C2 Chapter 2

"Everything flows, and nothing abides, everything gives way, and nothing stays fixed." ~Heraclitus

My focus returns to the present, to the gorgeous golden-haired man sitting before me. There's a knock on the door, and the man leaves to cross the room and answer it.

He speaks softly to someone I can't see, then closes the door. He’s carrying a platter of food when he returns.

My headache has faded, but my memories are still not complete. They come to me slowly, like a movie I'm reliving one scene at a time. I can't recall the specifics until the scenes play out before my mind's eye.

"Why won't you tell me what's happening?" I ask, shifting to stretch in the bed. As I sit up, my hair falls in loose waves around my face and down my back. How odd. I always sleep with it up in a bun, so it doesn't tangle in the night.

A sudden fear grips me, and I study my body for signs of injury. It’s then I notice I'm not wearing my own clothes. I'm dressed in a white nightgown made of silk; the neckline beaded with seed pearls. My arms are bare, and despite the warmth of the fire, I shiver. The light sheen of sweat on my skin makes the thin fabric stick.

I swing my legs over the edge of the bed, straightening my spine. "I feel... strange," I say, testing the strength of my muscles.

"If I told you everything at once, it could send you into shock," the man says, setting the tray of food on the side table next to the bed. "Why don't you eat? You’ll find it quite tasty.”

On the platter is an array of mouth-watering food. Pastries baked with brown sugar, four different kinds of cheese, three types of crackers, figs drizzled in honey, strawberries floating in cream, soft boiled eggs with slices of avocado layered with olives on top, and miniature bagels with a strange purple spread.

Self-conscious about eating in front of a man I don't know and in a place I don't remember coming to, I nevertheless pluck a fig from the platter and study it.

"Did you know, every fig has the digested remains of a fig wasp in it?" I say as I pop it into my mouth, surprised at that random bit of knowledge still floating in my mind. My fingers are sticky from the honey, and I wipe them on a golden cloth napkin.

The man cocks his head, a small smile on his lips. "I did in fact know that, but I am surprised you do."

"I read a lot," I say as I continue to pick at the food until my hunger is somewhat satiated, wondering why fig wasps popped into my mind instead of more important memories I’d rather have. Seeing the food must have triggered a latent part of my brain, like looking at an old photograph.

“Where’s my stuff?” I ask, hoping for something else familiar. “My phone?”

He smiles playfully. “You tell me, Lilyitsa,” using a term of endearment for my name which I recognize as Greek from all the literature I’ve read. Face aglow in the hazy golden light, he sits, eyes closed, cradling the lyre in a lazy embrace while absently strumming the strings with an expertise born of talent, skill, and years of practice. Long, beautiful fingers pluck the chords, coaxing from them a melody that winds its way into my soul and curls up inside of me as if it's found a home.

My eyes drift closed once again, and memories resurface, pulling me into the story of the life I can barely remember.

* * *

I spent the evening alone, reviewing my notes for each class and reorganizing my books. By subject? By class? Or alphabetized? I couldn't decide.

My roommate never showed that night, but just before I headed to bed, I heard shouting coming from the hallway.

I opened my door and peeked out.

Clay stood in his door, legs spread wide, arms braced against the jambs to block a tall, handsome man from entering his room. He had the same dark hair as Clay, the same pale blue eyes. But his face was heavier, wider, filled out by age.

"Tell Father if he wants to berate me for my life choices, he can do it in person instead of sending my big brother!" Clay shouted, his brows drawn into an angry line and his face flushed.

The man sighed, straightening the cuff of his custom designed suit that just oozed money and power. "Clay, you and Father can't keep at this. The decision has been made. This summer you'll be interning at the firm and that's final.” He gestured around him. “Unless you want to pay for all this yourself?"

Clay flinched. For a moment, the anger in his eyes turned to hurt. Then it was gone, cut away in a blink, a cold gaze left in its place.

The other man sighed, his tone softening. “Look, brother, it’s for the best. Aren’t you tired of fighting?”

Clay slammed the door in his brother's face. A muffled yell escaped from his room followed by the thud of knuckles on drywall.

The man snorted and turned, stiffening when he saw me. Then, with a shrug, stalked away.

I stood there for a moment, debating on whether or not to check to see if Clay was alright, or go to bed. I closed the door and returned to my room. I didn't know him well enough to insert myself into his personal business so boldly.

The next morning, I stood in my dorm hall studying the map of the campus, my hands shaking in excitement, when I heard a familiar voice.

"And where are you headed, Lady Lily?"

I looked up and blushed at Clay who leaned against his door looking every bit as drool worthy as he had when I’d met him. With his backpack casually swung over his right shoulder and a devil-may-care expression on his handsome face, I nearly melted into a puddle of goo. It was almost impossible to imagine him as the same guy who’d slammed his door last night.

"I’m off to Greek Mythology," I said, holding up my schedule. "Professor Mandlin."

Clay smiled. "What luck, that's my first class of the day, as well. Shall we walk together?” He closed his door behind him, but not before I caught a glimpse of his mahogany guitar splayed out on the floor, steel strings ripped apart, the body caved in. He didn’t seem to notice me looking, just bowed and offered his arm, adding, “I promise to catch you should you trip again."

I could see this would be a thing. I sighed, resigned to the fact my natural klutziness had already established itself as a known quantity of my personality. Oh well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

We made our way across campus together as I struggled to think of what to say. But since I'd never been great at ignoring the elephant in the room, I finally blurted, "Are you okay? I heard you arguing with your brother last night."

Clay’s eyes shifted from me to his feet as he stuck his hands in his pockets. "Just a family thing. You know how it is. My father wants me to follow in his footsteps, but his shoes don't fit me as well as he'd hoped."

Actually, I had no idea what that was like. I was very different from my family—always had been—but they still encouraged me to be myself and follow my own dreams. "What are his footsteps?" I asked.

"Law," he said. "My family owns one of the biggest firms in the country. My brother is my dad's protégé and will inherit the whole thing, but I'm still expected to graduate law school and become a partner."

"What would you rather do?" I asked.

He shrugged. "I don't know, honestly. I've never been allowed to imagine anything else."

That broke my heart. "Is that why you're taking Greek Mythology? Are you using Classics as your undergrad to get into law school?"

He nodded. "It seemed the most interesting out of all my choices, which weren't many."

I sighed. "That's shitty. I'm lucky that I got to pick my major. I've been looking forward to this class for ages," I said.

"Why's that?" he asked.

"So many reasons." I grinned, unable to contain myself. "One, it's a required course for my major. And two, Professor Mandlin.”

Clay raised an eyebrow. “Is he a big deal or something?”

“Just a world-renowned scholar with multiple bestselling books and articles everywhere.”

“Oh no.” Clay tilted his head to look at me, a playful smile on his lips. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those.”

I walked a little straighter. “One of what?”

“The read-every-book-for-every-class-before-the-semester-even-starts kind.”

I glanced up at him nervously. "It’s overkill, I admit. But I love reading more than anything, and Greek Mythology is my favorite subject by far."

Clay’s chuckle held a heavy melancholy. "You certainly seem passionate about the topic."

His sadness sobered me. "Maybe somewhere in all this you'll find your own passion, too."

"I certainly hope so, Lady Lily."

We reached the classroom and took seats by each other as the rest of the students filed inside.

Professor Mandlin arrived last to loom large behind his desk like a god of his own making. He looked exactly as I imagined he would with thick, black, square glasses, a head of thinning gray hair standing on ends, and wearing a tweed jacket complete with leather elbow pads.

I sat, attentive, ready to learn from the master.

He began class with a story. I knew this by heart, of course, but I still reveled in the tenor of his voice as he brought the ancient myths to life.

“Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods, began his journey into that illustrious position with a prophecy, a bit of a self-fulfilling one, really,” Professor Mandlin said, moving to lean casually against his desk. “It was Gaia, that first primordial deity born into the cosmos out of Chaos, who told her son, Cronus, that he would suffer the same fate as his father: to be overthrown by his own son. What would have happened if she hadn’t told him?”

He paused and scanned the room, his brow arched.

We waited.

With a superior smile, Professor Mandlin nodded. “Well, it doesn’t matter, because the fact that she did is the reason we’re in this class today.”

We all laughed softly.

The instant he opened his mouth to continue, we fell silent. “Unwilling to lose his Kingdom, Cronus swallowed each of his children whole to prevent them from taking his throne. Finally, his wife, Rhea, sought help from Gaia to protect her next child, Zeus, and when he was born, she tricked Cronus by giving him a rock—which he promptly swallowed.”

He paused, stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets, and began to absently pace in front of his desk.

Again, we waited.

Finally, he tapped his finger on a book resting on his desk and continued, “Now, Rhea sent Zeus to Crete, and our sources differ in just who raised him. Some say Amaltheia, others Gaia. We’ll study that in depth, later. In either case, when he came of age, Zeus left Crete to rescue his siblings, and rescue them he did, by giving Cronus an emetic which caused him to vomit his children.”

Several of the girls in front of me wrinkled their noses. I ignored them and just listened with rapt attention. Greek mythology wasn’t for the faint of heart.

“Of course, once they were freed, Zeus and his siblings were highly motivated to overthrow their father,” the professor continued, resuming his strolling back and forth. It was clear he’d said these exact words many times before. He had his performance perfected. “Which they did in a vast war called the Titanomachy, and with the help of Hecatoncheires and the Cyclopes, Zeus and his siblings won. As for Cronus’ fate after the Titanomachy? The Homeric texts, the Orphic poems, Virgil’s Aeneid, and even the account of the Byzantine mythographer Tzetzes all differ. But in this, they agree.” Again, he paused to look over the rows of students, scanning each row one by one, before adding in a tone of finality, “The prophecy was fulfilled. And after the defeat, Poseidon, Hades, and Zeus bickered over who would become king. They drew lots for the position, and...” He flashes that superior smile and shrugs. “The rest, they say, is history, or shall I say, Greek Mythology 101.”

I laughed, along with everyone else. This was going to be such an awesome class.

“Parenting, it seems, has always been hard,” he said with a friendly chuckle. “But never so challenging as for the Greek pantheon, which is fraught with stories of children overthrowing their parents. And some stories of parents eating their children, so I suppose it balances out.”

A titter of soft laughter filled the room, which the professor allowed before he posed the question I had been waiting my whole life to answer: "What is the purpose of embarking on this journey to understand the ancient mythologies of Greek history? What relevance can they possibly hold for us today? This is your first in-class assignment. Begin your essay now."

My heart raced in my chest as I pulled out a pen and paper and begin to write. I was filled with an eagerness neither subtle nor flattering, but I didn't care. The answer to this all-important question burned in me, and I needed to write it in a way that did justice to the truth. Everything I'd read coalesced in my brain, mutating and growing into a new kind of thoughtful expression. Like when my mother taught us to bake, taking disparate and separate ingredients: An egg, a bit of baking powder, oil, cocoa and somehow creating a delicious cake from it all.

The essays, the online lectures, the books I’d read, the original myths in various translations, I’d absorbed them all, adding each ingredient into the bowl that was my mind. I’d spent years mixing it together, and now, it baked with each word, each sentence, forming something new.

This essay would be the culmination of it all.

I was the first to finish, despite having filled five pages with small, neat cursive, and even going so far as to quote from passages I’d memorized. Of course, I cited my sources, but most of the essay was 100% original thought, and I'd never been so proud.

I placed my paper on the professor's desk, expecting he’d take the essays home to grade later. But I flushed hot when he immediately picked it up and began to read.

Clay raised a curious eyebrow my way when I took my seat, then dropped his head and continued writing as I fidgeted like mad, waiting in silence.

We had ten minutes left in class when the others began turning in their work. By then the professor finished reading mine and looked up as he pulled his glasses off his hawkish nose and wiped them mindlessly on a dingy handkerchief.

I couldn't read his face, and I was nearly certain my heart would stop beating as I sat there, waiting to see what he said.

"Lily Lemon? Who is Lily Lemon?"

Disappointment rolled through me that he didn’t remember me, even though I’d made eye contact when I’d dropped off my paper. But never mind that. It was a large class, and surely, he had a lot more important things on his mind.

I raised my hand. "I'm Lily."

He stared at me a long moment as other students turned to gawk, as well.

"Where did you get this from?" the professor demanded.

I swallowed; my mouth suddenly dry. "What do you mean? I wrote it just now."

He stood, holding my essay, and walked closer to my desk. "This is rubbish," he said.

My heart dropped into my gut, and I feared I'd vomit right then and there. “It... wasn't good?" My voice was nearly a whisper.

"Good? Good?" He turned to stare down the other students in the class, as if inviting them to join in his incredulity. "It is one of the most poignant and powerful articulations of the importance of Greek Mythology in modern culture I have ever read."

My eyes widened as my mind wrapped itself around his words of praise, and something in my chest swelled as relief crashed over me. He liked it? Not only liked it, but praised it profusely? It was more than I could have hoped on my first day. Like a dream, really. "Thank you, Professor. You have no idea how much that means to me."

"You would thank me?" he asked, slamming the paper on my desk with a sharp slap. "How dare you traipse into my class and turn in this clearly plagiarized work in an attempt to pass it off as your own. What author did you steal this from? Who should really get the credit? Because it is clear to me no girl, and certainly no freshman, could have written this masterful essay."

All the relief and flattery I'd felt just a moment before melted suddenly into rage and indignation, like an erupting volcano. With all the power I possessed, I battled the tears burning my eyes. I stood, my notebook falling to the floor in a loud clank as I attempted to face-off the man before me, even though he was several feet taller than myself.

"How dare I?" I asked, finally finding my voice. "How dare you, sir. I have never, nor would I ever, plagiarize another's work. These are my own words unless otherwise indicated by the handy use of quotation marks." Someone in the back of the room snickered at that, but I ignored them. Heat burned through me as I glared at this professor who had entirely lost my admiration and respect in that very moment. "Your accusations are baseless and sexist. If this is plagiarized, prove it. Go to your computer and find the origin of these words if they’re not mine."

He stared at me a moment longer, then stomped back to his desk. "Class dismissed. Read Chapters 1-3 and be prepared for a test on Wednesday."

I was shaking when I stormed into the hall, my vision blurring with the tears I could no longer hold back. I walked with my back straight and no real idea where I was going. I only slowed when I felt a hand brush my arm.

"Lady Lily," Clay said softly. "That was garbage what he just did. Don’t worry, no one believes you plagiarized."

I stopped, turning to press my back against the wall as I let my long hair fall over my face, covering my tears. "I can't believe he would do that," I whispered, my hands still balled in fists around my notebooks.

Clay offered his arm and smiled, dimples creasing his perfect cheeks. "Allow me to buy the lady a coffee. Let's not let that prick ruin a perfectly gorgeous day." He grinned.

The butterflies in my stomach rose to chase my anger and humiliation away, and flushing, I nodded and slid my arm through his. The contact sent shivers of pleasure up my spine.

Maybe this day could still be salvaged, I thought as I walked side by side with the sexiest guy at school.

But I should have known better, my life always came in threes. My bad luck was just beginning.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
Page with