"Hey," Romulus said cheerfully, not sounding at all malicious. He seemed to have entirely forgotten the way things were. He must have been unable to think straight or something.
"What are you doing with my girl-... Tilly?" Peter asked, sounding annoyed.
"Chatting," Romulus replied innocently.
"About what?" Peter asked through clenched teeth.
"Stuff." Romulus shrugged. "Shared interests." He winked at me.
"Why can't you just leave her alone?!" Peter yelled, startling me. I wondered why I didn't feel guilty at all. Perhaps the dark side of my mind had conquered the light side. Maybe it was because I had fallen in love with Romulus.
"Pete," I said, "calm down. Everything's fine."
"No, it's not! Look at how relaxed you are, Tilly; you're almost hypnotised. And happy! Why would you be happy around Romulus?"
"Oh thanks," Romulus said.
Peter ignored him. "I'm so sorry for what he's been doing to you."
"Pete, it's fine: he's not done anything."
"He evidently has! And I'm fed up of it! In fact, he can reverse what he's done right here and right now. Then he can teleport you back to Asteria so that we never have this problem again."
"Shall we humour him?" Romulus asked, smiling, wickedness returning.
"Yeah, go on then," I replied.
Peter looked sad. "Look what you're doing to her, Romulus. If you influence her too much, she'll become just like you. How tragic would that be?"
Romulus leant towards me and whispered (though loud enough for Peter to hear) "Doesn't he know you're already bad?"
Peter looked depressed. "Reverse it, Romulus. Poor, poor Tilly."
"Poor, poor Peter," Romulus said in mock sympathy.
"Do it," Peter growled.
"Fine," Romulus said. "How d'you want me to do it?"
Peter looked troubled. "The only way I can think of where I would see the effects is suggestion."
Romulus nodded. "Fine, let's hypnotise her."
"Aren't I already under your power?" I asked, leaning in and kissing him.
Peter looked disgusted. "How can you say she has her own free will?"
"Pete, she's not this angelic being you think she is," Romulus replied. "If you were allowed to feel her mind, you'd know that."
"I know everything about her! I understand her."
"But you don't," Romulus said, and he truly looked as if he felt sorry for Peter. "What did you see in those waters, Peter? Her writing beautiful poetry? Her crying over her longing for a soul mate? That's not all there is to her. Sure, they're actions inspired by things which have a major impact on her life but little things can be significant too. Little things that I don't believe you saw. You chose to believe she was perfect when you only saw one side of her. It's terribly unfair to expect her to be perfect as well. Things like that could get her down and would easily make her want to rebel."
Peter looked startled. He looked at me. "Is that why you're like this, Tilly? You want to rebel because I've expected too much of you?"
I shook my head. "I was bad already, Peter. I must have had a dark streak lying dormant inside of me."
Peter shook his head and sat down heavily on the floor. "I don't believe that," he murmured. "You're so selfless and kind."
"I don't even feel guilty for betraying you again," I admitted.
Peter looked up. "You betrayed me again?"
I nodded. "Romulus kissed me and I asked him to stay. I've just told him I loved him."
"But don't you love me too?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. Would I hurt someone I loved?"
"Still want to hypnotise her?" Romulus asked.
"No," Peter replied. He knelt up and looked intently into my eyes. "You honestly don't feel bad? Your conscience has ruled your actions and feelings for a long time."
I looked back into those pain-filled eyes. Within the forest, I saw reflected myself. I looked deep and saw that behind all the indifference was a tear drop. It represented pain, sadness and shame. Somehow, I wasn't feeling it.
I looked away. "Could you let me feel everything in my head, Romulus?" I murmured.
Romulus looked surprised. "How did you - ... ? Never mind."
I suddenly felt like a veil had been lifted: a veil I couldn't feel when there but which was preventing me from feeling and thinking certain things.
"I did it to protect you," Romulus murmured, stroking my back.
"I'm not mad," I told him. And it was true. I wasn't. Even if I hadn't been thinking completely straight, I still was in love with him.
"Protect her?" Peter snorted. "Since when have you protected people?"
I now was able to feel the sadness my actions tonight had caused me. Yet again I had betrayed Peter. It seemed that I couldn't stop hurting him. But that didn't stop the anger and the desire to defend Romulus that flared up inside me.
"He may not be a saint but he does know how to be decent!" I said.
Peter looked unconvinced. "The only person's back he watches is his own. He's a selfish jerk who forgot to turn his heart on."
"Ugh," I said in annoyance. "You're really getting on my nerves."
Peter looked even more pained. "Romulus is a bad influence on you, Tilly. You need to stay away from him."
"For the last time, the badness was already there. As a potential personality trait, if you like. Romulus' effect on me merely lit the spark. And I would be hurting myself if I stayed away from him because I am in love with him."
Silence hung in the air.
Peter still looked disbelieving. I saw some warmth in Romulus' eyes.
Finally, Peter said "I don't believe it, and perhaps I never will, but if you really think you feel that way for him, you have to choose." In a quieter voice he said "You have to work out who you are, Tilly, and which one of us would make your life the way you want it to be."