Jack gave me a hug. "I shouldn't have said anything."
"No, it was the right thing to do. We couldn't have me holding you fully responsible."
My voice was slightly muffled because I'd buried my head in Jack's shoulder but I could still hear the small tremors in it. I tried to stop myself from crying because I didn't want to seem self-pitying.
Jack rubbed my shoulder. "I love you," he whispered in my ear.
"Rosie!" I was startled by Ross's sudden interruption.
I sat up and glanced at him. "Is something wrong, Ross?"
He looked appalled. "You're hugging Jack! Jack doesn't need you!"
He wants my full, undivided attention, I realised.
"Um, yeah, of course. Sorry." I rubbed Ross's arm. "I love you, Ross."
Ross seemed satisfied. "That's good."
"Um, do you want to wait downstairs while I pack my stuff then?"
Ross beamed. "You're coming?"
"It appears so," I muttered under my breath. Jack smiled faintly. I nodded.
"Brilliant. I'll go and tell Mr and Mrs Foster." Ross pushed himself into a sitting position and stood up.
Jack followed suit. "It's Foxtail, Ross. Mr and Mrs Foxtail."
Ross shrugged as he walked out the room.
Jack winked at me before he left. "I'll be the best big brother in the world."
I grinned. "You were mine before we went out."
Jack smiled. "I still am, silly."
He turned and left.
I sighed as I set to the task of packing my clothes, toiletries and school books. I packed up my laptop and sleeping bag and carried the whole lot downstairs.
In the living room, my parents were frowning slightly.
"Hi," I said. "Um, has Jack explained?"
"You'll keep on with your work, won't you?" my dad asked.
"Oh, of course," I said.
"A piece of advice, honey," my mum said. "Don't ... be too close with Ross. Treat him like you're babysitting him."
I frowned slightly. "Why?"
My mum looked at Jack.
‘It'll be slightly uncomfortable if you kiss him or anything like that,' came Jack's mental voice in my mind. ‘You can hug him, of course, but really he's like a child and you're still a 17 year old.'
"Oh, thanks, Mum," I said, smiling.
"And don't give him everything he wants," Dad said. "You're entitled to say no if he's too demanding."
"I feel like a parent," I said.
Wide grins broke out on everyone's faces. I think Ross was happy that I wasn't leaving him to go home on his own, rather than smiling from the joke, though.
Ross lay on his front, his head at the foot of the bed.
I gazed up into cerulean eyes from my position on top of my sleeping bag on the floor. I sighed at the elated expression on Ross's face.
"So what are we going to do, Rosie? Drink hot chocolate and make brownies?"
"Um, maybe tomorrow, Ross; I'm a bit tired tonight."
Ross's face fell slightly. "Oh."
"Are we just going to bed then?"
I nodded. "It's not that I don't want to do things with you, it's just I haven't got enough energy at the moment."
"That's a shame."
Seeing his disappointed face evoked motherly feelings of tenderness from me. I reached out to touch his face... and instantly regretted it.
There were absolutely no walls. Ross openly conveyed his defencelessness and simple views on life. Everything was from a child's perspective.
‘Rosie won't play. Rosie's never hanged out with me,' came Ross's sad mental voice across the vastness. His sorrow seemed to totally fill the expanse of the psychic link.
I saw memories of Jack and me in reception in the playground, always finding something new to do. Ross was always standing back, having never been invited to join in.
Jack's 5th birthday party. Ross had watched while I gave Jack a hug and waited for his own but I'd totally ignored him.
My own 5th birthday party. Tugging Jack over to look at my presents while Ross was left to sit with the adults and be bored.
I withdrew my hand with a tear in my eye. Had I contributed to Ross's coldness?
I saw immense sadness in the eyes before me. I tried to tell myself that I'd only been 4, but it was hard not to feel guilty.
"I love you," I said, choking back a sob. "And I'm sorry I haven't always been there for you, but I promise that's going to change."
Ross looked slightly cheered. "Thanks Rosie."
I stood up and gave him a hug. I tried to ignore his thoughts so I wasn't taking advantage of his childlike innocence or being intrusive. Really it was wrong to touch him at all because of the way he didn't hide any part of himself from you when he surely would if he were thinking straight.
‘You're not going to hug me?!'
Oops. I'd forgotten the psychic link was a two-way thing. I let go of Ross, looked down into those sad, surprised eyes and knew I'd either have to lie or keep taking advantage of him.
I shook my head. "Of course I'll hug you again," I lied, feeling awful. It wasn't right to lie to a child, much less to one who was completely dependent on you.
Ross looked relieved. "Phew. It would have been scary if you'd said no."
I wandered back over to my sleeping bag. I sat down and felt lost and, quite frankly, distraught. It was nice to see a friendly face when Jack walked in.
‘I came to undo the spell,' he thought to me.
‘Do you have to?' I asked with my thoughts.
Jack looked surprised. ‘You want us to remain mentally linked?'
I nodded. ‘It might be useful.'
Jack frowned. ‘I don't know, Rosa... It's a bit too much like openly admitting our love for each other for my liking. And the psychic link is really there so that the kingfisher and rose-dove can open up to each other. I don't think it's a good idea to reproduce the same effect with someone else. Sorry.'
The part of my heart which was still in love with Jack was sighing, having missed out on a chance to reawaken the relationship that still existed in dreams. It didn't usually make its intentions so clear so I was glad when it tucked itself back away.
Jack pulled out his amber and gave me a long and wistful glance. The longing culminated in the briefest yet most devastating caress of my cheek.
I was almost in tears when Jack's finger broke contact with my skin.
"Leave our minds alone to think by stopping this psychic link," Jack murmured before leaving wordlessly.
I wondered why Ross hadn't said anything before I noticed he was asleep.
I silently changed and slid down into the cosiness of my sleeping bag.
I fell asleep, only to toss and turn as Ross's memories and Jack's look of sadness haunted me in my dreams.