Misi held up the clear-plastic orb, a beatific smile splitting her narrow face. “This is the rose you gave me on our first date.”
Gero looked from the lawn mower engine he’d been repairing to the flower, wrapped in resin and cupped in Misi’s hands. Wiping greasy hands on his trousers, he took the ornament from his girlfriend, frowning. He turned it over and inspected it from all angles.
“Why’d you do that?” Gero asked.
“To commemorate our first date,” said Misi, her smile waning at Gero’s tone. “We’ll have this rose forever now, and it will always serve as a reminder of our first date.” Her smile pushed back into her cheekbones, “Of our first kiss.”
He handed it back to her, turning again to the lawnmower.
“Ok?”, asked Misi. “That’s it? Just ok? You don’t like it?”
Gero shrugged into the flywheel he was working on, “It’s fine, babe.”
“I don’t understand you, G.,” she huffed. “This was supposed to be romantic. What’s wrong with it?”
Gero sat with his back to Misi for a moment, before turning back around to face her. His frown had reached his eyes, and they were narrow slits as he took her, and the orb, in.
“Our first date was wonderful,” he began.
“Yes, it was,” said Misi, “so I don’t understand…”
Gero held up a greasy hand, “Let me finish.”
“Our first date was wonderful, and my memory of it is beautiful. I’ll never forget it, not if I live a thousand more years. But that,” he pointed to the resin orb, “is hideous.”
“How can you say that?” Hurt filled Misi’s voice. “It’s captured. Perfect. It will never change and will always be a symbol of our love.”
“That’s just it,” said Gero. “Our first date was beautiful because of the uncertainty of it. Because it was transient. Here, and then gone. Beautiful in its brevity, but so full of potential. Like that rose was before you preserved it in plastic.”
“You’re not making any sense,” she said. She held the rose at eye level between them. “It’s beautiful. See for yourself.”
Gero sighed and pushed the orb down. “Look babe, a rose that never dies is not beautiful. It’s hideous. A rose is beautiful precisely because it’s going to die. Plucked at the height of its bloom, it is beautiful for only a moment, relatively speaking, and appreciated for that moment. By preserving it you’ve destroyed the only thing that made it beautiful at all.”
Misi set the rose aside and sat on the floor next to Gero. The moonlight outside cast dark shadows across his face as she looked at him. He was gorgeous, but infuriating. He’d been in this funk for too long.
“This isn’t about the rose, is it?” she asked.
“It is,” he said. “But it’s also a perfect metaphor for me.”
Misi rolled her eyes so hard it was almost audible. “I knew it. This again.”
Gero persisted, “Do you know why I’m rebuilding this mower?”
“To avoid me,” groused Misi, “because you know I hate grease.”
A smile touched the corner of Gero’s lips as he shook his head. “No. Never that. I miss the smell of fresh-cut grass. So, I’m going to cut some.”
“In the middle of the night?”
“Fine, weirdo. But what does that have to do with the rose? And the,” she made air quotes, “metaphor of you?”
“The smell of cut grass is something I used to take for granted. I never appreciated it because I could get it any time. I didn’t see the beauty, the perfection, of it until it was a scarcity. Like the ephemeral beauty of a rose.”
“And of you?” asked Misi.
Gero nodded, “And of me. At least, how I used to be.”
Misi sighed, “Sometimes I regret making you a vampire.”
“You fell in love me because I was mortal. I fell in love with you because I thought you were too.”
Misi shook her head. “No. I just fell in love with you. I feared your mortality – of losing you – which is why I turned you.”
Gero looked at her with big, sad, eyes. “But babe,” he said, “You’re going to get tired of that rose. Always the same. Never changing. Never surprising. Never at risk of dying. It’s lost everything that made it beautiful. And one day you’ll realize this and set it aside. Because you’ll finally see how hideous it is.”
“But not you,” she whispered, grabbing his hand. An unexpected blood tear ran down her face. “Never you.”
Gero wrapped his arms around her, smelling of oil and gasoline. Somehow that comforted her. And scared her. Was he right? Did she fall in love with the very things she took from him when she turned him?
In her seven hundred years, she’d never felt more uncertain and afraid. But she had no doubt about their love. He was a fledgling and saw immortality as stasis. He didn’t yet understand that everything changed. Nothing was permanent. The very fear he expressed about her setting him aside like the rose was the same uncertainty every mortal couple faced.
She disengaged from his embrace, gave him a light nip on the neck, and walked away. Savoring the blood on her lips, she knew they’d be fine. He might need a decade or two to realize it, but they had all the time in the world.