“Phobos, where have you been? I’ve searched everywhere for you!” Aphrodite was unscrewed. Her beloved son went missing for the whole day long and he was only eleven.
“Mom, there is nothing to worry about I was playing with Satyr in the woods. He is so merry and we made fun of some nymphs,” the boy said satisfied with himself.
“You can’t go wherever you like! You’re a god. You have to be responsible. Besides, you’re just a child, if something happened to you?” Aphrodite sounded really worried. Each day her son became more estranged. It freaked her out. “I’ll tell your father to talk to you!”
“Come on, mom. I’m not a child anymore. I can take care of myself.”
“No, you can’t. 11 year olds can’t take care of themselves! The goddess folded her arms and pouted.
“Let’s make a bet. If I go into the woods without any food for three days and return back unharmed you will let me go wherever I want and when I want,” said the boy.
“I have a better idea. I’ll charm an adult human being with a child. If a child can take care of his/her parent for three days, you will have my permission to go anywhere you want, of course, after you do all your homework.” The goddess said leering eye at her son.
“Why can’t we have a deal on my proposal?” asked the boy.
“Phobos, a mother will never put her child in danger. So, either it is my suggestion or we don’t have a deal at all,” she emphasized the last phrase.
“Fine, but the child should be at least my age,” Phobos insisted.
“As you wish,” Aphrodite said obviously plotting a mischief. “Let’s go find some parents with children in the woods.”
“Why in the woods?”
“You wanted to spend three days there. Let it be so.”
Phobos wasn’t excited about the idea but he had to make this bet or his mother would always think of him as a little baby boy.
Aphrodite talked to the nymphs and forest creatures and found the right couple of a parent and a child.
“Look at them, they would be a great match to our little experiment,” said the goddess looking at two sleeping human beings.
“Why not a woodcutter’s boy and his father we’ve seen recently?” Phobos didn’t like the objects of the joke his mother has just presented.
“You wanted a child to be about your age. Woodcutter’s son is 13 and a half,” explained the woman.
“But this is a girl!” he said with disgust.
“The girl who is travelling with a warrior princess. I think she must have guts. Xena isn’t the one who cares about children,” stated the goddess.
“Fine, mother, but no cheating!” The boy extended his hand for a handshake.
“Of course not.” Aphrodite shook her son’s hand but her other one was beside her back with fingers crossed.
“What a strange dream,” thought Gina waking up.
Xena was still asleep. It was unusual because the warrior princess always woke up earlier than the girl. Gina made no reckoning. The morning was sunny. The birds were singing in the trees. There was no danger anywhere around, so, the girl seemed relaxed. She went to gather some cherries from the wild cherry tree she saw nearby to treat Xena. Gina forgot about time when suddenly she heard somebody sobbing and crying for mother. She thought it was a hallucination because the voice was of an adult but not of a little child, nevertheless, she hurried to find out who this person may be.
A woman in leather was standing in the middle of a clearing in the woods and crying for her mother. When Gina approached, Xena seemed to be completely lost and terrified.
“Xena, what’s wrong?” asked the girl looking amazed at the woman.
Xena turned to her and fell upon Gina’s shoulder still sobbing uncontrollably.
“Hey, take it easy. What happened?” Gina patted Xena on the back.
“Why did you leave me alone in the woods, mommy? I was so scared. I thought you won’t come back.” Xena sobbed.
“Are you kidding me? Get out of here! Have you seen the same dream with Aphrodite?” The girl pushed Xena away a little to look into woman’s eyes.
“What dream? Who is Aphrodite? I don’t know her. Please, don’t leave me alone in the woods.” Xena said and started to cry even more.
“Alright, stop crying. I won’t leave you here, I promise,” Gina was comforting the woman who was kneeling in front of her. “At least tell me how old you are.”
Xena pouted but showed Gina four fingers.
“Great!” said the girl in a fit of anger. “So, it wasn’t a dream,” she thought to herself.
“Mommy, I want to eat,” said a late bloomer.
“Fine, we’ll have breakfast in a minute but, please, don’t call me ‘mommy’. Call me Gina.”
“Why?” asked the warrior.
“Because I like to be called by the name,” told the child. “Let’s go wash these cherries. Take the water skins too.”
When they returned from the spring with full water skins and freshly washed bowl of cherries, Gina went to get food from the backpacks.
“I thought there was no cheating,” she muttered when she found out that all the food was gone.
“Mommy, when will we eat?” asked hungry Xena.
“Don’t call me mommy! Unfortunately, some very cunning goddess stole our food,” Gina stated with anger looking at the sky because she didn’t know where she should look for Aphrodite.
“Can I eat cherries? They’re yummy!” said the grown-up child.
“Yes, please. I’ll pack our things and we’ll go. Maybe we’ll find a village where you can have a proper meal.”
Gina started collecting their things. Xena sat on the grass satisfied with her meal. When all the backpacks were packed, it took Gina half an hour to explain Xena step by step how to tack up a horse.
“Now get on to it,” ordered the girl.
“It’s too big for me,” said Xena taking a step back from Argo.
“Believe me, it’s not. Put your right foot here,” she pointed to the stirrup. “Get hold of the saddle and mount the mare.”
“Gina, it worked!” the woman exclaimed as if it was the most amazing thing in the world.
“Yeah, now give me a hand.”
Gina took woman’s hand and climbed on Argo. She sat in front of Xena and took the reins.
“Hold on tight,” the girl said. They trotted out. After two hours of riding a scarcely seen path completely disappeared. Gina understood that they got lost in these woods she didn’t know at all.
“Gina, when do we stop? I need to pee and I’m hungry,” told the voice from behind girl’s back.
The child immediately stopped. Gina told Xena how to dismount Argo. The girl needed to think. She saw the bushes of some kind of berries. It was not a good meal but she was hungry because she hadn’t eaten anything since morning. Gina went to the bushes and found a lot of blueberries. She started eating hungrily, though, within some time she heard Xena’s brat-whine. She hurried back to the warrior. It didn’t take her long to figure out that Xena was playing with chakram. Obviously the woman cut her finger because it was bleeding.
“It hurts!” Xena sat on the ground whining.
Gina rolled her eyes. She took a bandage from Xena’s backpack and some antiseptic liquid.
“Let me see.”
Xena showed her sore finger. The girl cleaned it with the liquid. Xena began crying even harder, when the blood stopped, Gina bandaged the finger.
“That’s all. Don’t take chakram or sword again!” she told the woman. “If you want to eat, there are blueberries over there. Go and eat as much as you wish.”
“I want soup with a meat pie.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I need to hunt some game. Otherwise, we won’t have anything today, except berries.” Gina said sullenly.
While Xena was feasting in the blueberry bushes the girl took chakram and went hunting. She knew that Argo would take care of her beloved mistress. The girl didn’t know how much time she was absent. She managed to catch two quails and came across several bunches of beech mushrooms. When she returned Xena was peacefully sleeping under the tree. Her mouth and fingers were all in dried blueberry juice.
“How cute,” admitted Gina.
It wasn’t cold. So, she didn’t cover the warrior princess with a blanket just let her sleep. The girl drew both quails, made a fire and while the woman was sleeping, she cooked a delicious soup with quails and mushrooms. Xena woke up to tasty smell of food.
The girl poured some soup into the bowl and gave it to Xena.
“It’s very yummy,” Xena praised childishly.
After the meal they walked until the sun set down. During this time Gina taught Xena how to make dolls from tiny sticks and flowers. The flower bud was pierced by the stick to make a dress or a skirt. The other bud was placed on the top as a hat.
The girl spread the rugs for sleeping and they lay down. Suddenly Xena heard an owl.
“Gina, I’m scared. I don’t wanna sleep alone.”
“There’s nothing to fear. It’s just an owl.”
The owl skirled again.
“May I sleep with you?” asked the warrior princess innocently.
“Fine, put your rug closer to mine.”
Xena immediately put her rug near Gina’s and cuddled.
“Tell me a story,” she asked.
Unwillingly, Gina began telling this giant kid a fairy-tale. The first day went well. She had to hold out for two more days.
The next day Gina used her girl-scout’s knowledge to find water in the woods. They found a very tiny spring that spurt from the ground. It took time to fill in the water skins and water Argo. Today they didn’t find any berries or game. Xena began behaving like a brat. She ran away deep into the woods. Of course, if she was a child Gina would have stopped this misbehavior but she wasn’t. So, the girl rode to find the warrior princess. Within several minutes Gina heard a shrieking cry. She rushed there. Argo halted inches away from the edge of abyss. The girl in a swift movement jumped down from the mare. She looked down to see Xena far away at least in the middle of the rocky cliff. The woman was hanging from a plant root.
“Help, mommy, help me!” She screamed with horror.
Gina understood that in this situation she can’t pull the woman up. It was not in child’s might. Agro maybe would help but they didn’t have rope that long to reach Xena. The only way was to jump into the raging river.
“Xena, hold on. I’m coming!” shouted the girl.
Gina climbed down three fourths of the way to the warrior when Xena screamed, the root tore and the woman fell into the river from the height of approximately 250 feet. Gina didn’t hesitate and jumped into the river as well. Xena’s swimming skills were excellent. Now she had a kid’s mind and panicked. She panicked and went under water all the time. The river flew extremely fast. Gina was aware of the waterfall. She saw it from above the cliff. The girl put all her strength to swim closer to Xena. She told the woman not to panic. Very slowly struggling with the flow both people came out of the river into the opposite bank. Both were wet to the bones. Shades of evening began to descend. Gina hugged the woman who was crying on her shoulder.
“Everything is alright. You’re a brave little girl. I’m very proud of you.” She whispered in Xena’s ear trying to calm this childish minded grown up.
They were hungry and wet, but still alive.
At dawn Gina heard Argo’s neigh. She got up very cautiously not to wake up Xena. She took a rod from the saddle bag. In the morning Xena woke up to the tasty smell of roasted fish.
“Good morning, sleeping beauty. Would you like some fish?” Gina asked teasingly.
Xena looked like hell with mud and drift weed tangled in her hair. Her under gown wrinkled. She resembled a grumpy clown.
“My tummy is hungry,” the warrior princess said taking a plate with hot fish.
“Be careful, it’s hot,” said the girl and smiled at the woman.
After breakfast Gina made Xena wash in the river. She gave her a fresh under gown and underwear and started brushing woman’s hair.
“Where are we going today?” asked a grown-up kid.
“Today we’ll stay here. It’s a nice place. Argo has plenty of water. She should rest because she walked all night to us. I’ll wash your clothes. We’ll eat fish and have a beautiful time.” Gina stated the plans for the day.
“Will you play with me?”
“Sure, what do you want to play in?”
They played hide and seek, hopscotch which Gina draw on the wet bank of the river by a stick. They splashed in the water and climbed the trees. It was really funny until a group of crippies came to water their horses…