The kiss, inconceivable an event though it was, was soft, and gentle... and chaste. Sandra felt Roger’s inexperience, but she also felt his desire for it to be good. She felt absurdly like rose petals were falling around her; she felt light and buoyant... and Roger seemed to her like a being of purity. It was stunningly beautiful. Thinking hard of Rhyley she refused to let herself respond, but when Roger drew away she felt like she was missing something.
And then she was distraught. It wasn’t fair. Why should Roger kiss chastely and not be the soulmate of her, the chaste girl? And why should she, when she kissed Rhyley, hunger for more, need to press herself closer to his body, want to draw near to sweet surrender?
Roger was now looking at her with a mild sort of horror.
“Oh, Sandra, I didn’t mean to make you cry. Was it really that awful?”
Sandra hadn’t even realised her cheeks were wet. She didn’t answer Roger and went to sit down on her bed again, wiping her face.
“I’ll go get you tissues.” Roger darted out and returned with several sheets of toilet roll from the upstairs bathroom. He gave her the tissue paper before moving to stand at a distance, as if his very proximity could poison her. He looked anguished.
“I shouldn’t have done that, I’m sorry; you must hate me. I just... I wanted to try it. You never know until you try. But I’ve guessed we’ve proved we can never be - oh, Sandra, I’m so sorry.”
“Roger, sh,” Sandra said gently, having done what she could with the toilet roll. “I don’t hate you. But don’t do it again, either.”
“I won’t; I promise.”
“Do you still think Rhyley’s bad, Roger?”
“Of course I do, Sandra. In my eyes, he’s unforgivable for going to Amelie’s bedroom, even if they didn’t do anything there. But what can I do if you don’t even like it when I kiss you?”
Sandra winced as well. The fact was ... she didn’t know if she hadn’t liked it when Roger had kissed her. She was Rhyley’s , she recognised herself as Rhyley’s, and so on that account she rejected the very idea of enjoying anyone else’s kiss, but on the other hand, the kiss had been like something out of a fairytale. A moment of suspension, a moment of immersion in beauty, a moment that was touching and astonishing and revolutionary. She couldn’t love Roger instead of Rhyley, she couldn’t love Roger in the same way she loved Rhyley. But maybe, just maybe, she could love Roger with a small piece of her heart which had discovered that it didn’t have an alliance with Rhyley. Maybe she could love the two boys, albeit the one more than the other.
The piece of her heart touched by Roger was a dangerous piece in this game, Sandra felt. If she let on to Roger, he might suggest that this part would grow and overpower her love for Rhyley on the completion of the soulmate-changing ceremony. The soulmate-changing ceremony might actually be capable of taking her love for Rhyley away. And despite the fact that she probably wouldn’t mind afterwards, here and now it was a terrifying prospect. To lose a part of herself? To never share a beautiful moment with Rhyley again? She was beginning to get scared.
“We can’t go through with the ceremony,” was all she said.
Roger nodded slowly.
“I understand. Believe me - I am sorry, Sandra. I won’t interfere again.” He went to the desk and picked up his book. “I think I should leave now. But... are we still friends?” He looked anxious, like he strongly expected she would answer in the negative.
“Yeah,” Sandra murmured, slightly absently. “We’ll get through this.”
“Thank you, Sandra. I’m sorry for crossing the line. We’ll play Scrabble another time, yeah?”
“Bye then.” And he hurried out without another word. Sandra didn’t try to stop him. She sat there at the foot of her bed and took deep breaths, calming herself. Roger wasn’t going to take Rhyley away. She and Rhyley could have their relationship without any more objections from his corner. But all these good things melted away at the memory of his kiss. He had left her so, terribly confused.