Paris

Calypso settled into her plane seat with a secret grin. She’d flown before of course, her father had always taken her with him when he travelled but this was the first time without him. And her first time on a private company jet, rather than tucked under her father’s eye in business class on a commercial flight.

She knew better than to get used to this sort of thing. The jet was for Athena’s convenience, not hers. It wasn’t going to stop her enjoying it while it lasted though.

She was also going to enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasted. She wasn’t quite sure how long it would take for her father to realise she wasn’t on the plane currently winging its way south. Although, she’d hardly be to blame even if she had intended going. Her ticket hadn’t arrived from the Singapore office until that morning, mere hours before its scheduled departure time.

By her calculation, the Singapore flight, due in to Changi around 8am local time, meant her father was likely to start blowing up her phone at about 1am Paris time. She had the evening free and could then switch her phone to silent for sleeping and avoid the issue for a few hours at least. It would make him worse in the end, but she’d be in no shape to stand up to him in the dark hours of the night.

A company car whisked them into Paris, dropping Calypso off at the apartment under review before taking Athena and her second PA to the office.

Calypso had asked to stay in the places she’d been assigned, at least initially, in order to get a feel for the space and the area. She knew by the end of the exercise, she’d need to be able to redesign a space purely from virtual interactions, but she needed to make her start as strong as she could get it.

It was a stark little place. Neat, impersonal, functional and soulless. Within half an hour she was itching to make changes and started rearranging the furniture.

Her phone pinged, sending her heart into her mouth. It was Hecate, confirming dinner that evening. She sent an affirmative and decided to explore.

The apartment may have been stark, but the location was perfect Paris, at least as far as Calypso was concerned. Within easy walking distance of l’Opera, it also put her in reach of both the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. While these shops, and the boutiques dotting the area around them, were mostly beyond the financial reach of the people she was designing for, she wanted those people to feel like they could enjoy elements of that world, for a more accessible price.

She also had plans to visit and absorb the local cafes, bars, museums and parks, so she could distil the essence of Paris into a single, small apartment with a deposit agreement.

She spent the rest of the afternoon wandering and taking quick snapshots of items and elements of interest.

As the sun set, she made her way to the restaurant where she’d arranged to meet Hecate. Over the most comfortable meal they’d ever had, she filled her mother in on the developments with both her father and Athena.

The latter joined them as they were finishing, sweeping in with a charming smile to the staff and alighting gracefully in a spare seat.

“Good, I was hoping to catch you before you finished, my meeting just would not end. What is it about some people and the sound of their own voice?”

Hecate raised a brow at the younger woman, “Checking in on us?”

Athena laughed, “I hadn’t thought of it like that, but, maybe? I’ve been hoping Calypso will let me steal her phone until tomorrow.”

Calypso looked at her, confused.

“You only have the work phone right? Or rather, if you have a personal one, your father only has the number of the work one?”

“Yes to both. I don’t really use it enough to warrant a second one.”

“Good, that keeps it simple. I’d like to have your phone checked and updated to, what sounds good? New security apps, an operating system update? Your father won’t know you don’t need IT for that stuff and it means you’re not stressing out over the inevitable phone calls tonight.”

“Oh, well, I was planning on putting it on silent anyway.”

“You’d still look at it though wouldn’t you. And agonise over whether to answer. Now if I take the phone, you can’t look at it. You can get a decent night’s sleep as I need you at the top of your game tomorrow. And, you won’t be tempted to answer it and be bullied into anything by your father.”

“He wouldn’t bully me.”

Both the other women snorted.

Hecate offered her opinion, “Unless you’re expecting any other important calls, I’d follow Athena’s request. Otherwise I can see you sitting there all night, waiting for it to light up and being anxious about what to do. This way it’s postponed to the light of day and a fresh mind.”

Calypso looked between them, then nodded, “Okay, I just need to let Circe know I’ll be out of touch for a while.”

She pulled her phone out, sent a quick message and smiled when it pinged in return.

“She agrees with you too.”, she handed the phone across the table to Athena, who immediately powered it off and tucked it into her bag.

“Thank you for your trust Calypso. I’ll switch it back on when you get to the office tomorrow and, if you need it, we can go through response options together.”

With that, she sailed back out of the restaurant, leaving the other two staring after her.

“Why’s she being so nice to me?”

Hecate sighed, “I think the official reason, and a legitimate one, is that you have a skill set and a potential she finds intriguing and useful for her business. I also think she hates seeing other women in difficult situations but since she can’t be seen to be caring, she hides behind business priorities.”

“What do you mean?”

“It was before you joined Z Corp but you may have heard the story a few years ago when her uncle Posiden sexually assaulted one of Athena’s assistants.”

“I do, everyone was up in arms because she punished the woman by transferring her to the middle of nowhere to look after a snake farm.”

“Everyone says she punished the woman. I prefer to look a little more carefully. My view is that she has a man who is older and more powerful than her, and then a woman, one of hers, who is betrayed, traumatised and in deep pain. She looked for the safest place she could find, somewhere her uncle would never go, and few other men would either. No one seemed to notice how nicely she renovated the place under the guise of stronger security measures.”

“So she was protecting her.”

“I believe so. Of course it still ended badly when some local ruffians decided there must be things in there worth stealing and went about it the violent way. Poor Medusa ended up dead. At least her snakes were able to exact some justice. Not one of that gang made it off the property. They were found a few days later by the police, stone dead.”

“Oh dear, the poor thing. And poor Athena, she tried so hard and yet it went so awfully wrong.”

Hecate sighed a little, “You are such a tenderheart. How on earth you got that with the parents you have is beyond me. Remember this is just my speculation on Athena’s motivations. I may be completely wrong. So don’t go trusting without solid, personal evidence.”

“I won’t. Thank you.”, she gave her mother a tentative smile as they both stood to leave the restaurant.

Without the burden of her phone and the terrifying prospect of the blustering call, Calypso slept surprisingly well and arrived at the Paris office, bright and eager, the next morning.

Athena looked up as she was shown into the work area her team was based in, and reached into her handbag, pulling out Calypso’s phone.

Calypso gulped. It powered on, and as soon as it found the network, the notification beeps started.

Athena scanned through them, “You’ve got a message from Jason. He says it’s not urgent but he’s got a couple of questions for you. Do you want to do that first, or dive straight in?”

Calypso jumped at the reprieve. Starting the day with a pleasant conversation, about things she knew, with someone who actually seemed to appreciate and respect her sounded like a very good idea, and might armour her for the battle to come.

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