I never asked for any of this...
Chapter 11 (continued)
"Wait," Ross said as I reached out to turn on the lights.
I frowned. "Why? It's dark."
"I ... wanted to show you something."
Ross sat down in a garden chair that had been moved inside because of the rain and snow and I sat down on another.
Suddenly, above us, the moon broke out from behind a purplish cloud and illuminated us as it shone through the glass roof.
I gasped as Ross's features changed. His blonde hair became the pale colour of ash and his eyes became lighter but colder. His skin became slightly paler and his cheekbones and jawbone became sharper, more pronounced, underneath it. He seemed to emanate a faint glow, but that could have been just the natural effect of the moonlight. He looked slightly older and even slightly sage.
"I ... wanted to talk about your... suspicions," Ross said hesitantly.
He was attractive, I thought to myself. I was shocked at that stray thought. I had never liked Ross in that way and definitely shouldn't begin to while I was in a relationship with his best friend. The ache in my chest was a pang of longing that seemed stronger now that I was alone with Ross. How queer...
"What suspicions?" I asked, trying not to sound cold. It was only my fault if I had thoughts I shouldn't. I had to take responsibility for my feelings.
"You've ... always thought of me as something of a mystery..."
"How did you know?" I whispered, slightly scared by his knowledge of my deeper thoughts.
"I'm going to come to that. Don't rush me."
"And... you've always reckoned my coldness was related to that mystery."
I found myself standing and walking over to turn on the lights. I wanted to feel less scared, as there was probably nothing rational to be scared about.
I walked over to sit down again.
"You were right," Ross continued.
"You know my parents abandoned me. I'm going to tell you why."
"You're telling me your life story?" I asked. "You don't need to, you know. If it's your private affairs, I don't mind not knowing."
"No, it's okay. I'd like to tell you. It's good to tell someone."
"Um, thank you for choosing me, but ... we haven't really been the best of friends. I think... I think you should tell Jack."
"Jack knows. I ... I need to tell you as well, and I know you hate me, but I know what I'm doing."
"I wanted to talk to you about that actually. I think it's silly for us to hate each other. There's enough hate in the world without petty teasing going on between people who haven't seen the destruction which arises from real, dangerous hate."
"Wow," Ross murmured. "You've really grown up."
"I'd like to call a truce." I held out my hand. "No more fighting."
Ross glanced warily at my hand. He looked back up at my face. "Can I shake your hand later, Rosa? It's not that I don't want a truce, it's just that something will happen, and you need to understand more before that occurs."
"Oh, um, sure." I withdrew my hand, feeling slightly awkward.
Ross smiled appreciatively. "Thanks. So... My parents... They abandoned me because they thought I was a freak."
"Oh no... Why?"
"Well, I look scary in the moonlight and don't take the normal length of time to look my age, to put it simply. You noticed the latter when I began to look the same age as Jack when I should be older, clever girl. But even the age I say I am is a lie because no one would believe the truth. If I tell you, will you try to believe me?"
I hesitated before answering "Yes. If you want me to understand, then I'll try."
"Okay. Rosa, ... I'm 22."
Whoa! I hadn't expected that one. I tried to maintain a calm expression as I said "Okay. Could you tell me why you look my age?"
Ross nodded. "It's ... going to sound crazy and I know you don't believe in the supernatural..."
"I think I'll believe anything now," I interrupted.
"Okay then. I'm a witch."
"And what are real witches like?" I asked, as my world started to fall apart around me.
"You know already. The only question is would you like to remember?"
"What? What do you mean?"
"Do you remember the second day after Jack's birthday last April?"
I nodded. The memories had not come back. They had remained fuzzy while even the clear ones became faded.
"Do you remember that funny dream you had?"
I frowned as I tried to remember. "I think it was about waking up from a trance."
"Rosa, I don't know how to tell you this, but these past few months have been a lie. You weren't dreaming."
"What?! No!" I deflated as the revelation sunk in. I'd been hypnotised and now I'd lived my life without some vital piece of information. "But... that means Jack ... He lied to me... And he was so calm about it!"
"He had to be. Would you like to know why he did it? It puts me in a horrendous light, but maybe then you won't want to remember and you can continue living your life in blissful unawareness."
"Um, yes please," I replied, but deep down feeling uncertain and worried.
"You asked to forget something about me... because I made you."
"You made me?"
"Yeah... I was stupid and cruel and I ... forced you."
"I don't think you want to know."
I had a feeling I probably didn't.
"I did it because I wasn't ready for the way our lives had taken a turn."
"Pardon?" I asked politely, though fearing the stranger before me and everything he had to say.
"We found out... that we were something called a rose-dove and a kingfisher. It's a witch-related thing and it means that we were destined to love each other."
"But ... that's crazy," I spluttered. "I don't believe in Fate."
"Neither did I; until Jack's birthday." Ross smiled wryly. "But there you go. Do you want to remember the rest? All the cruel things I did to you? All the pain as you chose me over Jack?"
"I did what?"
"I didn't quite believe it myself."
"You can't be serious! Why would I choose you over Jack?! I didn't like you until I decided to be friends with you today!"
"I can't tell you because I don't understand either. You said you loved me too."
"I did no such thing!"
"I'm afraid you did. And you were thinking straight and acting completely of your own free will when you took Jack into the store room of Mystic Wonders and told him I was your kingfisher."
I buried my head in my hands. "Why?!"
"Do you want to remember?"
I lifted my head and resolutely said, "Yes. So I can rectify my mistake and do the right thing."
Ross nodded. "Let's go get Jack."
Ten minutes later, we were up in my room: the three of us crowded rather awkwardly on my bed.
"So you're sure you want this?" Jack asked.
I nodded. "There's one thing I don't get though. Why today?" I turned to Ross. "Why did you decide to tell me today?"
"I'd thought about it for a while and knew that today you'd be more reasonable as it was your birthday and wouldn't want to ruin your own day by throwing stuff at me or anything."
I nodded. "I also felt more mature today, so you chose well."
"Rosa, darling," Jack murmured. "I'd like to apologise for lying to you. I promise that's the only time I lied, except when I didn't tell you I took your diary."
"You took my diary? Why?!"
"You would've read it and gotten confused. I promise I didn't read it though."
"Anything else you'd like to tell me?"
"You'll remember when you wake up," Ross said.
"Ross, could you go and find some scented candles? And ask if Mr or Mrs Foxtail have a pendulum. It may also be an idea to tell them what we're doing with their daughter."
Ross nodded. "But I've got a pendulum on me, so we can use that."
He disappeared out of the room and went downstairs.
"Just think," I said to Jack. "I'll be able to do the right thing when I wake up."
Jack looked wistful. "Don't make promises, Rosa."
"Why not? Do you think I won't keep them?"
"I'm quite sure you won't. You loved Ross an awful lot before all this."
"But he was so cruel to me. Maybe things will change."
Jack's next comment was quite random, I thought. It sounded as if he were reciting a poem. "The precious rose-dove, favoured by foxglove, is joined with her kingfisher in undeniable love."
"Undeniable love. You couldn't deny you loved him unless you were lying to yourself." Jack sighed.
"Right, let's get you ready for this. Lie on your front with your head at the foot of your bed so I can kneel in front of you."
Jack got up and I lay down. He stroked my hair as I propped myself up onto my elbows.
"Are you okay with this?" he asked.
"I suppose. It's the only way I'll remember, isn't it? Anyway, you've hypnotised me before, so it should be just the same."
"Do you want Ross to do it?"
"What? No! Were you not listening to what I just said? You did it before, so it should be the same. And anyway, I don't trust Ross enough."
Jack nodded. "It's just that I don't feel comfortable with doing this sort of thing."
"Well, I'm sorry, but I won't have anyone else do it but you."
"All right then."
The scent of lavender filled my nostrils as I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. Jack was knelt up in front of me and he was frowning slightly as he held the pendulum so that the disc was at my eye level.
He began to swing it. As it had before, it glinted in the light, catching and holding my gaze.
"Clear your thoughts so that your focus is only upon the pendulum," Jack murmured in a wonderfully compelling voice. "Go down, down into a relaxed state..."