“How hard it is to be the god of love?” I simply asked Eros as the darkness has emerged from the night sky.
It was the winter solstice, and we were sitting at the garden of Olympus as a cold breeze of air kissed my cheeks. The sky has looked wonderful as millions of stars brighten it. The moon glowed above, as rays of silver light touched the ground. The Aurora Borealis was visible from a distance, creating an illusion as if the sky was painted with thousands of colors. It was simply the day wherein darkness was most beautiful.
“Not easy,” he muttered as he stared at the twinkling stars above. “Love is universal, Sophia. Mortals think of me as the cherub flying everywhere with a magical bow shooting everyone with an arrow dipped in some love potion, that can simply make anyone fall in love, and be loved by someone. But… if my job was as that easy, then love wouldn't appear complicated. No one would complain for not being loved, no one would do stupid things for the love they think they deserve. No one would have to beg for the love that wasn't meant for them, and no one has to get hurt just to be loved.”
“Mortals think that being the god of love is easy. But it's the hardest job you can do. You have to make sure that someone falls in love with the right person, that he was in love with that person that he was meant to be with. But mortals were never contented. They beg for love even more than what they should have. They beg for the love that wasn't meant for them, and that is how things become complicated. When you started demanding for the love that you think you deserve.”
The cold breeze of air kissed my cheeks as I looked at the glowing night sky. “Is it bad to demand for love?”
“No one has to beg for love,” he whispered softly, his voice sounded perfect. His kaleidoscope eyes looked at me, and it started to change its color, matching my definition of perfection— a shade of gray. “Everyone was meant to meet someone that was bound to make them feel so in love that they'll realize love shouldn't be begged. Someone was destined to fall in love with one person that will make them feel like demanding for love was stupid. For they are willing to give it to you wholeheartedly. That's how love works, Sophia.”
Silence reigned between us.
“Can you promise me something, Sophia?” he asked while the glowing silver moonlight touched his face.
I looked at him with curiosity. “What is it?”
“Never fall in love with me,” he said seriously while he stared at the night sky. “Swear on the River Styx.”
I want to ask him if he was kidding, but his tone was different. And an oath to be made by the River Styx is the most sacred oath to be made. And breaking it can lead to something worse than death; eternal torture.
“I won't, Eros. I promise. I swear it on the River Styx.”
And that was the biggest mistake I made.
Months passed, and not a single glimpse of Eros was to be seen. Olympus has been quiet since the winter solstice, and snow covered the palace since then. The flowers in the garden slowly withered and died since Persephone went back to the Underworld. The naiads have continued playing by the lake everyday, and the dryads have kept themselves busy with taking care of their trees and doing some woodland magic. I was in the throne room, overlooking the whole place from a glass window. Until an unexpected visitor has come.
“Apollo,” I called his name as he entered the throne room with his new lyre. “What are you doing here?”
His presence was enough to brighten the whole room and it suddenly felt warm. “Am I not allowed to visit now? Besides I'm here to do you a favor, sweetheart.”
“Stop calling me ‘sweetheart’, Apollo,” I said sternly as I looked into his golden eyes. “What do you want with me? If this is another stupid joke, I have had—”
“Is fate a stupid joke, Sophia?” he asked seriously as he held my hand. The wounds in my hand caused by hunting has suddenly healed. “I know you know how unbreakable a sacred oath is. You should have known the risks before vowing to an oath you couldn't keep. Even a goddess can't escape a broken oath, Sophia.”
I smiled at him. “I have accepted my fate, Apollo. If I was meant to suffer the consequences of vowing to a sacred oath, so be it. We can never change our fates.”
“You knew what was meant to happen all along...”
I looked into his eyes as a faint smile appeared on my lips. “Sometimes, knowing everything makes things worse, Apollo. Wisdom… has its own consequences.”
“I knew we weren't meant to meet. Wisdom and love never comes together. But I was young then, curious of why I wasn't destined to meet the god of love. We were never bound to meet, and not even the slightest chance of getting a glimpse. But it made me curious even more. The Fates have already warned me about my curiosity, but I've became more persistent. Until I have broken the rule. I looked at the book of Fates...”
He stared at me. “You know that's forbidden, Sophia.”
“Can you blame me, Apollo?” I asked as my dark gray eyes looked at his. “I wanted to know my fate. At one point in my life, I wished to know why my fate has to be like this, and why I wasn't meant to meet the god of love. Of why I was destined to be alone, to be that goddess who was meant to spread wisdom but wasn't meant to feel loved. And you can't blame me if ever I wanted to live the kind of life that I deserve, Apollo.”
He sighed while he looked down on the floor. “If only I could change the decisions of the Fates, Sophia.”
“My fate has already been sealed,” I said as I gazed at the glass window, overlooking Olympus. “This is the consequence one has to bear for wanting to know the future. Sometimes knowing everything doesn't help.”
And that was the last time I saw Apollo.
More months have passed by, and the snow that once covered the palace was replaced by blooming flowers from the garden. The birds were humming, and such melody filled the air. The sun can be seen setting at a distance, and the light was slowly fading to welcome the darkness. The warm air passed by as the nymphs rejoiced cheerfully for spring has come. I overlooked Olympus from the glass window in the throne room, while the most unexpected goddess stood beside me.
She wore a haltered white silk dress up to her knees, her long brown hair layed marvelously at her back as it started to change its color from hazelnut brown to auburn then black. Even its length changed, from the long goddess-like to the wonderful shoulder-length that swayed with elegance. Her dashing kaleidoscope eyes were both stunning, as if they were hypnotizing every part of me. Her skin was almost as white as her silk dress, and her lips were redder than any red rose.
She was simply the epitome of beauty.
“Aphrodite,” I said her name as if it was a dangerous word while the goddess lured herself to the scenery.
She stared at the setting sun afar as its rays shone on her face. “Your presence is already starting to fade.”
“Apollo told you about it, didn't he?” I asked her as I looked at the sun that was slowly lurking in the dark.
Aphrodite led out a soft laugh. “He doesn't need to. I am the goddess of love, dear. I know everything that has been done for the sake of love. And as for you my dear, you have sacrificed yourself for the wrong love.”
“Nothing is wrong when it comes to love.”
She simply sighed while she watched the setting sun slowly kiss the ground. “The same thing that I hear from mortals when they do stupid things for love.”
“There's no such thing as right love, dear. But there's always a wrong love,” the goddess said while a faint smile formed on her lips. She waved her hands, and a necklace with a diamond pendant suddenly appeared on her hands. “We tend to think that there's nothing wrong when it comes to love. But that is exactly the wrong thing. We tend to be blinded by love. We tend to see only its beauty, but never its flaws. And that's why we think of it as right. Love is always deceiving.”
“Aphrodite, when can you say that a love is wrong?”
A smile has appeared on her lips as she looked at the sunset. “Simple. When you cry more than you smile.”
“People say that a love is wrong when they fall out of it. But that was never true, dear. No one ever falls out of love for it is constant. It doesn't change, instead, it stays. It remains deep within, it creates a connection that can never be replaced. It builds a so-called home inside you. It's never true that love fades... for it does not change. But… do you know what changes, dear?”
I stared at her. “What?”
“Our demands for love,” she said as her eyes glittered in the emerging darkness. “It is never wrong to have your demands for love, but what's wrong is to have a high standards in love. It's never good to want more than what was meant for you, think that you deserve more than what you should have. You have to accept the love that was for you. The problem is we weren't contented, we seek for more. Our demands get higher and love on the other hand has its own demands as well, and it gets higher the more that we higher our own demands. And just to tell you, no one can meet the demands of love, dear. Not even the gods can.”
I overlooked at the whole Olympus, and the sun was gone completely. “And that was my biggest mistake.”
“Sometimes, we tend to sacrifice too much for we do think that our sacrifices will be replaced by love. But we never thought it was more important to sacrifice the ones we love to be able to love ourselves. People break themselves to be able to make someone whole again, but you can never make someone whole if you yourself isn't whole. And as for you, you wanted love too much, you thought that sacrificing yourself will make him love you back. But things don't work that way, dear. We have one person we are bound to meet that will love us to the point that he'd shame the way we have loved ourselves. And he may be waiting for us too as we wait for another man. And I don't know which hurts the most. Knowing that the one you've loved too much has never loved you, or that you've loved him too much you forgot you need love, too.”
She walked towards me, and before I can even mutter a word, she already handed me the necklace. “I don't like to interfere with the Fates, but love still has pity to the ones who need it the most. The blue diamond on that necklace bears immortality, and anyone who wears it would never die. But once you've taken it off, you will fade eternally, and the person that loves you the most will forget every memory of you… forever.”
“May you find his love. Until we meet again, Sophia.”
And before I knew it, she was already gone.
Years have passed, and a lot of things have changed over time. It was the summer solstice, where the sun was most powerful. It's been quite a long time since Apollo has visited Olympus. He looked more manly than he used to, his body became more muscular and he became taller. His bright golden eyes were weary, and his blonde hair was dashing than it used to be. I sat beside him on his chariot, the sun was just rising.
“I missed watching the sunrise here in Olympus,” he whispered as he looked at the sun. “It's been quite a long time. Zeus sent me to handle some monsters.”
I held the diamond pendant of Aphrodite's necklace as I stared into his eyes. “Aphrodite gave me this.”
“She was trying to save you,” he said as he looked at the necklace as if it was a dangerous thing. “That is the gift of immortality. But once it was taken off…”
“I will fade,” I said. “No need to remind me, Apollo.”
He ruined my hair as a disappointed sigh escaped his lips. “You really like taking risks, don't you Sophia?”
“Life itself is a risk, Apollo. We have to risk to live.”
He grinned teasingly. “Only if you're a hard-headed goddess. If you're a good one like me, life is easy.”
It's been days, and Apollo has visited me in Olympus since then. We walk to the gardens, watch the setting sun by the canoe lake, and fly over Olympus with his chariot. But still, I remember Eros every time. Of how we used to do the same things. How we used to gaze at the stars every night, and wait until morning when the sun rises over the horizon. It gets back to me, all of my memories with Eros reminded me of how love made me do insane things to please the god of love.
Until one day, Eros came back.
He was more stunning than the last time I saw him. I still can't get enough of how manlier he turned to be after years. He has gotten more muscular, and he has became taller. His kaleidoscope eyes suddenly turned gray when he looked at me. He was wearing his Greek armor, his face had a burned mark but it was fading.
He was all I could ever wish for.
“Eros…” I called his name hesitantly.
“I need your help, Sophia,” he started as he stared at me. “Psyche… she needs your help. Please, Sophia...”
I can hear Apollo's voice in my head saying no, but as I gazed at his eyes, I can see how much he truly loves the mortal he's met. A few months ago, Eros sent me signs in the sky that he already met the right woman he was fated to be with. I wanted to protest, to admit to him what I feel, but I remembered what Aphrodite told me. There is one man that was meant to love me until the end of time… and it wasn't the god of love.
“What happened, Eros?” I asked him.
His emotion saddened all of a sudden. “She's dying, Sophia. Her whole presence… it was slowly fading.”
“Why didn't you heal her? It can still be fixed, Eros.”
He shook his head hysterically. “I-I tried, Sophia. But the more that I try to heal her, the more it kills her...”
“There's only one thing I know can help her,” he said as he looked at me desparately. “J-just tell me how to get pomegrenate seeds from Persephone's garden...”
I shook my head instantly. “No. You'll kill the mortal, Eros. You know it can turn her presence into ashes...”
“But there's no other way, Sophia!” he blurted as his kaleidoscope eyes formed tears. “I don't want to lose Psyche. I'd rather kill myself than to see her fade...”
I looked at the necklace on my neck and the diamond pendant glowed. I didn't know how to help him, how to tell him things will be okay without the assurance it will be. This is the first time I saw Eros act like this since we met. He was too desperate, and it kills me to see the man I loved for years act like this towards the woman he loves. It felt like suicide, as if I took out a dagger and stabbed my heart a million times until it was broken into pieces, broken to the point it can't be whole again. But I couldn't complain. It was me who chose to love him the painful way. It was my choice.
I slowly took off the necklace. At this moment, I was not thinking of what might happen to me, if I fade or die in the process. All I could think of is how to help him. I can't stand seeing him like this, and if this will be the only thing that could help his wife, so be it. At this moment, all I could think of is to make the man I love happy, even if his happiness doesn't include me.
Love requires sacrifice.
I handed him the necklace, and I can already feel my skin slowly burning. “Take it. It will save her, Eros.”
I smiled faintly. “You love her, don't you?”
Silence reigned between us as he stared into my eyes.
“That pendant,” he whispered. “It's the symbol of…”
I nodded. “The only reason why I'm still alive, Eros.”
“But… h-how? I… I don't get it, Sophia…”
I can feel the intense pain crawling up to my neck as it burned my skin, but I managed to give him a faint smile. “Do you still remember the day that I swore to the River Styx that I will never fall in love with you?”
He didn't look surprised, but he whispered. “Sophia…”
“I broke the oath, Eros,” I told him with a smile as my heart started to feel such intense heat. “I loved you.”
“Aphrodite tried to save my presence by handing me this necklace, and she believes it would help me fade slower than I should have. This is the only thing that keeps me alive since you left, Eros. Without this, I'm nothing but ashes that goes together with the wind. I tried to look at the book of Fates, and that is why we met. I tried to change the future— my future, for I've dreamed to make the god of love fall in love with me.”
He looked into my eyes, and I can feel my body was getting weaker as time passed. “But I can't love you.”
“You don't have to,” I whispered as my hand touched his cheek. “And I never regretted loving you, Eros.”
He held my hand. “If only I could love you, Sophia.”
“Go ahead, Eros,” the only words that came out of my mouth while I take away his hand. “Your wife needs you. And this time, can you promise me one thing?”
He nodded hesitantly. “Anything.”
He didn't respond, but his lips touched my forehead and I can feel his breath on my skin. “I will. Promise.”
And as he left the room, I whispered to the wind.
“Through wisdom… may love find his soul.”
“You're really stubborn, aren't you?” a familiar voice filled the room as he walked towards my direction. “I have already warned you, but you never listen to me.”
My presence was already fading, and my essence was already being consumed. The pain was getting worse and worse, and my skin felt like being touched by the hottest river in the Underworld. My heart has started to combust slowly into ashes. I can not feel my skin, and my eyes started to bleed. If there's a feeling even worse than a crucial slow death, I don't want to know.
“Apollo,” I called his name as his glowing presence faced me. He held my hands and kissed them gently.
A faint smile appeared on his lips as he caressed my cheek. “Why do you love making things hard for me?”
“I… I don't know what you're talking about…”
He gently kissed me, the warmth of his lips burned through mine. I felt weaker, but his hands held mine tightly. The burning sensation intensified but I can't feel as much as before. I was hooked by his kiss, and it was the best feeling I ever felt. And if time is really just an illusion, I want this moment to last… longer.
And as our lips parted, my presence turned to ashes.
“Until we meet again, Sophia. Until I love you again.”
*** I gazed at the sunset, and the leaves started to fall on the ground. I stood at the balcony of Olympus as the scenery started to look mesmerizing. It's been weeks since Sophia… left. And the sky has been a little dark since then. The gods mourned when they knew what happened, most of them felt lonely like Aeolus, who painted the sky with colors— the Aurora Borealis in honor of her, and Persephone grew gray roses to put on her throne in Olympus. The gods still think of her fading as an unexpected event, and only one of them didn't seem to be surprised of what happened to her.
“She took the risk,” Aphrodite muttered as she stared at the leaves falling down from the trees. “She knew the consequences but she still chose to risk herself.”
I sighed heavily. “It was my fault, Aphrodite. I could have told her the future, she could have lived longer.”
“No one wanted this to happen, Apollo,” she said as she smiled faintly at the sunset. Her eyes gleamed as the rays of the sun touched her face. “We all wanted to help her, but even the gods have no control of the fates of people. Changing the future… it only makes things worse. We did everything to lengthen her life.”
I stared at Sophia's throne wherein fresh gray roses laid on it as a tribute to her. And until now, I can still see her sitting on the throne with a smile on her lips, the same smile she flashes whenever I tell her stupid jokes. A cold breeze of air kissed my cheek as I stared at her paintings and tapestries which all hung on the walls of the throne room. Most of them were her and Eros' adventures, but the one hanging on the middle of the room… it was us. It was the same day we met.
Aphrodite handed me a pink vial. “We had a deal. You have to drink this, and forget your memories of her.”
“I know,” I muttered. “I haven't forgotten, Aphrodite.”
She waved her hands and an image of my memories with Sophia flashed. “Love still has pity, Apollo. For the last time, cherish these memories for you would never remember any of them after drinking the vial.”
“Do I really have to forget her, Aphrodite?”
Aphrodite simply smiled at me. “Trust me. This is for the better. Love demands too much sacrifice, Apollo.”
I simply opened the vial and looked at it. It got back to me how I gotten into this deal. The blue diamond came from me. I searched for it in the deepest pits of the Underworld, just to be able to lengthen Sophia's life. It took me a deal with the goddess of love to be able to make it a symbol of immortality. But love is a gamble, and I had to bet my memories of the woman I loved to be able to make her live longer. And as for the deal, if ever Sophia takes off the necklace, I have to forget every of her memories— our memories, by drinking this vial. And now… I have to do our deal.
And before I drink the vial, I whispered to the wind.
“Through the sun, may wisdom finally find its peace.”