Upstairs, Amelie asked Rhyley to sit on her bed - a king-size with silk pillows and satin covers that Rhyley knew the contours of like his own. Rhyley sat obligingly at the head of the bed. Amelie sat at the foot, and undid two of her shirt buttons. She looked up at him. He watched her. It was one of the times where she was going to lead.
But she was the one who asked “So where’s this going?”
“Wherever it takes us,” he told her simply, thinking her question was unnecessary. When had they ever actually planned out what they were going to do together? In the unlikely event that she had forgotten what came next, he took it upon himself to remind her: “Take it off,” he said softly.
Amelie removed her shirt. Rhyley mentally removed the bra.
“And after today?” she asked calmly.
Amelie stood up and walked to sit next to him. He reached out to touch her, maybe to take off the article of underwear, but Amelie caught his hand in midair and brought it down, holding it on the bed. She looked into his eyes.
“I can do this, Rhyley; I’m attracted to you - you’re a sexy guy.”
Rhyely leant forwards, smiling.
“And you’re a sexy woman,” he murmured.
“Is this really what you want? 'Cause you know, Rhyley, that it you take it, if you do this, you’ll be proving you’re an utter ass.”
Rhyley frowned at the insult.
“You’re not thinking, are you? When did you stop? You’re asking to cheat - cheat on your soulmate.” Her tone became harsh. “But that’s okay, isn’t it? Because you’re not decent - Roger Steelfang’s seen it since you started dating casually.”
Rhyley felt slapped. But more importantly, he had woken up.
He slowly rose to his feet. His mind was rising out of the vague sea in which only his desire and its sating had mattered.
Amelie sighed in relief.
“That’s not you, Rhyley. I knew it when we were together - you’re a guy who absolutely wouldn’t cheat. I get it - you want her and she’s chaste. But you’d never have been able to take it back.”
Rhyley was in a state of horror mingled with profound gratitude towards Amelie.
“Thank you so much for stopping me - I’ve got to go.”
He hurried out, not waiting for her to say goodbye. He had to see Sandra.
He pulled up outside Sandra’s house, but didn’t see Roger Steelfang until he got out of the car. He became worried and confused when he saw that Roger was hugging Sandra... and that Sandra was crying.
Thinking that there was something completely different going on - since how could she be upset by something he hadn’t even told her about yet - he strode up to them and asked, “Sandra? What’s wrong?”
Roger gently pushed her away and shot a hateful glare at him.
“You dare to ask that?”
Rhyley frowned, not understanding.
“But how did you...?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Roger interrupted. “I think you should leave.”
Sandra was looking at Rhyley, her face pale and wet.
“Rhyley, tell me,” she said, sounding distressed; “tell me it’s some kind of mistake.”
Roger had a hand on her shoulder. It made Rhyley feel queasy - like Roger had convinced Sandra she’d be better off with him before Rhyley had even had the chance to explain.
“You don’t have to talk to him, Sandra,” Roger was saying.
“Roger, I want to hear it from him,” she said shakily, her eyes not wavering from Rhyley. He felt a trace of relief - there might still be hope. Though Sandra didn’t sound like she was sure she really wanted to hear what he had to say.
“Could you send Roger away?” he asked her. If he said anything, Roger would surely interrupt with his own comments.
Sandra frowned, like he was making her do something horrible. It probably was, in her view - Roger was her friend, and Rhyley remembered that Roger hadn’t been talking to her at any point before they had broken up for half term.
“You don’t have to...” he started to say, but Sandra said “Perhaps it would be better. Don’t worry about me - in fact, why don’t you wait in your car and if it looks like I need you, you can come out.”
Roger looked at least a little satisfied by this suggestion and walked over to his car which Rhyley now noticed parked near his own.
Sandra looked at Rhyley bravely.
“I didn’t cheat,” was the first thing he said to her.
Sandra half-collapsed against the doorframe, looking like she wanted to cry again.
“But...” Rhyley looked at the ground, “I was a bit of an ass. I practically asked Amelie for sex and went to her bedroom with her. I...” He hesitated, fearing the consequences of what he was about to say. “I might have cheated if she hadn’t reminded me who I am.” He looked back up at her. Sandra was still, almost paralysed.
“Are ... are you meant to be able to do that?”
Rhyley hesitated again.
“I don’t know. But I felt awful when I realised what I would’ve been doing: I don’t want to hurt you or end this relationship.”
Sandra looked at the ground.
“I ... I don’t know what to say to you. You’ve insulted me by even thinking of it. I hate you. But ...” She looked back up at him. “But you’re mine,” she whispered. “Does that make sense?”
Rhyley felt a surge of possessiveness, reciprocating that which Sandra had conveyed. He cupped her jaw, causing her eyes to widen in surprise and really focus on him.
“Yes,” he said intensely.
Sandra swallowed nervously.
“But you’ve hurt me.” She sounded like she was trying to convince herself.
“I know, and I’m an idiot. But I’m your idiot, and I need your forgiveness.”
“But what if you do it again?” She sounded like she was scared to let herself forget this and carry on dating him.
“I won’t - I know I won’t now,” Rhyley insisted.
“You don’t know how much I want to believe you,” Sandra said helplessly. “But how can I trust you after this?”
Rhyley stroked her cheek. It felt like he was losing her - and it hurt.
“I’m sorry - so, desperately sorry. I know this seems difficult but we can move on from this. I need you. I won’t ever hurt you again.”
A tear came to Sandra’s eye.
“Is this what love is? Not being able to expect decency and fair treatment the first time around but having to forgive the mistakes over and over again?”
“You won’t have to do this again,” Rhyley promised. His tone became imploring. “Don’t give up on me - please.”
“I don’t want to not forgive you,” Sandra confessed. “But I think ... I think you should go.”
Rhyley nodded slowly, the outward action contrasting with the internal sensation of shattering.
“I understand,” he made himself say. “But I’ll come back. I will come back.”
Rhyley dropped his hand and leant forwards to kiss her brow. Before his mouth touched her skin, Sandra stepped back.
“When you come back,” she said quietly.
Rhyley nodded again and walked away. He was relieved that his soulmate didn’t hate him, but scared that he’d never be able to make up for what he had almost done. It was ironic that in trying to relieve his sexual frustration, he had discovered that, actually, he cared a lot about continuing to be the boyfriend of his chaste soulmate. Too much to let her ever be anyone else’s.