For a moment, Kenny froze, his muscles tensing. I felt the rise and fall of his chest become faster... and then he kissed me back. He held the bow and arrow in one hand and pushed me closer into him with the other. As I had when I had hugged him the last time I had seen him, I felt safe and comforted and content. He stroked my hair and I wrapped my arms around his neck.
He broke away briefly to say “I love you, Jennifer” and then resumed. I forgot what he had come here to do, my mind a blur of abstract happiness, lacking in structured thought but no less a blissful place to be in for that.
Eventually, Kenny broke away (though it could only have been minutes or seconds later) and he smiled sadly.
“What have you done to me, Jennifer?”
“I just hope I’ve shown you that you can’t take love away,” I whispered. “It’s sacred, Kenny.”
“Well, I won’t have to now,” he said softly. He plucked a feather out of his wings and examined it. “6.8.”
“But you’d do it again, wouldn’t you?” Kenny sighed, pocketing the feather.
“A hundred times,” I admitted.
He stroked the side of my face and I buried my face in his shoulder, pressing myself against him to feel the comfort of his physical presence as well as his body heat.
“You’re incredibly dangerous, Jennifer,” he whispered in my ear. “I really hope the next Guardian put on this mission doesn’t fall for you too.”
“Me too,” I replied. “I’m yours, Kenny.”
Kenny stopped twining his fingers in my hair and looped his arm loosely around my waist. The next thing I knew, we were hovering a couple of inches off the ground. It felt vaguely vertiginous and yet it was exciting as well. His wings beating lightly behind his back, Kenny kissed me again. Warmth spread through me and as I responded, I hoped to convey to him the perfection of this moment, the preciousness, and how I would forever treasure it in my memory. I closed my eyes while we kissed so when Kenny broke away and we landed on solid ground, I was surprised to find us in my bedroom.
“I need to leave you now, Jennifer,” Kenny said softly. “I love you. Never forget that.”
“Kenny...,” I said hesitantly. “You won’t be ... punished, will you? For this? It was my fault: I kissed you.”
Kenny looked down.
“I didn’t have to respond. And I kissed you after that.”
“What will they do to you?”
Kenny shook his head and raised his head to meet my gaze.
“It doesn’t matter, Jennifer. It’s so worth it.”
“But I don’t want you to suffer, Kenny: I love you too, don’t forget.”
“The only way that would happen is if the Council were sure this wouldn’t happen again.”
I hugged him tightly, burying my face in his chest.
“Shh, it’s all right,” he said, kissing my hair. It felt strangely ... familiar, like it had happened before. But if it had, I’d be able to remember fully, wouldn’t I?... I realised it might have happened the first time Kenny had told me he loved me. The time I asked him to mind-wipe me.
I leant back slightly and whispered, because I was scared of losing so many beautiful feelings, “What if you wiped my mind again?”
“I’m not doing that, Jennifer,” Kenny said flatly. “I might never see you again after tonight.”
I found a lack of desire to argue. I kissed him again ... and yet deep inside I was agonised that Kenny was going to be punished for something that I had done. I was also scared of him being replaced on this mission. His successor would probably come to the house and fire the Heartbreak arrow at Susanna, taking no heed of my objections. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone being made to stop feeling what I myself had felt tonight. Something that made life worth living: to oppose all the pain that life elicited.
And then, the bitterly ironic, almost unbearably painful idea came to me. If I was the victim of the Heartbreak arrow, the Council would know that Kenny and I wouldn’t kiss again; Kenny wouldn’t be punished; hopefully he wouldn’t be replaced on the mission and so Susanna might not suffer the same fate at another Guardian’s hands. But it was an idea which was deeply troubling, for it meant destroying the precious, beautiful feeling within myself. Could I really sacrifice my own love for Kenny, even if it was for his sake and Susanna’s? I kissed him more passionately and imagined him thrown into a dank, dark prison cell. I imagined him being told he was henceforth forbidden from being a Guardian of Order. Of course I didn’t know for certain what his punishment would be, but whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. My thoughts scared me and before I could stop myself with thoughts of what I was doing to myself, I pulled the bow Kenny was still holding upwards until the arrow-tip touched my stomach. Even though my pyjama shirt was in the way, I felt the arrow tip disappear and a sudden chill begin that area. I gasped from the shock of it and Kenny instantly stopped kissing me, stepping back.
“Jen, what’s wrong?”
I stepped back too and the world tilted far to the right. Kenny caught me before I fell on the floor, his expression one of alarm.
He looked down at the bow and arrow and saw the smoking tip of the latter. His eyes widened in horror.
“What? No. No!”
He dropped the offending materials and lifted me in his arms. He strode over to my bed and laid me upon my duvet. I watched him pluck one, two, three feathers out of his wings. I wondered distantly, through my dizziness, if plucking feathers hurt. He lifted my top - just enough to uncover the skin where I guessed the arrow’s poison was spreading from - and laid one against it, which was an inappropriately sensual delight in the midst of my confusion, whispering “Neutralise”. Next, he put another feather on top of the first, whispering “Heal”, and finally, he put the last on top of both of the other two, whispering “Strengthen the magic.” The dizziness faded and I was overjoyed to find that I had not lost my love for Kenny after all. But that joy was replaced by the bleak knowledge that I had to convince Kenny I had fallen out of love with him. But an overwhelming fatigue was spreading over me.
Kenny, watching me intently, eyes wide with fear, stroked my hair and said “Don’t fight the sleep, Jennifer. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed.”
As the fatigue increased, I told myself to remember to act indifferent to Kenny when I awoke. Sleep overcame me in seconds.