“Hi, it’s me.”
The combination of Adrian’s deep voice and accent sent a tiny shiver through me.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Honestly, I am a little nervous. I wondered if you’d be willing to meet me at the gallery so I could check a couple of things.”
I looked at the notes scattered around me. Cross-legged on the bed, I hadn’t even gotten out of my pajamas. I’d spent all night working.
“Uh, sure. What time were you thinking?” I asked.
I had so much going on, yet I was 100% considering ditching it all in order to emotionally handhold a jittery artist.
“An hour?” He paused, then added, “If that would work for you, of course.”
I started stacking my work into piles and estimated how long it would take to appear presentable.
“Sure. I’ll meet you outside the building then.” I ended the call and scrambled to get ready.
I sprayed dry shampoo on my hair and massaged it in. I had no idea who invented this stuff, but it was magical. We had powder ground from reeds in the good ol’ days, but it seriously lacked the ease of distribution and the scent was always a little swampy.
I dusted a little mineral concealer over the dark circles beneath my eyes and selected a neutral outfit that avoided the impression I was trying too hard. I felt ridiculous for even giving it a second thought. It’s not like Adrian would notice anyway.
Pausing in my foyer, I decided to grab a notebook and several pages of calculations, in case I had time to squeeze in some work while I waited for Adrian to do whatever it was he needed to do.
I opened the door and pressed the button for the elevator. The stainless steel doors slid apart, revealing Dugo, the neighbor’s cat. He meowed a little hello and rubbed his thick frame against my calves, circling me with a little happy dance.
“Hey fella, I wondered where you’ve been. Did my hairball remedy help you?”
He closed his eyes and purred.
“Good. I’m glad.”
He stood on his hind legs and stretched his front paws toward me, kneading the air.
I bent down and picked him up, scratching him behind the ears – his favorite spot. We reached the lobby with a ding.
I stepped out of the elevator and saw a small woman near the bank of mailboxes. She wore a flowered jacket over a maxi dress, and her hair was wound up in a tight top knot, with several white hairs escaping to frame her face. Deep lines etched her fragile skin, and her mouth was painted a wild red.
“Mrs. Batchalder, hello. Look who I ran into in the elevator.”
She reached out to take her cat from me.
“Thank you, dear. I was looking for him and didn’t know where he’d gone off to.”
“He’s quite the professional at riding the elevator.” I smiled and gave Dugo a scritch under the chin.
“But who pushes the buttons?”
The tone of her voice was so serious, I didn’t know how to answer.
“I wish I could stay and chat, but I’m meeting someone.”
“Of course, dear. Not to worry.”
“You’ll have to come for coffee soon. And bring Dugo.”
“I promise,” she replied.
I plugged in my ear buds and cranked up my favorite playlist as I headed to the OA to meet my artist.
As I approached the building, I spotted Adrian at the opposite end. A squat man in a suit coat and a buzzcut stood close to Adrian. The man held something in his hand, but I could not make out what it was.
Probably a hustler or someone hoping to convert heathens.
Adrian noticed me and started in my direction. The man followed, still mouthing words. I pulled my ear buds out, but couldn’t hear what he was saying. His short legs were no match for Adrian’s long gait. As we met near the doors, the solid man stopped and watched Adrian.
Adrian pulled me toward him, sweeping me up in a hug that pressed my face against his broad chest.
Stunned, I relaxed against him for a second, breathing in his scent.
I paused before pulling away, trying to make sense of his actions.
When I stepped back, the man following Adrian was gone.
Adrian ushered me through the doors into the building. Once inside, he kept a distance, not making eye contact as we walked to the elevators.
“So you weren’t buying?” I asked.
He looked at me as if I was speaking another language.
My awkwardness felt as if it had physically manifested itself, and was now standing between and affecting both of us. I fumbled in my bag for my key ring while keeping an eye on him.
“Huh?” He asked.
“The man outside?”
“Oh. I don’t know.”
He ran a hand through his hair.
“Wasn’t he talking to you?”
“I don’t know what he wanted,” he said.
He crossed his arms, seeming to signal the end of discussion.
I felt confused.
After a few moments, I arrived at the thought that Adrian was an artist on the cusp of his first big show, so it stood to reason he would be preoccupied or distracted.
He stood at the far side of the elevator. Quiet. Pensive.
When we reached my floor, I unlocked the gallery.
“I’ll just be in my office. If you need anything, let me know.”
“Okay.” He paused, his hand on the door. “Thanks.”
I shook my head and walked to my office. When he called, I thought he wanted my assistance, but that was way off. Then there was the weird almost-hug, where I failed to react in a normal way.
I kicked off my shoes, sat down at my desk and was thankful for work to focus me.
I doubted I would ever understand men… gods or mortals.
Some time later, my stomach growled, reminding me that I had not eaten all day. I glanced at the clock. I’d been working for nearly two hours.
I pulled out my phone and considered the options for food that I could have delivered. Uber. Grubhub. DoorDash.
It put me in mind of Hermes and how much I missed him.
I texted Adrian.
-Hey, do you want something to eat? I’m thinking of ordering.
I waited several minutes for his response.
–Sorry. Maybe next time. I had to run. I locked the gallery before I left.
Anger snuck up and blindsided me.
He left? Without telling me? Seriously?
Fury filled me. I threw my pen and notebook across the room, feeling momentarily like my father.
Too bad Adrian would never know how fortunate he is that I don’t have lightning bolts or some other power to smite him.
Or do I?
It’s not something I considered before. I tried to remember if I had a destructive power in my constellation physiology.
Damn that mortal.
I’ve always been so focused on healing, I had never considered harming someone.
Maybe that’s something I could learn from dear old Dad.
I retrieved my items and locked up for the day. Lack of sleep, frustration, and a case of the hangries (I think that’s what they’re calling it these days) left me exhausted. I just needed to go home, refresh, and restart.
Will I ever feel at ease in this new life?
I wondered how the others were adjusting. I couldn’t imagine Tyche, Nike, or Demeter having such trouble. Maybe it will just take me a bit longer to acclimate. Maybe I should talk to my siblings. Maybe I should stop worrying so much. Maybe…
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