As soon as we got into Selene’s limousine, I could tell that Nike was in trouble. I hadn’t noticed anything was off when she told me we had to leave. We were so busy running from Aphrodite and laughing at how ungodly she looked soaking wet, that I couldn’t process anything else. Ares saw us coming and flagged Selene down so we could make our getaway. We hustled into the car and it took off, leaving the track and field portion of my birthday celebration far behind. “Next stop, Nox!” Selene trilled.
That’s when I noticed that my sister Nike looked a little green around the gills. “Are you ok?”
Nike didn’t answer. She was trying to push against the seats to sit up straighter. One of her wings unfurled and smacked Ares on the shoulder.
“Oooh. Sorry, brother,” Nike said. Then she hiccuped. Mr. Hoots tried to help her tuck her wing back, but she didn’t seem to have any control over it. It recoiled and knocked Mr. Hoots into my lap. He shook himself off, gave Nike the stink eye, and clambered onto my shoulder.
Ares chuckled. “Nike, are you drunk?”
“I don’t drink alcohol,” she said haughtily as the other wing popped out of its hiding place. “I stuck with the punch.”
“Aunt Demeter’s punch or Aunt Hestia?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.
“I tried both,” Nike said. “They asked me to judge which one tasted best, and I couldn’t make up my mind.”
“Let me guess,” Ares chuckled, “they forced you to drink their punch.”
Nike hiccuped and nodded. “It was sooo good.”
“And sooo loaded with magic,” I added. “Nike, they got you drunk.”
“On purpose,” Ares added. “Those cunning old crones are full of mischief. You shouldn’t have mixed their drinks.”
“I didn’t know,” she wailed. Another hiccup caught her. She clamped a hand over her mouth. I could see the panic in her eyes as she swallowed. “I don’t feel so good,” she moaned.
“No wonder,” I said. “Aunt Demeter’s punch is a sedative and Aunt Hestia’s induces euphoria. How much punch did you drink?”
“Two or three cups,” Nike said solemnly as her wings began to push against the roof of the car.
“Of each,” she said pitifully. Mr. Hoots and I exchanged a glance. He let out a soft hoot.
“Oh, Zeus’s wounds,” I swore. “I’ll bet those potions are fighting each other to get out. Selene, can you lower the roof? Nike might get sick.”
All the color drained out of Ares’ face and he quickly darted to the opposite side of the limo. My brother is fearsome on the battlefield. Cut off a head or disembowel someone in front of him, and he remains unmoved. But anything resembling bodily emissions totally grosses him out.
Our heavenly chauffeur lowered the tinted glass that divided us. “Do you want me to open this car’s moonroof? Or would you prefer to finish the journey in my chariot?”
“It’s my birthday!” I roared. “Moon chariot!”
Instantly, the cramped automotive walls with their neon piping slid away and Ares, Nike and I found ourselves nestled within the solid silver confines of Selene’s moon chariot. She stood and the wheel transformed itself into reins connected to two snow-white horses. Her driver’s cap flew off, exposing a shimmering crown of silvery hair exuding divine light. The moon goddess turned back to us. “This better?”
“Much better!” The sight of Selene without her mortal disguise filled me with inspiration. “Ares, tell the others to come as they are to the club. No costumes or mortal bodies tonight at Club Nox. Let’s get down with our divine selves!”
I turned to Nike. She was stretching her wings. “Are you feeling better now?”
She stood, a little unsteadily. “I should flip, I mean fly, to Nyx…Nox.”
I clutched her arm. “No. You’re in no condition to fly.”
She looked at Ares, who was still trying to keep himself as far from her mouth as possible. She hiccuped sadly, slurring her words. “I shirred go.”
“Nonsense,” I said, and pulled my sister back into her seat. I wished sleep upon her. Nike’s eyes drooped. “You just need to sleep it off,” I told her. She fell into a peaceful sleep. Mr. Hoots flew over and carefully tucked Nike’s wings back into place.
I smiled at Ares. The feel of the night air on our cheeks was glorious. I took a seat next to Nike and cradled her head in my lap, sending her calming thoughts as I stroked her hair. I hated that she had to miss the journey to Nox, but she’d have fun at the club. I winked at my brother. “You’re safe until she wakes, and if you’re sweet, I’ll let you out first.”
“Thank you,” he sighed, then chuckled. “I can’t believe Nike pushed Aphrodite into the pool.”
“She said it was an accident. Seeing how drunk she is, it probably was.” I thought about my vain, golden-haired sister attempting to catch us. When she couldn’t, she tried to hit us with her shoes. Luckily, she doesn’t have my arm or Artemis’ aim. I couldn’t help laughing at the memory. “Aphrodite was furious! I did feel a little bad for her. Do you think Nike ruined her dress?”
Ares smirked. “I’m sure she’ll find another low-cut red one to wear to the club. It seems to be the only thing in her mortal wardrobe.”
I looked at him solemnly. As much as I hate it, I know that he loves her more than anyone. “I was proud of you today, bro.”
“For winning the hammer toss?”
“No,” I said. “For shaking Aphrodite off when she tried to make a fuss over you…after you and Hephaestus fought the first time.”
He nodded and examined his knuckles. The skin was re-knitting itself over angry red wounds. I could tell he hadn’t wanted to fight Hephy, but he had to defend himself when attacked.
“Are things over between you?” I asked.
“Between me and Hephy? No. He’ll come around.”
Mr. Hoots looked at me and rolled his eyes. Sometimes my brother was truly dense. “I meant Aphrodite, Ares.”
He shrugged. “I’m in the mood to try something new.”
I must have looked surprised because he laughed at me. “I’ve had other lovers, Athena.”
“I know, I know. Everyone but me has had a million or so. Is it a mortal, muse or god?”
“Mortal,” he smiled. “She’s got the most beautiful red hair.”
Mr. Hoots gave a low whistle. “Behave,” I told him. I turned back to my brother. “Anyone I know?”
A sly smile licked his lips. “Perhaps…her name is Cassandra.”
“Like the receptionist?”
He arched his eyebrows. I looked at him with horror. “You’re doing the receptionist?” He looked so pleased with himself. But I couldn’t picture my handsome brother with that snippy, tight-bunned attack dog from the Olympic Administration Building. “Why?”
He spread out his hands helplessly. “The heart wants what it wants and…she’s an old friend.”
I looked at Mr. Hoots. He didn’t get it, either. But literally anyone is better than Aphrodite. “I hope you find happiness with this mortal,” I told my brother. He looked pleased. He’s always had a thing for redheads. Then I realized there was someone I hadn’t seen at the field celebrations for my birthday. “Ares, did you see Moxie at the Panathenaia?” I asked.
“No.” He looked concerned. “It’s not like her to miss out on a celebration like that. I’ll call her.”
“Put her on speaker.”
Selene looked back at us. “Is it too windy back there?”
“No, I love it!” I told her.
Moxie picked up. “Where are you calling from? There’s a lot of wind noise.”
“Selene’s chariot, Moxie-Moo,” I shouted at her, “and where the heck are you?”
“Why? Where should I be?”
“Um…you’ve almost missed my whole birthday!”
“No!” Moxie said. “Today’s the Panathenaia? Why didn’t you invite me?”
“I invited you. I sent Hermes with the invites weeks ago.”
“That jerk never delivered it to me!”
“Well, we’re headed to the afterparty at Nox. Meet us there?”
“Oh shoot,” Moxie said, “I haven’t picked out a redhead to wear. It might take me awhile to find a mortal host.”
Ares smiled mischievously. He disappeared and reappeared, holding in his arms a semi-transparent, white-gold mass of potential energy loosely confined in the form of a human-like female.
“Hey!” Moxie cried, her essence whipping in the wind. “What’s the big idea?”
“Sorry, Moxie, but we couldn’t wait for you to pick a host,” Ares explained as her deified form wriggled loose from his grasp.
“Besides,” I added. “It’s my birthday! I want everyone to come as they are. We won’t encounter any mortals in the club. For one night, let’s just be ourselves.”
“Are you mad?” Ares asked.
Moxie coiled around his arm and lightly smacked his face. “Not very.” She floated towards the front rim of the chariot and let the night air flow through her. Her ghostlike form turned and smiled. “I’m up for an adventure.”
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