Melpomene, Muse of Singing, walked through the marble halls of her home set into the side of Mount Helicon. Walked past her favorite childhood hiding spot. The one none of her other eight Muse sisters had ever discovered. On the inner side of every hall, every room, the wall was carved rock. And full of little crevices, some just big enough to hide a little girl who didn’t want to be found.
If only she could fit in one now, she’d crawl in and not come out until Dad, Zeus to everyone else, acquired a taste for crab legs. Then she wouldn’t have to go on this date with a half-crab sea god.
Mel reached the entrance to her home and wrapped her hands around the huge handles of the granite doors.
A child’s giggle whispered down the hall. Mel turned around, one hand on the handle. The other, stretched toward the ghost of a little blonde girl, hair in braids. The little girl, oblivious to what her future held, climbed into a hidden crevice in the mountain wall and softly sang.
Mel’s heart rattled with each breath, as if her heart was made of glass and could shatter at any second. She closed her eyes and opened the doors.
The moon’s white light guided her past tumbled rocks and thorny brush, guided her to the ocean’s edge where she climbed on top of a boulder to wait.
“Strike one for being late, Phorcys.”
The ocean shimmered and a silver path, solid enough to walk on, appeared on the surface. Mel slid off the rock, a small song of wonder escaped her lips.
She stepped onto the path, which seemed to be made of nothing more than moonlight and salt. It flexed under her feet, letting warm water swirl over her bare toes. Fragrant white petals bordered the edge of the road.
Mel couldn’t help but to take one step, another step, another. All thoughts of hiding, of escape, disappeared, replaced by the thrill of adventure. The thrill of being away from her sisters, her mother, responsibility.
She bent down, scooped some of the silvery water in her hands and threw the water in the air. A small bubble of laughter escaped her throat and Mel skipped across the ocean.
The moon-road ended on a small island, bordered by haphazard rocks and boulders, and crowned with slender trees. The same fragrant smell as the petals on the silver road floated off the island. The moon showed Mel a small beach cove, free of the impassable rocks.
At the edge of the surf sat a small table with a cushion for one. Reality tugged at her like the tide tugged at the sand, pulling bits and pieces down into the ocean’s dark depths. Mel looked around, searching for a shell, a claw, a monster. Searching for her date.
Someone had set up the table. But she couldn’t imagine Phorcys doing so.
“Well whoever it was, they better show up soon with the food before I hunt them down,” she muttered. Her stomach growled in agreement. Skipping across the ocean had worked up a feast worthy appetite.
Mel stepped onto the white sand and heard a melody.
“Is someone there? I-I can hear you.”
The melody quickened, almost like the music had laughed. At her.
No one laughed at the Muse of Singing. Mel filled the air with song, determined to show the invisible musician the real master of song.
But instead, the music changed, and swirled around her voice, her body. Harmonized her song perfectly, amplified her voice so that her song was better than it ever sounded before.
Mel let the last note ring out, smiled and curtsied.
“Thank you. May we do this again sometime?” The musician replied with a lilt of a note, a yes, and proceeded to play soft music to compliment the night.
Mel curled on the pillow to, once again, wait for Phorcys.
A new thread of music wove its way into the musician’s melody, alerting Mel to a new arrival on the island. Mel was beginning to believe there was no musician at all, but rather that the island itself was singing.
And if that were the case, Mel never wanted to leave.
She rearranged her dress, fingered the emerald around her neck, watched the ocean. A small patch of fog rose from the water and sailed toward her. It cascaded over the sand and trailed up the beach to where she sat. And then, the fog stopped. Hovered. As if it had a mind.
“Good evening Zeus’s daughter.” A deep voice rumbled from the moist air.
“Uhh…hello?” Mel mentally slapped herself for sounding like dimwitted nymph.
“I apologize for my appearance, but I’ve found this form has received a better audience than my true presence.” Mel heard the slight smile in the tone, the not-so-slight wound in the words.
“Yes, Muse of Singing. It is truly an honor to spend the evening with you.”
“Please, call me Melpomene. Um. Mel. Everyone calls me Mel.”
The fog shifted slightly, edged a little closer. “Mel.” Phorcys said as if he were running her name over his tongue. “It is very nice to meet you, Mel.”
Mel bowed her head. “Thank you for the road here. I’ve…I never knew something so incredible could exist.”
“Nor did I.” The fog settled on the other side of the table and pulsated with Phorcys’s words and Mel did her best to hide the virginal blush in her cheeks.
“Do you always create a road for, um, your guests?”
Again, the smile. “No, my dear. Only you.”
Mel’s mouth dried and she took a sip of the wine that had appeared on the table. “Why?” she asked before she could shove her bare foot in her mouth. Her mother had always gotten onto her for not catching her thoughts before they left her lips.
Phorcys laughed. At her. But his laugh didn’t make her mad. It was gentle, different, totally unexpected. He was unexpected. “Because, my dear, it is you. It has always been you for me, but I wasn’t worthy to meet you until now. Even now, I hesitate. You are the epitome of beauty and grace. And I am nothing but a deformed god, banished to the depths of the ocean.”
Mel’s heart broke at his words. His tone was tender, not bitter as his words might have conveyed, but accepting of his fate. Humble. And it burned through every defense, every judgment, every drawn bridge she had built against him.
Mel stood, walked around the table, and entered Phorcys’s fog.