Hestia’s invite was for later in the afternoon, so I took a short swim before heading her way. I sauntered out of the sea, the scent of caffeine and baked goods drawing me to the cafe. The croissants in the window cried for me. I placed an order for a Summer Blend tea and a dozen of the flaky pastries.
Hestia lifted her head as the breeze shifted. “Amph, out of all the joints, you end up in this one? Of course, I did invite you.”
I looked around at the familiar voice and smiled brightly, taking a sip of my tea. “Well, it was nearby, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Hestia, it’s good to see you again.” My order arrived, and I sat down, Mano skirting around my neck
Hestia lifted her cup to me as she sat down. “It’s been a while since we’ve chatted. Twitter doesn’t count,” Hestia said with an eye roll.
I chuckled softly and nodded. “I was gone for so long, and the family moved on. I’m sorry. And no, Twitter doesn’t count. How have you been?”
Hestia sat her cup on its saucer, carefully moving the handle just right. “I’ve been around. The mortals moved on. Their families became warped, out of balance,” Hestia said with a sigh. “Our family was worse. Depression is crippling.” She grabbed her cup and downed the rest of the drink in a hot gulp. “Anyway, that’s something to talk to Dite about.”
“Dite?” I murmured and sipped my tea slowly. “Why would talking to Aphie help?” Mano walked down my arm to nibble one of the croissants
Hestia slid an old business card toward me. “I found this while cleaning. It says Aphrodite’s Counselling or something like that. Might have been a prank. Whoever set up the room had quite the fetish for fire and horns. I dare anyone to say it was I who did it. It was an illusion of me.”
I took the card and looked at it, smiling. “Counselling. I hope that means she is in a better place now than she was when I last saw her. I can’t believe I missed all of that time, so many years…gone.”
Hestia’s head snapped to look at the God Complex, her face paling. “Oh no…” she let her voice trail off as she stood. “Sorry, Amph, but my knives are crying out in pain.”
I stood with Hestia and picked up my food while Mano settled back around my neck. “I’ll come with you. If you’re worried about something, you may need a fire hose.”
Hestia slid her hand over her face. “Only if it’s Dite trying to cook something. That girl can burn water.”
“I am aware of her scalding skills,” I quipped as we walked back to the God Complex. “Good thing we’re not far. Do you have an internal sensor, Hestia? Can you feel something wrong in your suite?” I asked as we rode the elevator to the eighth floor.
Hestia shook her head, letting out a loud chuckle. “Oh, she triggered the little thing I had Hephaestus make for me. If she starts a fire, she’ll be dyed sea green for a week, and not even her powers can hide it. When I cleaned up the place, I had Heph set up a trap for Dite. No one else would try to burn the place down.” The lift door opened to the two goddesses trying to leave. Hestia held out her hand, looking at the unfamiliar goddess. “Hello, Khione. I’m Hestia.”
I stared at Aphie and the new goddess, and bit my lip, stifling a laugh.
Khione looked around, confused. “I’m not new, just not dead. Although, I might be now.”
Aphie shifted uncomfortably and tried to hide behind me. “The beautiful sea goddess I missed dearly. How have you been?”
“Oh, this is Khione!” I beamed softly and smiled at her. “I’m sorry I haven’t introduced myself before. Aphie, I knew you liked blue, but honestly, isn’t that a bit much. You look like I did in my youth. I’ve missed you too. I’ve been alright. You?”
Khione looked between us, seemingly confused, and then sputtered. “H-hi. I’m Kia. Nice to meet you, but I think we either need to go in or out. The oven is on fire.”
Aphrodite looked at Khione. “I thought you were new. Now you are Khione? Or was it not dead?”
Khione just shook her head, obviously at a loss for words.
Aphrodite turned and pouted at me. I wasn’t sure why, I hadn’t done anything. She was the one to set the kitchen on fire. “You missed the blue hair I wore for the last few years, such a shame. I only returned this month. I missed you. We must catch up soon…if Hestia does not attempt to smite me first,” she said, her tone unrepentant.
I smiled sadly and kissed Aphie’s cheek. “If I could have been there, I would have.” I turned to Hestia, hoping to put the fire out. “May I?”
Hestia giggled as a three-headed cat leapt out of the fireplace and stretched before bounding off into the kitchen. “I’m good. I’ve already got my revenge,” she said as she turned to me. “Sure thing.” The kitty bounded back to the fireplace, double the size it was before. The alarms cut off finally.
I quickly walked into the kitchen, turning on the water and focusing on moving it, looking to douse the flames.
“What is that?” Kia shrieked, throwing herself behind Hestia and pointing to the fireplace.
Dite frowned and followed me. Mano nuzzled my neck gently. “Freshwater is not your forte, lady.”
“I know, dear one,” I whispered back. “But we need to get this out before we burn the building down.”
“Who? Oh, the kitty. This is Leo,” Hestia said as the three-headed fire cat curled into a ball on the logs. One head cleaned itself, another laid its head down and closed its eyes, while the middle head watched Kia. “Oh, I thought you were going to wash, Dite. Leo took care of the fire for me.”
“Oh,” I smiled and aimed for Aphie, “that works, too.” Aphrodite gasped and then shut her mouth and eyes as I hosed her down.
Kia glanced at Leo for a moment but then focused on me as I sprayed Aphie down. She nervously held her hands up. “Please don’t water me too!”
I looked at the younger goddess and smiled. “Are you made of sugar, dear?”
Aphrodite gasped and pointed at Khione. “I got some foam on her. She needs the rinsing as well, dearest.”
Kia shook her head. “No, but water will freeze on impact, and then the ice will go and freeze you too!”
Hestia glanced at Aphrodite and tried to hide a smile before she slipped into her bedroom.
I walked over to Khione and asked, “Can I touch you?”
Kia froze the foam on her and picked it off. “You can if I’m not covered in frost, but try not to surprise me. You will get frostbite.”
I smiled again and extended my hand in greeting. “You are the daughter of Boreas, aren’t you? One of the younger gods?”
Kia smiled and took my hand. “Yes, that’s me. However, Boreas would probably deny my existence right now. The last he knew, I was dead.” She looked at Hestia and blanched.
I nodded understandingly. “I get that. I went missing for 2,000 years. I’m pretty sure everyone thought I’d died.”
“I actually came down here looking for Hestia, and apparently, Aphrodite decided I was going to help her try and burn the place down,” Kia said softly.
“I used to drown people for scaring me.” Mano climbed down my arm and looked at Khione. “And for fun.”
Kia looked curiously at Mano. “What is it, and will it burn me?”
“This is an axolotl. His name is Mano. I found him when I was stranded in Guam without my powers last year. He is just cute.”
She reached out towards the axolotl. “He is cute. He looks like he has a snowflake-shaped face.” She smiled softly, and I felt a motherly warmth towards this goddess.
Mano leaned forward and nuzzled Khione. “He likes you,” I said.
Hestia came back into the room carrying a Slave Leia costume, and said to Aphrodite, “You look like an Orion, dear. This totally completes the look. Heph might like it too.”
Aphie gasped and reached out to touch the skimpy outfit. “Do you think he would enjoy it?” She took the costume and changed quickly, calling over her shoulder. “Can I keep this?”
“It’s not like I’m going to wear it for a man. I got it for you. I’m looking forward to your payback. It is always fun to discover what kind of dress you are going to squeeze me into,” Hestia said.
Even though it wasn’t for me, I blushed at the revealing outfit.
Aphie focused on her exposed skin for a moment, then saw my blush. “You will look wonderful in a belly dancer outfit, too. We all will.”
Kia turned red and shook her head. “Nope, no, I don’t like that idea one bit.”
I looked over at Aphie, and said nervously, “I’m not sure about that.”
“Shhh, dear, we’re planning an outfit for you to wear for Barnacle Boy,” Hestia said with a laugh. I immediately grew quiet. This wasn’t a conversation I was ready to have with them…with Aphie.
Aphie just shook her head, though. “No, it is the wine-soaked boy from what I have seen on her social media, and he would enjoy it greatly, I am sure.”
Kia perked up. “Wine?”
“I could grab us some…” I replied absentmindedly, only half listening to the rest of the conversation.
Hestia raised an eyebrow. “Well, Amphy, you’re not the only one who’s been out of touch for a while.”
Aphie laughed. “I will avoid the wine for now, but all of you should partake.”
I stood and nodded, quickly making my way to the elevator. “I’ll be back in a minute,” I called over my shoulder.
I reached my floor and took a deep breath as I entered. I placed Mano back in the tank, and whispered, “Get some rest, little one. You’ve had a busy few weeks.” I looked around the wine cellar Dion had put in for me and smiled at all the Assyrtiko. I pulled out a couple of bottles of white, red, and an alcohol-free one before heading back downstairs.
As I re-entered, I saw the box of croissants I had purchased earlier and tossed them towards Aphie. “I grabbed some red, white, and an alcohol-free one, in case someone wasn’t drinking.”
Aphie caught the croissants and hummed happily. “Oh, you are my best friend.”
“Ask next time, dear. There were fresh muffins in the pantry. I made them just this morning for you,” Hestia chided lightly.
Aphrodite gasped and sat up with a mouthful of croissant, shoving the box over to Khione. “Are they strawberry cream cheese? That was what I was attempting.”
I walked into the kitchen. “Hes, wine glasses?”
“Next to the wine fridge, hun,” Hestia replied. I pulled out four wine glasses, and took them back into the living room.
Aphrodite finished the croissant and nodded. “You never did tell me what sort of muffins you have.” She got up off the couch and started for the kitchen, presumably in search of muffins.
“Don’t touch the oven!” Kia shouted, and I chuckled softly at her reaction.
“The ones with a sign that says APHRODITE’S, no one else touches,” Hestia said quickly.
I uncorked the white, it was my favourite, and I knew what I was drinking. The conversation was going on around me, but I figured this was a good time to cut in. “What would you each like?”
“White, please,” Kia replied. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Hestia also asked for the white. I nodded to them and poured three glasses of white and one non-alcoholic for Aphie.
“I shall have to share my ice and mulled wines with you all. They are a winter specialty,” Kia said as she took a sip of the wine and smiled, relaxing a bit more into the couch.
Hestia took her drink, briefly swirling it around the glass before smelling it. After taking a sip, she smiled at Amph. “I have missed his wine. The mortals can make something that’s alright, but nothing like this.”
I just smiled softly and took a deep sip. “This is mortal wine.”
“Well, there was a study by the mortals that expectation is most of the experience,” Hestia replied.
Kia sat up a little worried. “Did Dite get lost in the kitchen?”
“She hasn’t turned on the oven yet, so maybe. Perhaps we should make sure she doesn’t find the whipped cream.” Hestia knew Aphie as well as I did. The whipped cream would be coming back with her. I just sat there, drinking my wine and worrying about what the ladies would say when I broke the news to them.