The last chapter/epilogue. Thank you for reading!
It wasn't until later that evening that I figured out why I was feeling so suspicious about Edward's behavior.
After receiving his gift he had only smiled. We'd sat on the grass, enjoying the rare sunny day and talking about trivial topics. But something had been brewing beneath Edward's calm exterior. With the ecstasy of giving him his present I had forgotten all about the one thing that had earlier made me anxious.
He had a gift for me, too.
But why hadn't he said anything? I could tell he hadn't forgotten. Vampires didn't just forget.
Was he waiting for me to say something? Or was he afraid I'd throw a fit if he mentioned it?
But after bringing me home after our perfect day, he finally brought the subject up. Edward set me on my bed carefully and took a step back, grinning more than he had the entire afternoon.
"One more thing before we end this beautiful day."
Chuckling at my missing enthusiasm, he came closer. He was near enough for me to feel the cold radiating off his skin, making goose bumps appear on my pale skin.
"Be nice. You already agreed to this. I promise it didn't cost me a dime."
"Really?" I couldn't imagine Edward not spending money on this. If he had his way, I'd be wearing diamond necklaces and gold bracelets everyday. His last birthday present had been perfect; I could only hope he had kept my taste for simple presents in mind while getting this gift for me.
"Yes, really. Now, close your eyes."
I reluctantly did as I was told, my hands placed on my lap. The urge to take a peek was nearly irresistible, but I managed by squeezing my eyes so tightly shut that it hurt. Edward chuckled again at my no doubt ridiculous expression.
Suddenly, I felt something cold pick my one hand up from where I had laid it on my lap. I quickly clenched my fingers into a fist, but of course my weak muscles were no match to Edward as he forced my hand open.
And then he laid something on my palm.
I was expecting the object to feel smooth against my skin, but to my great surprise, I found the mysterious item anything but smooth. The surface was rough and uneven; a few small holes and cracks decorated the edges. I tried to open my eyes, but Edward placed his now free hand over them.
"Not yet. First I want you to guess what it is."
Another groan from me. He was going to torture me, and I saw he wanted to do it properly.
"Aren't we a little too old for these immature games?"
"I'm only a century old. We still have plenty of time to grow up. Now, make a guess."
I pursed my lips as I twirled the unknown object in my hands. It didn't have a certain shape, but it felt more like it was broken off from somewhere. The rough surface scraped my skin with its sharp edges. It was a little heavy, like a rock.
This was definitely unusual of Edward. I thought he liked flashy, expensive presents. He wasn't someone who picked up a stone from the nearest forest and gave it to his fiancée. Not that I'd mind.
"What… is it a rock?"
Edward removed his hand from my eyes. I looked down at my palm.
It was a rock. My mouth popped open in surprise.
The gray stone was about the size of my palm. Its edges were, as I had correctly guessed, pretty sharp, but now I saw the slight bluntness that had perhaps been caused by years of friction. It was more flat than round, and one side had two little waves over the surface. The other was rougher, and I reckoned it was the side where the rock had been torn away from... from what? Maybe a pillar? Apart from that and the antique feeling of the object, there was nothing special whatsoever about it. It was very abnormal of Edward.
"You only guessed half the truth, Bella," he said, staring at me with that same, sheepish smile plastered on his face. I wondered briefly what he meant with his last statement and continued to survey the object in my hand. Yes, it originated undeniably from a pillar of some sort; the waving suggested an old-fashioned column of the ancient world. The rock obviously had some meaning to it - why else would Edward have given it to me?
"What's the story?"
Edward sat down on the bed beside me. "I was thinking about what to get to you - your phobia of me spending money on you didn't make it exactly easy - when I came up with an idea. I wanted the present to have some value other than a financial one, and I wanted it to represent my love for you. I wanted it to symbolize you. But what in the world could even slightly summarize your beauty, your kindness, the way you practically drive me mad every day…"
I blushed at his words. But I still didn't see their connection with the rock in my hand.
"You are such a complicated person. There's no way to condense all your character and beauty into just one object! You often compare me with a Greek god, but haven't you ever thought about how much you are one yourself? Your very presence fills me with longing, like Aphrodite… And that was when I thought of this. You are Aphrodite. No, of course you are so much more, but the goddess of love, passion and beauty is the only thing even remotely close to you.
"You didn't want me to spend money on your present, so I knew I couldn't pay anybody to make you a statue or buy one myself. I really wanted to give you a whole temple, but you'd never accept that, would you? So instead, I got you part of a temple."
I stared at the rock in front of me. It all made sense - it was exactly something that Edward would get me. A part of a temple. I couldn't help but smile at his yet another perfect gift.
"I knew you would like it. I got it from Rome, actually, on the excuse of leaving for a hunting trip last weekend. The biggest Venus temple, Aphrodite's Roman parallel, was situated there. Unfortunately, not much is left of it to see, but the pillars are still standing. I broke a small piece off the highest of them all. Let it always remind you of how beautiful and loving you are."
The rock was suddenly more than just an object. I imagined the temple in my mind, the Romans walking inside to worship their goddess of love. The stone wasn't gray and rough-surfaced anymore, but covered in glorious, white marble, and rising high above the ground.
I fell into Edward's arms and whispered him my thanks. Tears were forming in my eyes; I knew it was only a matter of time until they spilled over. Edward gave in to my embrace and cradled me against his chest, the stone pressing against my stomach from the pressure.
It was the perfect gift! Even though I was a little doubtful about my alleged beauty, the love and passion part were certainly true. I loved Edward with all my heart and dedication, so I let the stone symbolize just that. It was beautiful, and it hadn't cost him anything…
It hadn't cost him anything. Horror crept up my chest.
"Edward… you… you didn't run to Rome, did you?"
"No, silly. I flew with the plane."
"Just for this?"
"Just for that."
Double oh no.
"The plane tickets…"
But he was already gone; the window hung open from the force of is impact. His laugh still lingered in the air.
I threw the rock onto my bed, and crossed my arms tightly across my chest. Edward couldn't run from me forever.
Sooner or later, Adonis and Aphrodite were going to have a little talk.