II - Family Reunions

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Once I've dried off, I hold up the gown and study it with a look of disgust. It's not the garment that's offensive, it's this whole affair. I was perfectly happy to laze away my days with mortals. Long ago I washed my hands of the Olympians and their vain idiocy.

Don't worry, I'll get to that later.

As I slip the dress over my head, its smoky tendrils of galaxies whisper down the length of my body. Worlds without number swirl around me. It's surreal, which I know is a weird thing for a god to say, to experience every whisper, overhear every secret from those living on the tiny, glowing globes that decorate my outfit. It's an intimacy that is rarely understood and seldom respected.

I feel her before she says my name. It falls from her lips and hovers in the air near where she stands in the doorway. She hisses it again, the real one. It floats between us like a kiss.

Of all my siblings, Aphrodite has the most signature presence. Her walk sounds like leaves rustling on a spring wind, her breath smells like the warmth of sheets and the sweet, bespoke scent that is only noticeable on babies and the humid skin of lovers. Her essence presses against my own with a gentle, tender longing.

"Eris," she says softly. 

I don't have to turn around to know she's leaning against the archway. I can feel so much of her imposing on the air that I don't need my eyes to pinpoint her exact location.

I know what you think she looks like, the image swimming in your head of The Birth of Venus. Long, blonde hair curling romantically, wide blue eyes. Rosy cheeks; subtle, tempting curves. A nipple coyly pinched between fingertips. Delicacy, grace, frothy girly syrup.

You're so wrong.

I turn and face my favorite sister with a smile I feel, a joy I am happy to embrace.

Aphrodite is more Lupita Nyong'o than she is Blake Lively. Towering, tall, imposing. She's powerfully built, a warrior in her own right. Her skin is a rich black dusted with a fine golden powder that makes the peaks and planes of her body glow. Her dense, curly hair is shorn nearly bald. She wears a simple dress of sheer, yellow silk. Her only adornment is a wide diadem of hammered gold encircling her forehead.

My heart breaks at the mere sight of her. The pain is momentarily felt, replaced with something warm and ticklish as she rushes towards me and crushes me in a spine-snapping hug.

"I am so glad you're back!" She kisses me repeatedly.

"Glad to know someone missed me." I blush despite my grumbling.

"Anyone who matters has always missed you. Ares is the one who made Zeus call you so quickly the second time. And I've never seen Hades pop into Olympus as fast as he did a few hours ago."

Love, war, death; the harbingers of my return. Clearly, I've won the Mount Olympus popularity contest.

"Come on, get dressed! We have to get to the council." Aphrodite wiggles her fingers and my hair arranges itself into an artful bun at the base of my neck. The stars on my dress vibrate, shuddering at her power. Each of them burns brightly with fire and fury; fully alive. Their tiny flames lick my fingertips and the inside of my elbows.

"Is that why I was called?" I slide a stack of thin, gold bangles onto my wrists and push them up over my arms. They number in the thousands and are finely spun, thinner than a strand of hair. They protect me from wrist to elbow. The firelight dances across their rippling sheen.

"Mmhmm," Aphrodite hums as she presses on my shoulders, calling forth molten gold epaulets that are thin and molded to the contours of my skin.

"I always liked these," her eyes flash a bright, sour apple green — jealousy — before settling back into their lazy rainbow swirl.

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