The first floor was just as modern and jarring as the lobby had been. The receptionist that handed me my welcome package was just as robotic. Luckily, I did not run into any more family. The welcome package offered canned fanfare about everyone being glad I was back before getting into the grit of it all—the expectations and guidelines.
Because of course.
I was informed that I had been allotted space in the GC. The sixth floor was mine to do with as I wanted, within reason. I found that wording more interesting than most things in the packet. What was within reason for one of my relatives was not guaranteed within reason of all, or even most.
Next, there were some guidelines and disclaimers listed regarding mortal visitation. A warning noted some gods held somewhat sensitive views regarding mortals and their importance, or lack thereof. We are not responsible, or to be held liable, if a mortal is eaten or slaughtered by another god while on the premises, was the gist I got.
That inspired a pause, a frown tugging at my lips.
In regards to other deities, there was one rule that stood out the most. We were not allowed to kill or even attempt to kill or maim other GC resident deities. I thought back to my conversation with Atë. What came first, the Ruin or the rule?
A sigh slipped past my lips, my fingers flexing in frustration as I contemplated trying to figure out what everyone had been up to. Rules, while needed for balance, were usually established because of imbalance and mayhem. What the hell had been happening around this place?
The next requirement was a stunner. Jobs. We needed to get jobs.
Who mandated that jobs were a requirement to return? Why were these listed items so important they needed to be mandated in a welcome packet? Not killing mortals should be a standard understanding, and why the hell should anyone care how or if we earned a living?
I sighed again, then shrugged, deciding that trying to determine the logic of certain requests was a battle for another day. Getting a job shouldn’t be that big a deal. Owning my consulting company, Blind Equity, while starting law school next semester should cover that part.
Truthfully, the urge to flee was becoming almost as insistent as the damn need to come home had been. Ultimately, there were a lot of rules being handed down for me to be some place I didn’t really want to be.
The last declaration stood out the most. CEO visitation required being penciled in. There’d be no father-daughter visits without an appointment. Currently, the schedule was at least a few months out, but I’d be informed if that changed.
I didn’t want to see him. Being officially told I couldn’t see him was a completely different matter altogether. The elevator opened onto the empty expanse of the sixth floor as the realization dawned about how close, yet far away, everything still was. I tossed down the packet just on the opposite side of the elevator as I stomped into the middle of the room like a petulant child.
He couldn’t avoid me forever. He’d try without ever admitting it, but eventually, justice always came back, even for the king. Breathing deeply, I flexed my shoulders to release the building tension. I strode to the bay window that made up the wall along the back of the huge space.
The view was stunning. I took in the sight of the complex’s grounds, the base of the mountain, as well as the greenery and beauty surrounding it all. It was alluring and peaceful, even as the cramps began clawing at my stomach again.
I heard a soft but gruff voice say, Burn it down and start again.
I blinked, but there was no one there as I tilted forward, my hand planted against the windowpane.
Then there was Anthony, smiling at me. His long, thick fingers, talented in many ways, scratched at his beard. He glanced away, down at Apricot, then back toward me. His smile was gone, replaced by sadness.
“You took him from me. Was that justified?”
“Yes,” I muttered to his ghostly visage in the glass. A memory fading fast with Mount Olympus as its backdrop.
“My family’s pain…my pain…was justified?”
“Yes.” I nodded, leaning my head against the glass and clenching my eyes tight against the sight of him. Hurt. Disappointed. Disgusted.
“Then you are not as balanced as you think,” he whispered finally, vanishing.
I dropped to my knees, trying to find my breath. He was right, as right as he could be when he hadn’t been there at all. My insides churned with my building imbalance. I could feel the shifts, but there was no indication as to their origin.
My closest clue was that the scales began tipping when I read Anthony’s truth in his words. I hadn’t been able to balance myself internally since then.
Truth doesn’t set us all free. That’s why you’ll burn it all down. That voice warned.
I shook my head, working to clear the fog of pain radiating over my thoughts and sanity. I’d believed answering that damn summons by coming home would fix me. Apparently, it had tipped something even further. That meant I was going to need to do something even more drastic to find my balance.
Dropping completely to the floor, I stretched out on my back in front of the window. Pulling my phone from my pocket, I dialed a number I hadn’t used in months.
She answered on the first ring.
“Well, this is a surprise,” came through in a calm tone.
“Yes,” was all I could offer. There was no confusion between us. Our…friendship existed in a space of clarity that made small talk and games pointless.
“Dikê, are you okay? You sound…far away.”
“Far away or okay?”
“Only one of those.” I huffed. “I came home.”
I heard the small sigh escaping her lips before she drew in a sharp breath. “Are you calling me from the Mount Olympus?”
“What? Uh…no. I mean, yes, but…I’m in Greece, yes.”
She chuckled. “Reunion not going well?”
“So, you called me.”
“True believer,” I whispered.
“I can not be your balance, Justice. I will fail you.”
“What if I fail you?” I asked.
“Figure your shit out, Justice. You owe me. You don’t have the luxury of failing.”
“Don’t,” she growled. Then followed with a whisper of, “I love you.” Before ending the call.
She’d hung up on me.
In a moment of rage, I tossed the phone at the glass and watched as it bounced back, landing on the floor beside me.
The damn tower wouldn’t even let me have a proper tantrum
The phone, with its newly cracked screen, vibrated beside me. I picked it up, swiping quickly to get past the lock screen and the messages.
Call Evie Parkwood of The 63 Cent Project in DC. 202-555-3784, she’s waiting for a call from Blind Equity. They need help getting Justice.
Tossing the phone beside me, I yelled at the ceiling heartily enough one might assume I was trying to pull it down around me. Then, calmly, I turned to stare out over the foggy mountain vista as the evening rolled in.
I allowed my mind to escape, find peace, and transport my energy to a state of calm. I just let go, almost as if I was falling asleep.
“What the fuck, Dikê!” Exclaimed with a mix of anger and concern brought me back to the moment.
Except, I was no longer at the GC, no longer…home.
Apparently, focusing on peace and calm had brought me to Carla’s lap, quite literally.
I’d popped to her directly, as in, across her lap. She sat on the couch, watching a movie, her hand buried in a bowl of popcorn.
“Um…is that the sea salt kind I like?”