DISCLAIMER: Mythological creatures abound in this somewhat tall tale.
Note: Thanks to the big kids (Steph & Oz) as always, for inviting me to play in their sandbox….cause if they don’t invite you, you don’t get to use the kitty litter shovel.
On another note: Del Robertson is the author of “Taming the Wolff”, “My Fair Maiden”, and “Malodorous” – all of which can be purchased through www.affinityebooks.com and that little marketplace known as Amazon.
YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME
“Aphrodite?” asked Artemis, stealthily approaching on sandaled feet, despite walking upon a marble floor.
The goddess of the hunt was the only Olympian that Aphrodite knew that really snuck in anywhere. Whit the rest of the gods and goddesses, they were all about making the flamboyant entrance.
Myself included, mused Aphrodite.
“Dite? Dite, are you okay?”
“Okay? Okay? Do I look like I’m okay?”
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“Umm…asking you?” Artemis clutched the grip of her bow tightly in her right hand. In her left, she held an un-nocked silver arrow.
“No. No, Artie. I most certainly am not okay.” Aphrodite placed a hand upon her hip, rolled her eyes, and gave a long-suffering sigh that sent the curly blonde ringlets lifting off her forehead. Both perfectly sculpted eyebrows rose in disbelief. “Really, Artie, really? You see nothing wrong here?”
“Umm…no. You look as beautiful as always.” Artemis ducked her head, a blush appearing on her cheeks.
Artemis looked up at her without completely raising her head. One sandaled foot shuffled upon the marble floor. Really, thought Aphrodite, she’s been giving me doe eyes ever since I posed for that painting by what’s-his-name where I rose up naked out of the sea foam.
“Seriously, though. I didn’t mean there was anything wrong with all this.” Aphrodite gave a flourish of her wrist and hand to indicate her person. The flourish was seamlessly turned about to indicate their surroundings. “Look around, though. Tell me what you see.”
Artemis looked up and turned in a full circle as her gaze slowly swept over the interior of the room. As verdant eyes came back to rest on her, Artemis gave a shrug, “Nothing?”
“What you see. Nothing.” At the blank look, Aphrodite spread both arms wide. “Seriously, Artemis? Where are we?”
“One of your temples.” As if sensing Aphrodite was in no…well, mortal danger would hardly describe the situation…no goddess-like danger, Artemis shouldered her bow. Her silver arrow disappeared and magically reappeared alongside her other arrows in the quiver she wore upon her hip.
“Exactly, one of my temples. One of my temples that’s filled with…nothing. No candles, no incense, no offerings to…” she pointed a finger at herself “…me.” A snap of her fingers. “Nothing.”
“Oh-kay. Aphrodite, we’ve gone over this before.”
“Nuh-uh. You and the other Olympians have gone over this before. This…This—” Aphrodite’s hand gesture encompassed the entire temple. “This does not apply to me.”
“Aphrodite.” A deep exhalation. “As much as you may not want to hear this, it does apply. To all of us, including you.”
“I’ve been telling you this for centuries. Ever since the time of the Romans and the death and resurrection of—”
“Don’t you say it.” Aphrodite held up a hand to silence the other goddess. “Don’t you dare say that name; not in my temple.”
Artemis released a heavy sigh. She made her way to the altar…the depressingly bare altar…and sat her hindquarters upon it. Well, at least they don’t sacrifice wild animals…or wild virgins…upon there, anymore. Aphrodite made a face as she thought about what Artie could have been sitting in.
“You’ve been in blissful denial about this for an eternity now, Dite. Why have you suddenly noticed today?”
“Because…because of…this.” Aphrodite’s hand gestures indicated the entire temple. “This…nothing…this emptiness.”
“We’ve all lost worshippers, Dite.” There was a curve of bowed lips and Aphrodite felt a surge of anger that Artemis might actually find this situation amusing.
“Yes, well easy for you to say. You never had all that many to begin with.”
Artemis pursed her lips. Her jaw clenched, as did the fist that rested upon her thigh. Aphrodite immediately felt bad for saying it. The fact that her twin brother always had more worshippers simply because he was the god of the sun really bothered Artemis to no end.
“And anyway, it’s not like you don’t still have active temples around.” There, that should make it all better.
“Name two,” repeated Artemis. “Name two of my temples.”
“There’s…” Aphrodite held up a finger and paused. “And, then there’s…” She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Oh, come on, Artie. That’s not fair. You know I don’t know.”
“Because…” Aphrodite looked down, suddenly fascinated with the very berry virgin cherry toenails polish she’d applied a decade ago. Ten years and not a chip to be seen. When she finally spoke, it was in a tiny voice. “I don’t know where your temples are because they’re not about me.”
“Uh-huh.” Artemis had both arms folded over her chest and she had a very pleased expression on her face.
“Oh, come on, Artie. I know you still have temples and they’re filled with scads of worshipful maidens. It’s not my fault you have them hidden in remote jungles and secret enclaves and underground…”
“Shhh.” Artemis motioned for Aphrodite to keep her voice down. The goddess of the hunt looked about furtively. “You never know who might be listening.”
“Really, Artie?” Aphrodite placed both hands on her hips and tapped her foot. Artemis and her conspiracy theories.
“They aren’t theories if they’re true,” said Artemis.
“What – I – wait. I never said anything.” At the pointed look from the other goddess, Aphrodite gave up all pretense and shrugged haplessly.
“Anyway, I know you still have…” Aphrodite lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper more befitting of Artemis’ beliefs, “…Amazons…everywhere.”
“Yes, in secret and in hiding waiting until the time is right.”
“And they all worship and adore you.”
Artemis ducked her head and adorably blushed. Out of all the goddesses, she had always been a little shy about the mortal adulation she so richly deserved. While the rest of them, Athena included, basked in it like it was their due. Especially me. There was no shame in Aphrodite’s thoughts. She was simply acknowledging who she was; who she had always been.
“So, why now? Why sit up and take notice now?” asked Artemis. “I mean, after all this time, something monumental must have happened to catch your attention.”
“You mean besides the glaring emptiness of my temple?”
“It’s only one temple, Dite.”
“My biggest, most lavish, Artie. And here it sits, empty.”
“As I said, we’ve all suffered losses.”
“Not me. Not like this. They…they’ve forgotten me.”
“I doubt that. You’re the goddess of love.” Artemis crooked a finger, motioning for Aphrodite to come closer.
Head down, the goddess shuffled closer until she was near enough that Artemis could reach her and engulf her in a big hug while still seated upon the altar. Aphrodite rested her chin on Artemis’ broad shoulder and sighed heavily.
“You don’t understand, Artemis.”
“What?” Artemis leaned back far enough that she could place two fingers beneath Aphrodite’s chin and lift her head until she looked her in the eyes. “That you’re suddenly feeling unwanted, under appreciated, unloved?”
“You don’t get it.” Aphrodite heard the whine in her own voice and didn’t care. “They forgot about me.”
The look of amusement fell from Artemis’ face, as if she was finally realizing that this was a serious matter. “Who, Dite? Who forgot about you?”
“The…the…” Tears were coming and she was sniffling and she knew it would only give her a headache later…Hopefully a fully grown goddess wouldn’t come bursting out of her forehead the way Athena did Zeus… “the…” there was a full-out wail from her lips now, “The Academy of Bards!”
“The…” Artemis’ mouth unhinged and both eyebrows shot up.
“The Academy of Bards,” Aphrodite sniffled, nodding her head.
“That’s never – that’s never happened – wow.”
Again, Aphrodite nodded. She materialized a handkerchief out of thin air and blew her nose. Artemis grimaced at the sight and sound, but thankfully, made no mention of it. Muscular arms tightened further about the clearly distraught goddess of love.
“Maybe,” Aphrodite could feel a shrug of broad shoulders. “Maybe they were confused by the time change?” When Aphrodite shot her a look, Artemis amended, “Maybe they were just…busy?”
“Ever since…well, forever…the Academy has been celebrating me, the goddess of love. I have my own day. It’s tradition. And now…now…” another wail, “…they’ve forgotten me!”
“Maybe it was just an oversight? A mistake? Mortals do make them, you know.”
Aphrodite snorted. “How? How could they forget? I mean, I’m me. I’m the one that makes the known world sing. I give bards their inspiration of love and lust and other things. Love is a many splendored thing, you know.”
“I know, Dite.” Artemis rubbed a soothing hand across the expanse of Aphrodite’s back.
“I mean, the flowers, the sonnets, the chocolates. I did that. All of it. Me.”
“Anthony and Cleopatra. Romeo and Juliet. That was me.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t count Romeo and Juliet, given the circumstances and all,” suggested Artemis.
“I’m just saying. Without me, there is no love. It makes the world go round.”
“I heard that some guy during the Renaissance claimed it was gravity or something.”
“Don’t get me started. Remember that jerk, Valentine? Thought he could just take credit for all my hard work. Poof! Serving an eternity in Hades writing greeting cards. That showed him. Trying to plagiarize my ass.” Is it my imagination or did one of Artemis’ hands just slip a little lower? Aphrodite concentrated, feeling the wandering digits slip below her waistline a little further.
“Well, at least I know I still have one worshipper,” she teased.
Artemis pulled her hand back as if she’d been scalded. She gave a sheepish look, teeth biting at her bottom lip.
“It’s fine.” Aphrodite firmly caught Artemis’ wrist and guided her hand back to her rear. “You know I’m all about the love. Who do you think taught Sappho, who in turn, taught all your little wood nymphs? Nymphs…more like nymphomaniacs.”
“Um, what about the Academy?” asked Artemis.
“What about them?”
“Well, you know, I mean, Valentine…”
“Oh.” Aphrodite frowned.
“I mean, do you think they’ve realized?”
“Oh, most definitely. As a matter of fact, they sent out a formal scroll and declared that they are going to have a, “ air quotes, “do-over.”
“Do-over?” Artemis scrunched up her nose.
“Yeah. A chance to make up for missing my day. But, instead of just having the bards write about me…like they should be…they’ve opened it up to any and all deities.”
“Yes. That guy that delivers present to all the good little girls and boys. Humph. Like we don’t all know that’s an alien from another galaxy. And, anyway, who is he to decide who’s good and who’s not? Then, there’s the one for the wee little people…Leprechauns. Yeah, as if they exist. And, then there’s the one with all the brats dressing up as witches and demons and going door to door, extorting sweets under threat of violence.” At Artemis’ shocked expression, Aphrodite said, “Oh, yeah. It’s brutal out there, baby.”
“I…see. So, umm…is all forgiven with the Academy?”
“Hmm.” Aphrodite tapped a finger against her chin thoughtfully. “…we’ll see…”
Author’s note: Oh, boy. Guess only time will tell if the Academy was harmed in any way during the production of this – holiday story. Just remember…Aphrodite’s immortal and she’s got all the time in the known world. (cue evil laughter)