"What?" I asked.
"Get out!" This time it was a suggestion. I felt my legs carry me out of the room. The door closed behind me.
I hurried downstairs, hoping to find one of Christopher's parents. I had a feeling that Rick had sent me out for a good reason.
Luckily, Harry was in the living room.
"Harry," I panted, "Christopher; in the study; not good."
"What?" He stood up, looking alarmed. "What happened?"
"Christopher said ... ‘Façade'," I replied, confused.
Harry's eyes widened in disbelief. "What did you do to him?"
He ran out of the room and headed for the stairs. I heard him murmuring "He hasn't used that word since the month after Sandy..."
There was a bang of a door, followed by calm footsteps on the stairs.
Rick appeared. "You okay?" he asked breathlessly.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I told him. "What's wrong?"
"You know what a façade is, I presume."
"Yeah - an outward appearance. What's that got to do with Christopher?"
"Well, when he was becoming a better person after his relationship with Sandy, his emotions were all over the place. When he was really mad or sad, he used to warn people that he was either going to turn violet or break down by saying the word ‘façade'. It meant that he was hiding these strong, destructive emotions under a mask of calm."
"He's sort of both. He's mad I shouted at him and that you got hysterical. He's also angry because you showed him what happened at the house, incidentally. He wonders if you meant to hurt him because he thought that you knew he'd understand. Anyway, he's sad that he's mad and because you didn't think he'd understand, and also 'cause of your hysteria."
"How's he coping?"
Rick winced. "He's kicking a wall and wondering whether he should break up with you."
"Well, he was so awfully confused by your reaction to his understanding. He wonders whether you wanted to be dumped or whether he's just not right for you."
"No," I moaned. "I was confused too. I'm a monster. Maybe I should let him dump me."
"I don't believe you should." Rick's tone was gentle and soothing.
"What's Harry doing to make things better?"
"Well, I soothed him using a heck of a lot of suggestion and persuasion, and Harry's just talking to him now."
I suddenly collapsed into a kneeling position on the floor. My legs just gave way.
Rick looked alarmed. "Terri! Are you sure you're okay?"
He didn't wait for an answer: he picked me up and carried me to the sofa in the living room.
"I'm going to calm you down," he told me. "Maybe even help you sleep. You just concentrate on my voice, okay? Nothing else. I haven't fed tonight and my powers are nearly drained."
"Rick," I said. "Your voice is enchanting at the moment."
"Oh, okay then."
He sat down beside me and smiled; a warm smile that chased my negative thoughts away. "Right, Terri, just relax now. Close your eyes and let my voice fill your mind."
I closed my eyes and cleared my mind to allow Rick's voice to be the only thing I was concentrating on.
"Imagine waves lapping against a shore. Let the sound calm you with its relaxing rhythm."
The waves in my head brought waves of calm.
When Rick next spoke, there was a subtle change in his tone I couldn't quite identify. "Now, Terri, I think you need to sleep. You've had a long day and you must be feeling exhausted."
I was quite tired. I found myself wanting Rick's relaxing voice to continue so I would fall asleep.
"I'm going to count down from 10. As we get closer to 1, you'll feel more and more relaxed."
‘Is he hypnotising me?' I wondered suddenly. He doesn't usually have to do this much to get me to sleep.
"Terri, relax. This is just a method that helps me get to sleep. I thought it might help you."
‘Would he lie?' I wondered.
"10... 9..." Rick began. As promised, I felt more relaxed as the numbers decreased.
"8... 7..." I felt like my mind was travelling downwards, deeper into this relaxed state. Wasn't the Greek word for sleep ‘hypnos'?
"6... 5... 4..." Rick's voice lured me further downwards. I felt as if in a dream.
"3... 2..." The gaps between the numbers got larger.
In his most enchanting, captivating voice, Rick arrived at number 1.
"1..." Just let yourself go, Terri."
The world dissolved into an all too familiar blackness.
I woke up to see Rick drinking from a steaming mug of tea. Tea?
"Can you drink tea?" I asked.
"It'll have to do for now. I can't drink you." He winced at the taste of the tea.
"Oh, it's only been one night, hasn't it?"
I suddenly remembered what I had woken up from. "What are you playing at?" he asked.
"Why did you hypnotise me?"
"I didn't." He looked concerned. "Are you feeling okay, Terri?"
"Yes," I replied indignantly. "And you did hypnotise me."
"You don't believe that," Rick said gently.
I found myself agreeing with him.
Perhaps I was just overreacting. Maybe I needed to be calmed down again... No! What was I thinking?!
"Let's take you home, Terri," Rick said, still looking concerned. "Do you want to be carried or can you walk?"
"I'll walk," I answered coolly.
At home, Rick sent me upstairs and made me a cup of hot chocolate. When he arrived in my room, he looked extremely careworn.
"Terri, I need you to feed," he murmured. "Please can I have one of your parents for dinner?"
My heart went out to him and I forgot my earlier concerns. "Sure," I answered. "Just make sure neither realises."
When Rick returned, he was glowing brightly and his emerald eyes were dancing. He came to sit on the bed and hug me. He kissed me on the forehead.
"Thank you so much," he said. His voice was powerfully captivating.
"W-watch it," I stammered, slightly worried by the strength of the power of his voice.
"Don't worry," he told me, so I didn't. ‘What had I been worried about in the first place?' I wondered.
Rick beamed an enchanting smile that sent out waves of happiness.
I found myself more in love with him than I'd ever been before.
I looked up into his eyes and felt myself drawn into those warm emerald depths. I started to fall but Rick caught me, holding my gaze with relaxed ease.
"I'm going to influence your dreams tonight," he told me. I barely took notice of what he was saying. I was just listening to the sound of his voice. My thoughts were scattered anyway.
Rick let me fall again. The green depths swallowed up my thoughts completely as I met the approaching blackness.
I woke up and Rick was glowing even more. It looked like he was on fire or something. His glow cast golden light onto his skin and his hair looked streaked with gold.
"Y-you look amazing," I told him with great difficulty.
I realised, however, that I could think straight. "Was that trance deep enough to influence a dream?"
"Oh yeah," he replied jovially. "I just used a powerful suggestion rather than a powerful trance induction."
He grinned. I smiled back.
"How are you?" he asked.
"Brilliant," I replied breathlessly.
"You look a little awestruck."
"Yeah: it's y-you."
"Me?" He laughed - it was a beautiful, mesmerising sound. "You sure you're okay?"
"Was I ever not?" I was starting to hyperventilate.
Rick looked amused. "You're staring, you know, Terri."
"Oh, I love you Rick," I said.
"Terri, you look as if I've just proposed or something." He looked bewildered.
"Proposed? I'd say yes if you did." I definitely wasn't getting enough oxygen.
"That's quite ... a strong thing to say, Terri." He looked concerned now.
"I know." My heart was racing and now my breath caught in my throat.
"Um, have you ever said something like this to Christopher?"
I shook my head. It was in a whirl.
"Oh dear," he murmured.
"Don't be said," I said, really struggling to talk at this moment.
"But Christopher's your boyfriend. You're his dove, remember?"
I did remember but I didn't care.
The flow around Rick dimmed. I could breathe again. I inhaled deeply but subsequently fainted.