Chapter 21

Harriet

That night I had a glorious dream...

 I was floating, not supported by anything, in open sky...

Warm... Content. Free...

I was lying on my back, feeling totally light-hearted and liberated. Arthur appeared lying on his side beside me, smiling warmly and looking gorgeous in the bright sunlight. He stood up, as easily as if we were on ground, and helped me to my feet.

Together we strolled, hand in hand, totally at peace with the world and gladdened by each other's presence.

Suddenly, we appeared at the top of a slide entirely constructed of rainbow dust. Arthur's eyes flashed, for a second revealing the rainbows in his irises and then he sat down. He pulled me down with him and we slid down the feather-soft surface laughing in our carefreeness.

At the bottom, we stood up. Gazing intently, mesmerisingly, into my eyes, Arthur leant in and we shared the sweetest, gentlest and most tender kiss. Throughout, he caressed my sides softly. Classical music played in the background - Saint-Saëns' Aquarium. I almost felt pain as it ended.

"Always remember I love you," he murmured, and his next kiss caused the dream to close.

*

I woke up feeling wonderful and wished, even more fervently, that I didn't have to go to school today. But ... life is life, and in a few minutes I was sliding off my bed and heading to the bathroom carrying my uniform.

Twenty minutes later, I was sitting at the breakfast table, eating porridge my mum had kindly cooked for me.

At one point, Robert ran in and playfully pinched and punched my arm, saying "Pinch, punch, first day of the month." Grinning, I returned it and then watched amusedly as he did it to Mum.

Upon having finished breakfast, I brushed my hair and cleaned my teeth, and sat in the living room watching nature documentaries until it was time for me to leave.

At school, the first person I saw was Henry. To both our surprise, I hugged him, albeit stepping away quickly so as not to gain unwanted attention.

"Are you okay, Harriet?" he asked, his brow slightly furrowed.

"Yeah, I am," I said happily. "What about you?"

"I'm still annoyed about last night," he muttered. "Thank goodness the parents have left." He shook his head, saying "Fancy letting a guest hypnotise one of their sons and the girlfriend of another..."

I frowned and rubbed his shoulder comfortingly. "At least they don't visit too often. How is Jack, incidentally?"

"He's fine now but he was so confused last night. Mum and Dad laid him on the sofa and woke him up telling him he'd fainted. He was sorry that he'd missed out on dinner, but like I said last night, I don't think he should've attended in the first place." Henry sighed. "Anyway, he got fed and then he went to bed. This morning he was slightly worried he'd faint in school but Shaun and Simon reassured him that it was ‘probably just a one-off thing'. They were pretty angry when they heard about last night too."

I pulled him back into a hug. "You sound really stressed."

"I'm fine, Harriet," he said awkwardly. "Really."

I let go, sighing. "Don't let this get you down," I told him sternly.

Smiling, he said "I won't."

The bell rang.

"Bye Harriet. See you in               Chemistry."       

"See you."

Henry

Her behaviour around me is startling. I shall have to do some research when I get in. In the meantime, I'll be paying close attention to how other people are responding to my power.

Especially the ones I've hypnotised in the past...

Harriet

So many people seemed captivated by Henry today...

I mean, not that I didn't totally see where they were coming from - it's just ... odd. Like a spell has been cast over the school which only a few people can resist. Even Sara and Beth have stopped hating him. Sara was chatting to him at break as if they were good friends and Beth just looks like a rabbit caught in headlights every time he passes her.

And that girl - Anita - who at the very start of term was scared of him, but seemed to strangely get over her fear, looks lovestruck too.

It's not just the students. Some of the teachers have been affected, too.

Mrs Munt gave him a merit for being the only person to hand in his Chemistry homework, and he was allowed to go to the front of the queue at lunchtime for ‘standing sensibly'.

I say all this but people are probably bemused by how friendly and conversational I am to him, especially when I was so cold to him before half term. Even after seeing Michael, I hadn't really spoken to him much so I guess I'm under his spell too.

Under his spell... I should be disturbed. What's going on?

Henry

Oh dear. Mrs Munt, Dr Jay, Beth, Anita, Steve - the coolest guy in school and a sixth former no less: they're all terribly influenced by my power.

Perhaps I should stop coming to school.

But I hate the solitude of being home-tutored and I'm not about to let my new status change my life. I need someone to talk to.

A Captivator.

Ryan.

***

I knocked on Ryan's door, hoping Sophia wasn't here - it kind of creeped me out to talk to him while she was entranced.

"Come in," Ryan called, and I entered.

No Sophia. Good.

"Ryan, I need someone to talk to," I confessed unashamedly.

"Why not Matt?" was his automatic response.

Matt was the supportive one. The friendly, loyal brother who would excel if he ever took up counselling. Why not him.

"He's nice to everyone," I replied. In times of stress and trouble, you needed someone who could empathise. You bonded best with those who understood. And so, I needed someone who wouldn't defend Arthur if I mentioned him in my list of worries. Even if that wasn't what I needed to let off my chest today.

"Is this about Arthur?" Ryan asked.

"No, not at the moment, but I still don't want to talk to Matt. It's easier to have just one person to talk to - at some point, I probably will want to unload some heavy stuff involving Arthur."

"I guess I see your logic. Sit down."

He was at his desk. I went to sit opposite him on his bed.

"People at school are Captivated by me," I said.

"Whoa." Ryan obviously hadn't expected me to reveal what was bothering me so fast. He got over his surprise and asked "Is it because you're the strongest Captivator in the household now?"

I nodded.

Ryan looked awed. "And you chose me to talk to?"

"Ryan, I'm still me," I said impatiently. "I've not suddenly become world famous and changed into a fame-adoring jerk."

"But you realise we're all going to respect you now?"

"Arthur and the twins won't. And I can't see Andrew ever appreciating the fact I've taken over from him."

Ryan nodded, frowning. He suddenly looked confused. "What happened with the twins?"

I sighed. "I said some things which could be interpreted as suggestions and they obeyed without wanting to."

Ryan winced. "You're that powerful?"

"Yeah. It's horrible."

"So you wanted to talk about the stress?"

"Yes. And how disturbing it is."

"Well, I can't do anything about the second thing - and personally I think it's a good thing you're not crazy about power - but I could help with the first. Have you ever thought about ... sharing the role?"

I frowned. "Don't you need to be friends with someone nearly as powerful as you for that? I can only think of Arthur and Andrew, and no way am I friends with them."

Ryan frowned in concentration. "I think you can make someone more powerful... And there are powerful tools of hypnotism out there."

"Somehow I don't think our weekly allowance could cover the cost."

"True," Ryan said, looking disappointed.

"Plus, I can't openly have favourites," I pointed out.

Ryan sighed. "Yeah, I guess not."

"So continued counselling it is."

"Joy. Am I going to get a chance to see Sophia with this?"

"Of course you are. I have other things to do in my life than sit here burdening you with my troubles."

Ryan grinned. "No way(!)," he said, in mock amazement.

I smiled back. "Thanks for agreeing to this," I said sincerely.

"You oddball. I'm your brother. Here for you when you need me."

"Promise it's not just 'cause I'm stronger?"

"Well..."

I shoved him playfully.

"Of course it's not."

I smiled as I stood up. "Well, I feel better now. Bye."

"Are you sure there's nothing else you want to talk about?"

"Not right now. I think I just needed to state the problem first of all."

In the tone of a psychologist or doctor, Ryan said "We shall go for a more in-depth analysis tomorrow."

I snorted. "Bye Dr Ryan."

"Don't forget to take your tablets, Henry."

I walked out, shaking my head in amusement. Ryan had definitely been the right person to talk to.

Now. Research. I doubted any books could help me. So I trudged up the stairs to the next level of the house and walked towards Andrew's bedroom.

I stopped short as I heard Elizabeth's voice.

"... try again? Well then, you'll have to promise me you'll be a better person."

I turned around and headed back for the stairs. I wouldn't disturb Andrew tonight: he evidently had more pressing matters at hand.

As I was walking, I heard Andrew say "I promise, my love."

I was pleased, for Elizabeth's sake, by the sincerity of his statement.

"Let's start afresh. I won't hold any of your past wrongs against you and hopefully we can make each other happy."

That was the last thing I heard.

I returned to my room, wondering distractedly how long it would take them to rebuild their fractured relationship.

The End

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