I woke up alone, unlike the morning I’d woken with Charlie in the room. Next to me, on a bedside table was a pile of clothes with a folded note on top of them. The note had my name on it in neat handwriting. I recognised it as Christopher’s. Curiously, I unfolded it.
Dear Terri, [it read]
I hope you’ve had a wonderful night’s sleep. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever long for a more romantic experience than tiresome old Charlie, I can be found in the study.
I love you, my dove,
P.S. Things may be a little awkward if Charlie sees this note.
How thoughtful of him. I thought it ironic how he’d called Charlie tiresome, but then again, they were like two different people. I felt slightly guilty at agreeing that Christopher was more romantic than Charlie, but I really did love Christopher more.
I reread the note before hiding it under the pillow.
After showering and dressing, I walked around the house until I found the kitchen. There, sitting at the table was Charlie. He looked quite tired.
“Terri?” He sat bolt upright, looking pleasantly surprised. “What are you doing here?”
I opened my mouth but realised I had no response. “Um,” was all that came out. I closed my mouth quickly.
To make matters worse, Rosie walked in.
“Morning Charlie... Terri?”
“Morning, Mrs Parker.”
“What are you doing here, dear?” She frowned. In fact, both she and her son were frowning, waiting for the brilliant answer I just didn’t have.
Just then, Harry walked in. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw me.
Quick on his feet, he said, “Oh, Terri, you came! Come with me and I’ll show you the larks’ nest.”
Larks’ nest? Rosie and Charlie looked puzzled but I tried to look excited as I followed Harry into the garden.
“Larks’ nest?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, looking awkward. “First thing that popped into my mind.”
“Quick thinking, though.” I was impressed by the speed of his reactions.
“Roxy trained me. She used to buy roses for Rosie to find in the morning.”
“I see. Wait! What do I do when they find my clothes?” This was definitely more trouble than it was worth.
“Where are they?”
“In the guest bedroom, on the bed.”
“You go in through the front door and hide them under the bed or something, and I’ll distract the other two in the kitchen. Call me from out here when you’ve finished. Okay?”
I hurried off to carry out my part of the plan while Harry returned to the kitchen.
Ten minutes later, I was back in the garden.
“Harry,” I called.
He strolled out, smiling. “Come back into the kitchen for some breakfast.”
I happily obliged, feeling slightly ill from having run around on an empty stomach.
The rest of the day was fortunately less eventful. I rang my parents to tell them I was staying until after dinner and then spent the rest of the day helping out around the house (offering to tidy the guest bedroom) and chatting to/ kissing Charlie. I found it easier to be around him today - perhaps because I’d had such an exhausting night with Christopher. Charlie’s parents were, as ever, friendly and pleasant company. I felt like Harry and I were on the same sort of level of understanding since the likelihood was that if I had a problem with Charlie, Harry would have had the same problem with Rosie.
At about 4 o’clock, Rosie and Charlie went to pick up Mel and Rick from the train station, leaving Harry and I to talk freely. I realised that this was a good opportunity to ask questions about vampires and/ or Christopher.
“What prevents Charlie from getting too much déjà vu in the morning?” I asked, remembering the day Charlie had unexpectedly transformed into Christopher in my room.
“Charlie sleeps in his bedroom if he’s still human and if he wakes up in the night, Christopher will sleep on the couch in the study to prevent too much déjà vu there. If Charlie wakes up on the couch in the study, he’ll think he’s slept-walked, which is a perfectly rational explanation seeing as the rooms are next to each other. Charlie stays out of the study normally due to ‘fainting spells’.”
“That’s what Christopher meant about the study,” I murmured, recalling this morning’s note.
“Pardon?” Harry asked politely.
“Oh he just said if Charlie gets annoying, I should go to the study,” I said, quite sure that Harry would disapprove of the risk Christopher had taken by leaving me a note.
I then wondered, “What prevents Charlie getting too much déjà vu in the whole house?”
“All the rooms except the rooms where we want Charlie or Rosie to get too much déjà vu have big windows, which let in lots of sunlight and therefore prevent transformations.”
Nothing else occurred to me, so I allowed the soporific heat of the sun to send me into a doze.
I was woken up by Charlie gently shaking my shoulder. The fact that I was half asleep, combined with the way he said, “Up, sleepyhead” in a warm, loving tone, made me briefly think he was Christopher. I opened my eyes and stretched. Charlie smiled and said, “Aunt Mel’s here.”
I slowly stood up from the deckchair I’d been snoozing on and followed Charlie to the living room.
There, lounging on the couch was a stunningly handsome boy. He had black hair (which was straight, shiny and coated with gel), a long, lean body, slightly tanned skin which was emanating a glow so bright and golden that you couldn’t doubt he was comfortable, and finally emerald green eyes which seemed to shine and dance. I shook myself out of my reverie, remembering who I was standing next to. It was strange, I thought, how much Rick resembled Roxanna.
He stood up as Charlie coughed. He then sounded extremely proud as he said, “This is my girlfriend, Terri.” I couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like Charlie had put a slight emphasis on the word ‘girlfriend’.
Rick looked me up and down, and then an alluring voice in my head said ‘Well, hello there.’ He drew out the word ‘hello’ to make it a flattery. His voice was as captivating as Christopher’s, I thought helplessly.
As captivating? Don’t you think maybe a little more?
I shook my head dazedly. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘As.’
You could do so much better for yourself.
‘Christopher’s amazing,’ I thought defensively.
Oh, but Christopher’s only around at night. Think of how much more fun life would be if you loved the same guy all the time.
He’s so beguiling, I thought weakly captivated by the smile he wore and the way his eyes danced.
Rick stuck out a hand. “Rick,” He said aloud.
Help, I thought as he brought my hand to his lips and kissed it, holding it delicately.
I very deliberately turned to Charlie and said, “Where’s Aunt Mel, then?”
“Oh she was here,” He looks slightly surprised that I wanted to see her.
“She went to find Aunt Rosie,” Rick told us, but I had a feeling that his words, spoken in such an attractive voice, were directed at me.
“I’ll go and find Harry,” Charlie said.
“Please do.” Rick smiled.
I protested. “Oh, no, Charlie, I can go look.”
He shot me a quizzical look. “No, it’s fine.”
I didn’t want to end up pin an argument, much as I didn’t want to be left alone with Rick, so I let Charlie go.
Rick sat down and patted the seat next to him. I sat and hoped Charlie wouldn’t be too long.
Don’t fool yourself. You know you want to talk to me.
‘No, I really don’t,’ I thought.
‘Yes, you really do.’ His musical tone was saturated with allure and I found myself wanting the conversation to continue. I realised, with a shock, that he had just made a suggestion. He uses his powers even more than Christopher, I thought.
‘Christopher?’ He snorted. ‘Christopher is about as suggestive as a turnip.’
‘That’s not true.’ I recalled the first time I’d heard him talk: the first serenade. I daydreamed about his voice.
Don’t daydream about Christopher, my dear. Daydream about me.
Another suggestion. I found myself involuntarily imagining him and me strolling down a beach, holding hands and stopping to kiss as the sun was setting. I shoved the image out of my mind.
‘Oh, I was quite enjoying that,’ Rick thought to me.
‘You can’t have me,’ I thought. ‘I’m Charlie’s and Christopher’s.’
‘My dear.’ He sounded bored. ‘Didn’t either of them tell you? If I want something, I get it.’
My annoyance at him broke through the way I felt enchanted. ‘Just because you’re a vampire?’
‘No. just because I’m me.’ Here, he winked. He even winked captivatingly.
W-well, that’s not right!
I never said it had to be. That’s just the way it is.
He was so annoying!
Anyway, you should be flattered that I like you. Not many girls can say that Rick Laurel likes them.
Not many girls are unlucky enough to have met him, then.
‘Unlucky?’ He laughed: a soft laugh that caught and held me. ‘I beg to differ.’
You’d argue with anyone to prove your opinion was important.
True, but I see it as my duty to the people. How pleased people are to be told the truth.
How pleased people are when someone punches you.
You’ve got fight in you dear. What a shame I won’t see that when you’re putty in my hands.
‘Oh yeah because I’m really going to fall in love with a jerk who’s full of himself and thinks he can scare girls into obeying him (!)’ I thought sarcastically.
My dear, I’m afraid you already have.
Oh, I think I’d know if I had.
Apparently not. Look where your hand is.
And there, betraying everything I’d fought so hard to defend was my hand, resting on his. I lifted it, disgusted.
Rick was laughing so hard, tears were rolling down his cheek. I did something I’d never done before in my life. I slapped him, hard, across his cheek.
He stopped laughing and looked vaguely surprised.
Oh, well, if you’re in denial, I guess that just gives me more of a challenge.
He was so infuriating!
At that moment, Charlie walked in followed by a tall slender lady with long blonde hair and sky blue eyes. Charlie’s parents followed afterwards. I stood up and went to hug Charlie, ignoring the adults’ stares.
“Are you okay, Terri?” He sounded concerned.
“You just took a while, that’s all,” I lied.
“Aw, that’s sweet. You know I was just around the house, though.”
“I know.” I hugged him tighter, though.
Touching. I look forward to the days when you say that sort of thing to me.
‘Go away,’ I growled.
He merely chuckled in my head.
Aunt Mel turned out to be extremely patronising and over-fond of her son. “My little Rick’s going to be something big one day,” she told us, and not for the last time that night.
We ate dinner quickly, all eager to be rid of each other as quickly as possible, though Mel and Rick didn’t eat human food so they were just waiting for the rest of us.
After dinner, however, Rick asked, “Can Charlie and Terri show me where I’m staying?”
“I don’t want to disturb the adults,” he added virtuously.
His mother beamed. Rosie and Harry merely nodded.
Charlie led the way and pointed to the guest bedroom where I’d slept last night. I was glad I’d made the bed today. Charlie sat down on the bad, while Rick looked around. I went to gaze out the window.
I turned around to see Rick gazing at Charlie with intense focus. I realised suddenly what he was doing. Charlie’s head slumped forwards and internally, I groaned. Rick closed the door and said to me in enchanting and suggestive tones, “Don’t wake him up.”
To be honest, I hadn’t realised I could.
I suddenly felt very alone and very afraid.