Rejoin the mortals, Zeus said. Make ourselves known once more because the short-lived ones are trash at governing themselves. Where would I have gone? I am the Goddess of the Hearth and Home. While I’ve not been prominent, or perhaps even visible, the family has always been there. The fear of losing one’s family, the fear of losing one’s home, has always been felt whether or not I could help or not. A choice is what allows me to bind families together or allow them to fracture for the greater family bonds.
“Love bug, did you see the latest FF9 meme?” I heard a guy ask the woman next to him as they walked down the street. I glanced up, feeling the bond between the two. The tall guy had a square jaw, brown hair and eyes. The woman was a short brunette. A smile crossed my face at the feeling of pure love between the two as they walked past me.
“No, love bug. Where did the family meme go today?” the woman asked.
The man pulled out his phone before speaking. “Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z is taunting the Z fighters about being fresh out of Super Sayans. Then Vin Diesel shows up and says: You don’t need another Super Sayan when you have family. Then Vegeta is all panicked like he’s about to get the absolute beat down.”
“Well, family is strength. When I am with you, I feel like I can take on the world,” the woman said as she snuggled into her other half’s side, tucking under his armpit while she snaked her arm around his waist. He pulled her close as they kept walking.
I smiled before whispering, “Blessed they shall be in their family life.” Their hair sparkled for a moment before fading, too fast for the humans to notice. I turned and kept walking toward my destination. A cry for help had awakened me last night. I had an awful feeling that a family was about to lose their heart, and they couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
I felt it as I turned the corner. There was an old building that I could feel was the heart of the community. It stood several blocks down, in the middle of multiple rows of apartments. I could see a guy in a suit standing in front of the doors while a crowd protested. I couldn’t make out the signs they were holding, but they were relatively crude, as if made on the way. From the fear and anger the protesters were projecting, I could guess that the suit just bought their community center, the real home of the residents.
Shaking my head slightly, I appeared behind the crowd. A black woman stood at the foot of the steps, looking up at the suit. She was short with long, grey dreads.
“Locking this building will starve so many that depend upon us to feed them,” the protester said in a firm voice.
“It’s not my problem. I own this block now, and there isn’t a damn thing any of you can do,” the suit snarled.
I studied the guy and shook my head. He looked like some random white bad guy of the week. He was bland, despite the thousand-dollar suit. I also knew that inside him was a man who wished desperately that he’d had a real family growing up. He had convinced himself that he was cold and dead inside, but beneath that he was crying for help. Tartarus, I couldn’t reach him, but perhaps the ghosts three could help? I’d have to talk to them later.
“Wait, you don’t own the building yet,” I said, feeling the lie from the man.
The suit’s lip curled up as he turned to look at me. “What do you know? I bought this place today.”
I snorted. “No, little one, you didn’t. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be panicking at the protesters. Where are your guards? Not willing to break the law for you? Or did you think this would be a quick lock the doors and go?”
“They agreed to sell this place to me,” the suit snarled. “I’m going to bring value to this dump of a neighborhood.”
“By value, you mean you are going to kick all the families out, sell the land to rich assholes, who then will make this into another mecca of wealth,” the protest leader spat.
I stepped next to the woman, placing my hand on her forearm as I looked at the suit. “Unlock the door, or I’ll do it for you.” My eyes narrowed as venom dripped from my words.
The suit swallowed before nodding and quickly removing the chain. “This changes nothing. I will have the building locked down.”
“Maybe in a month or two. Begone,” I snapped as I laced my voice with slight power. A wet spot appeared on the man’s pant leg before he broke into a brisk walk, rushing to a Porsche. I turned to the older woman. “Shall we make sure that the idiot didn’t leave anything behind?” I asked as I opened the door.
The older woman tilted her head slightly and smiled as she slipped her arm under mine. “Why, yes, we shall.”
We stepped in together, and I was hit with the feeling that I was home. I glanced down the hall and saw several doorways branching off. I could feel the happiness baked into the very walls from the sense of family everyone had while here. I looked to the left, noting that there was a big room that had tables.
“Let’s start with the kitchen, shall we? I’m Ouma,” the other woman said as she entered the kitchen. Grandmother in Afrikaans, I reminded myself of the meaning of Ouma. “I don’t know if I’ll even get dinner ready for everyone,” she lamented at the cold pots that still had water in them.
“Well, we should get to work now, shouldn’t we? I’m Hestia, by the way,” I said as I started to light burners.
“Your mother must have liked the Greek Gods,” Ouma said.
“Something like that,” I laughed as I started to pull a pork shoulder from the fridge. Well, that just wouldn’t do; there were only two left. A proper hearth had a bounty of food. I just couldn’t make food appear out of thin air as that would create questions but, I did have a company. “Ouma, when is dinner?”
Ouma sighed. “In an hour.”
“Don’t worry, I got this,” I said with my finger in the air as the other pulled my phone out. I dialed a number, and when it was answered said, “I need a full family reunion at my location. Type: Soul food. You have forty-five minutes.” I hung up and slid the phone into my back pocket. “What?” I asked at Ouma’s confused look. “Let’s just say I have something that can and will help.”
“You have a dinner for the homeless, just sitting there?” Ouma asked, her eyebrow raised.
“Yes, we were cooking for a wedding when it was canceled. The groom, well, let’s just say he had a change of heart. It turns out he’s gay,” I explained.
“That poor girl, finding out on your wedding day that her man isn’t into her,” Ouma said as she started to make proper sweet tea.
“She said it was about time,” I laughed. “She had known for ages but was waiting for him. She wanted to support him with his overbearing mother to provide a cover for him.”
“What a sweetie,” Ouma said.
“Totally. The pair still threw a party, but thanks to folks being stuck-up fools, only about a quarter stayed to celebrate the new lives that both of them found. So, my caterers have all this extra food. Why not feed it to your family?” I said, my hands cupping her own.
“You are such a sweet girl,” Ouma said.
“I’ll look into the creepo that tried to shut you down and see what I can do. I know folks in high places,” I said with a mischievous grin. You did not mess with family. Period. That’s something so many forgot about me. They saw my nature of peace and interpreted that to mean I was cold, a pushover, not caring. But the moment you tried to break a family up, well, there was a reason the saying was hell has no fury like a woman scorned.
“Just don’t get yourself in trouble,” Ouma started.
I squeezed her hand tightly, smiling at the older woman. “It’s no trouble at all. I know lawyers that the gods themselves would hire.”
“If you say so,” Ouma said. “Oh, the tea is done.”
We went about making the sweet tea. I poured two bags of sugar into the pot. “Is that enough, or are we still in northerner tea levels?” I asked.
Ouma gave a big smile. “You know how to make proper iced tea.”
“It’s the only way to drink it. Anything else isn’t real ice tea,” I said with a laugh. My phone vibrated twice, letting me know that my staff had arrived. “Shall we set up the dining area?”