I don't know what made me think I could believe him, and a part of me didn't, but I had to see if he was telling the truth. Those three words were the only words that could keep me alive.
Time started again. With weak, numb fingers, I grabbed the life ring. It was attached to some rope and Timothy pulled the other end of the rope. So cold... So freezing cold...
And then I was on dry land and the life ring was being pulled out of my grasp. Timothy was putting his jacket over me and there was a wild look of hysteria in his eyes and franticness about his actions that I couldn't understand. I'd never seen him hysterical before.
He was pulling out a mobile phone and dialling a number.
"Hello. Ambulance. Hi, it's my friend. She's just fallen in a river and I've got her out, and she's shivering really violently. I think she's going into shock. Y-you have to get here really quickly."
He sounded panicked as if my life really mattered. He gave really precise details about where we were. He said how he'd put his jacket over me and how I was in the sun and how he'd stay with me. He put the phone down and looked at me with something like appeal in his eyes.
He pulled me into a sitting position and hugged me tightly, not caring that I was wet.
I felt the vast open space as we were able to communicate telepathically. I was surprised to find he was as panicked as he looked.
Oh, she's so cold... Tirana, just hang in there. Please. I don't know what I'd do without you...
‘Why should he care? He doesn't love anyone, let alone me.'
Oh, Tirana, I was wrong. I do love someone. And she's here in my arms and I'm never letting go of her.
I don't know what happened, but some cold logic took over. ‘He's just delirious,' I thought. ‘He didn't want to see someone die and now he's over-reacting.'
No... You don't believe that, do you? Everything's crystal clear. I love you.
‘But you don't,' I thought calmly. I was so used to thinking he didn't love me that I doubted I could ever believe he could. After all, I'd spent a week in misery because he didn't love me.
A week? Oh, Tirana... You shouldn't have had to go through that pain.
‘I don't care now. I can't feel anything. I feel ... a bit drowsy...'
Tirana, no! NO! Don't go to sleep! Please! I LOVE you! Come on, stay with me!
He pushed me away slightly and shook my shoulders. You have to hang on in there. You're my rose-dove... and, oh gosh, you're so pale!
He hugged me again. Please, Tirana. Tirana...
He actually began to cry. I didn't think I was anything to cry about.
Oh, of course you're something to cry about. You're my rose-dove!
‘You don't want a rose-dove,' I reminded him gently.
Oh, I do. I do, though. I was such a blinkered fool!
‘Shh, no you weren't.'
Tirana, why do you sound like you think you're going to die?
I shrugged. ‘Because I am.'
‘No, don't say that!! Don't you dare give up on me! You're going to be fine, you hear me? FINE!' He was fierce and I could feel the conviction in his thoughts.
I know I've been the worse kingfisher anyone could ask for, but that's all going to change.
‘No, it's not. After this, after I'm better, you'll go back to wishing I wasn't your rose-dove.'
Oh I won't, though! And I don't want to!
He pushed me away and gazed at me with blazing eyes. "Why don't you think I care, Tirana? Have I left it too long? Have you fallen out of love with me?"
I shook my head. "There's just no reason for you to love me."
"There's every reason to love you. You're so beautiful and oh, gosh, I never got to know you properly!" He hugged me yet again. I wished I could feel some of his warmth around me, but I was just numb and shaking.
Let's see. You're brave... Extremely brave. I'm so proud of you, Tirana. No one could be braver. And so... selfless. You told your friend not to let you get her down? Wow...
‘What? How are you finding out all this stuff?'
‘Oh, oops. I should have told you. Our minds are connected, so I'm just exploring a bit. I should have asked permission. ‘ He sounded truly apologetic as he thought ‘Sorry'.
‘Oh, no,' I thought, finding I didn't mind. Perhaps it was because it would be nice for him to know a bit about me before I died. I was strangely calm with regards to my imminent death.
WHAT?! Tirana, don't! His thought was a plea. Don't say that!! I couldn't live without my rose-dove!
‘Definitely delirious', thought the cold, logical part of my mind.
No, please. Tirana, I love you!! I'm not delirious! He sounded so desperate, as if his love for me was the only thing keeping him alive at this moment.
‘Get to know me a bit,' the emotional part of me was thinking. ‘Before I...'
No, Tirana, you are NOT going to die! I won't let you!
‘How can you stop something even I can't control?'
He started crying again. ‘I don't know, Tirana, I don't know. But I'll find a way! I promise.'
You are not going to die today, do you hear me? You're going to get through this, and later, when we're together, and we will be together, we'll laugh about this.
I'm going to do all the things I should have done. I'm going to get to know you. I'm going to take you out to restaurants. I'm going to tell you all about witches, and maybe one day, if you can take me, we're going to get married.
‘Of course I can take you. But, Timothy, darling, don't make promises...'
Wow. She called me darling... Wait! What d'you mean, don't make promises? I'm going to keep them all!
‘You don't have to say that.'
But I want to. And, that's what it comes down to. I want to be with you. Don't you want to be with me?
‘More than anything in the world... But, ... I'm scared to hope.'
Oh, this is all my fault! If only I'd accepted you as my rose-dove earlier! Then none of this would have happened!
‘Timothy darling, please don't blame yourself. I don't want you to be in regret when I ... go.'
Tirana, please! Stop saying that. There must be something I can do. Wait! If I get some foxglove... it may help.
‘What? Don't leave me!'
No, of course I won't.
‘Why d'you want foxglove?'
‘Favoured by foxglove' - it's a line from the poem about rose-doves and kingfishers. I'll recite it to you, one day. Now, I just need to find someone to get me some. D'you know if foxglove grows here, Tirana?
I suddenly say mental pictures of a flower with a long stem and purple bell-shaped flowers.
‘Oh, by the forest! I always thought they were some kind of bluebell...'
Okay. Well, I'm going to use mind control to get someone to bring us some. You don't mind, do you?
‘Under normal circumstances, I probably would, but I can see you're trying to save my life so go ahead.'
Thanks, Tirana. And I promise you're going to be okay.
I sat in his arms and listened to his thoughts while he was preparing to cast a spell.
Bring out my sapphire. One day, I'm going to buy you a ... cornelian, Tirana.
Yup. Your birthday's in February, so that's your birthstone.
I felt him pull out his sapphire. To do this he had to let go of me, but I buried my head in his shoulder.
Hmm, there's someone.
Let the owner of this mind have their will bound to mine.
Let the thoughts I mean to share sound in their mind - a mind pair.
Right, now. You'll head to the edge of the forest and pick some foxglove.
I realised he was giving instructions. Once again I saw the flowers in my mind.
‘You'll bring it over here.' I now saw a mental picture of our current location. ‘You won't wonder why you're doing this - you'll just do it. When I touch your arm, you'll forget this ever happened.'
Let my thoughts now be alone, let this mind's will be its own.
I suddenly couldn't hear Timothy's thoughts anymore. A few seconds later, though, I heard them again.
Sorry, Tirana - I sort of forgot we were sharing thoughts.
How're you feeling?
‘Just overwhelmingly tired...' I yawned.
Don't fall asleep, Tirana, don't you dare!
But I could feel my consciousness slowly drifting away. In the distance, I heard sirens.
I closed my eyes... and felt something thrust into one of my hands. It felt like some kind of flower.
Now, say after me, Foxglove with your stem so long, help me feel again quite strong. Say it!
"Foxglove with your stem so long," I started, "help me feel again..." But I couldn't stay awake any longer. I glided down into the depths of unconsciousness. Before I was asleep, I heard Timothy shout ‘TIRANA!!!'