"Oh my god, Greg, you are such an asshole."
"I know. Look, I know, I just..."
"You just couldn't help it? You just wanted to make sure? You just what? Dude, you're an asshole. There is no other way to put it. Now get your shit and get out. And don't ever fucking text me again."
Looking back maybe telling Janice that he couldn't see her anymore should have happened before they had sex, but Helena was out of town, and Janice was all over him as soon as he got to her apartment. Okay, he probably could have handled it better. Maybe by phone or even text. But that seemed really cold. They had been hooking up for the past year. But that's all it was, he really didn't think she would take it so personally.
Okay, yeah, he was an asshole. But at least it was done and Helena never needed to know about it. And Janice was right, deleting her number was a good idea. And Ruth's. And Gloria's. He should probably just go through his contact list and do a lot of deleting actually. Because Janice was right about one thing, okay two things if you count the asshole part, he was making sure in his own way. He really needed to see if things with Helena really were that much better than with anyone else. And it was. It was like night and day. Janice was lovely and they had always had a lot of fun, but Helena was so much more than that. The way he felt when he and Helena made love, well, that was it right? He and Janice had had a lot of sex. A lot. But when it was Helena, it was more than that. There was a physical connection that couldn't be beat, for sure, but there was more. It was like their hearts were tied together as well. It was deeper.
And now he knew it was better. It wasn't just his imagination, it was really good. It was all good.
His cab pulled up in front of Helena's building. She was back in town and he couldn't wait to see her. He felt like a new man. A one woman man from here on out. A man who had the world on a string. A man who was...
The laughter made him pause.
Edward Newsome was sitting up staring at him. And not just staring but laughing at him. It was unnerving. The laughter itself, which was bordering on maniacal. And the way he was looking at Greg. And now pointing at him. One hand over his heart and one hand pointing at Greg. Laughing.
"What are you laughing at?"
With one last burst of laughter Edward's eyes rolled back and he slumped against the wall. Greg started to walk over to him to make sure he was okay when Edward started singing. This time it was Katy Perry. Well at least his musical tastes were jumping decades. It was still unsettling but at least it was more normal, or at least as normal as Edward got. Greg made his way in to the building while Edward kept singing.
"Good evening, Greg. I will call up and let her know you are here."
"Thank you, Charles, I mean Terry. And ummm, I think something might be going on with our friend Edward out there. He's acting even weirder than normal."
Terry raised his eyebrows at Greg, showing concern for Edward's well being wasn't something he expected from this one. "I'll check on him and call his sister to come bring him home."
Terry spoke on the phone for a moment then turned back to Greg, "Go on up. She's waiting for you."
As Greg got on the elevator he heard Terry open the front door and then heard Edward's voice ring out clearly, "...there's no going back..." Greg pressed the door close button and tried to ignore the noise.
The elevator opened on Helena's apartment and the first thing Greg saw was the giant painting of Cupid from the Angels and Demons exhibit. It was now hanging on Helena's foyer wall like it had always been there. He stood and stared at it for a moment. It really was an impressive look. Strong, solid, holding his bow. He didn't look like a sweet little cherub, he looked like a warrior with wings.
"All is fair in love and war." Helena spoke in to his ear.
Greg startled, he had been so absorbed in the painting he hadn't noticed Helena come stand next to him. "What?"
"All is fair in love and war. That's what I think when I see this painting. People use that expression wrong, you know. It was first used to describe Cupid. See, he is love and war. The child of love and war. And he contained all of that inside himself. Love and war are closely tied. The passions that drive both. Cupid cause a lot of damage for many years because he mixed the two so often. It was Psyche who tempered him. Even after Jupiter gave her the ambrosia to make her immortal she still had her human side. Her humanity calmed Cupid and made him realize how fragile the lives he was dealing with really were. Their love story became a love story for all humanity. Because without Psyche, Cupid would have continued raging war. All is fair in love and war."
Helena smiled at Greg, "Enough with the art lecture..."
Greg looked at the painting again, "How did you get this?"
"It's mine. I lent it to the museum for their exhibition and they've returned it along with a few other pieces." She gestured around the apartment and Greg noticed a few more of the paintings and sculptures that he had last seen in the museum. "No wonder you knew so much about them."
"Yes, they've been in the family for generations. Now, I've been gone for over a week and you haven't even kissed me hello, what is up with that?" Helena teased.
Greg smiled and bent down to kiss her. Maybe they would be late for dinner. Their lips touched and she raised her hand and placed it on his chest. He leaned in to deepen the kiss and...
Helena pulled back from him and placed her finger tips on her lower lip. She pulled them away and looked at them running her thumb from finger to finger.
"Did I smear your lipstick?" Greg asked.
Helena's forehead crinkled for a moment then smoothed out. She took Greg by the hand and led him in to the living room. "Did you see this piece? I can't remember if we talked about it."
It was a small sculpture. Three figures, two adults reclining, leaning against each other with a small child in front of them. The adults watching the child. There was love on their faces. You could almost feel it. Just from a sculpture. "This is amazing. A family right?"
Helena turned the piece slightly so Greg could see the wings of the adult male folded against his back. "Cupid and Psyche had a daughter. Hedone. Her grandmother called her Bliss. She was adored by her family.
Now, Hedone was raised to believe in love. But also in promises. She knew what had happened when her mother had broken her promise to her father. She also knew that though Cupid fought for her, and Psyche fought to redeem herself, that the broken promise always hung over their marriage.
A promise freely given is a powerful thing.
When Hedone was teenager she fell in love with a mortal boy. He was beautiful and she had wanted him very much. She enslaved him. Not on purpose, she didn't know that she could do such a thing. But her want of him overpowered his sense of self. He became consumed with just want of her. When Cupid had discovered Hedone and the boy together he had taken him away from her. He gave the boy a drink of wine and whispered in his ear clearing out the thoughts of only Hedone. Then made Hedone watch as the boy went back home to his fiancee. 'He was already spoken for. You cannot take what is not yours to take. They made vows to each other on my holiest of days.' Hedone thought her father was being cruel, the mortal boy had wanted her, that was real. She had felt it.
Psyche sat down with her daughter and explained how overwhelming it was for a mortal to be faced with a god. It was why her father had made Psyche keep her eyes closed when he came to her. Why he had worked very hard to ensure the promises Psyche had made to him were of her own free will, not just his. Psyche cried while speaking to her daughter and Hedone saw the pain she still felt for breaking the promise so long ago.
Hedone was ashamed of herself for what she had done and as happens sometimes when you are young and ashamed of your own actions she lashed out. She blamed her father for her pain. She swore that she would find someone who would love her. Freely. Without guile. Without using who she was to enchant him. She was worthy. She was more than just Cupid's daughter. She was Psyche's child as well.
She thought of the trials her mother endured to win back her father's affections and decided that she would perform a quest of her own. She would find a mortal who loved her, and only her, who promised himself to her of his own free will. She would show her father that she was worthy of love as her mother was. As he was. And so the legend goes that she walks the world searching. Looking for that perfect love. That abiding promise."
Greg had watched her tell the story, noticing how her eyes flashed, showing the pain of Hedone, showing the passion of Cupid. Helena was a wonderful story teller. "I had never heard that one before."
"Because there isn't a happy ending. The poets only like to tell the sad parts of stories if there is a happy ending. Like Cupid and Psyche, they lived happily ever after so the sad parts aren't so awful."
Greg reached over to hold Helena's hand, "I am all about happily ever after making the sad parts go away."
Helena gave Greg a small smile and pulled her hand away gently, "I told you I had been engaged once right?"
"We were really happy. He proposed on Valentine's Day. So cliche right? But it was very romantic. I was so completely in love. It was complete Bliss. For awhile. Edward came home from a weekend trip away..."
"Oh yes, I believe you've met my former fiancee. Edward Newsome."
Greg swallowed hard. The little hairs on the back of his neck stood up and it felt like the room dropped by 20 degrees.
"Anyway, Edward came home and kissed me hello." with that she put her fingers to her mouth again. "And I could taste her there. Sour. Spoiled. Rotten. He tasted like a broken promise." She ran her thumb over her fingers wiping them off again. Then she looked at Greg and shook her head once, "I should have known better, but you really are just so beautiful."
The last thing he saw was her raising her hand to his chest. Then the world faded to gray.
"Wake up. Come on, rise and shine. It's a brand new world for you."
Greg blinked slowly. He was in the lobby of Helena's building looking up at Terry. Way up at Terry. "Have you always been this big?" Greg asked groggily.
Terry laughed a deep booming laugh, "The effects will fade. You are just seeing me as I am. And it's actually Astraeus. Terry is just easier for most people."
"Astraeus, second generation Titan at your service. Okay, not at your service, I'm actually at the service of Cupid keeping an eye on Hedone so she doesn't cause too much damage, cause a girl like that can cause a lot of damage if you know what I'm saying, and I'm pretty sure you do. And if you don't you will soon." With that Astraeus laughed again.
"Okay, we don't have a lot of time before the effects of her taking back her heart fade so let me tell you the deal. You aren't ever going to recover from this. This is the big heart break of you life. You blew it. I'm just letting you know up front. Oh wait, let me back up to the formalities."
Greg's head was spinning, "Formalities?"
"Yes, did you Greg Atchison freely and without coercion give your promise to Hedone, also known as Helena? Did you look in her eyes, hand to heart and promise her your affections?"
Greg smiled remembering their first night together. "Yes."
"And did you Greg Atchison after swearing your promise to Hedone and renewing your promise multiple times, even multiple times in one day, then break that promise by engaging in a sexual relationship with another? Knowing that such an act was breaking a promise given of your own free will?"
Greg was an asshole. He knew it. "Yes."
"Okay, good, got that out of the way. Look it could be worse, don't get me wrong, promises made are a big deal. Promises made on Valentine's Day carry extra weight. You are in for a few years of grief, but at least you didn't propose on Valentine's Day, am I right?" Astraeus nodded toward the front door where Greg could see Edward leaning against the building laughing that crazy laugh again. "He knows you screwed up. You are tied to him now as well as her."
"Yeah, see, if you had been the one, if you had given her that happily ever after she has been searching for you would have freed him. Since you didn't he's stuck here waiting. Sort of a warning for anyone who cares to pay attention."
"So, I'm going to be stuck here with him?"
"Oh no, you are going to be stuck at her office building. I think in the mail room. My daughter, Astraea, she's a goddess of justice, Eos and I couldn't be more proud, anyway, Astraea (she goes by Drea right now) will be keeping watch over you. You won't come to any more harm than you've brought on yourself. But your dating life is over. It will be work and well, loneliness for the next decade, maybe two. Unless she finds her true and faithful companion before that then you and the lifer out there will be free to go. If Hedone is happy everyone is happy. Until then that sliver of ice you feel in your heart right now will just continue to cause you pain. That's the piece of her she took back. The piece you will be driven to try and get her to give you again. But you won't be able to. She's done, she'll see you and look right through you at the same time. Torture really. And you won't even really remember why. There will be flashes, you'll know you screwed up. But remembering that she's a direct descendant of Mars? Nah, that's fading even now." Astraeus laughed again.
"You seem really giddy about all of this."
Astraeus gave Greg a cold smile, "Well, Greg, I never really liked you. How hard was it to remember the name Terry? Seriously dude, you're kind of an asshole."
Greg watched as Astraeus began to shrink. Becoming Terry sized again. He shook his head a little to try and clear the cobwebs. What had just happened?
"Feeling better? I've called you a cab."
"Umm, thanks, Terry. I guess I'm okay." Then it all came flooding back to him, he had cheated on Helena and she had found out somehow. She dumped him. Not surprising really. He deserved to be dumped. But how in the world was he ever going to live without her? Without seeing her? He would have to figure out some way to be close to her. To win her back. Maybe if he went to work in her office building. That seemed like a really good idea. Then she would have to see him there. Waiting for her. Always waiting. He promised.