Minutes later, Arthur appeared on the bridge.
I stood up. "Hey," I said.
I clearly heard someone say, "No," in surprise from behind the tree.
I hugged him, and kissed him on the cheek, whispering, "Your brothers are behind the tree."
He kissed me back, whispering, "They're not going to like you for that."
"Sit down, princess," he said in a louder voice. I sat at his feet and smiled as he said, "If there's anyone else around here, they should sit down too," he said in a commanding voice.
"Oh man, she told him!" one of the twins muttered.
"Is that Simon and Shaun?" Arthur asked. "I'm surprised Jack didn't come along. Now go home."
The two stood up and trudged past us and over the bridge, Shaun saying, "I didn't think she was trustworthy."
Arthur sat down in front of me.
I sighed. Then a thought occurred to me. "I didn't fall asleep today."
"I wanted to assure you it was real."
I laughed. "That sounds like you've been the one making me sleep."
"I am. If I leave you in the right way, you'll fall asleep before our next encounter. It's like what you were saying last time. I'm slightly magical."
"Unless...," I murmured, as a disturbing thought appeared in my mind, "Unless you're a hypnotist too."
Arthur looked surprised. "Who said I was?"
"Well, it's just that you have at least three brothers who can hypnotise people. I've been on the other end of one so I should know."
"Hm, yes. I'm surprised that Henry is such a skilled hypnotist. He knows exactly the right suggestion to make and knows about three different ways to induce a trance. It's fascinating, since he's neither the eldest nor the wisest of the eight of us."
"Is that why all his previous girlfriends think he's wonderful?" I asked, laughing.
"I wouldn't be surprised if it was."
"And he's your brother."
"Doesn't mean to say that I can hypnotise people, too. In fact, the baby of the family, Jack, can't."
"I see... Well, in that case, all's well."
"Was all ever not well?" he asked, leaning in to kiss me.
Afterwards, I was eager for him to tell more of the story.
"Ah, I had something else I wanted to talk to you about first," he said mysteriously.
I remembered something from last night's dream. "You want to tell me about how you feel about his relationship?" I said, wondering why my vision was unaffected as I felt certain my eyes were shining.
"That's exactly what I wanted to talk about," Arthur said, looking and sounding astounded. "Can you read minds?"
"No, it was in the dream. You're going to tell me you want us to be more than boyfriend and girlfriend."
"Well, I'm not now. But, you're mentioning the dream here... Dreams don't always come true. So that must mean you want this too."
"Oh, I do. A stronger relationship where our love was more profound would be wonderful! Even more so than this."
Arthur smiled. "I'm not actually going to tell you exactly what I want..."
"Of course not," I interrupted. "The mystery makes you irresistible."
"Why, thank you," he said smiling. "Even if you were inspired by the dream, your willingness to see me as wonderful is gratifying." He caressed my hair before talking again.
"Now, I'm going to explain the reason for this want of more that I wish to communicate without giving too much away. I was always inspired by my three older brothers, Ryan, Matt and Andrew. I've learnt all the useful things I'll need in life from them. They all achieved phenomenal things with their girlfriends. Ryan's girlfriend knows his name and little else because they spend so much time sharing great moments together; Andrew's dislikes him but is head over heels for him simultaneously and absolutely can't resist him; and Matt's girlfriend ... well, she ... she does anything he wants her to do without him having to say a word. They're so ... attuned to each other that if one of them desires something, the other sort of ... senses it but guesses exactly right. And as for Zara's compliancy ... she says she gave her will up when she realised Matt would take care of her and be the most responsible yet most loving boyfriend in the world. It's all quite a lot to live up to."
"You'll do better than all of them put together," I said, kissing him.
"I can only do that if you love me," Arthur murmured.
"Requirement met," I said quietly and sincerely. "What's the next stage?"
"All in good time," Arthur said, smiling. "I was going to tell you the next part of the story. It coincides with real life. Henry came home today and shouted at me for winning your heart. I suppose he's jealous, really. Having been the one loved by everyone other than his own family since childhood. He's dependent on the love other people give him.
"The younger brother discovered the older brother's love for the girl and knew of her love for him. He believed the older brother to be dangerous and slippery and tried to get the girl to understand this. She wouldn't accept what he was telling her, however, and so she didn't change anything about her life. In a final, desperate attempt to make the girl see things from his perspective, he totally destroyed her trust in him, threw away any chances they had of even being friends again, the way they once were. The girl, once unaware of the clear decency of one brother and blatant corruption of the other, was now certain that the younger brother was evil, whilst his brother was the opposite and the only one of the two she'd ever consider worthy of her love. This helped her become closer to the older brother since when the bond was complete, her heart would belong fully to one brother and all her hatred would be reserved for the other."
Arthur kissed me. "I hope it happens exactly like that. I don't want any competition."
"You don't have any."
Then he looked at my schoolbag, which I'd brought along.
"Let's get your homework out of the way and then we can kiss until you have to go."
"Great plan. How are you at physics and biology?"
"I'm aiming for the top grades in all three sciences," Arthur replied, smiling.
"And I thought you were perfect already," I murmured.
Arthur snorted. "Intelligence is a sign of perfection?"
"No, having someone who can help you when you most need it is fortunate and coincidence is a symbol of Fate's blessing."
Arthur leant in to kiss me again before we started on what were luckily relatively short pieces of homework. We were left with over an hour to luxuriate in each other's company and I felt disorientated as if I'd suddenly started another holiday.
It was with impossible reluctance that I walked home but with great excitement that I anticipated the night's dream.