A wrinkle in time. A whirlwind. There was no other way to describe what happened over the past weeks: a death, a threat to the family, a date, a confession of feelings, an internal battle, and a ritual. Feelings overlapped and caused time to blur. My heart was overwhelmed, and my mind refused to forgive me for keeping it at bay. Logic told me that it wasn’t the right time to let feelings rule, but I could not help myself. Too much was at stake.
Over eons, I’d spent so much time wrapped in logic, thoughts, and theories. My brain was used to rushing ahead at full steam. But these days, my heart has taken over and is making up for lost time. Flutters, jolts, skipped beats, and poundings against my ribcage are the new normal.
Apollo was the cause.
He was seated across from me, nursing a drink. His strong fingers twirled the glass, swirling the amber liquid between sips. We had a lovely dinner together…sort of a first date, and I invited him for a drink.
We were sitting, facing each other. No words were being spoken. It seemed that we were suddenly shy. Music surrounded us, and I could not tell if it came from my sound system or directly from him. I chose to believe the latter. His eyes met mine over his glass as he drained his drink. He licked his bottom lip and set the glass on the end table.
“I should probably be going,” he said, unfolding his tall frame from the chair.
I didn’t want him to leave, but for some reason, I was afraid to admit it. “Uh…” I started.
He looked at me and gave me that half-smile that turns my insides to mush. “What?” he asked.
I crossed and stood in front of him. For a half-second, he seemed confused.
“You can’t leave,” I blurted.
“I can’t?” he asked and gave me that megawatt smile again. “Why not?”
Is he really going to make me say it?
“Because…” I leaned into him and whispered, “I want you. Now.” Embarrassed, I rested my head against his neck.
He held my face in his hands and tilted it up to his. He placed a gentle kiss on my lips and then ran his thumb across them. “I hoped you would say that,” he said and smiled.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him. He embraced me in return, so I jumped into his arms and wrapped my legs around him, catching him off-guard for a moment. He recovered like a champ and carried me to the bedroom, swinging me onto the bed and giving a nervous little laugh when I refused to let him go.
Suddenly serious, he leaned over, his fingers tugging at the bottom of my sweater. His head dipped, kissing along my abdomen as he pushed my sweater up and over my head. My entire body burned with every touch of his mouth or stroke of his finger. He slid a knee beneath my skirt and pushed my legs apart before positioning himself there on the edge of the bed. He ran a hand partway up my thigh and then down the other, teasing me.
I rose up and wrapped my arm around his waist, pulling him toward me. I plucked his shirt out from his pants and unbuttoned it, my mouth covering his bare skin as soon as it became exposed. While he struggled to get his arm out of the sleeves, I trailed my fingers down the front of his pants before yanking at the button. In my rush, I accidentally ripped the thread. The button sailed off and clattered onto the floor.
“I’ll fix it later,” I breathed as I slipped my hands inside his pants and shimmied them off his hips, pulling him closer.
With a slow kiss, he pushed me back onto the bed and stepped out of his pants. I slid my skirt down and off as I admired his perfect body. He kissed me and ran his hands across my skin, causing a trail of goosebumps to follow.
My pulse pounded in my ears as he guided my hips toward him. One look in his eyes told me he knew exactly what he was doing to me, and he enjoyed it.
. . .
I find myself walking down a trail littered with pine needles and small pieces of debris from a recent storm. The air smells fresh and vaguely of vanilla and rain. Several yards in front of me, the trail divides into two paths that diverge in front of a copse of trees. I do not choose one of the two paths but instead, walk directly into the mass of trees. In the center, a group of oaks stand, their tree trunks growing, braided together, forming a walkable bridge. The leaves rustle in a gentle breeze, inviting me to cross. Birds twitter from branches above my head. I walk among the limbs, feeling the rough bark beneath my bare feet. My mother appears on the bridge in front of me. Her mouth opens and closes, but I cannot hear what she is saying. She’s sending me pictures. Memories. At first, they float toward me as if on a lazy breeze. Suddenly they speed up until I’m nearly dizzy from the momentum. One after another, they hit me like an electrical force. My mother’s mouth is still moving, but no sound reaches my ears. She transmits mental messages telling me this is a bridge of memories and I must hold onto what she’s sending, urging me to keep them safe and not forget. She reaches out her arms as if to embrace me, but I’m too far from her. I want to hug her. She turns to leave. I call out to her, asking her to wait. She shakes her head and disappears.
I was startled awake, my breath caught in my chest, tears streaming down my face. I reached for a tissue and tried to stop the tears, but they kept falling. Apollo shifted in his sleep and woke as well. He sat up, trying to figure out what was going on. Once he realized that I was a mess of emotions, he pulled me against his chest, letting me cry.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I tried to find my breath. “I had a dream. About my mom.”
“But why are you crying? You miss her?”
“No. It’s not that. It’s just…something is wrong. I think something bad is going to happen.”
“It’ll be morning soon. You can call her.” He pulled me close and held me against his chest. “It was just a dream.”
I kissed him then, his lips sweet like honey and sunshine. I kissed him again and the bad feelings from my dream started to fade. Every kiss drove the dream further back in my mind.
. . .
Once Apollo headed back to the God Complex to change, I made a quick call to my mom. I left her a voicemail message as I turned on my laptop and peeled an orange. The fruity scent tickled my nose and conjured a memory.
Erato and Melpomene walked through an orchard. Erato plucked an orange from a branch heavy with fruit and juggled it in his palm while he and Melly strolled along. The sun baked its warmth into their shoulders, but the grass remained cool beneath their bare feet. The smell of the orchard was intoxicating. Erato peeled the orange and inhaled its scent. While he was busy savoring the smell, Melly leaned over and bit into the round flesh of the orange, stealing it out of his hand.
Startled, I stopped what I was doing. The orange fell from my hand and rolled across the granite countertop.
That isn’t my memory. How could I possibly have one of Erato’s memories?
I grabbed my phone and called my mother again. No answer. Dread congealed, becoming like a lead weight in my stomach. I ran to the bedroom and threw on some clothes. I needed my sister.
Thirty minutes later, I pounded on Melpomene’s door with my fist and kept pounding until she threw it open, a look of agitation scrunching her features.
“When were you and Erato in the orange grove? Where was it?” I blurted out.
She seemed confused, but then took a step back and ushered me inside.
“Well, hello to you, too. Why are you here ranting?”
“I’m not ranting. I’m animated. There’s a difference.”
Melly rolled her eyes.
“So where was the orchard?” I insisted.
“Orchard?” she asked, her brow furrowed.
“Grove. Orchard. Whatever. You. Erato. He peeled an orange and you ate it out of his hand. Sometimes I hate how specific I need to be with you.”
“It sounds vaguely familiar…” she trailed off, walking into her kitchen. Her countertop was littered with small violet-colored vials.
“Melly? Think.” She seemed unusually dense and I felt like shaking her. “Your memory is almost as good as Mom’s. Why can’t you remember? And where is she, by the way?”
She tinkered with a couple of vials in front of her. It was as if she was fading in and out. I almost expected to see her become translucent. Then things clicked, and a look of revelation crossed her face.
“The Muse realm,” she said, satisfied.
“Yes. That’s where our mother is, and also where the orange grove is…a twofer,” she gave a wan smile.
“Why is she there?” I asked.
She had that spaced-out look on her face again and her fingers roamed over a row of vials.
“Mellybean!” I snapped.
She looked up, almost as if she was surprised I was standing there.
“Why is Mom in the Muse realm?”
“I’m not supposed to tell.” Melpomene’s face went blank again.
“Uh. That’s ridiculous. You can tell me.”
“I think…I think…I think I can tell you.” Her mouth moved then, opening and closing, but no words came out. It reminded me of my dream. “I think…she’s hiding,” she finished and the distant look returned to her eyes.
Is Mom hiding from Chronos? That explains why I couldn’t reach her.
“Mel, I’m worried about you. What’s wrong?” I put my hand on her arm and she jumped as if I shocked her.
“Nothing is wrong. I am tired. That is all.”
I reached out to hug her, but she turned her back to me and started shuttling her vials from one counter to the other. She walked as if she had weights tied to her ankles.
“Tick-tock,” Melpomene whispered in a low tone.
Goosebumps appeared on my arms and a jolt of fear surged through me.
“What did you say, Mel?”
“Tick-tock. Time’s wasting.”
I shivered and took a step back. I wasn’t sure if she was just messing with me or what, but I wanted to get as far away from her as possible.
“What the hell, Mel?”
“Time. Anatole says I need to take time. I have been too busy and need to rest,” she said in that dreamlike voice.
“My boyfriend. You really should meet him. He’s dreeeeaaaammmyyy.”
“Okay, Mel. We’ll do that.” I pulled a chair out for her at the table. “Come sit. Once you get rested, you and Anatole can join Apollo and me for dinner.” I hated the condescending tone that tinged my voice.
Melpomene walked to the table in slow motion. She flopped into the chair and stared straight ahead. I didn’t like the look of it.
She let out a sudden creepy giggle.