"I'm going to Spain and Italy in December," Jack announced at the dinner table. "Did you want to join me?"
He hadn't said anything about us delaying our arrival at the dinner table. He knew himself how kissing was an impulse that you didn't want to ignore. Lily and Mark had gone out for lunch so it was just the three of us sitting around the table: Jack and Ross on one side, me on the other.
"Really?" I asked. "You're asking me and Ross?"
"Well, why not? You're my best friends. And it should be fun."
"How are you funding this? Are your parents paying?"
"They're paying for some of it while I'm using money from jobs I've done. It's good practice for me since I'll be relying on myself if I get into Witch College."
"What are you doing there?" I asked, intrigued.
It was funny - I'd never asked Jack about his ambitions before. Funny because we'd known each other our whole lives.
"Journalism," he replied. "I want to work for the big British newspaper - ‘The Witch World'. It would be great fun and really interesting."
I hesitated. "But ... don't you have to be a witch?"
"Nah," Jack replied. "I'm a human with special powers - all you need for the course is a basic knowledge of magic and witchcraft, and an interest in witch affairs. In fact, you can take the course if you have seven GCSEs (though you have to have got an A in English). You don't need to have done A-levels."
I whistled. "And you could be hired by big companies with so few qualifications?"
"Well, they want you to have experience too but yeah."
"That's really cool. Well, I'll ask my parents about this holiday - they usually encourage me to take advantage of opportunities and stuff. Who else is going?"
"My friend Carmenita - I don't think you know her."
I smiled. "You always pick your friends well, Jack. I hope my parents remember how responsible you always were."
I turned to Ross. I blushed as I saw he was staring at me like he had been since the start of the meal, looking very serious and almost suggestive.
‘Ross, please,' I thought, touching my toe to his shin beneath the table.
His expression didn't change but he answered "Sure, I'll come. I'll take the money out of my bank account." He turned to Jack and finally looked his usual self again. "I've been meaning to ask, mate; can you help me find some work? I'm getting a bit bored of helping Lily at Mystic Wonders and one day I'm going to need a more substantial salary because I want to live in a house with Rosa."
"How sweet," I whispered, looking into Ross's eyes. He smiled at me then turned back to Jack.
"She doesn't do too badly," Jack pointed out. "Her income half sustains us."
"I know. But I want to be able to treat Rosa a lot."
"Aw, you don't have to do that," I told him.
He gazed intently into my eyes. "I know. I want to, though."
"Well, maybe the three of us can put our money together and live in a mansion," Jack joked.
"Four of us," I corrected. Ross instantly focused on what I was saying. "If you don't find the perfect woman, Ross and I will find her for you."
Jack grinned and I was relieved to see that Ross looked amused too.
I pretended to look thoughtful. "Hmm, how would we describe you?"
"How did he describe himself?" Ross asked. "A human with special powers, was it?"
"Attractive," I said, winking. "What girl doesn't want a magic boyfriend?"
Jack laughed. Ross chuckled.
"Plus there's the fact that I can tell them all about you," I said, smiling. "You're so lovely that once they hear just how you are as a friend, they'll be dying to meet you and go out with you."
"That's very flattering, Rosa," Jack said gratefully.
Ross folded his arms, pretending to look insulted.
"Where's my compliment?"
"Only inspiring people deserve one, Ross," I said, poking out my tongue at him.
"Right. I'll deal with you later." And for the rest of the meal, Ross conversed with Jack about work, ignoring me whenever I made an attempt at a comment or a question. Jack was fighting a smile the whole way through and he didn't try to involve me either - presumably so Ross's game wasn't spoilt or anything. If I tried to address him, he gave me an apologetic sort of smile and a slight shrug as if to say ‘What can I do?'
When our plates were finally empty, Ross stood up and walked up to his bedroom. I followed him, after a pause to see if he was going to call me (no such luck there).
I arrived to see him lying on his bed, apparently texting.
"Who on earth are you texting?" I asked, bewildered.
"Oh, a mate of mine called Ashley," he said, shrugging dismissively. He didn't even look up at me.
"Aren't you going to ... deal with me?" I asked, remembering what he had said earlier.
"D'you have an appointment?"
Ross looked up, his expression earnest.
"I'm a busy person, Rosa. You can't just see me whenever you feel like it."
I raised an eyebrow challengingly.
"Not even if I'm your rose-dove?"
Ross looked as if he were considering it but seemed to change his mind - maybe because the eyebrow went higher.
"Come in and take a seat," he said, standing up and gesturing to the chair by his desk.
I suppressed a giggle as I walked in. I pulled the chair out from underneath the table and turned it so I could face Ross as I sat down.
He walked towards me, still looking serious. He stopped before me.
"So, you're Rosa Foxtail. 17 years of age, female, and date of birth 23rd November '93."
"Yes," I replied, stifling laughter.
"I have a couple of questions to ask you - just for formality. Do you smoke?"
"No," I answered.
"Are you pregnant?"
I burst into laughter. Ross remained serious but there was a smile in his eyes.
"No," I answered, when I had finally calmed down.
"Right." Ross grabbed some paper and a pen and pretended to write things down.
He then looked back at me.
"Now, Rosa, you require a doctor because it has been found that you are a compulsive liar."
"What?" I asked in shock.
"Yes, I'm afraid it's true," he said gravely. "It was reported by someone with whom you were having lunch."
I frowned, confused. "I don't understand."
"That doesn't matter. The evidence is in your mind. Now just relax - this won't hurt."
I closed my eyes and felt his cool fingers on my temples. The mind link opened and Ross entered my mind, wearing a facade that was clinical and felt like professionalism. I couldn't see past it.
‘Ross, what are you doing?' I questioned mentally.
‘I would refer to be addressed as Dr Eagle and I'm finding the evidence against you.'
He probed me lightly, never exploring in great depth. He evidently knew what he was looking for. Suddenly, he played a memory. I saw the scene from today's lunch.
Ross was asking "Where's my compliment?"
I replied ""Only inspiring people deserve one, Ross."
The memory stopped.
Ross moved his hands from my head.
"Open your eyes," he said.
I did so, smiling. "So this is all about my teasing comment?"
"No, Rosa, this is about the lie you felt compelled to tell, despite the person's knowledge of the truth."
I chuckled. "Okay then, Dr Eagle."
Ross grabbed some more paper and hastily scribbled something on it. He didn't show me what it was. Instead, he told me to stand up. I rose to my feet and was amused when he moved the chair to the centre of the room.
He walked to the wall facing the chair and stuck the paper on it with Blu-tack. It was a picture of a red dot.
Mystified, I sat down without waiting for Ross to tell me to. I looked at him searchingly as if the answer to the mystery would be written on his face.
He turned to me and, moving to the side, said "I want you to concentrate on that dot."
I looked back at the dot, curious. Was there something I was missing?
"Repeat after me ‘I will not lie'."
Smiling slightly despite my bewilderment, I said "I will not lie."
I heard Ross drop to the floor.
"Say it again."
"I will not lie."
I heard him moving on the carpet. What was he doing?
"I will not lie."
Suddenly, I was pulled off the chair by my waist. Without me noticing, Ross had crept forwards and positioned himself to grab me and pull me on top of him.
I found myself gazing into his sky-blue eyes.
"And once more," he said.
"I will not lie." I grinned. He kissed me.