My estimate regarding the length of Aphrodite and Ares’ breakup was roughly correct. Ares did come up with a gift after all: a pre-wedding feast for men only (entertainment excepted) held in Dionysus’ forest. The thought that Hephaestus might not want to hang out and do guy stuff with the man his ex-wife left him for was beyond Ares’ comprehension.
Likewise, Aphrodite was still utterly oblivious to any discomfort Aglaea might feel about being gal pals with the sex goddess who used to be married to her fiancé. She decided to borrow Ares’ genius plan and throw a women-only feast for Aglaea on the same night. Hera, Hestia, and Demeter thought it sounded too juvenile, but Artemis and Athena accepted once they found out my sisters and I would be there, as did Persephone and Psyche. All five of Aglaea’s sisters were coming, too. Aphrodite promised there would be two satyrs for every girl.
Apollo, meanwhile, had accepted the invitation to Ares’ feast. “Someone has to be the voice of moderation,” he resigned.
“Without a doubt,” I agreed. “Did you hear Ares booked the Maenads for entertainment? I imagine you’ll have no choice but to try to convert them from their sad, sad life of maniacal excess in the thralls of Dionysus.”
“Such is my lot,” he lamented with a grave shake of his head. “I’m a victim of my own compassion. Really, though, I’ll mostly be there to make sure I don’t need to kill Hephaestus.”
“He can’t be killed,” I reminded him.
“I could devise a suitable alternative if need be. Speaking of which, you’ll look out for Artemis and my granddaughters, won’t you?”
“Artemis has a body count a mile long,” I dismissed. “And she already promised the girls that she’ll teleport any of them away from the feast any time they want. My sisters and I will make sure they won’t be missed.”
“Why can’t the girls teleport themselves?” he asked.
“Didn’t you know? The party’s not going to be at a sacred place. It’ll be on the beach down from the Helicon Museum – a short walk for goddesses, so no need to offer us a lift.”
“A beach party hosted by Aphrodite,” he reiterated. “You want to trade invitations?”
“Not a chance. I am not missing this,” I said. “Amphitrite and Rhoda are going to bring lots of mermaids and naiads. I bet we’ll get to do some underwater dancing. And saltwater is murder on my clothes…”
“As far as I know,” I said. “I don’t see why she shouldn’t.” Rhoda is the adopted daughter of Poseidon, King of the Oceans, and Amphitrite, his queen. She is the biological daughter of Poseidon and Aphrodite. Everybody knows, nobody mentions it; although Amphitrite doesn’t care anyway. Poseidon isn’t much better than Zeus in the fidelity department, but Amphitrite is nothing like Hera. In her eyes, her husband can do no wrong. That’s what makes me believe the speculation that she and Aphrodite are sisters, even more than the fact that they look a lot alike and they both appeared in the sea out of nowhere.
What, your mortal brain doesn’t see the connection? It’s like this: Amphitrite is every bit as annoying as Aphrodite, but in the opposite way. Apollo would say they represent an excess and a deficiency of the Golden Mean. Aphrodite has no concept of devotion as a part of love. Amphitrite is wayyyy too devoted to her husband for her own good.
Which may or may not be Aphrodite’s fault. I didn’t know Amphitrite before she married Poseidon, so I can’t say. But I know the story. One day, Poseidon saw Amphitrite riding the waves on the back of one of her pet dolphins, a sacred animal she shares with Aphrodite. He knew then and there that this was the goddess he wanted as his queen. Clue Time with Thalia: Informing a girl of your intention to marry her the first time you see her is a good way to scare her off, especially if you carry a huge trident. Amphitrite was so freaked out by his aggressive advances that she swam away and hid in the depths of the sea. Another segment of Clue Time: Hiding in the depths of the sea is a great plan if you’re not hiding from a sea god!
It didn’t take Poseidon long to figure out where Amphitrite was. However, considering the (true) rumors that she not only wanted nothing to do with him but was on the verge of taking Hestia’s vow, he thought a different approach might be a good idea. So he enlisted Aphrodite to court Amphitrite on his behalf. She was only too happy to take the job, since celibacy is a mortal sin in her eyes. As you may have noticed, even completely unintentional dry spells get on her nerves. Anyway, she sent one of her own dolphins to hunt down Amphitrite and bring her to Poseidon’s palace.
Like I said, I wasn’t there, so I can’t say with absolute certainty that Aphrodite’s dolphin was carrying a love spell. However, Aphrodite had told Poseidon that she wouldn’t help him marry Amphitrite against her will, but that she was certain it would be Amphitrite’s will to marry Poseidon. And it was. Amphitrite came back completely enamored with the god who had once repulsed her. They couldn’t get married soon enough to suit her. And their honeymoon…thankfully, I’m not privy to the details, but many, many ships were lost at sea that year.
If Amphitrite was indeed under a love spell, it must have been an unbelievably powerful one, because it’s never worn off in all these centuries. If anything, it’s gotten worse. I guess it doesn’t matter as long as she’s happy, which she does seem to be. Still, the whole thing has always felt un-right.
Actually, before Amphitrite came along, Poseidon had an ongoing on-again, off-again thing with Demeter. There are rumors that he still does, but Demeter emphatically denies them. She was pretty ticked off about the whole wedding thing, though. She’d thought Poseidon was as categorically opposed to marriage as she was. That year wasn’t any better for farmers than it was for sailors. Crops kept mysteriously rejecting water.
Where was I going with all of this? Oh, right, Aphrodite’s beachfest. My sisters, Aglaea’s sisters, and I got to the beach just as the sun was setting. Aphrodite had insisted on bringing Aglaea herself, so they were already there. So were Amphitrite, Rhoda, and a bunch of mermaids who were having a giggly water fight in a tide pool. There were also a number of naiads who were trying to drag some dramatically reluctant satyrs into the surf. If the purpose of the show of reluctance was to increase the naiads’ determination, and I do believe it was, it was working rather well.
A long driftwood table was loaded down with food and wine. Tide-washed logs and giant shells for seating were strewn about seemingly at random, but, to a trained eye, in an artful composition. A bonfire at near center still left plenty of open sand for dancing. Terpsichore was the first to point out the only glaring omission.
“Where’s the band?” she pertly demanded. “We can’t dance without music.”
“Silly, that’s why you’re here!” Aphrodite laughed. “You brought your instruments, didn’t you?” she motioned toward a strip of sand that looked perfect for a bandstand.
She was answered with a cacophony of “What?” “You cannot be serious.” “Are you out of your mind?” “Nobody told me; did you know?” “Don’t we ever get to just hang out at party?”
Calliope managed to raise her voice above the din. “Aphrodite, you never told us you wanted us to provide entertainment. We don’t have our instruments, and we don’t have anything prepared.”
“No problem,” said Aphrodite. She clapped her hands. Instruments for all of us appeared on the bandstand. Aglaea shook her head in apology while mouthing I had no idea. “And you girls are the best. I know you can improvise just fine. Of course, we can’t keep all of you on the bandstand all night.” Before we could breathe in relief, Aphrodite continued, “Terpsichore, you’ll be dance mistress as soon as the satyrs’ performance is done; Melpomene and Thalia, some of our guests – well, most of our guests – don’t have my stamina, so you’ll be entertaining the stragglers with stories. Oh, and Urania, you can tell fortunes.”
“Yay,” Urania deadpanned. As we got in place for the band, she muttered, “The stars foretell that a strong hand will collide with the upside of your empty golden head.”
“Hey, cool it with the blonde jokes!” Aglaea chided. “I’m really sorry about this, guys. Somehow I’ll make sure you aren’t working all night. If it makes you feel any better, guess who set up the tables and chairs.”
Athena, Artemis, Psyche, and Persephone showed up not long after the satyrs’ choreographed dance started. The satyrs were a fair mix of the half-man-half-goat type and the man-with-a-horse-tail type. Persephone’s countenance bespoke the lameness of the party, but she forced herself to watch the satyrs’ dance anyway. Psyche watched her watch them.
Athena was dressed outstandingly as always. Her royal blue gown perfectly matched the plumes in her sparkling bronze helmet. Artemis wore her hair down in unadorned golden waves. Once again, she’d borrowed a dress chiton from Apollo. She looked like she wanted to shove one of her own arrows through her temples. Once Terpsichore took over as dance mistress, Athena bribed a few naiads to help drag Artemis onto the floor. To humor Athena, Artemis stood in place for about half a song before she strode back to her seat.
I was glad to see that Aglaea did seem to be enjoying herself. She was mostly dancing with the naiads, leaving the satyrs for her contented hostess.
“Sure you don’t want one of mine?” Persephone called to her. By all appearances, she was bored stiff by the dancing and the three satyrs dancing with her, but then again, no one was holding a dagger to her head.
“I’m an almost married woman!” Aglaea objected.
“Oh, yeah, I remember those days,” Persephone smirked. “Give it a couple centuries. A few dances at a beach party won’t mean a thing to either of you.”
After the dancing had gone on for awhile, I noticed Psyche and Artemis sitting quietly on the sidelines. Artemis was holding a clay goblet upside down over her upturned face, ascertaining that no more wine would drip from the vessel. I motioned to Melpomene that now would be a good time for a break. “This party isn’t your style?” Mel asked as we both took a seat next to them. A serving satyr instantly showed up with goblets of wine for her and me. It was very good wine.
“It would be more fun if Eros were here,” Psyche said wistfully. “Aphrodite wouldn’t let me bring him. She said there was a strict ‘no husbands allowed’ policy on the guest list. No one here can sky dance,” she lamented.
“I don’t know why Athena likes this kind of thing,” Artemis slightly slurred, crushing her goblet into the sand, having come to terms with the fact that it was completely dry. “Does this seem fitting for the Goddess of Wisdom to you? Look at that shameless naiad dancing with her. If she jumps one more time, the top of her dress is going to- and there it goes. If that were one of my nymphs, every satyr in this place would be dead right now.”
“Athena’s fixing the girl’s dress,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, and she’s laughing,” Artemis observed.
“Why don’t you cut in?” Psyche suggested. “If Eros were here, I wouldn’t give these beach bunnies a chance to get near him.”
“What are you implying?” Artemis glared.
“That you and Athena have a very special relationship that is entirely chaste and not at all like the one I have with my husband?” Psyche offered a hasty disclaimer.
“How long have you two known each other?” Psyche asked.
“All her life and most of mine,” Artemis replied, a little more relaxed now as she continued to watch Athena, who was now safely dancing with Terpsichore. “In fact, in the beginning, I was a little younger than her. Older than you, but a younger woman than I am now.”
“It must have been hard growing up on Olympus without your mother,” Psyche said, wisely keeping her eyes on the bonfire and not on Artemis.
“It wasn’t great,” said Artemis, “but Apollo and I had each other.” She laughed to herself. “And then there was Hestia. She would have adopted us if she could have, and Apollo would have let her.”
“Oh, can I tell this story?” I begged with clasped hands. “Please? Please? Please? Please?”
“No, this is my story,” Mel claimed. “It is definitely a tragedy.”
“Nobody dies or gets turned into anything,” I argued.
“This is the tale of unrequited love between a heartbroken youth and the woman who nobly clung to her sworn maidenhead in the face of his tender advances,” Melpomene protested.
“If it’s so tragic,” I posed, “why are you snickering?”
“There’s not much of a story,” said Artemis, “and you guys didn’t even know us yet. Apollo had an enormous crush on Hestia. That’s all.”
“No it’s not,” I said. “He asked her to marry him. He was a little younger than Eros at the time.”
“We’re talking about Hestia the Olympian? The hearth goddess?” Psyche laughed. “Is that why she has an altar in his first temple?”
“The very same. He had it put there to impress her,” said Artemis.
“That was when he proposed to her,” said Melpomene.
“She let him down easy,” said Artemis. “I don’t know what he was thinking. He knew she’d taken a vow of chastity, and she’d already turned down Poseidon.” I silently reasoned that a woman turning down Poseidon and going for Apollo wasn’t entirely inconceivable, but I hadn’t had nearly enough wine to consider that thought worth sharing.
“This story explains so much about Apollo,” said Psyche. “Obviously he was attracted to Hestia because he missed his mother. Hestia has a very maternal presence. And then there’s the whole fear of abandonment issue with your mother. People like to prove themselves right, even if they hate what they’re right about.”
“Read your history,” said Artemis. “Our mother didn’t abandon us. We gave ourselves up to protect her.”
“Exactly,” Psyche explained. “It’s a parent’s job to protect a child, not vice versa. For both of you, your whole relationship with your mother has been about serving and protecting her. I’m sure she didn’t ask it of you, but circumstances called, and you answered. And either way, you lost her. Apollo’s internalized the idea that all relationships are destined to end with the loss of his partner. He’s turned it into a self-fulfilling prophecy by only getting involved with mortals and demis, with the aforementioned exception of proposing to a virgin goddess, the ultimate unattainable. You know, that’s probably why he and Thalia never got together.”
“What, you think I’m too attainable? And who says us getting together or not was ever an issue?” I scoffed.
“Oh, please, it’s obvious,” Psyche waved me off. “Besides the way you two interact with each other, look at the way you are with Aglaea. She’s like the daughter the two of you should have had, but never did.”
“Okay, that’s not weird at all, considering she’s marrying my first boyfriend.”
“You were involved with Hephaestus? I never knew that.”
“No reason you should,” said Artemis. “Everyone’s forgotten about that except for Apollo. You know he told me he was afraid they’d get back together after the divorce?”
“And now Apollo will never make a move on you since he’s your guardian,” Psyche contemplated. “He’s made sure you’ll always be a part of his life, yet he’s created a line between you that he can’t allow himself to cross.”
“Isn’t it beautiful?” said Melpomene, her eyes misting over as mine rolled.
“He wants you close but not too close,” Psyche continued. “Close enough to protect you, but not close enough to be a danger to you.”
“That sounds like my stupid brother,” Artemis laughed. “He thinks all their deaths are his fault. Nothing can convince him that most of those lying, cheating bitches had it coming.”
“Daphne didn’t,” said Melpomene, causing me to wonder if she’d had more to drink than I realized.
Artemis lowered her head and motioned for us to listen. “Of course she didn’t,” she whispered. “I teleported Daphne away and put a laurel tree in her place all in the blink of an eye. I asked her for her side of the story; decided she hadn’t meant any harm and that something really was wrong with Apollo. She’s in my retinue now. Loves the job.”
“Eros told me about that,” Psyche admitted. “Apollo was so depressed after serving his sentence, and Eros thought making him fall in love would be the best way to cheer him up. He didn’t consider that a girl might not want Apollo, and the tree thing happened before he could shoot her. Then he thought Apollo being in love with a tree was funny, so he didn’t disenchant him. He really meant well. He always does.”
“All of us archers do,” Artemis commented, suddenly fitting an arrow to her bow. Alcohol does nothing to impair Artemis’ reflexes. All it does is make her a bit more defensive than usual. Before we could react, she shot the arrow at a satyr who was hitting on Athena. Athena caught the arrow in her hand and tossed it back into Artemis’ quiver, all without so much as turning her eyes. She smacked the satyr upside the head and came to sit with us.
“I had it under control,” she told Artemis.
“I was just looking out for you,” Artemis replied.
Athena held Artemis’ hand and stroked her fingers. “I’m the goddess of battle strategy. I think I can handle one idiotic satyr,” she half-teased.
“And I’m the goddess of virgins,” Artemis said.
Athena squeezed her hand. “I know,” she said softly. “Not for one second do I ever forget that.” She put her arm around Artemis’ shoulder. “It’s just dancing,” she soothed. “It doesn’t mean anything more to me than a chance to show off my beautiful, graceful, glorious self. You might like it if you gave it half a chance.”
“I don’t like showing myself off,” Artemis said, letting her head fall on Athena’s shoulder. Psyche’s lips parted, but Athena’s glance killed her words before they could leave her mouth. Even though I knew her silence was best for all concerned, I couldn’t help wondering what Psyche had been planning to say.
“That’s fine,” Athena squeezed Artemis’ hand, “but I do, and I need you to relax and let me do it. Come on, I can’t have any fun if I feel like you aren’t having any fun because you’re too busy hovering over me. You,” she called to a nearby serving satyr, “can you bring us a goblet of wine?”
“Make that two,” I added.
“Three,” said Mel.
Before Psyche could order a fourth, a golden arrow flew over her head and landed in front of her feet. She spun around and ran to a nearby boulder. I followed. “Eros!” she quietly exclaimed, finding him hidden behind the rock.
“Come on, baby,” he said, “you want to ditch this crowd and have our own party on Helicon? You can hear the music all the way from the Museum.”
“That sounds perfect,” she beamed.
“Hey, before you take off, how’s Ares’ bash going?” I asked.
“Dad drank himself into a coma right away, which doesn’t take much,” said Eros. “I think he knew that was the only way he was getting out of there. Dionysus strapped him to the back of a donkey and sent him up the hill to Olympus. It was pretty funny. I flew after him to make sure he got home okay, and then I came to pick up my lovely little butterfly here.”
“And the rest of the guests?” I hesitated.
“Oh, yeah, Apollo. When I left, they’d started a betting pool on how many drinks it would take for him to make out with Dionysus. I wanted to bet that Zeus would win the pool no matter how wrong he is, but Hermes wouldn’t go there. Kiss-up.”
“I never said Apollo specifically, but thank you so much for that mental image.” Gag. “You didn’t use any of your inventions to influence the outcome, did you?”
“Of course not!” Eros protested, thoroughly insulted at this affront to his guileless innocence. “They just have some really good wine. Come on, cutie bug, I sneaked a keg to the Museum.”
“What are we waiting for?” Psyche flew up behind him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Go,” I told them. “Be sweet and revolting somewhere else. But not my old room!” I added.
“Why?” said Eros as he flew after his wife. “Afraid it’ll turn to dust if it sees some action?”
Before I could give a crushing response, Euterpe showed up and tugged on my dress. “Hey, Aglaea got a bunch of satyrs to take over the music so we can party,” she enticed. “Let’s go.”
There’s nothing like waking up on a beach with a mixture of sand and drool plastered to one side of your face. I wondered if Helios had made the sun extra bright as his revenge for not being able to drink much and having to leave for work right after Ares’ feast. As the blinding light brought Rhoda to the land of the living, she pulled an arrow out of her arm. “I think I’m in love with Helios,” she drawled.
“Really? When did you meet him?” asked Clio.
“Give me that arrow so I can shoot your boyfriend out of the sky,” Persephone groaned, pulling her robe over her head. “Damn, I miss Hades.”
“No husband talk!” Aphrodite ordered as she struggled to dislodge herself from the half dozen or so satyrs who were sleeping around her.
“I meant my kingdom, bitch. And I’ll talk about my husband if I want to.”
“I should be getting back to mine,” Amphitrite dragged herself to the shoreline. “He misses me when I’m away. I hope the mermaids haven’t let him get too lonely. Rhoda, let’s go.”
“No, I’m trying to get Helios to wave back at me,” Rhoda waved an uncoordinated arm in the general direction of the sun.
“You can sober him when you’re summon,” Amphitrite promised as she led Rhoda into the tide. All of us who were awake covered our ears as Amphitrite clapped for her dolphin-powered chariot. The clapping and the dolphins’ farewell shrieks woke the Twerps.
“What a beautiful sunrise!” Terpsichore proclaimed in a clear, delighted voice as she stretched her dainty arms. I wanted her dead.
“Who didn’t last through the night?” Euterpe inquired in kind, looking around for the answer. “Aglaea and her sisters are gone, so are Artemis, Athena, and Psyche; Calliope, Polyhymnia, and Urania, big surprise; I think we have more naiads than we did at last count; Mel, you’re still here?”
“I knew this night would end in tragedy,” was Melpomene’s lethargic reply. “I had to bear witness.”
“We’d better get to Helicon before Apollo starts freaking out,” said Terpsichore.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” I said. “I’ll bet he’s at least as hammered as we are.” But my own bed and my own bathtub did sound nice, so I joined my sisters.
As soon as we got to the Springs of Helicon, we teleported to our throne room at Parnassus and immediately went our separate ways. The Twerps went to check on Urania and Polyhymnia. Calliope was staying in my room since Aglaea and Epione were staying in hers, so I’d see to her soon enough. First I wanted to check on Apollo. Hearing voices inside his room, I stopped at his door to listen.
“You have to tell Thalia what happened last night,” Calliope was saying.
“Why?” said Apollo. “You think she’s run out of reasons to mock me for eternity?”
“I doubt she’ll find it all that funny. As far as I’m concerned, it was nothing more than a drunken mistake of epic proportions, but I’m not sure how she’ll take it. I think it’s best that she hear it from you.”
“Nothing I love more than morning-after damage control. You’ll come with me for moral support, won’t you?”
“Naturally. I’d just tell her myself, but…I really think it needs to be you.”
I heard them coming to the door. I skittered down the hall and acted like I was just now approaching as the door opened. “Thalia,” said Apollo. “We were just looking for you.”
“Hey; just wanted to make sure you got home from Ares’ party okay. And there’s Calliope! Glad you made it home safe, too.”
“Thalia,” Calliope said gravely, “there’s something we need to tell you. Come sit down,” she invited me inside the room.
“It’s really not that big of a deal,” said Apollo as he closed the door.
“Not that big of a deal?” Calliope repeated in disbelief. Apparently she thought it was that big of a deal.
“It’s just very, very embarrassing, and I wanted to tell you the truth before you heard it from someone else, especially someone else who might embellish the facts a bit. Last night I decided that avoiding excess can in itself be taken to excess, so I completely let loose at Ares’ feast. Ares, Hermes, Dionysus, and I got in a drinking contest. I don’t recall exactly how this happened, the details are quite hazy, but…several witnesses have confirmed that my traumatic memories of making out with Dionysus aren’t a nightmare. All we did was kiss, I swear. I wish I could ask you not to tell anyone, but Hermes saw it, so that ship has sailed.”
“Excuse me for a moment,” I said solemnly. I picked up a throw pillow, stuffed it against my face, and had a long, muffled cackle. “I’m good,” I put it down.
“Is that all you were going to tell her?” Calliope prompted.
“Oh, no, was there something else?” Apollo despaired.
“You cannot mean that,” Calliope narrowed her eyes. “But you can’t be joking. Not about this.”
“That’s not what we were talking about?”
“YOU HONESTLY DON’T REMEMBER?”
“Honestly, I don’t have the slightest idea what you mean,” Apollo protested.
Calliope deliberately looked away from him and toward me. I got a little nervous as she clasped my hands together. “Thalia,” she said, her countenance full of remorse, “I don’t know how to tell you this, and I wish more than anything that I didn’t have to, but…last night, after I’d had far too much to drink, I went up to Helicon to sleep it off. When I got to the old Museum, Apollo was in the throne room.” Apollo’s countenance was as blank as a fresh tablet. “He invited me to share a blanket he’d brought, and we were reminiscing and Ares-bashing, and one thing led to another, and…Thalia, even I, the Goddess of Eloquence, am at a loss for the words to fully convey the guilt I feel. I think I can speak for both Apollo and myself when I say that we never would have slept together if we weren’t under the influence.”
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t feel anything. Everything before me, around me, and inside me turned to nothingness. “Calliope?” Apollo slowly entreated, my mind barely registering the sound or recognizing the speaker. “I don’t remember any of that.”
“That much is obvious,” she turned her head further away from him.
“Hear me out. I believe you, but I’m fairly sure that wasn’t me.”
“I suppose it’s possible that I could have been mistaken. We only live in the same house and share a friendship that spans centuries!”
“No, I think someone tricked you,” Apollo protested. “A shapeshifter or something. My memories of last night are awfully hazy, but I can swear I was never at Helicon. I stayed awake all night – who knows what the Maenads might have done to me if I’d fallen asleep, not to mention any of my brothers – and then I teleported straight here a little before sunrise. In fact, I left the same time as Helios. You can ask him.”
“Nothing like a bunch of drunkards’ memories for hard evidence,” Calliope retorted.
“Think about it!” he persisted. “Remember that time you walked in on Oegrus as he was getting in bed with, apparently, you?” I remembered that. It was decades afterward before our subsequent shun on Aphrodite was lifted. The graffiti in her temple never was traced back to us.
“Well, then, who do you think it could have been?” Calliope demanded.
“I don’t know, it might have been some obsessed fansatyr. It definitely wasn’t Ares, or Dionysus. I know they were at the feast all night. It couldn’t have been Ares’ sons. They aren’t that clever, and I don’t even know if they can shapeshift. I’m trying to think who else could – no. No, no, no, NO!” Apollo stood up and threw vase across the room, shattering it against the wall.
“What is it?” Calliope said, half concerned, half frightened. I was still too numb to react to anything.
“Zeus left early,” Apollo said in quiet rage. “This would be just like him. It makes perfect sense that he’d impersonate me. He knows I won’t call him out on it because I won’t risk incriminating you to Hera.”
“Oh, Fates,” Calliope trembled, her face nearly devoid of blood. “Oh, Fates. Oh, Fates.”
There is an unwritten rule among sisters that, when only two are present, both cannot have a breakdown at the same time. Calliope’s terror shook me back to the land of the living. “It’s alright,” I told her. “It’s not your fault. We don’t know for sure that it was Zeus, and if it was, we’ll do everything we can to make sure Hera never finds out.”
“She’ll find out,” Calliope strained for air. “She always finds out. You know what she’ll do to me.”
“No, we don’t,” I reminded her.
“That makes it worse!” she cried. I knew that.
“If that happens, you can hide at Lake Mnemosyne,” I told her. “Hera probably won’t look for you in Hades. And if worse comes to worst, you can join the Innermost Circle of the Mysteries, and Hera will never be able to touch you.”
“Neither will you. If I join the Innermost Circle, you’ll never see me again.”
“Then we’ll make sure the plan doesn’t go that far,” I determined. “And none of us will do anything stupid like try to avenge you and get himself banished to Tartarus in the process, right, Apollo? Right? Apollo?”
There was a long pause followed by a long sigh that sounded close to a growl. “Right.”
We questioned as many people as we could without arousing suspicion. The only possible conclusion was that it was, in fact, Zeus who had slept with Calliope. In any case, Calliope and I both believed it wasn’t Apollo. That he might have a drunken one night stand with a long-time platonic friend was remotely conceivable, but that he would lie about it and accuse another man after the fact wasn’t.
Still, for his own peace of mind, Apollo asked Helios to back up his account. Helios confirmed Apollo’s story. He also confirmed that Zeus had left early, but so had Hermes. And incidentally, Helios also let it slip that he and Rhoda were dating. Score one for Eros.
The thought that Hermes could have impersonated Apollo gave us short-lived hope. It sounded like just the kind of thing he’d do for laughs. Sadly, our investigation revealed an airtight alibi in the form of Urania. Urania was delighted with herself. She was the only one.
We never heard from Hera. Either she had given Zeus a free pass for the feast, or she didn’t suspect that he’d seduced one of us. We certainly weren’t going to press the issue. Apollo, Calliope, and I had kept the matter strictly between the three of us. For their own protection, we didn’t even tell our sisters. That included Artemis. Apollo knew that if Artemis found out Zeus had used her brother’s body for such an offense, she’d do something stupid and get herself banished to Tartarus. Nope, can’t tell those two are related.
Once we accepted that we weren’t in any imminent danger and acknowledged that we’d done everything we could, it was easy enough to shove the whole affair out of our minds. We had a wedding to prepare.