Chapter 17

“You know,” I mused, “there’s one thing in particular that I love about the rose-dove-kingfisher bond.”

“And what’s that?” Ross asked, gazing across at me. We had moved back to his room and were lying on his bed, not touching each other physically or mentally but linked emotionally and cocooned together in a warm atmosphere romanticised by my imagination and feelings towards Ross.

“The ... permanence of the whole thing. When you get a soul mate, you know it’s for life.”

Ross’s face darkened. “Not necessarily.”

I frowned. “What d’you mean?”

“Do you know Draco Firefox?”

“Um, I’ve heard my parents mention him. Who is he?”

“A witch celebrity. Fairly local, actually. But a few years ago, one of his daughters died.”

“Oh no!”

Ross nodded solemnly. “The family was devastated. But one of the other tragedies was that she had a kingfisher.”

I recoiled in shock. “What?!”

Ross winced. “Yeah. He ... he must have been ... suicidal.” Ross looked directly into my eyes. “I know I would be.”

I swallowed hard.

“Did he do it?” I whispered - after stroking Ross’s face as if to check we were both alive. “End his life?”

“No,” Ross murmured. “He was just a kid - well, a teenager really but still really young. 14, I think. But I heard that the speech he gave at the funeral was the most beautiful, depressing thing to listen to. Come to think of it, your mum might have attended. She used to love organising things for the community so she saw Draco a lot.”

“Oh my,” I murmured. “Poor guy.”

Ross leant in and kissed me. Distraught and in great need of someone to hold, I kissed back passionately. Ross helpfully sat up and I got into a kneeling position, placing my hands on the bed to balance and steady myself.

‘It’s okay, Rosa,’ Ross thought to me and I was about to tell him I knew and would be okay as long as he was there when I realised that he needed comforting too. I felt his pain and despair at the thought of being separated from me, and the way he clung to the mental link as though it might sever any second.

‘Sh,’ I thought soothingly. ‘It’s okay. We’re together and I’m never going to let you go.’

‘Don’t,’ he agreed. ‘I need you, Rosa. You were the first person I ever loved and you’re the only person I’ve ever shared myself with. You broke through my walls, melted my ice, taught me the meaning of love and are the sole thing that is dangerously important in my life. Without you, I’m nothing. An empty shell.’ He shuddered. ‘The old me.’

I hugged him and didn’t care that it meant I fell awkwardly on top of him. He held me back and his chaotic emotions filled both our minds. Terror, distress, helplessness: they overwhelmed me as if I was out at sea and the sailboat had capsized, leaving me to fight for life as a storm began to churn up the waves and heavy rain attacked my head and limbs. I attempted to send Ross comfort and love but my feelings were drowned: so much weaker than his.

Ross rolled on top of me and the fear flashed like the lights on a police car in hsi eyes.

“Don’t let me die, Rosa,” he begged. “Please.”

“I won’t,” I told him, feeling sorry for him but at the same time alarmed that perhaps Ross was feeling a bit too vulnerable. To calm him down and make it so I was less like an adult or a person in a position of high responsibility, I said “I know you’ll always protect me, Ross.”

He blinked, rolled off me and lay on his front, eyes closed, his breathing slightly uneven.

I sat up and began to massage his shoulders. Impulsively, I pulled off his T-shirt and started to stroke his skin, occasionally leaning down to kiss him.

He relaxed beneath my touch and his breathing gradually slowed.

“I’m sorry, Rosa,” he murmured after a time. “I shouldn’t have lost control of my emotions. I never meant to scare you.”

“Shh,” I murmured calmly. “I know that that. And I totally understand you. There’s no need to apologise.”

He sighed. “Are you sure? I feel so bad for not being the strong, supportive one. You deserve a rock, Rosa, not a creature that clings to one.”

“You’re not some creature,” I said reproachfully. “You’re my Ross. And I honestly don’t blame you.”

I’d blame me,” he muttered darkly.

“Well, you’re not me. And you don’t love you. So quit worrying about stuff that you’re perfectly entitled to feel.”

Ross sighed again. “I just want to be perfect for you, Rosa. Is that too much to ask of myself?”

“You are perfect,” I replied. “And therefore, asking any more of yourself is the worst thing you can do. People become obsessed with perfection and it does them no good. I would rather have you slightly flawed than suffering from a mental disorder.”

“Oh, Rosa,” Ross said, “I’d never go that far. I just know I could be slightly better for you.”

“Ross, the only way you could make us more equal is by becoming flawed. Since I figure you don’t intend to do that, you should remain exactly how you are.”

“Are you saying I’m better than you?”

“Yes, Ross, as a matter of fact I am. And you dare not disagree for you personally think the opposite.”

Ross’s thoughts became tinged with mock annoyance.

“Damn - you’re so intelligent, Rosa.”

I smirked. “Thanks.”

“Too bad I’m cleverer. If we both think each other superior to ourselves, we can’t be anything other than equal. And equality states that everyone’s opinion counts. So I can use that to say you’re better. I mean, technically, these things we say have no impact whatsoever on real life so we can say whatever we like about each other.”

“Your last point is valid,” I admitted grudgingly, “but if we’re equal, I use that to say you’re better than me.”

Ross chuckled. “Okay, Rosa. Hey, can I get up now?”

“No,” I said stubbornly. “I like stroking your back.”

Ross laughed. “Is it so you don’t have to see my face?”

“No!” I exclaimed, with too much emotion.

“Joking, darling.”

“I know. It’s just ... I love your face. I would die if I couldn’t see your eyes for an extended period of time.”

Ross chuckled quietly. “Should I audition for one of those aftershave or body wash adverts?”

I laughed loudly. “If you want. You’re certainly attractive enough.”

“Why thank you,” he responded, only semi-seriously.

I considered the situation.

“Oh, on second thoughts, I’m not quite sure I’d appreciate other girls drooling over you, or having posters in their room. You’re my boyfriend and that’s that.”

“Oo, possessive,” Ross teased.

“I’m not sharing you,” I said stubbornly.

Ross chortled. “Oh, Rosa I know. I don’t want to be shared. I doubt I’d really get a job as a male model and I don’t really want one.”

“You could get one,” I said softly, walking my index and middle finger down his spine which caused him to shiver pleasantly. “If I were shallow, I’d adore you - a fit boyfriend who every other girl admired. Just think, I’d be the subject of mass envy.”

“Oh, darling, you’re not shallow.” He fell silent after his statement, pensive. Curious, I rested my hand on one of his shoulder blades and focused on his thoughts.

‘... could have had any shallow girl I wanted before Rosa. Almost tempting but the relationships they imagined always seemed too artificial. Love was what I needed, really.’

‘That’s intriguing,’ I thought

Ross’s thought process changed altogether.

‘Are you listening in?’ he thought, amused.

‘... Maybe,’ I replied, embarrassed.

‘It’s okay. You just startled me.’

‘Were you thinking about things that might have happened before you found out I was your rose-dove?’

‘Yeah, lots of girls used to find me attractively mysterious. They probably still do.’

Quietly, I found myself wondering ‘Would anything have changed if you had felt shallow love before this relationship?’

Ross shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I’d have struggled to understand the love you were trying to give me and maybe I’d have tried to make you more shallow but I’m certain that at some point you would’ve got through to me. I wouldn’t worry about it, Rosa. Things have turned out okay and they’re going to stay that way.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, Rosa. You’ve shown me true, profound beauty. I reckon it’s safe to say I’ll never want anything else from life.’

I kissed the back of his neck. He sighed deeply.

“Good,” I murmured, close to his ear. “I don’t want to lose you.”

Ross was so quiet and peaceful I wondered if he’d fallen asleep.

But then he broke the silence saying “When’s it my turn to massage you?”

“I don’t know: there’s something therapeutic about giving a massage. I’m just as content as you are.”

“Don’t your muscles ache?” he asked.

“No, not really,” I said lightly.

“Oh okay then. Guess I’ll let you carry on. Though ... it does mean I won’t have a chance to kiss your spine like before...”

I stopped, remembering how that felt.

“Ah, knew I could tempt you. Lie down, my darling.”

Sighing contentedly, I pulled off my top and obeyed.

“How d’you know exactly what to say to change my mind?” I asked as he kissed my cheek before sitting up.

“I’m your kingfisher: I’m meant to know. I think that that’s the secret purpose of the mind link: the chance it gives the guy to learn what the girl desires.”

“I love that thought,” I sighed.

“I know,” Ross said cheekily.

“When are you going to start?”

“Oh, when you least expect it.”

“How wonderful. So, what shall we do in the meantime?”

“Well, ... I was thinking I could take some photos of you.”

I snorted. “You’re ridiculous.”

“I know,” he replied, sounding proud.

“If you take a single picture,” I began to warn him, “you’ll... Oh.”

The ‘Oh’ was a response to a swift brush of lips at the tip of my spine.

“I’ll what?” he asked, in his most intense tone.

“I - I don’t know,” I replied helplessly.

“How about you change what you were about to say to something that ... I don’t know ... conveys the idea you won’t do anything?” he suggested.

On one level, what he was saying was hilarious. But I was at a level where I found his tone positively hypnotic.

“I won’t do anything,” I whispered.

Ross laughed. He rubbed my shoulder, allowing me to return to the normal level of interpretation.

“I’m just joking, baby,” he said: to reassure me since I had naturally been slightly alarmed by his seeming desire for me to condone worrying behaviour.

I sighed in relief.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, slightly ashamed for being so ridiculously gullible.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. I shouldn’t go so far with my teasing.”

“Oh, don’t be silly. You know I love it when you tone melts my insides.”

“I don’t have to use such worrying ideas, though.”

“Ross, it’s fine,” I said amused.

“Sure?” he murmured, lightly caressing my back.

“Positive,” I replied, suppressing a yawn.

“You tired, darling?”

“Hmm, a little. But I’d rather stay awake than miss you making me happy and keeping my cares at bay.”

“You won’t miss much,” he promised. “And I can keep you content in your dreams too.”

I closed my eyes.

“Alright then,” I said sleepily.

“Love you, precious.”

“Love you too.”

Sleep overcame me surprisingly quietly. It must have been waiting in the recesses of my mind.


The End

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