Eros (Olympiana Book 1)By: Helen Harper
‘When he had fallen into his first sleep, she silently rose and uncovering her lamp beheld not a hideous monster, but the most beautiful and charming of the gods, with his golden ringlets wandering over his snowy neck and crimson cheek, with two dewy wings on his shoulders, whiter than snow, and with shining feathers like the tender blossoms of spring.’
Source: Thomas Bulfinch, The Age of Fable; or, Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855).
The man sat slumped at the far end of the bar. Outside the dark night was giving way to a shimmering dawn replete with streaks of brilliant red, which only seemed to tauntingly mirror his bloodshot eyes. The other patrons had yielded to their beds hours before; even Colette, whose winning ways with many an alcohol-sodden tourist rarely failed her, had given up attempting to draw him into conversation and left to find more welcoming comfort elsewhere.
He stared down into his glass. It contained little more than a few half-melted ice cubes so, frowning, he raised it in the air and waved it unsteadily at the bartender.
‘I’ll have another one.’
No answer was immediately forthcoming. He tried again. ‘Hey! I need another drink.’
The bartender looked up from the small sink. ‘I think you’ve had enough.’
‘I’ll be the judge of that,’ he grunted. ‘Isn’t the customer always right?’ As if to illustrate his point further, he shook the glass. The remaining ice cubes clinked together feebly.
Sighing, the bartender walked over. He reached behind and pulled a bottle from a dusty shelf, then turned and began to pour in a finger of expensive amber liquid.
The man waved the glass in the air. ‘More.’
Another half inch slopped in.
Grunting, he raised it upwards in an unsteady toast, then gulped down half the contents. Unfortunately, a large quantity missed his mouth and dribbled down his chin instead and onto what had once been a pristine white shirt. The bartender watched with a mixture of amusement and exasperation, taking in the well-cut suit and gleaming gold watch. He may have more money at his disposal than the vast majority of other customers but, when it came down to it, all drunks were the same.
‘Lost your heart, have you?’
The man looked up but the words didn’t immediately register.
‘I said, have you lost your heart? You’ve got that look. She’s not worth it, mate.’
Scorn lit the man’s face. ‘You think I’m here because of a woman?’
The bartender eyed him. Even without taking his clothes into consideration, the man’s well-groomed golden curls suggested someone who took pains over his appearance. He shrugged. ‘Man, then.’
‘Spare me the pop psychology. There’s no man and there’s no woman. Love’s a myth. A sham. If you think otherwise, then you’ve been conned.’
Despite the obvious bitterness in the man’s voice, the bartender’s reaction was mild. Waiting for him at home was his fiancée. They’d met at a party barely three months earlier, bonding over a disturbingly phallic-looking ice sculpture which had apparently been originally designed as a swan. She’d uttered less than five words before he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He’d proposed a week later.
‘What would you call it then? Lust? A chemical imbalance?’
‘A steaming pile of shit.’
The man took another sip, more carefully this time, and managed to avoid spilling any more whisky. The bartender moved away.
‘What?’ the man called after him. ‘You don’t believe me? You think true love exists?’ He clasped one hand to his chest. ‘That you meet the one and you’re stabbed in the heart with a thunderbolt of love?’ His hand dropped back down to his glass. ‘How is that true love?’ he muttered.
‘How is it not?’ asked the bartender, picking up a glass and beginning to polish.
‘Love doesn’t work like that,’ the man said. ‘It can’t work like that. Love at first sight is a fallacy.’
The bartender smiled to himself. Catching it, the man opened his mouth to say something before a shadow crossed his face and he clearly thought better of it. Instead, he took another drink. A moment of silence crossed the stale air of the room then he spoke again.