As I soaked in the tub, I stared at the blue-green color tinting my skin. Hestia’s trap had stayed with me. No matter how many times I soaked in the tub, the color had barely faded. Hestia had assured me the dye would last for a week or two, but I had hoped to be rid of it sooner. Obviously, that was not to be the case. I lay back in the water, the scent of the oils and salts wafting up and clinging to my skin. It reminded me of a fateful day, the first day that became the beginning of a long line of mistakes on my part.
Small tendrils escaped the pile of strawberry blonde curls pulled high on my head to keep them from falling into the water. I brushed them back impatiently and then shoved at the petals floating on the surface of my bath. My gaze followed the nymphs chosen to prepare me, a petulant pout on my lips. Prepare. As though they could ever prepare me to be bound to that brute, that beast.
I breathed a sigh of relief as Amphitrite arrived. Perhaps she could help me. “I cannot do this. I need your help,” I pleaded with her, tears springing to my eyes once more. I thought I had cried myself out, but her arrival and the small amount of hope it gave me proved otherwise. “Ares is the one I should marry. He is the one I chose. I cannot go through with this. Please.”
The pity on her face made me want to scream. Of course, she couldn’t help me. Zeus had decided, and I was to be given to the smith as his unwilling bride. “I am sorry, Aphie. There is nothing I can do.”
I knew the answer before she opened her mouth, but I still couldn’t stop my tears from falling as that last bit of my hope shattered. No one could save me. Even if I ran, there was no guarantee that they wouldn’t drag me back and force me to marry him, anyway. I wiped the tears from my face and steeled myself. I knew what I had to do. He’d have me in name, but I would make sure he knew he would never have my heart or body. “There is nothing to be done then. I might as well get this over with.” I had been laying in the bath far longer than necessary, as though it would prevent the events to come. Did I really think they would go ahead because I refused to leave the bath? All I was doing was delaying the inevitable.
When I stood, the nymphs sprung into action, drying me and helping me from the water. They were quick to make me presentable, as though I cared what my future husband would think of me. But perhaps it was best to show him what he would never have for himself. I was angry and bitter. The passionate nights with Ares were all that had kept me going when I received the news. They were not something I would give up. He was not someone I could go without. I didn’t care what my husband might think.
The memories had me wincing, tears springing to my eyes as I thought back to that time. I spent so many years wrapping that anger and hatred around me, refusing to let myself heal. Of course, Heph didn’t want to answer me. I spent millennia making him miserable, making him feel unworthy. It was my turn. Would he want me to do the same? To spend the same amount of time feeling unworthy of his love? It would be only fair. I pulled my knees to my chest, wrapping my arms around them in the water as I thought back to that day, sobs and regret wracking my body.
The long pale blue gown would normally please me. But I wanted it black, I wanted my displeasure to show. The color of my dress would match my heart when it came to our arrangement. A satisfied smile graced my lips as the color shifted to a black so deep it would have made Nyx proud. Perfect. Even the flowers and jewels adorning my hair had changed color. It pleased me greatly that he would see what I thought of being tied to him.
That was an ability I was grateful I no longer possessed. My powers were still recovering, but I hoped that most would stay gone. Power never made me happy. Power gave me pride and made me even more vicious, more disgusting.
As I joined him, the mirth on his face made me nearly scowl. Would nothing deter his interest in me? “You look beautiful,” he said. I refused to acknowledge that he was handsome, that I could lust after him. I forced myself to see him as deformed and something to be pitied. The truth just confused me too much to look at. My eyes went to Ares, and I felt the butterflies fluttering in my stomach, followed by a painful tightening of loss in my chest. It made me sick to look back at Hephaestus.
“I know,” was all I said in reply, looking away from Hephaestus when they joined us as husband and wife. Our union displeased me, but not so much as the look on his face. “You may call yourself my husband, but you will go to that marital bed alone. This night, and every night after. My heart and body belong to another.” Without another word to him, I turned and walked to Ares. A part of me hated to put them in competition, to be something to come between them. But I had no say in anything that had come to pass. It was just something we would all have to learn to deal with, it seemed.
I quickly stood and stepped out of the tub, ignoring my towel as I nearly stumbled to the mirror over my sink. It didn’t matter that my skin was no longer that pale alabaster, that my eyes were a deep umber instead of that cool cerulean. Even my hair had darkened. It didn’t make a difference. I still saw her, that hateful version of me, staring back at me in the mirror. My tears felt like they should burn my face as I balled my hand into a fist and struck the mirror. It shattered easily, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to destroy everything, the entire apartment, myself. There it was again, the reason I had sought help.
Wiping at my face, I picked up my phone and texted Dr. Frost. No answer. Of course not. She was likely still asleep. My next option was one of my mortals. Surely one of them was awake. Micah answered, and I smiled, though the other two were quick to text me back shortly after. I always forgot what reasonable hours were for mortals. “Thank you,” I murmured to my phone as I sent a text that I desperately needed some time away from the GC again. They were quick to welcome me, encouraging me to join them for a Star Wars marathon. While my weakness was for Battlestar Galactica, I didn’t see a problem in joining them. Perhaps I would be able to lose myself in the movie and not give in to the vicious voice in my mind.
“You have no right to be upset about this! You knew I would never love you! And you knew he was the one that held my heart. Take your self-pity and let it warm your bed. I have no intention of doing it.”
I winced, remembering the fight after he’d caught Ares and me together the first time. I knew I was wrong then, as I realized over the past couple of years. But I didn’t want to admit it. I had felt horrible for the pain I caused him that day. The hurt and rage I saw on his face still haunted me. I had been too proud to admit that I was in the wrong. How I wished I could rewrite history. There were so many horrible things I had said and done that I wanted to change.
With a shudder, I pushed those thoughts from my mind and packed a small bag. The sooner I surrounded myself with my mortals, the better. There was a locked liquor cabinet calling my name, and I nearly ran from my floor of the GC to get away from it and the memories that refused to give me peace.