“Breathe in, breathe out.” The words were calm and authoritative, delivered with certainty. His eyes seemed to sparkle as she looked up at him from the couch. She did as he said, without thinking. He repeated the command, giving her time to do each action but not enough to do anything else.
The regulation of her breathing calmed the anxiety that had been threatening to break over her, pushing it back with the simple movement of her diaphragm as it pulled and pushed the precious air in and out in a more than tidal ebb and flow.
“Breathe in.” He said, and she did, relaxing her eyelids and focusing on the flow of air in her nostrils.
“Breathe out.” He said, and she released the air from her lungs and relaxed her shoulders. He didn’t give her a chance to do anything but obey the next cycle that led her deeper and quieter.
She stopped counting the cycles after a while, and started anticipating them instead; reducing her world to this moment and those words. The anxiety was gone. Certainty was here. Obeying the words brought calm, and she nodded as he said so between the words of the cycle.
She breathed in when he said, she breathed out when he said, and knew in this perfect moment that buying him that book on hypnosis had been the perfect Valentine’s gift.