Walking in through the doors of Nymphaeum, I let out a shaky breath. From what I have gathered, I have been away for a couple of months while searching for Yacama. For me, it only felt like a couple of hours. I wonder how Amphitrite is doing. Is she okay? In her letter, she mentioned there are things she needed to discuss. My mind turns to the worst possible explanation. Like it has every moment since I returned to Atlantis.
I have never been a good man to her. I should have been there for her more, but there were things I needed to do that took me centuries to figure out. The guilt gnaws at me. I only hope she can forgive me for my absence. Even if she cannot forgive, at least I can apologize. Then maybe one day we can work our way back to being friends, or at least cordial. I tug at my tie, which seems to be cinching my neck as I enter the ballroom.
This is it. No running now.
My eyes scan the room until they fall on her. Amphitrite, my consort, looking beautiful, as always. Her eyes appear to sparkle in the blue lights, and her dark hair is pulled back into a fancy up-do. It makes me smile to see her like this. Happy. Her entire being seems to radiate contentment. When she finally notices me, her face morphs into shock.
“I…Poseidon, you…you made it.” She stumbles over her words, trying to conceal her surprise. Perhaps I shouldn’t have come.
I smile awkwardly at her. “I did. Um…sorry I’m late.”
Dionysos is beside her, and he smiles. With a big excited wave he offers, “Oh, hello, Poseidon. Better late than never.”
I raise my brow at the remark. “Yes, well, these ties are more difficult than they look. I don’t know how my brother does it.”
“It’s alright. Please, enjoy your evening.” She gulps, smiling through her words. I always knew when something was bothering her. I can’t back away this time. Dionysos places his hand on the lower part of Amphitrite’s back, causing my brows to furrow. How much have I missed in my time away? I’d known they were getting closer, but the easy familiarity is unexpected.
“Uncle PoPo!” Eris shouts, laughing maniacally. “Looking fine as hell, Unc. Damn, wish you’d been an illegitimate half-brother.”
I give them an awkward half-smile. Usually, I wouldn’t mind the jabs and jokes from my family, but tonight there is something on my mind. I can’t afford the distractions the other gods will create if I allow it. From the corner of my eye, I see Amphitrite walk to the bar, and I follow her.
“On the rocks, please,” she says as I slide beside her.
“I love what you did to the place, Trix,” I say, taking a look at the decorations again. It is magnificent. It’s good she has a place for herself, something completely hers. Somewhere unattached to me.
She drains her glass of scotch before looking up at me. “Thank you. It took a lot of work, but I’m proud of it. I’m also very happy I didn’t destroy it.”
“Yes. I am very proud of you.” I chuckle, but I was always proud of her.
Amphitrite would make a fine queen, in all honesty. She is intelligent, kind, and has a good heart. You could marry her.
Her cheeks turn a light shade of red. “Thank you again.”
We stand in silence for a few seconds before I clear my throat. “I, um…I’m sorry.”
Not exactly the most eloquent of apologies.
“For what?” she asks, tilting her head to the side.
I start to fiddle with my tie. I can’t run. I need to do this. I force down every atom in my body that is yelling at me to run. “For not replying to your letter. For not coming back to you sooner.”
“Why didn’t you?” she asks.
“I um…” I stop myself, finding it hard to say the words out loud. I fix my cuff links, any little movement allowing me to keep the facade of having my shit together. “I had to deal with a few things. I didn’t realize it would take as long as it did.”
“I can understand that. We all need to deal with things in our own way. But why did you leave?” she asks. Her questions are pushing me to reveal the darkest truths I have been hiding for years. Never have I uttered these words out loud to another…other than him. With him, I had no secrets, no walls, until I pushed him away. I clear my throat again, trying to dislodge the heavy mass there.
“Fear. Fear of failure. I felt like I wasn’t the person you needed me to be,” I respond.
“Do you realize how that made me feel, though? Knowing you never came looking. Did you even realize I was gone from Atlantis?” she asks.
I wince, letting out a shaky breath. I’ve failed. I have failed her. It is just another failure in an immortal life full of them. “Trix, I wasn’t even in Atlantis. I thought no one needed me.”
“I know you weren’t, P, because I was,” she says. “Waiting for a thousand years. Then I vanished without a trace.”
I close my eyes for a moment, trying to gather myself. My eyes open slowly, looking at her, trying to show the sincerity of the regret that eats away at me. “Yes, and I’m so sorry. You don’t have to forgive me. You don’t ever have to forgive me. I…I just wanted you to know I regret not being there for you.”
Her jaw drops. “I…I am a long way from forgiving you, Poseidon. I get needing your space, needing to be away from me. But the city, the kingdom, was dying without its king. I couldn’t fill both shoes, and I shouldn’t have to anymore. I know you made Triton regent, and that’s great. Neither of us is around much. But I will be making an effort for the kingdom because Atlantis deserves rulers who love her.”
I blink in confusion, trying to gather my thoughts. I never said I needed to be away from her. Only that I needed to figure a few things out. I shouldn’t have stayed away for so long, but the damage is done now. Perhaps it is meant to be this way. There is only one thing I can do for her now.
“I understand,” I whisper, fixing my tie again. “I am releasing you from your bond to Atlantis. It will be my responsibility from now on, if that is what you want.”
“No!” she shouts.
I tilt my head, still confused. I have never been good at reading people. Doesn’t she want to move on? Be free? “Then what do you want?”
“I told you, my oath stands. So long as you still allow me to reign on the throne, I will be there for my home,” she says.
I look her up and down, trying to understand what she needs, what she wants. From the corner of my eye, I spot Dionysos. There have been rumors the two started a relationship, and I can understand why. He has been there for her when I haven’t been. Does she know what will happen if she chooses him?
I purse my lips together, not wanting to tell her. “Understood. I heard you and Dionysos were getting closer. I didn’t want to come between you, but if that’s not what you want…”
She sighs, ordering herself another scotch. “I miss you, Poseidon. I can’t and won’t deny that. But, if you don’t want me down there, tell me now. My duties to the kingdom shouldn’t affect my relationship with Dionysos.”
She doesn’t know. How do I tell her? I touch her shoulder gently. “Triton and I would love to have you.”
She smiles softly. “Atlantis has been my home for eons. To not consider it such…would feel weird. Thank you.”
I close my eyes, preparing myself for what comes next. “You do realize, if you want to marry him, you will lose your duties to the throne. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that.”
Atlantis has always needed one male and one female to rule the seas. The two have to either be married or consorts. I had to give him up to rule over the seas. It burned me every day, knowing what I had to say to him to push him away. His face when he understood the betrayal. I thought it was behind me. A necessary evil. Yet, since the dream, I can’t stop thinking about it, about him.
A part of me has never been the same. It was like a piece of me broke off. I turned to drink and lost control of myself. Lying to myself has been my undoing, but there is nothing else I could have done. If I can’t be with the one I love, I have to at least let Amphitrite try to be with hers. Something to make up for my absence. Something I can fix if I can’t fix my own loss.
“I know. We’re just starting our journey, Poseidon. Anything like that is…I haven’t even thought about it. You want me to abdicate before that happens?” she asks.
“No! I didn’t say that. It’s just how it is. If we could allow you to be queen and marry someone else, I would, but we can’t do that,” I say.
She snorts. “Even though we were never technically married? If it ever comes to that, we’ll have that conversation then. But, no, I’m not ready to give up the throne. I wasn’t 2,000 years ago, but I couldn’t physically return.”
“You know how traditional the merpeople are. I just want you to be happy, Trix. That is all I’ve ever wanted,” I say. If I can’t be happy, at least she can be.
“I know. I am happy. I just wish…I wish you could have been happy with me,” she whispers.
“I was happy with you, Trix. I just wasn’t happy with myself.”
“And that’s why you left?” she asks.
I nod. “Yeah, it is. I didn’t know who I was.”
“And do you now?”
“I think I’m close to figuring it out,” I whisper, frowning in thought. After all these years, am I still going to hide what I truly feel? Who I truly am? Can I finally allow myself to be happy?
“I wish you had let me help with that,” she says, looking back up at me.
I kiss her cheek. “You’re helping now. That’s all I can ask for.”
There is a ding from the kitchen that pulls Amphitrite’s attention elsewhere. When she looks back at me, I can see the slight blush on her cheeks, and I smile to myself.
“It’s almost dinnertime for those who plan on eating!” she shouts before looking back at me. She bites her bottom lip. “How?”
“By being you, while I learn to be me,” I whisper.
“Are you staying for dinner? And were you planning on checking out your room?” she asks.
I smile softly. “I think I’ll stay for dinner. If that’s okay with you.”
“It is. Go find a seat,” she says.
I nod, heading over to one of the round tables and taking a seat. That was stressful, but a weight has lifted from my shoulders. I pull my phone from my pocket. Five missed calls and ten text messages from Kai. He is my old advisor. I’d granted him permission to live on land with the mortals and work at my bar. Strange, I haven’t heard from him for a while. Something must be wrong.