In my dream, I awoke in Arthur's arms. It felt so real that for a moment I wondered how I'd got to the park.
I kissed him, telling him I loved him.
"You're not dreaming," he whispered. "I carried you out here."
"What did my mother say?"
"I hypnotised her, and your father."
"I thought you said you weren't a hypnotist."
Arthur looked at me sympathetically. "My darling, how d'you think I managed to make you forget Henry's suggestions? I had to put you into such a deep trance."
"You hypnotised me?"
Arthur nodded. "I'm sorry. You didn't want to remain under Henry's power for the next week or so, did you?"
"You should have told me beforehand," I said quietly.
"I know. I'm sorry. Do you want to hear the next part of the story?"
I sighed. "Go on then."
"The girl discovered a terrible secret about the elder brother and wasn't sure how she felt about it. He seemed less mysterious now but he still adored her. He desperately hoped the girl would continue to love him and make all his dreams come true but it was up to her."
"Which decision did she make?"
"This is your life: it's your decision whether you stay or leave."
"All those times I fell asleep..., were you hypnotising me, then?"
"Well, it's how I do the dreams you see," Arthur said, frowning as if he could see me leaving him for this.
"No, but before that."
"Oh, you mean when I laughed and tried to tell you my surname? No, that was the natural hypnotic effect I have on people. I can be ... quite soporific unintentionally. Like when I said, ‘Sleep is involuntary.'"
"I'm not asleep now," I pointed out.
"I think I have to say it in a certain way, although I don't always pay attention to how I speak so people just happen to fall asleep while I'm talking to them."
I moved out of his arms and lay on my back on the grass.
"I love you," I said. "I know that. But you lied to me and put yourself in a position where you could control me."
"I wanted to feel you belonged to me. I know you do now."
"Arthur, did it ever cross your mind that I always belonged to you? Right from the moment you kissed me in my first dream about you."
"I told you: I can't think straight when I'm around you."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Are you the good guy or the bad guy?"
"You have to decide that for yourself."
"What if I get it wrong?"
"It won't ever feel wrong, but other people will notice and you'll receive a lot of unwanted sympathy. People like Henry will try to protect you but hurt you in the process, other hypnotists might try to save you and people will always try to tell you you're wrong."
"Surely I'll realise I've chosen wrongly? People wouldn't react like that if I chose the good guy."
"You won't feel like it's the wrong choice, though. You'll ignore everyone, begin to dislike the ones who, in your eyes, only ‘claim' to love you and you won't want to give up your lover because you'll be too in love to want to let go."
"Would I enjoy life either way?"
"In terms of the time you spend with whoever you choose, yes."
"But, otherwise, no?"
"It feels so right to be with you ... but what if it's wrong? What if you're evil and you taint me in a worse way than Henry did?"
"You'll never know."
"Can I love anyone else?"
"I don't know," Arthur said dubiously. "Once you've loved one of the Hypnos People, it's quite difficult to love normal people again. I mean, people just find us so captivating."
"The Hypnos People? Is that what you're called?"
"Yeah, or Captivators. I suppose if you found another, you could fall in love with him but I think our family are comparatively restrained in terms of how much they use their powers. I have a friend called Eric who is totally unrestrained."
"Can I meet him?" I asked.
Arthur looked startled. "What? He's totally unrestrained and you want to meet him? I thought the whole reason you stopped being friends with Henry was because he hypnotised you! The reason you're choosing between staying and leaving when you'd have otherwise stayed is because I hypnotised you! I don't think you understand what unrestrained means!"
"I do... I just want to see what would happen if I tried to love someone else. If I can't love a normal person, I might as well see who else is available."
"I reckon you should meet one of my brothers first. My older ones. Matt's behaviour most closely resembles that of the other Captivators."
"All right. I'll see what I think of him. If he's not terrifying, I'd like to meet Eric."
Arthur looked defeated. "At the weekend, then. Come and meet me here and I'll take you to my house."
"Thanks. Now could you take me home?"
"Yeah. Have you got enough energy to walk?"
He gazed wistfully into my eyes. "Sleep, then."
I had a dreamless night and I woke up the next morning feeling lost and confused. How could someone so amazing turn out to be something scary and bad? It made me reconsider the way I viewed Henry and Arthur. It seemed to be that both of them were good and evil, which didn't make sense. I felt sure that one side I'd seen wasn't natural and that I'd have to work out who was decent and who wasn't for my own sake but could not see how I was going to achieve a clear picture of the world. I looked at the ring on my finger before taking it off for school. I gazed at the pendant around my neck in the mirror and asked myself, ‘What complicated puzzle involves such beautiful pieces?'