“And our final speaker for the semester, Miss Hannah.”
Dread overcomes Hannah when Professor Martin requests her presence on stage. She grimaces and sinks lower in her chair. Their end-of-semester assignment had been to write a creative essay or poem on their favorite Greek Mythological character. She wasn’t ready. So much for hoping that the bell would ring before she had to present her work. Her eyes swivel from side to side as she searches her mind for excuses. But none would come.
Instead, all she could focus on, were her troubled thoughts and redundant regrets. You shouldn’t have gone to meet him. You know it’s too close to your birthday. You tested the prophecy and now look at what’s happened! Why was she so ill-fated? First, with him and now with this? Didn’t the High Priestess assure her that the blue charm would abrogate any effects of the upcoming lunar eclipse?
When doubt courses through Hannah, her fingers fly to her neck in search of the object of her cynicism. She straightens up when all she could feel was her skin and the top of her blouse. Where the heck is the stupid bauble?
The High Priestess’ parting words surface, Never take it off. No matter what happens, or who asks for it. Guard it with your life, and it shall keep you safe.
Hannah feels the ugly jab of apprehension. For a moment, she finds herself teetering between belief and skepticism. She wasn’t an atheist, no. On the contrary, she had been brought up to believe in the old Gods; the entire Olympic pantheon to be more precise. Of the lot, she deeply respected Athena, the favored Goddess in her household. But she wasn’t sure if her ardent belief extended to baubles. Silly superstition or not, she hoped she hadn’t lost the charm; to complete her quest, she would need all the help the universe could offer.
When the professor calls her name again, Hannah’s anxiety doubles. She looks up and nods, hoping that will earn her a little patience. Still at a loss for excuses, Hannah rubs her forehead, hoping the action will help her refocus.
“Miss Larsson, we haven’t got all day. If you will please step up to the podium, we could finish the semester and be all the happier for it.”
Perturbed by her professor’s annoyance, Hannah swallows and reaches for her notebook.
In doing so, she notices the slight tremor in her hand.
She knew what that meant; an anxiety attack was on its way. Feeling embarrassed and vulnerable, she takes slow deep breaths to dispel the uneasy feeling.
The calmness she had begun to feel dissipates when the cumulative weight of her class’ expectant gaze falls on Hannah.
Renewed despair swirls through her veins, encasing her heart in its ice-cold grip. Her palms turn cold and sweaty, and she wipes them on her jean-clad thighs. Despite the impending attack, Hannah knew she had to pacify her professor. She stands.
Just ask for an extension, her brain screams. You know you will get into trouble with the council.
Worry replaces the vulnerability she was feeling. Her eyes travel to the notebook in her hand. They flicker over the hard-bound blue cover as if reading the notebook’s contents. The poem hidden inside contained secrets she had been forbidden from sharing. It was not a question of whether or not the council would disapprove of her actions. She knew they would.
Bugger the rules and consequences, she tells herself.
With that thought, she takes a final deep breath and steps forward. Indecisiveness had never sat well with Hannah; her anxiety was a clear indicator. The fact that she had reached a decision filled her with confidence.
Feeling at ease, she walks to the podium; with each step forward, her boots meet the carpet in a silent embrace. As she climbs the final step, her professor steps aside, relinquishing the podium to Hannah. She smiles at him before turning to look at her peers.
Silence falls over the room. “I.. erm..” Hannah begins.
A chair scrapes as someone fidgets.
Hannah’s eyes land on the culprit. John. He grins and sticks his thumbs up, as if wishing her luck. Embarrassment fills her; her blood rushes to her face, gracing her pale skin with a tinge of pink.
Taking a deep breath, she looks down and flips open her book. Æsir’s Curse. The title of the poem, in its bold font, glares back at her - a reminder of what she was about to risk.
The brief hesitance allows all her doubts to creep back. Hannah stops and licks her lips. As her anxiety mounts, her breath gets stuck in her throat. Her fingers curl and her vision swims. She blinks in quick succession hoping to refocus. When nothing happens, she looks up again.
Desperate, her eyes seek his. As bright blue meets dark brown, Hannah notices his lips twitching ever so slightly.
A calmness blankets her. Was he trying to reassure her? She thought it was possible. But she would never know for sure. Would she? Her eyes move to the girl sitting next to him. Julie.
The name leaves a bitter taste in Hannah’s mouth. Her mind takes her back to their first meeting a few weeks ago. She remembered how upset she had been when her father had given no explanation for their move from UK to Greece. She knew her parents were eccentric. After all, in the midst of a deeply conservative Catholic community, they openly professed their love for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Growing up, she had often felt displaced, as though they were a pre-christian family placed in modern times. But to move to Athens? And yet, despite her threats and tantrums, she found herself standing before a mansion in Glyfada.
As she watched the packers and movers unload her belongings, Julie walked up to them, arm linked with Frederick’s. The pull she had felt when she laid eyes on Frederick, had been enormous. Later that night, Hannah had been whisked off to a secret meeting where her past and true identity had been revealed to her. She remembered being terrified.
But that had been a long time ago. She wasn’t a terrified little girl any more.
He needs to know, her brain whispers. Without further thought and, with renewed confidence, Hannah lifts her chin and begins reciting her poem.
He flew across a brimstone sky, a shadow above a sandstone sea.
With wings akin to a forest floor, thrice he circled above Delphi.
When his eyes caught hold of me; with a roar he landed on his feet.
The ground shook, but from what, I knew not, nor cared to see.
Crouched as a tiger would in grass, such was the sight I could see.
Part man, part beast, I knew he was, but his kind was strange to me.
Nor Griffin, nor Vampire, not Typhon was he..
As he uncoiled himself, tartaran fires rose from cracks beneath me
When horns, and tail revealed, he made for a terrifying sight indeed,
No more than the fire dancing nary a distance from me.
But none of that mattered no more, for his voice like a rising storm, swirled all around me.
Seductively it touched my ear, ‘Come closer’ it whispered to me.
Remembering what he was, a step I took, back not front, till he bared his teeth.
I clutched my dress and steadied my heart, preparing as if to speak.
‘What are you?’, I finally breathed, to which ‘Satyr’ saith he.
I shook my head for the world now, made little sense to me.
‘When I have done no wrong, why would a mystic search for me?’
‘Come,’ he said, and still I stayed, the fires of hell inching nearer to me.
It was there, upon a sandstone sea, that his next few words befuddled me.
‘I have watched o’er you all your life, and yet ye won’t come with me.’
‘Wait, what? I beg of ye, tell me who are you to me!’
Slowly, he bowed his head as if in defeat,
Then great wings like dragons past, stretched gently towards me.
Tendrils of fire lapped at my heels, but touched me not for his shield protected me.
He stood shrouded in shadows, the planes of his chest now the only thing visible to me.
With eyes as dark as coal, he finally did look at me.
‘In another life then,’ said he, gently caressing my cheek.
Then the fires from hell groaned and moaned before they swallowed him up whole.
The sky turned blue and the ground grew trees.
The Satyr stood no longer before me.
The entire class watched Hannah, muted by the power of her recital. As the book she held thudded to a close, murmurs awoke. But she cared not for the remarks nor the questions of her peers. Her eyes remained glued to a bright blue pair. Those of Frederick’s.
With hope, she searched his features for a sign that the poem had awoken deep memories.
She watched him swallow and shake his head before he turned to his partner.
Defeat chases away the calm and hope she had felt earlier. Her shoulders sag with the possibility that her attempt had been unproductive. Perhaps the poem hadn’t been as revealing or direct as she had first thought it to be. What will it take to make him remember?
The sound of clapping hands rings loud, tearing Hannah from her thoughts. “Well done”, came the raspy voice of her Professor.
Jolted back to the real world, Hannah clears her throat and takes a step away from the podium.
Up ahead, Julie’s eyes bore holes into Hannah. While the class had been mesmerized by the poetry, Julie hadn’t failed to notice the brunette’s eye contact with her boyfriend. Nor had she missed observing that the girl hadn’t once looked down at the book she carried. The recital was from memory. What irked Julie even more, was the unreciprocated love undertone to the tragic tale.
Ever since Hannah had moved into their neighborhood, there had been no denying the simmering attraction between her and Frederick. To subtly remind him so in class, was an insult to their relationship. Julie sniffs with indignation and palms Frederick’s hand; her possessive nature demanding a public display. In her mind, she quickly recalls the numerous indignations she had to suffer because of Hannah. Each adds to her annoyance and she decides it’s time to speak with her father; especially about this blatant attempt. Her pink lips pull into a smile at the thought of retribution.
As the professor dismisses the session with a reminder of the upcoming semester exams, students rise in unison. Sounds fill the classroom; those of discussions about after class activities, papers being shuffled, shoes squeaking on linoleum, and chairs being pushed out of the way. Erelong, whispered rumors about weekend parties rise like a crescendo, blotting out all other noises.
Perhaps for that reason, Hannah jumps when cold fingers brush across her shoulders. He’s back, her brain whispers in an annoying sing-song way. Her mouth curls with distaste. “Linus…,” she hisses.
She attempts to control the shudder racing through her before turning to her tormentor. No, she didn’t have to see who had touched her. The Mati had chosen Linus to be the bane of her existence. And every time his skin made contact with hers, Hannah felt as though Thánatos himself was touching her.
With a raised eyebrow, Hannah faces her tormentor. His brown eyes travel over her body. What was supposed to be an appreciative glance, makes Hannah gag.
“What do you want Linus?”
“That was a lovely poem, agapi mou.”
The urge to retch resurfaces. “Agapi mou? I am not your love!”
Hannah watches as Linus steps into her personal space and fingers the hem of her embroidered blouse.“That color and pattern suits you. Now you look and sound like a Greek goddess.”
Although the urge to step back was intense, Hannah knew that if she did, it would invite more trouble. Instead, she lifts her chin in defiance and swats his hand away. “Do you have no shame? No boundaries?”
Linus chuckles at her annoyance. “Your voice calls to me like a siren, sweet cheeks. With an invitation like that, who could adhere to the decorum of polite society?”
“Taking your Mythology class a little too seriously, are you Linus?”
A perfectly shaped eyebrow moves upwards, disturbing ripples on a broad forehead. “Is the pot calling the kettle black?”
“You know nothing of which you speak!”
Linus tucks his hands into his front pockets. “So enlighten me, kardia mou.”
Hannah’s voice came in a hiss now. “Your heart? Seriously Linus, enough with the unwanted affection. You are becoming more and more infuriating every day!”
Linus roars with laughter.
“Go bother a harpy or something, brother mine.”
Two heads turn to face the newcomer. Hannah’s eyes fill with relief and Linus’ fill with hatred.
His greeting drips with venom. “Frederick, my dearest brother, isn’t Julie waiting for her escort home?”
“Mind your own business Linus.”
As Frederick grabs Hannah’s hand and steers her to a corner, Linus’ shoulders drop.
“In time,” he murmurs as he walks away, his head bowed.