“I don’t want to talk about it anymore, Zeus. I refuse to talk to her as long as she’s married to Alcaeus.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you. She’s your daughter. She misses you. Talk to her already.” Zeus stared at me from across the dinner table.
I pushed my plate away, food uneaten. “No. Hebe knew how I felt about him, and she disobeyed me. I refuse to talk to her until she divorces or kills him. I’d prefer she kill him but would accept the divorce.”
Zeus’s jaw dropped comically at my comment. “Woman, you’re the Goddess of Marriage! You can’t go around telling people to divorce when they have a perfectly healthy relationship.”
“I can do what I want to do, and you damned well know it!” I pushed out my lower lip in frustration at him.
Zeus rolled his eyes. “Since when does the Queen of all Gods pout? Hmm?” He stood from his seat, walked over to me, and kneeled. Cupping my chin in his strong hands, he ran his thumb over my lip, sending a shiver down my spine. “Hera, my heart, I need you to make this right with her. If only to spare me the agony of listening to her whine about how you never return her calls. It’s driving me to madness.”
I looked down into his clear blue eyes and wanted so desperately to give in to him on this, but I just couldn’t. Of all his children without me, Alcaeus is the one I hate the most. It might have been different if he felt any gratitude towards the gods for his life, but he is greedy and rude and frankly has bad hygiene on occasion. My daughter knew how I felt about him when Zeus brought him to Olympus, but she allowed Alcaeus to sway her against me. It was an action I couldn’t forgive. I just didn’t have it in me.
I leaned my head down, rested my forehead against Zeus, and took a deep breath to steel myself for his anger. “I cannot do this for you. Ask me anything else, my love, I beg you, but don’t ask this of me.” I whispered and felt my lip tremble. I pressed them together to keep my pain hidden.
The rumble started in his diaphragm and got stronger as it traveled up his chest. He stood and let out a roar loud enough to shake the glasses on the table. “I don’t know what it is with you two, Hera, but you will fix this if it’s the last thing you do! I have enough trouble with the other gods not listening to me. How do you think this will look if you go against my wishes? Hmm?!”
He stalked to the doorway. His fist gripped the frame, and it splintered as he turned back to look at me, blue eyes flaring in anger. “Fix this!”
I grabbed my glass and threw it at his retreating body, my own scream ripping from my throat. How dare he ask this of me?! How! Dare! He! I continued throwing dinnerware at the space he no longer occupied, screaming until my throat was hoarse and all I had left in me were tiny frustrated whimpers and a few lone tears.
I was in my head and not paying any attention to what was going on around me when I wandered into the break room to get a cup of that fancy tea Demeter kept around. I needed to calm down, or I was going to blast the windows out of the entire building. It had been four days since the dinner with my husband, and the only words he’d spoken to me was, “Did you fix it?” Of course, I hadn’t. I wasn’t going to talk to Hebe until she said she’d gotten rid of her husband. Unfortunately, she was just as stubborn as me. She insisted that they are happily in love, and had no plans of leaving him.
I snorted loudly and grumbled under my breath about inconsiderate children as I dug roughly through the cabinets for a mug.
“Mother, I think you need this more than I do.” Ares handed me a mug full of tea. Frowning, I took it and brought the hot liquid to my mouth. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the painful burn as it flowed through my chest. As the heat dissipated, I opened my eyes and found my son leaning casually with his hip against the counter, arms crossed, and a line furrowed between his brows.
“Thank you, sweetheart. I did need that.” I managed a weak smile for him.
“You okay, Ma’? You look like you have something on your mind.”
I shook my head and took another drink.
He took a deep breath. “What did Dad do this time?”
Ares wasn’t prepared for what happened. I wasn’t prepared for what happened. Had I known, I would never have opened my mouth. Hell, I never would have left my office. I opened my mouth to deny that anything was wrong, but my voice caught. It was such a little thing, a small hitch to my breath. It almost reminded me of when Ares was little and stuttered. I was suddenly overcome by emotions, and I was unprepared for their impact. My lower lip trembled, and my eyes watered.
It was quite comical to watch Ares react to my sudden outpouring of emotion. I couldn’t think of the number of times my children had seen me vulnerable like this. The look on his face was as if he thought he had broken me and wasn’t quite sure how to put me back together.
He stood, his arms outstretched in an attempt to comfort me. Being his mother and not one of his lovers, I could tell he wasn’t sure if he should pull me into his arms for a hug or just stand there awkwardly patting my back. It ended up being a strange mixture of both. He wrapped one arm around my shoulders and patted my arm in what I assume was supposed to be a comforting tempo.
That he would even try to calm me brought more tears to my eyes. I felt my face getting splotchy, and he looked around the room for some help. Not finding any, he pulled me to the sink and handed me some napkins.
“Here, Ma’. Stop crying, please.” He patted my back a little too hard. “Pull yourself together, and I’ll go make Dad apologize.”
I grabbed onto his arm to keep him from wandering off. “No, please don’t bother him with this. He’s already mad enough.”
“Then tell me what’s wrong so I can fix it. I don’t like it when you cry, Ma’. It makes me feel all weird, like the apocalypse is coming or something.” I chuckled and finished wiping my face.
“I’m sorry, my dear. There is really only one thing your father and I have never agreed on that always causes me this pain.” I offered him a half-smile, knowing he’d understand.
Ares growled low. He got it. “Herakles. He’s a showoff and an asshole and has no business being a part of our family!”
With those simple words, my heart healed a little. It was good to know that at least Ares was on my side with this issue. “Your father wants me to make things right with your sister, Hebe. I just don’t know if I can.”
“You know I’ll support you in this, Ma’. Whatever you want to do. You want me to kill him for you? Cause I will. Just say the word.” He brought his fists up to show me he was ready to fight for me.
I patted his cheek. “Oh, my dearest boy, this is something that I need to figure out on my own, but I will let you know if I require your services.”
I heard voices, looked to the door, and saw Nike and Moxie coming into the break room.
“Lady Hera! How are y—?” Nike glided over to Ares and me, looking between the two of us. “Mom, are you okay? Ares, if you hurt our mother, I will slice you up!” She rounded on him, ready to fight.
I guided Nike closer to me and sent a thought to Moxie to have her pull Ares away. “It’s okay, little one. These tears aren’t because of Ares. He was trying to help me.”
Nike frowned. “But why are you crying? You never cry, Lady Hera.”
I smiled at her. “It’s just been a long day, and I haven’t been sleeping. Your father and I fought about Hebe and her husband, and it upset me more than it normally would have.”
Nike got more and more confused. “Why would you fight about Hebe and Herakles?”
I took a deep breath, not sure if I really wanted to go into details just yet. “Because, little one, I hate him with the fiery, burning passions of a thousand suns.”
Nike and Moxie both gasped. “But…what did he do to you, Lady Hera? If it was so bad, wouldn’t you have just killed him?” Nike didn’t understand why I would let him live, and sometimes I still wondered the same thing.
“Unfortunately, he’s a favored son of Zeus, and it was decreed, once Alcaeus’s trials finished and he married my daughter, that I was no longer allowed to kill him.”
Nike turned to Moxie and mouthed, “Alcaeus?“
Moxie mouthed back, “Herakles.”
Nike’s lips formed an O in understanding, and her eyes got bigger when she looked back at me. “Lady Hera, why do you hate him so much?”
I breathed in deeply, and as I released it, I motioned for them to take a seat. “This story will take a while, so you children may as well get comfortable.”
Ares pulled me in for a kiss on the cheek. “Sorry, Ma’, got stuff I have to do for Dad. I’ll catch the story after it’s published.” He gave me a saucy wink, waved to the girls, and sauntered out.
The girls and I sat down at a table. “Now, where should I start?”