CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and THIRTY-FIVE
Heather took a step and then looked down at her malformed body.
“Stop that,” Heather said to Aphrodite and turned back into her usual human body.
She pointed to where Anjelika had gone. They followed her to the top. Heather tapped on the door and then opened it. She ushered the Olympians into the loft. Anjelika was in the kitchen area making coffee.
“Jill?” Heather asked.
Jill stuck her head out of the nursery.
“I’m in here,” Jill said. “Edie was called away last night. I’m getting the boys up. Jacob should be back in a minute. He went to check on Edie.”
“Is Paddie still here?” Heather asked.
“They’re playing in Katy’s bedroom,” Jill said. “What’s going on?”
“We need his help,” Perses said.
“As long as he’s back for breakfast,” Jill said with a shrug.
“She doesn’t know?” Hera asked in a low tone.
“We didn’t tell her,” Heather said.
Hera nodded. Heather went to Katy’s room and knocked on the door. Paddie Hargreaves opened the door. Katy was standing just behind him.
“I’m ready,” Paddie said to Heather. “What do I need to do?”
Hera looked at the toe head boy with big blue eyes and a wooden sword on his hip. She squinted at Perses.
“Perses, I …” Hera started.
Perses winked at her. Jacob came into the loft.
“We need to find the center of the house,” Perses said. Seeing Jacob, he added, “Any ideas?”
“The center of the house is over there,” Jacob said, with a gesture toward the open area. “What are you doing?”
“We need Paddie’s help with something,” Heather said.
“What?” Jacob asked.
“It’s okay, Mr. Jacob,” Paddie said. “Katy and me already said we would help. We were just getting ready.”
Jacob looked at Heather, Hera, and Aphrodite. He gave Perses a skeptical look.
“What does Olympia want with the child?” Jacob asked.
“My father has, either by choice or unconscious design, created a shade splinter,” Heather said. “It’s cast dark spells all over the house. We’ve been up all night trying to get rid of them. Paddie can clear the house in one fell swoop.”
“You mean, you’re helping Tanesha, Fin, and Edie?” Jacob asked.
“Sure,” Heather said.
Jacob grinned at Heather. He took Paddie by the shoulder and walked him to the center of the Castle. Paddie nodded to Jacob and the Olympians. Katy stood right behind him. Paddie pulled his sword from the scabbard and it transformed into the Sword of Truth.
“Oooh,” Hera gasped. She nodded, “That’s well done.”
Perses nodded. Paddie put the tip of the sword on the floor.
“Ready?” Katy asked.
Paddie ran his hand on the sword. Vibrations from the sword began to grow. They felt the vibrations run through them. The Castle began to shake. The walls and floors shimmied back and forth. If Perses hadn’t grabbed her, Aphrodite would have fallen over. Katy wrapped her arms around Paddie’s middle to help him keep standing.
“Don’t worry!” Jacob yelled. “It will hold!”
The building swayed back and forth. Things fell out of the kitchen cabinets and off shelves.
“What the hell?” Jill yelled from the nursery.
Anjelika and Jacob ran toward the nursery. Abi appeared next to Heather.
“What is it that causes the house to shake and the earth to be still?” Abi asked.
Perses pointed to Paddie’s sword.
“Shut it down,” Abi yelled over the din. A vase shattered on the floor. “The house will fall.”
“Jacob said it would hold!” Heather yelled.
“We can’t go on anymore!” Perses said. “It’s too much.”
“Just a few more …” Heather said.
Eros’s dark split appeared. Heather grabbed the spirit and they disappeared.
“Shut it down!” Perses yelled.
Paddie put his hand on the blade of the sword and it stopped vibrating. The house slowly stopped shaking. When the shaking stopped, Jacob and Jill came running out of the nursery.
The Olympians, including Perses, were gone. Paddie and Katy were standing in the middle of the house all alone.
“Where’d they go?” Jill asked.
Katy and Paddie shrugged. Paddie put the sword back on to his belt.
“Can we go play?” Katy asked.
Jill gave her a worried nod of the head. Katy and Paddie ran to her room as Tanesha, Edie, and Fin ran into the loft. Anjelika came from the nursery carrying the twins. She gave one to Jill.
“What was that?” Tanesha asked.
“They cleared the negative spells with the use of the Sword of Truth,” Jacob said.
“Then where’d they go?” Tanesha asked.
Jacob shook his head. He looked at Fin and Edie. They shrugged.
“I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough,” Jacob said.
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Tanesha said under her breath.
Jacob’s head jerked to look at Tanesha. She gave him a mild smile. When he opened his mouth to ask, she shrugged.
“I need to get home,” Tanesha said.
She nodded to him and went to say goodbye to Edie and Fin.
Heather grabbed the shade around his waist. Laughing, the shade dragged Heather into the grey world just out of sight of human eyes. Aphrodite and Hera chased after them. The shade shimmied and rolled to lossen her grip. But Heather had vast experience of hanging on to a wiggling baby. He was not match for her skills.
They flew fast and far for what felt to Heather like hours. Out of nowhere, Perses appeared in front of them. The shade ran right into him. Perses’s big hands grabbed the shade by the shoulders. He nodded to Heather to let the shade go. She let go of his waist. She and the shade gasped for air like fish out of water. Perses waited until she’d caught her breath.
“What might you be?” Perses asked.
“You know what I am,” the shade said.
The shade’s voice was high and screechy like fingernails on a chalk board. Heather and the other Goddesses shivered.
“Speak,” Hera demanded.
“Your highness, I didn’t see you there,” the shade said. “Move into the light.”
The shade produced a long bow and an arrow. Heather knocked the bow from his hands. Aphrodite caught it before vanished into the grey. She lit the bow so that she could inspect it.
“What is it?” Perses asked.
“Dark arrows,” Aphrodite said. “This is clearly the source …”
“A source,” Heather said. “I’ve seen Eros set them himself. Hell, I’ve seen him make them.”
Aphrodite gave Heather a vague nod.
“Yesss,” the shade said. “Disloyal Hedone. Are you here to kill me outright, duplicitous child? Or did you were you hoping to merge with my power?”
“Oh shut up,” Perses said. He looked at Heather and Hera. “What do you wish to do with this?”
“Ask him when he was made,” Heather said.
“Ask him why he was made,” Aphrodite said.
“Don’t you know me, mother?” the shade asked.
“You are just a sliver of my child,” Aphrodite said. “How should I recognize you?”
“I was with you every second you were torturing your son’s beloved,” the shade said. “I encourage you, supported you, love you through this important work!”
Aphrodite blushed red. She opened her mouth to speak.
“No,” Heather said. “His words are evil. They poison your memories. You are under no obligations to attend to his delusions.”
The shade hissed at Heather.
“You wish this shade to be responsible for all of the dark arrows,” Perses said to Aphrodite.
She gave him a tortured look before nodding. The shade laughed.
“I can’t do anything without permission from Eros,” the shade said. “I’m his better half. His muse. He needs me because his one and only child is so deceitful.”
“How dare you!” Hera said.
Heather put her hand on Hera’s arm. She shook her head.
“This is what Eros says about me,” Heather said.
“Why?” Hera asked.
“She wouldn’t tell him where her mother was located,” Aphrodite said.
“That’s crazy!” Hera said.
“Eros has been out of his mind for a few centuries,” Perses said.
“We can see why,” Aphrodite gestured to the shade.
The shade gave her a wicked grin.
“My mother loves me,” the shade said. “Come here, mother. Give me a kiss.”
Aphrodite recoiled from the shade.
“What will happen to Eros if we destroy this shade?” Hera asked.
“I don’t think we can destroy the shade,” Perses said. “Love always has this dark side. The deeper the love, the deeper the dark.”
“Without me, you would be nothing,” the shade said pointing to Aphrodite. “You need me.”
“Is that true?” Aphrodite asked Perses.
“I’m not sure,” Perses said. “I’ve never seen one of these before.”
“If this creature was necessary, wouldn’t I have a shade of my own?” Heather asked.
The shade laughed.
“The wittle baby finks she can be da boss,” the shade mocked her.
Heather squinted at the shade.
“You know that Eros gave up his role as a God, right?” Heather asked. “I am the Goddess Hedone.”
As she said the words, she began to shine with a yellow light. Horror stricken, the shade recoiled.
“You are a half-breed,” the shade said. “Two-faced one.”
“I am Hedone, the Goddess of Love,” Heather said.
Heather transformed into a golden beauty. Her yellow hair created a braided crown as it wrapped around her head and hung down her back. She wore a gown made out of what looked like shining gold. She had a long bow in her hand and a quiver filled with golden arrow over her shoulder.
Having never seen her in this form, Perses took a step back from her radiance. Aphrodite looked her over with obvious approval, and Hera smiled.
“Leave you as you are and I support dark love completely disconnected from true love,” Heather said.
“We cannot allow dark love to continue on its own,” Aphrodite said. “The dark and the light belong together in one whole. The purest of love has all of the shades of love.”
“It is time to return balance to love,” Heather said with a nod. “I send you, shade, back to Eros. You will combine with him and make him whole. If you delay your journey to Eros, you will die. If you try to exit him again, you will die.”
“Will you return him to Eros?” Heather asked Perses.
“I can, but an order such as this requires all of our protection,” Perses said.
“So be it,” Heather said.
They flew through the grey to the island were Eros and Psyche were together. The shade did everything within his power to get away from them, but Perses held tight. They were standing in Eros and Psyche’s bedroom.
“What is it now?” Eros asked.
“You’ve forgotten something,” Heather said.
She nodded to Perses. As if he were throwing a football, he chucked the shade at Eros. The shade spun in a tight spiral until he hit Eros in the chest.
“What trickery is this?” Eros asked to Heather before noticing the shade.
“Look at your creation,” Heather demanded.
The shade looked at Eros and Eros looked at the shade.
“Be whole,” Hera said.
Eros and the shade merged. For a moment, Eros looked like he’s swallowed a pelican. Without saying another word, he rolled onto his side and seemed to fall fast asleep.
“Faker,” Heather said to Eros. He opened an eye. Eros flipped onto his back to glare at her.
“You and your shade are bound together by the ultimate power — love,” Heather said with a solemnity reserved for a Goddess. “The retired God, Eros, will never be able to create a new shade.”
Eros glared at her with rage. She grinned at him. Walking to the bed, she put her hands over his eyes and closed them.
“Be at peace,” Heather said.
Eros’s head fell against the pillow. He fell into a deep sleep. They waited one last moment before leaving Eros and Psyche. They stepped back into the grey.
“I need to return,” Perses said. “Hera, Aphrodite, you are welcome to come to my daughter’s wedding celebrations. You might enjoy it.”
Aphrodite looked at Heather, who shrugged.
“Sounds fun,” Hera said.
Aphrodite nodded, and Heather smiled.
“Come on,” Heather said. “We’re missing breakfast.”
They flew through the grey and wound up standing in Jacob and Jill’s loft apartment.
“Where is everyone?” Perses asked.
“Downstairs,” Heather said. She changed back into her human body and usual clothing. “Follow me.”
The Gods looked at each other for a moment before following Heather down the stairs.
Saturday afternoon — 3:11 p.m.
Wearing only a white bathrobe, a towel in her hair, and cucumber slices over her eyes, Honey was sitting on a lounger in the warm atrium of the spa. Jill and Anjelika were resting on the loungers on the other side of the empty lounger Honey had saved for her mother, Tiffanie. Heather and her friends were on the other side of Jill. Yvonne sat next to the women from Olympia with Tanesha and Sandy on the other side. Valerie lay next to Sandy. Not one for being in the middle of anything, Abi lay next to Valerie near the door. They all wore the same bathrobes and towel with cucumber slices on their eyes.
Today was spa day.
Truth be told, they were having a great time. Hera and Aphrodite turned out to be funny and friendly. Whenever anything seemed to be an issue, one or the other of them fixed it with a wave of their hands. They were truly being treated like queens. They’d had a whole body scrub and wrap, an amazing spa lunch, and were now resting before their massages.
Tiffanie came out from the back. She waved to the women from Olympia before sitting down next to Honey.
“Have you seen more beautiful women?” Tiffanie whispered to Honey.
Honey lifted a cucumber slice from one of her eyes to look down the row. She shrugged and lay back down.
“They look like Goddesses!” Tiffanie whispered.
“They probably are,” Honey said.
A spa comfort attendant brought Tiffanie cucumbers for her eyes and a glass of cool cucumber water.
“How can they be Goddesses?” Tiffanie whispered when the attendant moved to check in with Anjelika.
“Please,” the attendant said in a kind but firm voice. “This is your quiet time. Time for a moment of peace and self-reflection.”
Tiffanie nodded to the attendant. She glanced at Honey and lay back with the cucumber slices on her eyes. Tiffanie waited until the attendant had left the room and closed the door. She leaned over to Honey.
“How can they be Goddesses?” Tiffanie whispered to her daughter.
It hit Honey like a brick. Tiffanie didn’t care that these woman were ancient beings with infinite wisdom; beings who ran the universe and beyond. She didn’t care that they were wise and funny, yet still oddly relatable. She was asking why they were so much prettier than she was. Used to being the prettiest woman in the room, Tiffanie looked decidedly human next to Hera or Yvonne for that matter.
“Mother!” Honey said in an angry whisper.
“There you go,” Tiffanie said. “I ask one question and you’re angry with me. Can’t a mother ask her daughter a simple question without her blowing her top?”
“Mother,” Honey said. “Shh!”
Tiffanie lay back in her lounger. Honey knew it was only a matter of minutes before Tiffanie blew her top.
“Who’s paying for this?” Tiffanie leaned over to ask. “All these women. It better not be Sam because that means he’s holding out on me and your sisters.”
“He’s not their father!” Honey said. “He owes you nothing.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Tiffanie said. “Fair is fair. If he can afford all of this, he should be paying more in child support.”
Absolutely defeated, Honey fell back to her lounger. If she could have fallen into a deep hole, she would have.
“Who is paying for this?” Tiffanie asked Honey again.
“I am,” Sandy said, in a firm, no nonsense voice. “It was my gift to the amazing women in my life, and a treat for the Goddesses that have gifted us with their presence.”
“Why, thank you, Sandy,” Tiffanie said in a meek voice. “This is quite lovely.”
When Tiffanie lay back on her lounger, Honey began a countdown to Tiffanie deciding that Sandy was paying for things to show that Tiffanie was inferior to Sandy.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Tiffanie took a breath at nine. Honey leaned up. Pulling off a cucumber slice, Honey saw that Heather was watching Tiffanie with an unveiled eye. Honey caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Abi was walking toward Tiffanie.
“I wondered if I might …” Abi started.
“I didn’t know they allowed colored people into the spa,” Tiffanie said to the mother of all humankind.
Honey was so horrified that she wished she could simply die right there. She saw Tanesha bristle. Yvonne sat up from her lounger. Heather lifted her left hand and rubbed her thumb over her fingers. Tiffanie lay back on her lounger. She put the cucumber back on her eye and sighed contentedly. Yvonne smiled and lay back on her lounger. Tanesha nodded to Heather, who smiled, before laying back.
Only Abi stood in the middle of the room. Hera got up from her lounger. She walked to Abi and then dropped to one knee.
“Mother,” Hera said. “We are weak and stupid. Please forgive us.”
“Forgive you?” Abi asked. “I’m just waiting to make sure it worked!”
Abi laughed. She touched Hera’s shoulders and Hera stood. The women hugged. They went back to their loungers. The room was silent for a while.
“I just think …” Tiffanie started again.
Heather rubbed her thumb over her fingers again.
“What is that?” Tanesha asked in a whisper.
“Love,” Yvonne whispered to Tanesha. “Some people just weren’t loved enough.”
Heather nodded in agreement.
If Honey could have hugged every one of these women in one moment, she would have done it right then and there. She had never felt so lucky, so blessed to be in such company. She glanced at her mother and could have sworn she was sound asleep.
“Brides!” the attendant said at the door. “It is time for your special massages!”
To everyone’s amazement, Tiffanie hopped up and helped Honey into her wheelchair. Honey, Jill, and Sandy followed the attendant out of the room. Heather kept her eye on Tiffanie, but the woman lay down on her lounger and went back to sleep.
Shrugging, Heather lay back to enjoy the rest of the day.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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