The Little Muse, or, Enchantment Under the Sea

Author’s Note: This is a bonus chapter set centuries before the main story. The Muses still live at the Springs of Helicon with Calliope as their de facto leader.

“Calliope,” I spoke into the darkness, “have you been listening to a thing I’ve said?”

“Yes, you want a mermaid costume with a trident,” Calliope whispered back. “That’s fine. You don’t need me for that.”

“No, not a costume, I want to shapeshift into a mermaid because I’m dating Triton,” I corrected her in frustration. And she wouldn’t have to whisper if she’d just go invisible like a normal goddess. “Remember how he was chatting me up after we performed at Poseidon and Amphitrite’s hundredth anniversary banquet?”

“Not really,” said Calliope, still facing the object of her attention rather than the sister conversing with her.

“Well, he was, and we’ve been on a few dates since then.” Not that she’d been around to notice my absences. “I wasn’t expecting much, but he’s actually pretty cool. You know, not the spoiled narcissist I figured Poseidon and Amphitrite’s son would be.”

“Apollo is Zeus’ son and he’s a nice guy,” Calliope commented.

“Yeah, his boyfriend thinks so, too,” I dismissed the subject. “Can we get back to my boyfriend? My gorgeous merman Prince of the Seas boyfriend? I’ve never been with a merman before. It is amazing. And what color would you say Triton’s skin is? Teal? Turquoise? Cerulean. That sounds literary, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t have any green in it. Aquamarine! No, that’s more pastel.”

“Too inhuman for my taste,” Calliope replied in a dreamy tone that made me want to gag.

“Whatever, I’m the one dating him. Which is my point. I’m not a sea goddess. Besides the water pressure, trying to walk around on the ocean floor gets awkward and annoying after awhile.”

“Love can overcome anything,” was Calliope’s cheerful conclusion.

“Love’s a pretty strong word, but I like hanging out with him, and it’s been so boring around Helicon lately.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

Because you’re never there anymore, I thought. But saying so would have strayed from my point yet again. “Triton invited me to stay at the Royal Court with him for awhile,” I continued my story. “I think it sounds like fun. It’ll be a nice change of scenery. But living there would be a lot easier if I had a mermaid body.”

“Ask Mom,” said Calliope, who knew as well as I did that only a child of the Titans could alter our shapes. My cruel mother hadn’t given me the power to change my own shape. In fact, she’d deliberately withheld it. You’d think she thought I’d go overboard with it or something. Crazy woman.

“I’m not asking Mom,” I said. “You know how excited she gets when she thinks one of us is finally going to give her a grandchild. I’m not asking Hades, either. Word might get back to her.”

“You don’t want to ask Poseidon, or Zeus,” Calliope advised.

“No kidding,” I said. “Or Hera. I don’t think Hera knows she can shapeshift us. Best to keep it that way. I thought about Demeter, but Poseidon might still be a sore subject for her. You think?”

“Definitely,” Calliope agreed. “Not Helios or Selene, either. Helios is temperamental, and Selene is just creepy.”

“I guess that leaves Hestia,” I concluded.

“I think she’d be safe,” Calliope agreed. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Come visit me sometime.”

“I will as soon as I can get away,” she promised. She gave me a hug. “Wait a minute.” She stepped back, still holding my arms. “Does Apollo know you’re dating Triton? What does he think about this?”

Oh, yeah. Apollo couldn’t stand Triton. I’d completely forgotten that. “How is this Apollo’s business?” I replied.

“I suppose you don’t have to tell him, but he’s like family. Hasn’t it come up in conversation?”

“What conversation? I haven’t even seen Apollo in months. He’s in full-blown infatuation mode with that mortal dude.” To be fair, this did seem to be Apollo’s most functional romance yet. I’d met Hyacinthus a couple of times. Nice kid. Pretty, too. I might have tried to steal him for myself if I’d thought it remotely possible.

“It’s sad how some people just forget about everything else in their life when they fall in love, isn’t it?” Calliope lamented.

“Yeah, tell me abou- Holy Fates in heaven, what is that ungodly noise?”

“Shh, it’s called snoring,” Calliope giggled. “Isn’t it the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen?”

“It’s darling,” I replied. “I don’t want to interfere with your enjoyment, so I’ll be going now.” I left Calliope as I’d found her, standing over King Oegrus’ bed, watching him as he slept.

I met Hestia alone in her quarters the next morning and put forth my petition. “I have no idea how long this thing with Triton is going to last,” I emphasized, “so I am not looking for a permanent change.”

“Of course,” Hestia understood. “I can change you back when you want.”

“What’s your price?” I asked.

“I’m a simple goddess with simple needs,” she said. “I can’t think of anything you could give me that I don’t already have.”

“Please, My Lady, let me give you some token payment,” I persuaded. I wanted to have a payment set in stone so Hestia couldn’t come up with a random favor at some random time. Not that it seemed like a thing she’d do. Still, it would be wise to cover my bases. “There has to be something I can give you. I’m an entertainer; what about a private audience? Speech writing? I’m a great writer. I can spice up a divine decree with a few jokes for you.”

Hestia thought for a moment. “What if I could do that myself?” she proposed.

“I’m sure you could if you wanted to,” I kindly replied. I felt bad. Hestia was one of the sweetest, kindest, most reasonable goddesses alive. There were many compliments I could ascribe to her, but “funny” just wasn’t one of them.

“That’s a very sweet lie,” Hestia smiled modestly. “But you know as well as I do that I have no such ability. That’s something you have that I want. Your sense of humor.”

“I’d share it with you if I could, but I can’t.”

“I’ll do the work. All you have to do is consent.”

“Sure,” I agreed. I’d seen gods and goddesses grant each other abilities before. It sounded painless enough.

“And I’ll give it back if and when I revert you to your original form,” she added. “It’s only fair. Come to my bathing pool.” I followed Hestia and, at her direction, undressed and sat in her sunken marble pool. She crouched on the ledge behind me and placed her hands on my shoulders. A white light blinded and stunned me. When I could see and feel again, I was a mermaid. My tail was a silvery shade that sparkled every color of the rainbow when I turned it in the light. Moving in the water was effortless. I pulled myself out of the pool and confirmed that the lower half of my body was now useless on land. This was why all my dates with Triton had been in the sea. We’d talked about him getting legs and staying at Helicon for awhile, but he had too many responsibilities to leave his court for long. In fact, it was becoming obvious to me that Triton did most of the real work in governing his father’s realm.

“Have your terms been met?” I asked Hestia.

“I was just contemplating the irony that you’re about to embark on a fish-out-of-water tale,” she chuckled, immensely pleased with herself, “so I suppose they have been.”

I wasn’t at all sure that Hestia was now in possession of a sense of humor. At least, not a very good one. But if she was happy, I was happy. And if she took it back and this thing with Triton didn’t last, it wasn’t the end of the world. So I gave Hestia my most profuse thanks and teleported to Poseidon’s underwater palace.

Triton was thrilled to see that I’d taken him up on his offer. He showed me to some guest quarters he’d taken the liberty of preparing for me. The bed was the same kind as his: a huge silken fishing net that could be drawn closed from the inside so the occupants wouldn’t float out the windows in their sleep. My net, however, was made of rainbow-colored rope while his was blue.  The whole room was decorated with bright, unearthly colors inspired by the local flora and fauna. A huge anemone growing in the middle of the coral ceiling gave light to the room.

Triton had to get back to work, so he left me to get acclimated. I like boyfriends who work a lot. I mean, sure, I like spending time with them and everything, but I like time to do my own thing, too. At the moment, my own thing was exploring Poseidon’s palace. So as soon as I finished snapping my stuff into the ample storage space provided, I set out to do that.

The palace was a little smaller than Zeus and Hera’s, but a little bigger than Hades and Persephone’s. It was patterned after a starfish, with five wings, and built out of coral and volcanic rock. My room was at the tip of Triton’s personal wing, right across the hall from his bedchamber. He was working in the business wing, reviewing plans for a proposed new city and ascertaining that its placement relative to the nearby existing cities wouldn’t create conflict for anyone involved.

His father, meanwhile, was in the throne room at the center of the palace formally accepting tribute from a number of his principalities. I caught a peek as I swam by an open door. Poseidon and Amphitrite sat side by side in thrones made of giant abalone shells. Poseidon’s indigo hair and beard were the only features he shared with Triton. Okay, they were both ripped, too. But Poseidon, like his wife, had normal-colored flesh and was bipedal. Amphitrite paled next to her magnificent husband. Her face, figure, and coloring were so similar to Aphrodite’s, yet her shy, modest demeanor rendered her virtually invisible. I decided to move on down the hall. I couldn’t handle watching Amphitrite smile in quiet complacency as Poseidon directed a number of new concubines to the harem behind the palace.

After a bit of wandering, I made my way to the stables, saddled a seahorse, and set off  for a ride through the vast anemone gardens. The sidesaddle took a little getting used to, but the seahorse had a nice gait. And she glowed. I decided that, when I got home, I must have a glowing pet that I could ride.

I hadn’t gotten far down the riding trail when Amphitrite came upon me by another path. I politely slowed my mount to let hers catch up if she so desired. Apparently she did. “Your Majesty,” I bowed my head.

“No need to be so formal,” she smiled. “Please, call me Amphitrite. I miss hearing my name.”

“As you wish, Amphitrite.” Kiss-up much? Um, yeah! I didn’t know how long I’d have to live with these people. No sense making it harder for myself than it had to be.

“You’re Triton’s new mistress, aren’t you?” she conversed as she urged her seahorse forward at a pace comparable to a walk and invited me to do the same.

“I suppose you could use that word,” I allowed. But I wished she wouldn’t.

“You and your sisters seem like such nice girls. I’m glad he chose one of you.”

“Thank you.”

“It suits you,” she observed, “the mermaid tail. I shifted to one myself for awhile, but Poseidon never noticed. I suppose it’s not the same when it isn’t on a real mermaid.”

“You deserve to be noticed,” I said, not to flatter her, just stating the obvious. And Poseidon had noticed her enough to marry her and emotionally shackle her to his side for eternity.

“I have more than I deserve already,” said Amphitrite. “I’m Queen of the Ocean Realm, Goddess of the Seas, the wife of a handsome, powerful god, and the mother of two wonderful children. What more could I ask for?”

I didn’t have an answer to her rhetorical question. I had a nagging feeling that I should, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. “You should be proud of your children,” I said at last. “Triton’s the nicest god who’s asked me out in ages, and I haven’t spent much time with Rhoda, but she seems to take after you.” I stopped myself from saying after her mother just in time. Rhoda truly is Poseidon’s daughter, but her birthmother is Aphrodite. We all pretend to have forgotten that. Rhoda looks and acts more like Amphitrite, anyway. We think Amphitrite and Aphrodite are sisters, but no one, including either of them, knows where the two goddesses came from or who their parents are.

“I am proud of them,” Amphitrite smiled. “I’d love to have more children someday, but Poseidon says two are enough, and I suppose he knows best. Do you ever think of having children?”

“Not really,” I admitted, not wanting to give my boyfriend’s mother false hope. “But my friend’s daughter-in-law is pregnant, and she and her husband say I’m not getting out of being a godmother this time.” Amphitrite laughed at my comment, which I thought was strange since it wasn’t particularly funny. But who was I to question the queen? “This is going to be their ninth and, according to them, last. My sisters are godmothers to the other eight.”

“Who’s the expectant grandmother?” Amphitrite asked. “I’m afraid I’m quite out of the Olympian social circles.”

“I always forget Epione’s mom’s name.” I usually forget Asclepius’ mom’s name too, but that’s deliberate.

“No, your friend, her mother-in-law.”

“Oh. My friend is her father-in-law, Apollo.”

“I’ve only met him a few times,” she pondered. “I was rather friendly with his sister Artemis before my betrothal, though. Did you know I once considered joining the ranks of her huntresses?”

“I didn’t!” Though I did know they’d been friends.

“Yes. I liked the camaraderie, but I decided the forest life wasn’t for me. Too rugged. So then I considered pledging myself to Hestia as a vestal virgin.” I was noticing a trend.

“Do you remember what it was about Poseidon that made you think, ‘I want to be with this man forever’?” I asked her.

“Has anyone been able to answer that question?” she laughed. “I don’t know. Maybe the way he wanted me made me want him, too.” Or, as rumor had it, a love spell.

“Surely he wasn’t the only one.”

“Artemis did tell me that quite a few huntresses went into mourning when I decided not to join them,” she winked.

“What about you?” I asked, hoping I wasn’t overstepping my bounds in doing so.

“I don’t even remember what I liked before I fell in love with Poseidon,” she said with a contented sigh. “He’s all I can see now, all I can think about.”

“And you’re happy with him?”

“Of course I am. Who wouldn’t be?”

For the next several weeks, Amphitrite and I spent our midmornings together. We rode sometimes and we walked sometimes. We always talked. It was nice in a way. She was pleasant company, and I got the feeling that she didn’t have many friends at court. I told her she should visit me and my sisters on Helicon sometime, but, oh, no, she couldn’t leave her dear husband for so long.

That was the frustrating thing about our blossoming friendship. Listening to Amphitrite talk about her husband was pretty much the gender-flipped version of listening to Hephaestus talk about his wife. I can’t stand watching people I care about let other people hurt them over and over. And at least with Hephaestus I could cope by firing off snarky commentary in my internal monologue, but with Amphitrite, my inner snark seemed to be bound and gagged.

There were other things to occupy my days besides being Amphitrite’s confidant. Rhoda invited me to hang out and gossip with her and her courtier friends sometimes, the palace had a fantastic library, and I could always keep myself busy with my art. Having a mermaid body was a fascinating new challenge as a costumer.

And of course there was Triton. He worked crazy hours during the day, but he always had time for me at night. Sometimes he’d open his skylight and we’d lay in each other’s arms for hours, sometimes talking, sometimes saying nothing, watching the creatures swim by. One night we were visited by a cloud of tiny glowing jellyfish. It was like being caught in a shower of stars.

It was a good life I was leading at Poseidon’s court. But the longer I stayed, the more I felt it wasn’t my life. Even more troubling, I felt like I wasn’t me. I smiled, but I didn’t laugh. I never caught on when Triton would tease me, and I was always at a loss as to how to tease him back. Rhoda and her girlfriends grew less and less tolerable to me. Their insipid dialogue hurt my brain. I couldn’t understand it. The Olympian courtiers often seemed to be using their craniums to store nuts for the winter, but I usually managed to derive some pleasure from mocking their stupidity.

One afternoon I was hanging out with Rhoda and her girlfriends, trying desperately to imagine I wasn’t. One of the girls was new. She was a bipedal sea naiad. I decided to be a good sport and give her a chance. Then she started things off by bragging about a recent trip to Olympus on which she’d slept with Zeus. I attempted meditating.

I failed. This girl was damaging my calm. “…And Hera never figured out it was me — lame, right? she’s such a loser — so I got to hang out in the women’s rings. I’m glad I never had to sit at Hera’s table. Hestia is such a bitch!”

“Hestia the hearth goddess?” I asked.

“Duh, like there are so many goddesses named Hestia. Yeah, she had some smart-ass thing to say about anyone and everything. The Olympian goddesses think she’s a riot, but none of them can hang on to a man, so what do they know?”

“Hestia is probably the nicest goddess on that cloud,” I defended. “And slandering any of those goddesses doesn’t speak well of your practical intelligence.”

“You probably haven’t been to Olympus,” she patronized. “You should go sometime. You’re not hot enough for Zeus, but maybe one of his sons? Ares’ll take anything. Not Apollo, though. I tried it. He’s a fruitcake.”

“He is in a committed, monogamous relationship with a man,” I said. “He’s also been in committed, monogamous relationships with women.” Monogamous and committed on his side, anyway.

“Man, can’t even decide if he’s a fruitcake or not!” she cackled.

I grabbed her arm. “Call him that one more time. I dare you.”

“What are you so scared of? I’ve been with Zeus. No one can hurt me.”

“Want to bet?”

I teleported the two of us to a river in a forest. Beside the river was a rustic, empty campground. “Do you still think calling the gods names they did not choose for themselves is a good idea?” I warned her.

“I’m Zeus’ lover! I’ll say whatever I want about whoever I want. Apollo’s a f-” she shouted, but she was cut off by Artemis’ sudden appearance by the riverbank. Artemis is good at leaping out of nowhere.

“What about my brother?” Artemis demanded, fitting an arrow to her bow. “Do you really want to finish that sentence? Think carefully.”

The future Mrs. Zeus not only finished the sentence, but threw in a rather graphic clause suggesting specific activities which might improve Artemis’ temperament. Actually, putting arrows through idiots improves Artemis’ temperament. In this instance it improved mine as well.

“I recognized her,” Artemis observed the body. “She was hanging around Olympus all weekend. I did her a favor by taking her out myself instead of waiting for her to moon Hera or something. Hey, why do you have a mermaid tail?”

“Long story,” I said, resting my elbows on the riverbank. “Listen, this might seem like a weird question, but has Hestia seemed any different the last several weeks?”

“Only if you’d call becoming a fountain of witticisms different.”

“Of course I’d call that different.” What a weird thing to say. “Say something funny,” I requested.

“I’m not very good at being funny,” Artemis shrugged. “People always tell me I have no sense of humor.”

“Was that it?” I asked.

“I’m done with this conversation.” Artemis picked up the corpse and hauled it downstream out of sight, presumably toward her funeral pyre spot.

I teleported to Hestia’s pool and summoned her there. “What is it?” she asked me when she’d arrived. “Are you having any trouble with your mermaid tail?”

“I’m having trouble with telling jokes, getting jokes, taking anything un-seriously, laughing at idiots, laughing at anything at all, and generally not praying to the Fates to make me mortal.”

“But you agreed,” said Hestia. “I’d give you a mermaid body and you’d give me your sense of humor.”

“You didn’t tell me I wouldn’t have one anymore!”

“I specifically said your sense of humor,” she reminded me, “not a sense of humor. Ironic, isn’t it? A theater goddess who can’t take direction?” she laughed.

“Well, I can’t live like this anymore,” I protested. “I want to switch back, even though I know it means giving up Triton. If things go on like this, I’ll end up leaving him anyway.”

“Do you remember how Hera would light up whenever you came to visit? The way you could always make her smile? Not the forced smile she wears when she’s holding court, but the real one? Remember how Athena and Artemis would dangle bait in front of you, waiting to see what delightful thing you’d say next? Remember Aphrodite’s insults, which, though they seemed cruel, at least showed that she knew you existed? And remember the way you always knew just how to put her back in her place? All of that is mine now. I’m not giving it up. I need it more than you do.”

“I’m the Muse of Comedy!”

“If it means that much to you, you could always take it up with Zeus.” She laughed at her own suggestion, which I took to mean that she’d intended it to be funny. I thought it just sounded absurd. She knew perfectly well I’d do no such thing.

“Isn’t there any way I could convince you to change your mind?” I pleaded.

“None,” said Hestia. “Don’t look at me like that; I’m not being cruel. You can still go home if you want. There’s a spring right next to your Museum.”

“How can I go home? I’ll be completely useless!” I didn’t even bother to stop myself from crying. “I can’t be the Muse of Comedy with no sense of humor!”

“You should have thought of that before you made the trade,” Hestia replied, unmoved.

“But I didn’t know what I was doing!”

“That isn’t my fault,” said Hestia. “Now, I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave. I’m supposed to meet Hera and Demeter for lawn darts.” She left me alone with little choice but to obey her request.

I spent the rest of the day in my quarters at Poseidon’s palace. I didn’t feel like doing anything or seeing anyone. Eventually Triton knocked on my door. I let him in.

“You’ve been crying,” he noted with concern. “Is something wrong?”

“Do you like me?” I asked.

“Of course I do,” he pulled me into his arms. “We all do. Mom was just saying the other day how nice it is to have someone she can talk to.”

I held him and started crying all over again. “I don’t like me,” I sobbed. “At least, not the me I have to be to stay here. Triton, you’re a great guy, and I really, really like you and everything…”

“That sentence never ends with ‘So let’s stay together forever,’ does it?” he laughed grimly as he held me a little tighter.

“Probably not,” I acknowledged, feeling that my lack of understanding for his laughter was just proving my point.

“One more night, and I’ll help you pack in the morning?”

“One more night,” I agreed. “Can you give me a minute? I want to say goodbye to your mom, and I don’t want to drag things out tomorrow.”

Amphitrite was, as I’d anticipated, in her private quarters. I explained the situation to her and tried to keep the tears to a minimum as I did. She understood. “Let me talk to Poseidon,” she offered. “It would be nothing at all for him to reverse Hestia’s spell. She’s the least powerful of his creators’ children. I imagine he could even get your sense of humor back and leave you a mermaid if you still want to stay here.”

“No, please, I don’t want to bother him,” I said. “And in any case, I do need to get back to Helicon. Talking to Hestia reminded me that I’m a Muse. My place is with the other Muses in the realm of living, oxygen-breathing humans. Maybe I can’t inspire comedy anymore, but I’m still a theater goddess. I’ll find something I can do.”

She hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks. “I’m sure you will. Best of fortunes to you.”

I did spend that one last night with Triton as promised. It made me wish it wasn’t my last, until I started thinking about spending one more day with Triton’s family. I drifted to sleep with my head on his sea-blue chest and tried not to think about it.

“Feel any different?” Triton asked me when I woke up the next morning. I was still in bed, and he was floating beside it.

“No,” I sighed. “My decision is final. Trying to change my mind will just make things harder than they have to be.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he laughed. I kicked reflexively as I felt fingers tickling my foot.


My old body was back. There were both of my bipedal, tan-colored, land-goddess legs, looking the same as ever. I rushed to open the net and got myself horribly tangled in it in the process. Triton laughed at me. I laughed with him. I laughed even harder at the realization that I was laughing and that I knew why.

Packing took a lot longer than I had planned.

But we both knew it had to be done. After I’d collected the last of my things and made myself presentable in a regular dress, Triton and I shared a long kiss goodbye. “I hope you find someone who’s cut out to be a sea princess,” I told him, brushing a lock of indigo hair out of his face. “Or prince, maybe?”

“Just princesses,” he laughed. “And I hope you find someone with whom you can be the best Muse of Comedy that you can be. That sounded awkward, didn’t it?”

“A little,” I laughed with him. “It’s okay. I have a thing for awkward. And, yeah, I know that sounded even worse. I’d better get out of here already.”

I stopped by the throne room on my way out to say a quick formal goodbye to Triton’s parents. “Thank you again for your hospitality, Your Majesties,” I said with a deep curtsy, reveling in my regained ability to execute one. “And,” I added with a meaningful look at Poseidon, “thank you for making it possible for me to return home.”

“You were never a prisoner,” he replied, seeming a bit offended.

Amphitrite took his hand. “She thinks you changed her shape back,” she explained.

“I did no such thing!” he said to me. “Why would I do that?” he said to Amphitrite. “You know I never interfere in Triton’s love affairs.”

“Yes, dear, we know,” Amphitrite stroked his arm.

“My apologies,” I bowed my head. “You’ve been a very gracious host. I couldn’t ask for better.”

“Come again sometime,” Amphitrite invited.

“Thank you. You’re welcome at Helicon, too, My Lady.”

“I appreciate that, but my place is in my own kingdom,” she smiled. “You understand, don’t you?”

“I do,” I nodded. Though I wished that, before I left, there was something I could give her, something to make her life a little bit happier.

Just before I turned to leave, I saw Poseidon abruptly face his wife. “Trite,” he observed, “is that a new gown you’re wearing? It’s lovely on you.”

Amphitrite lit up like a dark sea bursting with luminescent jellyfish. “You noticed.”

“So who did change you back?” my goddaughter Aglaea asked me. She was growing so fast. How old were humans at this size? Eight? Nine? She’d probably be an adolescent by the end of the month. I wondered if she’d be too cool to hear my stories the next time I saw her.

“I never did find out,” I said. “I asked Hestia, but she said it wasn’t her, and that she never told anyone about our deal. I don’t know who else it could have been.”

“Maybe Artemis told someone,” Aglaea suggested.

“But remember, all Artemis knew was that I had a mermaid tail,” I reminded her. “And she said the only person she told was Apollo.”

“Did you tell Apollo the whole story?” Aglaea grinned.

“Yes, and he laughed at me and told me how silly I am,” I grinned back.

“I’m glad he laughed,” she turned serious again. Aglaea could be a very serious child. “He hardly ever laughs since his boyfriend got killed.”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “I’m glad he laughed, too.”

“When I grow up, I’m going to help Dad invent a cure for death,” Aglaea resolved.

“I’ll bet you will,” I replied. Although she was a promising performer, her interests were clearly in the sciences.

“Do you ever wish you could’ve stayed with Triton?” she asked. “Like, that you could’ve been a mermaid and kept your sense of humor and stayed there to be a sea princess?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I miss him sometimes, but I guess if the Fates had wanted me to live in the sea, they would’ve made me a sea goddess.”

“I thought your mom made you.”

“It’s complicated.”

“That’s what people always tell me when they don’t want to answer my questions.”

“That’s right.”

Aglaea pondered these things for a few moments. “Why did packing take a lot longer than you thought after you got caught in the net?”

“Triton had to help me get untangled.”

“It shouldn’t have taken that long.”

“It’s complicated,” I told her.

“You had sex, didn’t you?”

“It’s complicated.”

“I know what sex is. I read about in my parents’ medical books. It’s not complicated.”

“Oh, trust me, it’s very complicated.”

“When you woke up back in your regular body, were you naked?”

“It’s complicated.”

“Come on, you can tell me!”

“Aglaea, have you talked with your parents about what you’re reading in their books?”

Apollo’s disgustingly innocent sun smile beamed at me from Aglaea’s face. “It’s complicated?”