Word Count 494
Around the Bend
By Sharon Collins
Despite the welcome shower, Ariadne wilted. Her cheeks flushed with the evening heat, damp strawberry-blonde tendrils escaping a hasty braid, she donned a sundress the color of the Aegean, loaned by Dion’s sister. ‘What is it with this family?’ she had mused upon being introduced to Minerva. ‘Dion looks like an Greek god; his sister is more stunning than Venus herself! I look like a peasant compared to these people!’ Hesitating, she wiped her palms on the skirt of the obviously expensive sundress. She grimaced as the dampness marred its blue perfection. Momentarily she was expected to appear on the terrace of the family estate. Swallowing hard, she straightened her shoulders, slipped through the door, and took a seat next to Theo. From beneath red-gold eyelashes, charmingly vulnerable minus mascara, Ariadne squinted into the sunset and listened while Theo’s Adonis of a cousin dramatized her rescue.
The cool crystal glass in one hand and Theo’s firmly clasped in the other calmed her nerves immensely. She marveled, as the incoming tide became the foaming beakers of Poseidon’s white stallions in Dion’s version of the tale. Shaking her head to Theo’s worried glance, she squeezed his hand three times in a silent ‘I love you’. Escape impossible, they both settled in for what was sure to be a long evening. As soon as Dion finished his entertaining monologue, Ari knew she would be grilled by the assembled audience of extended family including Theo’s Aunt Helen and Uncle Hector, another set of twins who ran the family business. “Helen is Dion and Minerva’s mother,” Theo had whispered earlier, “That branch of the family got all the good-looks, but mine got all the brains,” he added with a sardonic laugh.
Three hours, seven courses, and an endless barrage of questions later, Theo led her back onto the terrace. Bathed in moonlight and the perfume of a thousand night-blooming flowers, he asked the question she had been both anticipating and dreading all evening. “Well?” Was all he said, but it was enough. She knew what he wanted.
“No, Theo, no I haven’t opened it yet.” Reaching into the pocket of her borrowed finery, she handed him the midnight blue box with the embossed labyrinth glowing silver in the moonlight. “Theo, I…” he stopped her with a finger to her lips.
“Wait, Ari, before you give me your answer, I really think you need to look at the ring. I know how hesitant you are to plan for a future. Cancer does that to a person. You learn to live in the present six-month-moment. But, I am NOT afraid to plan; we will walk this path together. Please, will you just open the box and look at the ring? … I had it designed just for us. It says everything…”
With a sigh and a smile, she did. Nestled in velvet, perfect in its golden intricacy was a miniature labyrinth holding in its very center a perfect ruby heart.