“Dolus? What are you doing here?”
She pushes blonde hair away from her eyes. The pink ends bob like they have a life of their own. She’s clearly unsettled by the fact that I’m standing outside her office door. I can’t blame her. It’s been a long time since I’ve been anywhere near the God Complex, mainly because of her advice at our last session.
“Can I come in, Persephone?” The Goddess of Spring glances over her shoulder and hesitates before she slowly steps back, stretching out her arm by way of welcome. I know this isn’t easy for her. She’s not always comfortable with people like me, deceitful and dishonest. But she’s also someone who feels obliged to help others. That’s why she set up this practice, why she deals with the worst of us.
I step into the pantheon-shaped greenhouse, marvelling at how much vegetation she has squeezed into the space and how horribly festive it is. Sprigs of holly and branches of mistletoe have overtaken the usual creeping vines. Red and white poinsettias blossom in delicate swirls and the smell of cinnamon drifts through the air. For a second, I reconsider my decision and contemplate walking out, but the problem is I’m broken. I can’t trick, and I have nowhere else to turn. Persephone helped me once before, and I’m hoping she can do it again.
“Can I get you something to drink?” she asks as she steps lightly across the grass-covered floor. I shake my head, and she settles down behind her white desk. Able to sense my emotions, her initial shock is replaced by concern. She nods towards one of the two chairs opposite her. I ignore the offer and slump down heavily onto the chaise lounge near the door. I might need her, but I’m doing this on my own terms.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on?” she starts. I cock my head to the side, eyebrow raised. “Oh right,” she rolls her eyes, “still lying, are we?”
She shifts and starts rooting around in one of the desk’s drawers. After a few moments, Persephone comes up with something I haven’t seen in a very long time. I can’t believe she still has the notebook. It contains the record of everything I told her when we explored the problems I was having with my family. Then, she had helped me see I needed a fresh start. Metaphorically speaking, I needed to spread my wings and fly the coop.
“Do you want to fill me in on the details?” she asks, quickly crossing the distance between us. I imagine she’d prefer it if I went to her, but she’s remembering what I can be like. However, I accept the pad and fresh pen. I tuck my feet underneath me, getting comfy on the lounge. It’s an odd way to sit, but I find it easier for this sort of meeting.
I flick through my scrawl from before, the issues and concerns all seemingly minute compared to how I feel now. I’m not full of rage anymore, not so angry. The old me is as dead as my beautiful Lily.
My fingers find a blank page, and I poise the pen above the white surface. I don’t quite know where to start. I have no idea how to express in words what I’m feeling and what I’ve done. “It’s okay, just take your time.” I refuse to look at her. It’s hard, but with her reassuring hand on my shoulder, I take a deep breath and start.
Once I start, the words flow freely from me and onto the paper. I write of my quest to rid myself of the inability to tell the truth, the weight of the doubt and uncertainty, my motivation, my future. I describe the way those plans manifested themselves. My hand shakes as I reveal how much I wanted Lily, and my horror when I realized that my own subconscious tricked me into killing her. I relive the shame as I write about how I behaved immediately after, dishonouring her memory, and what I then couldn’t do. I explained how I’m now a shadow of the god I used to be, how I feel so weak and powerless. When I place the final full stop on the page, I feel spent and exhausted. I suck in a few lungfuls of air and present my scribblings.
“Can I have that drink now?” Persephone takes the notebook and starts reading as she prepares a beverage for me. It’s too sweet, almost sickly, but I appreciate the warmth of it. I down it way too fast, and then wait as she pores over the details, paying attention to each and every action and inner thought.
“Oh, Dolus…” She pulls up abruptly, stares at me like she’s seeing me in a different light. I don’t know which part of my tale she’s gotten to, but it’s clearly had an impact. Then she’s on the move towards me, her face a perfect picture of concern. I rise, hand outstretched towards her.
“Do you think I’ve really come here to be pitied?” The words sound harsh, and I instantly regret them as her youthful face falls. Of course, those looks are deceptive. I might not have been around over the centuries, but I know she’s had her own problems. She knows the difficulties that relationships can pose. Like me, she’s had blood on her hands. That’s why I feel certain she can help me. She knows what it’s like to fall and how to recover. “I’m not sorry about what I just said.” I lie to her, curling up my lips in half a smile.
She beams, the moment forgotten, then perches on the edge of her desk. Her short legs delicately swing back and forth as she continues to read my story. Finally, she closes the pad and stares at me, long and hard. I can stand it for so long before I have to ask, “Can you fix me?”
Persephone looks upwards for a moment, composing her thoughts before saying, “There are two aspects we need to consider. Do you know what the most important element of taming a horse is?”
I shake my head but hazard a guess. “The sugar cubes?”
She smiles sweetly at me.
“No. It’s time. You can’t just walk up to a horse, or any animal, throw your leg over and expect to ride it perfectly. It’s exactly the same with grief. You have to get used to each other. Understand how you are going to work together. Trust me.” She seems to drift off for a second, and then her eyes refocus on me. “What happened to Lily is difficult for you right now. It’s sore, a tender spot. Just like if you’d been thrown from a stallion, which happens a lot in the early days. But you’ve got to keep at it and learn how to understand each other. Let it become part of you and then you can ride perfectly well together.”
“And once I’ve done that, I’ll be able to trick again?”
“That’s the other aspect you need to consider.” She hops down, waving her hand as she formulates the next question. “When you were in that coffee shop, trying to work out how to get the waitress to give you a free drink, what did you do when you couldn’t?” I notice that she focuses on that failure, and not my inability to plot my way out of the bill at the brothel.
“What do you think I did?” I ask, getting her to answer her own question because I can’t say it.
“You paid for it because you could. What would you have done if you didn’t have any money?”
I pause, a glimmer of an idea trying to push to the surface of my addled mind.
“What do you mean?” I encourage her to help me. That’s what I’m here for, after all.
“It didn’t matter that you couldn’t get it by scamming someone because you had something to fall back on. You could settle your debt honestly.”
I stare at her, processing what she said. Eventually, I ask, “So what you are saying is that I’ve gotten…what…comfortable?”
“It’s not like that. You just had other options than being dishonest.” She lifts the notebook, flicking through the pages. “It’s like you said,” she pauses, finding the part in the notebook and reading, “I bought the land myself, with my savings. I didn’t use a scam to get it. I even paid the full price. Don’t you see Dolus? You don’t have to trick anymore.” I stare at her, uncertain, as she stands up. “Think about it. Do you remember what it was like when you first went to Earth? You were different then. You’d been rejected by your family. All you knew was tricks. You had nothing other than that ability to rely on. Over time though, you’ve changed. You’ve gotten to know people, fallen in love. You even held down a steady job.”
I try to process what she’s saying.
“You think if I went back to how I was when I first arrived on Earth, I’d be able to restart my powers?”
“I’m saying,” she gives me a look, “that you don’t have to be the God of Trickery anymore. I think you’re unconsciously telling yourself it’s time for a new you. A better version who feels differently about life and others. Maybe you’re even ready to mend some bridges.”
“Do you think I want to be something else?” I demand.
“No, but—” she tries, but my mind is moving too fast, words falling over each other.
“Where did it get me when I tried? Don’t you think I would have been happy with Lily? Wouldn’t I have changed?” I raise my shoulders, unsure what the truth now is myself. “Would I have given up everything eventually? Do I know? Do I care? And if I’ve lost the love of my life, what is left for me? Isn’t it just me? Shouldn’t I be able to rely on myself first and foremost?” I’m on my feet, heading for the door. “You haven’t solved anything!” I thank Persephone with a lie.
“Dolus, that’s not what I…it’s not like…don’t you at least want to book another session?”
I ignore her, knowing she’s got to the root of the problem. I had nothing before, and I prospered. I may have gotten a little off course. It was for a good reason, of course, but that’s gone now. If I want to be me again, I need to start over with nothing. I need to rid myself of any safety net I think I might have. I shall burn my contacts, ditch all my wealth and rebuild myself. This time I will be better than ever, and that’s the truth.