My Immortal Love
by Red Hope
"Oh come on, Gabrielle!" Nikon called. He darted around a merchant's stall, in the agora. "It was only a joke."
Gabrielle slipped between two merchant stalls. She was bent forward and heard the boy's words. Her breaths were heavy after running so hard from Nikon. She backed up a few steps and bumped into somebody.
"Watch it, girl," the merchant snapped.
Gabrielle jumped and spun around him.
"Gabrielle!" Nikon hollered. He heard the merchant's words and quickly gave chase when Gabrielle ran out from between the stalls. Nikon was amazed by Gabrielle's speed, and he could barely keep up.
"Leave me be!" Gabrielle yelled at the boy. She veered around patrons in the agora.
Nikon was huffing as he tried to catch up to Gabrielle. Damn farm girls were fast in Potidaea. His chunky cheeks were flushed now. "You do not… have to touch it," he teased loudly. He then nearly collided with a slave, who snapped at him. Nikon glared at the slave and ran off again before he lost Gabrielle.
Gabrielle peered over her shoulder and saw Nikon was losing ground. She came out of the agora and onto the busy street. Just in front of her a horse drawn cart nearly hit her, but she jumped aside in time.
"Watch it, girl!" the butcher on the wagon hollered. He waved his whip at the girl, who stumbled to one side.
Gabrielle ignored his warning and continued running from Nikon. She heard his torments further, but she was far ahead of him thankfully. Gabrielle made a few turns and hoped to lose Nikon. But, he was relentless even if he was slow. She was also getting worn out from the chase. Then straight ahead, her eyes filled with the large, stone temple that drew her closer.
Nikon was still behind Gabrielle, and he saw the temple too. He recognized it as a temple to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.
Gabrielle hurried up the numerous steps, but she tripped once thanks to her long dress. She slammed her knee into a step, but she scrambled up and continued to the top.
Nikon huffed hard and came to a slow stop at the base of the steps. He gazed up at Gabrielle, who was in front of the doors. He shook his head and yelled, "I doubt even the Goddess of Love could love somebody like you." He gave up on her.
Gabrielle watched Nikon leave, but she still went into the temple. She was catching her breath as she limped her way. A few voices caught her ear, and Gabrielle hastily hid behind a short pillar. She tilted her head and listened yet the women were too far. Then she tilted her head back and peered up at the statue on the base of the pillar.
A beautiful marble sculpture of the Goddess of Love stood tall at the entrance of the temple. Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, held out her hand to the entrance way, welcoming any disciples. Her hair was long and straight. Her toga wrapped in normal fashion and held with a girdle. The sculpture made her features soft with a radiant smile.
Gabrielle moved away from the statue and ascended a few steps to an overlooking level. Off to her left was a square pool filled with water. The sunlight, from the round opening in the roof, shined down and sparkled in the water. Gabrielle spotted a few priestess talking beside the pool then another woman seated at a bench.
After watching them, Gabrielle went over the wall and sat down. Her knee hurt a lot, and she wanted to rest it. She was afraid Nikon was outside of the temple, waiting for her. Gabrielle leaned her head against the cool stone and let out a sigh. She recalled her earlier confrontation with Nikon, just outside the agora. A soft tremble went through her body, and a few tears started down her cheeks.
Nikon was no better than a monstrous dryad. He had approached Gabrielle first and made fun of her family. Gabrielle walked away first until Nikon grabbed her. He then wanted to show her something and reached inside his chiton. Gabrielle shoved him aside and hurried into the agora. The chase shortly started after that point.
Gabrielle drew up her knees and the pain in her left knee made her cry more. She closed her eyes after she put her forehead against her knees. She despised Nikon, who teased her any chance he had when she came to the agora alone.
"Why are you crying?"
Gabrielle jumped and scrambled onto her feet until her hurt knee made her fall down to the cold floor. She was completely caught off guard by the tall woman that had quietly come up to her.
"I am sorry," the woman hastily apologized. She knelt down beside the girl. "I did not mean to frighten you." She helped Gabrielle sit up again and held onto her arm.
"I-I-I am sorry," Gabrielle rushed, "I know I am not allowed in here."
"Do not be silly," the woman argued. "Everybody is welcomed here."
Gabrielle studied the woman's beautiful blue eyes that seemed almost godly to her. She had only seen such a blue hue in the sky when it was a crisp, clear day. For a moment, she forgot herself.
The woman was on her knees, in front of the girl, and worriedly studied Gabrielle. "Is there anything I can do?"
Gabrielle shook her head and drew her knees to her chest again.
"What is your name?" the woman asked. She could tell the girl was unsure of her. "I am Aphrodite." She enjoyed the girl's puzzled look.
"Like the Goddess of Love?" Gabrielle softly checked.
The woman, Aphrodite, smiled and reached up to brushed a curly, blond lock of hair behind her right ear. "Spelled the same way too." She wore a soft pink chiton.
"My name is Gabrielle."
Aphrodite had a curious expression before she smiled warmly again. "It is nice to meet you, Gabrielle." She placed her hands on her thighs. "You can call me Dity, for short." She tilted her head and tempted, "You have a short name too?"
Gabrielle crinkled her nose and softly replied, "Some call me Gabby."
Aphrodite had a lopsided smile and deduced, "You must not be fond of it." She tilted her head and asked, "How about Gabs?"
Gabrielle had a few short names but that name was the first. She actually liked it, and she nodded.
Aphrodite decided to tempt fate and moved around until she was seated next to the girl. "So, what brought you in here?" She gazed about the interior of the temple from her spot beside the girl. "Not exactly a cool spot."
Gabrielle shook her head.
Aphrodite saw the girl's head movement, but she still joked, "And it kind of smells like fish too." She earned a laugh from Gabrielle this time. "Fish is so gross." She was further rewarded with a smile.
"It tastes good," Gabrielle argued. She often ate fish that her and her sister caught out of the creek beside their farm.
"I do not believe that," Aphrodite debated. "You cannot tell me one of those… gross things flopping around on your plate is good."
Gabrielle gave a soft giggle. "You have to cook it first."
"Oooh." It now seemed to dawn on Aphrodite. "That might explain why."
Gabrielle had a cute smile. "You clean it first, cut a slit across the belly, and pack it with herbs. Then you put it over the fire for awhile."
Aphrodite tilted her head and smiled at the girl. "You must cook."
Gabrielle shrugged and replied, "My momma teaches me." She then asked, "Your mom did not teach you?"
Aphrodite grinned this time. "No, I never learned."
Gabrielle seemed baffled by this.
Aphrodite bumped her shoulder against the girl's smaller one. "So, what had you upset, Gabs?" She expected the girl to look away and frown. She leaned in closer and softly promised, "I will not tell anybody." She found hooded green eyes peeking up at her. "I promise."
Gabrielle hugged herself a bit more, but she quietly told Aphrodite. "A boy named Nikon was bothering me again." She continued to tell Aphrodite what happened earlier.
Aphrodite's eyes slowly darkened as Gabrielle gave her story. She waited until the girl was finished then she saw the tears again. "I am sorry, sweet pea." She gingerly touched Gabrielle's forearm, which was bare.
Gabrielle quickly noticed Aphrodite's soft touch, which was also very warm. She wiped away the few tears.
"I will tell you the best piece of advice," Aphrodite started, "Okay?" After Gabrielle's nod, she cleared her throat before she spoke again. "If another boy or even a man ever tells you to touch them there, you respond by kicking them there in that exact spot." She enjoyed Gabrielle's wide eyes. "And you kick as hard as possible, okay?"
Gabrielle had expected a lot of advice, but hardly what Aphrodite told her.
"After you do that," Aphrodite explained, "He will never bother you again." She squeezed the girl's arm. "Okay?" She needed the girl's agreement.
Gabrielle nodded and softly added, "Okay."
Aphrodite was pleased and patted Gabrielle's arm. "That's my girl." She and Gabrielle traded a grin. She then put her head to the left and better studied Gabrielle's profile. "Are you far from home?"
"I… I live on a farm, just outside of town." Gabrielle was hesitant again, for some reason.
"That's not a long walk from here." Aphrodite was quick to pick up on the girl's concerns. Most likely Gabrielle was worried Nikon might be waiting for her. "How about I walk you home?"
Gabrielle was surprise by the offer. "B-b-but you have to stay here, right?"
Aphrodite chuckled at how little the girl knew about her. "I may go anywhere I wish." She then held out her hand. "Come on."
Gabrielle took the larger hand and started to get up until her knee pained her. She had forgotten about it, but it made her yelp in reminder.
Aphrodite was startled by the girl's pain. She held onto Gabrielle's arms and steadied her. "What is it, sweet pea?" She felt badly for the girl.
"I hurt my knee." Gabrielle hated to admit to her own clumsiness. "I… I fell on the steps."
"Oh." Aphrodite released Gabrielle and knelt down. "Let me see…" She slowly raised the girl's brown, wool skirt to her knee. She gave a sympathetic hiss at the bruising and redness. "Oh yeeeah, it's hurt." She reached for the hurt knee until Gabrielle's rushed voice.
"Please don't touch it."
Aphrodite paused and peered up at the girl. "I just want to make sure you did not break anything." She softly smiled and promised, "I will be gentle." After the girl's faint nod, Aphrodite pressed her freehand's fingertips against the damaged skin.
Gabrielle hissed in pain but then a warmth soothed it away.
"Maybe it's not so bad," Aphrodite whispered. She now brought her thumb against the skin and ran it across the bruise, which was slowly fading away. She withdrew her hand and released the skirt. "Does it still hurt?"
Gabrielle was confused as she tested her knee, which felt a lot better. "No." She gave a dazzled look at Aphrodite, who stood up again.
"I am glad." Aphrodite smiled at the girl's expression. She held out her hand.
Gabrielle took Aphrodite's larger hand and followed her out of the temple. She scanned around for Nikon, but he was nowhere nearby them. She was relieved too.
Aphrodite allowed Gabrielle to lead the way. "Are you having fish tonight?"
Gabrielle giggled at the fishy topic. "Momma did not say."
Aphrodite considered the fact the girl was by herself. "Do you come to town alone often?"
"Sometimes when Poppa needs me to do things for him." Gabrielle still held onto Aphrodite's hand. "Sometimes my sister, Lila, comes with me, but she was busy helping Momma."
Aphrodite quietly considered the fact the girl was alone in the town. It was fairly dangerous too. "Well, you can always come to the temple."
Gabrielle passed a few people as they came out of town. "Do you like it there?"
Aphrodite was briefly confused by the girl's question then she grinned at the assumption. "It gets a bit boring."
Gabrielle softly laughed and asked, "What you do for fun?"
Aphrodite shrugged and considered the many things she did with herself. However, most of those things were not meant for Gabrielle's young ears. "I play swords with the fish some times." She then frowned and added, "But I can never get that fishy smell off my hands."
Gabrielle laughed at the image of Aphrodite using a fish as a sword. "They can by smelly."
"Totally," Aphrodite agreed. She noticed the girl's peculiar look, most likely from her word.
Gabrielle looked ahead and pointed at the small thatch house. "That's my home."
Aphrodite knew that the house could fit in the temple back in town. She blew out a low breath and murmured, "It looks… quaint." She spotted a barn behind it. She and Gabrielle stopped beside the dirt path to the house.
"Thanks for walking me home." Gabrielle released the woman's hand.
"You're welcome, sweet pea." Aphrodite crinkled her nose and smiled. She put her hands on her hips. "Come by the temple anytime, okay?"
"Okay." Gabrielle took a step towards the path, but she hesitated and suddenly jumped forward to the woman. "Thank you, Dity."
Aphrodite was surprised by the warm but quick hug then the girl ran off. For a moment, Aphrodite watched Gabrielle hurry to the house. She had a silly smile. Once Gabrielle was in the house, Aphrodite turned and headed back to town, but she eventually faded away once nobody noticed her on the road.
To be continued.