He was everything and yet…nothing.
I couldn’t ignore the sins of his father, but could I judge him for them?
I gripped it so tight, my handprint almost melted into the tumbler, as I gulped the three fingers of whiskey I’d just poured myself. The smooth, smokey, richness with a hint of caramel-char hitting the back of my throat was all Hill Rock, my highly expensive obsession and go-to for whiskey. Normally, I was a beer girl, but I kept HR in stock for those moments when the superior hard stuff was needed. Some days, whiskey was truly the only answer.
Today was one of those days. The mimosas had worn off, because mortal booze was a joke. So the hard stuff was definitely needed. Unfortunately, whiskey wasn’t answering a damn thing. Having almost shattered the glass in my hand was proof enough of that.
Anthony talked. I processed his words. I fought my emotions.
He was aware of his father’s actions. He knew his father’s connections. He forgave him for them.
He was complicit.
According to the words caressing my ears in that sexy baritone, Anthony’s complicity started after he interned for Alton. Before shadowing his father, he’d interned for his mother. During his time with the Senator, he’d seen the golden sparkle of a true believer. He ended that internship determined to be just like his mom.
The following year he did an internship with his father, expecting to find the same devotion and passion. Instead, he found the exact opposite, a dank darkness hiding the smell of corruption and greed. As Alton’s son and heir apparent, he had far more access than he should have. Alton considered the exposure as taking him under his wing.
I watched Anthony’s shoulders sag in defeat. “I tried to tell my mother.”
His mother had told him she understood his father far better than he ever would. She told him sacrifice was required, and her vows said to love for better or worse. She said—they were family.
Anthony looked up, eyes intense, almost shining, as though this was the most important part. “I decided that day never to enter politics.”
Still, he admitted, he often helped them with their campaigns and with public appearances. He often gave advice if either of them inquired.
He knew the deals being made. He understood the faces showing up for private meetings during family vacations. He understood how his father had paid for the new sailboat docked in the new summer home on the shore of the Potomac.
He knew. He smiled. He forgave. He lived with it.
Now, I had to decide if that was cause for judgment.
He talked, the words moving across those kissable lips. His left hand swiped across that sexy bald head in his energized nervous tick. His muscles flexed with the emotion and passion of his words as he spoke.
He was arguing for his father, for his family.
He should have been arguing for himself.
His father was already destined to be dealt with.
I watched as Apricot, my bearded dragon, lounged on his shoulder. I called her a people taster because if she liked you she licked you. She loved Anthony. She loved to curl up on his shoulder and randomly lick his beard. Sometimes, when he was stretched out on the couch, she’d crawl over, up his chest, then lick the beard from the front.
She was totally kissing my man.
It was adorable. He took it in stride. Never getting upset, offended, or losing his cool. He pet her as much as she’d allow and kept a pretty constant one-sided dialogue going with her.
It endeared him to me even more.
Yet, here we stood.
I turned away as he continued to talk. He was mostly rambling and repeating himself at this point, so I doused another glass in brown courage. Three fingers? Four? Five? I had no idea. The tumbler was just full.
I downed it, even as I acknowledged to myself that it wasn’t the greatest idea.
My internal balance was off because of that damn summons from on high. The bellows were loud, and no matter how much I wanted to fight it, I was a goddess, the child of the throne-sitting lightning-bolt throwing one. He called. You came. Eventually. Fighting it was becoming harder. The balance within me was becoming more uneven.
Whiskey didn’t help maintain my scales.
What whiskey helped with was courage. Mortals thought it so damn easy to be a goddess. It was not. It was hard. Especially when your role is judgment and maintaining balance. How do you judge those you love?
I glanced back over at rambling Anthony.
How do you judge those you crave?
Brown courage, that’s how.
The phrase drink til they’re pretty applied here. Except it was more along the lines of drink til they’re dead.
I frowned at my thoughts. They sounded more like ruin than balance. What is often not acknowledged is that sometimes, for justice to restore balance, ruin is required.
I contemplated more whiskey.
I had no problem destroying Alton or his wife, but could I do the same to Anthony? He was willingly complicit in his father’s actions. What was that saying? The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Like Justice absolving her boo-thang.
A wife hiding behind vows as a reason to overlook her husband’s sins.
A son turning the cheek because the guy in the wrong is his dad.
If Anthony did nothing, was he truly a good man? If he wasn’t truly a good man, why did I want him so much?
I closed my eyes, letting my living room and the physical form float away as I forced all my energy and focus into the act of hearing and feeling his words. The vibration of his energy and its even waves as he spoke communicated at a decibel his voice could never reach. Even through his pain and anxiety, I could detect no falsehood in what he said. He was telling his truth, spilling his heart, his words echoing with passion tinged with love. Deciphering the recipient of that love was beyond my scope, but the truth of it was clear.
I opened my eyes, my surroundings rushing back at me. Shaky and off-balance, I stumbled my way to the couch. The cost of my insight took an instant toll.
“Babe, you okay?” Anthony offered in a worried tone as he ran over to me.
A slight frown curved my lips as I shook my head. “You need to go.”
“Dikê, we’re talking…”
I shook my head again, feeling the imbalance within colliding with my rage over…all of it.
“What happened? One second you were listening and the next…”
I glanced up, my brown eyes instantly flashing silver, “I said go!” I paused before adding, “Before you can’t.”
At the sight of my eyes, Anthony jumped, stumbling backward, sending Apricot leaping from his shoulder. “What the hell…”
He tumbled over the circular oak coffee table that held all my applications and paperwork for Howard University School of Law. The papers went flying as he crash-landed, fairly unceremoniously, on his ass.
I never moved, just stared at him, even as the power display dissipated from my eyes. He stared back with a mixture of awe and fear—the way all should look upon Justice.
My lips curved up, forming a half-smile.
“You are complicit in your father’s actions. Yes, all your words held the truth. They were passionate. They rang from your heart. But the entangled reality that can never be denied is you knew and did nothing.”
“He’s my father, Dikê. And you…I-I don’t know who or what you are.”
“He is a monster.”
“And what are you? Your eyes just…what the hell did your eyes just do?”
I stood then, nodding.
“I’m Justice, Anthony.” I slowly walked toward him, towering over the large six-foot-five man that was the beat of my heart. “Your father is corrupt and heinous. He actively contributes to the imprisonment and ultimate enslavement of people. He doesn’t do it for the perceived benefit of balance, or good, or even a misguided belief in safety. It’s solely, and wholly, for the profit that lines his pockets.”
Anthony blinked up at me silently, arms balancing his weight against my hardwood floor. He could spring in a second, and the force of his size and weight would topple me backward three feet at least. I’d go down easy from the size match up, but I’d get up hard.
My hands itched for Balance and Truth—my kopides. The rage bubbling within brought my senses in-tune with the natural hum of the swords of Justice on my wall. My own from multiple millennia past as well as my mother’s, which I held for safekeeping until her return.
The part of me that ached for Anthony called on all the gods and goddesses I’d ever known, hoping he did not take that lunge. If he did, there would be no more contemplation of his judgment, no possibility of an out.
Apricot crawled up his chest. Instead of facing him and licking his beard, she turned to me. Her eyes locked on mine; it was as if she stood in defense of the frailty of his mortality.
Or maybe in defense of me making a horrible mistake.
The tension in my body eased at the sight as I pondered its meaning.
But then he moved…