I wandered the shores where I normally expelled my energy, only to find a storm on the horizon. The grey clouds rolled in as the sea churned at my feet, much like the thoughts that ran through my head. Had I made the right decision with Helios and Eos? Will he forgive me? Should he? Hell, I do not think I do. The waves crashed on a nearby outcrop of rocks. The thoughts in my head and heart matching their ferocity.
I closed my eyes as the wind whipped through my hair. I had watched Atë’s return and seen the madness Tartarus had caused her. What was Eos going through? What had I done to her? The memory of her screams as they dragged her away from us, and the betrayal she conveyed to me before she was out of range, consumed me. Hell, I condemned her to hell. Me. I did that. To my own sister. A single tear ran down my cheek, mingling with the salty spray that already peppered my face.
Helios knew all too well what she was going through. How would he ever understand or forgive me for this? Gods! Tired and overwhelmed, I sat on the beach with my knees against my chest, letting the wind and surf batter me. First Eos and Helios, then the quest. Who had I become in the stupid pursuit for family and belonging? I was better off alone. Everyone was. Would I bring Artemis down as well? I could not bear that thought.
Between my business’ decline due to the mortal virus spreading rampantly through the world, the strain between Artemis and I, and the exhaustion from the quest, I felt obscured and isolated again. The once calming place of alone was now an odd, painful place to be. Lightning crashed in the distance, bringing me back to my present surroundings.
Who was I anymore?
Atë told me the screams and smells alone were horrendous and kept you awake. I imagined my beautiful sister curled up in the corner of her cell, rocking and whimpering. Her bright rosiness gone, replaced with filth and grime. I shuddered as a large wave crashed against the outcrop. I’m sorry, Eos! I’m so sorry. I sobbed into my hands as the storm rolled closer.
My thoughts took over again, and I went back to our childhood. Helios and I ran like the wind, laughing as Eos tried to keep up. Sol and I were inseparable. Our bond was always closer. We did things to exclude her purposely. I felt like utter shit in hindsight. We caused her anger and resentment. I was a monster. A cold-hearted, undeserving, bitch. I should be in that cell, not Eos.
The ocean swirled and raged before as a familiar warmth came over me. Helios? Here? Oh, gods! “Luna?” he shouted above the crashing waves and rushing wind. He did not need to. I knew it was him as our thoughts and hearts joined. I remained stoic, staring out at the surf. I knew he could feel what I did, and I did not need to say anything. I could not bear to look at him. He slowed his approach and knelt beside me. The warmth emanating from his hand reached me before his flesh did as he touched my shoulder. “You know that’s not true, Luna. Surely not.”
I broke down again and gazed up at him. “Sol, what have I done? Do you hate me as much as she does?”
Setting his board down on the sand, he pulled me into his embrace. “Luna, I don’t hate you at all, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up. You made the right choice. Had it been me, I would have done the same.” Helios touched his finger to my chin, tilting it up so my eyes met his. “Eos.” He shook his head. “Luna, I felt her while we were at the river Styx. You were right. She hasn’t changed. If she has, it was only to get worse and grow darker. It felt like acid coming off of her.”
I nodded. “That is exactly how it felt. She seethed with it.”
“Not much unlike me when I was captured and sent to Tartarus, myself. Give her time. Perhaps she will change, perhaps she won’t. But you made the right choice.”
He pulled me closer and held me tight. “How? How can you forgive me if you know what she is going through? What it is like in there?” I asked, my face against his chest.
“Because it was the right thing to do, Luna. I’m not even mad. I love you so much. Please stop beating yourself up over these things. Come.” He sat back and offered me his hand. “Let’s walk and talk.”
I took his hand as we stood together. He draped his arm over my shoulder and began by telling me about therapy and the things he and Persephone talked about as we walked down the shore. The more I was with him, the lighter I felt. Sol always had that way with me. He always seemed to have a great perspective on things. He stopped suddenly and beamed at me. “Oh, Luna! I have something for you! Come to my apartment, please?”
I smiled up at him. “Of course.” He jogged back to grab his board and met me at the boardwalk. Walking hand in hand, like old times, I asked him, “Remember that time we tried to play seek-and-find?” We roared in laughter. “There is no hiding when we can feel each other.”
“Luna, I meant to ask. Is that why Erebus was there? To hide you from us?” He shifted his board under his arm as we approached the GC.
“Yes. I knew Eos would know what I was planning if I did not have a block, and Erebus was able to help.” I opened the door for us as we entered and made our way to the elevator. “And you, Sol. I could not let you know what was going on. I could not risk that you would not respond or react and mess everything up. I hope you understand.”
“I do.” He nodded and pressed the button as the doors closed. “I don’t know if I would have reacted any differently, but I wouldn’t have been able to keep it from her. It was a wise choice.”
The elevator opened to the rehabilitation floor, and he let me out before him, flipping the board over and switching arms to open his apartment door. He had taken the beginnings of the nice, bohemian style room I had made for him and made it his own. Surfboards and skateboards lined up neatly on the wall by the door. A few magazines were on the table in the living room, and a tea kettle sat on the counter.
“Would you like some tea, Luna?” he asked as he headed to the kitchenette to turn the kettle on.
Leaning against the counter, I replied, “I would love some. What is your favorite?”
“Mint. It reminds me of home. When we used to go pick the leaves off the bush and chew them.” He beamed as he pulled the tea tin down from the shelf.
“Oh, yes! I remember that. Have any lavender? I like mine mixed.”
He smiled. “I remember you used to run around with a sprig in your mouth when you were little, and Mitera was always saying you were going to poison yourself.”
We chuckled for a few more moments until the kettle whistled, and he poured us both a cup. He turned with a smile. “Right, the reason you are here.” He sat his cup down and disappeared into his room, returning with one hand in a fist. “Hold out your arm.”
“What have you got there, Sol?” Cocking my brow at him curiously, I stretched my arm toward him. He opened his hand and placed a thin, intricately woven three corded bracelet on my wrist.
“Gold for me, silver for you, and bronze for Eos. Together forever, unbreakable, one.” He searched my face and thoughts as he felt my heart surge with a mixture of joy and grief.
“Oh, Sol. It is remarkable. You…made this?” A single tear ran down my face at the thought of the separation between Eos and us.
He nodded and wiped the tear away. “Yes, and Luna, she may be away for now, but she is still with us.” He replied as he tapped his chest. “As I was always with you, even when I was away. We will get through this together. You in?”
“Always, Sol. Always.” I pulled him into an embrace and sighed deeply.
“You’re still so tired, aren’t you? Tell me about it, Luna. Tell me what happened on the quest.” He pulled me back from the hug and sat me down on his sofa.
I picked up my cup and sipped my tea. “It may be easier to show you as I do not know if the words could cross my lips adequately.”
He inclined his head as I closed my eyes and conveyed the most poignant bits of the quest to him.
“You had to…Artemis! Oh Luna! No wonder you are tired. You need to take care of yourself, dear sister. Take some time off and just rest.”
“Rest? When, how? My business is falling apart, and I hardly see Artemis anymore. When was the last time you even saw me at the lab?” I exhaled in exasperation.
“Selene, look at me! If you do not take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?” His eyes bore into the top of my head as I looked down into my teacup. I hated it when he called me by my name, and he knew it. “Sit back, relax, and tell me about how you and Artemis got together. I can feel how you glow when you talk of her. You bloody well rival me in brightness. Go on, before the quest.”
I did as he asked and sat back on his plush couch, sipping my tea, and remembering back to the night of the party. “Oh, Sol, you should have seen her. When she walked in…she took my breath away.” We spoke of happier times, walks in the park together, and things planned.
“Then go to her. Tell her how you feel. Remind her that you still love her, and you will be here when Sayeh and things settle down. Tell her!”
He was right. I needed to see Artemis. We needed to clear the air, just as Helios and I had. I was holding too much in and needed to just get it out to those who cared about me most. I was no longer alone. I needed to stop the self-loathing and doubt and just talk to my family.