Circe steered them down a bewildering series of side streets, smiling at Calypso’s increasing confusion.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you safely back to your apartment afterwards, I’m in the same block and very keen to hijack some of your ideas for my little bolthole.”
Calypso laughed, “It is a bit of a labyrinth.”
“No more so than London, I get lost in seconds there.”
A few minutes later, Circe waved her through the door of a quietly local restaurant and turned to greet the man inside with a smile.
“Calypso, this is Matteo. He’s another one with strange family connections to Z Corp, but he’s managed to stay relatively independent of the whole mess.”
She turned, “Matteo, Calypso was hauled into the depths of the beast when Z took over Titan.”
The large bull-like man nodded and grinned, “I was lucky enough to be cast off in disgrace, so here I am. Out on my own, adrift and abandoned. Life’s never been better.”
His exuberant theatrics brought a smile to both women’s faces and they followed him to a table near the window, perfectly placed to watch the world go by without being on display themselves.
After fussing them into chairs, and checking Calypso’s meal preferences, he took off to organise their drinks and food.
Circe smiled after him, “He’s done well for himself, I was worried he’d end up in a very bad place but he met a sweet woman who life had been very unkind to. Long story short, he found his purpose in life, they got married a few years ago and he’s now a devoted husband and dad to both his little stepson and their baby daughter.”
Calypso sighed, “It’s so nice to hear a happy story for a change.”
“Isn’t it just. Our world seems to run on tragedy and drama, it gets a bit wearing.”
Matteo returned, carefully guiding a little boy with a small tray of nibbles through the tables. He put two drinks on the table, a wine in front of Calypso and something tall and refreshing-looking for Circe. The boy then stepped forward and, frowning in concentration, transferred a number of small dishes to the table, naming each of them as he went.
Once he finished, he looked up at Matteo in query, his response was a hearty grin and a proud squeeze of a shoulder.
“I’d like you to meet my son, Andrea, he’s my best waiter.”
The boy giggled, “I’m your only waiter Papa.”
Both women smiled and thanked him for his excellent work and he trotted back to the kitchen with his tray and a broad smile. Matteo checked everything was to their satisfaction, promised them their meal in about twenty minutes’ time, advised them to leave room for dessert, then followed his son.
Calypso took a sip of her wine, wondering if it was too soon to push for details on Circe’s mysterious project. She had been dying to know more about it since the first day it had been mentioned.
Circe laughed at her, “I can see you seething with questions but trying to be polite.”
Calypso smiled back, “My curiosity has always been a bit too strong for my own good.”
Circe sipped her drink, “Well let me satisfy it on the subject of my side hustle at least. I’m pregnant.”
Calypso’s jaw dropped. She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t that.
Circe sighed, “I’m going to give you the full story, because I need to talk it out with someone. Matteo the only one who knows but even he doesn’t know I got pregnant on purpose or why.”
Calypso eyed her friend with foreboding, “How much trouble are we talking here?”
“Oh, little to none with Z Corp, I’m not about to tell anyone there anything but the most basic of details and it’s not like it’s any of their business beyond the usual maternity leave and childcare logistics. Given the amount of practice they have with that, they won’t even bat an eyelid.”
“Okay, so why do I feel like there’s an avalanche about to hit me?”
Circe took a swig of her drink and grimaced, “Way more effective when it’s alcoholic, oh well. You see, I’ve been watching myself over the years at Z Corp and frankly, I’m losing my humanity. I’m getting nastier and more cynical every day and I decided a few months ago that I needed something untainted to love and care for, that would bring back the softer, human me, and keep me sane.”
She twisted her fingers together, avoiding Calypso’s eyes, “I know it’s a horrible and selfish reason to bring a baby into the world, but I honestly think if I don’t take drastic action, I’m going to turn into another Scylla.”
Calypso shuddered, the New York receptionist was known company-wide as a monster that even top management avoided. It made it difficult to do business with the office in any official capacity so the building more often than not stood empty but for the toxic guardian on front desk.
“That would be awful, but you’d never be like her, you’re fun, you have friends and I think you’ll be a lovely mother.”
Circe smiled, “I was already pregnant, just, when we were introduced but chatting to you made me realise it was a good decision. You see, you’re somehow untainted by Z Corp, you weirdly manage to make the place a bit nicer and cleaner just by being part of it. If I didn’t have my own little sprig of decency growing inside me, I’m not sure we would have become friends. I think I would have been too jealous and too defensive. So the spriglet is already doing good things for me.”
Calypso was hit by a worrying wave of certainty, “Do I want to know who the father is?”
“I think you’ve already guessed. Odysseus was the perfect option. He’s smart, good-looking and fun to be around, so good genes. And he’s completely focused on his wife and their kid, and never coming back to Milan, so I’m safe with him not figuring it out, or even really caring if he ever did.”
Calypso shook her head, “And what if your child wants to know their father?”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I’m making sure he or she has good male role models like Matteo so maybe they won’t feel the need.”
Calypso looked at her friend worriedly, “If you think it’s best…”
“I do. Besides, the minute he gets involved, so does Athena and then I’ll be up to my neck in it with HR.”
“Good point, HR do go off the deep end on employee relationships, I sometimes wonder if people have flings just so everyone can watch Hera go completely bananas.”
“Which would be funny except she always gets the hatchet out on the women, and I need this job.”
Calypso sighed, “I see your point. Well, either way, I do think you’ll make an amazing mother and I look forward to meeting your little sprig in the coming months.”
She brightened, “Maybe I can look into nursery decorations as part of this new line as well.”
Circe lit up, “That would be amazing! There’s so little out there that’s both nice and affordable and of course they grow out of everything so fast, so if you have something that could be sort of modular and grow and adapt with them, that would be so exciting.”
Calypso grinned, already making mental notes for research and inspiration.
Circe interrupted her musings.
“That idea is an example of a big reason I decided to tell you the whole story. You’re so caring and kind. I want my baby to have good female role models as well. I was hoping you’d agree to be his or her godmother.”
Calypso grinned so hard her face hurt, “I would love to. I can’t even express how much. That would be just wonderful.”
Circe grinned back and raised her glass, “To side hustles and the best godmother-to-be ever.”
They clinked glasses and settled in to discuss plans.