Zeus languished on his throne. His blue eyes were hazy, misted over as his mind raced faster than cheetahs hunting prey. Memories, good and bad, important and not, flashed through his view.
His queen stood out in every one of them, even when she was not the centre of attention. He was searching—searching for the rare moments she smiled at him. Guilt threatened to overwhelm him yet again. This feeling wasn't new. He knew he had caused her death, however indirectly, by cheating on her. If only…there are too many what ifs, Zeus, he told himself miserably.
"Are you even listening to me?" Someone asked gently, breaking him out of his trance.
"Oh, huh? Yes, Hera." He said distractedly. "You said something, darling?" He said absent-mindedly, still sifting through his memories.
"Father, I'm Athena." The person said gently. Zeus' eyes cleared, and Athena's black hair and stormy grey eyes came into view. Not Hera's brown hair and emerald eyes. His shoulders sagged.
"I'm sorry Athena. What were you saying?" He sighed.
"It's nothing, father. You're not into it. It's better if we talked about this another day." Athena said tiredly.
"Council dismissed, then." Zeus said. Guilt was creeping into him, worming its way into his heart. Zeus had almost become friends with the feeling, strange as it is. He knew he wasn't doing his duties. He knew he never listened, but to be honest, he couldn't care less. Standing, he trudged out of the throne room and to his palace. He kept his eyes straight ahead, only seeing the huge white marble palace with Corinthian columns and beautiful designs under the triangular rooftop, and flowing carpets tumbling down the pristine steps. Blue lightning crackled around the pillars.
However, unwittingly, his eyes flitted to the palace next to his, and he stopped in his tracks.
"Hera…" Her name slipped from his lips with a wistful smile. Her palace was slimmer and more graceful than his. It was slightly smaller than his own, but it was built in the same way—same columns, same roof, and same carpet and stairs. The carvings under the roof were different, though. Flowers and vines wrapped themselves around the somewhat more slender columns. Usually, her beloved peacocks strutted in front of the palace, and her beautiful white cows grazed in the grass around the palaces, but today, the peacocks were nowhere in sight, and the cows were mooing dejectedly, sounding extremely sad.
"Zeus…" His name was carried across the grounds of Olympus by a fair zephyr. His eyes drifted to the entrance to Hera's palace. A sigh left his lips, full of longing and love. There he could see his beautiful wife.
Her hand was out, stretched toward him, inviting him to come over. Her full pink lips were curved into a soft smile and her dark green eyes were sparkling just like the gemstone they looked like, with dashes of bright green here and there. A nice blush settled itself over her radiant cheeks. Her chocolate hair shone healthily as it poured down her back in a smooth waterfall. A few braids were scattered in her hair, and he ached to run his hand through it and untangle the braids. She was dressed in a simple white Greek tunic, exposing half of her shoulder. He yearned to hold her lithe frame against his body. Is she real…?
"My love…come…" Her voice entered his ears, more lovely than any music Apollo could ever play with his lyre. Like he was under one of Hecate's spells or potions, he moved forward. He sped up, his strides getting impossibly long. Just as he reached the door and held a hand to her face, she blurred and vanished. Zeus blinked, staggering back.
"An illusion…" He murmured in a broken voice. For a moment there he thought he could touch her soft, warm cheek. Just one last time…
There it was again, his voice pronounced in her light, lilting tone. It sounded so full of laughter, bubbly and happy. It had been a long time since she'd been happy with him.
"Zeus, are you alright?" Poseidon's concerned face came into his view. "You sort of spaced out there." His brother said, waving a hand in front of Zeus eyes. "You've been standing in front of…her palace for fifteen minutes." Poseidon hesitated. "There's nothing here. She's gone." He said quietly.
"I know that!" Zeus snapped. "Get away from here!" His voice, embarrassingly, cracked, but he didn't care. Poseidon sighed and walked away, turning back and giving him worried looks once in a while. He soon vanished into the busy streets of Olympus, where nymphs and satyrs hurried about with minor gods and goddesses bustling around as well. Zeus closed his eyes and leaned against a pillar. He looked back at the entrance to Hera's palace. Dark green doors with light green swirls greeted him silently. Steeling himself, he pushed the doors open. They swung in, creaking slightly. His eyes sweeped over the entrance hall. His lips twitched up into a half-smile when he saw one of her golden shawls draped haphazardly over a couch, and it grew wider when he saw a light green dress flung over an armchair.
His smile faded when he saw a picture on top of the grand piano. He reeled back in surprise. She played the piano? Shock coursed through his veins, and regret. He never knew. How could he not have known? Was he such a bad husband that he never inquired into his wife's life?
He lifted the top of the piano and pressed the central C key. A clear note rang and reverberated in the empty hall. Apollo must have tuned and blessed this. The note was so beautiful, Zeus thought. His sat on the red velvet seat and lifted his left hand to join his right hand in an intricate dance across the keyboard. They flew over the obsidian and ivory keys effortlessly, creating a haunting melody that pierced into his already shattered heart. His eyes blurred, but he managed to keep playing with a determined face.
His nimble fingers brushed the last few notes as softly as possible and he took his hands off. He glanced at the picture again. He was putting off looking at the picture for some reason. Gingerly, he went to pick the frame up, and he looked down carefully. His eyes widened. It was a photo of their wedding day. Memories came crashing into his mind, and the wedding scene played and replayed. He vaguely remembered going over this scene at the beach, holding Hera's body. He wished he could live his entire life again, in his memories, so he could cherish every precious moment he had with her.
Putting the frame down, he closed the piano and walked up the grand staircase into the master bedroom, where he found a large bed, untouched, with crisp white sheets and light green pillows. He could smell her unique scent in the room, still lingering and floating in the air. Smiling, he chuckled to himself at his wife's obsession with the colour green while he loved the colour blue. He approached the bed and saw a small, folded piece of parchment on the pillow, neatly placed and not eye-catching. He was glad he saw it, and he took it and unfolded it carefully.
It was a short letter from Hera. His hands began to tremble as his eyes scanned the page, drinking in her words.
I realise that through these few millenia, I have never stopped loving you.
Zeus' breath hitched. She never stopped loving me.
You cheated on me. You broke my heart over and over again. You slept around more than we've ever laid together.
Zeus paused, swallowing an umcomfortable lump in his throat at her words.
However, you're my husband, and as the goddess of marriage, I am bound to you eternally, and to be honest, I really hated that. The first time you met me, you wanted me. The second time you met me, you courted me. The third time you met me, you raped me.
Zeus bowed his head with shame at that.
The fourth time we met, you apologised. It was what I needed from someone as proud as you, Zeus. The fifth time we met, I fell in love with you. Soon, you made me my queen, and now, to be honest again, I don't regret it at all. I might have despised you for a period, but I never could lock you out completely, because I care for you too much, and I love you too much to forget or move on.
There were a few times I nearly cheated on you, Zeus. You must know this.
Zeus stared at the page. Swallowing again, he continued.
I couldn't bring myself to do it, you know. Even though you cheated on me too many times to count, I just couldn't. Even if I weren't the goddess of marriage, I'd still remain faithful to you, loyal until the end.
Our relationship was complicated, full of spats and full-blown arguments, and shouting matches in front of the whole council. It was rocky, and I kicked you out a few times, you banished me, you punished me, I killed and tortured your lovers, and tormented your children. We've both done things to each other we'd rather never speak about.
I'm sorry, Zeus. I shouldn't have taken my anger on your lovers and children like that. I suppose it's just that…I'm so jealous that all your children are famous, and your godly children mostly take up the Olympian council. Only Ares is ours, and I'm not exactly proud to have such a bloodthirsty and traitrous son like him at times. Hebe, Eileithyia, Eris, Enyo…all of them are minor goddesses. It pains me, Zeus, that you don't notice your children at all. You only care about Athena and Artemis, your favourite daughters. I know that Hebe cries because she thinks you don't love her, and Eileithyia used to be such a happy child, until she saw that you showed Artemis favouritism and made her the goddess of childbirth and on the Olympian council. Eris became bitter. Enyo became closer to Ares, and he influenced her negatively. Please, Zeus, if you see this, please talk to them and take care of them.
For me. Please. I love you so much, Zeus. Believe me, my love. This letter was to be given to you under extreme circumstances, and if you're reading this, something must have happened to me. I asked Hecate to charm this so that if anything does happen to me, it draws you near this letter.
All the love in the world,
Tears dripped onto the parchment. Zeus made no move to stop them, but he moved the parchment away from the hot liquid flowing from his eyes. He folded the paper and placed it in a large pocket in his chiton. Finally wiping the tears, he headed out of the room and down the stairs. He was halfway through the room when he heard someone say his name warmly.
It seemed so close. He turned and saw the apparition again.
"Hera?" He replied for the first time, eyes shining. He turned quickly and jogged over, afraid she would disappear. He stopped in front of her abruptly. "Hera…?" He whispered again. The figure who looked so real and so much like his Hera simply smiled.
Putting aside all suspicions, doubts, and fears, he put a hand to her cheek again. Her form flickered, but he felt something.
For a moment, he could have sworn he touched her, and that was enough for him, because he could dream that she was still alive and with him, watching over him.