“It’s not who you think it is, Din,” Jealousy said.
“How do you know?” I replied, keeping my eyes on the woman walking into the bar.
“What are the odds of us being here and running into someone from home? That’s too big of a coincidence for me.”
“I’m not the only one up top,” I said, turning back to my minion. “Many gods and goddesses choose to come up to mingle with mortals.”
“Is that what we’re doing here, Din? Mingling with mortals?”
“You know damn well that’s not why I’m here,” I snapped. “I came here to escape the bondages that have gripped me for too long. I’m not going to get into this with you.”
I turned away from Jealousy, heading toward the bar. He jumped in front of me with his hands up.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” he said.
“Why? What are you afraid of?”
“If it is who you think, who it looks like to me, then we are opening ourselves up to a reunion with Hatred,” he explained. “Or is that what you want? You want us together again? You know what costs—”
“Yes, I do,” I interrupted, walking around him. “I’m not afraid of that anymore,” I continued over my shoulder. “You can choose to come with me, or you can stay out here. I don’t care which.”
I lied. He knew I was lying too. The truth was, I was afraid of Hatred’s arrival, but only because of what it meant for me. She was like a cancer. When she was around me, all I felt was darkness. It swallowed me up until I was consumed with hate.
Her web was stickier than a black widow’s, and she was ten times as deadly. She was already there, somewhere. She was waiting for her time to strike. Hatred was very dramatic, likely waiting for the ultimate reveal.
When that time came, hate would engulf my being, blocking Jealousy. That would then lead him to become more enraged by his own jealousy and hate, which would fuel her power. The consequences of that would be taxing on me, especially after the progress I’d made dealing with my issues. Up until then, I hadn’t thought I could live without hate, but it turned out I was so much more than that.
It was because of that realization that I needed to go into the bar to see if it was Melpomene. She had a similar struggle. She had a darkness within her. It was something she’d had to control her entire existence.
When I entered the bar, there were people everywhere. The place was much more crowded than any I had entered before. I didn’t like it. Too many people to account for could turn into too many opportunities for Hatred to make her long-awaited debut.
I figured if I kept my head down, minimized my mortal interactions, and located Melpomene quickly, I could delay the inevitable a little while longer.
I scanned the area. There were so many eyes on me. I hated the attention.
“If you stand here like this, you’re asking for it,” Jealousy said from behind me. He stepped next to me, staring at the side of my face. “The mortal women here are fond of you, which is boiling the blood of their counterparts. I know you can feel that.”
I ignored him. Jealousy was already here, and I’d grown comfortable with the jealous emotions emitted by mortal men. I kept scanning. If I was going to locate her, I needed to thin the crowd.
I stalked to the bar, weaving my way carefully between the humans dancing and conversing with one another. The last thing I wanted to do was bump into some mortal, provoking a fight or unwanted reaction.
The sounds of laughter and excited shouting filled my ears. They vibrated with an unfamiliar buzz. As I moved further into the belly of the bar, the sounds became louder, rattling in my skull.
I could smell the whiskey in the air. A waitress walked by, holding a small tray of many shots. I was tempted to take one for myself but didn’t. I was on a mission and needed to remain focused on my elusive target.
“If she saw you, then you have no chance of finding her, Din,” Jealousy chuckled.
“She didn’t see me,” I said.
“I’m sorry, honey, did you say somethin’?” A younger female mortal said with a smile.
“No,” I answered, shaking my head with a shy smile.
The mortal winked and walked away. As she passed, my eyes caught a piece of my target. It forced me to extend my neck, propping my head above many in the crowd.
I could see Melpomene sitting in the corner with her arms hugging her legs, pulling them to her chest.
She looked confused, staring straight ahead. I saw her eyes rattling around in their sockets, frantically searching for answers. It had been a long time since I had seen or talked to her. I didn’t know how to approach her or strike up a conversation.
“You need to handle this delicately, Din,” Jealousy advised.
“You think I don’t know that?”
“I’m just reminding you,” he added. “Things can get out of hand and escalate quickly. That’s not good while we’re stuck inside a mortal climate such as this.”
“Stop worrying about Hatred,” I growled. “I can handle her. Just because we’re in a crowded place doesn’t mean she’s going to spring up out of the floorboards and surprise you.”
I moved away from my minion and closed in on my target. Every movement I made was in unison with the crowd of people dancing on the hardwood floor. The clicks of the heels and clapping of their hands masked my presence, helping me glide toward Melpomene.
She didn’t notice me approaching. Her eyes stopped bouncing around. Either she’d found the answers to her questions or had calmed her nerves so she could continue her search.
I cracked a smile as I approached. Her eyes darted upward, meeting mine. Recognition, followed by panic, flashed through them. With a startled yelp, she jumped to her feet and darted away from me.
“Wait!” I shouted. “I’m just…It’s good to see someone from home.”
Her slender form weaved through the crowd with ease. She didn’t make it very far before she stopped. It was as if she rammed into an invisible wall. Laughter bubbled up from her. “Oh, Melpomene, so predictable you are.”
I watched her head tilt and roll to the side. Her shoulders rotated back, erecting her form to a confident posture. She turned around to look at me, a wide grin spreading across her features.
“Din-Din! It’s been a long time!” she exclaimed.
“It has,” I replied.
She slid into a booth, keeping her eyes on me the entire time. She seemed…something about her was different. I stared at her, trying to figure out what that something was.
“Are you going to sit down?” she asked.
“Of course,” I replied, sitting down across from her. “What are you doing here?”
“To the point. I love it, Din,” Jealousy chuckled.
“Oh, you know, a tragedy here, and a tragedy there.”
There was definitely something off about her. I glared into her eyes to search for what it could be. Maybe there was some truth hidden on the surface.
“You won’t find anything,” she said with a smirk. “Is Jealousy filling your head full of suspicions and theories?”
My head tilted with intrigue at her comment. I didn’t know if it was common knowledge amongst the gods and goddesses that I dealt with my minions daily.
“You and I have a lot in common, more like a common thread,” she added. “There is much to discuss. So, get comfortable, order yourself a drink, and listen up. This next part is very important.”