Heather stood just outside her parents’ bedroom. She had to determine if Eros himself was up to more mischief or if somewhere along the way, his shadow-self had splintered. Olympian Gods were capable of splitting into a variety of shadows off their original personality. It was all the rage when Olympia ruled the world. It allows Zeus to pursue sexual conquests all over the world, at the same time. She had no doubt that Eros had split himself during those days.
When Zeus was in the Sea of Amber, Hera had ruled, to the relief of most, that they would take only one human form and one God form. With one spell, she destroyed all of the shadow splits, thus forcing the entirety of Zeus into the Sea Amber. The anniversary of this date is still celebrated in Olympia.
When Heather was just her half-bred self, she had heard rumor that some of the splits had survived Hera’s spell. She and her half-breed peers openly wondered if these were new splits? Or remnants of splits made long ago?
No one knew. Everyone had an opinion.
As time went on, splitting fell out of fashion for the simple reason that each split reduced the power of the God. Human beings couldn’t be relied upon to recharge Olympians with their worship anymore. Very simply, most God’s couldn’t afford to lose power, especially to some random split.
Eros, on the other hand, was different. Once a year, every year, human beings from around the world celebrated love. Pictures of Eros’s childish form, Cupid, could be found on cards, posters, televisions shows, and all things love related. Once a year on February 14, Eros received an enormous boost of power.
Heather knew for a fact that her father spent the day in silent meditations to soak up as much power as possible. If he wanted a shadow, he could make it on February 14 without any loss of power. No one would be the wiser.
Heather transformed herself out of her physical form and slid open the sliding doors to her parents’ bedroom. She moved into the room to stand at the end of her parents’ bed.
Psyche, her mother, was wrapped around her father, Eros. He held her in a tight clench. She created a bubble around them and waited until they were sealed off from the world. If there was a shadow form of Eros, it should immediately feel the break from its source and return. She shifted back to her usual physical form.
Hera appeared next to her.
“Anything?” Heather asked.
“Not that I’ve seen,” Hera said.
Aphrodite appeared on the other side of Heather.
“What are you wearing?” Aphrodite asked.
Heather looked down at her flowered flannel top, black leggings, and slippers.
“I was in bed when I found out about this situation,” Heather said.
Aphrodite changed Heather into a golden ball gown. Heather scowled at her grandmother and changed back.
“I have no idea why you insist on wearing that body?” Heather’s gorgeous grandmother asked.
“It’s comfortable,” Heather said.
“Tsk, no Goddess would be caught dead looking like that.” Aphrodite clucked.
“Artemis and Athena wear whatever they want,” Heather said.
Her grandmother clucked again and transformed Heather into a thinner, radiantly beautiful version of herself.
“You are a Goddess now. Don’t you want to look like one?” Aphrodite asked.
“If I’m a Goddess now, then this is what I look like,” Heather said, and transformed back to her usual form.
“Shh,” Hera said, and pointed to the couple in front of them.
“Not this boy,” Tanesha said. In a neutral voice, she said, “Heather.”
Heather’s feet pounded against the stairs. The moment she hit the last step, Wyn started crying.
“I’ll get him,” Blane said.
“Charlie?” Heather asked.
She looked at Tanesha and Jeraine.
“He hasn’t said anything,” Tanesha shook her head and shrugged.
“What is it? What’s happened?” Heather asked.
Charlie stood frozen in the living room. Jeraine grabbed him by the arms and shook him. Blane appeared with Wyn in his arms.
“Thanks,” Charlie said to Jeraine.
“My pleasure,” Jeraine smiled.
“Charlie?” Tink asked. “You can tell them.”
“Eros,” Charlie said.
“What about him?” Heather scowled.
“He’s wandering through the Castle whispering,” Charlie said. “Abi says he’s out of his mind. He wants to ruin this weekend for everyone.”
“Thank you for letting me know,” Heather said with a nod.
“Come on, Charlie,” Blane said. “I’ll take you home.”
He gave Wyn to Heather.
“Can’t Charlie stay?” Tink whined. “We won’t do anything.”
“I can’t,” Charlie said with a shake of his head. “Sandy will freak out.”
Blane nodded. He waved Charlie to the back of the house and Charlie followed him to the car. A few minutes later, they were in the Castle. Abi was standing outside with her baby. She looked visibly relieved when Charlie got out of the car. Charlie hugged Abi and they went inside.
“What do we do?” Charlie asked.
“This is a job for Olympia,” Abi said. “We can only watch.”
“What if they can’t do it?” Charlie asked.
“It’s been my experience with Olympia is that what is new to you or to me was a part of an Olympic plan,” Abi said.
“But, we always have to fix things,” Charlie said.
“What did Heather do when you told her?” Abi asked.
“She said thank you for telling me,” Charlie said.
“That’s it?” Abi asked.
“Then this was either expected by Olympia or part of some long, convoluted plan,” Abi said. “Best to stay out of the way.”
Charlie nodded. He gave Abi a slight smile. He pointed up the stairs and Abi nodded. Charlie crept up the stairs and into the apartment. When he opened the door, Sandy and Jill were in the living room.
“Charlie!” Sandy said. She got up to hug him. “Where did you go?”
“I …” Charlie said.
Sandy and Jill looked at him with the expectation that he would tell them.
“Uh …” Charlie said.
He tried to remember anyone had told him not to talk about what he’d heard.
“What is it?” Jill asked with a kind of force.
“Eros,” Charlie found himself saying. “I went to tell Heather.”
Jill and Sandy nodded.
“Good job, Charlie,” Aden said from the doorway to the living room. He gestured to Charlie. “Come on, it’s back to bed for you. We have a big weekend so we have to rest.”
Aden escorted Charlie to his closet.
“What are we going to do?” Sandy asked.
“Nothing,” Heather said as she appeared in the living room. “This is work for your matrons of honor.”
“But …” Sandy said.
“You need to rest for your big days,” Heather said. “Rest now. We’ve got this.”
Smiling, Heather pointed. Sandy disappeared from the room. Jill raised her hands.
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Jill said.
Jill left the apartment. Heather stood in the living room listening to the sleeping house. There was no whispering form here now. After a moment, she nodded and vanished.
Charlie woke up in his closet in the apartment at the Castle. In the last few months, he’d been in the hospital, at Seth’s house, and even in Ivan’s lovely apartment in New York City. Nothing made him happier than to be at “home” with his family — Noelle, Nash, Sissy, Rachel, Teddy, Aden, and of course, Sandy. He loved this little closet.
Turning onto his side, Charlie settled in to go back to sleep. He was drifting off when he heard the sound that had awakened him — whispering.
Charlie got up. He pulled on a pair of boxers and a T-shirt.
He went to the girls’ room and listened. Noelle and Sissy were asleep.
He crept to Nash and Teddy’s room. Nothing.
Yet, he still heard the whispering.
Sandy and Aden were asleep. He quietly opened the apartment door and crept out into the small hall. He looked down the hallway. Delphie’s apartment was silent. At Valerie’s door, he heard Mike low rumble, Valerie’s laugh, and a splash of water. They were clearly in the bathtub.
He still heard the whispering. He crept downstairs.
He was walking past Abi and Fin’s door when the door jerked open. A firm hand grabbed him and yanked him inside.
“Wha …?” Charlie started.
Abi held her index finger over her mouth. Charlie nodded.
The whispering voice passed by the door. Charlie opened his mouth and Abi shook her head. Frozen like statues, they stood silently listening. After a few minutes, Abi nodded.
“What was that?” Charlie whispered.
“Eros,” Abi said.
“Eros?” Charlie asked in an irritated voice. “That can’t be good.”
“He’s out of his mind,” Abi said. “I can’t tell if this is Eros himself or a shadow of him. Either way, he’s here to destroy this weekend.”
Charlie flushed with rage.
“What are we going to do?” Charlie asked.
“You must wake Hedone,” Abi said. “Uh, Heather. Tell her what’s happened.”
“I can’t drive,” Charlie said. “How …?”
He was standing inside the doorway at the little yellow house. Tink was asleep on the daybed just a few feet away.
“Tink!” Charlie whispered. He walked over to her. “Tink!”
While his whisper didn’t wake Tink , he heard movement from downstairs and upstairs. A few moments later, Jeraine was standing at the top of the basement stairs and Blane was standing at the bottom of the upstairs.
“Charlie!” Blane said with a laugh. “We told you that you and Tink …”
Charlie looked at himself and realized he was just in his boxers. Tink woke up and blinked at him.
“Charlie?” Tink asked.
“You can’t fault the boy for trying,” Jeraine said with a snicker.
Charlie was so embarrassed by getting caught that he didn’t know what to say. Tanesha’s hand came from behind Jeraine. She pushed Jeraine aside.
Honey waited for MJ in the foyer of the Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception. The last time she’d been in this area of the church was for her sister’s wedding to Jill’s ex-husband. She shook her head to try to clear the horrible memory.
Jill and Jacob came in carrying the boys. Katy ran behind.
“Are you coming?” Jill asked.
“Waiting for MJ,” Honey said.
“He’ll be here,” Jacob said.
He touched her shoulder for support. His warm gesture was no match for the horrible sinking feeling that was forming in her stomach.
MJ was going to be late.
They were going to miss the rehearsal.
Jill and Sandy were going to get sick of our bullshit and we won’t be able to get married here.
People like me don’t get married at fancy places like this.
Sam and Delphie came in.
“Would you like a roll?” Sam asked, assuming Honey was stuck there.
“I’m waiting for MJ,” Honey said.
“I’ll come back and check before the time come,” Sam said.
Honey nodded and gave him a confident smile. She looked up at the clock.
The door opened. Sandy and Aden came in with Rachel. A moment later, Noelle, Nash, Teddy, and Charlie came in after them. Sissy came in on Ivan’s arm. Honey smiled at them.
“Honey?” Sandy asked and pointed inside.
“I’m waiting for MJ,” Honey repeated.
“Uh.” Sandy pointed behind Honey.
Honey spun her wheelchair around. As if he’d been there all along, MJ was standing behind her. His boss, Alex, and his partner, Margaret, were standing just behind him. They waved.
“I was waiting for you,” Honey said with a smile.
“No, I was waiting for you,” MJ said.
He leaned over and kissed her.
“They’re starting!” Katy ran out of the church to tell them. “Hurry!”
“I guess I miss the good times we used to have when it was just you and me,” Jill said.
“Yeah, but don’t we have more fun now?” Katy asked. “I used to never even see you ‘cos you worked so much. I love Auntie Megan, but I’d rather be with you. Now that we live with Daddy, we get to do a lot of stuff, even ride horses!”
“I know,” Jill said. “It’s just …”
“You always say that I’m going to be your Katy-baby, no matter what,” Katy said.
“Then Katy and Mommy time goes on forever and ever,” Katy said.
Jill grinned at her wise daughter.
“Can we get ice cream and go home?” Katy asked.
“We can do anything you want,” Jill said.
“I wanted to tell the babies about electricity,” Katy said. “Plus, they like ice cream too. And they never had Katy and Mommy time.”
Jill grinned at her.
“Does that hurt your feelings?” Katy asked.
Jill shook her head. They went inside and ordered ice cream for the whole family. Katy got a small cone to tide her over on the trip home. Katy climbed into her car seat and let Jill buckle her in.
“When we married Daddy, you told me that just because things change, doesn’t always mean they change for the worst,” Katy said.
“I can’t believe you remember that,” Jill said.
“It really helped me,” Katy said. “Because I was really scared that everything would be bad. You were right. I was wrong.”
Jill nodded and started driving toward the Castle.
“Seems like you’re scared that things will be bad,” Katy said.
Jill scowled for a moment before nodding.
“I guess so,” Jill said. “It feels like a big change.”
“We should expect great things after change,” Katy said in an imitation of Jill. Jill laughed. “After all, we can always …”
“Change back,” Jill said with Katy.
“No, I don’t want to change back,” Jill said. “You?”
Jill looked at Katy in her rearview mirror. Katy shook her head. They stopped at the light at Colorado Boulevard.
“Did you know that electricity makes that light go on?” Katy asked. “The same electricity that makes the tea kettle work and …”
Jill grinned as Katy picked up her excitement about electricity. Katy continued through the rest of the drive home. When she parked the car, Katy got out and ran into the Castle. Jill got the ice cream and headed inside. Katy ran to her in the middle of the Castle main living room.
“I love you, Mommy,” Katy said.
Before Jill could respond, Katy ran off to find her brothers. Smiling to herself, she went into the kitchen.
“Hey, thanks!” Delphie said. She took the ice cream from Jill. “I was just thinking of having an ice cream social for the little kids.”