When I entered, Jack sat up from where he'd been lying on his bed. He looked surprised to see me.
‘Say you've changed your mind.'
"I've changed my mind," I said, in the dull monotone with which Ross had answered me while I'd controlled his mind.
"About what? Are you okay? You look hypnotised or something."
‘Say you're fine and then tell him you want to forget me.'
"I'm fine. I want to forget Ross."
Jack looked confused. "But you said you didn't want to."
‘Tell him again.' Ross's mental voice was insistent. ‘You've changed your mind.'
"I've changed my mind."
"Rosa, has he done something to you?"
‘I knew something like this was going to happen. Try and sound... insistent yet sure as you say "There's nothing wrong with me".'
I heard some of the feeling return to my voice as I repeated, "There's nothing wrong with me."
Jack looked dubious. He stood up and walked slowly towards me. He gazed searchingly into my eyes. "Are you sure?"
"Rosa, do you mind if I read your mind a second?"
‘Tell him yes. Say that would be invasive of him. Try to sound as if you mean it.'
"Yes, actually," I replied. "It would be invasive of you to do so." There was unmistakeable conviction in my tone.
"Oh. Maybe you are okay, after all. Sorry, darl- sorry, I haven't got used to the fact we're not together anymore - sorry."
‘Give him a hug. Tell him you still love him. Sound as if you still love him.'
I put my arms around Jack. "I still love you," I murmured close to his ear. He hugged me back, fiercely protective as he had been in the store today.
"Oh, Rosa, but you're Ross's."
‘Remind him that he said it would be so easy for him to make you forget me. Maintain the emotion in your voice.'
"You told me it would be so easy for you to make me forget Ross."
"Oh, but that was wrong of me."
‘Say "No it wasn't".'
"No, it wasn't."
Jack let go of me. He pushed me away slightly so he could gaze into my eyes. "And you're sure that's what you want?"
The pressure over my thoughts eased up again as Jack turned to get the amber from on his bed. I felt Ross's fatigue from totally subduing me.
‘No,' the feeble part of me which was able to think again protested. ‘No! I love you, Ross. Don't do this to me.'
‘Stay quiet.' There was something else in his tone which added to the effect of my will being overridden. It was fierce anger and an authoritativeness that meant there would be trouble if I didn't obey him.
I tried a different approach. ‘Jack!' I thought: weakly yet desperately. ‘Jack, listen to my thoughts!'
‘Do you never give up? I let you think because it's pointless to resist me.'
Once again, Ross completely took over my mind.
Jack had turned to me. "Rosa? Did you just try to send me your thoughts?"
"No," I replied.
"Okay," he said, but was frowning slightly. He was holding his amber out, pointing it at me. "What did you want to forget? Just that you were Ross's rose-dove?"
‘Say "Yes and it might be good for me to forget any moment I've spent alone with him since after I fainted yesterday.'
I repeated what Ross said.
Jack's frown deepened. "That specific, eh? Rosa, I might ...," he hesitated. "I might have to hypnotise you..."
‘Look grim but nod and say "Okay".'
I did as Ross told me to.
Jack sat down on his bed. "I don't know if I could do that to you," he murmured, looking at the floor. He glanced up at me. "You'd be ... totally under my control. If I made one tiny slip up..."
Upon Ross's next mental command, I sat down next to Jack, stroked his shoulder and told him that I trusted him.
"You won't slip up," I repeated after Ross. "You care about me."
It's exactly what I would've said if I had wanted this. There was no doubt that Jack totally believed I was doing this out of my own free will.
Jack sighed. "Okay." He hugged me before standing up. "Stay here while I go and ask Ross for his pendulum. It's lucky he has one."
As soon as Jack had left the room, Ross let my thoughts go, only to suddenly take over my thoughts again with a powerful command of ‘Sleep!' All his thoughts seemed to be behind this command, so it was too strong for me to have even a hope of resisting him. I was forced into unconsciousness as the thick fog blanketed over my consciousness, a tremendous pressure that literally pushed me under.
I was woken up by Jack's gentle caress on my hair. He wore a loving look that had been more commonplace on his face during our relationship.
‘How are you still in my mind?' I thought as I felt Ross's presence in my mind, ready to take over if I decided to protest again. I was filled with a sort of dull feeling of being resigned to my fate.
He sounded as if he were concentrating immensely on something as he replied, ‘There's a sort of invisible rope tying our minds together. It's so deep that it's part of our subconscious, but I found the end in your mind while you were asleep. I held onto that even while you were waking up.'
I was horrified that he'd been in my mind while I was asleep and seen the deepest parts of my mind that even I didn't have access to, but Jack was looking worried and I didn't think I could stand being under Ross's power again.
"Are you okay, Rosa? You look pale and scared."
"Oh, I'm fine," I said, forcing myself to smile.
"So, I'm going to put you in a trance and ma- help [he seemed repulsed by the idea of controlling me and forcing me to do things] you forget what you wanted to, and then I'll wake you up and everything should work. Now, I can't guarantee this will work. I've never hypnotised someone before, and I think you'll need to be in a fairly deep trance for me to ... influence your memories. If this doesn't work, I absolutely refuse to try again, okay?"
I nodded. I smiled sadly to myself at his want to protect me and look after me. Maybe this would be a good thing. All I'd ever get from Ross was coldness.
‘Maybe I'll get Jack to make me forget, too,' Ross mused.
"Okay," Jack said, sounding as if he were steeling himself. "If you just get comfy and relax, you'll go into a trance more readily. You won't feel it so much then."
I felt my brow furrow. "Feel it?"
Jack nodded. "I've heard that the second before you go into the trance, you feel your will surrender to the hypnotist. If you relax, it'll just be like going to sleep."
"Oh, okay, then. Um, can I lie down?"
Jack smiled. "Sure. Do you want me to light a scented candle or anything?"
"Um, do you have one that smells of lavender?"
Jack nodded. "Yeah. I'll go and get that. It's downstairs so try and get as comfortable as possible while I'm fetching it. The main thing is not to worry about what we're about to do. You sleep dreamlessly all the time. This will be just like all those times you went to sleep and woke up feeling as if no time had elapsed."
I smiled. "You're making me feel sleepy already, Jack," I murmured, lying down on his soft duvet. It helped that the atmosphere of Jack's bedroom was the warm, familiar one in which we'd kissed and shared beautiful moments of intimacy.
Jack smiled back and stroked my shoulder before leaving the room. I closed my eyes and let myself fall asleep again as exhaustion overwhelmed me.
I was woken up by someone gently patting my shoulder. I opened my eyes to see cerulean eyes with inconceivably colossal amounts of sadness in them.
"Ross?" I asked sleepily. "Thought you wanted this."
Ross nodded. "Doesn't mean I won't miss you though."
I recognised the emotion in his voice. "Crazy day again?"
"Yeah. Last one for a while though, eh?"
I nodded. "Maybe it's not healthy to be startled by your rose-dove so much."
"Can I ... can I kiss you?"
"You need to ask?"
"Well, I didn't want to make the next few moments harder for you."
"You'll make them easier. I'll be more comfortable."
"But sadder" he pointed out.
I shrugged. "Nothing could be worse than thinking your kingfisher hates you."
"I don't hate you, Rosa; I just can't deal with strong emotions yet."
"Well, you won't have to, will you? You're taking the easy way out of this situation. I can promise you, though, that we will return to these circumstances and running away again will just be useless."
Ross sighed. "I know."
"Did you want to kiss me?" I asked stonily.
I saw a flash of pain in his eyes at the knowledge I wanted him to get this over and done with. He nodded, looking even sadder.
At the touch of his lips against mine, though, I forgot my coldness. My reluctance disappeared as the wall of coldness I had put up around my heart literally caved in, the way my will had done; except that this sensation was not unpleasant. I felt my resistance change to become a resistance against him breaking away rather than against feeling this way towards him. I would have collapsed in towards him if I hadn't been lying down. All I could think now was ‘Please don't let him let go. I love him. I love him.'
I could feel him desperately trying not to give in to the moment as the wide space in my mind told me we were telepathically connected again.
‘It's impossible not to surrender, Ross,' I thought to him.
He sounded helpless as he thought, ‘I'm not giving in.'
‘Okay,' I thought, doubting he could hold on to his desire to hold out for too much longer. ‘Your choice.'
I felt waves of his love for me trying to escape the wall he'd put up, but he held fast.
He wasn't holding back with the kissing though. Although all his thoughts were concentrated on staying slightly detached, he was kissing me as if his life depended upon it. Even if he was preventing the emotion in his mind from reaching me, the emotion from the physical action of sharing that sweet something which you uniquely did with your lover and encouraged the bond that grew between you was pouring forth straight into my heart. The love and the longing to never let go took the direct route to the deepest, most tender part of it. I could feel it changing me: pressing the buttons which would make me give it up to him, and I did give it to him. I surrendered my heart completely and utterly to Ross.
Ross seemed to despair when he realised he'd unwittingly conquered my heart. I felt him trying to give it back to me with his mind, trying to push the love that was sliding towards him back to where he thought it belonged; but in reality, it was going where it belonged and so despaired at being pushed away.
‘You can't give it back!' I thought to him. ‘Not even I can stop it giving itself to you.'
‘Rosa, it's going to break if I take it!'
‘It's going to break if you don't take it. I'll feel the devastation of unrequited love!'
Ross's tactics changed so fast I barely detected the change in his thoughts when he began to shout ‘Jack!'
He pushed away from me, while looking as if he was trying to hold on. I hadn't noticed him sitting down, pulling me up and holding me to him.
"Stop!" I yelled. "Don't call him!"
Ross looked as if he were going to break his own heart as he took my hand and said, "I'm sorry, Rosa."
"No!" I felt his thoughts rush into my mind and flatten out over mine. He maintained the control over me as he let go of my hand.
"Jack, where are you, damn it? Rosa's going to be depressed if you look like you don't want to be together again!"
Jack appeared in the doorway. He looked extremely confused. He was holding a box of candles.
"What are you doing here, Ross? Get out or you'll make this harder for her."
Ross stood up and began to walk out, looking relieved.
"Oh, make sure you don't use too many candles or you'll knock her out," he stopped to call as he reached the doorway.
"I know that. Now leave us alone. She'll hate you again when this is over."
I felt tears on my face but there was no emotion in my mind. Even the little part of me that would have been sobbing quietly if not for Ross was under his control.
Jack looked sympathetic. I felt the mental pressure ease slightly and then go away completely. Before it was gone though, I felt part of Ross's mind give a strangled sob.
I said nothing as I lay down once more. My previous coldness returned, and I waited patiently while Jack put the candles on the floor, knelt down, set them out on the floor nearest my nose and lit them.
The lavender scent wafted up to me and soothed me, chasing away my anger. Even the iciness disappeared as Jack smiled at me to assure me that everything was going to be okay. I almost felt like I didn't need Ross, staring into those warm brown eyes which had so enchanted me before this whole set of disastrous events had begun.
"Would you like to remember witches?" Jack asked.
"Um, no thank you."
To my amusement, he pulled out a notepad on which he had written something. He added to what he had written and grinned at me. He handed it to me, saying, "Do you want to check that's all okay?"
It was a list of suggestions. There was the suggestion to forget every moment I'd spent alone with Ross after I'd fainted yesterday and to forget all of today, to believe we were still going out and finally, to forget all about witches and magic and return to the simple outlook I'd had on life before Jack's birthday.
"Could you make me ignore Ross for about a month?" I asked, quite seriously.
Jack grimaced. "Ignoring is something different in hypnosis. It means you'd never notice him even if he was shouting at you."
"Ah, maybe not then."
Jack smiled. "Shall we start, then?"
I nodded, smiling back.