Inspired by this prompt from All of the Prompts.
Grace closed the book with a faint sigh. The end.
Thank you, Grace.
She smiled at Perseus’ warm tone. She could have finished reading to him a week ago, but she put off the last chapters until now. The last day. Tomorrow the exhibit would close, and a crew would begin the process of boxing everything up and shipping it somewhere else.
Grace wasn’t sure she could have kept her composure through this last visit without something to focus on, so they finished Harry Potter. But the museum didn’t close for another hour, and she couldn’t bear to leave.
You’re welcome, she answered as she slipped the book into her bag. She almost picked it up and headed inside, but she didn’t want to cry so soon. And she didn’t want Perseus to see her cry, either.
But she was afraid that’s how it would end, no matter what precautions she took.
They were silent for a time, which Grace felt was both a blessing and a waste. She listened to the crickets and the distant sounds of cars on the road beyond the building.
I’m still here.
I know. She cut him off before he could say anything that might haunt him in his lonely future.
After a long pause, his voice came to her, soft and tinged with vulnerability. How could you know?
Because you never asked how my date went, or if I’ve seen him again since. You didn’t want to know if it was going well.
How was you date, Grace?
Disastrous. Come on, you must have suspected. Grace closed her eyes and tilted her head back, taking a deep breath of the early evening air. I couldn’t stop thinking of you long enough to give him a chance. There’s no hard feelings, though. He might even end up being my friend.
No, Perseus. You don’t need to say it. You can’t. But I can. You’ve changed my life in a way I never expected. You’ve changed me. I never thought I was a bad person, but I also didn’t know I had this much kindness in me. I never realized I had so much that I could offer someone else.
Your devotion amazes me, Perseus whispered.
Grace gathered her things and headed inside, making her way slowly to Perseus’ statue. This isn’t really goodbye, she said as she faced him. Because this won’t be the last time you see me. I’m going to keep track of where you are, and I’ll visit whenever I can. I can’t promise it will be soon, or that I’ll see you often, but when I can, I will.
Don’t promise me even as much as that, Grace, he pleaded. Hope hurts more than anything.
If you had no hope, you’d never have asked me to come back, after I accepted the truth of what you are. But if it’s easier for you to pretend, I understand.
Grace stared resolutely at Perseus’ stone face through his silence. Where am I going next? he finally asked.
Amsterdam. Thanks to the Internet, I’ll always be able to find you. But my work doesn’t take me to Europe much, so I’ll probably have to wait until you’ve come back to the States.
And what will you do?
Grace knew he wasn’t asking about her work or her hobbies. He was asking about her heart. But she’d kept the secret of her research from him to protect him from the uncertainty of false hope–and so she couldn’t answer this honestly, either. I have plenty to keep me occupied. Don’t worry about me. Keep talking to ladies while you’re in Amsterdam and maybe you’ll find another friend.
His chuckle sounded hollow, but at least he was trying. My Dutch isn’t nearly as good as my English.
Still worth a try.
I wish I could touch you.
His admission blindsided her with its quiet strength. She looked down, feeling oddly shy. What happened to pretending?
I can’t. I couldn’t let you leave without telling you at least that much. You are so beautiful, Grace, inside and out–but ever since I met you, all I can think is that you were named for the wrong virtue. When you’re here, I can’t help feeling hope.