“Hi everyone!” Valerie waved to the camera on Jill’s cellphone.
Mike squinted at the camera. He sat down next to Valerie in their living room in their apartment at the Castle. Valerie had started doing monthly live video chats through one of those social media sites. This was her third. Mike agreed to attend this one. His concession to the project was a clean shirt. His wild hair and beard remained. Jill was working the camera and the comments section.
“Mike and I are here to answer your questions,” Valerie said. “A bunch of people asked to see our house here in Denver. When we’re done, we’ll wander through where we live. If we’re lucky, Mike will let you see his studio.”
Mike raised his eyebrows and turned to look at her.
“He hasn’t quite agreed yet,” Valerie said with a smile. “You should know that the house itself belongs to my mother’s best friend, Delphinium.”
“You won’t find it on the tax records,” Mike said.
“Well, that’s true, too,” Valerie said. “It’s some weird thing my brother set up.”
Valerie nodded to end that topic.
“We are both here because we have a big announcement,” Valerie said.
“@Sculptress says Mike looks like a Greek God,” Jill said. “From the statues.”
“Takes one to know one,” Mike said with a nod.
Valerie looked at Mike and then shook her head.
“Do we know what that means?” Valerie asked.
“She posted a picture,” Jill said.
She came out from behind the camera and held the phone out to Mike.
“That’s Perseus,” Mike said with a shake of his head. “I’m more Titan than Greek.”
Jill gave him a strong look. Mike replied with a shrug that included his top lip.
“Anyway,” Valerie said with a laugh. “Mike is here because we have an announcement.”
Jill held out another photo.
“That’s Hercules,” Mike said. “He’s got the lion skin cape. Look, no cape.”
Jill held out another photo.
“That’s Atlas. Note the world on his shoulder,” Mike said. He shrugged. “You’re not going to find one. I look like I look.”
“I look like I look?” Jill asked with a laugh.
Mike nodded which made Valerie laugh.
“Well, I look like her,” Mike nodded with his chin toward Jill. “She’s my little sister so she looks like me.”
“Without the beard,” Jill said.
She waved to the camera and went behind it.
“Where were we?” Valerie asked.
“Announcement,” Jill said.
“Mike and I are happy to announce that we’re going to have another child,” Valerie said.
“A boy,” Mike said.
Valerie looked at him and he smiled. She grinned at him.
“Everything is really good so far,” Valerie said. “Jackie is very excited to be a big sister.”
“I don’t care if it’s a boy or girl,” Mike said.
“You don’t?” Valerie asked with a smile.
Mike shook his head. He looked into the camera.
“Kids are awesome,” Mike said. “There are a bunch of kids here.”
“Heather is receiving full powers as the Goddess of Love,” Tanesha whispered back. “Only, she’s called ‘Hedone’ here.”
Tanesha nodded. Honey, Jill, and Sandy nodded in agreement. Aphrodite welcomed them into the court and walked toward the front again.
“Where is Heather?” Honey asked in a low tone.
Tanesha pointed to the front of the room. There was a woman standing with their back to them. Her honey colored hair fell to her waist in perfect waves. She was wearing a floor length evening gown made entirely of gold. The gown fit against her near perfect curves. Honey raised her eyebrows in surprise. Tanesha nodded. When the woman turned to look at them, they saw Heather’s face smiling from this Goddess’s body.
“This is what she looks like,” Tanesha whispered. “She puts on the other body because it’s comfortable.”
Honey, Jill, and Sandy nodded. They knew Heather as a fit, but a little heavy mother of two, who loved chocolate cake.
“Will she have to leave Denver?” Jill asked.
Tanesha shook her head “no.” They watched Heather receive a golden crown from Aphrodite. The moment the crown rested on her hair, a crowd of angry people appeared about a few feet from where Honey, Jill, Sandy, and Tanesha were standing. Heather’s father strode into the court.
“I protest this ridiculous mockery of ceremony,” Eros said. Turning to point at Hedone, he sneered, “She is a half breed.”
The crowd erupted! Some of the Gods and Goddesses jumped to the floor. Other’s screamed out “boos”. More than a few Gods and Goddesses threw things and spells from their seats. Honey turned and noticed a group of ruffians were moving toward the floor.
“Tanesha!” Honey yelled.
Jill whipped around.
“Dad!” Jill called.
Her father appeared at her side. Sandy hooked arms with Jill and Honey.
“Tanesha!” Honey yelled but Tanesha was already too involved in the fight.
Overwhelmed, Honey didn’t the only thing she could think of.
“Fin! Abi! Tanesha needs you!” Honey yelled.
Perses turned to look at Honey. His eyes slowly blinked, and then he clapped his hands. Fin and Abi appeared by Tanesha’s side. Fin grabbed Tanesha to protect her. Abi gave Perses a nod and they stepped out together.
It happened so fast that Honey wasn’t exactly sure what had happened. Abi held some kind of a sword that was thin and wooden on one end; thick and sharp on the other end. Perses held a long broad sword that glistened with some kind of power. They seemed to grow in size. Eros’s supporters stopped in their tracks. They took one look at Abi and Perses before turning around and running away. Laughing, Abi called to the wind. The wind whipped around them ripping their dresses. With Perses at her side, they chased the ruffians out of Olympia
When Honey turned back to the court, Eros was gone and the fighting had ended. Hedone was on her knees receiving her assignment.
“Look!” Honey said.
The women turned around to watch. When Hedone stood, they burst into cheers.
Honey felt someone touch her shoulder.
“Wake up!” MJ whispered. He kissed her lips. “We have a layover and then another plane.”
“Change planes?” Honey asked. “You mean the last flight wasn’t it?”
MJ shook his head.
“Where are we going?” Honey asked.
“You’ll see,” MJ said with a smile.
Honey grinned at him. He picked her up and they started out of the plane.
“What were you dreaming about?” MJ asked.
“Me?” Honey asked. Embarrassed, Honey added, “Was I dreaming?”
“You had the biggest smile on your face,” MJ said.
“Oh,” Honey shrugged. “I guess I was dreaming.”
MJ smiled. He carried her through the terminal in Berlin, Germany.
Honey leaned back into her first class seat. She, MJ, and a few people his team were meeting their families somewhere warm and beachy. They wouldn’t tell her where. The moment the plane took off, the entire group, every single person, fell sound asleep.
Honey was the only person awake in first class. The flight attendant gesture to her ginger ale and Honey shook her head. She had enough ginger ale. Honey mouthed “water?” The flight attendant gave her a bottle of water. Honey smiled and the flight attendant nodded.
Honey hadn’t thought about the plane flight. That is, she thought it would only be a couple of hours to Mexico, not eleven hours to who knows where. She looked at MJ. He’d fallen asleep like he was drugged. She knew they slept when they were in route. It was some team thing. She’d just never seen it, and frankly, it was pretty weird. Honey shrugged.
When in Rome …
Unlike any other time she’d fallen asleep, Honey dropped into a dream the moment she fell asleep.
Honey was sitting at the front the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. MJ was at her side. Sandy and Aden were in the middle with Jill and Jacob on the side. They’d already said their vows. It was almost time for …
“You may kiss the bride!” the priest said.
MJ dropped onto one knee and kissed Honey. Hidden behind the barrier, the audience cheered. Honey smiled and stroked his face. He kissed her again.
The priest said something or another but Honey wasn’t really paying attention anymore. She leaned forward and MJ hugged her. He stood up when it was their turn to leave. MJ nodded to her and easily lifted her from her chair. Margaret appeared and took Honey’s wheelchair. MJ carried her through the church while people cheered. They were just about to step into the entryway when …
… Honey was standing on the edge of the largest, greenest lawn she’d ever seen. She gasped at the simple sight of it. Jill and Sandy were standing about a foot from her.
“Where are we now?” Honey yelled. “Sorry I wasn’t sure you’d hear me.”
Jill looked at Honey and shrugged.
“I think we’re in Olympia,” Sandy said. “It looks just like Sissy described it.”
With her words, a golden pathway appeared in front of them.
“Seriously? A yellow brick road?” Jill asked.
“Tanesha’s right there!” Honey said.
Honey pointed to where Tanesha was standing. Tanesha wore a gorgeous floor length blue gown with a jeweled encrusted tiara on her head. She took a tentative step to see if she was able to walk. Seeing that she was stable, she walked to meet Tanesha. Jill and Sandy got there before them.
“Where are we?” Honey asked. “Is that Page of whatever here?”
“No,” Tanesha said. “We’re here to celebrate Heather.”
“Heather?” Sandy asked with a scowl. “Is she okay?”
“I’ll take you there,” Tanesha said.
She took Honey’s hand and put her arm around Jill. She put her other arm around Sandy. In a blink of an eye, they were standing in an entirely gold chamber. A man with a long grey beard, tan skin and piercing eyes sat on what looked like a throne. Hera stood by his side. Honey looked around the room with awe. Hundreds of people sat in a kind of stadium seating. A few of them smiled at Honey, Jill, and Sandy as they came forward in their wedding wear. The ever-lovely Aphrodite walked to meet them.
“My father, of course,” Heather said. “He can’t handle the job or modern life. He’s convinced that modern life is an aberration.”
“Aberration?” Jill asked.
“The internet,” Tanesha said with a nod. “Cell phones. Even cars for that matter.”
“How interconnected people are now,” Heather said. “It was a lot for fun for him when he could just send people into tortured love with no chance of meeting. Now there’s all this inner-marrying of people from different countries, religions, you know.”
“He’s been trying to force the world back into a time he can understand,” Tanesha said.
“It’s hard for me to imagine,” Heather said. “How could you not know that life moves in only one direction — forward.”
Heather set down a serving plate with pancakes on it. Jill got up and grabbed plates. Tanesha took out silverware from the drawer. They filled their plates and began adding butter and syrup.
“So we fought with your father?” Jill asked.
“And his friends,” Heather said.
Jill shook her head as if she was trying to clear it.
“It makes no sense,” Jill said as she doctored her pancakes.
“What happened?” Jill asked. “In the end?”
“Oh, he scampered away to his island retreat,” Heather said.
“Will he be back?” Jill asked.
“No,” Heather said.
“How can you be so sure?” Jill asked.
“Hera put a barrier around the island,” Heather said. “He’s not going anywhere.”
“Isn’t that my dad’s island?” Jill asked.
“It was,” Heather said with a nod. “It’s not anymore.”
“How?” Jill asked. “I don’t mean to question what you’re saying. It’s just that my father doesn’t like to lose anything, let alone something borrowed.”
“It was his suggestion,” Tanesha said.
“We traded,” Heather said with a shrug.
“For what?” Jill asked.
Heather looked at Jill and then glanced at Tanesha. She was about to say something when Tanesha spilled the beans.
“Perses missed a lot of years of your life, Jill,” Tanesha said. “He wanted to see what your life was like.”
Jill flushed with anger.
“Before you get mad, you actually agreed to it,” Heather said. “You thought it was sweet that he wanted to know more about you.”
“So you told him all of my secrets,” Jill asked.
“I told him none of your secrets,” Heather said.
“You’re sure?” Jill asked.
“Positive,” Heather said. “He wanted to see the whole of your life, not the specifics. If anything, I think he was impressed with what a great person you are.”
Tanesha nodded in agreement. But Jill scowled and focused on eating. After a few moments of pancakes, Jill was feeling calmer.
“How will this change your life?” Jill asked.
“I probably won’t go back to work,” Heather said. “My work is love. I will use my human life to try to help people love.”
“Like a marriage counselor?” Jill asked.
“Maybe,” Heather said. “I’m not sure. I’m going to let that unfold. I kind of have a lot on my plate right now.”
“No shit,” Jill said.
“When Blane’s settled in his practice and Wyn’s at school,” Heather said and shrugged. “I’ll have more time.”
“What if the world needs love now?” Jill asked.
“Then, it will be my job to figure what to do about it,” Heather said. “Well mine and my grandmother’s.”
“Are you sorry you didn’t go on a honeymoon?” Tanesha asked.
“Not really,” Jill said. “It will be great to finish this term. The end is in sight and …”
“Yeah,” Jill said. “It would be great to be on a beach right now.”
Tanesha and Heather laughed at her change of heart.
“Jake got up this morning for work,” Jill said. “I packed us up. Sandy and Aden had an early flight so I dropped them at DIA. Honey and MJ were going with some of his team. The team showed up about the time we were leaving the hotel.”
Jill shrugged. She was sitting in the kitchen of Tanesha’s yellow house. Heather was making pancakes. Wyn was sitting in his car seat on the counter.
“Hey,” Tanesha called from the front.
“We’re in here,” Heather said.
Heather gave Tanesha a cup of her tea.
“Hey Jill,” Tanesha said when she saw Jill. “I just took Tink, Mack, and Jabari to the Marlowe School.”
“Jabari isn’t with Jeraine?” Jill asked.
“Jabari really likes school,” Tanesha said. “He’s doing so well that Jeraine decided he could stay here.”
“Wow,” Jill said. “A grown up decision from the Jeraine.”
“I know, right?” Tanesha laughed and tried to take a sip of tea. Since it was hot, she blew on the top of the mug.
“When do you start?” Jill asked.
“I already went to the orientations,” Tanesha said.
“She starts on the truck today,” Heather said.
“Two,” Tanesha said. “I’m on the two to ten shift. We go out into the neighborhood and work until ten.”
“Is it safe?” Jill asked.
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said. “I think so. They have guards for us, but … Well, gang bangers need healthcare too. So, we have to risk it.”
Jill nodded. Tanesha set her handbag on the counter. She pulled up a seat. Jill moved over so she had enough room.
“So …” Jill started.
She gave Tanesha and Heather a side eyed look.
“Which one of you would like to tell me about what happened in the wedding?” Jill asked.
“What do you mean?” Heather asked.
“Why was Honey’s dress torn?” Jill asked. “Sandy’s dress dirty, not to mention my dress …”
“Oh, that,” Tanesha said.
Heather turned her back to make the pancakes.
“Very funny,” Jill said.
Heather didn’t even look at her.
“Oh come on!” Jill said.
Heather started to laugh and Tanesha started to laugh.
“We wondered how long it would take you to ask,” Heather said.
“I’m asking!” Jill said.
“Did you hear how Cleo saved that little boy from being kidnaped by his angry father?” Tanesha asked.
“No,” Jill pointed at him. “I will not be distracted.”
Tanesha grinned at her.
“Short answer?” Heather asked. “Or long answer?”
“Start with short,” Jill said.
“From now on, I am the Goddess of Love,” Heather said.
“I thought you already were,” Jill said.
“I was just filling in for my father,” Heather said.
“Now it’s permanent,” Tanesha said.
“How did we …?” Jill asked.
“You were grabbed so that you could go to the ceremony,” Heather said.
“Why us?” Jill asked.
“Hera thought you’d want to be there,” Heather said.
“I’d rather remember something,” Jill said.
“That was an unfortunate side effect of the fast travel,” Heather said. “Have you dreamt about it?”
Jill shook her head.
“Why were our clothes messed up?” Jill asked.
“You can imagine that everyone wasn’t on board with my father losing his gift,” Heather said.
“Or having a girl handle this kind of active love,” Tanesha said.
“That’s not hard to imagine,” Jill said. “But I thought that Zeus wanted that all along. Even Aphrodite said something to that effect when we were at the spa.”
“They did,” Heather said.
“I think that Aphrodite wants it to go back to her son at some point,” Tanesha said.
“Only when he can handle it,” Heather said. “She knows that might never happen.”