The stables were oddly empty of the usual staff, but it afforded me some much-desired privacy with the twins. I had time to introduce them to each of the horses, name by name, giving tidbits about their history and heroic deeds.
I’d had a glimpse of what my life could have been had I not been the Athena. I’d spent so long living for others that somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten to live for myself, and I regretted the life I did not live.
The water droplets fell free from my nose and chin, and I opened my eyes slowly to stare down at my reflection. I looked paler than usual. A black tear dripped from the corner of my eye. I blinked. Perhaps my eyes were blurry? I rubbed them, then continued to stare. But my reflection only worsened.
I should be terrified that the man will use the gun that is currently shoved in my back to kill me. I’m not. A still calmness flows over me and time seems to stand still. I don’t know how, but I know exactly what to do.
I don’t tell him about how the entire time we cleaned the kitchen it kept changing to some cold dedicated prison. I don’t mention the woman I saw staring back at me as I turned the kitchen lights out. She wore the same red dress, had the same long flowing dark hair, and the same gold eyes and matching jewelry. I don’t tell him about the smile she wore as she pointed to me.
Take me to Arion. I willed the portal to open, and the bark began to peel away, revealing a small, glowing gateway. Taking one last hasty glance around me to make sure I wasn’t being watched, I stepped through. I re-entered the Grieving Gardens. Only now, they were deathly quiet. The children were gone. A soft nicker interrupted the stillness, and I turned to see Arion approach me. He set his muzzle against my hand, and I was glad for the kind greeting.
“Daddy, Daddy!” Charlie came running into the room, tears streaming down her face. Her cute little blonde curls stuck to her flustered cheeks. She was my sun in this cold, dark world, the constant glow in my life, and the only reason that I stayed in this shit hole.
“It was around this time that Zeus and I started going through a particularly good period. I don’t know if he was distracting me on purpose, but I wasn’t paying much attention to the mortal world. Not long after the snake incident, Alcaeus’s mother set him in the woods, apparently hoping to avoid my wrath. Had I known about it, I would have taken his life and been done with him.”
An opening appears, and I push through, Dorothy behind me. We arrive to chaos. People are pushing past one another, attempting to be the lucky ones to get on the lifeboat. I hold the boy closer to me, looking at Dorothy. Her face is not its usual joyful expression, but grim.