I stood in my new office. It had all come together faster than I expected. Divine Intervention welcomed couples looking for the perfect wedding. My office had a lounge area to consult in, and a large desk where I could conduct business. Just outside my door was a small section designated as a showroom, with examples of things that would make any bride drool. As the Goddess of Love, it should come as no surprise that I absolutely adore weddings and I can guarantee something no other wedding planner in the world could: regardless of what happens on the Big Day, couples using my services that make it to the altar, are couples that go the distance. I had the power to help anyone who walked through the door, even if it wasn’t in the way they expected.
I mean, it’s pretty poor advertising, and a scathing indictment on my abilities as a Love goddess if one of my couples were to divorce.
That said, not every couple intending to marry should get married. I looked over to my open office door, it would only be closed when I was in a session, and the new golden sign bolted to it caught the morning sunlight.
I’d chosen the name specifically, not because of the obvious meaning but because I had the ability to stop mismatched mortals from making the biggest mistakes of their lives.
My first consultation was due any minute. I fluffed around the room, straightening cushions, and making sure the coffee machine was brimming with beans. Except for the desk, most of my office was taken up by the elegant but comfortable lounge. Excitement rolled through me as I wondered what kind of mortals I’d be dealing with. Would they want something simple and sophisticated? Or would they want a wedding extravaganza?
I had to take a deep breath to calm myself down, though my mind still brimmed with ideas.
I moved towards my desk in time to see a figure step confidently into the open doorway. Her hair was swept up into an elegant top knot, and her clothes were stylishly tailored to her figure. I figured she must have been one half of my first booking. She was clearly mortal, approximately thirty, and well off. I checked the calendar on my laptop. The appointment was for Claudia and Alan.
I smiled warmly at Claudia as an equally well-dressed man, also thirty-something, appeared in the doorway next to her. The man wore a tailored suit, no tie, top shirt buttons undone, and converse sneakers.
“Hi Claudia, Alan, I’m Aphrodite.” I stepped away from my desk, reaching out to shake the woman’s hand. She stared at me agog for a moment, and I dropped my hand back down to my side. “Please call me Dite. Would you care for tea or coffee?”
“Coffee, please,” the willowy woman in front of me replied.
“Same,” Alan added, crossing the room and plopping down on one of my couches. Claudia’s eyes darted between us, as if unsure whether or not she should join him.
“Please take a seat.” I gestured to the couches as I moved to make their coffee. I’d wanted to get a proper barista grade machine but decided against it. I’d have to hire a barista. And who wanted a third-party privy to their intimate conversations? I’d settled for a pod machine and reusable pods.
“How do you take it?” I asked, putting a pod in the machine and setting a cup underneath the spout.
“White with one, please, Alan has it black and sweet,” Claudia replied.
“So, you two are getting married. How exciting!” I beamed a smile at the pair while the first coffee brewed. “So have you thought about what kind of wedding you’d like?”
It might seem like a stupid question, I mean, most women think about what their wedding will look like long before the ring is even on their finger. I’ve known women who had thought about it since long before they met the man they wanted to marry. But, whether or not you believe it’s a stupid question, it’s an important one. It gives me an indication of where to start. The couple looked like they’d want something classy, tasteful, and expensive.
Claudia produced a thick binder from her handbag and began flipping through the pages.
“I was thinking, The Breakers at Palm Beach in June,” Claudia began, flipping through to a section tab with a printed label marked Venues. She turned the binder around, so the pages were the right side up for me. It looked like she’d printed out every photo of the venue she’d been able to find online.
“I want something elegant.” She flipped through a few more pages and pointed at what appeared to be a mood board. “Something like this.”
I turned my eyes to Alan.
“And you, Alan? Do you have any ideas or requests?” I’d noted Claudia’s use of the term “I” rather than we.
“Whatever Claudia wants is fine. It’s her big day after all.” Alan shrugged.
“It’s your big day, too, Alan. A wedding celebrates a couple and their love. It’s a representation of the merging of two lives.” I kept my face neutral, but a foreboding stirred in my stomach. It was never a good sign when one party didn’t care what the plans were for such a momentous occasion.
Claudia shot Alan a glance as if mentally warning him.
“I understand.” He smiled, trying to put everyone at ease. “But I really don’t mind how we get married, so I’m happy to give Claudia whatever she wants.”
The foreboding in my stomach grew. I chatted away with Claudia for a few minutes while Alan took out his phone and tapped away at the screen, gathering more notes on her personal style, tastes, and dreams for her wedding. If she got the day she was after, it was not going to come cheap. My mind wasn’t really on the task at hand, though. I was using her distraction to get a better reading on the couple. I reached out with my powers to read the love lines extending from each of them.
Unsurprisingly, Claudia’s love lines were wrapping around Alan. Alan’s on the other hand? They were extending out the door and down the street. One solitary line connected him to his fiance, although it seemed centered on the old-fashioned diamond on her ring finger. A family heirloom, perhaps?
“So I was thinking, for the dress, something slim, off the shoulder, trimmed with lace. I was hoping a pale colour, not white, maybe cream or ivory. Like this.” Oblivious to her partner’s disinterest, Claudia flipped through to another section of her binder.
“I’m sure we’ll easily find something suitable,” I replied warmly, looking at the dress she seemed to favour. “And if we can’t, I know some wonderful seamstresses. Alan, do you like this style?”
“I thought the groom wasn’t to see the dress before the wedding.” He didn’t even look up from his phone. Some of the love lines that had extended out the door were now wrapped firmly around his cell phone. As I was confident he wasn’t in love with the device, I assumed another girl, or perhaps guy, was the true object of his affection.
So why was he marrying Claudia?
His phone began to ring.
“Sorry, Clauds, it’s the office. I have to take this. I’ll be outside.” He stood and left the room, not taking his eyes off his phone for a minute.
I settled my gaze on the brunette in front of me who’s eyes were welling up with tears. Before I could say anything, she turned her eyes from the closed door with a scowl on her face.
“There’s not a lot of point asking his opinion on the wedding choices.” She sniffed, surprising me. “We have an agreement. He’s probably not even going to come to these consultations.”
I narrowed my eyes.
“I generally require both bride and groom to be at these appointments,” I said evenly. “The only exception being when we choose the dress and the subsequent fittings.”
“Well, you’ll need to make an exception,” Claudia replied harshly. “He’s too busy with work, and he’s promised I can have the day of my dreams. He doesn’t need to be here.”
I fought the urge to pinch the bridge of my nose. It was becoming more apparent by the second that this mismatched couple was unsuited to each other. Which begged the question, why were they going ahead with the wedding?
“Claudia,” I said with a sigh. “What aren’t you telling me? I’m literally the Goddess of Love, that’s why you’ve come to me. Even a mortal could tell that neither of you is happy in this relationship.”
“If you must know,”’ she replied, rather haughtily, if you asked me. “Alan has had some little…shall we say indiscretions? Letting me have the day of my dreams is his way of making it up to me, and we can afford it. So my opinion is the only one that matters.”
“Claudia, let me be honest with you for a moment. Alan’s heart doesn’t seem to be in this.” I let her think I meant the wedding. “I just don’t think I can work with the two of you.”
“Can’t you just make him love me?” Claudia asked, sniffing as her face fell. “I know he doesn’t. I know he’s still chasing other women, but I love him.”
“I can’t.” I kept my tone neutral. It was going to take people, the mortals especially, some time to get used to the idea they couldn’t just petition me to perform such magics. Something in her expression told me this was the real reason she’d come to me. With the money she clearly had, she could have paid anyone to organise the wedding. She already knew exactly what she wanted, after all. She’d come expecting me to give her what no other wedding planner could—the heart of her beloved.
“Then what kind of love goddess are you?” she complained, her eyes hardening.
“Perhaps I chose my words poorly.” Keeping my temper was something I was still working on, yet I was proud that I managed to breathe through my irritation. “It’s not that I can’t make him fall in love with you. It’s that I won’t.”
Her jaw dropped open in surprise.
“But… But… You’re Aphrodite! That’s what you do! Don’t you lend out your girdle or something?” She nearly dropped the china cup in her hands. Two thousand years ago, she would have been right. I’d have made the mortal fall for her again or falling that I’d punish Claudia for her rudeness.
But I was older now, and hopefully wiser, and not only was I not going to ask my son to make the mortal fall in love with her, but I also wasn’t lending her the use of my girdle.
“Not anymore.” Her accusation hurt, but I forced the shame and regret down.
“I’ll do anything,” she promised. The woman was now on her hands and knees in front of me. “Anything I have to. I will do it. “
“I could force him to fall for you, yes, but it wouldn’t make you happy.” I put my drink down on the table next to me. How many times had I done that in the past and caused nothing but more misery? Paris and Helen, Tristan and Isolde, Marc Antony and Cleopatra, all testaments to my meddling. All testaments as to why I couldn’t keep using my influence in that way.
“Yes, it would.” She nodded her head. “He’s the only man I’ve ever loved.”
“Maybe it would make you happy for a time. But if he doesn’t love you for who you are, you will not be happy for long,” I reasoned. “Find a man who cares for you as you are. Alan will be the one who is missing out.”
“I don’t care,” Claudia insisted. “If you won’t help me win him back, I’ll find someone else who will!”
The willowy woman stood, grabbed her binder, and stomped from the room.
I sighed again. She would learn the hard way. She didn’t understand withholding my abilities could be just as much of a gift as granting her wish. I took a deep breath and tried to push down the inclination to use my powers to stop her from doing something stupid, like finding a witch to cast a love spell. Most people didn’t know I could do that. Mostly I used it to help people these days, make cell reception drop out before sending those nude pictures by text, make it so a sleazy boss constantly spilt coffee on himself when hitting on a young intern, that kind of thing. Although, I had been known to wield it like a curse, causing a guy not to call a girl back or give someone a raging case of herpes. Things most people would think were simply bad luck.
It was as Claudia left that I realised this was going to be harder than I thought. The mortals would come to me expecting that I would give them their happily ever after, ensuring a marriage of lasting love and happiness. It would get easier as word spread. Idly, I wondered if I should write a book or go on a talk show. Let the world know that Aphrodite wasn’t your one-stop matchmaking stop. That’s what my apps were for, and even then, I didn’t match willy-nilly.
I walked over to my desk and lit a stick of incense, hoping it would put me in a better frame of mind. Soon the scent of rose and cinnamon permeated the air. I turned back to the room and cleared Claudia and Alan’s coffee cups. Then I stared at my own nearly full mug. I might have to start buying myself decaf if I were to have a cup with each couple. I made a mental note and turned back to my desk. I had an hour until my next client. I’d use the time to do a little matchmaking through my apps.