Of Hearths and Family

I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back, pulling my knees to my chest. The decision to come and make new friends was a good one. My vision was right. Visiting Hestia was a good choice, and now I had a group of friends that I felt connected to. Maybe I could expand my decision to trust others. There was going to be more to this evening, I was sure, but I was happy to settle in and have another drink.

I didn’t sleep well, tossing and turning, yesterday’s events playing on my mind. I dreamt about the lights blowing up and sweating. I dreamt of the aurae, Bylur, and my past. I woke up sweating again. Twisted and confused, I stared at my white walls. There was no colour anywhere. When the nymphs decorated the floor, they just thought winter was white, leave it all white. It felt like an insane asylum, and I was the patient, slowly going crazy. I paced the office back and forth, playing with my white silk headband. More white, even my sweater was white.

A white envelope was slid under the door. Someone had penned Khione beautifully across the front in purple. I opened the letter, glad for the distraction. The letter inside was from Hestia. I had been invited down to her floor. That’s a sign, I thought, and grabbed my boots, pulling them on over my black leggings. I looked down at my oversize white sweater, and thought, I really am a walking winter cliché. No wonder everything is white. Even the letter is white. The cold wrapped around me like a blanket, and I headed down to meet with the Goddess of Hearth and Home.

After a rough introduction that involved nearly setting the place on fire, Aphrodite, Amphitrite, Hestia, and I settled into pleasant conversation around Hestia’s hot pink couches. Amphitrite had run offto grab some wine. Aphrodite had draped herself dramatically across the couch. While Amphitrite was gone, I asked a nagging question.  

“Is that the Amphitrite?” My brain hadn’t let the thought go since I heard her name in the corridor after Dite had set the oven on fire. 

Aphrodite laughed out loud.Yes, though it has been some time since I have heard her referred to as such”

“Oh,” I said. 

Hestia stood and said, “Yes, just as I’m the Goddess of the Hearth and Home. While we are waiting, can I offer you anything from the kitchen?”

“No, I know who you all are. It’s just a shock to meet Amphitrite.” And that she wasn’t angry or jealous of me in any way, I continued in my head. 

Dite shot Hestia a look and said, “I feel a little overshadowed, how about you? Also, I was craving muffins!” 

“Ask next time, dear,” Hestia told Dite. “There were fresh muffins in the pantry. I made them just this morning.” 

“That’s not what I meant! I mean, I’m happy to meet you all!” I tried to explain as Amphitrite returned carrying three bottles of wine and a box of croissants that she tossed towards Dite.

I grabbed some red, white, and an alcohol-free one, in case someone isn’t drinking,” she announced as she headed towards the kitchen for glasses. 

How long has it been since you were teased, Elsa?” Dite asked me. The name made me freeze. I hated being compared to that princess story. 

“Please don’t call me that. They twisted that story of mine so horribly. It’s not even recognizable.”

Dite sighed as she looked up at me. “You have to learn to laugh about it. We have all been portrayed horribly over the years. Do I look like a bright pink cartoon that would kiss Hermes?”

“I’m sorry, I haven’t been around real people in a while, and it’s taking some adjusting. I didn’t mean to get defensive.” 

“Oh, sweetie, it’s a chance for all of us. Some have been back longer than others. It’s been over two thousand years since I was among my family.”

Aphrodite leaned over and hesitated slightly before patting my hand. “We have all been upset over portrayals done by humans. 

“Yep, those who get them…” Amph poured us all some wine, and we traded stories about our return to the God Complex and family. Amphitrite was telling a melancholic tale, and I felt a connection with these three goddesses. A connection I hadn’t shared with anyone in a thousand years.

“Well, I am happy to have met you, and I am glad you have been welcoming, despite the hand I played in nearly burning the place down.” I glared at Dite, who just gave an innocent blink while she reached out to hug Amphitrite. 

“I suppose I can make nice with Wine Boy,” Dite told Amph and gave her a big squeeze. “I am happy he went for you. I do apologize for being gone so long.” 

I couldn’t help the sad expression on my face as Amph told her story, and with my history with Poseidon, I knew the sadness she experienced.

“Not your fault. I was the lost one. Even if you had come for me, I was in no state to recognize you or anyone… Or myself,” Amph finished, head lowered. 

“That sounds awful,” I said. “I am sorry. I was around in the past, but I was still so young when I last visited Olympus.” 

Hestia looked down into her glass and then back at Amph. “For a long time, I was a shell of myself, lost in the world. I am glad you found someone that led you out of the darkness you were in.” Hestia’s words struck a chord within me because I, too, had been in solitude and a shell of myself. I swirl my wine, contemplating the ramifications of being so alone, so aloof. Was I capable of trusting this group of goddesses? 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring down the reunion,” Amph said. Her head was now resting on Dite’s shoulder. “Khione, I promise I’m not this depressing on a regular basis.”

I looked around the room, taking the ladies in one at a time, and lowered my head before speaking. “I can relate to being a shell. I think we all have had those moments.” Hestia smiled knowingly at Amph and me.

“Dear, what downer?” Hestia asked. “We’d be poor friends if we didn’t talk about it and support each other.” Hestia waved her hand around the circle as if to say this was a safe place. These ladies were comfortable here. 

“Hestia, we helped each other,” Amph continued. “Dion has been through some tough stuff in the last year. He isn’t the same god he was in his youth.” She reached for me, trying to grab my hand. I pulled in my cold and grabbed it.

“We just need our people, our tribe, as the mortals call it.” I squeezed Amph’s hand as she struck another heartstring. I really think I’ve found a group I can belong to. 

“You haven’t brought us down, Amph. I’m happy to be a part of a group. And I bet none of us are the same as we were in our yout,.” I said.

Amph released my hand and looked at Dite. “Now… Aphie, what is this about not drinking alcohol?”

Dite looked at her friend and sighed. There was a brief pause as she looked at each of us, deciding to trust the ladies in the room. “It is just a part of my therapy. I made some incredibly horrible decisions while inebriated.” She paused again, and I could see the memories play across her eyes. “So, I have chosen to abstain.”

Guilt flashed through me, and I nodded in understanding. “That’s fair,” I told her. These women have been through so much. I felt a kinship I didn’t know I could feel. 

“I thought it might be something like that. Hence the virgin wine for you,” Amph said.

“I’m sorry for suggesting it. I’ll know for next time,” I apologized. “I hope things are moving onto a better path for you?” I smiled.

“No, never apologize for that. Everyone deserves to enjoy themselves, especially if they are better at moderation. I am content to drink my virgin wine.” 

I stared at my glass full of wine and at the women bravely opening up, even in my presence. I was basically a stranger, but they accepted me. I tipped the glass back and downed it, setting the empty glass on the table. I steadied my cold and looked at my hands.

“Okay,” I gulped, “can I ask a question while we’re on a personal level? I had a moment of lost control with my powers in front of mortals.” The words tumbled out, and my face flushed. 

I heard a glass setting, and Hestia spoke up, “Go on, what happened?” 

I retold the story of fear taking control and the surprise sensation of sweating. When I finished, I was playing with a small ball of ice I had created. I looked up to see Amph and Dite were both looking at Hestia, nibbling on muffins. The two of them bantered while Hestia paused in thought.

 “You are used to standing alone. Everyone around you is huddled away as they wait for your beauty and wrath to fade as Persephone awakens the new growth. You’ve been treated with distant respect, but you are feared. Yet, they did not show this to you. What do you have to fear? Helios? Apollo? Beyond what they represent, who can harm the Great Lady of Winter? You were faced with the unknown, which is frightening. Your powers probably responded to this and removed the cause of your fear.” 

She paused before continuing, “Do you know what the fire fears? Water. You’ve noticed Leo has hidden in the fireplace the whole time you’ve been inside. He hid behind the logs when you entered. He’s where he is simply because I trust you.”

I nodded and looked back at the fireplace and laughed. “Oh, your fire kitty could do a lot of damage to this cold girl. It was more the sweating that bothered me than freezing the lights. Do most people sweat when they are afraid?” 

“I know I do,” Dite mumbled around a mouthful of whipped cream. 

I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back, pulling my knees to my chest. The decision to come and make new friends was a good one. My vision was right. Visiting Hestia was a good choice, and now I had a group of friends that I felt connected to. Maybe I could expand my decision to trust others. There was going to be more to this evening, I was sure, but I was happy to settle in and have another drink. 

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