Once upon a time, there was a woman made of stone. She was beautiful and perfect and strong. Blind to her beauty, Pygmalion took a chisel and reshaped her to better fit his own desires. Still, though her flesh softened and her shape altered, she remained strong and unchanged within.
Frustrated, the man appealed to the gods. "The women of Cyprus are all unsuited to a man of my station. Breathe life into this stone, and I shall build a great temple in your honor."
"The city of Cyprus is filled with women made of flesh and bone," the Goddess of Wisdom reasoned. "Perhaps the problem does not lie with them."
Artemis nodded. "Do not blame the prey when you are not worthy of the hunt."
"Never." Ares' eyes glittered with disdain.
But Pygmalion found a surprising ally in his quest. "Build me a temple that touches the sky, and the woman will be yours," decreed the God-King.
Pygmalion agreed and when he set the last stone of the temple into place, Zeus breathed life into the statue, hollowing out her insides and removing every trace of who she once was to replace her very essence with what Pygmalion wished her to be.
According to the myth, the statue became a perfect wife. Beautiful, dedicated, and obedient to Pygmalion's every whim.
But I know better than anyone that perfection has a price.
A string of yellow bile connected my chin to the rim of the toilet seat. I didn't have time for this. Eight minutes until the meeting, two more for Persephone to realize I wasn't simply running late, and maybe three before she came after me. Fifteen minutes in total if my luck held. I needed to get to work. "Get yourself together, Aphrodite."
Don't cry. Zeus' whisper reverberated in my skull. Never cry.
My stomach heaved, but I had nothing left. The hollowness in my gut burned around the edges. Leaning back, I drew my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them.
"Just a nightmare," I whispered, though the inadequate word made me sound like a scared little girl trembling over an imagined monster. Zeus was real. Real dead, yeah, but facts never mattered in the night when my carefully controlled thoughts broke free to wreak havoc on my sleeping mind. Alone in the dark, I knew what I'd never admit to myself awake. Zeus would never be dead. Not to me.
There's more than one way to achieve immortality. You don't actually have to be a god, or live forever, not if you can screw someone up so much they can't forget you no matter how hard they try. When you live in someone's fears, in someone's nightmares, you never die. Not really.
I pulled myself off the ground, acutely aware of the seconds ticking by. Glancing at the mirror, I realized there was no way in Hades I'd be able to get myself presentable in time. Even I needed a break from worshipping at the porcelain god to look presentable.
"Okay." I took a deep breath and cast a glamour. Piece by piece, I put myself together until the illusion of perfection settled over me like finely fitted armor.
Glamours allowed gods to change their appearance. The changes could be subtle, like how I'd changed the color of my dress to bring out my eyes, or vast, like Zeus disguising himself to look like some unfortunate woman's husband or household pet. I didn't do full-body glamours. But the little touches packed a punch. There's power in beauty. And I needed every advantage I can get.
The doorbell rang, and I swore under my breath. Persephone never asked to come in. She ported through the shields I kept around my tiny beach house like they were nothing. My mind ran through a mental list of everyone who knew where I lived as I stepped out of the bathroom.
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An except from Aphrodite! It's not easy being perfect... But Aphrodite is determined to prove that she's more than just a pretty face. When she's asked to investigate strange events occurring on cruise ships, she's all over it. Little does she gues...