Saturday 17th April
It was Jack's birthday today. I'm going to have to ruin his life a day after his seventeenth. What kind of a girlfriend does that? Why do I even have to? But I know why. Because the mystery in my life has finally been solved. And it's changed my life forever. My world has changed, my thoughts and feelings about it have changed and basically, my future's changed. I didn't want it to. I hoped awfully that I would end up marrying Jack and living with him. It seems that was too much to hope for. I'm just depressed now. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that my new future has to embrace the mystery. I was right about one thing. The mystery was related to Ross.
"Rosa, you shouldn't have gotten me anything when you were already planning to take me out!"
I rolled my eyes as Jack frowned disapprovingly at the gift-wrapped parcel I'd handed him. "I'm your girlfriend. I'm allowed to spoil you. In fact, I'm sure I'm supposed to. To prove I love you."
We were sitting on the sofa, with me on his lap, one arm looped around his waist as he supported my back with one of his arms.
Jack smiled. "You don't need to do that. All the proof I need is your promise to keep doing so."
"If I give you that, will you open the present?"
"Oh, all right then. But only because I don't want to hurt your feelings."
"I promise," I said with mock solemnity, placing my hand on my heart, "to keep loving you." I kissed him on the cheek.
"And I promise to love you back," Jack murmured, placing my parcel down to wrap his arms around me and kiss me on the lips.
"Yuck. Spare me. I'm going to die from over-exposure to lovey-dovey radiation." Ross was standing near the door, looking on, but not really a part of the celebrations.
I held Jack back a second to say, "No one asked you to stay, Ross. In fact, Jack and I would be perfectly content if you left the room. Go now." I made shooing gestures with my hand before resuming kissing Jack who was fighting a smile.
"Charming. My best friend's girlfriend doesn't want me here."
Jack gently pushed me away. "She was just teasing, Ross. You know Rosa."
"Yup. Childish with a bad sense of humour."
"Don't be like that. Come on, it's my birthday. And, as the birthday boy, I order you to smile."
Ross rolled his eyes. He gave a fake smile with a look that said, ‘Satisfied?' before returning to his much-loved frown.
Jack shook his head in wonder before reaching to his right for my present. I grinned as he opened it to find a heart-shaped cushion, on which were sewn the words ‘Happy Birthday.'
Jack smiled warmly at me. "Thanks Rosa."
"No problem." I kissed him.
"When you're quite finished, are we going to get the cake?" Ross looked bored, as usual, and slightly frigid.
I eased myself away from Jack and jumped up. "I'll get it!"
I passed Ross as I left the room to go to the kitchen.
"I'll make sure she doesn't drop it," Ross called to Jack as he followed me.
I rolled my eyes. "I won't drop it, Ross. Do you even care about it dropping?"
"Of course. Jack deserves a good day."
"I never thought I'd hear you say something like that," I muttered under my breath.
In the kitchen, I took the cake out of the fridge and placed it on the table in the centre of the room, before looking through the drawers to find the candles. Ross, who had been standing in the doorway, came to help me look. Something strange happened as I found the right drawer. Ross reached out to pick the candles up and his hand gently brushed against mine for the briefest moment. In that instant, I felt a wide open space in my mind and a foreign feeling of boredom. The sensation ended quickly and I pushed the memory to the back of my mind while I closed the drawer. Ross frowned slightly as he took the candles to the cake.
I sat down on a chair and took some of the candles to stick into the cake. "Let's do it in the shape of his age," I suggested. "I'll do the ‘1' and you can do the ‘7'."
"Okay," Ross replied unenthusiastically.
I worked quickly and eagerly, not wanting to keep Jack waiting too long whilst hoping to please him with the cake decoration.
I was placing my candles near where Ross was placing his so it wasn't really a surprise when our fingers brushed, but what puzzled me was that Ross maintained that contact, gazing at me searchingly. I felt the strange sense of open space in my mind again and I heard Ross's voice in my thoughts. He was saying, ‘What is this?'
I quickly pulled my hand away from his, alarmed.
"What's what?" I asked: daring him to suggest anything had happened.
He rolled his eyes. "It's no use trying to deny that happened, Rosa. That's the second time. It just seems to be when we brush fingers, though." His brow furrowed. "Minds become merged..." he murmured to himself. "Now, where'd I hear that?"
"I don't particularly care," I said, startling him out of his thoughts. "Let's just try not to make it happen again."
"Aren't you curious?"
"No, I'm not."
"It might be important."
"In what way? It's just a weird thing that happened randomly."
"You don't honestly think that, do you?"
"I don't know what to think. But I'm fine with life how it is, thank you, so we're just going to ignore this..."
I stopped as his face suddenly brightened up. He obviously hadn't been paying attention to me because he was saying, "That's it! That's where I remember it from!" He looked excited and there was a wild glint in his eyes that I'd never seen before.
He ran to the kitchen door. "Lily!" he called.
"What are you doing?" I hissed. "Jack will come in here and we're meant to be taking his cake to him."
Ross turned and rolled his eyes at me. "This is bigger than Jack's birthday. I think I've worked it out!"
"I want it left alone, whatever it is."
Ross suddenly frowned. His forehead creased. "Oh, but if that's true..., that means..."
He looked at me and then towards the general direction of the living room.
"Poor Jack," he murmured.
I couldn't help saying "Wow, this is a breakthrough. Feeling sorry for someone."
"Well, it seems I'm about to do so much more."
"What? So much more ...?"
"Actions involving kindness."
"To whom?" I asked, confused. "And why?"
"To you," Ross murmured and slowly approached me.
I stood up and backed away, not quite sure what was going on. I gulped as I realised I couldn't go any further. I was backed up against the oven.
Ross put his arms on my shoulders. I felt the open space inside my mind again. ‘I think you're my rose-dove.'
I shoved him away. "What?! What are you on about?! What is a rose-dove?!"
At this moment, Lily, Jack's mother, walked in. She winced slightly when she saw me but she wordlessly put a giant tome on the table and left the room.
"Thanks," Ross murmured after her.
He went over to it and flicked through the pages until he'd found what he was looking for.
I walked over to the table too, but I picked up the cake and started to walk determinedly to Jack. I had no desire whatsoever to find out what Ross was reading about in the book. Before I left the kitchen though, Ross's hand was on my arm. ‘Wait.'
I shrugged it off and continued to walk. I heard him come after me.
"Rosa," he said insistently but quietly.
"I have to try something!"
I stopped in the hallway. "What?!"
Ross came around me and faced me. He put the book on the floor, prised the cake from my hands and placed that upon the book. Then, he deliberately took my hand. I tried to pull it out of his grasp but his hold on me was too strong and too tight.
I felt the open space again, but it wasn't really pleasant. I was annoyed at Ross for ruining Jack's birthday.
"Close your eyes," he said.
I suddenly felt his thoughts rush towards my mind, full of cold, ruthless determination. ‘I have to see if it's really true.'
I have to see if you're my rose-dove.
I was suddenly terrified as mental pressure was being applied to walls I hadn't realised I'd put up in my mind. He was trying to get deeper!
"Stop!" I cried, horrified.
Don't try and resist me!
"How can I not? You're trying to read my private thoughts!"
No, I'm not. I just have to see something.
"What?! Why can't you just ask me?"
‘I'm not looking for an answer to a question, Rosa.' All the while, he was applying more and more force on my mental barriers causing more and more terror to flow through my thoughts.
"Get out! Please!"
No. I have to see.
"Stop!" And suddenly, my walls caved in. I collapsed to my knees as shock coursed through me. He was in. I fainted.
I woke up on the sofa. Someone had laid me there. I was staring up at the ceiling. I rolled so that my back was against the back of the sofa to see Jack looking at me with concern in his eyes.
"Rosa? Are you okay, darling?"
Ow, my head. "Um, my head hurts a bit... What happened?"
Jack frowned. "I was hoping you could tell me. Ross brought you in, put you on the sofa and then left the room without saying a word. I think he's gone to his bedroom."
"Ross... He was acting so strangely... He said something about a rose-dove, and then, oh gosh, he was invading my mind!"
I sat up and groaned as a wave of dizziness hit me.
Jack looked alarmed. He grabbed me to steady me. "Careful, Rosa! And what do you mean invading your mind? He can't do that! No witch can! They may be psychic but they're not telepathic!"
"What? What are you talking about? What do witches have to do with this?"
Jack suddenly looked shocked. He bit his lip. "Oops. Your parents told me not to tell you."
"Tell me what?! What are you on about, Jack?!"
Jack hesitantly pulled out a stone that looked like amber. What was he doing with amber?
"Um, look at this, Rosa."
"Oh dear. I can't." He seemed to be talking more to himself than me.
"Can't do what?!" I looked up at him.
There was pain in his eyes. He shook his head. "It, um, doesn't matter. Just forget what I said about witches."
"Why?! What aren't you telling me?!"
Jack tucked the amber away and gazed at me imploringly. "Rosa, don't. Please don't ask me to tell you."
"Like I said, your parents told me not to tell you about it."
"Why would my parents keep something like this from me?! Just tell me, Jack. I'm your girlfriend, for goodness' sake. We're not supposed to have secrets!"
I heard footsteps behind me but I didn't turn.
"Witches are real," Ross said.