Ever the dutiful daughter, I left Zeus’ office and headed straight to the penthouse to see Hera, as promised.
“Moxie…” she sighed and shook her head, then pulled me close for a hug. “Your mortal is a wreck.”
“Z and I had a bit of a tiff.”
“So I see,” she said and stood back to look at me. “Well, that obviously went about as well as could be expected.”
I shrugged. “You know us…”
“Indeed,” she nodded knowingly as she beckoned me to follow her. “Let’s get your mortal cleaned up. I’m sure I can find something…something less scorched to put her in.”
I trailed behind her, only vaguely aware of the splendor of her apartments. I couldn’t stop looking out of the window, watching for signs of the Nightgoyles. “I counted at least six of them, earlier. If two fell and broke, that still left at least four. At least…”
I startled. “Yes, Mamá?”
“I asked you what happened with Zeus? You seem distracted. What’s wrong?” she asked as she held up two green dress options.
I pointed to the dress on the left. “Besides getting roped into handling public relations for this new Olympus Administration nonsense? Besides every time Z has a brain fart, we are all expected to drop what we are doing to smell it? Besides the fact that this poor woman I’m wearing has a scorched ass? Oh, I don’t know, Mamá, what could possibly be wrong?”
Hera walked over and pulled me in front of her full length mirror. Positioning me to face the glass, she held the dress to my front and looked at our reflection. “Hmm. I always liked you in green. It accentuates the color in your eyes. Yes, I think this one will do…and that will be enough of your snark, Moxie-moo. I told you that I would handle it…that I’d keep you out of it and I will.”
I sighed heavily. “Too late. I already promised. Anyway, I’ll make the best of it,” I said and turned to kiss her cheek. “I don’t mean to be grouchy with you.”
She smiled tenderly and cupped my cheek. “I know you don’t. I have to confess that I’m more than a little glad to have you back home. I mean really home, not just popping in for a visit.”
“…Do not come back here…”
I blinked at the words that flitted through my mind. “Those words. That tone. Both are so familiar.” I struggled to capture the quality of what I heard. “Old. Faded. A memory…yes, that’s it. Something said from the past…”
“Moxie! You are doing it again!” Hera’s voice broke through my ruminations.
“Ugh. I am, aren’t I? I’m just feeling a bit off. Getting zapped with lightning and hanging upside down from the 91st floor in a violent storm will do that, I suppose.”
Hera laughed softly. “You two always did play rough.” She handed me the dress and pointed to her dressing room. “Get changed in there and I’ll prepare some tea.”
I stripped off the ruined clothes, dropping them in a small pile on the floor. Twisting sideways, I examined the damage on my hip, her hip. It had already closed up, seamed together with an angry red scar. Even that would be gone, shortly – a perk of sharing your body with a Goddess.
“How does the dress look?” Hera called from the other room.
I quickly slipped into it, smoothing it down over her nicely curved form. “It looks like it was made for her, Mamá,” I called back as I bent down to gather up the pile of discarded clothing. “She’s going to be baffled about the outfit change later,” I said as I rejoined Hera, “especially the missing panties.”
“Eh, panties are overrated,” Hera replied as she took the pile from me and dropped them into a plastic bag. “Your father actually prefers when I don’t…”
“Stop, Mamá!” I poked my fingers in my ears, “The last thing I need today is TMI about you and Z.”
Hera smirked. “When did you become such a prude, Moxie-moo? Certainly, I didn’t raise you to be that way.” She pointed to the vanity. “Run a brush through her hair and put on a dab of lipstick. She’ll be as good as new.”
She held up the plastic bag. “I’ll dispose of these. Meet me in the living room when you’re done. I have that tea set up for us.”
I picked up the brush and leaned in, examining the face in the mirror. That poor thing. Only an hour before, she was turning heads, and now those same admirers would turn and run in the opposite direction. Her hair was a matted coppery mess from the winds, rain, and bird fiasco. I cringed as I dragged the brush through the knots. “What a day. Smote, choked, suspended, and weather battered, all before lunch. And them…the Nightgoyles…”
“…It was not her time…”
I gasped. It was that voice again. That memory. The brush clattered against the counter as it fell from my hand. I was suddenly lightheaded and heard myself groan involuntarily. Vertigo. The room slid sideways even as I gripped the edge of the counter, trying to keep the world upright. “No, no, no, no. Get away from me!”
Hera rushed back into the room. “Moxie!”
She caught me as I started slipping to the floor. My next recollection was lying on the couch with Hera pressing a cold cloth to my forehead.
“There you are,” she said as she brushed the hair away from my face.
“I…I..Mamá, I don’t know what happened.”
“Hm. I think I know what this is about. I just don’t know why now. I thought you had gotten long passed this.”
“Passed this? Passed what?”
She inhaled deeply, then blew out a hard breath, pausing before she spoke. “Just now, you were lashing out, fighting me and screaming.”
“I don’t know what came over me. I don’t remember…I got dizzy…and then…then the next thing I knew, I was here.”
“You were screaming about…” she stopped to gauge my reaction, “about Nightgoyles, Moo.”
She nodded, still watching me.
“They are loose again,” I whispered.