| He had loved her for a thousand years.
Once, she had stood in his garden, a testament to his skill as a sculptor, a carved image of perfection, flawless. As a statue, she had been the ideal, the dream, the vision, an example to which all women should aspire. But, in his pursuit to create the perfect woman, he had fallen in love with his creation. Oh, but the love of a stone maiden was so cold! He lusted after his sculpted beloved and his heart weighed heavily at the bitter irony of his dilemma.
But then the goddess of love herself, Venus, took pity on him. His devotion to his creation warmed her already passionate heart, and so for him, she brought to life his beautiful maiden.
She waited for him in the garden where he had created her, and it was there he pledged his love to her forever.
He named her Galatea.
He had left rose petals for her.
Galatea followed the trail of lush petals with her eyes. They began right at the door and made a path through the foyer, turned right, and disappeared down the hallway, presumably to their bedroom.
Galatea stood at the threshold and haplessly toed at the petals at her feet. She hated the rose petals.
“Téa, my lovely? Are you home? I’m here, my darling, waiting for you.”
His voice floated through air scented of vanilla and jasmine.
Both the sound of his voice and the sickly sweet scent made her stomach turn in disgust.
“Téa, my love, are you coming?”
Although soft and tender, she grimaced at his call. But she responded in turn, her voice as smooth and sweet as honey.
“Yes, heart of my heart, I’ll be there in a moment.”
She stepped through the many scattered rose petals and made her to their bedroom. The door stood partially ajar, an invitation. She hesitated for a moment, knowing what was waiting for inside: a gift, another token of his unending, undying love.
She pushed open the door and there he was: her maker, her lover, her husband.
He lay squarely on the center of the bed, with two young, partially nude women on either side of him. Each woman had a large red, velvet ribbon wrapped around her torso, with multiple bows strategically placed over each breast.
He smiled at Galatea, a smile that glowed with love.
And worse, adoration.
He scooted himself down off the bed, and enveloped her in a large hug. “My darling, my beloved! Happy Birthday!” He nuzzled her neck, chuckling softly. “Happy Anniversary!” He breathed her in, luxuriating in the scent of her, and whispered in her ear: “Are you surprised?”
She feigned shock by planting a light kiss on his cheek. But his touch on her skin brought bile to her throat, and the mutterings in her ears raced chills of displeasure up and down her spine. She wanted to scream, shouting from the rooftops: Surprised? After a thousand years, what can there be of surprise? Is it not all the same? All painfully, horribly, the same?
She fought to contain her contempt, and rather than betray her despair, she hugged him back.
“I brought you two pretties, one for your birthday, one for our anniversary.” He wet her neck with small kisses, and she knew they dripped with his love.
Inwardly, she cringed with each touch of his lips. Outwardly, she gingerly stepped out of his embrace.
She gave him a small smile that she knew would not hold any joy, but he would not see. He never saw, even when she feared he would. Never once had he noticed her abject misery, her sheer unhappiness. He saw only what he wanted to see, loving her with complete and utter abandon, as he had done so since the day he had created her.
“Thank you, my love.” She paused for a moment, stepping away from him coyly. He had often commented that he loved the soft lines of her back; she seduced him with a view. “I’ve brought you something also, my sweet, something that I thought was lost to us, but incredibly, miraculously, I’ve found it, and I thought it only fitting that on this day, this very special, unique day, I present it to you.”
On the bed, his “gifts” fondled each other, the red velvet ribbons slipping and sliding, exposing bare flesh. Galatea turned an eye from their antics back to her maker.
His eyes widened with pleasure. “A gift, you say? But my dear, you are my great gift—“
She brought a slender finger to her lips. “Shhh, come take my hand, let me show. It’s in the garden.”
As they walked into the garden, Galatea reflected on a love that had lasted a thousand years. She was beyond weary. He refused to let her be the woman she was: flawed, imperfect, with both strength and weakness. He only saw the statue that he’d once created and that had been so graciously brought to life for him, and after a millennium together, she was trapped by the image he created of her: perfection.
In the beginning, Galatea’s life had been a thing of wonder and once, she thought her love for him would know no limits. But as one century merged into the next, her affection had faded until nothing was left but bitterness, regret, and anger. She longed to be like the women she’d met in her long existence: free, independent, willful. Human. They lived lives where they were seen as perfect because of their flaws and imperfections. But in her perfection, she knew she was an abomination, and the life she lived was a false one. A million times she’d wanted to flee to be herself, and not live one man’s warped view of perfection. But the life that she’d been given was in fact not hers, but belonged to her creator; Venus had brought her to life for him, and so to him she was bound.
For an eternity.
It had been the secret of the gift that Venus had given and to which he had held fast: that she would be his to love forever.
Eight hundred years ago, she had visited the temple of the goddess and had begged her to reverse her magic. The goddess of love had turned a deaf ear to her plea, giving only these small words: “To be what you were, you must return from where you came”.
They had lived in Greece for a hundred years after that, but Galatea had continued to live, the single focus of her creator’s attention. Many times, she wished for the sweet release of death, if for no other reason than to torture her creator. Her death would crush him, and she thought nothing else could be sweeter.
Outside, the garden bloomed its flowers and bees flittered from one to the next, busy spreading pollen. She pulled him along by the hand through the thick foliage until the came to an old stone pedestal, crumbling and cracked, its surface worn from the elements and the passage of time, but nonetheless, a priceless relic of another era.
“What is this?” he asked, curious.
“It’s my pedestal.”
“My pedestal. The one on which you created me.”
He raised his eyebrows in genuine surprise. “But…how can this be? Surely, after a thousand years, it would have been destroy--?”
“My lovely, my darling, my sweet, do not question it. Clearly, our gods of old continue to smile on us, despite the passage of time. Is not fitting? Is it not appropriate?” She released his hand and walked to the pedestal, lazily trailing her fingers across its surface. Suddenly she stopped and pointed. “Look, husband, look there! Do you not see the last vestiges of your name in the stone, not faded away?”
He squatted in the grass, caressing the old granite. “Why, yes, I do. I do! There is the ..l-i-o-n… “ He stood. “Oh, my beloved, this is a magnificent gift. But why?”
“But why? you ask. Because I want to stand upon this pedestal so you can admire me more.” Her tone darkened.
“What do you mean, Téa?”
“When the goddess gave me life, I stepped off that pedestal to share my life with you. Or so I thought.” She spat each word with venom. “In truth, I have never left that pedestal. In your mind, I am only still your perfect statue.” She maneuvered to the back of the pedestal and hoisted herself onto the uneven surface.
For the first time in their existence, she saw the loathing and bitterness in her voice reach him, and she remarked with satisfaction that he recoiled from her words.
But it would last only for a moment. He reached for her. “Galatea, my love, what are you doing? What are you talking about?”
She held up a hand to stop him and when he halted, she stood herself up on the ancient stone. “It has taken me all these hundreds of years to understand her message to me, but it finally became clear: to be what you were, you must return from where you came.”
The uneven surface of the pedestal was tricky to manipulate, but Galatea struck a pose: one long arm pointing upward, the other trailing behind her, her head looking to the sky while her glorious locks flowed down the length of her back.
A classic pose of the ages.
She looked down at her lover. “Now I can again be as you intended: on a pedestal forever.”
He moved to speak. “Galatea, what are you doing? Come down—“ It was as he touched her leg that he noticed the change: her leg was as hard as rock.
A rapid transformation was taking place: Galatea was once again becoming stone. Her feet merged with the pedestal, stone melding into skin, making it immovable. Her cream-colored skin quickly turned a mottled, dirty gray and she began to stiffen with the change.
He looked in horror, and began to scream. “No, my love, noooo!”
Galatea looked at him once last time. “You put me on this pedestal, and so it is here that I shall—“
And then she spoke no more.