Demeter and I sat there, unmoving for what felt like an infinite amount of breaths. I was comfortably uncomfortable matching stares with my sister.
“Did you love him?” I whispered.
Demeter dropped her eyes and stared at her hands. “Yes,” she replied, returning her gaze to mine, “but I saw the way he looked at you after he pulled us from our prisons. He never looked at me that way. I don’t think he ever looked at any other woman, mortal or goddess, that way.”
“He has always been my world. Even before I knew him.” My voice broke, and I cleared my throat before I continued. “I lost him, D. My world cracked in half, and I struggled to bridge the crevasse but just ended up falling in.”
Seeing my tears, Demeter got to her feet and hurried over to me. She crouched down and wrapped her arms tightly around me.
I rested my head on her shoulder, and my voice shook. “I couldn’t save him. My world shattered, but I couldn’t save him.” I tried to stop my tears and failed. “He’s been my strength all these years, and when he needed me, I failed him.” I buried my face into her shoulder, knowing I was drowning her blouse in tears but not having the strength to care.
Demeter let me cry until I just couldn’t anymore. Slowly, she pulled away and took my face into her hands. “Hera, my beautiful sister, I hate to see you like this. I know this is tearing you apart, and I am honored that you came to me to grieve, but it’s time to use your pain to our advantage.”
I leaned back and wiped my face as best I could as Demeter grabbed a couple of tissues from her desk. “I’ll be honest. I have no idea how. I was so destroyed when I saw him barely breathing and bleeding on my rug. I don’t think I’ve done anything that wasn’t just existing since then. I haven’t even processed my time back in our father’s hell. I’ve just been doing what I do best. Pushing anything that doesn’t agree with me to the background and trying to get through the day in one piece.” We sat in silence a moment longer as I processed her words. “Wait. Is there something going on that I don’t know about?”
”Honey,” Demeter said, “there’s something strange going on around the complex, and I aim to find out what it is. I have a feeling it has something to do with you. I think your sorrow and you not being around much are beginning to affect the infrastructure of what he was trying to create. It’s time to turn your suffering into a weapon.”
If I had been looking in a mirror, I would have cackled at the stupidly confused look on my face. “Wait. What? Who? Why?” I tried to pull myself together, but my racing thoughts wouldn’t quiet down long enough, so I just sat and waited for her to fill me in.
Demeter took her seat once again and looked me dead in my eyes. “Hera, do you think the only reason you became Queen of the Gods was that you were banging the king? No. It’s because you had the one thing that our sister nor I had. You had balls.”
As she spoke, a slight knock came at the door. “Miss Demeter,” said a strange little redhead as she peeked in, “I have the items you requested. May I come in?”
“Thank you, Lana,” Demeter quipped as she jumped up and met the girl at the door. “I’ll take those. Take the rest of the day off, but be back here at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.” With that, she shut the door on the girl and flipped the lock.
As she was coming back, she pulled a bottle of wine out of the bag. Demeter went to her desk, threw the bag in the chair, and pulled a letter opener out of the drawer. She shoved the letter opener into the cork and ripped it out in one motion, taking a long drink from the bottle before handing it to me. “Come on, Sister. Let’s find your balls.”
I had a river of wine flowing down my throat when she said that and couldn’t stop my laughter. I started choking, and she laughed at me. We both ended up red-faced. After I finally got my coughing fit smothered, I looked at her with the most genuine smile I’d felt since before Zeus left for Atlantis.
“You know that bastard went to Atlantis without me?!” I tried to be mad but just laughed at the absurdity of it all.
”That bastard,” she replied in a sarcastic tone. I looked into her eyes and saw something I hadn’t seen in centuries. Love. Pure, sisterly love.
She wiped a little wine off my forehead, then took my hands in hers. “Hera, I just got back myself, and I’m not sure what the hell’s going on around here, but something dark is hovering over the complex. I was gone for almost two years and have no idea where I was. I have no memories of it. None. And now that I’m back, nothing feels right. I can’t put my finger on it just yet, but I don’t like it. Were you aware of the fact that Ares’ fiance was kidnapped? Or that several of our family members got sucked into an alternative reality? It’s almost as if someone, or something, knows that Zeus is gone and you’re in mourning. What better time to infiltrate than when the two most powerful gods have been dethroned?”
My face went comically blank. I didn’t know any of that. I sighed and rubbed the bridge of my nose. “No. I didn’t know. What kind of queen am I that I don’t know what’s going on in my own kingdom? And what do you mean you don’t have memories of it? Was magic involved? Do we need to get a healer?” I scooted to the edge of my chair, and we reached our hands out to each other, meeting halfway.
“I honestly don’t know,” Demeter replied, “but I have a feeling that magic was behind this. Old magic. I’ve had spurts of memories, but they could just be dreams for all I know. And you know how I feel about healers. They are all a bunch of wannabe hacks. However, in this case, it might not be a bad idea.”
My stomach flipped at the mention of old magic. “You need your memories back, D. We need to know what we’re up against.”
Suddenly, Demeter became very somber. ”Hera, I think we need to pull the family together and prepare ourselves for a battle. I can’t explain it just yet, but I have a feeling that something’s coming for us. All of us.”