He examined the scroll. He clicked his fingers again and suddenly I was sitting up too, holding a piece of paper and a pen.
"Whoa! Never knew you could do that" I said bewildered. I held the stationery in one hand while I covered myself up with the blanket.
"Hm, there's a lot you don't know," he murmured, still reading.
"Oh ... Wait, before we do this... Have you ever had a girlfriend before?"
Romulus put the scroll down and looked at me. "What do you think?" His tone wasn't sarcastic. It was more ... like he was genuinely curious.
"Um... I think that ... lots of girls are attracted to you ... and either you had tonnes and tonnes of girlfriends without caring much about what they were like or you only chose the really pretty or intelligent ones."
Romulus's smile was slightly wry.
"Hm, something like that. The latter thing you said, I mean. I chose girls on different bases each time. When I was fourteen, I had one who was gorgeous and then another who was incredibly intelligent - in fact, she was shocked she went out with me. When I was fifteen, I had one who was a year older than me, one who was like three years younger and one who was the most popular girl in the year at school. Last year, I had one who was terrified of me and only said yes because she didn't want to suffer ‘terrible consequences', one who tried incredibly hard to resist my charm - and failed, naturally - and one who was really shy and vulnerable. This year I've had one who was my total equal - now that was fun but got boring really quickly - and of course, you."
I whistled quietly. I added them up in my head.
"Eight?" I said in disbelief. "In the space of three years?!"
"Well, they only lasted a maximum of six months. And I'm fast at ‘moving on' - I'm guessing you've gathered that I never truly cared about them. I just picked a girl, went for her, enjoyed what kind of love she wanted to give me and dumped her when I got bored or annoyed."
I swallowed hard. "Are you sure you care about me?"
Romulus nodded. "There's something about you, Tilly. Something special. I've never noticed it in any other girl. Not even that one who was so like me it was creepy."
"What did you do before you were fourteen?" I asked, curious. I needed to know more before he started making me feel too safe.
Romulus laughed loudly. "I hated girls."
"Did they still fancy you, though?"
"Oh, of course. Ten to twelve year olds are all really shallow in Asteria and all they care about is how attractive you are."
"So ... your first kiss was when you were fourteen?"
He shook his head. "I think I kissed a girl when I was five. And then another when I was ten out of curiosity. But it didn't really give me any type of satisfaction when I was that age. And then, at the end of what you'd call year 8, my best friend was leaving town so I kissed her to say goodbye. I've never seen her since but her kiss was the first ... meaningful one, I guess. It made me interested in going after more girls. That summer, I think it was restlessness and longing to see her again but after that I became a cold, hard, loveless yet desirous guy."
I shivered. "I don't know whether that thrills me or scares me."
Romulus grinned. "Well, it's how I was when you interested me initially."
I nodded. "Yep, then that thrills me. But I feel sorry for you that your best friend left. Did you ... maybe feel something like this for her?"
Romulus sighed. "It's hard to tell - it was so long ago." He looked at me. "But I'm sure whatever there was between us couldn't match up to this. I've never wanted to be nice."
I sighed too. "I really hope I don't have competition. I don't fancy my chances up against your old best friend."
Romulus snorted. "Tilly, you are so much better personality-wise. Dana was a timid friend. She wanted to stick by me but she was concerned and scared by some of the things I said or did."
"Dana," I repeated. "Nice name."
"Come on," he said, changing the subject. "You've made me tell you everything about my girlfriends. How many boyfriends have you had?"
"Just Peter," I replied. "And then you're my current."
"Peter was you first?" Romulus asked, stunned.
I nodded. "Yup. He was pretty special until you came along."
"You're joking," he said, the look in his eyes cautious.
I looked straight into his eyes. "I'm not."
"How did you know the first night was ... special if you didn't know you were only my second?"
"I can tell," he replied.
"You're that ... experienced?"
"If that's how you want to put it. I don't think it's too hard, though. I could feel your lack of confidence, your hesitancy-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I interrupted. "I did not ask for a detailed breakdown." I could feel myself blushing furiously.
"Sorry," Romulus said, looking genuinely embarrassed.
But curiosity got the better of me. "How am I now?"
Romulus laughed. "Perfect."
I looked at him, asking him with my eyes to continue.
"Thought you didn't like detailed breakdowns," he teased.
"I don't. But you could tell me a bit."
Romulus shrugged. "I don't focus on that, Tilly. I just notice little things. Don't you get overpowered by the passion too?"
"You know where you stand with me now. You're confident and unafraid. That enough?"
I nodded. "Thanks," I murmured. I looked down, feeling awkward that I had asked.
He tilted my chin up. "I don't mind discussing this with you, Tilly. If there's anything you want to ask or talk about, go ahead. All that I'm worried about is upsetting you or giving the wrong impression of myself."
"What d'you mean?"
"I don't want to come across as the creepy guy obsessed with science who's constantly analysing you so you never know if you're okay just being you or if there are standards to which you have to conform. I love you as you are, Til."
I gave a small smile. "Thanks, Rom."
There was a short silence that followed, where Romulus was just smiling at me. It was interrupted by my sudden confession of "I'm always worried I'm not good enough for you, Romulus."
Romulus sighed. "Tilly, you couldn't be better if you tried." He leant in and kissed me gently. "I promise."
I sighed in relief. "Great. Well, let's not delay this any longer. I've asked all my questions. And if I have any more later on, well ... I'll just read your mind." I stuck my tongue out at him.
He snorted. "Okay, Tilly. You can fully abuse the psychic connection once it's in place."
"Maybe I'll just explore," I murmured speculatively.
"Yeah, I'm fine with that too. Have you got your pen and paper ready?"
"Ready," I confirmed, holding them up in either hand.
Romulus laughed. "Then let's go for it."