It was a beautiful night. A little chilly, but in that comfortable way that felt good compared to the heat of the day. The evening sounds of nature filled our ears as Clio and I walked hand in hand around the gardens. I was honestly having a hard time figuring out what was doing more to calm me down, the beautiful night or Clio’s gentle presence. My heavy breathing eventually slowed and quieted, and my lips relaxed out of the thin line they took on when I was angry.
“Would you like to talk about it?” my sister-in-law chanced asking after biting her lip.
Sighing heavily, I conceded. “You might as well know the truth.” And since Eros refused to be the one to tell her that truth, the burden fell to me. “What has Eros told you about me?” I knew he couldn’t lie or make things up, but he could be vague and implicating. Or worse, he could be honest.
Clio gave her own sigh, looking down at the sleeping Alexander. “He’s told me that you are his sister and not much else. We haven’t had a lot of time to sit and talk about our family.” That, I could understand, between the acts of the traitor, the babies, and the awkwardness that just naturally came with our family, there wouldn’t be a lot of time or desire to discuss past family drama. I guess I couldn’t blame Eros for being busy.
“Before I became Nemesis’s apprentice, I followed my father and brothers into battle,” I explained. “A long time ago, when you two weren’t together, there was a soldier in my father’s army.” I hated that my voice still broke a little as I told the story. It had been over two thousand years. I should’ve healed. Completely.
“He was…” I paused, struggling to find the right words. There were far too many to describe him, especially since I had grown up so much since that night. The only thing I could really do was go back to the mindset I had when I first met him and try to remember what my stupid brain actually thought. “He was an impressive warrior. Very skilled. Dedicated to what he fought for…and very attractive.” It was always that last part that embarrassed me the most. I didn’t know why, but for me to admit that someone was aesthetically pleasing felt like pulling teeth.
“Eros noticed how often I talked about this soldier. How I would try to spend as much time with him as possible. And he put two and two together.” He always put two and two together, no matter how hard anyone tried to pretend that there wasn’t anything to put together in the first place. “When he wasn’t teasing me about my feelings,” which he did a lot, “he was trying to talk me into telling this soldier how I felt. I just couldn’t do it. I was built for war, not love. I had seen some frightening things in my time on the battlefield, and the idea of baring my heart to this man was,” I hesitated, not wanting to admit the word, “terrifying.” Yeah, the Goddess of the Revolt could actually be scared. And not just by things that were, rightly, terrifying. By things that everyone was afraid of, even though they were perfectly harmless.
“One day, I received a letter from this soldier, and it revealed such a gentle side to him. He said that he was attracted to me. Knowing that, it felt safe for me to go to him and speak what was on my heart.
“The night before a big battle, I met with him and told him that I returned his feelings. I looked at him as I spoke…and he was entirely confused. He had no clue what I was talking about. He tried to pretend like he did, but he didn’t. The feelings that I saw in the letter were nowhere to be found in his eyes.
“It didn’t take a genius to figure out what had happened. Eros had forged the letter to encourage me to speak my feelings. And I’m sure that he was just as entertained by the whole game as the soldiers were. The next morning, word had spread, and any authority I had established over the men was gone in the blink of an eye. I went from being the fearsome Goddess of the Revolt to a lovesick laughingstock. All because of Eros.
“After that, I swore I would never speak what was in my heart if it was anything other than indifference, anger, or rage. To anyone. And especially not to Eros. And nothing has changed. He’s still doing everything he can just to ruin my life and make people I care about think less of me.
“So that is the truth.” As I finished the story, I could feel Clio’s sympathy reaching out to me. I was actually surprised I had managed to remain still as I recounted the tale. It was an improvement, I supposed. It was getting easier and easier, despite how we found ourselves in those circumstances.
“Oh, Adrestia,” Clio sighed sadly. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” And that was what crushed my composure. My stillness of body, mind, and spirit crumbled at the sounds of caring sympathy. The hot tears of anger returned and spilled down my face. Clio’s arms may have been thin, but I could feel the strength in them as she embraced me, still holding Alexander. “It’s okay to cry,” she encouraged.
“No, it isn’t,” I croaked out, shaking my head as I brushed my tears away. “That gives him what he wants.”
Clio shook her head, combing her fingers through the hair that had broken free of my braid and gone wild while I was trying to murder her husband. “He doesn’t want to ruin your life,” she tried to assure me.
“Then why does he keep doing everything I tell him not to do? Why’d he go to my home, disguised as me, and ruin my reputation?”
Clio sighed again. “Eros has a reason for everything he does. Although I disagree with what he did, perhaps you should talk to him?”
“I feel like that’s just giving him all my weaknesses on a platter.”
Clio’s lips were soft as they pressed against my forehead. “He loves you very much, Adrestia. I don’t think it’s a horrible idea to talk things through with him.”
I released a defeated sigh. “I’ll try, but only so no one will say that I was being unreasonable or the bad guy.” I’d had enough of that with that harpy, Atë.
I chuckled mirthlessly. “I love how everyone said the same thing in the lounge. Just ignore him. He’s allowed to do whatever he wants, but I have to be the bigger person. It would be a lot more fair if they told him to stop being such a dick and respect my boundaries. Why does he get a pass?”
“Because they’ve told him to stop being a dick before, and he never learns. Unless I threaten him.” I knew I liked Clio. Gentle lamb, she may seem, but she had her own power that eclipsed many. I respected her.
A whoosh of air, a tear into my back, and a clattering against the walking path’s stones interrupted our sisterly laughs. I arched my back, groaning in pain as I twisted to find the source. What was that?
“Eros!” Clio suddenly called out angrily, sending Alexander into a crying fit.
I froze and carefully looked down at the ground. Sure enough, there was an arrow lying on the ground near my feet, the tip slightly stained with shimmering gold ichor. “No, no, no, no, no.”
“What?” Eros’s voice called from behind me. “I thought she should get it over with.”
I screwed my eyes close, shutting out my surroundings and the sounds as I reached into my back pocket. Thank us. My handkerchief was still there. Eros hadn’t managed to pick it. I worked quickly to tie the bandana around my eyes. It was a hasty fix, but it would work for now while I thought about what the hell I was going to do.
Despite the heaviness of my breathing, I could still hear my brother losing his shit, though he tried to hide it by covering his mouth. “You did not just have that on you. This is the best day ever.”
“Undo this, Eros,” Clio demanded with more venomous authority than I think I had ever heard from her.
“Undo what? Once a love arrow hits, it can’t be undone.”
“You are about to live with the consequences of your actions, Eros.” Clio’s tone was one of warning that prefaced my exact reaction to the situation.
I couldn’t hold myself back anymore. Between the fear, frustration, and honest feelings of betrayal, I had to give my emotions a voice. “Why would you do this to me?!” My shriek bounced off Mount Olympus and echoed around us.
Suddenly, Eros’s voice was right in my ear. “Because you’re afraid to fall in love. Why?”
I swung my arm back to elbow him in the nose, but with his speed and my blindfold, the odds were in his favor. What was I gonna do? He was right. Once a love arrow struck, almost nothing could undo it. Mother would’ve known what to do, but who knew where she was? None of us had heard anything from her since our return. “I have to get back to the lounge.” I pushed myself to my feet and started taking cautious steps in the general direction of the GC.
A large, warm hand fell to my shoulder. I could tell it was Eros’s just by the size. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Don’t touch me!” I yanked away so hard that I actually stumbled back and fell onto my ass, losing all sense of direction.
“You should tell me who you’re crushing on then so I can make sure they’re the first person you see, little sister.”
“I don’t want to see anyone!” Specifically, not Haley. I had seen what asses my brother made of the people he shot with his arrows. I didn’t need anyone to think of me that way, especially not her.
While I started feeling the ground, desperate to find the path back to the God Complex, I heard Eros groan like the wind had gotten knocked out of him. “You’re horrible,” Clio scolded.
Eros managed to wheeze out, “You just cracked a rib!” I didn’t pay them any mind. I needed to get back to the lounge and find someone—anyone—who could undo my brother’s damage.
Suddenly, I felt a thin arm link under mine and lift me to my feet. Clio. “I’ll be staying with your sister until you decide to apologize. Come on, Adrestia.” Despite my own sense of independence, I couldn’t help but cling to my sister-in-law, desperate and thankful for her guidance.
“Aren, it wasn’t an actual arrow!” Eros sighed. “You know I don’t use those lightly.”
Both Clio and I stopped in our tracks. I could feel the rage radiating off of her, mixing with my own cocktail of angry embarrassment. I should’ve known. Of course, it was a joke. Of course, Eros was fucking with me and my head. It was his favorite pastime. It’s what he did best.
“You’re taking your joke too far,” Clio warned again.
“I’m proving a point,” Eros protested with a firmness equal to Clio’s in that moment. “Tia,” his voice suddenly softened. “I don’t use my arrows like that. Not anymore.”
If life with Eros had taught me anything, it was that I should never take him at his word. I needed to make sure. With a shaking, hesitant hand, I pulled the blindfold down to my neck. I kept my head down as I slowly opened my eyes, taking in the stone path and green grass glowing in the light of the setting sun. Clio’s tiny feet stood next to my scuffed tennis shoes. I slowly worked my way up her body with my eyes. My heart was pounding out of my chest by the time I reached her hardened, angry face.
Nothing. There was no sign of any desire for her. Not in any way that wasn’t what it had always been. She was my sister, and that was all. Eros had told the truth. I knew he couldn’t lie, so it shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did. But it still did.
Then the surprise morphed into a boiling rage within my heart. I couldn’t hold the hot tears back as I glared at the ground. It was never easy to keep my composure when Eros behaved this way. No matter how many times people told me not to react, it felt like I was going to burst if I didn’t. I could’ve set the whole world on fire with just my rage at that moment.
“Love is nothing to be scared of, little sister. It is something to be embraced. There is so little of it in the world.” After everything this…this boy had just done to me, he had the audacity to try to lecture me. I turned my glaring tears to him. Of course, he was averting his gaze from me and looking at his wife in that way he did. That way that let you know just how much she meant to him. “I only hope one day, you don’t decide that you’d rather be blindfolded your entire life rather than consider falling in love.” As Eros spoke, he took undaunted steps towards Clio and me. I dug my heels in, refusing to move, but I didn’t want him anywhere near me. I certainly didn’t want him to pet down my wild hair and plant a kiss on my forehead like he actually cared about me and my feelings. “Your housemates think the world of you—”
That was the last straw. I pushed against my brother with all my might before lashing my open hand out towards his face. He could’ve stopped me, we both knew it, but he didn’t. He let me push him away, and he let me slap him so hard that his lip actually split open from the impact. He was completely unphased by it all, stating flatly, “You know I’m right.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have come back.” Those were my last words to my brother before I took off. I ran as fast as I could away from the GC before teleporting back to Boston, intending never to return.