Arthur put his arm around me protectively as we walked towards Ryan's room. Once there, we found the door half open.
Ryan was staring into the eyes of a girl with mousy brown hair and light blue eyes. She was staring back, looking mesmerised by him.
Ryan was slightly rounder than his brothers. His hair was, of course, black but seemed to shine and the air around it looked as if it was tinted grey. From this angle, I couldn't see the colour of his eyes.
"When you rise out of this trance, you'll fall asleep," he said in a soft voice, "and wake up when I stroke your shoulder. You'll see stars dancing around me and comets whizzing behind me and you'll feel like you've entered some sci-fi adventure story. When we kiss, the delight will course through you like a lightning bolt, fast, powerful and thrilling, and you'll feel totally blown away."
He clicked his fingers. The girl woke up and fell sideways, asleep. I heard her gentle breathing and saw her chest rise and fall slowly as she breathed deeply.
Ryan stood up and walked to the door.
"Oh, Arthur, you got a girlfriend!" he said. The statement was one of happiness and congratulation but his voice remained calm.
He took my hand and kissed it. "Enchanté," he murmured.
"Hi," I replied.
I gazed into his eyes, intrigued to find out if any of the brothers had the same coloured eyes. To my surprise, Ryan's eyes were pale green like Simon's, although slightly darker so the shade was closer to the colour of grass.
"Please, stare a little deeper."
He sounded like he was inviting me to sit down or do something that would be pleasant. Wait... he wsa inviting me to stare into his eyes?
"You're inviting me to be hypnotised by you?" I asked.
He glanced at Arthur. "You did want this, didn't you?"
Arthur nodded, looking distracted by his contemplations.
"How do you feel: how exactly do you feel?" he asked, in that soft tone he had used while making suggestions to his girlfriend.
"Calm," I replied, "content, relaxed ... and captivated."
"Good, all positive emotions there." He sounded like a doctor which didn't really make sense because he looked like he should only be in the first year of Sixth Form. "What's your name?"
"What a lovely name. And, Harriet, would you like me to fetch you a drink?"
"No, thank you."
"Are you sure? You look a little tired," Ryan said, gazing at me more intently.
I yawned. "I am a bit."
"Some hot milk perhaps? Such a relaxing drink, don't you find?"
"Yes. I'll have some hot milk."
"Arthur, go and make her some hot milk," Ryan said.
Arthur turned and slowly walked out, looking a bit reluctant.
Ryan took my hand and led me to the centre of the floor.
"Please, sit down," he said invitingly.
I sat cross-legged.
Ryan sat in front of me.
"Do you still feel calm?"
"Good. Do tell me if there's any change in your feelings."
"Well, actually," I confessed, "I think I'm a little in love with you."
"Oh no," Ryan said cheerfully. "You're just a little hypnotised, that's all."
"Henry fell in love with you, didn't he?"
"Did you feel the same way about him?"
I shook my head.
"You think you love me, don't you?"
"Don't worry, you don't."
"But, I wonder," he murmured thoughtfully. "Would you kiss me?"
"Yes," I replied.
Ryan's stare grew more intense.
"In front of Arthur?"
"Would you ask me to leave Sophia for you?"
"I'm sorry: I'm quite in love with her."
"What are you doing?!" Arthur shouted.
Ryan looked at Arthur strangely. "I'm checking how easily hypnotised she is, of course. Didn't you want to know how compliant and/or suggestible she was?"
"Why did you bring her here, then? Shaun and Simon came here to check Jack's and I thought they'd recommended my services to you."
"Not at all. I wanted you to act like a Captivator."
"You could've said," Ryan said reproachfully.
"I was scared!"
"Arthur, I'm not even a year older than you. You could easily take me down if you wanted to. You've no need to fear me. Really, you can be quite silly sometimes. Pass me the milk: we might as well give it to her."
Arthur passed Ryan the milk which he gave to me, resuming his gaze.
"Is it cool enough for her to drink?" Ryan asked.
"Yeah," Arthur replied.
"Drink up," Ryan said to me.
I drank the warm milk which made me feel both like a child and more relaxed.
He smiled, taking the mug from me and putting it on the floor beside me.
"I'm awfully sorry about the misunderstanding," he said. "Let's get you out of this trance."
"No, don't stop!" I exclaimed.
Ryan frowned. "I'm sorry, did you just talk?"
He looked at Arthur, surprised. "She wasn't even entranced."
"Meaning I probably should check how compliant she is just in case she's dangerously so."
"Fine, but no intrusive questions."
"Sure. This is probably how much another Captivator would hypnotise her if that's any consolation."
Ryan gazed back into my eyes. "Lie down for me."
I lay down on my back.
Ryan knelt beside me and continued to look into my eyes, transfixing me with green irises that reminded me of Spring.
He raised his hand and asked if I could see it.
"Watch it," he instructed.
He moved it in the air above me towards my waist and made a swift, more deliberate motion above my legs so it was as if he was stroking the air between the tops of my thighs and my knees. My knees went down to the floor and my legs straightened out (but they were crossed). Ryan touched the air above my top leg and raised it before lowering it to the left so my leg uncrossed itself.
"Fascinating," I murmured, not in the slightest bit scared.
Ryan frowned slightly at me.
His next hand movement was right above my face, a sharp movemnet from one side to the other. I felt my mind instantly go blank.
"What are you thinking?" he asked.
"Nothing," I replied.
"How are you feeling? Still the same as before?"
"Intriguing," he murmured.
He raised his hand and moved it slowly upwards but from side to side to as it were a feather drifting on currents of wind.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"Floaty," I replied, imagining myself as a bird.
He brought his hand down to the ground heavily.
"Like lead," I answered, feeling heavy and worn out.
"Sing for me," he commanded.
"No, thanks," I replied, embarrassed.
Ryan gazed deeper into my eyes. "That was an order."
"What shall I sing?" I asked, slightly ashamed of myself for disobeying him.
"I'm forever blowing bubbles."
"I'm forever blowing bubbles," I began. "Pretty bubbles in the air. They fly so high..."
I stopped as Ryan made a gesture for me to stop. Then he gently, almost clinically, felt for my pulse beneath my neck.
"Your fingers are cold."
"No, they're not. They're warm."
He was right, I realised. That cold contact with my skin must have been something else because his fingers were definitely quite a comfortable temperature. I longed for him to touch my skin again when he removed his fingers but he didn't.
"Come here, Arthur," Ryan said, sounding confused.
Arthur looked startled as he knelt the other side of me.
"Feel her pulse," Ryan said.
Arthur chose to feel my wrist. The light pressure wasn't so delightful as Ryan's.
"It's okay," Arthur said, sounding puzzled. "Why?"
"That's the thing. Her heart's at resting rate."
"Is that a surprise?"
"Yes. Usually, there's some indication of subconscious fear, but Harriet's totally relaxed."
"Do you trust me?" Ryan asked.
"Close your eyes."
I did so. It was like lying in bed.
"How strange," Ryan said. "She's not even worried I'll do anything to her."
"Well, she is hypnotised," Arthur said.
"That's the thing, Arthur: this is a light trance. Almost ineffective."
"Yes." To me, he said, "Open your eyes."
I opened them and found Arthur looked worried. I gazed at Ryan, waiting for the next test.
"Harriet, why are you so compliant?" he asked.
"I don't know."
Ryan gazed deeper into my eyes. "Are you scared?"
I shook my head.
"I don't think so."
"Hm, something's wrong," he said to himself. "With her, something's not quite as it should be."
"Has anyone frightened you so badly, it's affected you permanently?" he asked me.
"Yes," I answered, suddenly feeling slightly chilled.
"Okay, just relax for me. Close your eyes and count from 5 to 0."
I closed my eyes, took deeper breaths and counted, "Five, four, three, two, one, zero."
Somthing odd happened. I was no longer worried about anything.
"You've reached a state of total calm," Ryan explained. "Now tell me who frightened you."
Someone was soothingly stroking my arm. He was doing it rhythmically too and I felt lulled into a strong sense of security, while more relaxed.
"Henry," I told him.
"Henry? Our brother?"
"Yes," I answered.
"What did he do? Open your eyes a minute."
I opened them.
I pushed myself into a sitting position, still feeling totally calm.
Ryan had a notepad and he began to draw a spiral. I was totally drawn in by it and as he reached the its end, I felt my head roll forwards and my eyes close involuntarily. I also collapsed forwards as all my muscles relaxed simultaneously. I could still hear, but I couldn't respond.
"What did he do to induce the trance?"
Surprisingly, I began to talk. It was like my voice was being controlled by a different part of my brain.
"He said, ‘Captivate, mesmerise, enchant and hypnotise, charm and anaesthetise the will beyond these eyes.'"
I felt two heavy weights fall on top of me.