He ran his hands through his hair. “Look, I hate that I’m the reason you weren’t able to witness the magnificence of Olympus.”
“Witness the magnificence of Olympus,” I echoed, scoffing. “Your sister is too high-and-mighty for her good, my ‘mother’ is weird, Hera is too—”
“Have you ever, even for a moment, considered why your mother is weird? She’s not in a fit place, Morgana,” he said, his voice deadly low as he looked at me with his face devoid of emotion.
I scrunched my eyebrows. “I didn’t know, and frankly, I don’t see why I should—”
“Sit down and listen to me because I will never repeat this.”
He looked scary, so, as much as I wanted to disagree with him, I sat on my chair, clutching my bookbag. “Your mother is the prettiest woman in the universe. Out of all the people in the universe, she chose your dad as her consort. And guess what Zeus did? He married her off to Hephaestus. your mother had to leave the love of her life and then when she had you, she had to leave you too because of the goddamned prophecy.
“Do you know what kind of damage that does to a person? Having to leave the two people she loved the most? You’re being ungrateful saying she was depressed. You of all people should know that you shouldn’t do that.”
I closed my mouth with my hand, everything falling into place. “I get it now,” I gasped. “It's like a story to be analyzed.”
“I’m sorry?” he asked, confused.
“Aphrodite is bound by the shackles of a man that isn’t her father, and I, her daughter, am bound by the shackles that fate has imposed on her,” I said.
“I don’t quite follow.”
“So, suppose Aphrodite is the protagonist of this story, okay?” I said. “She’s the only one not a sibling of the original six or a child of them. In her birth, she doesn’t belong. She grows up, falls in love, but marries the wrong person. In her marriage, she doesn’t belong. She has a child without a father who is cursed by the Fates not to be with her for over sixty days. In childbirth, she doesn’t belong.” I paused. “What’s the theme here? Belonging—or lack thereof.
“And then you look at me. I’m her daughter. Growing up, they bullied me for being different. Being stupid in things like science and math. I had to learn my way to the top, while the arts came easily to me. My mother constantly nagged me to be better and better. In my childhood, I didn’t belong. Then, I grow up, come to college, and I’m teased for being the ‘smart one’ or the ‘teacher’s pet.’ I don’t belong. Then I go to Olympus, where, as a defense mechanism, I force myself not to belong.
“I was never actually angry at you, Apollo. I was just… in pain. I was still resolving past wounds from my situations. And I know you were too. I just… we both got great at pretending we were fine, didn’t we?”
“What are you trying to say?” he asked.
“That I’ve always been told I am not good enough. By my mother, by the ghost of my father who was never brought up in my house unless it was to compare me to him, by my peers. And then I have a friend who is adamant that I deserve every marvelous thing in life. And then you come along, telling me that everything’s okay and I’m good enough. And then… Aphrodite. She was always so gentle with me, like breaking me would break her.”
I took a deep breath. “What I’m trying to say is that I forgive you for whatever it was I was angry at you for and would like to ask your forgiveness for being an asshole. You were only trying to protect me.”
“I forgive you too,” he sighed, running his fingers through his hair. Again. “Look, I don’t expect you to go back to Olympus to take Artemis’ place—”
“—But I have to lay a few expectations on the table before we can start with a clean slate.”
“We will get to know each other and work out our problems together, and I think eventually, take your spot as Artemis’ successor.”
“Okay. But promise me, you will not force me to take her place. I will do it when I’m ready.”
“Promise. And you promise me we’ll do our best to make this thing work?”
“Promise.” I stopped. “On second thought, we should make this thing work, but not in the company of students. I don’t want to have to explain to them that my betrothed is my teacher, ya know?”
“I get it. I’ll think of a plan, and I’ll text you.”
“Cool. Can I go now? I kinda have to be somewhere in the next—” I checked my phone— “Five minutes.”
“Okay.” He walked me to the door of the classroom and finished our conversation with, “Miss Sallow, I hope you never make such a blunder ever again.”
I wanted to smile, but just gave him a nod which he returned.
“Victoria, you will give me all the details now. I don’t give a shit if I have to wrestle it out of you, but I will find out eventually, you know?”
“Ugh! Fine. So, Julius was being an asshole that night when you were crying, so I broke up with his sorry ass, and then Nora came out to us as les and I told them I was pan, and in the coming days it kinda… happened?”
“You mean you kissed your crush since forever, and it ’kinda happened’? That sounds… interesting.”
“And she’s so fricking outstanding! We are such an exemplary couple,” she ranted, talking about all the ‘outstanding’ stuff they had done together. I could almost taste how much of a third-wheel Lily must be feeling. “Now, enough about me. Spill the beans with you and McHottie.”
I told her everything that had transpired the past few weeks, and in return, she told me everything that had happened back at Alessia. When the clock struck one am, she yawned and fell asleep. But I just… couldn’t. I no longer needed to sleep, no longer needed to eat food or drink water. I always felt at my prime, and I strongly suspected it had something to do with me being a goddess.
My phone buzzed.
Oh, and my senses were heightened too. I opened it and glanced at the message, pulling a coat on and slipping my feet into boots. He asked me to make it work? Goddamn right, I would make it work.
Phoebus Apollon (Prof. Donahue): Are you up?
I renamed the contact, worrying that if someone stole my phone, they’d see the messages between Professor Donahue and me.
Apollo (Betrothed): Meet me at the reception in 5?
Me: All right. See ya!
Apollo (Betrothed): See you, dear.