For Sayeh, I kept telling myself. For Arty. Apollo would want me to do the right thing to help. I wanted to do the right thing. Then why was I so scared?
You don’t want to lose control.
I watched everyone in the circle take the gourd and sip from it, the potion wet on our lips. When I sipped, it tasted of sour apples with a hint of fermentation. I wondered if it tasted different depending on who took a drink. I wrinkled my nose and swallowed, hoping that we’d be okay and relying on our immortality to protect us.
As the liquid coursed down my throat, it first felt warm, but then faded. Stepping back from the group, I took a seat on a fallen log, feeling the swim of thoughts wash over me. Dizziness struck me for a moment, and I closed my eyes to quell the effect.
A thin whisper caused me to open my eyes. The world around me appeared dark but for the stars. I couldn’t see anyone. Where did they go? I heard the whisper again.
My head whirled toward the sound. At first, I saw no one, but then I made out a black figure. “Who is it?” I called.
“It’s us.” The figure divided into two. Pollux and Castor beckoned me over. They stood in front of a low wooden table adorned with wine glasses, appetizer plates heaped with treats, and silver silken napkins. “Sit, please.” Pollux bowed and pointed at a rectangle of creamy white parchment. My name ballooned against the bright paper, ripe with letters in ink-black calligraphy. I looked at the other placards, but the names appeared garbled and hazy. I couldn’t read them.
“But why are you here?” I asked, confused, and dizzy. No matter the reason, it thrilled me to see them. I took a seat on the thick magenta pillows lining the sand around the table.
“Didn’t you wish on our stars?” Castor asked, taking my hand and giving it a squeeze. “We’ve missed you.”
I scanned my fuzzy memory but couldn’t remember a specific wish. “Funny…I don’t recall…” Pollux sat on my other side. The seats across the table remained empty.
“We hoped that you would call upon your constellation powers and be twins with us.” Pollux smiled, pushing a strand of my hair back behind my ear. “Let the other you come out to play.”
“That wild side. The one you save for…certain occasions. Or should I say, Apollo?”
I scoffed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why are you two really here? And who else is joining us?”
Castor gave me an all-knowing look. He cocked his eyebrow opposite the half-smirk on his handsome face. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, Urania. Quit trying to change the subject. I’m certain you will be happy with the guest list.” He slid a glass across to me, and I took a drink, happy to cleanse my palette from the lingering sour taste.
“Well, well,” Pollux started. “You need not play coy with us, Sis. If you recall, we watched the heat of your relationship with Apollo unfold.”
“But why are we talking about Apollo?”
“Why not?” Castor countered. “Aren’t you fairly consumed by him? Haven’t you been since his return? Isn’t the actual reason you’re here now because you still have residual feelings of guilt surrounding Artemis and how you hurt her by choosing her brother?”
The pain in my stomach returned. Remembering the woods, the ritual, the choice I made. I also remembered the burn in my core every time I thought about Apollo, and the unfettered passion I felt toward him. My cheeks flushed at the memories of his flirtations, the turn of my heart, the raw emotions that erupted.
“See. You’re blushing just thinking about it,” Pollux teased. “Don’t be embarrassed by your desires. We understand.”
“What we can’t understand…” Castor began, “is why you haven’t been able to balance out those desires yet.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, taking another drink in spite of the lurching feeling in my abdomen.
“Well,” Pollux turned to me, stroking my face with the side of his hand. “Why have you abandoned your other pursuits? The only thing you seem to be interested in these days is Apollo and your carnal urges.”
“That’s not true.” I could feel my face heating again. “The relationship is new. My other interests are still in the works. I haven’t given up on anything.”
“Your gallery? When is the last time you worked in the gallery? What about your healing spa? NASA? Your other space projects?” Pollux quizzed, twirling the wine in his glass.
“And realistically, your relationship is hardly new in the grand scheme of things,” Castor added. He plucked a cube of cheese from one of the plates and pressed it between my lips.
Irritation grew and prickled me as I chewed. “I am working on a new project, as a matter of fact. We are opening an art therapy center.”
“We?” Pollux asked pointedly.
“Yes. Okay, Apollo and I are working on it together. But it was my idea, and he wanted to help,” I responded, trying hard to keep the childlike whininess out of my voice.
“I’ll bet.” Castor grinned. “He wants to have his hands in it all.”
I shot him a quick look, and he waggled his eyebrows at me. “Not funny.” I blushed in spite of myself.
“Don’t let them give you a bad time, Urania,” a voice floated from a few feet away in the darkness.
The Goddess of Luck stepped out of the shadows and took her place at the table. “Don’t let them slut-shame you, dear.”
Her comment garnered a harumph from both of the boys. “We’re not shaming anyone. We love lusty Urania. We’re just enjoying an evening with her.”
I smiled at Tyche, happy to see her. “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve missed you.”
She took a pull of wine and curled her legs beneath the table. “I think it is perfectly fine that you’re passionate and in lust. I had a run of years of my own like that, and people looked at me differently. No shame. Grab it while you can and ride it to the fullest.”
“I just wish we could stop talking about my love life,” I growled.
“What fun would that be?” Pollux plucked a grape from the vine and put it in my mouth. “Your lust life is highly entertaining. Although I do have to admit, I enjoyed it more when there were more public displays of affection. Poo on the crankies at the God Complex.”
Several times I tried diverting the conversation, but it all kept coming back to Apollo and me. My mind whirred with the insanity of the evening.
“It’s almost as if you’re supposed to learn something from this,” a male voice announced from behind me. I turned and saw a slight man, white hair, glasses, and a gentle face. He gave a slight bow and rounded the table to sit across from me. I didn’t immediately recognize him, but something about him felt familiar. “Ah, here’s my spot.” He plucked the white card from the table and waved it around before taking a seat. James Hillman.
I registered the name but couldn’t place it for a moment. Then realization struck, and my mouth dropped. Ah…The Soul’s Code. I read and loved it probably 20 years ago.
“Nice to meet you,” I extended my hand and ignored the smiles on Pollux and Castor’s faces. “But why…” I asked again.
“You really need to ask?” Tyche joked.
“You’re not fulfilling your destiny is my guess,” Hillman stated, straightfaced.
A loud cackle of laughter erupted from a new arrival at the far end of the table. Priapus. There was no missing him. Everyone at the table diverted their eyes accordingly. Tyche fanned herself with a napkin before taking a big gulp of wine.
“Destiny schmestiny, let your freak flag fly.” Priapus took his seat, cross-legged on a cushion, at the end of the table. He couldn’t pull forward to the table because there wasn’t enough room to accommodate his…stature. “I wondered why I’d been summoned, but now that I see you here, Urania, I understand.” He tipped his glass at me before drinking. “You and Apollo are becoming legendary.”
I rolled my eyes and covered them with my hand.
“Hon, I think everyone is just concerned that you’re possibly losing yourself in a relationship. Hell, it happens to the best of us, but you…you’re supposed to be above that,” Tyche stated.
“Am I?” I asked. “Why is that?”
Pollux took my hand in his. “You’re supposed to be the steady one, the one who dreams. But in those dreams, you’re focusing your attention on improving the world, and the heavens above. Heavenly spirit. Anime mundi…the world soul. You’re not like the rest of Olympus. You had goals and vision, but you’ve let those slip. You need to ignore all the folderol at the God Complex. Keep yourself from falling into the trappings and drama like the others.”
“It’s not hard,” Priapus said (not ironically).
I raised an eyebrow.
“Let me rephrase it,” Hillman said. “It is easy to let others divert you from your path. Deep down, you know what your calling is, but sometimes living up to that is difficult. It is far simpler to let yourself get pulled into a different direction, especially when it is something seen as worthwhile, like a relationship.”
What he said made some sense to me, even though I wanted to avoid thinking about it.
“Take this evening, for instance. Didn’t you have another mission? Hasn’t all this,” Hillman spread his hands toward the table and the guests, “been a big diversion?”
Priapus stood and walked behind me to the left. He tried to lean close and whisper in my ear, but couldn’t get close enough without impaling me. He cupped his hand and tried whispering, anyway. “Don’t let these squares talk you out of enjoying a much-deserved passion. Take it from me, you need to get it while you can. You’ve led a fairly quiet life up to this point. It’s time to let your hair down and have a bit of fun.”
James Hillman crossed his arm and put a finger against his lip. “You’re finding the deeper patterns in your life. Exploring. Your soul will bring you discomfort if you are ignoring your calling.”
Instinctively I put a hand on my stomach, feeling the discontent. Castor pulled my hand away and held it.
Priapus became the devil on my shoulder, feeding me a steady stream of x-rated whispers, reminding me of intimate moments between Apollo and me. A fire burned in my lower abdomen. A heat covered me and pulled at my mind, filling me with images of Apollo.
Pollux and Castor urged me to ignore Priapus. Tyche just smiled encouragingly. Hillman looked bored with the whole thing and checked his watch.
I finally jumped up, moving away from the table. My feet carried me down the beach, leaving everyone behind me. The sky was ink-black except for the colorful breath of stars. I collapsed in a heap, my stomach threatening to revolt. Head pounding, I curled into the fetal position. Why is all of this happening? Hillman’s words haunted me. You’re not fulfilling your destiny.
But who is to say that? I’m doing things. I have plans.
Yes. I’m helping Arty. I’m on my way to upset a Titan conspiracy. I’m creating an art therapy center. I’m making a difference in the lives of mortals.
Then get busy. Do what needs to be done. Go where you need to go.
Focus. Focus. Focus.
Tears filled my eyes. Dizziness washed over me. I wished for Apollo. Instead, I heard Artemis calling my name. She sounded a million miles away.
An image of a cavern filled my mind and spun outward, revealing a part of the island.
I struggled to regain my sense of normalcy. Swimming out from under the potion’s influence, I woke.