The world turned black. I felt like I was falling.
I awoke to find my forehead being mopped with a cool, wet flannel.
It was Harry.
“Morning, Terri. Charlie’s downstairs making you breakfast. What happened?” He put the flannel down on the bedside table.
“He said I mentioned Christopher in my sleep.”
“Oh dear.” Harry frowned in concern. “He said you were acting strangely before you fainted as well, though. What else happened?”
“I accidentally called Rosie Roxanna, and then I may have day-dreamed a little. Oh, Harry, I don’t think I should stay here again! And I want Christopher! He can make it all better.”
“Hey, it’s okay, kid. Don’t cry.”
I hadn’t realised that my eyes were welling up.
“Oh, Harry. Please can I go turn him into Christopher?”
“How would you do that?”
“Take him to my room.”
“That’s a clever idea. But, think about Charlie. He loves you.”
“He’s not the same. I fell in love with Christopher!”
“I know. I know. Kid, I fell in love with Roxanna.”
Just then, Charlie entered. I felt a pang of sadness at the lack of a golden glow and then a pang of guilt for missing Christopher. What was wrong with me?
Harry quickly altered what he was saying. “I fell in love with Roxanna while I was with Rosie, but Rosie was all that mattered to me, so I stuck with her.”
Harry had given me a wonderful excuse for mentioning someone called Christopher in my sleep.
“Thanks, Harry! Christopher’s not even friendly. It’s stupid that he should have this effect on me. I love Charlie and Christopher is a moron!” Internally, I winced, imagining the hurt I’d see on Christopher’s face that night.
Charlie, however, beamed and, placing the breakfast tray he was carrying down, kissed me on the cheek. I almost cried.
“You should have said,” he said, grinning. I briefly considered the irony. “Why do you think you fainted?”
“No idea,” I lied. “Thanks for making me breakfast,” I added.
Harry apologised with his eyes for the abrupt end to our conversation, as he left, saying “I’ll let you get on with that, Terri.”
Charlie, still grinning, sat by my feet.
“Hey, isn’t it weird that you thought Mum was called Roxanna and Dad used to love someone called Roxanna?”
“Very,” I answered weakly.
I ate in silence, thinking about Christopher. Suddenly, I thought to ask, “Charlie, what did I say about Christopher?” I needed to know so I could apologise and not make more of the same mistakes in general conversation. Even so, I winced as his face darkened.
“You said he was distracting,” he murmured quietly. “You also said you loved his laugh...” He trailed off, unable to say anymore.
More than anything else in the world, I wanted to tell Charlie he was Christopher. That would cheer him up.
“I’m sorry, Charlie,” I murmured and I knew I was sorry for more than the dream.
“It’s okay.” He smiled again. “You said he’s a moron, anyway.” His voice turned serious. “But if you ever see him in town, keep me away from him because I could cheerfully punch him.”
“Punch him?” I asked, shocked.
“Yeah, for messing about with my girlfriend.”
“He didn’t do anything with me!” I was startled at how defensive Charlie sounded of me.
“He made you fall in love with him.”
“That wasn’t his fault. Charlie, are you all right?”
Charlie took a deep breath. “No, actually,” he replied. “I’m scared that you’ll leave me.”
No, I thought to myself. That hurts so much. I’m no good for him.
“Charlie, I’m not going to leave you! I love you, remember?”
“But, what about Christopher?” He’d calmed down now.
“Christopher doesn’t matter. It’s you I love and it’s you I want.”
Charlie stood up and came over to hug me tightly.
I was verging on tears, but I had to fight them. They weren’t appropriate here and now.
Rosie suddenly appeared, carrying a pile of clothes that looked familiar.
“Um, I found these on my bedside table with a note saying ‘These are Terri’s’. I suppose Harry must have brought them over but I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t just give them to you himself...” She frowned for a few seconds before adding brightly, “Let me show you where the bathroom is.”
When I was washed and dressed, I went with Charlie to join Harry in the garden. He was lounging in a deckchair in the sun. When he saw us, he acknowledged us with a smile.
Charlie ran to get two more deckchairs. I felt slightly better after the shower, so I asked casually, “How are things?”
“Good,” he answered. “How are you?”
“Okay,” I replied. “I still wish I was with Christopher, but like you said, Charlie loves me, so I have to do what I can to make him happy.”
To this, Harry responded, “Try and always see the good in Charlie. I know it’s difficult when at night time he’s comparatively better, but if you persist, you may be surprised at the results.”
“I do feel awful at making comparisons between them. It’s not Charlie’s fault if he’s not a vampire with a stunning personality...” I paused, worried I may have offended Harry, but all I could see on his face was understanding. “What’s it like for you, Harry? Having two sons?”
“Strange. Charlie’s really shy, but then Christopher’s really outgoing. I forget which one has which personality, so I’m sometimes expecting Christopher to be really compassionate and Charlie to have an attitude.”
“Christopher has an attitude?”
“Oh, yeah. He’s really sarcastic and if someone says something he doesn’t like, he’ll pretend he didn’t hear him. I didn’t recognise him last night.”
“Oh,” I said. “He’s always like that with me.”
“Well, maybe you’re having a good influence on him.” Harry winked.
Charlie suddenly appeared. “Terri? Have a good influence on me? Not that rebel!” he teased.
Harry and I smiled at each other.
We spent the rest of the morning basking in the sun, until I remembered my parents didn’t know where I was.
“Harry,” I called.
“Has anyone spoken to my parents?”
He smiled. “Yes, Roxy called last night and said you were sleeping over.” He suddenly frowned. “I think she said you’d be back by lunchtime. You’d better get going.”
“I’ll come too.” Charlie jumped up.
Harry smiled at me and I wished he was psychic so I could thank him for the conversation we’d had.
After retrieving last night’s clothes and taking a big lump of cake from a very generous Rosie, Charlie and I set off to amble down to my cottage. Along the way, Charlie asked, “What were you and Dad talking about, then?”
“How naughty you are,” I replied with mock sincerity.
Charlie playfully punched my shoulder. He seemed really light-hearted today.
I rubbed my shoulder, pretending to look shocked.
We spent the rest of the walk lost in our thoughts. I was wondering what to do at the cottage. I decided I was going to invite Charlie to lunch, which we could wait for and eat downstairs, and then take him to my room.
When we got to the cottage, however, Dad was standing outside, hands on hips, tapping his foot impatiently. I gulped.