Kimmika’s phone buzzed as we were checking out of the PT appointment. Digging into her purse, she pulled out her bedazzled cell and cringed at the caller ID. “It’s your CO.” It was phrased as a statement, but it came with the underlying question of do you want me to answer? I gave her a nod, telling her it was okay.
“Hello?… Hi, Ben.” I couldn’t help but furrow my brows together. I had gotten so used to just referring to him as Lieutenant Colonel Arnold that I never noticed I didn’t know what the B stood for. Ben Arnold. Talk about an unfortunate name to have in the American army. Wonder what his nickname was in basic training. They probably called him Red-Coat or Sell-out.
“Oh, I don’t know. Let me ask her.” Pressing her phone to her chest, Kimmika leaned into my ear and whispered, “He wants to invite you out tonight.”
“Like a date?” Ew. He’s my CO.
“No.” Kimmika shook her head. “I think he’s trying to look more attentive and sensitive. You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
My gut instinct was to say no—an entire night with that brute? Definitely didn’t sound like my idea of a good time. But then my logical brain kicked in. He’s your CO. He knows you better than anyone else. You can’t afford to be a chooser in this situation. He can fill in the rest of the blanks. He’s already helped you a lot. It’s just one night. “That’s okay. I want to.”
Kimmika’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Are you sure?” I nodded, convicting myself to my choice. With a shrug, Kimmika relayed my answer to my CO. After a few more moments on the phone, she hung up. “He wants you to meet him at his office. I’ll give you the address. Are you sure you want to talk to him?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. It’ll be okay.”
“You can change your mind at any time,” Kimmika reassured me.
“I know. And if I do, I will let you know.”
Kimmika shrugged. She could tell that I wasn’t enthusiastic about this meeting, but she could also tell that I was trying to do it for my own good. There was a shine of admiration in her eyes. “I’m proud of you.”
I didn’t really respond. I didn’t know how to. I just let her check me out of my appointment and take me back to my new apartment.
I turned Kimmika’s note over and over in my hands as I sat alone in my dark apartment. After dropping me off from my PT appointment, she handed me this envelope of blue and white stationery, saying, “I felt like you needed this for encouragement.” I could tell there was more than just a note inside. The way that the envelope bumped up in a corner showed that there was a small trinket included.
Finally, I popped the envelope open, pulling the note out first. In beautiful cursive was written:
I know from first-hand experience how hard this journey is. You are doing so much better and making so much more progress than I did when I was in your position. I know it doesn’t feel like it from your perspective, but you are doing so well. I want you to remember that, especially when I’m no longer a consistent part of your life.
I found this while I was shopping one day. The shop owner said that she is a Greek war goddess, so I thought she could bring you some strength, especially since she might be a part of your family heritage. Plus, she kind of looks like you.
I hope she gives you strength to keep pushing forward.
My curiosity piqued, I pulled out the trinket. It was a small medal on a delicate silver chain. On one side, carved in a fancy font, were the words, She who cannot be escaped. I didn’t feel my brows set into confusion. Why do those words feel so…important? So personal. My fingertips could feel another carving on the other side of the medal. Flipping it over, I was greeted with the sight of an armored warrior woman, swinging her sword high as her braid flipped around, suggesting this image was caught in the midst of war. Across the bottom, in small letters, was a name. ADRESTIA.
Time seemed to both stop and speed up as my mind was bombarded with images, voices, and memories long locked away. I was riding into war with my father and two of my older brothers. I chased my third older brother around the house, trying to strangle him for his latest prank. I desperately tried to connect with the final brother I didn’t get to grow up with. I was rolling my eyes at my mother’s urge to settle down. I saw aunts and uncles and cousins. Grandma and grandpa. What the world was like when we ruled it and how it had changed since Nero’s betrayal. Alexander. Betsy. Gandhi. It was real. It was all real. I was there to know and love all of them.
I was immortal. I was a goddess. I was the voice of revolutions. I was Adrestia.
“Betsy! Good to see you!” Lieutenant Colonel Arnold exclaimed with a hard pat on my back that nearly launched me out of my wheelchair. I had considered that it was a bad idea to keep my appointment with my CO after my fantastical epiphany. I had a lot of things to think about and consider. A lot of unanswered questions that I needed to find the answer to. And a lot of family members that I needed to find.
I only managed to talk myself out of canceling by reminding myself, Even if he doesn’t know you’re a goddess, he knows how we got here. You can’t afford to skip steps in this retracing process. Learn everything you can.
I saluted from my seated position, saying, “Good to see you, Lieutenant Colonel.” It’s just a few hours.
“Oh, knock it off with that. We’re friends, Betsy. Call me Ben.”
“Thank you, sir. Er, Ben.” Oh, I don’t like that at all.
“Please come in.” Ben held the door wide open, giving me enough space to allow my wheelchair through the threshold of his office. The windowless, white room was decorated in flags, newspapers, vintage uniforms, and a couple of antique conversation pieces, along with the man’s clean and practical desk. There wasn’t much of anything to show who Ben was outside of his rank and position in the army. The army seemed to be his life.
“I’d tell you to take a seat, but you’ve already taken it.” This man really doesn’t think before he speaks, doesn’t he? The slightly insensitive joke tickled the Lieutenant Colonel, making him shake while he poured two glasses of whiskey from a decanter. Is he supposed to have that here? “Here.” He offered me one of the tumblers of alcohol before raising his. “To Addison Zarvos. The toughest son of a bitch this army’s ever seen. Ya just can’t keep a good girl down.” I half-heartedly raised my glass. Ben threw the tumbler back like a shot while I sipped and coughed up the drink immediately. “Whoa, now! This stuff ain’t that strong.”
“I don’t think I drink,” I wheezed out.
“Bullshit!” Ben barked in amusement. “You always used to be able to drink all of us under the table! You couldn’t even get a fucking hangover.” He’s certainly more liberal with his language now that we’re on his turf. “Maybe the sleepin’ beauty treatment killed your tolerance.”
“Maybe,” I said half-heartedly as I pushed the tumbler to the side. “So you wanted to talk to me?”
“Mm. I just wanted to see how you were doin’?”
He’s lying. Something else is up. “I’m as good as I can be.”
Ben nodded. “Anything coming back to you?”
He’s scared. He’s scared that I’m going to remember something. But what? “Nothing that matters.” I wasn’t lying. All of my memories of divinity wouldn’t matter to him, even if there was a chance that he would believe me.
“That’s too bad,” the Lieutenant Colonel said, pouring himself another drink. “I’d hate to think that all the good times we all had are gone for good for you.”
“Kimmika says these things take time and that I have to be patient with myself.”
Ben shrugged. “I suppose she’s right. That tough, old broad certainly knows better than me in this case.” The words sounded like a compliment, but there was just a touch of anger—or maybe resentment—hiding beneath the surface of his voice. Had all of these little hints and ticks been there the whole time? How had I not noticed them until now? Maybe it was because I forgot who I really was until that day. Maybe remembering my Godhood tapped into these sixth senses that were suddenly appearing.
“So, have you decided where you’re gonna go from here?”
“What do you mean?” I asked in confusion.
“Well, and no offense is meant, but the fact is that you really can’t be a soldier anymore given your…circumstances.” Somehow, the Lieutenant Colonel’s newfound sensitivity of was even more insulting. “You’re gonna be honorably discharged, and then it’s up to you what you do. I was just wondering if you had thought about it at all.”
He may have been telling the truth that the army would discharge me from active service because of my injury, but there was more to his intent. He didn’t want me to stay. He didn’t even want me to find some other way to serve the army, as Kimmika did. He wanted me gone-gone.
“Well, Kimmika is such an inspiration. I think I want to follow in her footsteps and help other soldiers deal with injuries and trauma like what I’ve had to endure. I’m going to look into becoming a military therapist.” I didn’t look away from Ben the entire time as I told him this lie. I hadn’t actually thought about where life would take me once I was discharged. But I needed to see his reaction to what I sensed was his greatest fear.
The Lieutenant Colonel’s military training was superb. Anyone else would’ve missed the little facial twitches that showed his anger, fear, panic, and dread. But every little movement seemed amplified to my eyes. He might as well have had a sign that flashed GUILTY over his head.
Guilty? What does he have to feel guilty about? Why is he so afraid? What does he have to hide? It’s not like he made me lose my leg.
The moment the thought crossed my mind, my heart stopped.
Or it was in the process of stopping as the bullet sunk its way past my chest and into the life-giving organ. The wound cascaded red as I stared at the smoking gun in the Lieutenant Colonel’s hand. “Why couldn’t you have died with the rest of them, Betsy?”
Whatever strength that was keeping me upright in my chair gave out, allowing me to tumble to the floor, leaving a smear of red in my wake. My chest constricted as my lungs spasmed, trying desperately to keep pumping as I continued to lose blood. No. This is impossible. I’m a goddess. I’m immortal. I can’t die… I can’t…
Through my blurring vision, I could see the Lieutenant Colonel staring down at me, unmoved as I clung desperately to this false life. My mind was screaming for answers, but I could tell from the look on Ben’s face he wouldn’t answer any of my questions, not even out of pity or as a last request. My shaking hand fell to the medal around my neck, the one Kimmika gave me. I fought the darkness as hard as I could, thinking, This isn’t supposed to happen. I have so much to do…
The sound of shattering glass shot me up to a sitting up position. My hand immediately fell to my chest, trying to hold the freshly inflicted wound. But there was no wound to hold. No pain, and no blood stained my white t-shirt and camo jacket. Who changed my clothes?
The question quickly became obsolete when my eyes fell to my jean-covered legs. That’s right. Legs. Plural. I grabbed my right leg, feeling the warm bounce-back of flesh. My leg had grown back. Or rather, it never had to be cut off in the first place.
None of this eased my mind as I frantically took in my surroundings. It took a moment to recognize the GC’s warehouse that had been decorated with lanterns, fairy lights, and black silk fabric. My family was on the ground all around me, covered in broken, reflecting glass. The mirrors.
With my heart pounding in my ears and my breath going crazy, I looked around for something—anything—to hide behind. The first thing I focused on was one of the three bars that had been set up. It was the one that had the fewest people around it, and everyone else was still struggling to wake up and focus on what had happened. I pushed myself up onto my hands and knees. I crawled my way to the bar, showing no care for how the broken pieces of mirror sliced into my hands, knees, and calves. I gotta hide. It’s not safe. I gotta hide.
Once I had stumbled my way behind the bar, I pressed myself into its corner, curling up in the fetal position and hiding my face. I could feel cold sweat soaking into the sleeves of my jacket. As heavy as my breathing was and as loud as my heart pounded in my chest, I could still hear everyone in the warehouse. It felt like their voices were booming loud, shocking my tender senses all the more. When Eros and Clio started calling out for me, I had to bite my lip to the point of bleeding to not answer and reveal my hiding place.
I didn’t know how long it took for everyone to leave and for silence to fall. All I knew was that I didn’t move until I couldn’t hear my heartbeat and my breathing. With shaking hesitation, I peeked over the bar. There wasn’t a soul in sight. Through the shattered windows of the warehouse, I could see that dawn was starting to break.
I need to get home. I kept telling myself that, but it still took another solid fifteen minutes for me to get enough courage to push myself to my feet and make a run for it.