She found Mercury lurking outside, still sulking, when she left the house. At her querying look he grumpily admitted he’d been charged to see her safely back to work after the appointment.
Calypso sighed, “For a bunch of people who are so adamant about my being independent, they’re awfully protective.”
“It wasn’t the Fates, Athena just wants you back as fast as possible so she’s not stuck on reception for too long.”
“So nice to know people care.”
They lapsed back into grumpy silence for the duration of the trip to Z Corp.
Her nerves got a temporary reprieve when, on arrival back at the reception desk, Athena handed things over to her and told her to take the lift to the tenth floor once the reception desk closed.
She tucked back into her post, addressed a few outstanding emails and took care of the other little non-urgent tasks Athena had left for her to deal with, then opened her instant messaging window.
Thankfully Circe was online and she was able to spend the remaining time that Circe had in the office dissecting and analysing the Fates’ pronouncement and what Athena may want. Her connection with Odysseus was a key source of concern and Circe could shed no further light on the relationship between the two or what her interest or intent may be.
The silent final hour felt like a mix of forever and far too fast. As the clock ticked around to the hour, she shut down her computer, switched off the main lights, gathered her things and headed for the lift.
This was the first time she’d had to use her card to access any floor other than the second top one – which housed the event spaces and showroom. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect. She knew she wasn’t expecting what she got.
The doors opened onto a spacious, wood-panelled foyer that managed to combine the best of professionalism, peace and welcome. Calypso felt her anxiety level drop in the same way it did when she walked through the door of her own little apartment.
She paused, trying to work out which way she was meant to go. A quietly elegant young man appeared at one end and beckoned her to follow. In the absence of a better idea, she did.
Athena was waiting for her in a comfortable lounge area, looking out onto the street and the surrounding buildings. Calypso was waved towards the selection of teas and coffees and encouraged to take some food, since she was missing the food on offer upstairs.
She made her selections, then perched on a chair across from Athena, too nervous to do anything with them.
Athena sighed, “You’ve not been treated too well by my family have you?”
Calypso tried to hide her start, “Um.”
“Oh I know you can’t really say anything, but my father is having way too much fun flaunting his power over your father by controlling you. I’m not sure whether Atlas gets more upset over the reports of your isolation or the meetings with your mother.”
“Does he know about Odysseus?”
Athena snorted, “Father and Odysseus are cut from the same cloth, he sees that sort of behaviour as so normal, he doesn’t have any idea it might be a possible source of anxiety or pain for someone else. He just wishes his wife was more like Penelope.”
“Hera isn’t your mother?”
“Thankfully not. I’ve got no idea who she is, I was abandoned on his doorstep as a baby and the DNA test was pretty conclusive, so he added me to his collection of squabbling brats.”
Calypso’s jaw dropped, although she wasn’t quite sure whether she was more shocked by the story or the fact Athena was sharing it with her.
“Anyway, I didn’t haul you up here to discuss dysfunctional relatives. I am interested in talking to you about a report I received from Odysseus.”
“He said you had a poky little company apartment in one of our nearby buildings and you’ve managed to transform it into the cosiest little haven from the world he’d ever seen.”
“I haven’t done anything permanent to it, it’s just little changes to make it a bit of a home.”
“Which is perfect.”
“I’ve just been thrown a new department. Hestia decided to retire and now I’m supposed to be dealing with home furnishings and interior design on top of everything else.”
“Quite. And while Hestia’s staff are all very good, I believe they’re missing a fairly large part of the market. All their work is geared towards the high end of town, with people who own their own homes, and usually have a lot of space. It’s a lucrative group, especially the ones who feel they have to have their homes as on-trend as their wardrobes.”
She took a sip of her tea, “But, the vast majority of the people in this city, and the others we operate in, are renters. They need products that can make their spaces unique, welcoming and functional while not impacting the structure or permanent fixtures of the place.”
Athena put down her cup and leaned forward, “I’d like to look into what you’ve done and see if you can create the same sort of effect in company flats in other parts of the world. If you do a good job, I’ll make arrangements for you to join my team on mass market interiors.”
“Would I be expected to work with Odysseus?”
“No, he’s in a completely different division.”
Calypso took a deep breath and let it out, feeling a huge smile cross her face, “I’d love to.”
Athena smiled back, “Good. I’ll email you a list of the apartments I want you to experiment on, their layouts and their locations so you can start researching suppliers and suchlike.”
They each addressed their cups and food, a couple of minutes later, Athena spoke again.
“By the way, what did the Fates want?”
“It was very strange, they said I needed to not obey the summons if I wanted to grow in the light of my own sun.”
“That’s the Fates, always helpful, clear and unambiguous.”
“I hope this isn’t the summons they mentioned.”
Athena thought for a while, “The only summons of any sort has been to the meeting here and I’d hope that came across as more of a request than an order, even though I doubt you felt you were in a position to turn it down. I hope it isn’t as well. You’ll have to let me know if anything unexpected crosses your desk in the next couple of weeks.”
“Unfortunately I don’t think I can class tea with my mother as a summons, that was a sort of order from the Fates back when I first met them two years ago.”
“She abandoned me as a baby too, but she abandoned my father at the same time, so he brought me up. It was just the two of us almost all my life. Which of course means that now, Hecate and I have nothing in common and I’m not very comfortable in her company.”
“If it helps at all, gossip says you rather intimidate her.”
“You’re so quietly dignified and collected, she can’t tell what you’re thinking, and she can’t influence you.”
This time, the smile that curved Calypso’s lips had a decidedly smug cast.
Athena left her to finish her tea with a promise the apartment list would be with her the next day. Calypso did precisely that, then left for home, still smiling.
The next couple of weeks were delightfully full of interesting plans and ideas. In between juggling couriers and guests, Calypso studied the list she’d been sent, and began researching in earnest.
She wanted to know how much, or little, renters could adapt their homes in each place, then she looked at the sample apartments themselves. Their layout, any existing furnishings and their locations in terms of orientation and outlook.
Then she started looking into nearby shops, markets and areas of interest.
Athena was able to supplement her initial list with photos of the apartments and Calypso began to plan.
Circe was a fascinated and supportive observer, and invaluable in digging up information on good places to find things for the Milan apartment.
Her side hustle, she said, was progressing nicely and she looked forward to being able to show it off in a few months.
Tea with Hecate was as awkward as it always had been, although Calypso did find it less of a trial than before. She hugged the titbit of information from Athena to herself and told herself Hecate seemed even more than usually uncomfortable.
The following week, what could only be The Summons arrived.