"So, what do you think about me?"
We were sitting in a small restaurant near a window. We'd ordered our food and were just waiting for it to be cooked. I was surprised by Ross's question.
"Don't you know? I thought you were psychic?"
"I don't like probing minds. It makes me feel invasive."
I raised an eyebrow. "This from the guy who saw my soul yesterday."
"That was necessary. I didn't enjoy it. On the other hand, feeling your fear was kind of thrilling."
"Oh great (!) My kingfisher likes it when I'm scared."
"I have to like some parts of you. Just like you have to like some parts of me. Which brings us back to the question ‘What do you think about me?'"
"Well, I liked you yesterday. When you were emotional and lovely."
Ross groaned. "I told you that was a crazy day. I am in no way usually like that. That's not even my true self."
"Well, it must be some part of you if you displayed it."
"Yes, but I have no idea which."
"You asked me what I thought about you," I pointed out.
"I did. But I thought rose-doves accepted their kingfishers and understood, even if they were cold and heartless."
"Well there wouldn't be much point in them being destined to be together if one of them can't love."
"It's not that I can't love, it's just that I don't know how."
"You told me you loved me today."
"I don't know if it is love, though. I just wanted to hang out with you more."
I groaned. "And you think that's love?! Oh, why did I dump Jack?!"
"Why did you?"
"Because I, being the silly person I am, thought I was going to see more of yesterday's you."
"You knew I'd never had a day like that before."
"But it changed everything! My opinion of you, my feelings towards you. We kissed for goodness' sake."
Ross shrugged. "I'm sorry."
"Can't you be that person again? Just for like ... two seconds. Or, maybe... Maybe if you let that part of you dominate you for a little while, you could see if it was preferable to be emotional!" I suggested excitedly.
"Rosa... I don't like that part of me."
"But it could be so good for you to let yourself go!"
"Rosa, please don't..."
"It's a part of you that I love."
"So you should be trying to love the other parts of me that you are much more likely to see."
"Please, can't we just try? Even just for one minute. If you hate it, then we never have to do it again. But if you never try, you'll never know. You might end up changing for the better."
Ross sighed in resignation. "Okay, but if it goes badly, we're never ever doing it again. And we're definitely not doing it anywhere near the public eye."
"Thank you," I said, leaning forward and kissing him.
He was unresponsive and looked moody while we ate our meal.
At Jack's house, we went up into Ross's room and sat on the bed. Ross looked concerned for his own welfare.
"So, um, what do I do?" I asked.
Ross took a deep breath. "You're going to have to push down the mental barriers I've put up around the part of me you saw yesterday. That will take some effort but if you really want to do this, you have to be persistent. I'll try not to resist you, but it will sort of be a self-betrayal if I help you and, in any case, I don't think I could bring myself to do it."
"Ross," I said gently, "are you sure this isn't your true self that you're hiding from me?"
Ross nodded. "Yes. It's just something inside. I'm certain it's not the real me."
"Okay. How do I even get into your mind?"
Ross explained how I had to push my thoughts out into his mind while we were telepathically connected.
When we were ready, I took Ross's hand and squeezed it gently before closing my eyes.
I pushed my thoughts out across the wide space that had opened up in my mind. I could hear Ross's thoughts as I did so.
She'd better be careful. Oh, this is so scary. What if she won't let me be my real self again?
‘Sh,' I thought soothingly. ‘Of course I'll let you be you again. I'm your rose-dove.'
He didn't respond. His thoughts had blanked from terror. I could feel waves of it rolling through his mind. I tried to send some waves of happiness but they were thrown back at me with anger and fear behind them.
In Ross's mind, I could see a small walled area off to the side. I approached it with my thoughts and gently tried to push it down.
As the wall sank slightly, a wave of pure, unadulterated fear shot through Ross's mind. The shock at feeling this was almost painful. Surprise exploded in my mind.
‘Ross, that's making this difficult,' I thought, physically clenching my teeth as more waves of fear impacted on me while I was trying to ease the wall down without hurting him.
‘T-try controlling my mind...' He sounded terrified, like a small child in a dark forest all alone.
‘What?! I can't do that. You're my kingfisher!'
I-I'd be more subdued...
‘No, Ross! I can't. I don't even know how.'
Just f-flatten your thoughts out like a blanket over mine and imagine them spreading to every corner until there's not a thought that isn't underneath.
‘Ross, I can't do that to you...'
Well then, you'll keep getting this reaction from me. It's taking all of my conscious effort to allow you to do this much to me.
‘Okay. I'm really, really sorry.'
I took a deep, calming breath as I imagined my thoughts flattening and thinning out like dough being rolled out. I then imagined this blanket-like layer of consciousness spreading out like fog above all of Ross's thoughts. I felt like a horrible monster for doing this, especially as I felt Ross's hand relax in mine and his thoughts and feelings turn malleable and putty-like. I hated the feeling of him, his essence, being subdued and suppressed. I felt like a slave-owner holding a whip. It was the most unpleasant thing I'd ever felt in my life.
The fear being sent out as I continued to push the wall down was only an echo of what it had been. Ross couldn't really feel terror or pain in this state. I tried to remind myself that this was better than him being frightened as the feeble waves of panic failed to have an effect on me. It was almost more difficult to do it like this, knowing that I'd overpowered my kingfisher's will and forced him into submission.
I thought I might as well use this power I had over him to make him feel slightly more comfortable. ‘Calm down, Ross,' I thought to him.
I felt the response as every part of Ross's mind murmured ‘Calm down'. It was terrifying as unnatural calm seeped through him underneath my thoughts and I could feel his will bent to mine. Okay, I wasn't doing that again. I realised I was shaking as the wall finally came down completely. The stones melted and floated away. I felt what had been inside the wall rush out. It was still under my control though. I felt sick as the wonderful warm feelings of tenderness and kindness flowed out to be crushed down to submissive thoughts. I was startled as I felt a sort of total helplessness overcome Ross's thoughts. Like the other new emotions, it had been trapped behind the wall. I now saw what he meant by feeling vulnerable.
It was all over now. I tried to gather my thoughts into their usual mass but I found I was too weak from the horror at what I had done to the one I had claimed to love. I wanted to curl into a ball at the bottom of a deep dark hole somewhere and consequently, the shaking tremors that were my consciousness could not pull themselves together.
I opened my eyes in an attempt to pull the thoughts back into my mind, but it didn't work. I felt myself gaze unseeingly as my thoughts remained in Ross's mind, paralysed by fear.
Some part of me registered that Ross's face was blank and expressionless and he looked as if he was awaiting a command. Oh. I was going to have to ask him for help... while his will was overpowered by mine.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes to timidly ask, ‘H-how do I go back?'
The dull monotone in which the voice replied chilled me to the core. I felt physically cold as it said, in Ross's mental voice, ‘Pull your thoughts together.'
I decided to imagine a cage around the mist that was spread over Ross's thoughts. I imagined that gradually coming in towards my centre of conscious thought. White, metal wire pushed my thoughts together and to my relief, I found the fog retreating, till it was no longer spread over Ross's thoughts. I felt his thoughts and feelings reawakening and almost cried at his terror and vulnerability. I was glad to be pushed back into my own mind by a wave of rejection.
I opened my eyes again and burst into tears. I let go of Ross's hand, no longer wanting to sense the after-effects of what I had put him through.
I felt arms come around me but I pushed them away. "I can't feel your thoughts right now, Ross," I cried. "I just can't. I'm so sorry for what I did."
I brushed my tears away and looked straight into cerulean eyes which were filled with concern. "I want you to do that to me, okay?"
"But... why Rosa?" He sounded confused and anxious.
"Because I feel like such a monster now and what you had to endure was unendurable. As your rose-dove, I want to be able to completely empathise with you."
"Oh, Rosa, darling, you don't have to do that."
"Yes, I do. Please don't argue with me, Ross. I feel like such a horrible person."
"Oh, no, that's not true."
The arms came around me again and didn't allow me to push them away. I cried into his shoulder, traumatised by what I'd done and what I'd felt.
I felt him kiss my shoulder. "Rosa, don't be upset. I can't live if you're upset. My heart needs your love and warmth and happiness to function."
I put my arms around him and said "I'm so, so sorry."
"I know. Just cheer up darling. For me. Will you cheer up for me?"
I nodded. I pushed myself away from him slightly so I could reposition myself to kiss him. I leant in and we kissed. It was a glorious moment. Ross's warmth and love rushed out to fill my mind and force away those awful memories and I allowed myself to be immersed in him, to be swept up by this current of emotion. I felt Ross's awe and wonder at the fact we were kissing. Kissing as an official couple.
‘We didn't even need to ask each other out,' he thought to me joyously.
I felt his dependency on my health, security and happiness. I felt the longing for us to somehow become more immersed in ourselves. I felt his overpowering satisfaction at being in my arms, being loved by me, cared for by me and wanted by me.
I thought about my feelings towards him, though they weren't half as strong as his. What struck a chord in me was his elation at finally having found someone who loved him. I realised, with a jolt, what a loveless life he must have suffered up until this point. His parents had abandoned him, he was an only child. Jack may be his best friend, but he wasn't a brother. Jack's parents had taken him under their wing and treated them as their own, but there wasn't really love there, just the desire to be there for him. Ross had needed so much more than for someone to be there for him. I felt happy that I could fill this gap in him.
When we broke away, Ross smiled. I gave him half a smile in return.
"I suppose we'd better put these walls up again," I sighed. "I did promise and it is really unfair if you don't think I love all of you."
Ross nodded. "Yeah."
I closed my eyes, held Ross's hand and swept up all the emotions Ross had let out into a mass of thought and feeling and imagined a wall rising up between them and the rest of Ross's mind. At a certain point, Ross took over and made the walls really high before strengthening them with resolve.
I let go of his hand and lay down, feeling exhausted, though strangely buzzing with energy. I suppose that must have been the effect of Ross's love.
A hand brushed against mine. ‘So you want me to do that to you?' asked a cold voice.