Contrary to popular belief, every moment of every day is not sunshine and butterflies when you’re a goddess. In fact, it was one of those not-so-perfect days that brought me to Cara.
I had been adjusting to the recent changes at the God Complex and needed to get away from the hustle and bustle to clear my head and calm my nerves. Fresh air was what I needed, so out the door I went.
Heading down the street on this blustery day, the thought of what do I do now? was on my mind. I found my way to an ice cream shop, getting my favorite two scoops of heavenly smelling vanilla and cocoa, forming the best tasting sweet cream on a sugar cone. Ice cream always had a way of just making things seem better. I decided to head to the park. I stepped to the curb to cross the street when – whoosh – a truck drove through the puddle of gutter water, covering me from head to toe.
Startled, I dropped my ice cream and watched the delicious vanilla and chocolate goodness splat onto the sidewalk. “Well, this is a first,” I muttered as I wiped the sludge from my eyes and examined the muddy mess that was now my clothes.
That’s when it happened. The familiar ping in my heart. “Someone needs a victory,” I whispered as I followed the feeling that drew me to the nearby park, not thinking about how I looked.
As I drew closer to the park, I could hear the sounds of birds chirping grow louder. I walked past a row of red oaks and glanced up to see the birds were preparing for the mating season. Their chirping was constant. As I walked past one of the red oak trees, a group of sparrows flew from their nest and began to attack me.
Me of all the goddesses, stupid birds. I have wings, too. I ran away from them and right into a group of runners coming from the opposite direction. Down to the ground I fell. The group paused while running in place to be sure I was alright, which I was. “Nice shoes!” I shouted after them as they went on their way.
I was still sitting there when I heard a voice from behind me. “Rough day, huh?”
I swiveled around on my butt to see a young woman standing behind me. “Yeah, you could say that.”
“I’m sorry, but I had to laugh. I’ve never seen anyone actually get splashed like that before.”
I laughed along with her.
The young woman extended her hand to help me up, and I grabbed it. It was soft, and I noticed a tattoo on her wrist. “Thank you,” I said as I stood and brushed myself off.
“Glad you’re okay,” she said as I looked into her eyes.
My heart pinged at that moment. I knew I’d found the person who needed my help. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I looked around, trying to think of something else to say.
“Hey, I was gonna grab some lunch? Would you like to join me? My treat.” She pointed at the nearby hot dog cart.
“Thank you, that’s really nice of you.”
We headed to the cart and ordered hot dogs and Cokes. Walking over to a bench, we sat and talked while we ate. I introduced myself as Nike Sharp, which was one of the names I gave to mortals as my cover. I didn’t want to scare her and show her who I really was yet.
“My name is Cara Voltest.”
“Do you live around here?” I asked.
“Yes, two train stops and a bus ride away.”
“That’s pretty close then.”
We sat there, talking and laughing about all the things that life had brought her. She had a little sister named Sara, who was precious as all get out; Daunte, her younger brother who had autism; and her older brother Aramis. Juliette, her mother, worked at a museum as a night cleaner. Her family didn’t have a lot of money. Her older brother was in a gang and had done some time for racketeering.
“Wow, I just met you, and I’m telling you everything,” Cara said, slightly embarrassed.
“I have that effect on people,” I laughed. As she kept talking, I sat there and just listened. I thought perhaps this was the victory she needed. So many mortals didn’t take the time to listen to each other anymore.
Her phone buzzed, and she looked at it. “Oh, crap!”
“I was on my lunch break when I saw you, and now I’m four hours late getting back. Crap! I hope I don’t get fired. That’s all I need.”
“I can give you my number if you’d like me to talk to your boss for you,” I replied, thinking I could help somehow. It wasn’t like she had any reason to know how I could help her.
“Uh, no offense, but I don’t think there’s anything you can do. We just met.”
“Right. How about this…” I said, thinking quickly. “If you ever need anything, come by the Olympus Administration building.”
“You mean the big plaza building in the center of town?”
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“I hear that gods and goddesses live there.”
“You’d be surprised,” I said wryly.
“You work there?”
“Sort of, but if you need anything, you go there and give them my name.”
“Okay, sure, but I gotta go,” Cara said, standing up.
“Good luck. My name is Nike.”
“Yeah, I know, you told me. See you around, Nike.” She hurried off.
“Thanks for the hot dog,” I yelled after her. I let out a sigh and sat back down on the bench. Looking down at myself, I realized I must look quite a sight. The smell of the gutter water on my clothes was gross, so I headed home.
As I got to the God Complex, I still had that feeling that Cara needed a victory, like things weren’t complete yet. I brushed it aside and went upstairs to get cleaned up. Afterward, I went about my usual chores, then made a few calls and checked on a few other mortals I knew.
That night, I went on patrol of the city, buzzing past the other high rises, racing as fast as could. I flew to the top of Olympus Mountain and listened to the sounds of the frogs in the river below. The cool breeze ruffled through my wings as I stood on the mountain top.
That ping in my chest felt tighter now. I bent over, clenching my fist tightly at the pain. What the ouch was this burning inside me? I went down to one knee, taking in deep breaths to help quell the pain.
I flew back to the God Complex and went inside. As I stumbled out of the elevator, my brother Zelus saw my distress and rushed to my side. “Ni? Are you all right?” he asked as he helped me into my apartment, leading me to the sofa.
“Lady Nike, are you hurt?” Francisco asked.
“No, not that I can tell. You can go home, Francisco. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?” he said.
I nodded in reply.
Francisco gave Zelus a worried look. My brother waved him on, and we watched him leave. Then he looked back at me. “Okay, Nike, what happened?”
“Honestly, Zel, I don’t know. One minute, I’m standing on top of the mountain, and then I’m doubled over in pain.”
“Anything happen today that was different?” His eyes widened as I told him about my day. “Ni, do you think the pain you’re feeling is because of that girl?”
I shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Hasn’t that happened to you before?”
“Yes, but that was a long time ago.”
He left the room and came back with a glass of water. “Here,” he said, handing me the water. “Are you feeling better now?”
“The pain has subsided.”
“Good. I need to get out on patrol. Will you be okay here by yourself?”
“I’ll be fine, thanks,” I said, smiling at him.
“Okay, I’ll head out then. You should try to find this girl so you can be done with what you need to do for her,” he said, kissing the top of my head. “I mean it, Ni. Don’t wait.”
“Okay, okay,” I muttered, waving him off.
He pushed me over and laughed. “You better!” He gave me another kiss and left.
I took a deep breath to clear this odd feeling. Shaking my head, I stretched out on the sofa. “Alexia, dim the lights and play ‘Clair de Lune.’”
Alexia did as I asked. The soft hue of blue lights lined the walls, while all the other lights were off. This was Ares’ idea, because it was often difficult for me to just rest, relax, or fall asleep.
This time, I fell asleep. But it wasn’t a restful one. I needed to figure out what was causing this pain…and soon.