"What's happening?" Matt asked.
"Arthur wants to make Harriet his proprius and he's been using a suggestive story."
Matt stared at Arthur. Jack stared at me. I tried not to think about what this was doing to his view of his brothers and, moreover, his view of the world. That was the only problem with not becoming a Captivator until you hit thirteen: a premature discovery made someone somewhere seem crazy.
"Someone hypnotise Harriet," Ryan said. "She'll be safer then. Oh what am I saying? I'll do it."
He walked up to me, smiled, murmuring "You'll be fine," before he said, "Mesmeri-..."
I fell asleep.
My love fell asleep in my arms. Could they have made my life any easier? Jack was looking bewildered and scared, pathetic fool.
I gently lay Harriet down on the floor and watched the six boys around me gazing at me warily.
"I'm afraid, gentlemen," I said, "that Harriet will in fact be my proprius. And there's nothing you can do to stop me since ... you've left your girlfriends in your rooms and ... Michael's still here."
Matt, Ryan and Jack went stiff.
"I'll go look after them," Henry said, trying to sound gallant no doubt.
"You'll never get to all of them," Matt said. "Mia's on the top floor. We have to go."
"Don't!" Henry shouted. "One of you stay!"
"I'm not trusting the twins with my Sophia," Ryan said, running off.
"Can't leave Zara," Matt said. "Sorry." He ran off too.
"What will Michael do?" Jack asked.
"Um, it's best not to ask," Shaun said, or was it Simon: I could never tell the difference between those two.
They ran upstairs with Jack.
"So, it's just you and me, Henry," I said. "Are you going to fight for Harriet or let her be with me where she belongs?"
"She will never belong with you," I shouted, glaring at Arthur who was smiling broadly as if he was quite enjoying himself.
"Oh, won't she now?" Arthur asked.
He stepped forwards and looked me straight in the eye. It was unnerving being intimidated by someone when I was so used to knowing I could intimidate people myself. It was like being a lion but being faced down by a bigger lion.
"Hypnotise me, then," he said. "Tell me not to do this to the love of our lives. In fact, tell me I don't love her."
Much as I hated to think that Arthur indeed loved Harriet, I knew it to be true. The way he had laid her down on the floor, caressing her hair lightly, crouching beside her almost protectively while the others had been here... I realised I couldn't hypnotise him. And he realised that. He smiled and returned to Harriet's body. She was breathing calmly through all this.
Still smiling, he leant down to murmur something in her ear.
He had made it too easy by being a soft person. The conscience was a terrible thing. Except, of course, where the love of your life was concerned. I do love her, despite what Henry thinks about love and what it should be. Love is unconditional and trying to tell people how to lead their love lives is pointless because it's a mysterious force which follows no normal rules.
To my surprise, he said, "Love me and only me." No mention of becoming a proprius, no reference to servitude. He actually said the words quite tenderly, stroking her hair.
Arthur looked up. "I don't know if Michael mentioned this but you can't actually hypnotise someone to be your proprius."
He clicked his fingers and Harriet, the gem of hope in the dark cave of despair, awoke.
I woke up.
"I don't feel too different," I said aloud. I was facing Henry. I frowned slightly. "I'm not too happy with you which is understandable." I turned around, saw Arthur and smiled. "I love you," I said sincerely. "Just don't make me your proprius, okay? Whatever your reasons. And they must be good. A guy with so much love in his heart just couldn't be dangerous.
She's completely back to herself. Her old self. Which means unfortunately that she's going to end up Arthur's proprius. But what can I do? I can't hypnotise him when the suggestion will involve some part of his love life. Even simply telling him to not make her his proprius would be wrong since I can empathise with his possessiveness over her. He'd be controlling her, yes, but didn't I want to force her to love me at one point? It would be wrong, like some kind of mockery of myself; I felt too guilty for my own selfish desires of being possessive.
I couldn't even really blame him for the dream suggestions and the suggestive story. Wouldn't I want to star in Harriet's golden-bright movies? I'd love to be an actor she could direct. I'd just say, ‘Dream of me' and let her imagination fly (would that be to the song ‘Come Fly With Me' or ‘Fly me to the Moon'?).
"So," I sighed aloud. "This is me giving up Harriet Thyme to my brother who's going to make her his proprius."
I walked over to her and sat before her. "It's been an honour knowing you," I told her, lifting one of her wonderfully soft hands to kiss it. "And I will miss you terribly and my heart will beat only for you, but while I'm longing for you to want a place by my side, you'll be having a great time with Arthur."
"Are you hypnotised?" she asked.
"No," I replied. "And I'm going to die again soon. But you made my life worth living and I thank you for that."
Harriet frowned. "Who's the bad guy in this story?"
"The one you love of course," I told her truthfully. "But he loves you just as much as I do so I'd be the bad guy for stealing him from you when you chose him in the first place."
Harriet rose slightly unsteadily to her feet, Arthur supporting her. "What's going to happen to me?" she asked.
"You're going to become someone's proprius. But Arthur is never ever going to exploit you because the second he does, he renounces his love for you and I come straight back into the picture, ready to rebuild your broken life."
"You're awfully optimistic."
"I'm in love with you, Harriet. Nothing could give me greater pleasure than the sight of your face."
I kissed her cheek and, for once, she didn't object. She wasn't uncomfortable, didn't hate me, just accepted it. She stroked the side of my face saying, "You were a great good guy. And I don't understand why I want to be with the bad guy, but I do. Thanks for not forcing me to choose a different outcome.."
"I love you," I called to her as they left my room.
That had to be a show. Who would give her up so easily? But ... something inclines me to think that Henry is truly that decent. But I'd never tell that to his face, of course. If I'm not absorbed in Harriet, I'll be too busy plotting things as the ‘bad guy'.
TO BE CONTINUED...