Libya; 63 B.C.
He was arrogant, self-righteous, and claimed to have been sent by the gods. No man that overbearing could possibly have been given a task by the gods. From the moment they met, Anatha knew that he would bring her nothing but trouble. She chose to treat him, nonetheless.
Her clay hut looked just as ordinary as the ones around it. There were no mystical talismans, no indiscernible markings, nor any other such thing alluding to any evildoings. Nothing but a humble garden adorned the small house within the Sahara Desert oasis.
“Will you stand there all day, stranger?”
He turned, coming face to face with the owner of the foreign voice behind him. “Are you Anatha?”
She looked down at the sloppy bandaging around his thigh, wincing at the dust that contaminated the blood-soaked wrapping. Anatha let her eyes travel up the frame of the olive-skinned man standing before her, making a point of keeping a steady lock on his hazel eyes.
“To some,” she finally said. “You are Greek, yes?”
Anatha nodded. “Your people call me Medusa,” she said. “And I’ve heard tales of my having a head of snakes.”
He peered at her long dreadlocks. “A simple misunderstanding, I can assure you.”
She smiled and cocked her head to the side. “Are you a man of peace, stranger?”
“I seek knowledge and justice,” he said. “I’ve been sent by the gods.”
“Does that line impress most others?”
“It serves its purpose.”
“It’s a blasphemous lie.” She walked past him, towards her home.
“What would you know about it?” Perseus turned to face her, appalled by her ignorance.
Her feet stopped. “More than you, I can assure,” she said. Glancing over her shoulder, Anatha raised a brow at her visitor. “Are you coming in, or not?”
Perseus frowned at her retreating figure. “You’ve assaulted my honor,” he said.
“I cannot fix your honor, but I can heal your leg.”
Ashbrook, Long Island; 2018 A.D.
Many questioned her idiosyncratic ways of planting a garden in the middle of the woods, but she’d spent a lifetime dealing with worse judgements. Her students thought she was a witch—a sentiment that always brought a smile to her face—while everyone else just pegged her for a hippie. She neither denied nor confirmed either suspicion. But it was on nights like this one, when the moon hung high and full, that she felt otherworldly.
“Only a few more days now,” she said to her growing garden, stroking the petals from her geraniums and tiger lilies. “Your time in the ground is almost complete.”
Rustling in the near bushes diverted her senses, but her focus remained on her plants.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” she said to her intruder. Not until the guilty party stepped out of his hiding place did she look up. “What are you doing out here, Turner?”
“You won’t tell my mom, will you, Ms. Scott?” Turner said.
“That depends. Why are you out here so late?”
Turner dug his sneakered foot into the soft ground, avoiding Ms. Scott’s gaze. “Some of us at school had a bet about what you were really doing in the woods,” he said. “I lost at rock, paper, scissors, so I have to get a picture of whatever it is you do here.”
She laughed. “What kind of things did you all think I was doing?”
He shrugged. “Casting spells on people you didn’t like, or something like that.”
“You and your friends watch way too much television.”
“You won’t tell my mom, will you?” he begged.
“No, I’m not going to tell on you, Turner,” she said. “But I will walk you home.”
“I snuck out my window.”
“I bet you did.” Ms. Scott smiled at her former student, leading him through the trees and in the direction of his house. “And I’m sure you can sneak back in.”
“My sister thinks you’re like Marie Laveau from American Horror Story,” Turner rambled. “Her and her friends have their own bet going on.”
“Am I the cause of a lot of bets amongst the students?”
“Oh, yeah. A bunch of us have different ideas about you.”
Ms. Scott shook her head, a small smile on her lips. “I teach Pre-K, Turner,” she said. “There really isn’t any more to me.”
Salem; 1692 A.D.
This century was supposed to be different than the others, more tolerable. But she was a woman of color in a white man’s world.
When the accusations of witchcraft had begun to run rampant among the villagers, Anatha knew that she needed to get out of there. A healer among the superstitious and simpleminded was once her meal ticket, but now it would just become her undoing.
She heard the mob approaching before she could smell their torches and feel the heat of their fear. The anger they emitted was different than with the other women they’d hanged, burned, and drowned.
“Anatha Scott, you have been accused of witchcraft and are hereby ordered to surrender yourself. Your trial will be before the Court of Oyer, and the Court of Terminer will decide your fate.”
Anatha pushed back her window curtain slightly. Puritan leaders, along with a crowd of onlookers, stood outside her home. “I have done nothing wrong, sir,” she said. “You are misinformed. I am not a witch.”
“You will have the opportunity to prove yourself in court,” one of the leaders said.
He sounds almost like him, she thought, a shiver kissing her neck. “Are you a man of peace, sir?” she called out.
“Surrender yourself for the trial, witch,” he said, ignoring her question.
“I have seen the proceedings of your so-called court.” Anatha gritted her teeth, thinking back to the countless number of lives lost to the trials. “I am not a witch. There is no need for any of this.”
“If you refuse to surrender yourself, then we will have no choice but to burn your house down with you inside.”
“There is always a choice, sir.”
“Are you refusing to surrender?”
“Then we will burn you to the ground, Anatha Scott.”
“You have my permission to try.”
Ashbrook, Long Island; 2018 A.D.
Nathaira absentmindedly rubbed the burn on the nape of her neck, wincing at the memory of her narrow escape. Her time in Salem hadn’t been her favorite. She had many such scars on her body, the only things left to pay testament to her numerous run-ins and close calls. If only her ability to live forever came with indestructible skin, or at least the ability not to feel pain.
Her hand twitched, sending some of her untouched Sequin Rosé over the brim of her wine glass and onto her hand. “Zut!” she said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, and in French, much less.”
Nathaira blotted away the sticky liquid. “It’s fine,” she said. “No real harm done.” She looked up at the stranger, startled by the immediate sense of knowing that came over her. “I’m sorry, have we met?”
He laughed, mischief dancing in his hazel eyes. “I guess I should introduce myself after nearly scaring you half to death. I’m Gideon Nakos. My Physical Therapy practice is on Cinder Street.”
“This town has a Physical Therapy practice?”
“Unless I’ve been dreaming it up for the past three months, yes.”
She smiled. “I’m Nathaira Scott. I teach Pre-K at the elementary school.”
Gideon wrinkled his Grecian nose. “That’s terrible,” he said.
“Teaching isn’t as bad as—”
“No, I meant your name.”
“Oh,” Nathaira said. No one else had ever had a problem with it.
“Why would your parents do that to you?”
She sat back, folding her arms. “I don’t believe you’re really in a position to insult me, Mr. Nakos. You’ve already caused me to spill my drink.”
He laughed. “In my defense, I was trying to make sure you were okay. I’ve seen you in here a couple times before, but today you seem really out of it.”
“Yes, well, it’s been a long week,” she sighed. “Not to mention the fact that I just got my ear talked off by a ten-year-old who thinks I’m a witch.”
“Why does he think you’re a witch?”
“They all think I’m a witch.”
“The children at school.”
“Well, are you?” Gideon slid into the booth, completely invested in this conversation.
Nathaira looked him over a minute, her piercing dark eyes silently judging him for sitting down without an invitation. “I’m going home now,” she eventually said, abruptly getting out of her seat.
“But it’s only 10:30.go ”
“Have a good night, Mr. Nakos.”
“You could always call me Gideon.”
She took one last look at him over her shoulder. “Yes,” she said, “I could.”
Libya; 63 B.C.
“How did you come to hear of me?” Anatha applied a poultice of crushed yarrow to his superficial wound.
“There were people from the neighboring village who spoke of a woman called Anatha who could cure all,” he said. “I have been collecting knowledge of other lands as part of my own personal studies. On my way to your village, I lost my footing and cut my leg.”
“Giving you an excuse to come to me.”
“A reason, yes.”
His lips spoke one story, but his eyes told another.
She watched his hands nervously twiddle about. “What is your name, stranger?”
“I am Perseus.”
“And who was it that told you about me?”
Perseus hesitated a little before answering. “These people were very kind to me. I—”
“I don’t harm others, Perseus, despite what you may think.” She rose from her place next to him. “I am a healer and a woman of wisdom.”
“Not all believe that.”
“No, of course not,” she said, absentmindedly. Anatha properly tied up his wound. “But life wouldn’t be complete without critics.” She watched him warily study the snake totems that stood around her hut. “You say that you cut your leg on a rock, yes?”
“That is correct.”
Anatha smiled. “That’s funny,” she said, “because the cut was clean—a perfectly straight line actually. Not many rocks can cut a man with such precision.”
He met her gaze, daring her to challenge him.
“Why don’t you stop hiding behind scholarly curiosity and say what you wish?”
“Are you as monstrous as they say you are?” He did not hesitate this time.
The corner of her lip twitched with a smile. “Who says I’m a monster?” she asked. “Was it the family that I turned away when they asked me to bring their daughter back to life? Or was it the husband of the woman with labor difficulties who lost her son? One would think those opinions to be biased, don’t you agree?”
Perseus stood, making his way to the door. “It is with the blessing of the gods that I must protect others from the dangers of this world,” he said. “You mask your witchcraft behind medicine and healing, but I will not be fooled by such trickery.”
“You think very highly of yourself, don’t you Perseus?”
He smiled. “I suppose someone must.”
Ashbrook, Long Island; 2018 A.D.
Nathaira’s springtime-themed door hung open giving Gideon a clear view of her Reggio-styled learning space.
His eyes widened with wonder. “This is a classroom?”
A skylight, not to mention the bay window on the left, allowed for ample natural lighting into the room. One could tell that nature influenced the décor.
“The Reggio system prides itself on the extensive use of nature as a focal point for decorating,” Nathaira said from the right corner of the room. She sat behind her oak desk, eyes remaining on her laptop. “I find it to be the best style for younger-aged classrooms.”
“Is that a tree?” Gideon walked over to the three-foot tree, admiring its thick branches that held the dress-up items.
“It was a gift from the parents of my previous class.”
Gideon strolled around the room, taking in the cedar shelving and various plants hanging from the ceiling. “You really like your plants,” he said.
“What are you doing here, Gideon?”
His eyes scanned wandered around as he sat on one of the two rectangular, wooden tables at the center of the room.
“I was looking for the bathroom.”
Nathaira frowned, coming from her desk to look Gideon in his eyes. “My number one classroom rule covers lying,” she said. “My students have the maturity and the decency to follow it. I suggest you do the same.”
“I came to see you,” Gideon finally admitted.
“Because you intrigue me.”
“Is that so?” She crossed her arms, eyebrow raised, unimpressed.
“You seem so familiar to me.”
“That’s what I keep telling myself,” Gideon said, twiddling his thumbs. “But I feel like I know you.”
She studied him carefully, taking note of the way his eyes couldn’t meet hers. She had seen his thick, brown hair many times over throughout history, but it was a common human trait. The birthmark that rested on his left clavicle, however, gave her some pause.
“Do you always have to do that?” he said.
“Stare at me like that with those black eyes of yours. I can’t tell if you’re judging me or peering into my soul.”
She smiled. “I can’t do both?”
Gideon also smiled. “I’d like to take you out sometime, Nathaira.”
“No thank you.”
“Oh.” He mimicked the stance of her arms. “May I ask why?”
Nathaira returned to her desk. “I’m just not interested.”
“I’ve been alone a long time,” she said. “I like the freedom that it entails.”
“You don’t have to explain yourself, Nathaira.” He stood from the table, running a hand along the art shelf. “I don’t mind your rejection.”
“Have you always lived in Ashbrook?”
“No.” Nathaira sat back, taking in the man before her. “I came here two years ago.”
Gideon nodded. “That’s longer than my three months,” he said. “Where were you before here?”
“What made you leave?”
“What’s with the interrogation?”
He laughed. “I’m just trying to get a feel for you.”
“Fine,” she said. “I left because it was time to go.”
“Time to go?” He stopped his close inspection of the classroom.
“I never stay in one place longer than five years.”
“Really? Why is that?”
Nathaira toyed with the bronze amulet around her neck. “There’s so much that people have to offer, so much that they can do to help the world,” she said. “Why should they limit their reach to just one place?”
Gideon smiled. “So, you’re like a teacher version of Doctors Without Borders?”
She laughed. “Something like that.” Nathaira crossed her arms. “What is this, some kind of tit for tat session? I tell you about me and you tell me about yourself?”
“I don’t think so,” Gideon said. “If you want to learn more about me, you’ll have to put more work into it.”
Her brow rose. “You think very highly of yourself, don’t you, Gideon?”
He smiled. “I suppose someone must.”
The smile on Nathaira’s face froze.
Gideon frowned. The color in his face changed drastically, melting to a sickening color.
“Gideon?” Nathaira cautiously took a step towards him. “Are you all right?”
He didn’t answer. Gideon stared at her blankly, took a step back, and quickly exited the room.
Nathaira’s hand twitched. She wanted to go after Gideon but thought otherwise and reclaimed the seat behind her desk. It can’t be, she thought for the thousandth time in her life. He died thousands of years ago. “Get a hold of yourself, Nathaira. He’s dead.” She stared at her classroom door, unsure if she wanted Gideon to return or not.
She’d encountered many like him throughout the millennia. Gideon couldn’t be him. He was dead. He’d died with everyone else from that time. Everyone but her, that is. He couldn’t hurt her again.
She touched her cheek, remembering that day. It never really left her.
Libya; 63 B.C.
Anatha knew that today was the day. The gods had cleared the skies just for this very day. Today, Perseus would try to kill her.
She was ready for him.
With the arrival of dawn, Anatha stepped out of her hut to begin her daily rounds to the homes of her patients. Her thoughts were on the herbs that she would need from her garden, leaving her startled when she found Perseus standing outside.
“Perseus,” she greeted. “Is your wound healing well?”
He remained silent.
Anatha recognized the determination in his eyes. “I will ask you again, Perseus,” she said, “are you a man of peace?”
“You have plagued this earth long enough, Anatha.” He raised his sword and shield and took a fighter’s stance. “I am here to stop you.”
“Stop me from what? From healing those in pain? You know nothing of me, Perseus.”
“I know enough.”
“You know nothing,” she repeated. “In Egypt they call me Neith and even in your own homeland you have a name for me, yet you cannot see me for who I truly am. No, Perseus, you surely have no idea.”
“What are you saying, monster?”
She smiled. “You worship the gods and yet you cannot recognize when one stands before you?”
Perseus crouched low, prepared to strike. “Blasphemer! You are no god.”
“Oh, but I am.” Anatha touched the amulet of bronze and obsidian around her neck. “And I see that one of my counterparts bestowed you with her shield.”
Perseus wielded gifts given to him by the gods. Hades’ Helm of Darkness allowed him the ability to hide in the shadows. The goddess Athena had entrusted him with her mirrored shield, and Hermes with his winged sandals. Zeus, in all his graciousness, had given Perseus his sword, Harpe.
“Athena assigned me the task of killing you.”
Anatha scoffed. “Of course, she did,” she said. “She can’t do it herself or else she’d destroy the balance.”
“You have defiled her temple and must pay the consequences.”
“Is that what she told you?” Anatha’s eyes glowed with fire. “Your mistress has steered you wrong, Perseus. I have done no such thing. If your precious goddess truly wishes to punish someone, then she should aim her wrath where it rightfully belongs. That bastard Poseidon deserves a thousand painful deaths for the sins he’s committed.”
“Blasphemy! Repent for your crimes.”
“I am a part of the Triple Moon Goddess, Perseus. It is you who should be repenting for your crimes against me. You praise the name of Athena, but you know not that she and I are part of the same set.” Anatha took a step towards the Greek. “Athena, the Maiden; Metis, the Mother; Anatha, the Crone. Mother and Sisters. We are each a point on the same triangle.”
Anatha shrugged. “As if the desecration of her temple weren’t enough, your goddess grows jealous of the love shown to me by the mortals,” she said. “Athena betrayed me when she sided with Poseidon, despite what he’d done to me. She sits on Mount Olympus, longing for the love of humans, but never wanting to do anything to truly obtain it.”
“Silence, witch.” The resolve in Perseus’ eyes grew as thin as his patience.
“Who led you to the people who cursed my name?”
She nodded. “And why do you think she led you to them if not for the purpose of giving you constitution to kill me?”
“Not yet, my dear.” She smiled a little and took another step towards him. “You’re beginning to see my side of things.”
Perseus retreated a little. “You are a plague on this world, and I will kill you,” he said, a little less conviction in his voice.
“You wouldn’t kill a god, would you, Perseus?”
He lowered his sword and shield, allowing for Anatha to breach the space an armlengths away from him. “I am a humble servant of the gods.” He looked conflicted, defeated.
“Go on your way, Perseus,” she said. “You and I have no quarrel. I will deal with my scheming sister in my own time.”
The threat towards his patroness seemed to have jilted Perseus. With angry effort, he lashed out with his sword hand, swinging the weapon around to attack.
Anatha recoiled at the assault, clutching her right cheek. Blood seeped from between her fingers. Fire blazed in her eyes. “Fine,” she said, her waist-length locks morphing into snakes, black with white underbellies. “If it’s a monster you wish to fight, then so be it.”
The snakes struck at the Greek attacker, just barely missing his feet. One, however, did manage to tear at his shirt, exposing the brown, U-shaped birthmark on his left collarbone. She lunged at him, full force.
“By the power of Athena,” Perseus cried, falling to one knee and lifting the shield before him, “be gone.”
The loud thump of a fallen object—not to mention the lack of a defensive attack—made him look around the brim of his shield.
There, in a life-sized statue, lay Anatha’s remains. She was nothing but stone, with a vengeful baring of her teeth and her hands ready to claw. The snakes in her hair were open-mouthed, set to hiss for eternity.
“Praise be Athena,” he said to himself, “she was right.”
Ashbrook, Long Island; 2018 A.D.
Nathaira wasn’t sure what to expect for the next time she encountered Gideon. She wanted to cut-and-run. Her next move was already thoughtfully planned; plane ticket to Hawai’i on standby, few belongings easy to pack, rented house already paid through for the rest of the year. There was nothing stopping her.
Save for the possibility that someone from her past may have miraculously survived time.
“I’m being stupid, aren’t I?” she said.
It had been a little over a week since her classroom encounter with Gideon. She’d sensed a familiarity in him the moment she laid eyes upon him, but the thought that an essence of Perseus could be living within Gideon had never occurred to her. She’d been pacing her room for almost an hour now, and her cat wasn’t doing a very good job at answering any of her questions.
“The difference between the two of us is that I am a goddess and he was mortal. He can’t live forever like I can.”
She fell onto her bed with a heaving sigh. Her attempts at calming herself with reason were barely efficient.
But what if she helped? she thought, stroking her tabby cat’s blue/grey coat. “She wouldn’t. Would she?”
Call it a sisterly rivalry, but Athena and herself had always been at each other’s throats. Metis, being the matriarch that she was, did her best to curb the animosity between them, but was never much help. The two eventually elected to go their separate ways, one to Mount Olympus and the other to the human world. But Nathaira knew that Athena never stopped hating her.
“But would she go to such lengths?” she asked Neith. The cat blinked.
It wouldn’t be the first time a god resorted to reincarnating a mortal.
The thought did little to pacify her anxiety. She needed to know.
Nathaira found Gideon at the fencing hall in the community rec center. He seemed to be letting off some Saturday afternoon steam.
Of course he would resort to his swordsman ways. Nathaira rolled her eyes.
He wasn’t wearing a helmet but whacked furiously at the fencing dummy against the wall furthest from the door. His feet moved quickly. His hand even quicker. If his opponent had been alive, Nathaira would have felt sorry for them.
Now or never, she thought. “Gideon,” Nathaira said, coming up behind him.
The intrusion startled him. Gideon lashed out with his sword hand, narrowly swiping Nathaira along her face.
She froze, reliving her past experience with fighting Perseus. The air from the sabre brushed over the scar that ran along her right cheekbone.
“Nathaira.” He sounded both nervous and frightened. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” She took a step back. “I should’ve waited until you were done.”
Nathaira rubbed her wrists, feeling as shackled as she had been in 1536. Gideon’s querying eyes were as piercing as her Portuguese inquisitor. “Are you okay, Gideon?” she said. “You really had me worried last week.”
Gideon clasped his hands behind his back. “Food poisoning,” he said. “I ate some bad tacos for lunch.”
“Oh.” Nathaira wanted to feel relief, but she was never a very trusting person. “If you need something for that I have a mint and ginger remedy that can help you with the lingering nausea.”
“You’re welcome.” She wanted to believe that all was right, but her instincts were never wrong, and something told her that Gideon wasn’t the same. “So, you like fencing?”
He visibly stiffened, his jaw tightening into a smile. “It’s been a long while since I picked up a sword,” he said. “But, yes. I like fencing.”
She transferred her weight from one foot to the other. “But would you say you’re a man of peace, having studied medicine?”
His lip twitched. “I’m a man that values knowledge and justice,” he said. Gideon moved his hands from behind his back.
Nathaira laughed forcefully, noticing the tight grip he had on his sabre. “Are you punishing me for refusing to go out with you?” She hoped her teasing banter would hide her burgeoning panic. It’s him.
Gideon smiled. “Of course not,” he said. “But if you would excuse me, I really should get back to—”
“Yes, sorry.” Nathaira hugged herself. “I should get going too, actually.” She turned to leave, then thought against it. “Gideon, are you busy tonight?”
He hesitated. “I don’t think so.”
“I think we should have dinner.”
Portugal; 1536 A.D.
The metal shackles mercilessly chaffed her skin as they hung her from the stone walls. Anatha hated that she had gotten herself into this mess.
“You should have left those foreigners where you found them.” The torturer pulled a poker from the fire pit. “You might have gotten away with your unholy ways.”
“And you should have left me where you found me.” She gritted her teeth, ignoring the pain in her wrists. “Does your God truly take pleasure in your line of business?”
“Jesus blesses those who do His divine work.”
“I recall Him being far more merciful than this.”
“Repent,” he said, “or you’ll find yourself in hell after you’ve died for your blasphemy.”
“I’ve heard that line before,” she said, mostly to herself.
Anatha held tight to the shackles, pulling herself up. Before the hooded torturer could touch her with the hot poker, she pushed off from the floor and wrapped her legs around his neck. The man’s full beard tickled her thighs. She watched the life fade from his eyes at the snapping of his neck. With a decisive flicker of her wrist, Anatha broke the bone and slipped her hand out its bind.
“As I said before, you should’ve left me where you found me.” She collected the keys from his belt, wincing at the pain, and released her second hand.
Ashbrook, Long Island; 2018 A.D.
She didn’t know why she’d suggested this. What would it solve? If he was who she thought he was, then a nice Italian dinner wasn’t going to stop him from wanting to kill her. But it was the only move she could think to make. Besides, she had her own plans to figure out.
“You look nice.”
Nathaira jumped at the sound of his low voice near her ear. She froze when he dared to kiss her cheek, his beard tickling her skin. He’s acting strangely calm. “So,” she said, pasting on her own smile, “will you be going by Perseus now?” Yes, show him who’s in charge here.
He took his seat. “Well, everyone here knows me as Gideon. It would be stupid to change it now.”
“Good point.” She cocked her head to the side. “What is it like being two people at once?”
He sighed and rubbed his temples. “Exhausting. It took a few days before things became clear, but I spent most of the time confused. Mentally jumping from being a Grecian explorer in ancient times to a physical therapist in the twenty-first century is the most jarring culture shock.”
“I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not Perseus anymore.”
“And that his fight isn’t your fight,” Nathaira pointedly added.
They both took a moment to stare at each other, sizing the other up.
Gideon finally broke the eye contact when he looked down at his menu. “Why did you ask me to come here, Nathaira?”
She smiled. “What better way to welcome you to this century than to take you out to dinner?”
He frowned, impatience colonizing his face.
“Fine.” Nathaira set her menu down, straightening it under her hands. “I thought we should settle some things.”
He leaned back, crossing his arms. “I’m going to do everything that I can to kill you, Nathaira,” he said. “Why else would Athena reincarnate me?”
“You show a lot of devotion to a selfish liar who tried to use you for her own means.”
“How did you escape the statue?” Gideon skirted around the accusations against his patroness.
Nathaira smiled. “I was never in the statue, Gideon.”
“You heard me.” Nathaira inspected her fork. “I have always had an aversion to my reflection. Think of it as an ancient insecurity. This led Athena to believe that reflections were the key to my demise. I let her try and use that against me.
“When she realized that I wasn’t really dead, that sneaky girl must’ve cursed your soul to reincarnate every time you die.” Nathaira frowned. “She probably preserved it, set it to wake up in a new time when it was within proximity of mine. Athena knew that chance would take care of the rest.”
“And you?” he said. “Have you just been living all this time?”
“Yes.” She set down her fork. “I travel around to evade suspicion. I don’t age.”
Gideon looked down at his menu. “When did you change your name?”
Nathaira laughed. “I have changed it many times over the centuries,” she said. “I can’t remember how many names I’ve had. But I do recall one thing from every century of my life.”
“What is that?”
Her smile turned sad. “There was always someone like you, Gideon,” Nathaira said. “Your single-minded, self-righteous tendencies live in the hearts of many men.”
He shook his head. “Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you are just destined to die at my hand for your sins?”
Their waitress arrived, cutting off any chance of further confrontation. Neither one of them minded the silence that remained between them. They spent the rest of the meal watching the other carefully. Any time one hovered over their knife for too long, the other would stop eating, daring them to make the first move.
“Why am I here?”
Nathaira had brought Gideon back to her home. They sat in a swing on her back porch, a drink in hand and the stars as witnesses.
“I’m appealing to your humanity. Perhaps you’ll rethink trying to kill me if you see how normally I live.” She took a sip of her Sequin Rosé. “I’m not a threat to anyone, Gideon. I never was and I never will be.”
He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Athena charged me with the task of destroying you. I am honor bound to do her bidding.”
“So, you will carry out a centuries old vendetta despite the fact that you still don’t even know why she sent you.”
“I don’t have to know.”
“Oh, yes. Blind faith.”
“Is jealousy an honorable reason to kill another?” Nathaira peered at Gideon from her peripheral.
He stopped, his hand half-way to his mouth with his glass. “Jealousy?”
“No. It’s not.”
“What about pride?” She crossed her leg, letting the hem of her cotton dress slide to her thigh.
“Pride is definitely not honorable.”
Gideon tore his eyes away from her long, sepia-toned leg. “Selfishness is no reason to kill another.”
Nathaira nodded. “Then why serve a goddess that doles out orders for those very purposes?”
“Athena is the goddess of wisdom, law, justice, and many other honorable traits,” Gideon said. “She would never order something without a good reason.”
“And yet, I just told you her three reasons.”
She shrugged. “If you say so.” Nathaira ran her finger from knee to thigh. “But you’re more than aware of the falsehoods that gods tell, and the evils that they do to get what they want. Take Zeus as your prime example.”
Gideon kept silent. Nathaira could feel his mind in her hands, molding to her every whim.
“Dance with me,” she suddenly said.
His brow furrowed. “What?”
“You heard me.”
“Because I’m bored,” she said. “And pink wine makes me slutty.”
“What?” He chuckled, following her back into the house.
Nathaira shook her head. “I guess your Gideon half didn’t watch enough television.” She stopped in the living room, going over to her phonograph and placing a record on the turntable. “The 1950’s had some of my favorite music.”
Billie Holiday crooned out “Come Rain or Come Shine” as the two slowly swayed to her tune in the dimly lit room.
“By order of the gods,” Gideon whispered, “I will kill you, Nathaira.”
“Mm-hm.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “Of course, you will.”
Nathaira was always an early riser, and this morning proved no different. Glancing over her shoulder at the man still asleep in her bed, she tied the rope on her robe and made her way downstairs. She still had work to do.
She had her back turned, but she knew the exact moment when Gideon stopped at the kitchen entrance. “You’re not a vegan or vegetarian, are you?” she said.
He laughed. “No, I’m not. However, I’m surprised that you aren’t.”
“It wasn’t a practical lifestyle during some of the years that I’ve lived.” She set down two plates across each other. “Have a seat.”
“Don’t mind if I—what?”
Nathaira had stopped him with a hand to his chest. She tapped her lips twice, and Gideon willingly complied with a slow kiss.
They took their seats on opposite sides of the table. Nathaira watched Gideon closely over the brim of her coffee cup, noting every bite he took. “I’m sorry I fell asleep in the middle of our conversation last night,” she said. “I’m such an old woman. For the life of me, I can’t seem to stay up past midnight.”
Gideon laughed. “Don’t apologize,” he said. “I liked watching you sleep.”
“Ah, yes,” she teased. “That’s not creepy at all.”
He shrugged. “I had far too much to think about, anyhow.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I should kill you or not.”
She smiled, unaffected by his choice in breakfast conversation. “That’s nice.”
He took another bite of the waffles. “I must uphold my honor.”
Gideon leaned back in his chair. “I made a promise to Athena.”
She ran her finger around the rim of her juice glass. “I know you did.”
“But I don’t think this is my fight anymore.”
“Oh?” Nathaira’s finger stopped moving. “Really?”
He sat back and crossed his arms. “Ever since my Perseus side awoke, I’ve been thinking about everything you’ve said. Athena might hate you, but I’ve never had any reason to.”
Nathaira rolled her eyes. “I’m glad you’ve finally come to your senses.”
“Am I a few centuries too late?”
“I suppose not,” she shrugged. “You failed to kill me the first time, and all other times that I’ve encountered your likeness. I suppose we can let bygones be bygones.”
Gideon nodded. “I just wish that I could speak to Athena,” he said. “She deserves to know why I’ve changed my mind.”
She held his gaze for a minute, creating a pregnant pause between them. “Athena is dead, Gideon.”
His hand stopped just short of filling his mouth with a forkful of eggs.
“I killed your beloved goddess,” Nathaira said. “You won’t be hearing from her again.”
“What?” He reacted very calmly, despite the heat slowly rising in his reddening face.
“You heard me.” Nathaira matched his coolness with her own iciness.
“I’m a god. It really wasn’t that difficult for me.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Well, I don’t have any proof for you, so I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.”
A slice of anger flashed through Gideon’s eyes. “Well, now you’ve given me an honorable reason to complete my mission.” He stood from the table, holding his fork firmly. “I must
Gideon’s words caught in his throat. The fork dropped from his grip, clanging dramatically when it hit the floor. He slapped his chest with a flat hand, fighting to breathe.
“That won’t be of much help.” Nathaira swirled the apple juice in her glass. “When I was a young girl, I created a poison that causes anaphylactic shock. The plant that I used is extinct now, not to mention untraceable.”
He looked at the half-eaten food on his plate.
Nathaira shook her head. “The food didn’t hold the poison,” she said. She tapped her lips reminiscent to her earlier action. “I developed an immunity a long time ago.” Nathaira wiped away the remnants with a moist napkin. “Paramedics will see it as an allergic reaction. They’ll thank me for my efforts to revive you and assure me that your death wasn’t my fault.”
Gideon fell to the ground, onto his side. “I th-thought you w-were a p-p-pacifist,” he managed to say.
“Normally I am.” She kicked his shoulder, forcing him onto his back. “I wouldn’t have been worried in any other case. Only a god can kill a god. But knowing Athena, she most likely imbued some of her power into you when she reincarnated your essence. I couldn’t take that chance.
“I had a very lovely time last night, Gideon, and I really wish that things were different. But the Perseus inside you will never relinquish his need to please the gods, and I have far too much good to do in this world.”
Nathaira kneeled on the floor next to Gideon, her phone already dialing 911, and prepared to administer CPR.