"Athens is beautiful this time of year isn't it?" Jessica asked as she turned to me, I did not hear her the first time she had asked me; I had been too enthralled at the vision of stone set before me. The beauty of it was, is indescribable. Sleek white marble, granite… the contours, chiseled features, absolute perfection. I could not tear my eyes from it, even to answer her.
"Sure, Jess, it's…it's great." I said absent-mindedly. I could feel the stare I was procuring from her. "Bella, your drooling over that piece of ruins as if it were a man…please, honey, at least wait until we get to the statue of the David." I looked over at her, slightly confused. "Jess, the David is in Florence…Italy, we're in Greece. It's a whole different country." I stated as I began walking in the direction I knew she was anxious to go. Before we had stopped to look at the ruins of the temple of Athena Nike she had seen two cute tourist boys headed that way. I smiled to myself as I thought of the irony of the situation. My best friend, Jessica Stanley, had very wealthy parents who tried every summer to send her on an educational vacation somewhere in the world. I had met her last year when I moved from Phoenix, Arizona to live with my dad, Charlie, in Forks, Washington. This was my first trip outside of the contiguous United States, and I was getting more educational enjoyment from this trip than Jessica ever would.
Already we had visited the Parthenon, also in Athens, as well as several other historically significant ruins in the immediate area. Tomorrow we were scheduled to ascend Mount Olympus, legendary residence of the gods. I was beyond excited, Jess, not so much. You see, I still don't know how she and I ever became such close friends; Jessica was one of the most popular girls in school, she dressed well in designer clothes, drove a newer car, was the head cheerleader, you know the type. I am her absolute and complete opposite; a bookworm, recluse, not poor but certainly not able to keep up fashion-wise with my best friend. I'm so not into sports I baseball confused with basketball, I'm arguably the clumsiest person in the world.
When Jessica asked me to come along on her very first 'big girl' summer trip, meaning of course that since we were both seventeen her parents thought us mature enough to be able to navigate an alien country, no make that continent, by ourselves, I was absolutely floored. "Surely you want to ask Lauren Mallory, don't you?" I had said. "No, we did that once, Bells; Lauren is not a good anything but especially travel partner." She had replied. It had taken some convincing for my mom and Charlie to agree to let me go, but Jessica's parents helped us there. They had assured my parents that we would be going only on guided tours headed by responsible tour guides and the owners of the hotel we would be staying at were close, personal friends of theirs. They would be in touch with them throughout our trip.
So here I am, living one of my, up until now, most unattainable dreams, and standing before the ruins of temples in Athens, Greece. I followed Jessica a few steps behind, looking at my brochures of the next, and last, stop we would make today, Hadrian's Arch. "Hey, Jess, listen to this, it is said that as you pass through Hadrian's Arch for the first time you may ask one wish of the gods, supposedly if it is not made out of greed, it will be granted to you. That sounds fun!" Jess looked at me as if I had said we'd get a free supply of fishing bait. "What's Hadrian's Arch?" she asked. I laughed a little, "Never mind, Jess. Did you ever find those guys you were looking for?" I smirked. "I don't know what you're talking about, Bells; you know I love Mike." I snorted, Mike Newton was every girl's dream…well, every girl's but mine. I just hadn't found my Mike Newton yet, but I was sure I would… I just had to be patient.
As we approached the arch I put away my brochure, shoving it unceremoniously into my backpack. I looked up just as we were to pass underneath and closed my eyes. I took a deep breath, because as we all know, not breathing is essential to making a proper wish, and slowly walked forward. Through my eyelids I could sense the light being blocked out by the enormous stone structure that I was passing beneath. Everything was going swimmingly, until my foot seemed to find the one pebble that was out of place beneath my feet and the next thing I knew I was on my stomach. Somehow my body had sensed the fall and my hands shot out just in time to keep my face from hitting the gravel.
"Bells are you okay?" Jess inquired just a little too loudly. Our tour guide turned around and scrambled back to us. "Oh, pretty lady has taken a fall, yes? I need to call giatros…uh, doc-tor?" he asked urgently. "No, no I'm fine…it happens all the time. Really it does." I mumbled. I got up quickly to prove my point that assistance, and more attention, was completely unnecessary.
Not long after we arrived we decided to head back to our hotel for the evening. "We'll order room service." Jess announced as we flung out backpacks onto the beds. I turned and fell onto mine, savoring the sweet softness and comfort as I sunk a full three inches into the feathered top mattress.
Our evening was uneventful enough and we turned in early; the trek up Mount Olympus tomorrow was going to be an all day event, so we had better be good and rested. Try as I might I could not get to sleep so I decided to read my new book, one of the few large books I had found in English in the little book store we had visited yesterday. The title was 'Epic Myths: Guide to the Gods of Ancient Greece' – my favorite so far was the tale of Eros and Psyche. I was very appreciative of the pronunciation guide at the beginning of each chapter. Eros was pronounced "Air-ohs" and Psyche sounded like "Sigh-kee" – I had heard of Eros before; he was Cupid's Grecian counterpart, but unlike the cute little naked baby shooting arrows at someone to make them fall in love, the old myths had him looking as hot as Apollo, the arrows still were his gig, but instead of helping out young lovers he seemed to be notorious for splitting up marriages by shooting happily married couples and making them fall for other people. Still the story had its good points too. As I lay in bed I re-read the story I had come to love.
I woke up at five a.m. to the wretchedly shrill alarm clock between our beds. I heard a thump. The book which had been resting, open, on my chest had fallen to the floor. I retrieved it and stuck it in my bag; I was probably going to need it on our trip up Mount Olympus today incase Jess got side-tracked by some cute guy.
I jumped up and grabbed my clothes, getting a very quick shower before trying to rouse Jess; obviously the alarm never seemed to work. She got up and dressed leisurely, taking her time and we nearly missed the tour bus. Once on board I was very glad of my decision to bring along my new find; Jess, as suspected, had found some other Greece-touring American to connect with. Yes, he was male and about our age, maybe a little older. We had a five hour drive to look forward to; fortunately, Jess' parents had already booked us both a room at the Dion Palace hotel situated at the foot of Mount Olympus. I had protested to this saying it would be perfectly reasonable for Jess and I to share, but to no avail. They had insisted. I buried my nose in the book and waited for the long trip to come to an end. I was excited about our destination, but the thought of hiking for two days didn't seem like such a good idea for me. Maybe I would just hang around in the foothills.
As we finally approached the little town of Dion in near the foot of Olympus I noticed for the first time that the sky was completely overcast with thick clouds. My heart fell just a bit; we had been having superb weather up until know. I would have to check the weather reports later after settling into my suite. That still sounded so foreign, my suite…it really was too much, but the Stanley's had insisted.
After unpacking and getting settled I saw no more of Jessica. I supposed she had gone with her new friend…or friends and I would meet up with her at dinner. I took off with our tour guide and we drove to some of the hiking trails at the foot of the mountain. Even in the overcast gloom it was incredible. Here and there we would come across little settlements, none bigger than about a hundred people total is what our tour guide told us. When we reached the third settlement up the mountain I began to feel really uncomfortable. I had the eerie feeling I was being watched but every time I looked around I could see no one but the uninterested locals and our tour group.
Just as we were about to leave a very elderly little woman hobbled up to me and reached for my hand. I had been used to some of the beggars in the other cities we had visited and was trying to tell her I had no money in very broken Greek when she held up a wrinkled, knarled hand to silence me. I frowned, as she grabbed my right hand and pulled it up to her creased, darkened face; her eyes squinted until they were almost shut.
She stood there like that for some time and when she finally spoke I jumped. Her voice was loud and commanding despite her frail and stooped appearance. Her English was actually very good. "You have the scent of the devil on you… he watches you…this one sent from Hades he is. Do not trust him; he will steal you away. Do not let him in, whatever you do; you will not be able to resist him after that…he will snare you. Your hand, it has a very unlucky line." And with that she was gone. Simply turned and walked away, back to her little hovel in the main street. I frowned and looked to the tour guide; not surprisingly I had garnered the attention of not only our whole tour group, but also some of the locals. A man in his fifties or sixties stood nearby and began speaking with the tour guide in Greek. The tour guide turned to me and in broken English recanted what the old man had told him; "He say…That old Leona, the fortune teller…she not speaken in four year! You first she touches or talks to in that long! Odd, not good for you. She only tell of bad things, you very unlucky girl." I was speechless, but in my mind I was shouting. Great, just great; I have an old gypsy tell me that the devil is after me and will try to ensnare me!
I turned and acted as if nothing had happened and the tour guide followed suit. We hiked for about an hour more, but as the sun began to descend we turned back toward the foothills. I decided that I would not go on the tour tomorrow, but instead I would stay behind near the hotel and shop. That was probably what Jessica had done today. Maybe then Jess could join the hike on the third day; I'd have felt a lot better if she had been with me.
As I lay in my huge king sized bed that night after dinner I watched the moon rise over the mountains peaks. It was beautiful, there is nothing like it. The moon was full and round. Jess and I had discussed what had happened with the gypsy lady over dinner. Jess told me not to worry about it, and honestly I don't know why I had worried so much about it in the first place.
That was the first night I dreamt of him. Who he was I did not know, but he looked like one of the marble statues of the gods that we had seen in the countless museums in Athens and Delphi, except for the fact that he was wearing clothes. In my dream he just stood in the background of the scenery watching me. It gave me the same feeling that I had had earlier in the day. But I would have remembered seeing someone who looked like that. Wouldn't I?
I woke briefly and thought I saw a shadow over by my window. I sat up but the curtains just continued to blow. Wait…I hadn't left my window open. I stood up and went over to the window; the balcony was just beyond it… I looked around, down below, up above…nothing.
I turned and saw a flash of marble white. But it was gone almost before I could register it. "Eros?" I whispered. Immediately I felt incredibly stupid; why would a god want to look after me? I was no Psyche. I laughed to myself as I crawled back into bed. Just before I drifted off to sleep again I could have sworn I heard a soft chuckling near my window.