Rhyley was happy and grateful when his mum told him that he could invite Sandra over on Wednesday. He called her house and told her mother, and she said that Sandra would be there in about an hour. He was rather impatient as he waited; he wanted to see her again, to feel a connection, to share an experience with her.
But when Sandra arrived Rhyley could see that she was tense. She smiled as she came into his house but proceeded to hug him quite tightly, burying her head in his chest.
“What’s wrong?” he asked with concern as he put his arms around her.
“I’ll tell you upstairs,” she said quietly. “But I’m so happy to see you again.”
Rhyley stroked her hair.
“Yeah, you too.” He kissed the crown of her head and drew back. “Let’s head up then.”
Sandra pulled off her shoes and followed him through his house.
“Was your grandmother well?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, she was fine. She’d made us cupcakes - they were delicious.”
Sandra smiled slightly.
“That was sweet of her.”
“Yeah, she’s like that.”
A few minutes later they were in his bedroom. Rhyley closed his door behind them.
“Now will you tell me what’s happened?” he pressed her gently.
Sandra nodded. She walked over to his desk chair and sat down on it. She took a deep breath and, looking at the carpet, murmured “Roger kissed me yesterday.”
“He did what?” Rhyley said, horrified.
“He came over - I thought we were going to make up. But we had an argument about you, and then, suddenly, he kissed me. I didn’t kiss back, I promise you, but I thought you should know.”
Rhyley walked over, seeing how distressed she was, and pulled her to her feet, hugging her.
“Oh, Sandra.” He felt cold inside. How dare Steelfang kiss his soulmate? How dare he upset Sandra?! “D’you think he’ll try anything like this again?”
“No,” she whispered. “I left him with the impression that I hadn’t enjoyed it, and he said he’d never interfere with you being my soulmate again.”
“Oh, well, that’s good,” Rhyley said, partially relieved. But then he realised Sandra had pushed herself further into him, in a way that suggested continued pain and he thought about her phrasing, remembering the use of the word ‘impression’. “Wait,” he said, freezing, “what d’you mean the ‘impression’ that you hadn’t enjoyed it?”
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to; I can’t help what I like and don’t like. I hated him for kissing me, I’ve always been annoyed by his interference, but ...” She trailed off.
“But?” Rhyley repeated softly.
“But I liked it. I liked his kiss.” Sandra held him tighter. “Oh, Rhyley, please don’t hate me. I still love you; I could never stop loving you. But I’m scared and confused, and I think I love Roger too, and I had the strangest dream last night.”
Rhyley couldn’t think properly. She thought she loved Roger? But she was his; they’d established that Sandra was his. He couldn’t think in terms of her not wanting this, of her saying that she still loved him too - she was only his - and she was saying that she might love Roger bloody Steelfang.
“You’re my soulmate,” he whispered, his tone one of shock and betrayal. It was probably rich coming from him, the boyfriend who had almost cheated on her, who had told Amelie Stoke that he had loved her in his car, but he wasn’t thinking straight; he could only think that it seemed like Sandra had done something unforgivable. If he had had more capacity to think, he probably would have felt even guiltier about how he had treated Sandra, since what he was feeling now must be similar to what she had felt on Sunday.
“I know,” she said, and he could feel her body shake as she started to cry. “And I’m sorry. I just don’t know what’s going on with me. I wish it had never happened.”
Rhyley held her numbly, simply paralysed.
“You love Roger Steelfang.”
“I might. I don’t know for sure.”
“You liked his kiss,” he said quietly.