The buzzing of my phone made me frown slightly. Most of the people who had my number were sitting in Tori’s living room with me while we figured out Callie’s living arrangements. I checked my phone, my smile drawing interested glances from my mortals as I read the text. Amphitrite was the only immortal I had given my number to, but I hadn’t expected her to respond so quickly. I opened her text and felt my smile widen.
Amphitrite: If the snacks are on you, I suppose I could forgive you. I’m glad you’re back. We have so much to talk about.
The message was straightforward, and knowing that my best friend would forgive me, made me feel a little better. I was relieved that we’d be able to have our nights-in to hang out, but I didn’t know what to say to her. For now, I set the phone aside to focus my attention on my mortals. They were playing a drinking game, and it was fascinating. There were cards involved, but they were speaking of buses. Perhaps I would have them teach some of the other goddesses about the game.
Callie was laughing and playing along, but I could see the pain in her eyes, feel the weight in her heart. It would take time to draw out the details of everything that he had done to her, but I was determined to help her. Perhaps offering her ex’s head on a silver platter might hurry along her healing. At the very least, I could make him suffer as he did her. While the details were beyond me, he was not.
Micah had been efficient, gathering others to help him collect Callie’s things. She was quickly moved in, and Tori didn’t seem to mind the company in her home. Micah and Tori’s warmth and acceptance were always exceeding my expectations. I was glad the three of them were getting along so well.
I excused myself and headed back to the Complex. There was planning to be done, and I would rather my mortals be none the wiser. I hadn’t shared my true identity with them, and I wasn’t sure if I would anytime soon. Did I trust them? Yes. Did they suspect something was off? Also, yes. But their guesses were far more outlandish than accurate. It amused me when I had the chance to overhear them. For now, I would spend some alone time at the Complex to plot. I did sometimes wish for less solitude, and—no, there was no point in thinking that way. Either that would come to pass, or it wouldn’t. There was no point in spending my every waking moment worrying about it.
Though I plotted and planned, I knew it was too soon to put those things into motion. I had considered resuming my search for Hephaestus. It had taken years to destroy our relationship, and I knew it could take just as long to fix things between us. However, no one wanted to tell me where he was, and I still had to figure out who had his number. Then I had to convince them I only had the best intentions, so they would let me have it.
I had thought about going to see Ares. My hope was to create an amicable friendship with him, but I knew who I needed to see first. Seeing Ares might just undo all my hard work, and that was the last thing I wanted. At least I could admit that I had a weakness for him and was strong enough to stay away.
While I was beginning again at square one in the search for my husband, I resumed taking patients again. It was slow as most of my previous patients had moved on to other therapists, but I had several returning. That was fine. A smaller patient load might be better.
I’d also figured out a new schedule with my therapist, something I needed, as my Hephaestus search had me quite discouraged. Dr. Frost was more willing to do the sessions than I had thought she would be. Playing human for her wasn’t always easy, but it remained quite enjoyable for the time being. I worried that telling her the truth after so long might do more damage than good, and I would rather not have to find a new therapist.
As I waited for a session to begin, I started a new text to Amphitrite. She’d always been there for me, and my instinct was to text her, to whine over my inability to get ahold of my husband. I looked at the woe is me text I had crafted and quickly deleted it. It had been too many years since our last encounter for me to be selfish and merely text her. No, she deserved far better than that. Before I started complaining about my problems, I wanted a chance to catch up with what was going on in her life. Instead, I sent her a few of my favorite memes about our pantheon before tossing my phone on the bed.
“Where are you?! I need your help over here! This is not why I wanted you to work with me! How dare you abandon me?!” My mortals had long since ignored my screaming. “I care little for the desires of your mother! I need your help! Stop being so selfish! Stab yourself with the healing kit and move!”
I hated online games. Working in tandem with others was infuriating. I had gotten bored with all the others I had played, so I had taken over one that Micah enjoyed. I had also taken over Tori’s second extra bedroom, a space she had intended to use as her office space. I’d grown frustrated and lonely, and I was sure I had driven my mortals absolutely insane with my antics.
Micah set another iced coffee beside me with my favorite muffins, and I gave him a smile, not even minding the pat on my head. While he might not know who I was, he had grown to care for me and was very protective. It was refreshing. He’d never asked for more than my friendship beyond our working relationship.
As I watched the loading screen, I frowned, thinking back to the memes I had sent Amphitrite the day before. There had been an amusing one about Ares and Aphrodite, about him being her best weapon to sleep with. As difficult a relationship as Ares and Hephaestus had, would Ares know how to get in touch with his brother? When I thought back, I believed they had ways to keep in contact, even if only for work purposes.
Yes, it’d give me the opportunity to speak to Ares, perhaps even extend an olive branch, but I needed to be sure to remain on the topic of Hephaestus. Giving in to temptation was the last thing I wanted to do. Though, as far as I knew, he had a mortal that he’d given his heart to. I was happy for him in that, and hopefully, that might be a point that I could make toward our possible friendship.
But first, I would clarify that I wanted my husband’s number, that I wanted to get in contact with him. I was ashamed of how long it had taken me, that it was the help of a mortal that had shown me the light, but I would fix it. Even if I had to debase myself, I would fix something that should have been mended millennia before.
I was stalling, making every argument not to call him, but I knew what I had to do. I got up out of the gaming chair with a sigh, ignoring my treats and coffee. Instead, I crawled onto the bed and grabbed my phone. Ares’ number was one of the few that I had gotten when asking about my husband’s. Some people had been quick to offer his, Amph’s, as well as a few others. Now I just had to hope that it would come in handy.
Each ring of the phone made my heart thrum louder and louder. When he answered, I frowned. He thought I was Reginald. Whoever that was. “It is not Reginald.” The silence on the other end made me frown. “Ares, are you there? It is Aphrodite. Have I called at a bad time?” Because that definitely was how it seemed to me. This was already more awkward than I had thought it would be, and I was suddenly questioning my sanity over calling him. I just prayed he’d have the information I wanted and be willing to share it. I supposed our friendship could wait if it was too difficult for him.
Suddenly, the infuriating and rage-inducing online gaming seemed like a trip through a magical dreamland. The true emotional roller coaster was that phone call. The most stressful part of my return so far was this. My stomach was tight with nerves, and my chest hurt, though I didn’t really know why. As much as it was physically paining me to do something as simple as that phone call, it brought a worse question to mind. How much harder would my reunion with Heph be then? That thought had me more terrified than I had been since I arrived in New Mexico.