Andrea padded softly past the living room, casting a less than passing glance at Sarah, also known as the gloomy lump sitting on their couch, legs curled up, hugging her knees close to her face. They hadn’t even been married when she’d first seen Sarah this way, possibly wrapped up in the same comfy pink sweatshirt and powder blue pajama pants. At first, she hadn't known what to do. She'd felt a little helpless and awkward. But now, after many conversations and many times getting it wrong, it was old and familiar. Everything was with them, really. And neither of them minded. It was . . . comfortable.
Even still, comfort could turn to disaffected routine and even apathy without some care. And it was on special, particularly romantic, occasions when Andrea often found herself having to give that care to her sulking spouse, whose spoon drawer frequently seemed to have its contents swiped at such times, by chance or perhaps, Andrea thought, as a way to avoid the perceived pressure involved with them.
For her part, Sarah was unaware of her wife’s orbital presence, choosing instead to focus on the dwindling flames in their fireplace—and wondering if they might be a metaphor. But she knew her person. Surely, she would be coming in at any moment to pull back the drapes or stoke the dying embers or some other literary device meaning "to gently but persistently bother her."
Almost on cue, Sarah entered the room and gingerly approached, a soft smile on her face and her hands tucked behind her back. She wore a long-sleeved cowl neck shirt with multicolored stripes and pockets in the front, and comfy, stretchy jeans. Her bare toes curled into the carpet as she rocked back and forth a little bit.
Sarah buried her head behind her knees. "I know, I know. It's Valentine's Day. It's supposed to be all romantic and whatnot, and I'm sure you've planned something very sweet and special. But babe, I just don't have it in me tonight. Can we please stay home?"
Andrea smiled broadly. "Of course. If that's what you really want, I want you to be happy."
"Really? You mean that?" Sarah gave her a skeptical look. "What's the catch?"
Andrea raised an eyebrow.
"Just please let me give you your gift?"
Letting out a sigh, Andrea shifted her body so her feet were flat on the floor and held out her hands, into which her now brightly grinning wife placed a red, heart-shaped candy box with decorative filigree on its lid. "Oh. How… original?"
Eagerly scooting in beside her on the couch, Sarah explained, "It's not an ordinary candy box. There's a switch on the side. Press it."
"It doesn't play a song does it? Please say it doesn't play a song."
"It doesn't play a song. I promise."
Gingerly running her fingers along the edge of the box, Andrea found a small toggle switch and pressed it forward. Instantly, what had looked like embossed decorations now showed themselves to be tiny LED lights, Illuminating the entire surface of the box lid. "A light-up candy box," Andrea smirked, "Oh honey, you shouldn't have."
Sarah lovingly jabbed an elbow into Andrea's ribs. "It does a whole thing. Watch it."
Indeed, as Andrea watched, the LED lights started dancing around in patterns, from left to right, from right to left, and then emanating out from the center to the edges. "Wow, that's quite a complicated light show."
"Shush. I programmed it myself. It took a lot of time. Just watch."
As she watched, Andrea noted that the relaxing sensation she was beginning to experience felt somehow familiar. She immediately brushed this thought aside, though, as unimportant. Soon, she started to feel herself let go as she enjoyed the pattern of the lights on the top of the box. The more she watches, the more interesting the lights became and the less weighed down she felt by the stresses and worries that had balled her up into her lump of gloom.
Eagerly, Sarah looked for the familiar signs in Andrea's expression that told her she was beginning to surrender herself to the experience. Slowly and gently, her right hand rose and began rhythmically stroking her wife's long, auburn hair. She always loved this part.
Andrea felt a warm, enveloping sensation spreading out from her chest as she found herself completely captivated by the pulsating lights. The more enthralled she became, the less aware she was of the very thing that was fascinating her. The lights melted in her thoughts into less of a visual spectacle and more of a sensation, a feeling that drew her inexorably to where it wanted her to go.
Softly, Sarah allowed her words to begin to float into the mix along with the LED lights, sure that they were now taking hold of Andrea's full attention. "That's right." Her stroking continued along the back of Andrea's skull and down her neck. "Deeper, deeper down. Down, down. Deeper, deeper down . . ." A satisfied smile spread across her face as Andrea's body slowly slumped forward. "Very good. Good girl. Down you go for me. That's it. Down, down, down . . . and sleep."
On the final word, Sarah snapped her fingers and Andrea's eyes instantly shut as she drooped forward, fully relaxed, the candy box falling into her lap and her arms dropping to either side of her legs. It was far from the first time Sarah had put her wife into a trance. That too was now familiar and comfortable. But like so many other familiar and comfortable things in their lives, there was still a certain excitement to it, an excitement that grew as she noticed each new detail of how much more quickly and easily Andrea dropped for her. Every time, it made her feel powerful, yes, but also deeply trusted and loved.
Now she could settle into the low, seductive purring she had developed over the years, carefully attuned to best allow her words to slip into Andrea's unconscious mind. "There, now. That's much better. You're so deep for me. You like going deep for me. Don't you?"
A weak, distant, muffled "yes" escaped Andrea's lips.
"Good girl. And now that you're nice and deep for me, you know it's time to listen. It's time to listen and it's time to obey. Isn't that right?"
Another nearly whispered "yes" emerged.
"Very good." Sarah's stroking slowed down and then stopped as she rested her arm behind her wife's back. "Now. I want you to take stock of how you're feeling. I want you to listen to your body. I want you to listen to your brain. I want you to do your very best to be an objective observer of your mind and emotions. Can you do that for me? You don't have to speak."
Though she appeared to be completely asleep, something akin to relief seemed to wash over Andrea's body as she was allowed to let go of the responsibility of using her voice. Instinctively, and almost imperceptibly, she nodded.
"That's good, Andrea. That's very good. Observe your mind. Observe your emotions. Observe your body." Sarah shifted slightly in her seat, bending her knee up onto the couch cushion so she could more fully face her deeply entranced subject.
"I want you to consider what is best for you right now. What you really need. I want you to take a close look at your desire to stay inside tonight. Ask yourself: is what you need really a night in? Or are you in one of your moods when it will really help you to get dressed and go out, forget your problems and worries, and have a good time with me? Either way, we will be together. Either way, we will have a lovely Valentine's Day and you will have absolutely no guilt or regret about your decision. Do you understand?"
Barely a nod, but a nod nonetheless.
"Good. In a moment, I'm going to count to three and snap my fingers. When I do, you will awaken and commit fully to the decision that best addresses your needs. If you need to stay in, you will be as snuggly and cuddly as you need to be. If you need to go out, you will immediately get up and go put on clothes that make you feel beautiful and sexy and ready to enjoy an evening with me. Do you understand, my love?"
Another delicate nod.
"Good girl. Fully awake and ready to obey my suggestions in three. Two. One." Again, Sarah snapped her fingers.
Andrea inhaled deeply through her nose as her eyes fluttered open and her head straightened up. Immediately, she put the box on the coffee table and stood, walking forward toward the hall that led to their bedroom. Just as she got to the threshold, she stopped and placed her hand on the corner of the wall, turning to look back at her spouse. "I know what you did." She gave a knowing, enticing smile, bending her knee so it creeped around the corner, hugging the living room wall with her leg, her toes pointed. "And when we get home, I'm going to show you just how much I appreciate it." With a wink, she released the wall from her embrace and sashayed down the hallway.
Sarah knew Andrea's memory of being hypnotized would soon fade. She sat for a moment, a smile of relief on her face, and then rose to follow after Andrea so she could change into the slinky gown she had picked out for the evening. Just as she took her first step toward the hallway, she bent down, picked up the candy from the coffee table, and flipped the toggle switch back to its off position. "Another year, another trance."
Wondering if Andrea would ever remember this tradition, she carried the box back to its secret hiding place, ready for the next time her wife would be "Valentized."