Memory of the Hearth

“It wouldn’t have been a violation of my oath to lie with no man, but be with a woman,” I mumbled to myself as I narrowed my eyes at the flames in my hearth. My three-headed fire feline lept out and started to rub its heads across my calves. I petted him as I watched the logs burn.

My arms were above my head, rocking to the music. “Love is a battlefield,” I sang along as I came across a door with an expensive lock. I frowned and grabbed the lock, heating it from within before I ripped it away from the latch. I opened the door, frowning as I peered within. 

My head tilted, confusion crossing my face. “Why in the world would all of my important things be locked up?” I stepped in, a feeling of dread feeling me. 

As I entered, I looked around, taking in the trophy room. I let my hand brush across a stone statue with faded paint, a feeling of triumph flashing through my body. It was followed by a flash of anger and disappointment that it was placed in the room. “The day I earned that from Lady Nike was a highlight of my life. She was so sweet when she gave me this, so innocent, so full of joy. Why would I hide it away like this? It is like I had manifested my anger and separated myself. Maybe this is why the apartment was filled with way too much fire? I had things to deal with.”

I moved deeper into the room, noting cardboard boxes lined the shelf to the left, while on the right were metal boxes. Several items sat on the shelf, like the gift from Nike and a few snow globes. I ran my hand over a long, narrow silver box before popping the latches. I opened it to see a xiphos stored within. The sword was about sixty centimeters long and had a finely honed double edge. It rested in foam that was cut to fit the blade. I wrapped my hand around the hilt, my mind flashing back to the day I had received it. 

*****

“Alright,” said Adrestia as she unsheathed her xiphos, “it’s time for practice.” She held it to her side as the six and seven-year-old girls lined up in front of her, their wooden replicas gripped in their tiny hands. 

I chuckled as I placed a basket on my head, one hand holding it in place as I turned back to my hearth. “But, Tia, I can’t move like that,” cried a girl in a red outfit. 

“That’s alright,” Adrestia said as she knelt in front of the little one. “Not everyone can move the same but through practice and hard work, you can learn how. Lady Hestia,” she called out as she stood, “could you join us?”

My back was to the other goddess, so she didn’t see me close my eyes and lightly sigh. As I turned, I gave the Goddess of Revolt a broad smile. “Lady Adrestia, how can I help you this lovely morning?”

“Do you know how to perform the Pyrrhichios?” Adrestia asked me. 

“Of course, I know how to perform the Prrychios,” I said as I butchered the name of the dance my fellow goddess referred to. 

Adrestia gave a soft laugh. “It is a dance with one’s weapon. It helps prepare the girls to resist any potential invaders. It is something that all women should learn, even you. Will you join us?”

I glanced over the little girls, hope in their eyes that a goddess would learn with them. I gave Adrestia a nod as I sat down my basket of pomegranates. “I would be delighted to learn with you,” I said as I moved to stand next to the little ones. 

“Take my blade. You will find that it is perfectly balanced, as all things should be,” the Goddess of Revolt said. 

I took the xiphos and gave several quick swipes through the air. “It is balanced so well.”

Adrestia gave me a quick smile before she started to explain to us the movements. She slowly moved her hips, explaining how being quick could allow us to dodge an arrow or a spear. She had the girls rock back and forth, replicating her slow steps. I copied her exactly, or at least I thought I was.

“Hestia, move like this,” Adrestia said as she placed her hands on my hips and moved my body in the right motion. I swallowed hard as I felt my stomach drop from her touch. No idea why that would happen. I must have eaten something that didn’t settle right with me. 

I stepped back, my hands moving to the side. “Like this?”

“Exactly like that,” the Goddess of Revolt said, flashing me a smile that made my stomach do a flip. 

I spun away from the other woman, sweeping my right foot out low. Adrestia smiled at me in approval. “See, she is improvising. Her spin would have taken her away from an attacker and she could have swept my feet out from under me if she wanted to.”

“Dancing is that important?” asked the girl who had been upset before. 

“It is important to know how to defend yourself,” I said as I rose back to my feet. “There are many that would want to take what they want at the point of a sword. Knowing how to deflect the blade is just as important as knowing how to avoid being there in the first place. We will teach you every way to a man’s heart.”

“I thought it was between the third and fourth ribs, not exactly hard to learn,” Adrestia said.

I lifted my hand, index finger raised, my mouth open to respond. I lowered my hand slowly as I thought about my friend’s comment. “True, but the food I make is another way to tame a man. Give them enough food and wine, and they will become like wet clay in your hands. Wait, are they not a little young to learn about this?” I asked, an eyebrow raised.

“This is Sparta, Hestia. They are born with a knife between their teeth.” Adrestia laughed. 

*****

I dropped the blade, letting it fall back into the foam as I came out of the memory. Behind the sword case was a much larger case. I popped open the latches and smiled at the shield with a cooking fire painted on it. It was good to be home, even if it brought memories back, both good and bad. 

“What in the fracking fire?” I whispered. “What was that going on inside of me back then?” I shrugged before taking the blade and shield. As I left, I grabbed the victory stone before entering my living room. I hung the weapons above my mantel, sitting them prominently over my hearth. I placed the stone below them, ensuring the face was able to observe the room.

I went into the kitchen, mixing myself a mint julep. It was a relaxing drink I had found while wandering the Southern United States. After taking a sip, I let out a long, slow breath. I let myself pace the apartment. Why did I remember that event? Now, of all times? 

Wait, I’d read mortal books about that kind of thing. Romance novels often talked about stomach flips or feeling flush when liking someone. Did I like Adrestia? I didn’t know. She did fit the view of Spartan Beauty. Xena could only wish she looked as good as the Goddess of Revolt had at the time. 

What did this mean for me? If only I knew someone I could talk to. It’s not like there was a Goddess of Love or anything that could explain this. She’d squee, say it’s about time, then drag me out to meet the man of my dreams. Let me be clear. I had zero interest in men, never had, and thought I wasn’t interested in relations with anyone. I pinched the bridge of my nose, releasing my frustration at my lack of understanding. It was not like I felt things like that. 

“It wouldn’t have been a violation of my oath to lie with no man, but be with a woman,” I mumbled to myself as I narrowed my eyes at the flames in my hearth. My three-headed fire feline lept out and started to rub its heads across my calves. I petted him as I watched the logs burn. 

“Had I been attracted to Adrestia at the time?” I said to myself before taking another sip. “Ugh, these feelings are so confusing. It’s no wonder I missed it at the time. Anyway, enough moping around, it’s time to get the place ready for her invasion and dinner later. Do I leave the good knives out? She wouldn’t ruin them, would she? Oh, maybe for their peace of mind I should replace them? I’m bouncing subjects to avoid thinking. Let’s stop doing that and think.” 

I unpacked a scale model of the Battlestar Galactica and placed it in the middle of my coffee table. I then pulled out a bust of a character that I’d picked up in return for a special favor that I’d done for a developer. It was a shame that the large man wasn’t Greek, but alas, he wasn’t exactly a representation of that other group. I started to paint the bust, making sure it was perfect to become a gift. I painted about half of the object, letting my mind wander and work out my issues.

After cleaning my brushes, I stood. “Pah, that’s enough moping. Let’s see what I need to buy. Cooking clears my mind better anyway,” I said as I moved into the kitchen. I checked through the ingredients and came up wanting. “The other me had lost her damn mind. Where is the Hungarian Paprika? There isn’t any chipotle powder, nor is there anything approaching enough garlic. Where is the goat milk? Oh, for crying out loud, she didn’t pick up any real spices. What did I become? Was I a white girl who scrambles for the not actual pumpkin, pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks?” I had a full-body shiver as disgust filled me. “Ugh, I hope not.” 

Hestia (Aaran Jolly)
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