This garden was perfect. Among the many gifts that my father gave my mother, this was my favorite. A secret garden, only for the royal family. A perfect getaway from all the crazy suitors, the expectations, the rules. The attention I never asked for.
Sometimes he was here, and we would talk.
He was the one man who did not treat me like livestock.
He asked after my health, my happiness, and we talked of many things.
It was a nice friendship, and one that I could rely on whenever the events became too crazy.
I never asked him why he was never at the palace. A part of me didn't want him there, standing among the countless men who sized me up and determined my worth by staring at my appearance.
It was frustrating, and a typical occurance after I had turned sixteen.
I had even been called, "Aphrodite" by several, which I doubt the goddess would have approved of.
It was for that reason that I stayed away from her temple.
I stayed away from most public places, finding comfort and seeking sanctuary among the flowers and trees that my father had planted for my mother all those years ago.
It was here that I had met him, so it became my favorite place. The place where no one could find me, and everyone knew where I was at the same time.
Today, the sun was still out, and a lovely swan was floating along the water. When I walked to the edge of my path, the swan stopped and made a soft sound, as if to ask me why I had wandered out here, yet again.
But then it continued swiming, and it soon left my sight as I found my favorite rock to admire the calming ripples that the elegant creature created.
Right on schedule, I saw him, and he laughed at my slight jump.
It was true that I was scared easliy. I had good reason to avoid the many stalkers and unwanted admirers. It had become a habit to look over my shoulder.
"Hello." I said with a smile. This one was always welcome.
"I noticed that you had slipped away." he said as he joined me, watching the swan come back around the corner. Now I had no doubt that the bird was watching me.
"Were you there?" I asked.
"No." he said, and he shrugged slightly. "It's not interesting enough to me."
"It seems wrong, doesn't it." I said with a sigh. "Can't I choose my own suitor?"
"The thing about love," the man said, "is that it shows up when you least expect it."
"I wasn't talking about love." I said with a sigh. "I'm talking about this process to find a husband."
"Which love has nothing to do with?" the man asked.
"I don't know." I said, watching the swan as it came closer to the edge of the pond. "I only know that love shouldn't be forced."
He didn't say anything for a moment. Then he reached out to the swan.
"I've heard that you believe in love. Is this true?" he asked.
"Who doesn't?" I asked, staring at him.
"More people than you would guess." the man said, staring at the giant bird.
"Really?" I asked. "That seems hard to believe."
"Love is hardly what people expect." he said.
"But isn't that what makes it wonderful?" I asked.
He stopped petting the swan and stared at me.
"So it is true." he said with a smile.
"I just asked a question." I said. "It was merely . . ."
"You don't need to explain yourself." he said.
"So why are you here?" I asked, trying to change the subject.
"I came here to see you." he replied, "because I need to know. Do you believe in love? The god of Love?"
I stared at the water, deep in thought. Why this sudden change of topic?
"Well, I certainly don't resent him the way you believe that people do." I said. "I just simply believe that Love, like most things happens for a reason."
"And what is that reason?" he asked.
"Well." I said, staring at the swan, "I suppose that reason is beauty."
"Beauty?" he asked, "Like Aphrodite?"
"Well, she is the goddess of Love, not me." I answered, remembering my horrid nickname.
"I am aware," he said with a chuckle.
"What's so funny?" I asked.
"Nothing," he said automatically.
"Well, anyway, I believe love to be the most beautiful thing in the world." I said.
He turned to me.
"Then you are naive." he said.
"Perhaps." I said with a shrug, "But I don't think the god of Love is such a cruel deity."
"What do you think of him?" he asked.
"I think that he is amazing, because he has the ability to change people's lives for the better." I said.
The man was silent. I waited for a loud laugh or a witty comeback, but I was greeted with stunned silence.
I finally looked at him, and he was looking straight at me, as if Cupid's arrow had struck him.
"What?" I asked. "What did I say?"
He smiled and said, "I think the God of Love would be honored to hear you say that."
"Or he'd be incredibly offended, like Aphrodite has been rumored to be." I said with a laugh.
"Aphrodite does not understand the same level of love that Cupid does." the man said seriously.
"And how would you know that?" I asked.
The swan honked, and we were both startled.
"I should go." I said, but the man was still staring.
"Well, anyway." I said, "Good evening."
He bowed slightly, which made me giggle as I rounded the corner.
This was a feeling that I had never felt before. Something I couldn't describe.
I decided to run, because I was late for my music lesson, and my father would not be happy. But as I ran, I wondered. Could my life have just changed for the better? Could Cupid have finally answered my wish?