic, in effect.

"Dear Lupin, who loves you so well, who would never hurt you as I have. He's waiting for you Alyssa - he may have sent you here but deep inside he wants you to tell him he's yours. You'll tell him he's yours, won't you, Alyssa? For me, you'll do that."

Alyssa looked helpless, vulnerable. I closed the gap between us.

"You don't really love me," I said gently. "You just don't want to hurt me. It's okay, Alyssa - I'm not hurt. And you aren't either. Just go to Lupin and tell him you love him. If you like, I can persuade him to ask for your hand. Would you like that, Alyssa? To belong to Lupin as you never could to me?"

Tears were creeping into her eyes but mesmerised, she nodded.

"Good girl, Alyssa," I said soothingly, and I reached out to touch her shoulder. I caught her as her limp body fell forwards. I sobbed as I transported her to Lupin's gardens. He wasn't there but I knew he'd sense her presence there - the garden was linked to his mind. I laid her gently down on a white bench and returned home.

I'd done the right thing.

The End

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