I’d been having the same dream for months. Every night in my sleep, I was wandering the empty halls of Olympus, searching for a child. I knew it was imperative that I find the young goddess, but every door I opened hid nothing more than an empty room. I always opened six doors before I came across one that was different from the others. The seventh door was golden, light shining off its reflective surface, my image mirrored back to me.
Each night I opened the door to search for the child that had to be hidden in the palace somewhere. Though instead of finding her, I found evidence of the worst of my mistakes. Walking into the golden chamber, I was confronted by Hephaestus; the husband I’d never cared for the way I should have. Behind him stood Ares, the lover I’d tormented my husband with. The twin sons, the God of War and I had produced, Eros and Dinlas, were there too. None of them were pleased to see me. They asked me why I’d bothered to return. They asked how I dared to show my face again.
I couldn’t answer them. I tried. Every night, as I tried to apologise, as I cried and pleaded for forgiveness, my voice dried up. No matter how hard I worked to speak, the words would not come out. My voice could not be heard. They, the men who had been central in my life, looked at me in disgust, anger, and in Dinlas’ case, pure hatred.
It was no more than I deserved.
I’d wake in the morning, exhausted. No cold sweats, no screaming, just mental and physical exhaustion. Was the dream a manifestation of my guilty conscience, or a portent of things to come?
Ironically, I didn’t know. If a mortal told me a similar story, I would assure her that it was simply her subconscious fears working through her problems. But I was a goddess. Our dreams are not always as they seem.
The dreams had started when Zeus had sent out his initial call. His orders were for the Olympians to return to their jobs. I suppose he thought a couple thousand years was enough of a vacation. When the king calls, you answer. But I’d been dawdling. The longer I waited, the worse the dreams plagued me. Still, my intuition refused to tell me whether I was making something out of nothing.
When I woke this morning, I knew it was time to return. I could only delay so long before I became dangerously close to offending the king. Still, I planned to make my last day as a free Olympian count. I leisurely ate my breakfast, drank my coffee, and soaked in the tub. Once out of the bath, I wrapped a towel around myself and organised another coffee.
I’d been ignoring his call to return to Olympus, or rather, the new God complex for months. I crossed the room to gaze at the azure sea, the waters off the coast of Cyprus. The hotel Cygnet had been my home for the last few weeks as I prepared to re-enter the life I’d left behind. Cyprus had always been my favourite of the Greek Islands, dear to my heart and my home on Earth. It seemed right to be the place where I left my old life behind and prepared for the future I’d write.
Was I ready to go home? I sat down on a deck chair on the balcony and stared at the water lapping the rocks lining the coast. I took a deep breath and rubbed the pearls around my neck with my right hand. I’d been putting it off for as long as possible, but to not return at Zeus’s command would be beyond rude. The King of Olympus wasn’t known for his patience. Not like his brother. I had time, though, to pack my bags and take one last lingering walk on the beach. I would splash my toes in the tide once more before joining the rest of the Olympians.
I didn’t know what would happen next. I had my own plans, but Zeus would have his ideas, too. With any luck, there would be an overlap. The Zeus I remembered had to be handled carefully. You didn’t want to be on the wrong side of his temper. Things had changed for me, though. That would be apparent to my family soon enough.
I moved back into my hotel suite and began packing my things. It wouldn’t take long. I travelled lightly these days: one suitcase, one carry-on, one laptop bag, and one purse. A few thousand years ago, I needed a ship just for my shoes. Now I could fit my whole life in a car seat, well, with a little Tetris.
I wasn’t going back to Olympus the way I’d left it. Gone was the wanton temptress, the scantily clad, nubile goddess. I wasn’t her anymore. I looked at my reflection in the ornate floor-length mirror, unchanged for the last two thousand years. The gods would not believe I had changed if I went back to them looking as I always had. What’s the saying? A leopard can’t change its spots? I had changed on the inside, so now I would change on the outside, too. My spots would be gone.
Being the Goddess of Beauty has its perks. Using my magic, I crafted a new image for myself, changing my appearance easier than a mortal could with a pair of scissors and a packet of hair dye. I sheared my golden locks to shoulder length strands. A wave of my hand and my honey coloured hair darkened to a chestnut brown. I felt more comfortable already. I used a glamour to turn my blue eyes to green. The difference was vast. I was still recognisable as Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty. They’d still notice when I walked in the door, but it was different enough to show change.
Once upon a time, I would have painted my face with makeup, sultry smoky eyeshadow, and vivid red lipstick. I would have commanded attention in every way I could, through my clothes, through my appearance, through being the life of the party. Now I wore more natural shades, limited layers of foundation, and a pale coral on my lips. Makeup, mortal or otherwise, has its own kind of power, and sends a message about you before you even open your mouth. I had changed my message.
I chose a floor-length maxi dress of aquamarine chiffon, my girdle morphing into a silvery belt around the empire waist. I looked at myself in the mirror once more. It was a new image for the new and improved Goddess of Love. I slipped on silver sandals and I was done.
I took a deep breath. Would they recognise me? Would Ares like my new look? I pushed the thought away with a sigh. Old habits die hard. The idea of seeing him again both thrilled and terrified me. We hadn’t been lovers for a long time. I wasn’t going back to Olympus to be with him. I would always have affection for the God of War, but the worst parts of my personality were brought out in his presence. With Ares, I was prone to jealousy and cruelty, the things I was trying so hard not to be these days. No, I was not looking to rekindle old romances. I had a different plan in mind.
Facing my family again wasn’t a thought I was relishing. I had made so many mistakes. My affairs. How I’d treated my children. Especially Dinlas. I’d been awful to him. I doubted anything I could do now would repair the relationship I had so carelessly fractured in my youth. Of all the reasons for me to return, Dinlas was my priority. I wanted to fix things with Eros too, but mending the gaping wounds I’d caused to Dinlas would undoubtedly soften my other son’s heart as well.
I’d been a terrible mother. I couldn’t erase the past, but I could at least try to have a future with them. But would anything I did ever be enough?
I knew it was time to return, even if Zeus hadn’t sent the command all those months ago. Making amends wouldn’t be easy, but I had to try.
In the past, I’d complained that I was vilified, and that was true, but I’d done a lot of the damage myself. I gave them the ammunition they needed, telling myself I didn’t care what anyone thought. I hadn’t cared back then. Not about the future, not about who I hurt, and not about a great number of things I should have.
I packed quickly, zipping up my suitcase once everything was neatly folded inside. I put my laptop in my bag. I was ready. I would treat myself to one last walk on the beach, and then I’d check out of the Hotel Cygnet. I’d go to the God Complex, the home of the Gods on Earth.
It was time.