I watched as Luke paced in front of my office window then turned back to my computer. He had been talking for at least twenty minutes, and as far as I was concerned, that was about nineteen minutes too long. All I could think about was work. I zoned out pretty quickly and tried to focus on the computer screen in front of me. My demolition business was off to such a great start, but with the recent events, no one wanted anything torn down. I could get by without a crew if I had to, so that wasn’t the issue. The problem was that with so many people getting laid off around the world, no one wanted to spend any money that they didn’t absolutely have to.
The meeting did give me a new direction to go in, though. I was pretty mad at myself for not thinking of it. Becoming relevant to the mortals was the reason everyone had been called back, of course, we should be trying to help in some way if we could. Building hospitals and quarantine facilities only made sense.
Where my demolition company was tanking because of the lack of jobs, I was having the opposite problem getting Medusa’s Erections set up. Before your mind goes straight to the gutter, I’m talking about erecting buildings. Ok, even I have to hold in a giggle every time I say the name.
Back to the problem, there are plenty of government contracts, but I needed a crew. A very large crew. Which goes against the distancing everyone was trying to maintain. The only solution I could see would be to use teams that weren’t human.
“…so you need to start planning because we leave in a couple of weeks.” Luke said, turning to leave.
“Wait a minute. I think I missed something. Leave for where exactly?” I asked, wishing I hadn’t zoned out so quickly.
“I said I booked us on a cruise. I got an awesome price too because it was with Olympus Cruise Lines. You need a break, you’ve been stressing out so much lately, and I haven’t taken a vacation in almost ten years,” Luke said with excitement written all over his face.
“Even if I could leave, there’s no way you’re getting on a cruise ship. There’s a reason you got such a great deal.”
“It will be fine. It will be mostly immortals anyway.”
I stood up and walked around to the front of my desk and sat on the edge. “I just have too much to get done. I still need to track down that little witch on top of everything else.” I hated to have to say it, but I added, “You know all the mortals have to stay home as much as possible. I don’t want to risk losing you.”
His shoulders dropped. “I already paid for it, though.” Then he smiled and said, “You can still go.”
I opened my mouth to tell him no then stopped, considering. I reached up and tucked one of my hair snakes behind my ear then let it twist around my finger while I thought.
Luke watched me for a minute, eyeing my snake, and looking a little nervous. “Do I need to cover my eyes?”
“What? Oh, no, I’m actually getting better at partial shifts.” I relaxed, just a little, and let a few more snakes shift from my hair. Staying in human form was like keeping a muscle tensed up all the time. If I relaxed it too much, I shifted entirely into my gorgon form. Partial shifts were like releasing that muscle a few degrees at a time. The more I practiced, the easier it got. I guess it’s like with any muscle getting stronger the more it was used. Next, I planned on working with stone. I thought with some practice; I might be able to revert the stone to flesh and bone. That would be a little harder to work, though. Who would have thought it’d be so hard to find volunteers for me to practice on?
“That’s great! I know how hard you’ve been working on it. See, you deserve a reward, you’ll go on the cruise and come back rested and ready to get your erections up,” Luke said with a straight face.
I shook my head and turned quickly away so he couldn’t see me smiling. I picked the new business name, not realizing how it sounded. Until I told Luke, and he immediately fell out of his chair laughing. Now I couldn’t change it.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to disappoint Zeus. I think we could really help a lot of people. It will be nice to build things, too.” I needed to get Luke’s mind off of the cruise. He wouldn’t give up on it until we were both on that damn ship.
“Look, Deuces, you can only do so much. Besides, you’re kind of stuck until you can get your crews fully staffed. Until then, a few days off won’t kill anyone,” Luke said, obviously going for logic to win the argument.
I let my snakes shift from my hair again and laughed when he jumped. “Alright, I’ll think about it.” Then before he could say anything, I said, “Do you want to help me practice teleporting?”
Luke groaned, “Not again. I don’t understand how you can do it by yourself so easily, but have such a hard time taking someone with you.”
“I haven’t had forever to learn like everyone else. I’m still new to all of this. Thank the goddess I can keep a hold of my human form now, but I did have a lot of accidents in the beginning. I just need practice with this too. Think how easy it will be for us to go places, we could just pop in and out. It will be great, you’ll see.” I held my hands out for him to hold onto and rolled my eyes at his terrified expression. Served him right for trying to force a vacation on me.
Luke was taking a really slow step backwards, and I had a feeling he was about to run, so I jumped forward and grabbed his arm. “Stop being a baby and hold on!” I concentrated on sending us to his house and pictured us popping into his living room…
We climbed out of the pool in Luke’s backyard, sputtering and coughing. Luke glared at me, and I felt lucky he couldn’t turn me to stone because it sure looked like he was trying.
“What? We got closer this time. I only missed your house by a little bit.” I watched as he stomped inside and slammed the door. Chasing after him, I yelled, “It’s better than the dumpster, at least you’re still clean!”
The last time I aimed for his house, we ended up in the dumpster outside of a restaurant two blocks away. We didn’t even end up on top of the dumpster; we somehow ended up on the bottom buried under a week’s worth of rotten food. I shrugged my shoulders. I was getting better, at least.
Luke came stomping towards me as I walked in the back door.
“You just did that to get me to forget about the cruise. It didn’t work. You’re going to have to take me to make up for all these teleports,” Luke said with a smug look.
If he thought I felt bad enough to let him have his way, he was going to be disappointed. So what if we ended up in a pool, or dumpster, or even the tiger cage at the zoo. I laughed, thinking about the look on his face when he realized where we were. He complained for days about the zoo incident, and it was weeks before he let me try again.
I wanted to get better, though. In the few months since I’ve been back, I’ve learned to control my gorgon form, but I still felt so far behind. I knew I was capable of so much more. The last couple of statues I made, I felt something different in the stone as it changed. I was able to slow it down as it spread through the flesh. I tried to stop it halfway through, but it didn’t work. The stone called to me, though, and I just knew I could do more.
Luke disappeared back into his bedroom, and even though I was still soaking wet, I flopped down on his couch to wait for him.
After what seemed like entirely too long, Luke finally came out dry and in fresh clothes. He scowled when he realized I was soaking his couch, but he didn’t comment on it and instead sat down next to me.
“I know you’re trying, and this means a lot to you, so I’m not going to keep giving you a hard time about…not getting us exactly where you plan on.”
“Thanks,” I said. I started to say more but instead fell silent, my mind wandering. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out on so much.
“Hey, what’s going on up there?” Luke asked as he bumped his shoulder to mine.
“Just feeling a little lost, I guess. There’s still so much that I don’t know.”
Luke sighed and said, “I’ll help you practice more.”
“No, it’s not that, although I will take that help. Especially if you come across volunteers so I can practice returning the stone to human.”
“I’ll get right on that for you.” Then looking me over, he said, “Go get dried off, and I’ll cook us dinner.”
“You’re going to cook?” I asked with exaggerated shock.
“Well, I’m going to dial. Same thing. Then we can figure out where to get you some practice puppets.”
“Ew, don’t call them that.” I got up with only minor squishing noises and felt a little bad about how wet Luke’s couch was. “I’m just going to borrow a pair of sweats and a tee, ok?”
“Whatever you need.”
I had been spending more and more time at Luke’s when I wasn’t working. I supposed I should start leaving some spare clothes here. I opened the drawer that usually only held a couple pairs of old sweats and found it stuffed full with soft pajama pants. My eyes filled with tears as I stood there, looking at all the new pants and tee shirts. He bought all this for me, to make me more comfortable.
I changed quickly and left my wet clothes on the bathroom floor. I’d deal with those later.
I found Luke in the kitchen and wrapped him in a hug. Neither of us said anything, we just stood there clinging to each other, and I promised myself I’d do something special for him soon.