“What did I miss?” Aphrodite said as she came back into the living room. Under one arm was a basket of muffins, the ones I had made in vain to save my kitchen. She had whipped cream on her nose and cheek, and in her right hand was a can of the processed stuff. I had no idea why Dite liked that crap. She always says it’s fun, whatever that means. Anyway, the goddess had a few white specks that stood out on her now green chest.
The Goddess of Winter spat into her wineglass as she glanced at Aphrodite. “I guess you know her too well,” she choked out.
Aphrodite glanced between Khione and me as she sprayed more whipped cream into her mouth. “No, really, what did I miss?” she asked around the mouthful.
The Goddess of the Sea lifted a glass of grape juice to Aphrodite. “For you.”
Aphrodite sniffed the juice and narrowed her eyes at her best friend as she flopped down on the couch, spritzing more whipped cream into her mouth. “This is special for me?”
“Of course, it’s alcohol-free,” Amphitrite said.
Taking a sip of her juice, Aphrodite giggled. “You do love me,” she said as she smiled at her friend.
“Always, Aphie,” Amphitrite said before drinking more of her wine.
Aphrodite looked at me. “Have you considered teaching me how to cook so we can avoid this in the future?”
“Have you watched Alton Brown yet? Have you attempted to cook with Rachal Ray? Have you noted what Gorden Ramsey rages about? What about watching the rest of the Food Network? Lessons after you have done your homework. At the very least, they will teach you the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. Alright, love?” I asked, smiling at the Aphrodite.
“Good network. It helped so much when I returned,” Amphitrite said as she shifted in her seat.
Khione watched the other three goddesses as she sipped her wine, trying to get a feel for what it meant to be around immortals again. She shifted a little, flinching when the leather creaked beneath her.
Aphrodite growled, startling Khione. “I have been watching! It is how I found places to eat.”
I rolled my eyes as I leaned forward, resting an arm on my knee. “Look, love, while I love the Mayor of Flavortown, you really need to watch the rest of the shows to learn.”
“Giada too. I love her Italian recipes,” Amphitrite agreed.
Aphrodite whined, “But I have. I learn better by touching. Should I kidnap them? Hire them?”
“Food is available all over the world. Just pop over, eat, and go back home. We can travel wherever and whenever to get it,” Khione squeaked from her chair, her voice finding strength as she continued. “However, with how long it takes to get in and out of the building, I can see the draw to cooking.”
I nodded to Khione before looking at Aphrodite. “The Snow Goddess is correct. The world never sleeps.”
“That requires effort to prepare for an outing. I would prefer to cook in a disheveled state,” Aphrodite said as she shifted uncomfortably. I narrowed my eyes at my green friend. She was hiding something.
Khione looked puzzled, her hand gesturing toward the Goddess of Love. “Prepare for an outing? Like getting dressed up or something?”
“It doesn’t take that much to leave. Take the elevator down and teleport out,” Amphitrite said with a shrug.
Aphrodite awkwardly cleared her throat before saying, “Yes, well, I do have appearances to keep up after all.” The green goddess flicked her hair back, trying to pretend something wasn’t wrong.
I’ll have to get more information out of her in private. Her abstinence from wine and her lack of hedonism was starting to concern me. “There is a reason the mortals think it takes three hours to get ready for a date. Dite takes all day for a dinner date.”
“I have taken all day before. It just depends on the outing,” Aphrodite said with a shrug.
Khione gestured at her own leggings and oversized knit sweater. “I pretty much live in this outfit.”
Amphitrite agreed with her fellow goddess, glancing at her flip-flops and sundress. “I don’t see a need to change from this style of dress, either.”
“I am so going to need to know where that dress is from, Amph. I got this one at Ross, dress for less,” I said as I stood to show off my yellow sundress.
With a blush, Amphitrite dropped her head slightly. “I, uh, can’t really remember. It was one of the ones Dion bought me. We made our returns at the same time.”
“We are so going to need all the deets on that,” I said before finishing my glass of wine.
Dite was dropping crumbs into my recliner as she munched on her muffin. Her head shot up as I asked my question. “Which one of us? Amph, I hope.”
“Pardon?” The Goddess of the Sea said, avoiding looking at her friend.
“How did you end up with Wine Boy?” Aphrodite said as I refilled my glass.
I nodded in agreement. “Yes, that,” I said as I gestured with the wine bottle. Dite let out a soft giggle and leaned back with her glass, a sly grin crossing her face.
Khione shook her head, her eyes wide from the news. “Wait, I’m sorry. Are you and Dionysos together? Dare I ask what happened?”
Amphitrite’s head dropped slightly, and she let her hair cover her face slightly. “He was the only one who seemed to need me,” she said. She swallowed before whispering, “Certainly one of the few who cared that I had returned.”
Aphrodite shot out of her chair, outrage on her face. Crumbs flew across the table and onto the floor. “I need you! I care! If I had beat Wine Boy, would I have had you for myself?” she cried out as she slid onto the Amphitrite’s lap, her arms wrapping around her best friend’s shoulders.
“Stupid Waterboy,” Khione mumbled. “Well, I’m happy to have met you and glad you have been welcoming, despite nearly burning the place down,” she said with a glare at Aphrodite’s back.
I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips, sending a dark glare at Aphrodite before saying, “Well, I, for one, have missed you. For a long fracking time. I am glad that all of us are back now, even though we just met Khione.”
Amphitrite gave a sad smile. “It wasn’t just that, Aphie. It was everything that had happened when I returned and then my trip to the Trench… Dion came for me. Poseidon never would.” She paused, swallowing hard. “I’m sorry, Hestia. I didn’t mean it that way. And Khione, I’m happy to have met you, too.”
“I suppose I can make nice with Wine Boy. I am happy he went for you. I do apologize for being gone so long,” Aphrodite said as she kissed the top of her friend’s head.
“Wow, that sounds awful. I had been around in the past, but I was still really young when I came and visited Olympus,” Khione said with a sad look.
“Not your fault. I was the lost one. Even if you had come for me, I was in no state to recognize you or anyone… not even myself,” Amphitrite said softly.
I reached out and took my friend’s hand. “It’s hard sometimes to see that others give a frack about you, more so when it’s been an extremely long time since someone has shown you they cared. For a long time, I was a shell of myself, lost in the world. I am glad that you found someone to lead you out of the darkness you were in.”
Amphitrite nodded before leaning into Aphrodite’s chest, her other hand taking mine. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring down the reunion. Khione, I promise I’m not this depressing on a regular basis. I’ve recently come to a decision that will have earth-shaking consequences if not handled properly.”
Khione looked us over, taking in her found family. “I can relate to being a shell.”
Khione lowered her head. “I think we all have had those moments.”
“Dear, what downer? We asked how things happened. You are among friends who all know how that feels. We’d be poor friends if we didn’t talk about it and support each other,” I said to Amphitrite and then smiled at Khione warmly.
“Hestia, we helped each other. Dion’s been through some tough stuff in the last year. He isn’t the same god he was in his youth,” Amphitrite said, responding to my unresolved question before she lifted her head to look at Khione. “We just need our people, our tribe as the mortals call it.”
“I’m happy to be a part of a group. And I bet none of us are the same as we were in our youth,” Khione said.
“Very true. Now, Aphie, what is this not drinking alcohol?” Amphitrite asked.
Aphrodite sighed. “It just is part of my therapy. I made some incredibly horrible decisions while inebriated, so I have chosen to abstain.”
“That’s fair. I’m sorry for suggesting it. I know now for next time. I hope things are moving on a better path for you?” Khione said.
“I can appreciate that. I thought it might be something like that, hence the virgin wine,” Amphitrite said with a nod of understanding.
“No, never apologize for that. Everyone deserves to enjoy themselves, especially if they are better at moderation. I am content to drink my virgin wine,” Aphrodite said to Khione, a smile on her face.
“Okay. Can I ask a question while we’re on a personal level? I had a moment with my powers in front of mortals,” Khione said as she put her glass of wine down.
“Go on, what happened?” I asked. The other goddesses shifted to pay attention to Khione’s story.
“Well, essentially, I was terrified.” Khione looked up in memory. “I was in front of a camera, and I lost control. I froze the electronics and made some light bulbs explode.” She paused, swallowing hard. “I, uhm, I was sweating, and I’ve never done that before,” she said as she fiddled with her hands. “I thought of who I could ask and got a vision of a teapot, which is why I came down here in the first place this evening. I thought that was my sign to ask for help,” she said as she stared at her hands.
Aphrodite and Amphitrite’s heads snapped to Hestia as the Sea Goddess grabbed a muffin. “Hestia is great for advice, even though Aphie is the oldest of us.”
The Goddess of Love let out a cough that sounded like traitor, causing Amphitrite to cast her friend an evil grin. Khione laughed at the banter of the two friends. I smiled at their playfulness as I took a moment to put my words together. There were so many options, but fear came to mind.
“You are used to standing alone, everyone around you huddled away as they wait for your beauty and wrath to fade as Persephone awakens the new growth. You’ve been treated with distant respect, yet you are feared. Yet, they did not show this to you. What do you have to fear? Helios? Apollo? Beyond what they represent, who can harm the Great Lady of Winter? You were faced with the unknown, which is frightening. Your powers probably responded to this and removed the cause of fear,” I said.
Khione nodded in understanding. “Oh, your fire kitty could do a lot of damage to this cold girl,” she said with a nervous laugh. “It was more the sweating that bothered me than the freezing thing. Do most people sweat when they are afraid?”
“I know I do,” Amphitrite said between muffin bites, crumbs falling into my couch.
The Winter Goddess gave a shiver. “It’s kind of an unpleasant sensation. Hestia, the vision was right to bring me to you all.”
“Yes, we often sweat when afraid. Do you know what the fire fears? Water. You’ve noticed Leo has hidden in the fireplace the whole time you’ve been inside. He hid behind the logs when you entered. He’s where he is simply because I trust you,” I said with a nod.
“Yes. I am scared of him, but only in the sense that he could physically hurt me. This was a new type of fear. Thank you for trusting me,” Khione said as she lifted her knees to wrap her arms around them. “Well, I guess that was my turn to turn this meeting into something serious. Does anyone else have something to share?”
“Well, I have a community center that would love to have the three of you hang out. I know a kid that wants to become the next Peekaboo Street. Peekaboo is a gold medalist for snowboarding in the Mortal Olympic games.”
“Oh. Cool. I haven’t been able to watch the winter Olympics yet, but the summer ones this year were wonderful,” Amphitrite said with a grin.
I returned the grin. “You do know some mortal things.”
Khione’s eyes lit up. “Oh, the Winter Olympics! I love watching mortals play in the snow!”
Amphitrite gave a hearty laugh. “I have been back for a year and a half. I have picked up a few things.”