Chapter 1 - The Face That Haunts Me
A few hours after Zeus and Hera’s Wedding…
“Aidon! Boy, you have to try this!” Dionysus shouted as he stumbled his way towards me.
Yes, that is the right word—stumbled.
Just a few hours into Zeus and Hera’s wedding party and he was already flat-out drunk… like always. Some things truly never change. I shook my head as I became his newest target to try out one of his concoctions. He sat on the empty chair besides me, grabbed my glass and poured me a hefty amount of one of his brews.
“I’m good,” I told him with a smile.
“Bah!” he shouted. He pushed the glass into my hands and I took a very small sip.
“Yeah. It’s very good,” I told him with a smile. That seemed to pacify him. He pinched my cheek and then stood up and tried to look for another victim. His previous one, Ares, was already slumped on the table.
I rubbed my reddened cheek and tried to look around.
The sun has just began to set and the rows upon rows of white chairs disappeared and made way for a black marble dance floor in the middle of the courtyard. The sky cast an orange and purple glow on the lovers that were intertwined on the dance floor as they moved slowly.
My parents, Aerith and Hades, were there. And so were other couples: Poseidon and Amphitrite, Aurea and Thanatos, Aphrodite and Hephaestus, and many more. Hephaestus had this grim look while he danced with his wife. I think he was at that point where he simply didn’t care anymore about his wife and their marriage.
I sighed heavily.
Why was love such a complicated thing? Why was fate even more complicated?
And just as that thought crossed my mind, I saw her.
She was known as the face that launched a thousand ships and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
I’ve laid eyes on her for more than a thousand times in the past. But each time was the same as the first time—she still took my breath away. According to my father and the rest of the gods who were together with their fated, this was how it felt when you saw your ‘the one.’
Yes, it was Helen for me.
But she doesn’t seem to know that or understand it.
Right on cue, the bane of my existence arrived. Paris.
I snorted inwardly at his name. Paris is a beatiful city which was totally opposite what I thought of him. I hated him since the first time I saw him for he was with my Helen.
But I guess since he met her first and they’ve been together for a long time, it’s hard for Helen to forget him or recognize me as her fated.
I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair. I looked away when the Muses played a lovely melody and everyone headed to the dance floor —including Helen and Paris.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Helen’s doúlos scatter across the room as she happily danced with Paris.
Doúlos means slave or servant in Greek. Back in Helen’s time, slaves were bound to their masters for life unless their master sets them free.
And no, it doesn’t involve a sock or some shit.
Since Helen was a princess, she had her personal slaves. They vowed that they would be with her until she died. But since she is an immortal, even in their afterlife, they were still bound to her. And now… they were faceless, silvery shadows who followed her everywhere.
Helen must’ve treated them right when they were still alive for them to swear fealty to her for life.
But there was another instance wherein a slave swears fealty to their master for life. It’s if they were forced to. Maybe they were a gift from her husband, Menelaus.
My thoughts were interrupted when there was a jagged streak of lightning followed by thunder. Everything went white and when I was able to see clearly, I saw Zeus and Hera in the middle of the dance floor.
Cheers erupted and there were several whistles and catcalls.
They made a dramatic exit just a few hours ago. The bride and groom just up and vanished because they couldn’t keep their hands off each other for another second longer.
“I thought we weren’t going to see you guys until the next decade?” Poseidon shouted.
“Well, this is a lovely song. And we missed our first dance,” Hera answered.
“What my queen wants, my queen gets,” Zeus added.
He then gathered Hera close. He placed her hands on his shoulders and spanned her waist with his. Then they looked at each other, their love for each other seen clearly in their eyes.
And then the Muses started to sing…
“How long will I love you?
As long as stars are above you
And longer, if I can.
How long will I need you?
As long as the seasons need to
Follow their plan…”
They newly-wedded couple gazed at each other like they were the only ones in the room. The entire world could fade away right now and they might not even mind or notice — as long as they had each other.
It was something I wanted for myself.
I want someone to look at me the way Hera looks at Zeus. I want someone to love me amidst all my faults. I want someone brave and strong to stand by my side. I want someone with an open heart—someone who’ll be able to see the beauty in the dark and dreary Underworld.
“How long will I be with you?
As long as the sea is bound to
Wash upon the sand…
How long will I want you?
As long as you want me to
And longer by far.”
Hera smiled as she danced with Zeus.
No words passed between the two of them but you can see the unspoken words of love in their gazes. Slowly, the pair moved side to side in time with the music. And then Hera closed her eyes and leaned her head against Zeus’ chest.
Zeus closed his eyes and turned the two of them so he ended up facing the sun. The couple were outlined by the last rays of the setting sun.
“How long will I hold you?
As long as your father told you,
As long as you can.
How long will I give to you?
As long as I live through you
However long you say…”
I could have this.
I wanted it with all that I am. But it’s as if it’s not meant to be.
My eyes darted to the other side of the room where Paris and Helen were in a similar position as Zeus and Hera. They looked so happy and serene.
I rolled my eyes.
Not for long.
Helen is mine and I won’t let anything stand in our way. I’ve been a coward long enough.
I tore my eyes away from Helen and Paris for each second they spent in each others arms felt like my heart being torn in two. I decided to watch Zeus and Hera instead.
Why? Because their love story brought me hope. They were fated lovers who were together early on. They were together but then tragedy struck. And then they became world’s apart.
But look where they are now…
“How long will I love you?
As long as stars are above you
And longer, if I may…”
“For the rest of eternity, vasilissa mou,” Zeus told Hera.
I couldn’t help but smile and get this fluttering feeling in the pit of my stomach. Those two deserved all the happiness in the world. But at the same time, I felt a sliver of jealousy pierce my heart. Everyone seemed to be happy—except me.
Scratch that and let me rephrase.
Everyone seemed to be happy except me and Hephaestus. The guy was sitting at the bar downing shot after shot of one of Dionysus’ most potent creations. And where was his wife?
She was dancing with Adonis this time. He was one of her long string of lovers. But the ending was tragic for Adonis died. And now here he was as a shade, dancing with her.
And that was when I’ve had enough.
I clenched my palm over the table and summoned all the energy I could muster. I kept on gathering it until it felt like it was going to overflow. I was about to stop time.
But Eros appeared beside me and sat down.
Immediately, I summoned back all the power and tried to calm myself.
“Ah… Aidon. Stop it with the self-pity,” he told me.
Eros shrugged. “I can see the way you look at them.” He tilted his head to the side to indicate Helen and Paris who were still happily dancing.
My brows creased even further. But I shrugged and made it seem like it was nothing. I didn’t really want to broadcast all the matters of my heart to everyone in Olympus.
Eros threw back his head and laughed.
“No one can fool love, Aidon,” he said.
I said nothing and took another sip of Dionysus’ drink.
“Love isn’t blind, you know. It just chooses to close its eyes on matters which are unimportant like physical appearance, flaws, mistakes, etc.”
Oh, boy. Here goes another of Eros’ wonderful lectures. I really didn’t have the heart to listen to another one of this.
So I summoned my power and stopped time.
It was like hitting pause in the middle of a movie. But it’s not only the screen that pauses. The audience paused as well.
Everything suddenly stood still. There was no music, no dancing, no drinking. Only a tableau in which I was a part of. But I was the only one who could move.
I stood from the table and walked towards Helen and Paris. Helen’s eyes were closed and her lips were pursed as though waiting for a kiss.
Not gonna happen, pal.
So I just stood there and looked at her. Every inch of her beautiful face was already committed to my memory. But this was the only time I could be with her up close.
I stepped closer and cupped her chin with my hand. I moved closer…
…and then stopped.
How long have I envisioned kissing her? Her arms wrapped around me, her sweet scent enveloping me as I leaned forward and bridged the distance between us.
But in all those visions, she was meeting me halfway. She wanted to kiss me as much as I wanted to kiss her. It wasn’t like this. She wasn’t frozen in time while I tried to steal a kiss.
Soon, she will be mine. Soon, things are going to change. I can feel it.
I turned around and looked Paris in the eye. Your days are going to be up soon, lover boy. Enjoy it while it lasts.
And then I went back to the table and sat down.
I released my powers and my hold on time… and hit play.