This afternoon was really difficult. Sitting next to Harriet on the bus, having her in my room... It was like a date or if not, a visit to the house of one in a couple which could definitely be followed by romantic experiences. How I longed to take her in my arms and kiss her. The best thing I could do was ignore her, but even that was difficult as I found I felt I was being rude if I didn’t look at her when I spoke to her. But the thing was just knowing she was there made me happier somehow, light-hearted, optimistic. I couldn’t truly believe there was such a thing in the world as a proprius when she was there, at least not until Michael came. I ... I don’t know why ... but I felt like we were friends again. Like the possibility of a relationship with Harriet Thyme was still very real. I found myself quite unintentionally remembering the look of awe she used to wear around me, how she was fascinated by me.
I finished my work and said, “Would you like to know the things I asked you while you were in a trance?”
She looked at me strangely. “No.”
“You sure? I mean, you must be curious. If not about what I asked, then about your answers. You may need to correct yourself if you said the wrong thing.”
She looked at me as if was dumb. “You asked my subconscious.”
“Oh well, maybe you weren’t wrong then. Still, wouldn’t you like to know?”
She sighed in exasperation. “Oh, go on then.”
Henry very randomly started talking to me about the various things he’d asked me while I’d been hypnotised on that first day of term.
“First I asked your age, how long you’d been attending the school we go to and if you liked it there.” he said, smiling at the memory. I failed to see what was so wonderful about hypnotising someone and interrogating them.
“Do I like it, then?”
Henry frowned. “Surely you know.”
“Well, I think I do but I can’t be sure how I replied.”
“Well, you said you do.”
“What if I subconsciously disliked something but liked it when I was happy and awake and not hypnotised?”
“That ... rarely happens. Usually, if you subconsciously like or dislike something, you find out in your dreams but it’s hardly ever surprising or unusual.”
Henry smiled. “You sound interested. Is there anything else you’d like to ask?”
I nodded. “Why do you like hypnotising me?”
Henry grinned mysteriously and stood up. He came and sat beside me and opened the first drawer of his bedside table. He pulled out a tattered-looking, dark blue diary.
He flicked to a page and read, “I like it when her eyes melt. It’s also extremely pleasurable to talk to her.”
“Just not when I’m awake,” I remarked.
“I never said anything about disliking talking to you when you were awake.”
“Maybe not, but there had to be something wrong if you felt the need for me to always be in a trance.”
Henry looked thoughtful. “The Hypnos People do have odd tendencies. I mean I’ve grown up watching all my brothers hypnotise the people they know and asking them things about themselves. People just get so paranoid when you ask them a lot and really you just want to get to know them. I’m not denying discussions are fun, but you feel you really get to know someone when they’re honest. If you like their personality, you can befriend them and if you don’t, you can make them forget you. It’s just convenient.”
“But don’t you like that feeling of getting to know a person because they want to get to know you?”
“I do. But there’s something relaxing in just talking. I don’t even pay attention to what the subject says back half the time. The Hypnos People are truly privileged in the way that they can go up to a random stranger and spill out all of their cares without the person even knowing about it.”
“Can you use a trance like that?” I asked dubiously.
“You can use a trance for anything. Commands, questions, influencing beliefs or the effects things have on people. I find it all quite interesting.”
“You know what?” I said, not quite believing what I was going to say. “I reckon I am too. Ryan was checking my suggestiveness or something and it was ... intriguing.”
Henry looked puzzled. “Your suggestiveness? Your ability to make a suggestion? Really?”
“Yeah, he said something about compliancy and how easily hypnotised I am.”
Henry laughed. “Oh, you mean suggestibility. That makes a lot more sense. I don’t think any of my brothers would let you hypnotise them. But ...” He stood up and walked over to a tall chest of drawers at the other side of the room.
He took something out of the top drawer. He walked back to me and I could see it was a pendulum.
He looked straight at me. “Do you want to hypnotise me?”
“Not particularly. Remember what I said about a week a half ago?”
Henry nodded. “But you don’t have to make direct commands. You can ... ask me ... stuff.”
“Like if I truly worry about Arthur, like if I’m truly in love with you... all those sorts of things you doubt me for.” Henry suddenly looked sad. “Or you could torture me with it, exact revenge for that horrific thing I did to you.” Henry looked particularly troubled as he added in a low voice, “Make me relive that day’s pain.”
“Um, can’t say I’m keen on the idea,” I admitted. “I think you got enough torture when I kissed you.”
Henry’s face darkened. “That really killed me, that did.”
I took the pendulum from him and looked at it. The chain was long and appeared to be made of gold. The disc hanging from the end of it was also made of gold and a spiral had been engraved on one side and Henry’s initials on the other.
I held it from the top of the chain and swung it, watching the disc, wondering how it entranced you, how anything entranced you.
Henry caught it before I could see its effect. I looked up at his face. He was alarmed.
“You don’t want to hypnotise yourself,” he said, laughing nervously.
I also don’t want her to be in the perfect state for a kiss she’ll never remember.
“I could ensure you never ended your own life with this,” I said, looking into those dark green eyes.
Henry nodded. “You could.”
“I could also ... take away your love for me.”
Henry looked shocked. “I know you dislike me but I didn’t think you hated me that much.”
“What bad would come from it?” I asked, shrugged.
“I’d never be happy again,” Henry replied. “And I’d never know why.”
I snorted. “You’ve had other girlfriends. I meant to ask actually: how much did you hypnotise them?”
Henry’s brow furrowed. “I’ve had two. And I was younger. I didn’t know what love was. I hypnotised them a lot and to be honest, they only said I was wonderful because I could be so charming.”
I laughed. “You? Charming? I hated you the day after I met you.”
“Like I said, I was younger.”
“14’s still quite young.”
“I’m sure you’ll grow out of me and find someone else.”
Henry sighed. “I don’t think I will, though.”
“Suit yourself then.”
“Will Arthur grow out of you then?”
I shifted uncomfortably. “Well... Arthur’s older. He ... really cares.”
“He’s 15. And so do I.”
I lifted the pendulum and began to swing it. “Do you?”
Henry sounded slightly robotic as he replied, “Yes.”
I put the pendulum down beside me, shocked at what I’d done. I clicked my fingers, not sure whether he was in a trance or not.
Henry looked extremely hurt. “You didn’t have to ask that. Even if I wasn’t in love with you...”
He picked the pendulum up and walked over to his chest of drawers. He put the pendulum away and came back to the bed. He lay down on his side, looking disconsolate.
“I love you, Harriet,” he murmured. “And I want to be with you so much it hurts. You know, each time I see you, you wake me from my dreams of despair and kill me again.”
“What happened to you not caring if I spat on your grave?”
Henry sighed. “I considered what you’re about to find out so much worse. But ... I’m not thinking a lot about that at the moment (because you’re here incidentally) so I’m thinking about the second most important thing in my life right now.”
I smiled. “Good, I’m glad I’m not number one.”
“Your fate’s entwined with number one.”
I frowned. “Oh.”
Suddenly, there was a knock upon the door.