Absent Friends

The contract looked to be a standard template, but Calypso took a bit of time over it. Lir and Delphi weren’t Hercules; this contract would be written to suit them before her.

It was fine. She signed it, then put it to one side and got on with teaching herself the tracking system.

The day went quickly and before she knew it, Calypso was walking home from the station. She took the long way, through the park, she needed a moment of green. Even though it was after sunset, the paths were well-lit and the place busy with runners, families and dog walkers.

Without thinking, she snapped a picture of the bustling scene and sent it to Herne. Not quite the same.

She was at the door of the flat before he replied. Too dark for photos now, but I promise to get the phone out on tomorrow’s walk.

She squashed the impulse to ask for a picture of wherever he was anyway, instead responding with. If you feel like starting up a ‘daily dose of green’ report, I’d be happy to subscribe.

The response was immediate. Deal. Subscription cost is helping me work out how to cope with furnishing Wildwood, once I’m in.

Cost? That sounded more like a prize. Hugging the phone to herself for a minute, she typed back. You’re on.

She made a start on dinner, then checked emails. More rejections, a job alert she didn’t remember signing up for, and a note from Circe advising her to never, ever, get pregnant.

She picked up the phone, Circe answered on the first ring. “I mean it, do not ever. You lose your figure, your dignity and your mind, and I still have three months to go.”

Calypso bit her lip on a laugh. “I’ll keep it in mind. What happened?”

Circe huffed, then said. “Hold on, my back has decided to start grumbling, on top of everything else.”

Calypso frowned. “Is that okay?”

There were thumps and rustles as Circe replied. “Oh yes, apparently I’ve got all sorts of aches and balance issues to look forward to. Kid’s already throwing off my centre of gravity and it’s only going to get worse.”

She rustled and fussed for a moment longer, then said. “Okay, let me fill you in on my glamorous life. So I woke up craving, craving, salty crisps. Could not focus on anything else. So I grabbed a packet on the way in to work. Easy and simple, right? Let me tell you, there is no elegant way to eat a bag of crisps. They’re awkward shapes to try and stuff in your mouth, biting them sprays crumbs everywhere, you get oil on your fingers that then smears all over the keyboard and touchscreen and I apparently had a ring of potato crumbs around my mouth for most of the morning.”

Calypso said. “It was a bit rude for no one to tell you.”

Circe snorted. “The one hope I’m hanging on to is that most people just don’t see the receptionist. But wait, there’s more…”

She continued. “I’m sitting there, doing the usual phones, deliveries, directions and my shoes are killing me. So I slip them off. No one’s going to know, right? Except, a couple of hours later, I need a loo run and cannot get them back on. My feet had swollen up, apparently it’s normal. Oh, and I’ve got indigestion from the chips. I try to sneak off barefoot, except of course, it’s cold, so I’m wearing tights. Which are slippery as hell on that floor.”

Calypso gasped. “Please tell me you didn’t fall. Are you alright?”

Circe gave a small laugh. “I didn’t fall, only because the sexiest man I’ve ever seen in my life managed to catch me in time.”


“It was excruciating. My feet were slipping and sliding everywhere, while I’m madly grabbing at this guy to try and stay upright. He scoops me up in his arms and carries me to the sofas. Then, just as I’m recovering my panache, he tells me about my crisp-crumb lip liner. I. Just. Died.”

Calypso groaned in sympathy. “And then what?”

“He helped me back to the reception desk. I jammed my shoes on – I may have grunted in the process – then he told me to take care of myself and disappeared into the lift.”


“And nothing. I made it to the loo, sorted out my face, never saw him come back through the foyer and I don’t even know his name. Sexy man impressions aside, what if he was important?”

Calypso replied. “I’m just so thankful he caught you. You and the baby could have been hurt.”

She heard the grin in Circe’s reply. “The upshot is; I now need to go shopping for sensible shoes. It’s the beginning of the end, you know, next it’ll be elasticated waists and peasant blouses. I’m falling far and fast.”

Calypso laughed. “I have faith in your ability to accessorise.”

“It may just come to that. Now, speaking of sexy men, why did I have to hear from Jason about Mr Gorgeous kissing you?”

Calypso choked. “I’m sorry, it’s just, well, it was so sudden, and quick, and then he was gone and they were there, and…”

Circe chuckled, interrupting the stumbling explanation. “Don’t worry, I’m teasing. I think Jason was trying to one-up me after he found out you’d told me about the handsome neighbour already, not to mention I got the photo a day before he did.”

Calypso sighed and rolled her eyes. “Only Z Corp could make gossip a competitive event.”

The call ended a short time later and Calypso continued dinner preparation as messages arrived from the other two. Hercules had heard about Circe’s near fall through the company grapevine and was raising merry hell over the state of the foyer floors in all offices, and Jason was in a last-minute meeting with Athena and Psyche.

Hercules arrived an hour later, snarling about cheap floor polish and irresponsible teenagers in paid employment; Jason grumbled through the front door ten minutes after that.

He announced. “As predicted, Psyche’s taking over Hestia’s team, rather than doing anything new and interesting. It’s probably what she was aiming for all along. It’s an easier job, since the team know what they’re doing already, and having a ready-made team makes it more prestigious to those who care about that sort of thing.”

He stomped to the counter and grabbed the bottle of red Calypso had opened. He poured a generous glass and flopped into a chair at the dining table. “It just makes me angry. You were doing something so cool and different and it’s all been thrown out in favour of someone’s ego.”

Calypso smiled from her spot at the stove. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, it may never have made it to market though, you know how many of those projects fail in market research.”

Jason drank more wine, then turned to Hercules. “And your day sounds painful too.”

Hercules scowled. “Not as painful as it might have been, the idiots on cleaning crew in Milan decided to cut some costs and try out a new floor polish. Tested it near the loos on the foyer because, and I quote ‘no one ever uses them’. They now know that people do use them. Pregnant people use them, and their stupidity could have meant she lost the baby. I’m trying to decide whether to just fire the lot of them and start fresh.”

Calypso said. “If it helps at all, Circe seemed more put out about not knowing who saved her than potential injury, although that might just be distraction.”

That won her a small smile. “Fair call on Circe’s part, I don’t know who he is either, and the security footage says he is hot.”

Calypso sniggered. “She did refer to him as Mr Sexy.”

Jason looked at Hercules. “That good?”

Hercules went to refill his beer. “That good. Harsher features than Calypso’s man, but seriously well put together and was toting Circe around like she was a feather.”

He looked at Calypso. “Why did she suddenly cover her mouth?”

“She’d had cravings earlier and eaten a packet of crisps. Apparently no one had told her there were crumbs around her mouth.”

Both men groaned in sympathy.

As Calypso served dinner, Jason asked. “So we’ve heard about my day, Herc’s day and even Circe’s day. How was yours?”

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