In the weeks that followed, each of the partners regaled friends and family with the amusing anecdote of how they felt they could be Zeus and Hera.
Soon, word got back to Hera.
Ceyx and Alcyone were never sure who reported them. Only that it had been done, and that Zeus and Hera were incensed.
Maybe it was Agamemnon. Maybe Hermes. Maybe it was Hera’s flying carpet of doom (Everyone knew that carpet would cause trouble).
The rumors began in earnest in the days leading up to the Winter Solstice festival. All over Olympus, there were murmurings.
“I heard a rumor that Zeus was furious. He threw a thunderbolt across the room.”
“Cyrin told me that she heard Zeus yelling all the way down the block.”
“How dare they?”
“A mortal…thinking he’s on the same level as Zeus? Pffft.”
“They are lucky that Hera didn’t smite them immediately.”
“Maybe Hera didn’t smite them because she’s feeling the yuletide spirit?”
Morpheus caught small snatches of gossip as he made his way around the crowded room; another yuletide party thrown by Dion. For several minutes, Alcyone and Ceyx were all that anyone could discuss. Spiked eggnog, hot buttered rum, and ambrosia flowed, and eventually, the party talk shifted away from poor Ceyx and Alcyone.
But late that evening, after the whispers faded, Morpheus could not stop thinking about it.
Could this be the way to earn Zeus’ regard?
Morpheus’ cheeks burned at the embarrassment he still felt after losing favor with Zeus. He should have known better, but on a whim (he didn’t even remember why he did it), he’d given Hera a dream starring Zeus and one of her peacocks. What he did remember was the look of rage that washed over Hera’s face once she realized Morpheus was to blame. No one could forget that. She was furious. So was Zeus. Ever since that incident, Morpheus realized he was on thin ice with the couple.
The wheels of his mind turned. Maybe if he gave the lesser gods a lesson in humility, Zeus and Hera would forgive him.
Morpheus set out to watch Alcyone and learn more about her behavior and patterns. Then he followed Ceyx for a couple of days.
One thing they really did have going for them was their true love. Deep. Wide. Unstoppable. They may not have the power and the trappings of Zeus and Hera, but they did have the passionate love and marriage.
He knew that was their tender spot. The one place he could wiggle in and make his impact. That was where he decided to strike.
Before Winter Solstice, Ceyx had to travel to the US for a banking conference. He kissed Alcyone goodbye and left for the airport. He felt unsettled. He double-checked his passport and bags, but it did not seem that he was forgetting anything. I probably forgot my toothbrush, he thought as he arrived at the boarding gate. He hoped it was something so simple, yet a bad feeling nagged at him.
Alcyone never slept well when Ceyx was out of town. She’d toss and turn and spend half of the night tangled in the blankets, trying to find a comfortable spot. Mostly she was not able to turn her mind off, and anxiety strummed through her thoughts, twisting them mercilessly. What if something happens to Ceyx? What would I do without him?
She turned the sleep timer on and switched the tv to the Hallmark Channel so she could have a never-ending supply of happy stories. Reclining in bed, she knew sleep would not find her easily, so she reached over onto Ceyx’s nightstand and grabbed the bottle of sleeping pills. Popping a small blue capsule into her mouth, she crossed her fingers and hoped she would soon be asleep.
Morpheus hung outside their home, waiting for the nudge he’d given Alcyone to take effect. When he saw her take the sleep aid, he sighed. It was only a matter of time.
Sunshine streamed through Alcyone’s window, bathing her in a light glow and raising her out of her sleep. The pill worked, she thought. Nice.
She slid on one of Ceyx’s t-shirts and went about her morning ritual of making a pot of tea before she hopped into the shower. A notification pinged on her phone. She reached for it and found several notifications from different news sources she subscribed to. A plane crash. Oh, gods. She scrolled through the news and tried to find as many details as possible. It was only an hour since the media began reporting, but the plane crashed several hours before that.
It couldn’t be.
She scrolled through her text messages until she found where Ceyx had sent her his itinerary. Flight 1221. It was his plane.
A sharp pain shot through her chest. Panic seized her and her knees gave out. She sank to the floor trying to catch her breath. She clutched at her heart and screamed. Not her Ceyx. It couldn’t be. She turned on the tv and read the news on her phone at the same time. There were no survivors. Engine failure over the Atlantic. They were still searching to reclaim bodies, but the conditions were too difficult.
When she came to, her heart ached. The one truth in her life was gone. Her compass. Her heart. She couldn’t bear to imagine others trying to comfort her. She would never be comforted again.
Without thinking, she got into her car and drove in silence to the beach. The waves rolled and spit. The chill in the air nearly broke her resolve. Snowflakes fell in small flurries. Alcyone ran to the pier and watched the water below her. Before she could reconsider her decision, she threw herself into the ocean. The shock of the cold made her gasp. She breathed in the icy water and started to choke. Primal instinct took over and she flailed in the sea, her clothes weighing her down and making it difficult to right herself. A wave crashed over her and she coughed, taking a large breath filled with brine. Her lungs burned and tried to reject the water. It was too much. She was so cold, she could no longer feel her arms or legs. She tried to relax and stop fighting. Images of Ceyx flooded her mind, and she lost her will. Another wave carried her further, sucking her under.
. . .
Morpheus returned to Alcyone and Ceyx’s home. The car was not in the driveway, the lights were off. No one was home. He wondered how she’d reacted to the dream he’d implanted. She’s probably being comforted by her sisters, he thought. Won’t she feel foolish when Ceyx shows up? Morpheus retreated to his home, humming a little tune.
Ceyx tried for two days to reach Alcyone. He finally contacted Merope and asked her to check on her sister while he booked a flight home. He knew something was off.
Merope arrived at Alcyone’s house and saw a dark figure walking away. Is that Morpheus? She wondered. What was he doing here?
She used the hide-a-key and searched the house for her sister. There were no signs of Alcyone. Merope tried Ceyx, but his phone went straight to voicemail.
“Hey, Ceyx, I’m at the house and do not see her. It looked like Morpheus was here, so I’m going to try and catch him and see if he knows anything. Let me know what you find out.”
When Ceyx’s plane landed in Olympus, he listened to the voicemail. Morpheus? That’s not a good sign. He accessed the GPS info for both the car and Alcyone’s phone.
Ceyx rushed toward the location of Alcyone’s car. When he reached her Mercedes, he found it covered with snow. No footprints could be found.
Ceyx’s cell phone rang. Merope.
“Oh god, Ceyx. Morpheus gave Alcyone a dream that you were killed in a plane crash. No one has seen her since…”
He ended the call while Merope was still talking. Ceyx understood what happened. Alcyone was gone. His heart sank. He ran for the water’s edge not wanting to live one more moment without Alcyone.
Two days later, Ceyx’s body washed up on the shore. They found the body in nearly the same spot they’d found an unconscious Alcyone.
Alcyone received news of her husband’s death. This time, she knew it was real. Recovering from her near-drowning, Alcyone suffered immeasurably. She no longer wanted to be immortal.
“And that’s why I came to see you,” Merope explained to Zeus. “Alcyone and Ceyx never meant to hurt anyone.”
Zeus stroked his long beard and listened to Merope’s plea. Later that afternoon, he sat in silent contemplation and then took action.
. . .
The snow began to fall. Tiny flakes at first, then larger, until the top of a bird’s nest was nearly white-frosted.
The sea calmed. For days, it remained soft and still.
The kingfisher birds snuggled into the nest, fluffing their feathers and ruffling their wings around each other to protect from the chill in the air. Alcyone’s beak nuzzled into the feathers of Ceyx’s chest. They were together. Again.
. . .
Dugo stretched his long grey paws toward me and then yawned, seemingly bored by my story.
“Well, I think it is a good story, Dugo, even if you don’t. And it just goes to show, my father does have his good moments.”
The cat’s large eyes closed again and a purr rumbled through him.
I sighed and patted my new best friend.
“It also gives me hope that I will find a love like that one of these days,” I said. Maybe to Dugo, maybe to myself, maybe to the universe.
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