*The following short story relays the origin of red roses within Greek Mythology*

The fire cracked softly in the dim lit room, where rows of books filled towering shelves that touched the tips of the ceiling. The wood floor danced in the glow of the heat and before the hearth laid a burgundy rug, with two leather tufted chairs and a nearby round table.

And upon the center of the rug, stood Tessa, staring heavily into the orange hue.

Her heels hung limply between her fingers, and her satin gold dress pooled in waves around her bare feet. Light sounds of music from the ballroom hummed through the walls of the study, and Tessa knew that she shouldn’t have left early, but it was the only way she could keep herself together. She just needed a minute. One minute to breathe. One minute to try and wrap her head around her new engagement. Her now soon-to-be betrothed. Her “said” destiny.

A swirl of panic seeped into her mind as she mulled over the recent order of events set up by their families. An arranged marriage to William. A surprise proposal. The pressure to accept. A ball to celebrate. And James.

James.

The rattling turn of the doorknob made Tessa jump, so she quickly wiped her eyes of any remnants of mascara.

“I’ll be just a sec—” Her voice caught in her throat, when she beheld the man who stood in the thick door frame. He wore a matte black tie and a solid black suit that hugged every inch of his strong body. A wistful look cast across his face when he took Tessa in with his green eyes.

“I hear congratulations are in order.” James said sarcastically and strode across the wood floor to close the space between the two of them, all while holding his arms behind his back.

“What are you doing here? How did you even get in?” Tessa stammered with surprise. “Did the guards see you?” She dropped her heels onto the plush rug and tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.

James, now a mere three steps away, stopped walking and brought forth a single, long stemmed white rose from behind his back. “Have I ever told you about the myth of a red rose?” James twirled the flower between his fingers.

“Are you kidding me right now?” Tessa rattled out a tight reply and glanced at the door over James’ shoulder. You shouldn’t be here.

“Humor me.” He smiled a wicked smile, one that would bring any girl to their knees. Tessa cleared her throat, shaking the thought from her mind and hesitantly gestured for him to continue.

“Now, you see Tessa, according to Greek mythology, the red rose was created by none other than the beautiful Aphrodite, the Goddess of love.” James continued to twirl the white rose gently, admiring the shape of its pedals as he spoke. “It is told that Aphrodite fell in love with Adonis, son of Myrrah and Theia and he was obsessed with hunting.” He took a small step on the burgundy rug.

“Aphrodite had forewarned Adonis multiple times not to hunt animals that are not fearful, but he did it anyway, and in the end, it cost him his life. Ares, the Olympic God of war and former x-lover of Aphrodite, disguised himself as a boar, and killed Adonis out of pure jealousy.” James looked up from the rose and held Tessa’s gaze intently.

Tessa nervously shifted her weight, and broke eye contact. “So, where does the red rose come into this?” She breathed.

“Well.” James lowered the white rose by his side, “In an effort to save Adonis from death, Aphrodite sprinted through the woods with the hopes of stopping Ares. While she ran, she accidently cut herself and her blood is said to have splashed upon a white rose, turning it red, and fashioned the first red rose.” James took another small step forward and ran his right hand through his brown hair.

“Interesting.” Tessa’s back tensed with how close the two of them were. She longed to touch him but knew she couldn’t.

“But, if the story of a red rose is so important, why do you have a white rose?” She looked up into his face this time and waited patiently for his response. With the fire popping in the mists of silence, he took a breath and spoke carefully.

“A red rose, is of course, special.” He raised the rose again and admired it. “Representing the meaning of love and adoration. But a white rose.” James placed the rose against Tessa’s left arm and slowly traced it down toward the inside of her elbow.

“A white rose, is the beginning and the end.” His voice grew delicate. “A white rose is eternal love. Everlasting. Something that cannot be tarnished.”

Tessa’s eyes watered with tears, as James lifted the rose and stroked it down her cheek. “A white rose is a memory that will never be forgotten.”

James.” Tessa reached for his hand but received the stem of the rose instead. James turned and walked back toward the door from whence he came.

The shadows of the night followed his steps until he stopped to speak over his shoulder. “And Tess.” His voice was gruff and low. “A white rose was first. I was first.” He paused and squeezed his fist, “I loved you first. Now. Always.” He paused once more and waited. Waited for a reaction. A sign. A plead. James wanted her to chase him through the woods. Needed her too.

Though nothing. Not a sound echoed off her lips.

So, James, stepped into the empty hall, and quietly, closed the door behind him.

And that’s when Tessa, with her white rose, crumbled upon the floor and broke… because deep down, she wanted him to be her last.