I nodded, satisfied in that. Zeus rose from his chair, pausing for one moment with his hand silently on my shoulder before he retreated back into the palace. It wasn’t long before my parents took his place.
“Are you certain that you wish to do this?” my mother demanded, her silver eyes concerned.
I laughed. “Well, the decision has been made. I certainly hope so!”
She shook her head wryly. “Harmonia, I…”
“We’re proud of you,” Ares interrupted. “You are the best daughter I could ever have dreamed of having. We are only a portal away, remember that.”
A knot formed in my throat and I nodded quickly. “I know. And you can visit me here, as well.”
“Trust me,” my mother said. “I’ll be here so much that you’ll wonder if I’m ever going to leave.” I laughed, but only because I knew it was true.
“Mother,” I began. “Can you look in on my mortal mother from time to time to make sure she is alright? “ My chest constricted at the thought of never seeing her again.
Aphrodite nodded solemnly. “I promise that I will. I’m going to keep an eye on my own mortal parents as well, along with my grandmother. Their memories have all been taken from them- it is as though we never existed. But that is for the best. Mortals cannot handle this sort of emotional upheaval.”
“Oh, I think mortals are stronger than we give them credit for,” I answered. “But in this case, you are right. It is best that they forget us. It’s too painful to miss those that we love.”
She nodded. “I love you, you know.”
I hugged her tightly and Ares wrapped his arms around us both.
“You both act as though this is farewell,” he growled. “It isn’t. It is ‘goodbye for now.’ We’ll be back to visit very soon.”
I leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you, too, father.”
He nodded silently and I noticed that his dark eyes were watery. I discreetly looked away. It wouldn’t be polite to point out that the god of war was crying.
“You should go say goodbye to Raquel,” I suggested. Ares nodded without looking at me and they set out across the courtyard to find her. I turned in time to find Cadmus slipping up behind me.
“Did we do the right thing?” I asked softly, reaching out to trace his face with my fingers. Together, we turned and gazed across our new backyard- it had an amazing view of the Isles of the Blessed. Everything was lush, green and tranquil here. It truly was a blissful paradise.
At the same time, we both breathed, “Yes.”
Then we looked at each other and laughed.
“Do you realize that we’ll never have to say goodbye again?” Cadmus asked, his chocolate eyes gentle. “We’ll never have another last kiss.”
My stomach clenched and then relaxed. He was right. Our heartache was behind us. I pulled him to me and kissed him fiercely, enjoying the way his heart beat next to mine. It was perfectly in sync, as a soul mate’s should be.
“Then here is our first kiss of forever,” I murmured against his lips.
He smiled against mine and we turned back to watch our daughter. Ares was carrying Raquel on his mighty shoulders and she leaned down to laugh into his ear. Aphrodite skipped alongside them, dainty and beautiful as they laughed. Their happiness was almost tangible and I felt as if I could reach out and touch it.
I was suddenly full of contentment and joy, as I should be. All would be right with the world, after all. As the goddess of peace, it was my job to ensure that the world was a happy, contented place. And I had learned that the only way to do that was to start with myself. As I grasped my husband’s hand and watched my family approach, I knew that everything would be fine. Our love was lasting, our life was beautiful and our eternity was forever.