“What’s going on?” Matt asked, moving closer to us.
“I … I can’t stand up.”
“Do you need me to help you up?” Matt offered.
“No. It’s not like that.” Rhys shook his head. “I mean, you could pull me up. You’re stronger than me, and I’m not physically pinned to the floor. I just … forgot how?”
“Weird.” I watched him with fascination.
Once before, I had made Matt get out of my room, and it’d been a while before he’d been able to go in there again. Which meant my persuasion had lingering effects, but it did eventually wear off.
“‘Weird’?” Matt scoffed. “Wendy, fix him!”
“He’s not broken,” I said defensively, but Matt glared at me in a way that made me want to crawl under a rock. I crouched down in front of Rhys. “Rhys, look at me.”
“Okay?” He met my eyes uncertainly.
I wasn’t even sure if I could reverse the process. I had never tried to undo persuasion before, but I didn’t think it’d be that hard. And if I couldn’t, then he’d just have to sit down for a week or two. Maybe.
Instead of worrying about the possible repercussions, I focused all my energy on him. I just said, Stand up, in my head over and over again. It took longer than it did last time, but eventually his face started to fog over. He blinked at me a few times and got to his feet.
“I am so glad that worked.” I let out a sigh of relief.
“Are you sure it worked?” Matt asked me, but his eyes were on Rhys. Rhys stared blankly at the floor, looking more out of it than he had last time. “Rhys? Are you okay?”
“What?” Rhys lifted his head. He blinked at us, as if he’d just noticed we were there. “What? Did something happen?”
“You’re standing up.” I pointed to his legs, and he looked down.
“Oh.” He lifted one of his legs, making sure it still worked, and didn’t say anything for a minute. Then he looked up at me. “I’m sorry. Were we talking about something?”
“You couldn’t stand up. Remember?” I asked, but my stomach twisted. I might really have broken Rhys.
“Oh. Yeah.” He shook his head. “Yeah, I remember. But I can stand now. Did you do that?”
“Wendy, I don’t like you playing with him like this,” Matt said quietly.
Matt faced Rhys, but he gave me a sidelong glance. He tried to keep his face hard, but his eyes betrayed his fear.
I had scared Matt, and not in the same way as when I’d run away. Then he’d been scared for me, but now he seemed scared of me, and it created a painful knot in my chest.
“I’m done now.” I stepped away from Rhys.
My dark hair hung around my face. I had a tie around my wrist, so I pulled my hair up into a loose bun.
“What?” Rhys asked, sounding alert.
He had fully come out of the trance I’d had him under, but I didn’t want to look at him. Matt made me feel ashamed about using persuasion, even if Rhys was aware of what I had done.
“Sit down,” Matt suggested.
“Why? I don’t wanna sit down.”
“Sit down anyway,” Matt said, more firmly this time. When Rhys didn’t respond, Matt repeated his command. “Rhys, sit down.”
“I don’t get why it’s so important to you that I sit down.” Rhys grew more agitated as Matt pressed him, which was strange, since I’d never really heard him sound irritated with anyone. “I’m fine standing up.”
“You can’t sit down.” Matt sighed, looking over at me. “You broke him a different way, Wendy.”
“Wendy did this?” Rhys furrowed his brow. “I don’t understand. What did you do? You told me not to sit?”
“No, I told you to sit, and you couldn’t stand. Then I told you to stand, and you can’t sit.” I sighed in frustration. “Now I don’t know what to say! I don’t really wanna say anything anymore. I might make it so you stop breathing or something.”
“Can you do that?” Matt asked.
“I don’t know!” I threw my hands up. “I have no idea what I’m capable of.”
“I can’t sit down for a while.” Rhys shrugged. “Big deal. I don’t even wanna sit down.”
“That’s probably a side effect of the persuasion,” I told him as I paced our cell.
“Whatever, I don’t care if it is,” Rhys said. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not in a situation that calls for sitting down, anyway. The important thing is that you know that you can do this. You can use this, we can get out of here, and somebody in Förening can fix me. Okay?”
I stopped pacing and looked uneasily at Matt and Rhys. Rhys was right. I needed to get us out of here. It wasn’t safe here, and Rhys’s inability to sit was a secondary concern. If anything, it just made me want to get us out of here quicker.
“Are you guys ready?”
“For what?” Matt asked.
“To run. I don’t know what’s on the other side of the door, or how long I can hold them off,” I said. “As soon as they open the door, you have to be ready to run as fast as you can, as far as you can.”
“Aren’t you just gonna Star Wars them?” Rhys asked, completely unfazed by the idea. “When Obi-Wan’s like, ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.’”