"She'd begun thinking about it quite often. What was love, anyway? Surely she should know after having endorsed it for all these millennia. But the more she thought about it, the more she was convinced that she didn't know what it was, and that was unacceptable. Humans begged her for it, and having found it, thanked her for it. Yet, she, the divine personification of the concept, had no idea of its meaning. She was going to have to remedy the situation, which was urgent enough to call for immediate attention. Aphrodite was going on a quest for love…"
She stood in the bathroom – which, as a goddess, she only used to change her appearance and to preen – and looked at herself in the mirror while she thought these things.
"Love," she said to herself and took a deep breath.
How to start… that was the question. She could ask her son, Eros, to aim one of his arrows at her… But considering he was still angry over everything she had put his wife, Psyche, through before their marriage, he'd probably make her fall in love with an elephant.
No, that would be very bad idea… She'd have to fall in love the hard way, whatever that meant.
Taking one last moment to make her hair look more lovable, she finally left the bathroom and went downstairs.
"Good morning, Aphrodite," said Hephaestus, reading a scroll in the library, a bowl of ambrosia sitting on an end table beside him.
"Morning," she replied.
Hephaestus put down his scroll. Her usual saunter was gone, and she seemed far away in thought. "Is everything OK?"
As if she could ask her husband what love was, or for that matter admit to him that she didn't know what "Yeah, everything's fine. I'm going to go… take a walk." She could, however, ask Ares.
Hephaestus knew what taking a walk meant, but he said nothing and tried to go back to his paper. This was the price of being married to Aphrodite, he thought, and who was he to tell the goddess of love how to treat her husband.
"Hello, Ares," cooed Aphrodite when Ares opened his door. She'd seen humans try to flirt before, fail in such amusing ways, yet still pique the interest of their subject – surely she could do this to Ares.
"Hello," he cooed back. Good morning to me, he thought, as he watched Aphrodite stroll towards him.
"I have a question for you," she continued, stroking his jawline.
"You can ask me anything," he replied through a boyish smile, pulling her closer.
Here we go, she thought. "Are you free for dinner?"
Ares was a little surprised by the question, expecting something a little bawdier, but let it slide. When his mind was set on conquest, he could not be deterred. "But dinner is so far away," he whispered into her ear.
Aphrodite took a step back. She must have made her hair too lovable this morning – she needed to tone things down a bit more. "You didn't answer my question."
"I'm definitely free," replied Ares, without thinking, closing the gap between them. "I'm always free for you."
"Good. I'll see you at sunset." And with that, she turned around and left.
Ares stood there for a moment, confused. Aphrodite never came over just to ask him a question – she must be up to something. Whatever it was, though, would at least be entertaining.
"Hey, Phobos," he yelled, "Am I free for dinner?"
That was quick, thought Hephaestus, when Aphrodite came home. "How was your walk?" he asked.
"Amusing," replied Aphrodite. Her thoughts were elsewhere - she had her dinner date set, now to figure out how to make him fall in love with her.
Hephaestus looked away. Why did she have to say that, he thought, but instead of speaking up, he simply said, "I'm glad," and ate some more ambrosia.
Aphrodite's mind was spinning, but she tried not to let it show. She desperately wished that she had someone she could talk to, just to get everything she had been thinking out of her head. The more she thought about what she might have to do to make Ares fall in love with her, the more it occurred to her that it had to be a bad idea to look for love from the personification of war. If she wanted to know how to fall in love the hard way, so to speak, she needed to talk to someone who had done it.
"I'm thinking about going down to earth for a while," she said to Hephaestus as she restyled her hair.
"What made you want to do that?" he asked, hoping it wasn't what he thought, and that the visit wouldn't end with another child.
"There are just some things I need to research," she replied.
"Would you like me to help? I could go with you." Hephaestus needed a break from the shallow perfection of Mt. Olympus. If one more deity made some little comment about his appearance, he would hit someone upside the head with his hammer.
"I don't really need any help. I'll be back soon." Just thinking about having to go down to earth to ask people about how to fall in love was so embarrassing that she couldn't even look Hephaestus in the face. As soon as she finished her hair, she was out the door.