I sat in the kitchen and tried to block out the shouting. I caught the words “What would your mother say?!” and “DON’T JUST STAND THERE AND SHRUG BOY!”, though. I winced.
When Harry entered the kitchen and headed towards the freezer, I said, in Christopher’s defence, “Rick called him a half-breed and he kissed me.”
Harry froze. “A half-breed? That’s just not right. Mel had better say something. She’d never let anyone else scold her boy but that insult is as bad as swearing!”
He turned to me. “I’m afraid that that doesn’t quite justify beating Rick up. Christopher’s going to be in trouble for that.”
“Then, I should be in trouble, too,” I spoke up bravely. “Rick was going to kiss me and I slammed my knee into his groin.”
“I’m afraid that’s justifiable, Terri. I’m sorry Rick tried to kiss you.”
“Can I go and see Christopher?”
“I suppose so.” Harry sighed. “But after this evening, when you go home, Christopher’s going to be grounded for a week. You’ll be allowed to see Charlie, but you’ll have to see him here under my supervision so I can check he doesn’t ‘transform’. Charlie, thankfully, would never beat Rick up.”
A week without Christopher? Only coming to see Charlie? It sounded unendurable.
“Thanks, Harry,” I said dully. I suppose he was being fair. I left the kitchen so I could spend the remainder of my visit with Christopher.
“What time will you stay until? I’ll call your parents for you,” he called.
I looked at a nearby clock. It was seven o’clock.
“Nine,” I called back.
Upstairs, I found my way to the study, guessing that’s where Christopher would be. I was right. He was lying on a blue leather sofa, shaking his head at something.
He looked up as I came in, sat up and smiled.
‘My dove,’ he greeted me.
“Oh, Christopher. How am I going to survive a whole week without you?”
You heard, then? I’m sorry. If I hadn’t lost my temper.
“Don’t blame yourself!” I exclaimed, appalled. “It’s all Rick’s fault.”
I went to sit beside him.
‘Rick,’ he growled. ‘I can’t believe he kissed you.’
“I’m sorry for kissing him back.”
‘You what?’ He sounded amused.
“Well, I had to, so I could find an excuse to send you to the study. I told him we needed more privacy.”
You sent me out?
“Well, Charlie was already in a trance so I just told him to go to the study.”
You’re ingenious, my dove.
“You don’t mind that I kissed him?” I was confused.
Well, I’m concerned about you putting yourself through such an ordeal, but I know it’s me you love.
“It was scary, you know,” I reflected. “He was so suggestive and alluring...”
Rick, unfortunately, is quite skilled in those fields.
I frowned. “It’s not fair for someone to have such qualities.”
Maybe not, but I’m certainly glad to have them.
“At least you don’t abuse them...” I frowned harder. “As much,” I added.
He chuckled softly.
I shook myself out of my reflections. “What are we doing talking about negative things? I’m going at 9.”
Christopher smiled. ‘Let’s not waste more time, then.’
Harry drove me home. In the car, I thought about my gratitude for his help and advice.
“Thanks, Harry. I don’t know how I would have coped with my relationship with Charlie if it hadn’t been for your support.”
He smiled. “Well, it wouldn’t have been fair if you’d been alone to deal with the problems like me. I’d be a horrible person if I just stood by and let you suffer.”
“It must have been tough for you,” I reflected.
“Yes. Roxy helped me where she could, but in a way, that made things worse because I longed for her and needed her advice in situations where I should have been thinking about Rosie and coming up with things on my own.”
“Am I too dependent on your help?” I wondered.
“Not at all, kid.”
“Thanks,” I said again, before lapsing into silence.
When I got home, I got ready for bed and wrote in my diary before retiring. It seemed as though the diary would be my only source of Christopher-related things for another week. At least you’ll see Charlie, I reminded myself. Who was I kidding? Charlie hardly rendered me euphoric. I sighed as I lay there waiting for sleep to overcome my senses. The problem with preferring Christopher in this relationship was that I probably rendered Charlie euphoric.
I woke up heavy-hearted and resigned. I ate breakfast, got ready to go out and wandered over to the Parkers’.
Half an hour later, I was sitting on Charlie’s bed, pretending to be interested as he talked to me about sport. I nearly groaned aloud when he excitedly suggested he could teach me cricket.
Instead I politely declined.
“Terri, are you okay?” he asked, surprising me. “You seem really low.”
“Oh, I’m fine,” I said, maybe just a tad too brightly.
Just then, trouble walked in, in the form of Rick. He’d overheard our conversation and told Charlie, “She’s obviously low because she’s bored, Charlie. Face it, you’re not exactly inspiring.”
There was silence. I’d been thinking about Christopher randomly. I suddenly realised I was supposed to be sticking up for Charlie.
“Charlie’s great,” I said.
Charlie looked unconvinced, and also disappointed.
“I’ll meet you two in the garden,” Charlie murmured, his tone indicating that he wanted some time alone.
“Come on, Terri,” Rick said jovially.
Outside the sunshine seemed to make his hair sparkle, and the glow around him was dazzlingly bright and warm. You’d think he was a great person to be around, the way his smile seemed so carefree. His whole body sang out ‘light-hearted’ and I wished he wasn’t so beguiling.
“Why didn’t you tell Charlie you hate sports?” He chuckled.
I tried to glare but I just found I wasn’t in the mood. I sighed, giving up.
“I didn’t want to upset him.”
“Oh, you little liar. You weren’t even listening properly.”
“Okay, I was preoccupied.”
“Ah, nasty, nasty. Wishing for his night-time self. Poor Charlie.”
“Oh, go away, Rick.” He was starting to get on my nerves.
“That’s not very nice.”
“And you are?”
“I have my moments.”
“Oh, spare me the self-centredness.”
“Maybe you could change me if you took me on,” he suggested alluringly.
I’d been looking at the ground during all of this. I stared up into his eyes, saying “No” with a tone intended to convey finality.
But looking up had been a mistake, as I felt myself helplessly drawn into emerald depths. Oh, no, I moaned internally.
“Can’t you at least admit you find me attractive?”
My thoughts scattered, I replied, “Yes. I do.”
I could imagine an enchanting smile playing about his lips.
I longed for Christopher to come and rescue me. It was strange how those emerald depths reminded me so much of blue depths. I thought about how Christopher held my gaze with such ease and how I desired to be transfixed like that, and then I really have no clue what came over me, but I was suddenly leaning up towards that face with those emerald eyes and my arms were reaching around his shoulders. My lips found themselves on Rick’s and his eyes widened, startled, before closing in evident enjoyment. What was I doing? I vaguely wondered in my dreamlike state. My eyes closed too and all there was in that moment was feeling. There was the physical feeling of kissing and being kissed, but also of hands coming around my waist and my fingers touching behind Rick’s head. There were the emotions too, though. I vaguely felt contented as my heart beat calmly, but overall, I just felt relaxed, finding the kiss therapeutic as it cleared my resignation at only being allowed to see Charlie for a week. I had a sense that this was right - being in someone’s arms - and I realised I’d needed emotional support for the coming week.
‘Wow, this is amazing’ came Rick’s dazed voice in my mind.
‘Yeah,’ I replied, equally dazed. ‘Hang on!’ What was I saying?!
I shoved Rick away and opened my eyes. The sunlight hurt.
Rick didn’t seem put out. In fact, he was just staring at me in wonder.
I felt eyes on the back of my neck and turned to see Charlie standing behind me, staring wide-eyed.
Damn, I thought. Now you’ve done it.