Perry was stunned. She couldn't be telling the truth, surely? She was so young in terms of experience with men.
But wait, she wasn't too young emotionally. His jibe about her having never felt desire had had no base in reality - he had merely wanted to provoke the girl. In actual fact, she was fairly mature about relationships. Her knowledge of desire - amongst her other typical teenage feelings - was hard to see her, though, due to her immense self-control. But Perry knew she had it.
And Maeve had no reason to lie to him - like she'd said she was ashamed to feel anything for him.
But it still didn't make sense. Perry, desirable though he was, could not appeal to someone like Maeve. She disliked him so much.
And then, Perry had an idea. What if this had nothing to do with Maeve at all? What if she was helpless to say she desired him: to feel something when he looked at her or spoke to her a certain way?
What if he was subtly mesmerising? That meant that he unwittingly made hypnotic suggestions about how Maeve should react to him in the back of her mind. He could easily imagine it - the flash in his eyes whispering ‘Desire me', the touch of this thoughts accidentally reminding Maeve of the brush of lips or a tender caress along her skin and causing her to want such a thing... She could be under his spell without even realising it!
Well, Perry wasn't complaining. The more of an effect he had on her, the funnier. In addition, he couldn't deal with the idea of someone so moral, so sincerely romantic, desiring him of her own accord, so he found a better explanation for this phenomenon and took the seriousness away.
Now what to do? He would tell Maeve, of course, but he would tell her he wasn't going to do anything about it. He would say it would involve entrancing her, which wasn't strictly true but which would put her off the idea, thus allowing him to retain this hilarious hold over her senses.
Having convinced himself he was truly right and having decided his course of action, he rose to his feet and walked over to meet Maeve, who was at this point in time walking out of a bookshop, carrying a small plastic bag.
Maeve had bought some nice-looking pens and a pretty little notebook, as well as a novel whose principal attraction had been its front cover - a picture of an amethyst heart against a deep blue background.
Outside, she was irritated to see Perry, especially because of the wide grin he was wearing.
"What?" she hissed as she walked away from the shop. She headed over to the fountain in the top lane of the crossroad-like junction formed by the four intersecting paths lined by shops and sat at the bench encircling the water feature.
"I've worked it out," Perry murmured, sitting beside her, leaning in like he had a right to be so close to her.
"Worked what out? How you're going to exploit the way I feel about you?"
"Nope, but hey, I might start thinking on that now."
Maeve glared at him.
"I've actually worked out why you think you feel desire for me," Perry continued.
"What, it took someone as cocky as you a while to figure out?" Maeve was annoyed that he had brought this up. Didn't he care about her feelings at all?
"Will it give you pleasure if I spell it out?" she asked. "Oh, you'd love that, wouldn't you?"
"What?" Perry asked, briefly thrown by the fact that Maeve herself had an explanation.
"Oh, as if you don't know," she said angrily. "Just read my mind, you jerk."
"I'm not in the mood. Plus, it takes effort. Just tell me your reason and I'll tell you mine."
"They're going to be the same."
"I doubt it. But humour me."
Maeve glared fiercely into his eyes.
"You're attractive, okay?! You're physically a pleasure to look at."
"I considered that," Perry said, brow furrowed.
"Oh, shut up! You arrogant, inconsiderate jerk! You're so self-centred!"
"No, no," Perry said hastily. "I meant my explanation was different. A girl like you can't just like a guy like me based on looks."
"I don't like you," she said, tears in her eyes. "I hate you. I just happen to want you, that's all."
Perry looked at her, brow still furrowed.
"But it doesn't work like that, don't you see? You're too moral to be shallow."
"That's what I thought," she murmured, eyes averted from his.
"Now listen to my theory," he said reasonably. "It's my belief ... that you're mesmerised by me."
Maeve lifted her eyes and looked at Perry, frowning. She was clearly trying to work out what he meant.
"What d'you mean ... ‘mesmerised'?" she asked, uncertainly.
"Like hypnotised. Unnaturally captivated." Seeing Maeve's frown start to become a glare, he quickly added "I've not done this deliberately."
Maeve was confused and a little sceptical.
"How can you accidentally hypnotise someone?"
Perry shrugged. "Perhaps it was all those times I touched your mind. But it's not impossible."
Maeve's expression became hopeful.
"Then you can reverse it?"
Perry's expression became grave.
"It would involve... putting you in a trance."
The excitement faded from her face.
He smiled wryly. "Sorry."
Maeve sighed. "That really is too bad. I absolutely don't trust you having power over me. And who's to say you'd undo the ... unintentional suggestion, anyway? I'd be a fool to allow you to do such a thing - even when you've done it before.
"At least I know it's not me, though."
She smiled. "I was beginning to hate myself."
Perry laughed. "You're so odd."
Maeve ignored him and stood up.
"I'm going to buy some new clothes now."
"Can I come?"
"No," Maeve said, with unexpected firmness. She had just imagined Perry waiting outside a fitting room as she tried on miniskirts and low-cut tops.
"Oo, those are great choices of clothes," he said, seeing those thoughts.
Maeve reddened. "No!"
"Oh, come on, Maeve. It'll be fun!"
"No," she repeated, and began to walk towards the nearby clothes store.
To her utter humiliation, Perry began to follow.
"What d'you wear to parties? Long skirts and jumpers with long sleeves? Business suits - wait, those can actually make you look attractive. What do you wear, Maeve?"
"Different things," she replied. "Short dresses or long tops over leggings or tights. Snow boots go well with tights - that's a good style for winter. Short skirts sometimes but never as high as miniskirts."
"Can I buy you a miniskirt?" Perry asked.
"Can I buy you something?"
At this point they were entering the shop.
"What about something you'll like?"
Maeve looked at him.
"Something I'll like or something that will flatter me in a way I don't want it to?"
"Okay, I'll stop asking." And before Maeve could protest, he had walked further into the store.
‘Well,' Maeve thought, ‘it's only his money he's wasting.'
She herself wandered over to the top section. Soon she was trying on a pretty purple top whose sleeves just covered her shoulders and which bore the image of a tiger made of black sequins. As she looked at herself in the mirror, she tried to see why Perry found her beautiful. Was it her deep blue eyes which her mum had once affectionately compared to sapphires? Was it those long ebony curls that flowed around her face and down her back? Was it her figure - did something in her curves do to him what his six pack had done to her this morning?
Maeve frowned. She really didn't see what was so special about herself. She changed back into her icy blue top that had white-capped mountain peaks as a design.
As well as the top, she bought a bracelet of purple spherical wooden beads and a pair of open-topped sandals with small heels: the backs against which your ankles go and the strips across the part of your feet below the toes decorated by tiny blue beads. Maeve didn't bother to look for Perry as she left - she was worried about what he had bought.
She entered a café and bought a hot chocolate and sausage roll. She consumed these inside and enjoyed the twofold pleasure of rich flavours and an indoor, relaxed environment. But then, Perry entered too, carrying a large plastic bag. He came to sit opposite her, saying "Hi, cousin."
Maeve sighed in exasperation.
"Must you follow me everywhere?"
Perry grinned. "Yes, I must," he replied.
"Show me what you bought," she said wearily.
"It's a bit long," Perry told her. "I'll show you at home."
"Is long a code word for ridiculously short?"
Perry shook his head. "I told you: you'll like it."
"I highly doubt that. Come on, you'd better let me see so you can take it back."
Perry smiled mysteriously. "I can promise you that you won't want me to."
Maeve rolled her eyes.
"Fine. Don't show me. But just remember that's your money you've spent and you won't get it back unless you return the clothes."
"I know," he said, still smiling. "So, where next?"
"Home, I guess. There's no more shopping I want to do."
Maeve finished her food and drink and rose to her feet. She then walked out of the café and began the journey home on foot, Perry following her at a light pace.