Chapter 12

I woke up on a sandy beach. The warmth of the sun enveloped me and I looked up to see it setting before me, transforming the sky into a myriad of glorious colours and setting the clouds aflame with pink fire.

"It's so beautiful," I sighed.

"Is it?" Arthur asked, sounding wistful.

"What d'you mean?" I asked, confused. "Can't you see it?"

"No. I'm not hypnotised, remember?"

"But...," I spluttered. "... How can you not see this? It's all around us, the atmosphere seeping into our bodies in the most wonderful way."

"Everything you see, everything you feel is all part of your imagination. Your subconscious has taken over your brain and it seems like reality to you. But I'm not part of you. I can only picture your reality; can only wish I was there in your dream. The most I can grasp of it are the effects you outwardly show: your smile, the awe in your tone, your relaxed muscles."

"Is it always like this for you?" I asked quietly, struggling to picture Arthur still sitting in my bedroom while I was experiencing bliss.

"Yeah," he replied, sighing.

"That's so ... depressing," I murmured. "I always thought you were with me. That we were immersed in these ... gorgeous scenes together."

"No. I'm your anchor to reality, an outside force if you like. I control your ‘dream-world' and ‘observe' but don't see. I've never actually seen our movie scenes."

I felt incredibly sorry for Arthur. The longing he must feel to join me... I bet he even felt like we were separated sometimes - that's how I would feel in his position. The pain of that imagined isolation from someone I loved dearly made the warmth and comfort of the beach I thought I was lying on unbearable. It seemed to me that the scene was laughing at its creator who was banned from ever entering it.

"End it," I murmured. "I don't want to be here anymore."

I heard Arthur click his fingers and I was suddenly back in my room, back on the bed, back in reality.

I sat up and turned to hug Arthur. I buried my head in his shoulder as he absently stroked my back.

"I didn't realise," I murmured. "I'm sorry."

"Don't apologise: I want to do these things for you. I shouldn't have spoilt it."

"That's ridiculous: I'm glad I know now. If you'd appeared hurt and I hadn't known what was up, I would've been distraught, thinking I had done something terribly wrong.

"Was that how you felt earlier?" Arthur asked, sounding startled.

"Yeah - I said, didn't I?"

"You said you wondered if I'd fallen out of love with you, but I thought you meant that thought had briefly crossed your mind. I didn't think you'd been plagued by distressing thoughts."

Arthur's arms wrapped around me, holding me tightly. I felt secure and was almost glad I had felt sad earlier and thus could ask for this sign of Arthur's desire to care for me and protect me.

"I love you," I told him, my statement not really a response to what had been said before or one to encourage further conversation.

"I love you too," Arthur replied. "I love you so much. You can't fathom the impact you have on my emotions."

His arms tightened around me, almost making breathing a struggle.

Arthur

She needs protecting.

She's so vulnerable...

She needs looking after.

She needs support, comfort, understanding. She needs all these things.

She needs me.

I won't let her down.

Harriet

"I won't let you down," Arthur said, with fierce emotion. "I will never let you down."

"I know," I murmured.

Arthur let go of me and leant back. I looked up at him. His gaze was intense.

"It's important that you do know." He looked a little deeper into my eyes so that the lines between my natural desire for him to be happy and being obliged to do things for him became a little blurry. "Say after me, darling: ‘Arthur won't ever let me down'."

Seeing how much this acknowledgement would mean to him, I repeated the statement, gazing straight back at him to convey the fact I did know he was there for me.

I felt a tug at my heart and a subtle shift in the recesses of my mind caused me to suddenly begin kissing Arthur as if to make the words ... binding ...

I broke away, shocked. "Arthur!" I exclaimed.

"What's wrong?" he asked innocently.

"How dare you?!"

"How dare I what?"

"Turn the statement ... binding," I said, not really sure how to phrase my sentence.

Pain crossed his features. "I want to help you, Harriet. If you believe in me - completely - you won't feel so vulnerable. You don't know how hard it is for me to see that fragility in your eyes... It's almost spirit-breaking."

I looked away from those agonised rainbow irises and sighed. Disconsolate, I stood up off the bed. I grabbed my top and slipped it on before walking to my window. I gazed out unseeing across my street.

                A couple of minutes later, I heard Arthur slide off my bed. I tensed slightly as he walked towards me. When he reached me, he placed his hands on my waist and stood quietly behind me, waiting for the silence to be broken.

I looked down at his fingers. "See, even that's possessive," I murmured, speaking my thoughts.

"I have a possessive nature," Arthur murmured. "I'm sorry you don't like that."

I turned slightly to look at him. "Maybe we're not right for each other."

Arthur let go of me as if stung and stepped back. He looked distraught.

"Darling, don't even..." He shook his head. "I love you." I couldn't bear the sight of his heart breaking in his eyes but nor could I let him own me.

"I'm sorry," I murmured, but defiantly looked up. "But I don't want to be possessed. Not to that extent."

"Love means making sacrifices, doesn't it?"

"But to sacrifice my will?"

"You say that like you've always had it. But look at yourself. I've entranced you at least a dozen times and no harm has ever befallen you. In fact, each time you've allowed yourself to surrender your will to me, your life has been enhanced. Why are things any different now?"

"Because I don't want to be your slave!" I cried, suddenly angry. "How can you stand there and try to persuade me to let you control my life? How can you live with yourself knowing that you want me to be your proprius?"

"I don't want to control your life! And you don't understand that I want you as my proprius for good reasons!"

"It's hard to understand after seeing Anna!"

"So you think I'll be like Michael?! Is that what you're saying?"

I faltered.

Arthur stepped forwards, grabbing my shoulders. "Haven't you been listening, Harriet? I love you. Now I don't know if you noticed but Michael doesn't feel much for Anna. He has her out of a love of controlling people. He's one of the worst types of Captivators: the ones with no conscience. Do you believe that I have no conscience?"

"No," I mumbled.

"Have I ever wronged you?" he asked, calm now. "Aside from wanting you to be my proprius?"

"No," I answered.

"Do you think I'm capable of hurting you?"

I sighed. "No, Arthur."

"Be honest - I have a right to know what you think of me."

"I don't believe you're capable of hurting me," I told him truthfully.

Arthur let go of one of my shoulders to caress the side of my face. I closed my eyes, wincing slightly at the gentleness of the touch which threatened to cause me to regret a reasonable opinion.

While my eyes were closed, Arthur leant in and kissed me. He pulled back when I didn't respond and murmured "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

"Okay," I whispered, not giving in but acting out of the fact I hated fighting with the one who always made me feel special.

"Do you still love me?"

I opened my eyes. "Of course I do. It's so hard to stand here and argue with you. You've touched my heart, Arthur, and I'm never going to forget that."

"That's exactly how it is for me, Harriet. I love you more than you could know. And so, it really hurts to think you couldn't trust me with your will."

"Arthur, let's drop it. Please. I don't want to end this."

"Is that what you'll do if I go too far?" he asked quietly.

"That's what I'll be forced to do if you go too far."

"So crossing the line has consequences."

"To tell you the truth, it always did. But now we're clear. At least, I hope we're clear."

"Yeah, we're clear," he muttered bitterly.

His tone made me anxious. "Arthur..., you're not going to dump me, are you?"

His face hardened. "Is that what you think? That I'd dump you for not becoming my proprius?"

I shook my head hastily. "Your tone worried me."

"Well, I think I'm entitled to a little bitterness, don't you?"

I nodded, mumbling. "Naturally. If I were you, I would hate me."

Arthur sighed heavily and his face softened. "I couldn't hate you, Harriet."

He leant in and tenderly brushed his lips against mine. I kissed him back softly. I tried not to cry but a couple of tears leaked down my cheeks. Arthur felt them and broke away, looking concerned.

"Harriet?"

I hugged him tightly, burying my head into his shoulder.

He stroked my back, sighing "Oh, Harriet."

"I don't want us to split," I murmured. "We're so good for each other. If we broke up, I don't think we'd find anyone else caring enough or willing to put as much into the relationship as we do. This relationship is too ideal to end because of a stupid argument. I want you around for a lot longer than a month and what's more, I need you for longer."

"Me too," Arthur murmured.

We stood there silently for a few more minutes before Arthur stepped back and said "I should get back home."

"Stay," I murmured.

"It's getting late."

"Stay the night."

"Your parents would hardly approve."

"Make them," I said harshly. "We're not going to be silly."

"I'm a little tired, Harriet."

I leant up and kissed him with quite strong emotion. I broke away and said "There. Now you have strength and motivation as well."

He looked at me as if I were an angel before turning to leave my room. At my door, he turned to say "Get ready for bed, darling - I can tell you're exhausted too."

As he wandered downstairs to find my parents, I went over to my chest of drawers, grabbed a nightdress and walked to the bathroom. I took a quick relaxing shower before returning to my room, dressed in my nightclothes. I slid under my duvet, leaning against the pillows behind me. A couple of minutes later, Arthur walked in.

He looked amused when he saw me sitting in bed and asked "Am I going to read you a bedtime story?"

"If you like," I replied. "But I'd prefer to hear that story about the girl and the two brothers."

Arthur smiled. "Okay." He came over and sat on the top of the bed beside me. "What happened last time?"

"I can't remember," I admitted. "It was so long ago."

"Oh well, I'll just make it up on the spot.

‘The elder brother and the girl had an argument that almost broke their hearts. They didn't want to fight. But this was one thing, it seemed, that they would always disagree on. ... Would the fight be won? Or would the matter just be forgotten about so they could continue the relationship in peace?'."

"I hope they forget about it," I said, looking straight into Arthur's eyes. I knew that his tale was something called a ‘suggestive story' and guessed it had some sort of impact on real life.

Arthur looked away from my intent gaze, sighing. He evidently wanted to make me see things his way still.

I sighed too.

"Well, let's forget about it for tonight," Arthur said, rubbing my shoulder.

I nodded.

He smiled and leant down to kiss me.

The rhythm of the kiss was soothing, absorbing Arthur and I into it like a piece of classical music. The warmth and contentment was gratifying: this was the real end of the dispute. Negative emotions were alleviated and replaced with affection, and my heart was filled with the goldenness of feeling special. The pure and soulful love of the kiss pervaded the atmosphere around us, chasing away tensions and seeming to invigorate it.

Sincerity was the underlying current to this all-encompassing, wondrous sensation. A melody was being played by our heartstrings while they twined in the same way as our fingers twined in each other's hair in this lesser, physical world.

Every kiss that Arthur and I shared was, of course, amazing, but this one was particularly beautiful and expressive; perhaps because of the fight we had had. I wished that every kiss could feel like this but then changed my mind - it was the rarity of such a moment that made it truly awe-inspiring.

I broke away, overwhelmed by ardour, and sighed happily.

Arthur's expression was extremely serious as he said "I think you've cut me up into lots of little pieces; softened the edges of each one; melted them down to a thick, glossy liquid like chocolate; coated each one in honey; tied them up like parcels; and locked them up in your heart for safe-keeping. You are the sole person who can access my true self, who will cherish me in the right way. I love you so much more than I did before - impossible as that seems."

I smiled. "That whole new level of enjoyment we reached seems impossible."

Arthur stroked my hair. "I hope our feelings always surprise us."

"Me too."

And then, silence enveloped us as we relived a moment we would surely never forget. I lost myself in the vast horizon hinted at by Arthur's eyes, seeming to float in open sky as he held my gaze.

I felt dizzy as his irises suddenly became rainbow-striped. They flicked back to cerulean and my thoughts blanked.

"You've stopped blinking," Arthur murmured, sounding slightly troubled.

"As have you," I pointed out, slightly confused.

"I won't be hypnotised."

"Oh." With an effort, I looked away. "Thanks," I said to him.

He didn't reply.

I stifled a yawn. "Well, I might go to sleep now. You okay with that?"

"Sure."

I pulled the pillows down flat and lay down, snuggling into my bedclothes.

"Love you," I murmured.

"Love you too," he replied, but there was a hint of something like disconsolateness in his tone.

I reached out and stroked his arm. He smiled at me before swiftly kissing my forehead.

"Pleasant dreams, darling."

With that, I closed my eyes. I rested one of my hands on his for the comfort of knowing he was there. He gently stroked my side with his other hand. In a few minutes, I was asleep.

Arthur

I could so easily have entranced her and changed everything...

But that wouldn't have been right.

I'm losing the will to help her along the path to becoming my proprius. She's just so gentle and open that I can't bring myself to deceive her. I guess this is what love does to you.

...

For as long as I was watching her, she slept with an enviable peacefulness: her expression a picture of serenity. I drifted off with that delightful image in my mind's eye.

The End

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