"Rosa? Rosa? Answer me! Are you okay? Oh darling, what did he do?"
I woke up to find worried brown eyes gazing into mine.
"Oh phew! You're awake. I thought ... I thought..." He couldn't say it aloud but I sensed from his thoughts that he thought he wouldn't see me again.
"I... I'm fine," I said, wincing slightly as sudden pain shot through my mind.
"Oh, no, you're not though. I swear I am going to kill Ross for doing this."
"Where is he?"
"I sent him to his room to think about what he's done."
"Oh Jack... I was so scared. I thought he was going to succeed."
"In what? What was he trying to do?"
"Make me cold," I whispered.
Jack cringed. "Oh you poor thing."
"He got through some of the defences in my mind. I don't know what effect that'll have on me."
"I'll sort it out. Close your eyes for me."
I closed them, slightly unwilling to stop looking into those warm brown eyes so full of concern and care for me but feeling safe while Jack was around.
A gentle caress along my cheek before my hand was taken up by Jack's and suddenly I was in bliss. Jack's warmth flowed into my mind, searching out those negative emotions and chasing them away. I could feel his love for me, stroking my thoughts with such tender affection and tickling me fondly.
‘I may need to go a bit deeper if he got through some defences, Rosa.'
‘Go,' I thought, laughing in my mind as the glorious warmth seeped through me and over me like water in a bath.
I imagined walls caving in.
I felt Jack become suddenly startled, but amused at the same time so that the positive emotions were maintained.
‘Rosa, not that many!'
‘Well, I can't bring those walls back up. In fact, I'm sorry I needed to push them down. I would have thought that they'd fall naturally.'
‘Oh Rosa, that's really ... wonderful. You're making me feel so special.'
‘Well, you are.'
Jack's feelings of affection rolled through me, spreading love everywhere. I wanted to complete the scene.
‘Are your eyes open?'
‘Hm? No. I'm concentrating.'
I tried to grasp some of Jack's warmth. If I imagined a hand and Jack's warmth as a sort of golden orb, I found I could hold it.
‘What are you doing?' Jack chuckled.
‘Open your eyes.'
‘Okay.' Jack sounded puzzled, but I knew he had done so because next moment I saw pictures of myself with a dreamy smile on my face. I sort of used what he was seeing to move myself into a position where I could kiss him.
‘You can close them again.'
His vision faded and I leant forwards slightly and kissed him.
‘... I don't know. Why would I object?'
‘Why would you?' I asked, kissing him and delighting in the love that flowed around the wide plains of our minds.
‘I think... there's some reason why we shouldn't do this.'
‘Really? Something so good could be wrong?'
‘Yeah, sounds stupid, doesn't it?'‘
I felt light and carefree, like a child really. I wasn't ready for Jack's memory of the real world.
‘Rosa, I've remembered.'
‘Whose girlfriend you are.'
I sighed in my mind. But, then, I realised that it didn't matter if Jack remembered. I didn't want to go back to reality yet.
I sent powerful waves of love through Jack's mind.
‘Rosa, that's really distracting,' he thought, struggling to put together a sentence.
‘That's kind of the point, Jack.'
‘Oh, Rosa. I'm sorry. We can't.'
‘Can't what? What does can't mean again?'
‘... Love...I love her so much.'
But Jack wasn't paying attention to me. It was obvious I'd made him forget himself.
‘Good,' I thought to myself, allowing the current of the ocean of Jack's thoughts to carry my own thoughts away. I'd never imagined such pleasure could exist. I felt fingers twining in my hair and might have wondered how Jack was able to do anything outside of our bubble if I hadn't been so absorbed in the moment.
We finally stopped when we heard footsteps.
Jack gently pushed me away. I opened my eyes to find him smiling at me. His eyes continued the effect of chasing away my thoughts and melting my heart. It was like we were one again...
I sighed as I came back to reality.
"I wish that was the real world," I said.
‘I don't,' Jack thought to me. ‘It's more special to only experience that with you.'
"Would anyone really mind if we got back together?'
It's a nice thought, but you belong to Ross.
"I doubt he cares at the moment."
I looked behind us to see Lily in the doorway.
"Was I interrupting something?" she asked.
"It's not what it looks like," Jack said quickly. "Well, it is, but ..."
"It's okay," she said. "Ross seems like he's being really horrid, so if Rosa needs extra comforting, I'm okay with that. I won't tell him."
"I'm sorry, Mrs Smith," I said. "I know I shouldn't kiss Jack."
"It doesn't matter. Did you want to watch a film?"
"Oh, er, yes please."
That evening, I moved my sleeping bag to Jack's room, ensuring I left none of my things in Ross's.
We both had an early night, but before that we had a pleasant time talking in the relaxed atmosphere of Jack's room which I couldn't help but love for the memories I had of being in there alone with Jack.
Tuesday 7th December
Last night, it felt like things could change for the better. Tonight, though, things took a turn for the worst. Is there any hope for Ross and me?
On Monday evening, I woke up out of habit. I wandered to Ross's room to check up on him. He was perched on the end of his bed, taking deep breaths. I wondered how bad the pain was.
"You okay?" I asked.
"Could be better."
I went and sat beside him. "Can I help?"
I was struck by the handsomeness of his face. He looked slightly unearthly with those sharp cheek- and jawbones and those pale blue eyes which seemed cold and detached.
"I can certainly try."
"Don't be too invasive."
He flinched slightly as I reached for his hand. I closed my eyes and sent him waves of warmth to counteract the pain.
"I'd forgotten how good this felt," he admitted, as the pain gradually eased.
"How old are you now?"
I smiled at the mental pictures which came up in his mind at my question. There was the connotation of a psychologist asking a patient to go back in time to when he was a child.
"The coldness won't help," I murmured as I stood up.
"Stay," Ross said quietly.
"You want me to?"
"Of course I do."
I sat down again. "Can I move back in?"
"Sure. Just be careful when I'm in a temper."
I stroked his arm. "I've missed this."
"Being with you. Sharing a private moment. It's so pleasurable that it's depressing we were ever denied this chance to express our love for each other."
Ross turned to face me for the first time that night. My breath was taken away by how stunning he was. He gazed intently into my eyes.
"I've missed it too," he murmured, before leaning in to kiss me.
I woke up at the foot of Ross's bed. Ross seemed to have vacated it. Try as I might, I couldn't seem to get up, though.
‘Hey, Rosa, are you okay? Where are you?' came Jack's mental voice in my mind.
‘I'm in Ross's room,' I replied with my thoughts. ‘I think I fell asleep here.'
‘Oh, that's wonderful. He must be able to deal with loving you. Are you going to get up for school?'
‘I don't think I can. I'm exhausted.'
‘Ah well, I'll see you downstairs if you manage.'
Ross walked into the room, smiling.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey," I murmured.
"Good night's sleep?"
"Fantastic, thanks. You?"
"Couldn't have been better. Thanks for coming to visit me."
"That's all right. I'm moving back, aren't I?"
Ross nodded. "It's been so nice having you stay round here. I have to thank your parents."
"Are you having a day off?"
"Um, I don't know. Depends whether I can get up or not."
"If you can't, can we spend the day together?"
"I don't think we'd have a choice, but that would be brilliant."
"What would you have had today?"
"An entire morning of study periods and then a couple of hours of work in the afternoon."
"It might be worth going, then. You wouldn't have to work too hard and we could converse by text."
I nodded. "Can you help me up, then?"
"Do you want to be tickled, kissed or splashed with cold water?"
"Hm, the first two sound fun."
"I was thinking that too."
Ross came over and started to kiss me, waking me up with the warmth he sent coursing through my mind. He also began to tickle me. He broke away and I laughed as he seemed to find the places I was most ticklish.
I sat up and kissed him before standing up.
"Have a good day," he said as I headed to the bathroom.
That evening, I asked Jack if we could go straight to his room. He nodded, brow furrowing slightly.
"Was something wrong?" he asked when we got there.
"No," I replied. "And that's why I wanted to talk to you. Last night, I had an amazing night with Ross."
"So... I don't need more than your support as a friend."
Jack smiled. "That's great."
"Thanks so much for everything. I'll always remember this."
"It's been a pleasure knowing I could help in some way."
"Shall we stop the psychic link, then?"
Jack nodded. "I'll go get my amber. I left it downstairs."
"Oh, er, before I do, I have a final request."
"One last kiss, for the record."
"Of course. I need some way of thanking you."
"You honestly don't."
Jack leant in and our lips touched, right as there was a knock on the open door.
"Am I interrupting something?" came a cold, angry voice.
Jack broke away quickly and turned to face Ross. "I was just saying goodbye."
"Didn't you do that on her birthday?"
"So I'd be right in saying that there was something after her birthday that needed ending?"
"Only very recently and with no intentions to cause harm," I said, coming to Jack's defence.
"Shut up, Rosa," Ross said, not looking at me. He continued to address Jack. "So, you've been kissing my girlfriend?"
"It wasn't like she was cheating or anything," Jack said.
"Oh, no? What was it then?"
"I was just comforting her."
"Oh, and a hug failed, did it?"
"She was under a lot of strain..."
"So you kissed her."
"She was really stressed, Ross. You have to understand..."
"I don't think I'm required to understand anything when my best friend kisses my rose-dove, do you?"
"I do, actually. We'd have never kissed if Rosa had been fine."
"See, I'd love to believe you, us having been chums since you were a toddler, but that requires something called trust and I think you've broken that,"
"Ross, please," I said. "He was just trying to help."
"I told you to shut up, Rosa." To Jack, he said, "So, are you two going to announce your relationship?"
"Of course not. I don't want to get in the way of you two."
"I think you've already done that."
"Ross, it's not just him!"
"I realise. Why don't you think I can look you in the eye, Rosa? Would you like to be Jack's again?"
"No, it's not like that. I swear."
"Swear all you like. If you're not getting with Jack, one has to ask the question ‘What are you still doing here?'"
"What? I don't understand."
"Don't do this, Ross," Jack said. "She loves you."
"Well that's what I thought too. But there's a funny thing about me and love. Someone who should love me goes and breaks my heart. This time it's worse, because I thought our relationship was going to last."
"I don't... get you," I said, confused.
"I'm saying, Rosa Foxtail, that you have broken my heart and that you are worse than my parents."
"No! Don't say that! I love you."
"Get out of this house and out of my life. I never want to see you again."
What got me was that he spoke this in a calm, detached voice. You'd think seeing him upset or furious would be worse, but I knew he was probably building a wall around his heart.
I went up to him and stroked his face. He viciously slapped my hand away. "Don't you dare!"
"I love you!" I cried, tears starting to form at the corner of my eyes.
"Do you expect me to believe you? Are you used to having guys wrapped around your little finger?"
"Ross, don't do this to her," Jack said. "She was so hesitant in allowing me to kiss her. She didn't want to hurt you either."
"Well, she failed there, didn't she? Are you going to help her leave? Or pretend that you don't love her for the sake of the act?"
"It's not an act!" I cried. "I really, truly love you. Don't you remember how good it felt last night? To be ..."
"In your arms? Was it good to be in your arms? No, it was damn sensational. Phenomenal. I never thought I'd feel so happy again until the next time our minds connected." Ross did look affected now. He looked like he was depressed and hurt and ... even offended.
"Does my love mean nothing to you?" he whispered. "Have you had something so much better that I had no effect on you?"
"Of course, you had an effect on me," I said, tears flowing relentlessly. "You're my kingfisher."
He grabbed my hand and sent me a piercing lightning bolt of pure coldness. I gasped. Jack steadied my shoulders.
"That's what you've done to me. Only a thousand times stronger, a thousand times more painful."
"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't want to hurt you."
"Go," he said quietly, his tone menacing.
"I can't. I won't leave you."
"You won't leave me?!" He looked as if he were about to laugh, but with that insane laugh only people on the verge of having a complete breakdown had. "Rosa, if I haven't made this clear, I'm ending this relationship."
"Get out or so help me, I will throw you out the house."
"Ross, I'm not going."
He grabbed my arm and started pulling me out of the room.
"Stop!" I cried.
"You'll hurt her!" Jack yelled, running out and grabbing my waist so Ross couldn't pull me away.
"Jack, let go or I will freeze her heart."
Ross had stopped now. To my horror, I felt creeping tendrils of icy fog crawl into my mind. The coldness penetrated everywhere, was strong enough to make my mental defences collapse at one touch.
I gasped as the coldness infiltrated the deeper parts of my mind. There was so much pain in my mind and that, in turn, evoked my own pain.
Jack let go, looking tortured.
The cold stopped spreading but remained in my mind as Ross lifted me up.
"Don't!" I sobbed. "Don't do this!"
Ross started walking again. He took me downstairs and through the living room, passing a startled-looking Lily, into the porch where he opened the door. He stepped out into the cold November air and dumped me on the grass. I was glad he didn't just drop me on the patio.
"Don't come back," he said. "I'll have your stuff dropped round yours."
And with that, he went back into the house and locked the front door.
I trudged to my house, sobbing. I must have looked a wreck.
It was pitch black when I got home. My mum went crazy with anxiety and was shocked that Ross had dumped me.
"Oh you poor thing," she said. "Do you want some hot chocolate?"
I shook my head and felt a stab of pain as I remembered making hot chocolate and brownies with the Ross who had thought he was 8.
I went upstairs and cried myself to sleep, my heart hurting, my mind aching from the memories of ice and my body shaking with cold.
I never asked for any of this. Life was simple and totally satisfactory. Why it had to change I will never know. Was it some great and punishable crime that my life was perfect? I don't know. But the change was scary and irreversible. I never asked for any of this.
So, my kingfisher hated me and would probably never allow me to go to his house even to see Jack. Did I wish I had never found my kingfisher? I really wondered about that. My life had been so easy before all of this. If it had never happened, would I be better off? Who knew? Who honestly knew?