I couldn’t remember the last time I’d woken to an empty house. Even when we were in New Mexico, Tori or Micah were always there. So waking to find they were all gone was jarring. A pang of worry went through me, but I quickly calmed myself. I knew they would call me if they were in danger. It was the agreement we had come to once they knew the truth of who I was. It was important to me that I knew when they needed me. Perhaps I’d become too attached to my mortals.
I pushed that thought aside and moved through the house, searching for a clue as to where they had gone. I laughed when I saw the large note on the fridge.
Oh, supreme love goddess!
We went into town to get supplies and explore some new areas. If you’re up and around before we get back, Callie left some food for you in the fridge. Don’t blow up the house using the microwave. Or do, you bought it. Just save our stuff. We’ll be back before dinner. You have our numbers if you need something while we’re out. Yes, we’ll call you if we need help. Relax and do something fun while we’re gone.
Your loyal and loving puny mortals.
Cheeky brats. I couldn’t help but smile as I read over it again. They had taken the news very well and loved to joke about it. If that was their way of dealing with it, I wouldn’t be upset with them over it. I set the note aside and looked in the fridge, nearly cackling at the sight of several containers with my real name in large bold letters on sticky notes. On each note were several hearts and phallic objects, and it just endeared my mortals to me even more. It was strange, but the playful nature of the notes actually pleased me.
I did not blow up the house as I warmed the food. My choice seat was on the counter, something I got away with when the others were out, which wasn’t often. As I shoveled the last of the food into my mouth, I heard the front door open.
Their idle chatter warmed me. There was something about sharing their space that made me feel like I had a true home. Being away from the GC and my family, I realized that my home was beyond dysfunctional. My mortals accepted me, loved me, and we communicated easily in the healthiest of ways. Not to confuse them with those that had worshiped me because the love that my mortals gave happened before they learned the truth of my origins.
I hopped off the counter and dropped the plastic container in the sink before going out to meet them. “Have fun?” I asked with a genuine smile. They were in good spirits, and it lifted mine as well. How bad had I been since arriving?
“Tons! We found this random stall on the way back. We bought some goodies, and she had these little replica statues of that inaccurate one of you. Honestly, she looked like what I expected you to look, with how everyone describes you,” Tori shared.
As much as I loved hearing about their adventures, the mention of the statues seemed strange, but I was more curious about what she meant about the appearance of the seller. “How does everyone describe me?”
“You know, ethereal with light-colored hair and eyes, pale. I’m glad to know everyone was wrong about you. You’re all tan and have that dark hair and dark eyes. It is a very pleasant surprise. Promise!” Tori knew I wouldn’t be mad at her, but I could tell she was a little nervous about sharing her thoughts. Myths weren’t exactly kind regarding my vanity. Sadly, they weren’t all wrong, but I was doing better. I hoped.
What she didn’t know was that I looked like that at one point, but it wasn’t an appearance I had kept. It was something that I had abandoned so long ago that I wasn’t sure if I could return to it. That side of me was dead, and I wanted it to stay that way.
“I believe you. I am glad that I was not a disappointment to you. Show me these statues,” I urged her, hoping to shift the conversation some.
The three mortals rifled through their bags of goods and fished out small tissue-wrapped objects. As they set their bags aside and unwrapped the small packages, I couldn’t help smiling as I saw which replicated statue they had purchased. It was my favorite one, actually. The figure was crouched, thick, and had stomach rolls. I loved the representation of mortal bodies being used for my own, especially as I had seen that present-day mortals used that statue for body positivity on the internet.
If there was anything that I loved more than food, it was being able to encourage people to love their bodies and that all love was valid.
As Micah, Tori, and Callie touched their statues, a shiver went through them. I didn’t think it was that odd. My attention had been on the tiny figures they held, and I missed it. There was nothing else to make me suspicious except the random appearing stall they had stopped at.
I thought about having them lead me there, but decided that it could wait until after they relaxed and ate, assuming they hadn’t eaten while they were out. It amused me to watch Tori put her little statue up on a shelf in the living room and Callie set hers on the entertainment center. She’d settled into the space so well, I wondered if she’d want to leave again. Micah spent so much time there, I wondered if I should’ve just gotten them a larger home to share.
They got along well, which pleased me greatly. There had been squabbling, but it was more like that of siblings. I’d never seen them actually fight before.
I only became concerned after dinner when they seemed to be completely out of it. I had brushed their minimal chat during the meal off as them just being tired after their day out. But then they were nearly catatonic, and my heart sped up as I checked on each of them.
After several minutes of trying to get their attention, Micah seemed to be the most responsive. It took several minutes of shaking and patting his face before he seemed to see me again. “Can you hear me?”
When he nodded, I breathed a sigh of relief. “You are going to retrace your steps and show me everything you all did today,” I commanded as I wrenched him to his feet by his shoulders. I didn’t give him a chance to argue with me before shoving him to the front door. My heart ached as I took one last glance at Tori and Callie sitting and staring into nothing on the couch, but I knew there was little I could do for them if I didn’t discover what had happened.
There was nothing at the mall, restaurants, coffee shop, or ice cream parlor that could explain what happened. Micah seemed to be barely hanging on to his bit of clarity, and I was grateful to him for it. I could see the frustration clear on his face, and I sighed before doing something I hadn’t done in a long time. I hugged him tightly.
With a wince, I pulled away, rubbing at my collarbone. Something in his jacket pocket had been hard and dug into the bone there. A frown creased my features as I tugged his jacket open and dug through the inner pocket, my fingers nearly burning as they brushed over the miniature statue within. I pulled my hand away and stepped back from Micah, the pieces all falling together. Was his putting the statue in his pocket the reason that he’d been slightly less affected than the others? Was that the cause of everything?
“Micah!” I felt a pang of guilt as he jumped at my calling his name, but it got his attention. “Take me to the stall where you got the statues.” It took a moment for him to react to my request, but he nodded and started walking back toward the house.
Why were we walking? Because I’d still refused to learn to drive, and he was in no shape to do it. It was late enough that there weren’t many cars or other people for us to worry about, and I figured the stall would be closed when we arrived. Still, I wanted to see if there was anything about the stall that would give me a hint of what was happening.
He led me down several streets, and it seemed like we were just going back to the house. But just when that thought entered my mind, he turned down an alley. Once again, I was concerned. Had they walked that way? Why would they? Tori and Callie were both wary of dark and narrow spaces. None of this made sense to me. But I trusted Micah and believed him. I had told him to retrace their steps, and he’d done exactly that so far.
When he suddenly stopped, I slammed into his back and did my best to catch him as he fell forward. Micah turned to me with a look of confusion, and I muttered a quick apology. “No, not that. She’s gone.”
“Who? The woman at the stall? I would expect so. It is very late. I never thought she would still be here.” Not that I could see much of anything outside the alley past his large muscled form. When he moved, I couldn’t help looking up and down the street, wondering what stall it was that they’d visited. But there weren’t any. There were no stalls anywhere on the street.
“Was it a cart? Or was it one of those stalls like we saw back in town?” If it was a cart, it’d make sense, but it’d also make our search more difficult. If it was a solid stall, then I would have more concerns about my mortals being affected by her products.
“No, not a cart.”
Fuck. Well, on the one hand, I wouldn’t have to go back to the GC and tell them there was a potential curse being passed to random mortals. It meant that my mortals were most likely the target of whatever curse or spell that had been placed on the statues. I assumed it was a targeted attack because of the subject of the statues. “Where was the stall?” As Micah pointed at the exact spot, I walked over to it and nearly cried out, jumping back from the spot. My leg felt like it was on fire and I rubbed at it, trying to soothe the pain. First the statue, then her stall location. Something about her curse pained me. It felt like rage and hatred were physical entities being used against me.
It looked like I’d end up with more questions than answers, and I didn’t know where to start. If I thought someone might answer, I might just have prayed for assistance.