Chapter 10

Adela awoke from her uneasy dozing on the bed , unfastened her bra and drew it out the sleeve of her t-shirt, rubbing the skin where the underwires gouged her. Adela looked over the edge of the bed and was confused to find an empty sleeping bag. Gideon wasn't there. Odd. He usually laid on the floor all night looking at textbooks with a book light or would be looking out the window, leaning against the windowsill. I better find him, she thought.

She stumbled out to the hall, rubbing her eyes. Just as Adela was about to call out for Gideon, she noticed a light on in the living room. She moved closer and could hear Gideon's deep voice and Marie's laughter. She stopped just outside the door frame ; Adela peeked around and watched as Marie sat on the couch beside bare-chested, boxer-clad Gideon. She jolted awake when she heard Marie say, "Do you want me to try dribbling a little blood on you? You know maybe it could work. Maybe I'm the virtuous woman that the dirty old wizard had in mind...?"

Adela's heart wrenched. She felt betrayed, utterly alone and dejected. She tried to sink silently back into the hallway, but accidentally jostled a doorknob with her elbow.

Marie heard the rattle and saw Adela hiding awkwardly in the shadow of the door like a small child. "I should be getting to sleep. This whole situation is just too freaky weird, I'm not sure I even believe it. There has got to be a logical, medical answer for your skin condition. " Marie rubbed her eyes.

"Hun, we were talking about his little magical problem. I couldn't yank that stone in his hand out." Marie yawned again. "I am so freaking tired and this is too weird. We'll talk over dinner tomorrow night. Some of us have real classes to attend and I can't use 'magical shenanigans' as an excuse for flunking." Marie got up and mock-whispered with beery breath in Adela's ear, "I guess you weren't on drugs after all." Then she retired to her room with a chuckle, thoroughly amused at the chaos she had caused. Gideon stood up, extended his hand and drew Adela into the room to sit on the couch beside him.

Adela and Gideon stared at each other for a while, mutually flummoxed into silence. Adela, starting to gnaw on a fingernail, ventured awkwardly, "I'm sorry I'm insecure, I shouldn't have been jealous. I mean," she gulped and shrugged, " You don't belong to me and we don't have a relationship or anything like that..." She looked at the carpet and scrunched her toes into the pile. "We're not a couple or anything like that, I guess that if you want to, you know, see other girls that would be ok-" The words strangled in her throat when Gideon stood up, his eyes filled with infinite sadness. He took her hand, drew her close and wrapped her in his tender embrace.

He held her very close to his chest and in a low, rumbling voice said, "I am not interested in seeing other girls." Gideon lifted her chin with his rough fingers, and gazed into her eyes, then gently caressed her flushed cheek.

Adela saw that there was another spidery ribbon of silvery grey stone on his forehead, trailing down to his neck from his temple. "Gideon, there's more marble on your..."

"Adela, it does not concern me now." He cupped her face with his wholly human hand and leaned his forehead against hers with his eyes closed. His voice was soft and low, full of old pain and loneliness. "I have been alone for too many years with only my own thoughts for company." Gideon drew back so he could look in her eyes, his voice gained strength as he attempted to convey his feelings to her, "You did more than save me from my marble prison, you saved me from going mad, Adela. Please, if I might ask one more boon of you."

"Yes... of course."

"If I return to my gruesome state, that you will keep me somewhere where I can see you everyday. Somewhere you can visit me. I wanted to be with you as you grow old, Adela. I wanted to see your hair gently turn grey, to share your years, to have a future with you. I wanted to watch you achieve all of those dreams that you confessed in my ears. If I can't share your life, if I can't grow old with you," he cupped her face in his large hand, then stroked her dark hair, "Then I would be content to be a silent witness, watching over you always. I do not want to abandon you, my love. My dearest one, my lonely heart's match."

He captured her lips in a firm, yet gentle kiss that built in intensity the longer their lips touched. She clung close to his body. They explored the contours of each others' bodies with feverish urgency. His cold stone encrusted palm slid up her arm, across her shoulder and nestled at the back of her neck, making her shiver with anticipation.

He looked in her heavy-lidded eyes for permission to proceed and she nodded assent, then cautiously, the marble in his palm finally warm to the touch, he slipped his hand over her thin t-shirt clad breast. His other fingers caressed her face and they kissed deeply, breathing heavily. Gideon nuzzled in her hair, inhaling the sweet scent of her skin, committing the scent to memory. She wound her fingers in his silver-shot locks and twisted them about her fingers.

Adela clung to his chest and ran her hands up and down his skin, savoring each moment. "I wanted to do this during that life drawing class, to touch you like this." She traced the silvery veins that spider-webbed his skin.

"I was counseled to tell you how I feel about you, but I have no pretty words to describe the depths of my devotion. I am yours, if you will have me?" Gideon's gaze was full of hope.

Adela looked him straight in the eyes, "Yes..." She nuzzled his soft hair, it smelled like sunshine and soap. She leaned her head against his neck, the stone cool against her cheek. "Gideon, I'm very selfish. I'm needy and whiny, mostly broken in all the ways that count. You really don't know me that well. But I will never let you be alone,-" she gasped as his clever calloused fingers traced down her body. "No matter what shape you take!" She felt in her heart now that he would never betray her, never willingly hurt her. He kissed the soft skin at the base of her throat, savoring the salty sweet melding of her scent.

"May I know you Adela, as a man would know a woman? May I have the memory of you and I together to comfort me in my loneliness?" He brushed her flushed skin with small fluttering kisses.

"Oh yes, please." Adela wriggled and impatiently pressed herself against his chest. He groaned and hoisted her with his massive arms in one swift motion, grinned and carried her into her bedroom. She squealed in surprise, kicking her feet in the air. They closed the door behind them with a kick of her foot. He did not notice that the ribbons of silvery-grey stone embedded in his neck were cracking and crumbling into flakes of grainy dust.

EPILOGUE

Gideon lifted off his safety goggles, ran his filthy hands through his sweaty, stone dust coated hair and smiled, satisfied at his handiwork. He often lost track of time in the pleasure of creation. "All done," he whispered to the curled sandstone capital. It perfectly matched the rest of the capitals in the museum's interior gallery restoration. He leisurely put away his chisels and mallets in the carver workshop, while humming a very old song to himself.

He reflected on his good fortune while tidying up the workbench. He was the Master Carver at Restoration Arts Inc. specializing in high quality stone commissions and decorative masonry. Funny, even in this time people appreciated his skills from the past. Lucky for me, I was not a goatherd, he mused.

He touched a wide gold ring hanging on a chain around his neck which protected it from stray mallet blows and heavy machinery. Every day he awoke next to a snoring Adela and reminded himself that this day was perfect just because of that. His hand felt suddenly very stiff. He rinsed off his hands in the sink, new streaks of grey marble extended up his palms. "What is she mad about now?" he muttered. Whenever his beloved Adela's mood plummeted he inevitably developed patches of stone. He had been nearly petrified several times these last nine months. He had unending patience, but he was grateful that the ordeal was nearly over. He should probably check on her.

Gideon fished his cell phone out of his jacket pocket, he didn't like having the noisy little beast buzzing and chirping in his pants pocket, and read the messages.

"Hi, feeling okay, I'm so big. Sorry, can't help feeling crappy... love you."

"I think I need to talk to you on your break. Okay, love ya!"

"Call me!"

"Really need to talk to you!"

"ANSWER THE DAMN PHONE"

"Hospital NOW!"

By the time he reached the maternity ward, Gideon was unable to bend his left knee. Adela was a sweaty, angry pile of hugely pregnant woman and she glared daggers at him. "Forget your phone AGAIN?"

He sheepishly nodded and stroked her forehead with his hand. "Sorry. I am here now though. It is getting hard to walk Adela... I think my foot has petrified."

Adela gritted her teeth through another contraction. "Then I hope you enjoy the show, 'cause you're not going anywhere!" She clutched his arm, squeezing as hard as she could. "Right now, you are not my favorite person in the world!" She huffed and puffed, miming focused breathing. "This is all total bullshit!"

Later that night, Gideon could not move his legs at all and his arms were lined with rivelets of marble, but his eyes still filled with happy tears.

Adela looked up at her dumbstruck husband and smiled, her arms full of newborn baby girl. She chuckled wearily, exhausted. "Looks like we're going to have to wait for a few minutes for Daddy to thaw before he can hold you. Sorry about that, Gideon." Adela yawned in spite of herself.

With a great creaking, cracking groan Gideon flexed and stretched his arms free. Dust and small shards of stone struck the linoleum floor. He tenderly took his child in his massive arms and held her as carefully as if she were made of glass. "Leda. Her name should be Leda. Leda means happiness." He counted all her fingers and toes. The baby quietly looked up at him with silvery grey eyes. "See that little one." He turned the baby to face her mother. "That's your Mother. She is the most amazing person I have ever known. Before her, my life was a lifeless as stone. But since she found me, she has brought me to life in more ways than I ever imagined." Leda squirmed in his arms. "Happiness. Yes. Every day."