I went home for lunch and stayed at home to get my homework done. It was strange how I felt pangs of loneliness and heartache during the hours I spent without Arthur. Part of me wanted him to kidnap me so I’d never be obliged to go to school or spend time without him again. I decided this was worrying and called up Sara and Beth. They came around, happy that I was no longer depressed and we gave each other makeovers, taking lots of photos with my digital camera.
I showed them the ring Arthur had given me which they were awed by, Sara commenting that it was such a wonderful gift and Beth looking very jealous, and described him to them.
“He sounds amazing,” Sara said, after I told them how he’d starred in my dreams (although of course not telling them how the dreams came about, knowing they’d be wary of and concerned by anything involving hypnosis).
“I wish I had an ‘Arthur’,” Beth sighed, making Sara and I chuckle.
“Careful she doesn’t say she wants your Arthur,” Sara whispered to me. We laughed again.
Beth ignored us and asked me, “Does Henry still like you?”
I rolled my eyes. “He adores me. He’d been feeling a bit down so I gave him a hug and he said he’d hoped I cared about him. Such a dreamer.”
Beth frowned. “He’s actually been looking really depressed lately. I’m kind of worried about him. Even though he hypnotised you, even though he hypnotised me, I can’t really see him as anything other than well-intentioned.”
My face darkened. “No, he’s definitely not that. You know I was really upset last week? That was his fault. He hypnotised me again and tried to make me dump Arthur.”
“No!” Sara said, shocked. “After he’d promised to leave you alone? That’s so bad.”
“How did you stop yourself dumping Arthur?” Beth asked.
“I didn’t. It’s kind of complicated but Arthur realised and somehow managed to get me back.”
Sara raised an eyebrow. “Somehow? You mean you don’t know how he got you back?”
“I don’t remember all the details,” I replied evasively.
“What are you keeping from us?” she asked.
I looked down. “Arthur’s a hypnotist too.” I looked up and hurriedly said, “But he’s a good one! I promise! I wouldn’t be crazy enough to go out with someone who was similar to Henry.”
Sara looked at me in wonder. “Harriet, we’re your best friends. Of course we trust your judgement. You did the absolute right thing with Henry so we know you can handle hypnotists. Besides, you’re old enough to make these decisions for yourself. You don’t need to be worried that we’d criticise you.” She rolled her eyes. “You’re really daft, sometimes.”
I looked at Sara and Beth and said, “Yes, I am. And I definitely take you two for granted. Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Sara replied dismissively. “Friends are there for you and they don’t take much notice of how much they’re valued and don’t mind being disregarded. Beth and I only care about you.”
I smiled. “I love you guys.”
The doorbell rang downstairs and a few minutes later, Arthur appeared in my room. He looked surprised to see Sara and Beth but it looked more like he was startled than pleasantly surprised.
“Hey. Are these girls your friends?” he asked me, still not sounding happy to see them though not sounding harsh or unfriendly either.
“Yeah,” I replied, smiling. I pointed to each in turn as I said, “This is Sara and this is Beth.” I turned to my friends. “This is Arthur.”
“I should’ve asked if you were free this afternoon,” Arthur said, smiling wryly but sounding almost as if he were sighing resignedly as though he were displeased or disappointed by the sight of my friends.
I stood up and walked over to him and murmured, “As much as I love you, you shouldn’t assume I’ll forget everyone else and only see you,” teasingly reproving but then I kissed him to show I wasn’t really cross. “If you called me, I’d be happier from anticipation because you’re so good to have around.”
I pulled him to the bed and sat down, pulling with me. Beth looked awed.
“Hi,” she said shyly.
Arthur smiled at her but didn’t look overly interested despite the way she stared at him.
I suddenly felt that Arthur thought the room was overcrowded. He was looking at me in a way that seemed to convey an expectation for me to ask my friends to leave.
I ignored him and asked, “So, what’ve you been doing since the last time we talked?”
“Thinking of you,” he murmured, expression softening a little but not completely. He leant down to kiss me. I could tell he was urging me to forget my friends were there in an attempt to get them to leave.
I pushed him away, saying, “Arthur, that’s not fair.”
Sara and Beth looked confused.
“If you’re going to be like that,” I continued, “I shall send you out.”
Arthur raised an eyebrow, as if to say, ‘But I own you.’
Sara and Beth looked slightly uncomfortable.
“Um, we can leave if you want,” Sara said.
“No, that’s exactly what Arthur wants. You’re my two best friends and I’m determined we’re going to have a nice afternoon together. We haven’t been round each others’ houses for so long.”
“Okay,” Sara said dubiously. “If you’re sure.”
“I’m certain. Now, let’s sit in a circle on the floor and talk about things we usually discuss. Are there any boys you fancy, for example?”
Beth grinned. The four of us got off the bed, Arthur looking as if I was being rather tiresome, and sat on the carpet.
Beth began to talk about a peer who was quite good-looking, said sweet things, gave lovely compliments and always stammered around her which she found quite cute. Sara and I were interested but Arthur looked quite bored, not even making an effort to conceal his lack of interest.
“So, d’you think he likes you?” I asked.
Beth frowned slightly. “I’m not quite sure. I would never ask.”
“You should,” Arthur said, startling us. “Then you’ll know.”
“Yeah, but if he’s not interested, it’ll be embarrassing,” Beth said, looking puzzled by Arthur’s emotionlessness. “He’ll think I expect guys to like me or something.”
I crossed my arms and frowned at Arthur. “Will you stop being so cold? You act like I’ve committed an unforgivable crime or something.”
He ignored me and instead gazed at the finger upon which the ring he’d given me was, looking thoughtful.
I rolled my eyes and returned to the conversation with Sara and Beth. They both looked slightly nervous.
“What about you, Sara?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t like any guys,” she replied.
Arthur looked up and straight into her eyes. “Really? There’s no one at all?”
“N-no,” she stammered.
“Arthur, that’s not fair,” I said angrily. “I think you should leave.”
He looked straight into my eyes. Simultaneously, there was scepticism, annoyance and compelling love in his gaze which momentarily transfixed me.
Firmly, I said, “Go.”
When he had left, looking rather frustrated, I apologised to my friends.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “He’s not usually like that.”
My friends looked concerned.
“You promise?” Sara said.
I nodded. “He’s usually wonderful.”
Beth murmured, “I don’t like him. He scares me slightly.”
“I’ll make sure he behaves himself next time,” I promised.
I thought I was her favourite person in the world. Today was an unpleasant surprise.
I want to spend every moment I can with her and I want us to be undisturbed. I don’t want her to even like anyone other than me. I want her to be specially and completely reserved for me, the way I am for her. I wouldn’t ask anything of her that I wouldn’t do myself.
I wonder if I can use the ring in some way...