Rhodes was a stunning little island off the coast of Turkey. I always found it funny that my daughter chose to live somewhere named after her, but hey, we live where we love, right? I knocked on her door and waited for an answer.
“Mother!” A squeal erupted as the door opened. My bags were tossed aside as my daughter pulled me into the tightest hug I remember feeling.
“Hi, Rhodes! You’ll suffocate me if you don’t let go,” I wheezed playfully, knowing full well I was stronger than her.
“Come in, please!” She helped me with my bags and guided me into her house. It was a pleasant little domicile, with touches of the sea scattered throughout. I found it perfect.
As soon as the door closed, a second squeal split my eardrums open. “Yiayia!” I flushed and looked around for the tiny voice.
A woman emerged from the kitchen carrying a two-year-old little girl, and my heart melted. She looked exactly like Rhodes did at that age.
“Yiayia?” I asked playfully.
The woman, who I assumed must be Philippa, Rhodes’ wife, approached confidently and extended her hand. “It is an honor and a pleasure to finally meet you, Amphitrite.”
I shook it with a smile. “And you, Philippa. I apologize for not stopping by earlier, but these past two years have been…” I paused for a moment, looking down at the child before choosing my words carefully, “chaotic.”
“It’s okay, Mom, you’re here. This is Stella.” Rhodes ruffled the little blonde girl’s hair, and I held out my hands. Philippa passed the child to me, and I beamed. I was a grandmother.
“Hello, Stella, my name is Amph. I am your yiayia. Do you know how old you are?” Stella giggled and held out two fingers.
“Almost two,” Rhodes said. I looked at her and raised my eyebrow. “I was pregnant with her when you returned.”
I felt the sea roil within me, but I kept calm and nodded. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked in Mermish.
Rhodes’s eyes flashed a dark storm blue and settled back into her normal crystalline turquoise. “Because you were dealing with Father, and your emotions were all over the place. I didn’t want to add to it.”
I sighed. How my daughter could be so wise escaped me. Still, I chuckled and kissed Stella’s forehead. “You said you had other children?” Rhodes beamed and rushed off. I smiled over at Philippa and sat down. “You know who and what we are?” My daughter-in-law nodded slowly. “Good, that makes things easier. All I ever wanted was for my children to be happy. I failed them both when I disappeared, Triton even longer before that, but Rhodes? This is the happiest I have ever seen her.”
“She makes me happy as well, Amphitrite.” I raised my eyebrow at her. “Amph?”
“Better, thank you. You are beautiful, you know, blessed by Aphrodite herself,” I said honestly. Philippa looked frightened, but I laughed. “Oh, gracious, child! I may be the only person, god or human alive, who could say something like that and not have her wrath visited upon me or the subject. She is my best friend, you know?” I winked conspiratorially. “Plus, I learned long ago how to word my phrases in a way that wouldn’t offend her or attract her wrath. But now? She’s changed. We both have.”
“Well, I wouldn’t know about that, but I know Rhodes has missed you,” she replied cautiously.
“I’ve missed her, too. So much has happened in the last couple of years. I’ll tell you about it all when she returns from wherever she went.”
“I’m here.” Rhodes appeared in a huff with a scraggly-haired young man and a petite young lady. “These are the twins, Serena and Heiles.”
I stared at her. “You named them after…”
She nodded slowly, and I cried. Stella’s tiny hands reached up and brushed my tears away, but I couldn’t stop.
“Mom, who is this, and why is she crying?” the young man asked, grumpy and uncomfortable.
Rhodes cuffed him gently on the back of his head and smiled. “That is my mother, Amphitrite, and she’s crying because your names remind her of two very good friends of hers.”
I nodded. “Two very old friends of mine. The Sun Titan Helios and his twin sister, Selene, the Moon Titan.”
“I thought those were stories you told us to shut us up?” Heiles asked. He was brash, like Helios when we were younger, and I chuckled.
“Oh, I could tell you stories. But no, everything your mother has told you is true if she told you that she’s an immortal goddess, daughter of the King of the Sea and his consort.” I indicated myself.
“You used to say that with such anger, Mom. Why no longer?” Rhodes asked softly.
I simply smiled as Stella fell asleep in my arms. “I can’t keep worrying about what people will think of me and my situation. Well, it’s no longer my situation anymore. I abdicated the throne.”
Rhodes’ face fell, and I averted my gaze. “Why?”
“It was time. The Olympians have survived into the modern era, but in my opinion, it’s time for the younger generation to step up to the plate. I know that almost no one shares the same sentiment as I do, but…” I sighed and looked at her, “Atlantis was no longer home. I returned once or twice over the last couple of years, and nothing felt right anymore. It hadn’t, if I look back on it, since he left us. How can I try to move forward in my life when I was still anchored to one place?”
Stella squirmed, and I passed her back to Philippa. My family had all sat down around me, and I realized it was story time.
“But are you not now anchored to the God Complex?” Rhodes asked me.
“No, child, I can come and go from there as I please. If anything, it’s Nymphaeum that ties me down, but that is a choice. That is my home now.” I took a breath and went over everything that had happened since my return. I glossed over nothing. The twins were around sixteen, they could handle the worst of it, and Stella was unconscious in her mother’s arms. When I arrived at my father’s return, Rhodes’ back shot up. I raised my eyebrow again, but she waved me off, mouthing another time. I nodded and continued the story. When I reached the mirrored dream, she held up her hands and called a stop.
“I think it’s time for dinner. You can continue this later, please?” I nodded and left it at that. Rhodes prepared a feast of surf and turf, all locally sourced, and I ate my fill. It was calming to be around my family, my kin. I decided that I would try to find some of my sisters on this trip or maybe meet up with Nereus and Doris.
The rest of the evening passed in companionable conversation as I got to know my grandchildren. I had been curious as to who their father was, but Rhodes waited until the three of them were in bed before answering me.
“No father, I did it all myself. Well, the getting pregnant bit, not the pregnancy and raising them. I couldn’t have done that without Philippa.” I smiled as they curled up on the couch together.
“I’m really glad you found someone, dear. It makes my heart soar with joy. And you have such a beautiful family.”
“You know, you’re welcome here anytime, Mom.” I nodded. There was some hesitation in her voice, and before I could ask, Rhodes spoke up. “I was worried you wouldn’t like her.”
That joy in my heart sank. “Why?”
“Because she’s mortal and a woman.”
I rolled my eyes. “Please, why would that even bother me? I remember you and Sappho when you were younger.” Rhodes blushed furiously as Phillippa coughed.
“Excuse me?” Phillippa blurted.
“I’ll tell you later, my love.” Rhodes kissed her wife lovingly, and I smiled.
“And why would her being mortal bother me? Your father took mortal lovers all the time. It never fazed me. I had my small share, as well. It is your happiness that concerns me, Rhodes. That’s it. Not who you choose to spend it with. Believe me, I’m getting no end of grief from Aphrodite and Hestia about who I’m choosing to be with.”
“I mean, really, Mom, Dionysos? He’s so…”
“Kind, endearing, utterly adorable, and I love him dearly. Dion’s heart is bigger than most anyone knows, and he has shared it with me. Can you not be happy for me?”
My daughter stared at me. “Of course, I’m happy you’ve found someone, but did you have to find one that’s my age?”
I spat my wine out. “I…I didn’t exactly choose to fall in love with him, Rhodes. It just kind of…happened.” I felt the heat rise to my face, and I turned away.
“Wait, are you… Are you blushing?” she asked me.
“I…shut up!” I buried my face in a blanket as my daughter laughed at me.
“Oh my gods, you are! I haven’t seen you blush since…your last date with Father. You were so giddy it almost made Triton and me sick. Where did he take you again?”
I smiled and blushed furiously. “Our grotto.”
She raised her eyebrow, mimicking me. “The one you modeled the grotto at Nymphaeum after?”
“If you tell him that, I’ll disown you.” I blushed again, teasing Rhodes. The couple laughed, and I poured another glass of wine.
“Lies, you won’t disown me, not when you have beautiful babies to cuddle.”
I nodded slowly. “You’re still a baby to me, Rhodes. And don’t, it just makes things icky when I think about Dion and you being the same age.”
We burst out laughing for a few more minutes before Philippa asked the question I knew had been weighing on their minds. “This mirror business. What happened? Rhodes got the invitation but declined to go.”
“And for that, I am glad. It was not a party any one of us should have attended.” I dove into the details of my dream world, how twisted it all felt, and yet so very right. I explained what happened to me when I returned, how lost I was, the sense of pregnancy I felt, and hiding out in my father’s palace. My hand subconsciously went to my abdomen. I knew I wasn’t pregnant, but at times, I could still feel it.
“You’re not, now?” I shook my head.
“I would tell you if I were. And believe me, I don’t think anyone would be letting me do this trip alone.”
“I thought Dionysos, or Rommel, was going with you?” Rhodes asked sharply.
I winced. “Well… I may meet up with Dion every once in a while if our paths cross, but no. Rommel and Calix don’t need to join me. I’m a grown goddess, Rhodes. I can take care of myself.”
“That’s what you said when you went to Rome!” She was on her feet, her power coiling around her much the same way mine did.
I breathed deeply, singing in hushed, almost non-existent tones. Philippa fell asleep immediately, but Rhodes was almost immune. I needed to pour as much energy into this as I would into calming a storm because that’s what I was doing. It took a while. She knew what Siren Song was, and she knew how to counteract it. She was better even than her father, but I won out in the end. Rhodes slumped into my arms, exhausted, and I stroked her hair gently.
“I can’t lose you again, Mama,” she whimpered softly, her voice sounding like the child I held all those eons ago.
“You won’t, baby, I promise. I know what’s out there this time. I’m not going looking for trouble like I was in Rome,” I replied carefully
“You were looking for Father in Rome.”
“Same thing, child.” I chuckled. “Your father has caused me more trouble in his lifetime than I ever wanted, but I wouldn’t change one minute of it.”
“Don’t you still love him?” Here it was, the real conversation I needed to have with her.
I pulled Rhodes into my lap and cuddled her gently. “Of course I do, sweetheart. I always will. After everything we’ve been through, do you really think those feelings would stop?” She shook her head. Her locks glowed a soft blue before settling back to brown. “I will love your father until the day I fade, but I can’t wait around for him anymore. If,” I choked on the words, “if he doesn’t love me, so be it. But I deserve happiness. I deserve to be with someone who makes me happy, who spends his days trying to love me, to be with me.”
“I know you do, Mama, and I really am happy for you. I just…”
“You wish it hadn’t all been so sudden.” She nodded. “It wasn’t, sweetheart, not really. I think this separation between your father and I was coming for years before he vanished. I just refused to see it. I didn’t think I could be happy without him. I was wrong. And I just want him to be happy as well.”
“Can you really love two men, though? They are two very different beings,” she asked coyly.
“Oh, I know. But yes, my heart will always belong to them both. I can’t really help it.” I had been fiddling with the Jewel of the Sea during the entire conversation, which is partly why I hadn’t said his name. “Rest now, child. We have a busy next couple of days.”
I kissed my beloved daughter on the forehead and felt her body sigh into sleep while I stayed awake thinking about the next stages of my trip and just how much lying about it I’ve already done.