After the bright light and primary colours of Australia, London seemed almost comforting in its gentle processions between blue and pearl-grey skies, Calypso realised the exploration of these widely varying cities had given her fresh eyes for her home town, and she returned to the build of the London portion of her product line with renewed vigour.
She did find some changes in place on her return to the office. While she still sat at the reception desk (much to the relief and delight of her coterie of couriers and caterers), she usually had at least one assistant sitting beside her, completing forms, answering phones, signing for packages and recording visitors entering and leaving the building.
Most of these assistants had been drawn from the ranks of the company’s graduate trainees and they took to the position with glee once they realised the advantages they could gain through understanding the pulse of the business through this, its main artery.
One of the brighter young women on the rotation also confided to Calypso one quiet afternoon that it was a safe space from innuendo and bullying and the relatively mundane jobs were a valued break from the pressure of the other departments they were each working their way through.
She looked at Calypso admiringly, “How do you make all the old leches and tyrants behave when they deal with you?”
Calypso, who had no idea she’d ever done so, looked blankly at Jason, who’d dropped by for a chat.
“When you arrived, you were this perfect ice princess, all cool and collected elegance, in your marble island. Frankly you intimidated the hell out of everyone. It’s only since Odysseus pushed you at Athena that a few of us have realised you’re a complete marshmallow. Well, I think your delivery friends worked it out some time ago. The most popular I’ve ever been with that crowd was the day I was able to tell them exactly when you’d be back.”
“A thoroughly charming and very efficient one.”
Calypso’s assistant collapsed in giggles at her consternation.
Jason grinned, and leaned against the countertop, “Extravagant compliments aside, we need to discuss ball dresses young lady.”
Calypso groaned, “I’d hoped she’d forget.”
“When has Athena ever forgotten anything? Especially when it’s her idea and is promoting her part of the business.”
The assistant propped her chin on her fists, agog, “Are you going to go for the Cinderella look?”
Jason grimaced, “No, nothing princess, it’s too predictable. We need something that grabs a megaphone and screams understated elegance.”
Calypso frowned, that sounded incredibly contradictory.
He snapped his fingers, “I’ve got it, free up your diary for tomorrow afternoon my petal, I’m off to make an appointment with Arachne.”
The assistant squeaked in excitement and made Calypso promise to send a full report, with all the details, to the reception team chat group immediately after the meeting.
“Everyone is just going to DIE! Arachne’s like the greatest fabric designer on the planet, and you’re going to get a personal consultation! I need to take a walk around the block or something. PLEASE say something nice about my colour choices or something while you’re there, she’s my to-die-for ultimate department assignment when I finish the grad programme.”
Her enthusiasm had Calypso giggling in spite of herself and she sent the positively effervescent young woman out for coffee and brownies to keep them going through the afternoon.
The next afternoon, her assistant for the day, another enthusiastic young woman, one dying to work for Aphrodite in PR, gave her the thumbs up and recommended photos to make sure whatever the outfit ended up being showed up well on the social and magazine feeds.
Calypso smiled gamely and followed Jason to the lift, and set off to yet another unexplored level of the building.
She’d always wondered why the executive function rooms and showing area where on the second-top floor, rather than the top. She’d assumed the top people had decided to keep the very best view to themselves. She was half right.
While a large portion of the floor was given over to oversized, artfully stark offices, over half of it was a giant workroom, half lit by natural skylights and half by a complex array of bulbs and fittings. All designed to best understand the impact of different types of light on falling and flowing fabric.
Arachne was a tall, spare woman with long elegant fingers, constantly moving and fluttering as if weaving invisible threads at one of the looms lining the room.
Jason explained, “While we get most of our fabric through your father’s endeavours, Arachne creates designs for seasonal lines that the Asia factories then mass produce. She also creates special, one-off bolts for the very top end of the market.”
Calypso gulped, “And we’re here for what reason?”
“To get you one of those one-off pieces along with advice on what sort of outfit to turn it into.”
As if summoned by his words, Arachne turned from her discussion with one of the many workers scuttling about the place and stalked towards them.
She raised an eyebrow at Jason, then took a slow turn around Calypso, examining her from all angles.
“Come over to the night side of the studio. You’re well enough in sunlight, but the party’s after dark and I need to see what suits you under artificial light and camera flashes.”
Calypso threaded her fingers together and followed the master weaver as she wound her way through the workroom.
Once she was positioned to Arachne’s satisfaction, she was sternly told to look relaxed and not fidget, while her assessor moved across to a touchscreen and made some adjustments to the lighting, turning it from warm gold to an almost ice white, with random, equally chilly flashes going off at intervals from unexpected directions.
Jason stood to the side, murmuring encouraging nothings, earning him a small but grateful smile.
Arachne circled her again, more slowly this time, and stood, deep in thought for several minutes afterwards.
Eventually, she spoke, “What sort of effect are you looking for?”
Calypso looked at Jason, who shrugged, “I’ve told both of you what I think would be most effective. It won’t work if you’re not comfortable though, so think about what you want, and be honest.”
Calypso blew out a breath, and looked across the room, pensive.
“I want to look like an adult. I’ve been my father’s daughter for so long, every time I put one of my Titan outfits on, I feel like I’m twelve years old again. But they’re good quality and don’t date, so I keep wearing them. I’d love to, just once, feel like a butterfly, rather than a caterpillar.”
Jason looked aghast, she hurried to reassure him, “I know I’m not ugly or have a hundred feet or anything, it’s just that I feel I’ve grown and changed a great deal in the past two years, and even more in the last couple of months. Something that could somehow reflect that would be amazing. Although it’s really projecting a bit much onto an outfit.”
Arachne smiled, a rare and beautiful thing, “In most cases, I’d agree, but I think for you, we might be able to oblige. We need to move you beyond sensible and neat, into a statement of new life. I do like your butterfly analogy.”
With that, she sent a number of her assistants scurrying off to various shelves and cupboards, returning with armfuls of material in the most glorious colours and designs Calypso had ever seen.
She proceeded to drape them across her, one, sometimes two, at a time, stepping back, circling again, then consigning the bundles to two piles. One to reject and one to consider.