Harriet... It was so frustrating I couldn't kiss her. The pain had faded now although it was still there. I wondered why she wasn't leaning in to kiss me: she was mine after all.
Ryan put the pendulum back into my hand and firmly said, "I can't."
"I can't either," I replied, not looking away from Henry.
"You have to. Do you want him to go insane? Like totally insane? 'Cause that's how he's going to end up if you sit here doing nothing."
"Call one of your brothers!"
"Why would they help Henry? You might have noticed that Andrew and Arthur don't like him and Jack can do nothing. Anyway Matt's taken Zara out on a date and Shaun and Simon are playing football - who is there to help him?"
"He's not going to let me hypnotise him," I said.
"He will though," Ryan murmured. "He's in love with you."
Feeling awful, I held the pendulum so the disc was in front of Henry's eyes again.
Henry looked confused. "Harriet, you don't need to use it."
"I do," I murmured.
"So we can fix you."
"I'm not broken. How could I be broken with you in my life?"
"You are," I murmured. "Just trust me. Will you do that, Henry?"
"Of course," Henry said, very quietly.
Oh no. He was too compliant. He was making me feel guilty and sad. I wished Ryan hadn't brought me here.
A hand clasped mine and began the swinging motion. Instead of counting upwards as I might have expected he would have, Ryan counted down: he was evidently counting for an effect rather than keeping a track of the number of swings that had gone by.
"Ten," he said as Henry's eyes followed the disc to the left. "Nine," he said after the disc had swung to the right and gone back to the left. "Eight, ... seven, ... six, ... five, ... four, ..."
I yawned, feeling tired from his calm voice and the rhythmic intervals of the swing count.
"Three, ... two, ... one, ... zero." The pendulum stopped and my thoughts stopped.
I blinked and my thoughts returned. "Why'd you hypnotise me?" I asked Ryan confused.
"You've been through enough without seeing Henry semi-hypnotised," he murmured, sounding exhausted.
I noticed Henry was no longer in front of me. "Where is he?" I asked.
"On his bed in a very deep sleep."
"Oh. Was that necessary then?"
I stood up. "Thanks for helping him in this way. You've helped me too."
"Could you fetch Sophia for me? She's downstairs and I'm really worn out."
I left the room and wandered along the corridor, briefly poking my head in Arthur's room to tell him where I was off to. He was reading a book and he just nodded at me. I couldn't resist sneaking a peek at Henry as I passed his room. He looked so calm and content in his sleep that I wanted to lie down next to him and be wrapped up in the same comfort. I tore myself away from the peaceful scene and headed down the stairs. I decided to go left when I got to the hallway, through the door closest to the staircase. It was at the back of the hallway, behind the stairs really, and led to an enormous kitchen. There appeared to be a busy chef who seemed not to notice me but no Sophia so I moved on to the room which was next along the hall. This led to a plush bathroom. Sophia wasn't there either. The final door led to a grand living room. Inside I found Sophia sitting on a sofa looking slightly annoyed. She was watching television but not paying attention as she noticed when I walked in.
"Hey," I said. "Ryan says you can come back up again."
I was about to turn and leave when Sophia said, "Wait."
She stood up and switched off the TV. She came over to me. She was pretty, I thought, and I instantly felt guilty for what had happened the first time I'd met Ryan. I was nervous as she approached me. Was she about to tell me off for kissing her boyfriend? She'd been asleep at the time but Ryan might have told her. She looked like such a gentle person though.
"I don't believe we've met," she said, smiling. "I'm Sophia."
"I'm Harriet," I said, smiling back.
"Do you know anything about Ryan?" she asked.
"I'm sorry?" I said. "I thought you were going out."
Sophia looked slightly embarrassed. "Well we are. It's just that I don't know much about him. Isn't that odd?"
"What do you spend your time together doing?" I asked, not really surprised by what she was saying. Arthur had told me that Sophia only knew Ryan's name.
"Kissing mostly. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing - he seems to set my soul on fire when he kisses me - but it kind of annoys me that I only know we're going out and that he's called Ryan. Perhaps I got into the relationship for the wrong reason."
"What was the wrong reason?" I asked, intrigued, as we walked up the stairs.
Sophia smiled sheepishly. "He's gorgeous."
I grinned. "Oh well. That would only be a problem if he was a terrible guy."
"So he's not?" Sophia asked brightly.
I shook my head. "I don't think so."
"Great! I was so worried about being shallow but if he's actually nice, everything's okay."
I chuckled. "I ought to warn you to be more careful but one, you two seem like you could last for life..." I smiled as Sophia beamed at me. "...And two, I got with Arthur because I dreamt about him. I can hardly talk about getting into the relationship for the wrong reason."
Sophia giggled. "It must have been a fantastic dream."
"Oh it was," I replied.
Sophia frowned. "Still, I bet you know about him than I know about Ryan."
"Ah but that's what makes our relationship great." I jumped at the sight of Ryan.
Ryan seemed not to notice me. He only had eyes for Sophia.
"The way you love me though you barely know me... The way I know everything about you." He chuckled.
Sophia looked as if he'd just told her she was the most phenomenal, fascinating, gorgeous person in the world.
"Hi darling," she whispered.
Ryan stepped forwards and took her hands. "Shall we go off to our little world?" he asked, staring at Sophia as if he'd meant the words exactly as Sophia had imagined them.
"C-can I ask you one question first?" she asked shyly.
"Do you want to unravel the mystery, then?" Ryan asked, though his tone was neither reproving nor sad.
"One question," Sophia pleaded as if Ryan had told her sharply and firmly ‘No'. I realised he must have made things difficult for her by mentioning the word ‘mystery'. Like me, Sophia must find mysteries attractive.
Ryan cocked his head to the side, making himself look impossibly cuter. "One?"
Sophia nodded, looking mesmerised.
"If you want, my love. If you really, really want."
The words ‘really' seemed to be dissuading in tone.
Sophia was quite strong-willed, though. Surprisingly so for someone who must spend a lot of their time entranced and enamoured.
"Would you ever ... cheat on me?"
Ryan looked offended. "My love, I know you don't know me but I would have guessed that you realised how much I adore you. I'm totally in love with you, you know. That's partly the reason I never tell you anything about myself: I want to spend that time showing you how I feel about you. Do you honestly think I would cheat on you?"
Sophia shrugged. "I'm not sure. I don't know you, remember." I had to smile. She was very clever.
Ryan looked amused and pensive. "Make me feel vulnerable and then you can ask me knowing I'm telling the truth."
That was extremely sneaky, I thought. If Sophia did make Ryan feel vulnerable, she'd be accepting his love for her in the way she'd be having such a great effect on him and thus have no further need to ask, yet if she didn't she wouldn't get her answer. He was essentially getting her to answer her own question (not to mention trying to get something out of this too). I watched with interest. Part of me thought I should be heading back to Arthur but I really wanted to see what would happen.
"I don't know how," Sophia said. "Perhaps you should tell me."
Wow, she was good. If he told her how she could make him vulnerable, he would be showing her if he loved her or not and that would give Sophia her answer.
"Did I ever tell you that you were extremely intelligent?" Ryan asked Sophia, completely changing the subject.
Sophia laughed. "Oh no you don't. Tell me how to make you feel vulnerable and then I can find out if you'd ever cheat on me. I can't see why you won't answer me straight. Perhaps you've something to hide..."
Her tone, although casual, had a message behind it. ‘I really hope you're not cheating because boy, you'll regret it,' she was saying.
Ryan sighed. "Okay, I'll tell you." I thought he was going to give her this straight answer she quite frankly deserved for being so witty but no, he told her instead how to make him vulnerable.
"Stare deep into my eyes and tell me that you love me, that you'll always love me and that no one else will ever have a hold on your heart apart from me. Kiss me sweetly, tenderly, conveying the full extent of your love for me and watch me break down before you with a look of love and wonder that confirms I'm blessed to have you."
That was really very sneaky, I thought. He probably just made her heart flutter which was going to make her feel guilty for thinking he was capable of cheating plus lovestruck and lost for words. Hardly a victory when she should have been proud of her achievements.
"I, um, guess I have my answer then," Sophia murmured, now a timid girl who was unsure of herself. She was totally dependent on Ryan's love like this. Ryan knew it. He took advantage of the state of her feelings and embraced her, whispering, "I love you" in her ear.
He smiled at me, ignoring the scowl on my face, and told me, "Arthur's waiting for you," as his arm went around Sophia's shoulder and he led her to his room.
I reckon I could've punched him. There was no doubt that he loved Sophia - he'd been talking sincerely throughout that conversation - but it was annoying how he treated her, always leaving her in the dark, evoking whichever emotion he wanted from her and exploiting the weakness that resulted from her feeling that while appearing to be the most loving boyfriend in the world. I was also annoyed by the fact he'd said he knew everything about Sophia.
I walked to Arthur's room considering the different ways in which love was shown and wondering if it was really loving to treat someone the way Ryan treated Sophia. I found myself reminded of Andrew and thought about whether Ryan wasn't as bad as him like I'd thought before. In fact, I'd been shocked by the way he'd behaved around Sophia. Guess that's what you get for thinking people are as decent as they are good-looking, I thought grimly.