Lately, my mornings to mid-afternoons have been spent lying on the couch, with morning sickness and massive headaches keeping me down. They say that this is normal for pregnancy. Eros has tried to help me through the discomfort I am feeling, but I unreasonably lashed out at him when he did. I felt horrible after snapping at him. To avoid my mood swings, we decided that Eros could take Hedone on some flying lessons during this time. It is a way for the two of them to get closer, and I don’t mind having the time to myself.
My stomach grumbles, and I sit up. I reach for the plate of cookies. Biting into one, I took a breath as the first mouthful of cookie settles roughly on my stomach. I shake my head, placing the cookie on the napkin. Nope, no food yet. How long is this going to last?
A moment later, I hear a knock at the door. It’s not Eros, and I am not expecting anyone. Strange. Who could it be? I stand up and let the nausea pass before going to the door and opening it.
Hekate. I am not sure what to think. She never comes up to our floor, but there she is. She’s dressed like she normally would be for business in the Tower: a smart black suit, heels, hair pulled up, but as together as the rest of her is, there’s something unsettled about her expression. Something isn’t right.
“Hello, Clio.” Her voice is soft. She cranes her head, looking over my shoulder. “Eros isn’t here, is he? I heard someone say he was out. Something about flying lessons?”
I tilt my head. “Yes, he is out with our daughter right now. Are you okay?”
My curiosity is one of my weak points, and Hekate doesn’t seem okay. I am worried.
She exhales slowly, obviously relieved that Eros isn’t here. “I…I’m sorry to intrude, but I think I’m in need of some advice. Do you have time to talk?”
I open the door wide, my brows furrowing. Yeah, something is definitely wrong. “Of course, come sit. I just made some cookies.”
Hekate slips past me as I shut the door. I follow her. Her eyes take in our apartment, her fingers trailing over a photo here, a pillow there. She smooths her skirt beneath her and sits down on the edge of the sofa, crossing her legs. I walk back over to one of the chairs, taking a seat across from her. I chew my bottom lip in thought. The last time I saw her was at the party she hosted. Other than that, I haven’t heard much of or about her.
“So, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while,” I ask.
The Witch Queen folds her hands in her lap and looks at me for a moment. “I’ve been staying in the Underworld. With Hades.”
I nod, picking up a cookie from the plate. My stomach grumbles, reminding me it still isn’t ready for food. “Why’s that?”
“It was a surprise to me, too, when he offered. The party was very hard on me. Just one reminder after another that I should never have come home. I thought he was just being kind. That may not have been the only reason.”
I sit back in my chair, feeling a bit guilty. During the party, everyone tried to force Hekate to forgive Atё for what she had done, or at least not hold a grudge. That wasn’t a fair expectation to put on her. I close my eyes, trying not to dwell on the thought.
“What was the other reason?” I ask.
A flicker of a smile crosses her face. Maybe it’s just the angle of the light, but it looks like she might be blushing. “Things have…progressed between Hades and I.”
A smile spreads across my face. “Oh? Tell me more.”
“Well, he took me on a tour of the Underworld. Makaron. His gardens. Titiarial. The Hesperides.” Some memory flashes behind her eyes, making her smile. “We…had that date he asked me for. Played a rather…memorable game of chess.”
Her face tightens with some unspoken pain.
“That’s why I’m here, Clio. We’re at a stalemate, me and Hades,” she says, voice shaking. “He knows I’m hiding something from him. He won’t…we can’t go farther until I tell him.”
“And you don’t want to?” I ask.
Hekate shakes her head slowly. “He doesn’t understand. I know he doesn’t want me to keep secrets from him. He told me, showed me why he’d drawn this line. But I can’t cross it, Clio. It would hurt people. It would hurt Hades. Persephone. And…” Hekate raises her eyes to mine. “And Eros.”
I chew my bottom lip in thought. A secret that involves my husband? Curiosity nibbles at me as multiple questions go through my mind. I don’t want to bombard her with questions. She has to be ready to share the information, so I will ask her one question at a time.
“How will this secret hurt them?”
“It won’t. If I continue to keep it.” Hekate plays with the rings on her hands. “There are things they don’t know, truths I chose not to tell, and decisions that came with silencing those truths. For tens of thousands of years, Clio, the only person it has hurt is me. But if I tell him, if the truth comes out, all of it will have been for nothing. The truth will hurt them. Well, maybe not Eros. I doubt he’ll give a damn other than crowing about finally knowing why I hate him so much.”
I tilt my head. “My husband can be full of surprises. I don’t even know how he is going to react to things sometimes.”
Hekate darts a glance at me. “And if Eros knew I had one of his arrows?”
“He is unpredictable.” I shrug, frowning. “How do you have one of his arrows? They return to his quiver when he summons them.”
“They do now,” she says with a small smile. “Actually, I think he made that quiver because he lost the arrow that I found.”
I place a hand on my irritated stomach. “I would assume so. Those arrows in the wrong hands could be bad.”
“Those arrows in Eros’s hands are bad.” Hekate frowns. “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay.” I nod, attempting to smile. “I still think you should tell them. It isn’t fair that you had to carry that pain for so long.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you knew what it was, Clio.” Hekate’s eyes widen for just a moment as something seems to occur to her. She considers me for a long moment. “You can see memories, can’t you?”
“I can.” Tilting my head, I look her up and down. “Would you like me to see this secret?”
“Yes, and no.” Hekate chews her lower lip, smoothing her skirt in nervous strokes. “I came here for advice, and as someone who often has to give advice, I know it’s hard to do that when you aren’t being told the whole story. At the same time, it involves Eros. And I do not want to put you in a position of hiding things from him because I would swear you to secrecy, Clio. I have kept this secret since before Hades married Persephone, and it’s mine and mine alone to tell.”
“I understand, Hekate. When I look into someone’s history, I do not share what I have learned unless they ask it of me. Even Eros knows that,” I say.
“Very well then. How does this work? Showing you my…my memories? Do I have to tell you?” Hekate takes a deep breath, steeling herself. Her voice trembles when she speaks. “Because …I-I’m not sure I can without breaking. Not after this long.”
“When I look into someone’s past, I have to make eye contact with them. You do not have to say a word. All you have to do is push the memories forward you would like me to see.”
Hekate closes her eyes for a moment, then looks up at me. The flames of her irises flicker, dwindle into nothing but blackness. I take that as a sign she was ready for me to see, and I pull my chair closer over to her. My eyes connect with hers. They appear sad, darker than what they should be. I have to close my eyes for a second to focus on the task at hand. See her history. It is my job. I open my eyes once more, and I am pulled into her mind. Everything is dark at first, but slowly, images start to appear in front of me. I focus on one, expanding it, so there is no more darkness.
a moonlit garden, a kiss, and a King…
nights running wild in the Underworld with the Pack…
confessions, and secret meetings…
scattered flowers and a golden arrow…
The image flutters, emotions of sadness trickling in. This was new. Usually, when I saw memories, I didn’t feel the emotion attached to them. Yet, I felt sadness.
a mother crying for her lost daughter…
stealing into the Underworld to find the lovers entwined…
a plea to remain, her words, his eyes…
choices…so many choices…stay with me, Hekate…
The emotions become stronger, and I have a difficult time continuing. Was it Hekate’s sadness seeping through? The pain she felt all these years. I could feel it tear at my soul, but I had to continue. I want to help her.
withering pain and shattering cold…
brightness fading and shadows rising…
a final choice…my heart or my promise…
My sight slowly returns, and I see Hekate still in front of me. She closes her eyes and bows her head, tears falling into her open hands. “Now, you know why I am…the way I am.”
I nod, staying silent for a moment. What was I to say? No comforting words could take away the pain she is feeling inside. She must have buried it down so deep inside that she couldn’t even feel it anymore. I have to help her.
“Hekate…” I start, still unsure of what to say. “I’m so sorry about what happened to you.”
“Things happen, Clio. If Eros hadn’t…” her laugh is bitter as she shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. But here I am, right back at the same choice. To get what I want, I have to take something from someone else. My pleasure for their pain. Their loss, my gain. I…just can’t…do it. No matter how badly I want him. And I do. Want him.”
I sigh, trying to think of the best possible advice. It is going to be impossible to have everyone happy at the end of this. People are going to get hurt, whether it was Hekate or Persephone and Hades. I chew my bottom lip hard.
“It’s okay, Clio. If there were an easy answer, I’m sure I’d have found it after this long.” Hekate takes a deep breath and stands up. “You know that phrase mortals have? Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?”
I look at her. “I have heard of the saying, yes.”
“It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It was easier going forty thousand years, not knowing what I was missing than it is going four hours knowing what I will lose if I don’t tell Hades what I’m keeping from him.” Her eyes glaze over again. She looks at the ceiling and blinks back tears. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell him or Persphone. But I can at least return Eros’s arrow. I think I’ve kept it long enough.”
“You can do that,” I nod. “I still think you should tell them, Hekate. You don’t deserve to feel like this. You deserve to be loved.”
She ignores my statement as she gathers her things. “The arrow is in Propylaia. I will try to get away when Hades is occupied and bring it here. Talk to Eros. Let him know I… don’t hate him anymore.”
Hekate walks to the door and stops, looking back over her shoulder. “It’s ironic, isn’t it? The secret I’ve kept for the sake of love is the thing that will keep me from it in the end.”
And with that, she is gone.