WHO: Antigone and Melpomene WHEN: Sunday evening WHERE: Melpomene's place WHAT: They should call her Emotigone WARNINGS: Lies about abuse. Is that a warning? It's gross anyway.
The hanging vine on Romeo’s bookshelf was starting to wither and die, and there was a panic in Antigone’s stomach about it. That was her fault... the plant was dying back from the vine she’d cut to make herself a stupid funeral wreath for her stupid ritual, and right now Antigone could not believe it was worth it.
What good had she done with this new life of hers? Accidentally outed her father, started a conversation she couldn’t finish with her sister, failed to protect her newest friend from an abusive, terrifying god? There was Joan... Joan was a good thing, but Antigone could hardly take credit for that.
She was writing for work again, but she wasn’t sure it counted as good. Last week she had submitted the piece she’d written the night after Ares, and her editor had come back with just three words: Jesus Christ, Antigone.
The whole thing made her feel a bit sick. She knew it was a stunning piece of writing, but she couldn’t get over how bleak it was, or the taint that lingered behind her breastbone after she’d finished it.
Or maybe the taint was from Ismene’s hanging comment, Why can't you just tell me that you're sorry?? and Antigone’s failure to reply, a failure that folded double on itself every time she looked at her laptop, where the conversation was still open in the far left tab.
If she had a magic potion she could have slipped Ismene to make her forget what she’d done, Antigone would have done it. Probably. The ethics were iffy. But might be worth it to stop Ismene’s anger.
Or maybe a potion that would make Ismene understand that Antigone had had important things in her life that day too, and it wasn’t as if she’d put Ismene’s kids in any danger. If they’d been hurt, of course she would have apologised, but they had been safe the whole time.
But Antigone didn’t have any potions. Unless you counted wine. She had a lot of wine. Not that Ismene even wanted to meet for a drink.
And now, apparently, she’d discovered that one of the first things she’d done while living in this apartment was kill a plant.
“Fuuuuuck everything,” Antigone groaned out loud, raising her finger to lift the curl of a dead leaf, still hanging onto its stem.
“Should we?” said Romeo’s voice, behind her. The Muse had a habit of appearing as if from nowhere.
Antigone turned sharply over her shoulder, said nothing for a moment, then turned further, so Romeo could see the plant. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I cut off a piece of a vine and now it’s dying.”
See Ismene she thought, I can admit when I’ve done something actually wrong.
Melpomene stepped over and reached out one long, bare arm to crumple the point of a dead leaf. She was dressed to go out and – quite distractingly – she smelled incredible. “And that’s why we should fuck everything?” she asked.
“No, there’s other reasons,” Antigone said bitterly. “You look nice, though.” She was showing way more skin than Antigone ever would, the whole back of her dress open, the draping skirt of it cinched up at the sides.
Melpomene gave her a crooked and knowing smile, one that warned Antigone’s stomach that another reason why they should fuck everything was coming. “I’m going out with Ares,” she said, proving the warning entirely founded. She thought about adding the part where Ares had told her to wear something that came off easily, but didn’t think that particular knife needed twisting in any deeper.
“No – Romeo – no, you’re not,” Antigone said, upset enough as it was. “You don’t have to. No – I know you don’t want to hide and turn this into a hunt but, you could pretend you’re sick. Or I’m sick. Something bad enough that it isn’t your fault you can’t go out.”
“I don’t want to draw you into this,” lied Melpomene.
“I’m already in it! Say I have alcohol poisoning and you need to take me to hospital – he won’t punish you for that, surely?”
“I won’t risk it,” Melpomene said, and Antigone wanted to grab the pot plant and smash it on the ground.
She didn’t, though. She took a deep breath. “Did you have a look at any of those contacts Joan passed on?” she asked, trying to be gentle.
“I did, actually,” Melpomene said, truthfully. “If I have time, I might go along to one of those groups. They look - ” Compelling? Full of stories?
“I hope you have time,” Antigone said softly. “They’re good people.”
“I’m sure they are,” Melpomene said, turning her attention back to the plant. “This part of it’s still green,” she rested one foot on the arm of the nearest chair, and pulled a small knife out of her boot. “Let’s just slice off the dead bits and see what survives.” The blade cut easily through the vines, and Melpomene gathered them in her hands like a ponytail, shedding dead leaves onto the soft grey carpet.
Antigone watched as she dumped all of the dead leaves into the kitchen bin. “Is that a metaphor?”
Melpomene dusted off her hands and looked over the bin. “Do you need it to be?”
Before Antigone could figure out how to answer that, there was a sharp knock on the door. She jumped, but it wasn't the loud, demanding knock of Ares. Still, she lingered nearby, as backup, as if she could will herself into being effective backup.
The mortal at the door was, by mortal standards, young, and the way he stood, feet apart and hands behind his back, was like a soldier might stand. Though his arms were roped in muscle and ink, there was something about him that made him seem, to Melpomene, like a first draft of a person. A teenager? Highly likely. Sent by Ares? Definitely.
"I'm only a phone call away," said Antigone, in a low whisper, and Melpomene smiled at her briefly before stepping out with the boy.
Antigone pressed her hand against the wall as if she could draw stability out of the building itself.