"Can we go back to your house?" Peter asked quietly.
"Sure," I replied, admiring his self-control at a time when he must be fairly distraught.
So we walked home in uncomfortable silence. I didn't dare say anything, didn't even dare thank him for his acceptance of what I had told him, in case it should upset him further.
At home, I let us in through the front door. We walked straight through the living room and the hall to the stairs and headed for my room. Thankfully, Mum, who was in the kitchen didn't ask any questions, though I noticed the curiosity in her eyes.
In my bedroom, Peter shut the door behind us, surprising me. He turned to face me, his expression serious. I found myself frozen to the spot, held by the rings of forest green, darkened to reflect his inner turmoil.
I swallowed, slightly nervous.
"Peter...," I began, but in two strides he was directly in front of me and the index finger of his right hand was on my lips.
"I love you," he whispered, and, removing his finger, leant down and kissed me.
I swallowed, slightly nervous.
I gently pulled back, saying "I'm not right for you."
"I told you - I don't care," he replied, a hint of desperation entering his voice.
His arms came around my waist and he leant down to kiss me once more. The pain in the kiss which was tragically full of longing was almost heart-rending.
I pushed him away as I had in the park. "I explained why we can't be, Peter. Please - don't make this harder for either of us."
"I don't care about my silly reputation - I told you I don't care. Even when you were saying all those things that were meant to put me off the idea of a relationship with you, I was thinking ‘This shouldn't make a difference.' And it doesn't; I love you, Tilly. What kind of a person would I be if I claimed to love someone and then that love didn't endure?"
"You're contradicting yourself, Peter," I said. "Your honour is important to you. And so it should be. The world needs people like you, Peter."
"I don't want to be needed. It's too hard to consistently be responsible, to always be the role model. All I want right now is to make you feel special."
"You do make me feel special, Peter," I said, tears coming to my eyes. "And sometimes that's difficult because after how I've treated you, you should hate me."
"But I don't hate you. Look, Tilly: you keep saying how bad you've become; but what if I can change you back? What if I can turn you into the girl you used to be?"
"I don't think it can happen; but even-"
Peter interrupted me by replacing his finger on my lips. He took it away again and kissed me. He held me tightly as his lips moved against mine, filling me with such sadness that my heart was fit to break.
When he drew back, the tears were streaming freely down my cheeks.
I bravely finished what I'd been about to say. "Even if you could, I wouldn't want to change back."
Peter's brow furrowed in confusion.
"You wouldn't want ... me?" he asked. The look in his eyes tore up my insides.
"That's not what I'm saying. What I mean is that ... I like the thought of loving Romulus. And now he's changed me to make that more possible, I don't want to go back to how I was before."
In a barely audible voice, Peter asked "Do you ... prefer Romulus?"
In equally quiet tones, I replied "Yes."
Peter sighed. "You realise, that's the first time you've admitted that." To my surprise, he looked relieved, and no longer tense or upset.
"I didn't want to make you feel inferior," I told him.
Peter shook his head in wonder. "The last thing you could do is make someone feel inferior, Tilly - it's not in your nature to be cruel."
I shrugged. "It could still happen."
Peter smiled. "Trust me - it couldn't."
It was like a heavy blanket had been lifted off the atmosphere. I felt free and easy now, and like this decision wasn't so destructive.
"I wish you had told me this before," Peter said, sitting down on my bed, looking as if he'd been released from some prison whose key was held by himself.
"Me too," I confessed, sitting down beside him. "Me too."