An hour later, the three of us were sitting in the living room. I was strongly reminded of last night and a strange look that was almost recognition appeared on Charlie's face. The curtains at the window were drawn wide open, though, so no transformation took place. Charlie shook his head slightly as we sat down on the rug in front of the blazing fire (it was a cold wintry day and the fire was the only source of heat in the room).
"So what does everyone want for Christmas?" I asked brightly.
‘You,' replied Rick in my head.
You can't have me. I laughed mentally.
"I don't know. My life's great at the moment," Charlie confessed, smiling at me.
"I don't know either," Rock said. "What do you want, Terri?"
"Well, a friend of mine's giving me a CD," I replied truthfully, "and I'm an avid reader so I'd like some books."
"Yeah, that will be great inspirations for your book, Terri," Charlie said excitedly.
"What book's this?" Rick asked, looking amused.
"She's writing a book about a hypnotist stalker called Christopher," answered Charlie.
Rick and I burst into laughter.
‘Did you keep a diary or something?' Rick asked.
Yeah. I told him it was a story.
That's so funny!
We stopped laughing. Charlie was grinning but he looked a little confused as well.
"Sorry, Charlie," I apologised. "It's just you sounded so matter-of-fact when you said ‘hypnotist stalker'."
"And I have a friend called Christopher," Rick said. "I found myself imagining him as a hypnotist stalker."
Charlie seemed to accept our ludicrous explanations.
"What does a hypnotist stalker do, by the way?" Rick asked.
"Sings hypnotic serenades," I replied.
Did he do that?
"Declares his love for you when you ask what he's doing," added Charlie.
"I thought you'd..." I stopped, having almost said ‘transformed', "... stopped listening by then."
You used it to give him too much déjà vu?
Yeah, I admitted sheepishly.
"Of course I didn't stop listening. It was such a shame I fainted, though."
You're diabolical, Rick chuckled.
"Yeah, I'm sorry you keep fainting," I said.
Liar. You make him faint.
"That's okay, Terri. You can't help that fact."
No, Terri, it's nothing to do with you. Rick's mock sincerity replaced sarcasm.
"Rick, are you okay? You haven't said much," said Charlie.
"I'm fine," Rick replied. "I've decided that, for Christmas, I'd like a copy of Terri's book."
"That's a good idea," said Charlie. "Can I have one too?"
"Um, maybe not," I said. "I'm a bit shy."
"It sounded good from what I heard of it," Charlie said sincerely.
"We'll see," I said evasively.
I wonder how much he'd be able to read a day before ‘fainting'.
You're horrible, Rick.
And you aren't?
I couldn't answer him.
"So who's giving you a CD?" Charlie asked me.
"Her friend, Christopher," Rick answered.
‘No!' I yelled with my thoughts.
What? He's not?
Charlie thinks Christopher's a moron I fell in love with this summer.
"But you told me Christopher was a moron," Charlie said to me, looking confused.
He thinks he's a moron? Rick was fighting a smile.
"He is," I told Charlie. "Rick doesn't know anything."
"Oh yes I do," said Rick, grinning wickedly.
‘What are you doing?' I shouted in my mind.
Don't worry. I'm teasing Christopher.
"Christopher," Rick continued, "is a sad, lonely loser who believes he is helplessly in love with Terry. He told her he wanted to shower her with roses." He smiled maliciously.
"That's not fair," I told Rick indignantly.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Charlie looked relieved. "We could have dealt with him ages ago. You're too kind, Terri. You have to sort this sort of people out." He smiled at me in sympathy.
"Christopher's alright," I mumbled, trying to concentrate on not attacking Rick. Images entered my mind of punching him.
Don't attacks turn into kisses if you love that person? Rick sent me pictures of me leaping onto him and grabbing his shoulders before kissing him passionately.
‘Watch it,' I growled.
Nah, I like the idea of you kissing me.
"Where can we find Christopher?" Charlie asked.
"I know him," Rick replied. He pulled out a small notepad and pen from his pockets. "What shall I tell him?"
"Tell him he's a jerk and he has one chance to stay away from my girlfriend before I punch his face in," answered Charlie.
I lost control. I have no clue how it happened but I'd suddenly knocked Rick onto the floor and was punching his face.
He caught my fists and easily held them in one hand. He then pulled me down to kiss me. Indignantly, I tried to push myself away, but he came up with me. Rick stared intently into my eyes and my thoughts scattered. Suddenly, I found I was kissing him back. I couldn't help myself - I loved him. The warmth of his mind seeped through mine and calm washed over me.
Isn't that better?
I put my arms around Rick's shoulders. Suddenly, reality hit me like a tidal wave. I realised who was sitting behind us.
‘Stop!' I thought desperately.
You first, he thought in an enchanting voice which told me I probably wouldn't be able to.
‘Charlie!' I thought.
I can hypnotise him, but do you really want me to do it now? he asked dubiously.
Oh no, I thought to myself. I actually don't,
I suppose we'd better. Before he runs away.
‘No, wait a while,' I found myself thinking.
My dear, I know you're enjoying yourself but I'll only be a couple of minutes. He gently pushed me away.
I turned around and winced. Charlie looked as if he were fighting tears.
"What was that?" he choked out.
"I'm really sorry, Charlie," I told him.
"Why would you punch him before you kissed him? Was the attack meant to get you in the right position for a kiss?"
"No!" I cried.
Rick came towards Charlie.
"What do you want, Rick?"
Rick gazed deep into Charlie's eyes. I turned away, fighting tears myself.
I heard Rick say, "Forget Terri attacked and kissed me. The last thing you'll remember is telling me what to say to Christopher."
Rick stood up and sat on the sofa. I came and sat beside him.
Do you want to kiss again?
No. I shook my head miserably.
Do you need a minute to calm down?
Rick gave me a long hug. I pulled some tissues out of my pocket. He helped me wipe away the tears.
‘You okay now?' he asked.
We sat back in our original places on the floor, Rick holding his notepad and pen. He clicked his fingers and looked down at the paper.
"So," he said, "you want to tell Christopher he's a jerk?"
"And to stay away from Terri," Charlie confirmed.
"Right." Rick smiled, closing the notepad and putting both that and his pen into his pocket.
‘Cheer up, Terri,' he told me. He gave me a warm smile which was impossible not to return.
‘Can you take me home?' I asked.
"Charlie?" Rick called.
The swift change in Rick's tone to a suggestion was startling. "You have something to do upstairs."
"Oh yeah. Thanks Rick. I have to make my bed."
Charlie left the room.
"Whoa," I said. "He didn't even look dazed."
"You'd be surprised at how suggestible part-vampires are by day."
I quickly told Harry that I was going home and grabbed my stuff from last night before meeting a smiling Rick downstairs and heading to my house.