I stand in front of the door to Heph’s temporary apartment, unsure of what to do next. The silver number “305” glints in the fading sunlight. I double check the note Nike wrote for me to make sure I have the right place, and sure enough, this is it. Heph’s just on the other side of this door, doing Zeus knows what.
I’m afraid to knock.
What am I supposed to say to him? I was fuming the entire flight here, pacing back and forth across the length of the plane trying to decide how to start the conversation. How does one start such a conversation? Hey, I know I showed up out of the blue, but I want you to come back home so we can fix our marriage? Well, would that work?
I guess there’s only one way to find out.
Raising my hand to the door, I knock definitively three times. There’s a long moment of silence. Then I hear a soft click on the other side of the door as it unlocks and swings open. Hephaestus looks down at me and nearly stumbles back in surprise. “Aph?” His eyebrows furrow. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m…I’m here for…” I hate the way my voice stutters. “Can I come in?” I blurt out.
Heph nods slowly. “Um…yeah, come in.” I slip under his arm into the apartment. He shuts the door behind me and locks it again. I look around at the messy, unmade bed and the clothes strewn all over the floor, and I almost smile. This feels familiar to me. The messiness, the heavy smell of metal and oil, all of it feels like an old memory. How long has it been since I’ve been in the same bedroom as my husband?
“What are you doing here, Aph?” Heph startles me out of my thoughts. I turn around to face him. “How did you get here?”
“I…called in a favor.” I glance over to the window to try to find my voice. “Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?”
He chuckles. “It took you this long to notice, right? I figured I’d be home before you knew.”
“You think that gives the right to just disappear?” I finally look into my husband’s eyes. “Everyone else knew where you went. How many people did you tell? Was I the only one in the entire OA that didn’t know?”
Heph sighs. “Look, I just wanted to get away for a while. I needed to think about some things.”
I cross my arms. “What kind of things?” I ask softly.
“I don’t want to get into –”
“No, Heph, please. Please answer the question.”
“It was you!” Heph suddenly shouts. I take a step back in alarm. “Aphrodite, it was you. This whole thing has been a mess.” He bumps my shoulder as he pushes past me. “Zeus should have never called us all back together. It’s caused more problems than it solved.”
“Heph, what do you mean it was me?”
“You came back, Aph,” he breathes as he takes my arms into his grip. “You came back to Olympus.” He shakes me lightly. “You walked in with your big eyes and your little hips, and just strolled back into my life with no warning.”
I cover his hands with my own as I lower my voice. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was coming home. I didn’t know what to say about it. We’d been apart for so long that I wasn’t sure if it was going to matter. But it clearly did. And I’m sorry.”
Heph chuckles dryly. “Really?” He lets go of me and sits on the bed, glaring at me. “You’re sorry? You know what frustrates me the most about you, Aphrodite? You’ll apologize for not telling me you were coming back to Olympus, but you won’t apologize for leaving me? For leaving me for Europe for over a year? For sleeping around with countless other men for the entire course of our marriage?”
“That is not fair, Heph, and you know it,” I counter, my voice breaking. “That is not fair.”
“Really? What’s not fair about it?”
“You know our circumstances were different.”
“Oh, here we go again, you always want to blame my parents.”
“Because it was your parents!” I explode. “They seduced me into the idea of meeting you, and the next thing I knew, we were married! You think that wasn’t a shotgun wedding?! And I tried, I tried to be faithful to you for the first ten years of our marriage, but I was miserable, Heph! You never touched me, and you barely spoke to me; you were always working! There was never a kind word, or a hug, or a kiss from you. We slept in separate beds! I’m not going to apologize to you for going out and finding people who would treat me better. You refused to let me have a divorce. Flat out refused.”
“What do you want, Aph?” Hephaestus scoffs. “Why the hell are you here?”
“Because I want to fix our marriage!” I shout, desperately trying to get him to see my point. “I want to try to make this work.”
“I’m not in a place to do that, Aphrodite. You’re wasting your breath.” He stands up and heads for the door. “It’s time for you to go home.”
“When are you going to be in a place to do that?! A month? Six months? Thirty years? I am not waiting around for you to make up your mind! Either fix this with me, work with me, or we have to get a divorce.”
Heph whips around. “When are you going to get it through your thick head that I am not going to divorce you?!”
Silence falls over the room.
“I see now,” my voice rings out low and dangerous. “You want to keep me shackled to you forever. You won’t let me go and make a life for myself because you know I’m the best you’re ever going to have, and you can’t get over your stupid pride long enough to think about what this would do for both of us.”
“Aph, that’s not what I –”
“No, you’re done talking.” I storm over to him. “Now you listen, Hephaestus. I am not going to sit around and wait for you. I came home to fix this, and you abandoned me. I made the effort. I haven’t gone out with or slept with a single man in the entire time I’ve been home for you. And where did that get me?”I reach past Heph and yank the door open, striding into the sunlight. “You can stay here as long as you want, Heph,” I say as I face him one last time in the doorway. “Make up your own mind about what you want to do. But I am not waiting for you. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be in love. And no one, least of all you, husband, is going to stop me.”
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