Ticking Time

His attention focused past her, Calypso wasn’t surprised to hear Hel’s voice an instant later.

“Another submission?”

She turned to reply. “Not at all, this is Dionysus and since he’s just put a deadline on the refitting of the lower floor, he’s also kindly offered to help oversee the project.”

Hel’s burned side quirked up in a smile. It only did that when she was genuinely amused. “Bridgid said you had the soul of a general. Nice to see it.”

Dionysus laughed. “Our Pretty doesn’t do bossy, it’s not ladylike.”

Hel replied. “And yet, she now has an experienced event manager working on her event space project, for free.”

Dionysus’s smiled dropped. He eyed Hel thoughtfully, then laughed again. “That’s clever, I’ll have to remember it.”

He shot Calypso a wink. “Take me downstairs, Pretty, and tell me what you’ve been up to.”

The following weeks were a whirlwind of events, fabric, sawdust and paint; at work, at Dragon House and at Wildwood.

She surprised Dionysus one Friday afternoon, when things simply weren’t moving fast enough downstairs, by donning her weekend work clothes and dealing with a poorly finished partition. By the time she was done, it was straight, smooth and perfectly painted.

He stopped in his prowl of the space, looking between her and the partition. “That’s unexpected. Although I suppose you’re getting some practice doing up that place in the country.”

She played dumb. “Sorry?”

He replied. “Your boyfriend’s place. Hermes said it was a bit down-and-out for someone like you.”

She clenched her jaw on a snappy answer. Wildwood was perfect. How dare he think otherwise!

Her receptionist’s smile was proving difficult to summon, but it responded eventually. “I’m very fond of it, just as it is.”

Dionysus looked sceptical, but said nothing more.

She realised how much time had passed one Monday when a message arrived on her phone. Find time this week for a fitting, your dress needs adjusting now if it’s to be ready for the wedding. Arachne

Damn, she didn’t have time for this; two evenings this week were taken up with events, she was barely halfway through the things she wanted to make for Circe (who carefully wasn’t asking about them), and she was so close to finishing the sideboard at Wildwood, it was all she could do to not jump on a train down there right now.

She sighed, and changed her train ticket to Saturday morning, then replied. Can you manage after work on Friday? And what’s a good location that isn’t Z Corp?

That was a little curt. She followed up. Thanks so much for doing this, I know it must be a pain on top of your official work.

Arachne replied. Friday is well enough and I’m curious to see your new workplace. Hermes says it’s a mess, Dionysus likes it. We’ll use the area he’s playing with. It sounds like there’s more than enough room.

Well it would certainly be convenient. She mentioned it to Hel, who raised a brow at the explanation but agreed readily enough.

Her next words sent Calypso’s stomach crashing through the floor. “And how is your business proposal progressing? The submission date is coming up quite quickly.”

It was, only two weeks remained and she’d barely thought about it.

It must have shown in her face. Hel said. “Don’t borrow other people’s problems. Focus on yourself for the next little while.”

They were naggingly familiar words but it wasn’t until later in the evening that her mind connected the dots. Hel had essentially repeated Pythia’s admonition from the days immediately after she left Z Corp.

One of the speakers at the Wednesday evening event was Eos. She spoke about the challenges of starting a business as a parent, the importance of a supportive partner, and the value in recognising all progress, no matter how small.

She was swarmed in the general chat session at the end of the evening.

Calypso brought her a plate of food and a drink. “I’m going to put a sign-up list for the Eos Fan Club on the reception desk tomorrow.”

Eos laughed, but one of the women with her said. “Joking aside, I’d sign up for that.”

Calypso smiled as she went to check with the caterers, leaving the woman to explain to Eos just how much people valued the warm, happy space she’d created on the ground floor of an office building.

It made her heart bleed a little, if she was honest. She’d love to have that sort of impact on people, but all she could do was organise. Even her start-up idea was based on creating something that other people could then use to create impact.

So much hard work, for no appreciation or recognition, and that was if it even got off the ground. So many start-ups failed and she didn’t even have a clear idea for a submission yet.

What would Hel say if she didn’t put in a submission? Said she wasn’t ready, that she wasn’t interested in her own business. She’d be lying. About the second part at least.

She rubbed her forehead, there was no getting out of it, and it couldn’t be half-hearted either, Hel would know.

She’d have to re-think things. Take a look at Circe’s baby project; maybe send what was already done and not do a few of the fun extras she’d promised herself she’d try.

Her weekends with Herne were sacred, but maybe she could spend some time looking at her business idea while she was there. Once the sideboard was done.

She hadn’t even started to think about Jason and Hercules’s apartment, but they weren’t on a deadline like Circe, or the submission. They would have to wait, not that they’d been asking. They were completely absorbed in their wedding preparation.

Only a month to that, and to Circe’s baby, and … no. She was not going to sacrifice her weekends; she was going to focus on herself for a little while.

The next day, on her way to Dragon House, she messaged Amy. They’d been in regular contact, with updates on Joshua and Amy asking every question under the sun about Yggdrasil and how it all worked.

She greeted Maria-Philippa with a hug and headed for the art studio. The housekeeper called after her. “I hope you brought your hungry stomach, I have a special breakfast planned.”

Calypso laughed and groaned. “You feed me far too much but it’s all so delicious.”

The woman sitting in the studio laughed. “I know, right? If I lived in London, I’d be the size of a house.”

Calypso’s jaw dropped. “Amy?”

The woman stood, and opened her arms. “In the flesh! Joshua’s upstairs with the nanny, she’ll bring him down to meet you when he wakes up.”

Calypso was swept into a hug, then Amy pulled back. “Sorry, I’m always being told off for being over-demonstrative.”

Calypso hugged her back. “You are welcome to hug me any time you want.”

They shared a bout of slightly awkward giggles, then Amy gestured to the work tables. “So tell me about all this. Maria-Philippa says this is for your pregnant friend and I have to say, I’m rather envious.”

Calypso felt herself flush. “They’re very simple patterns, I’m lucky I was able to get hold of such great fabric.”

Amy ran a hand over the carefully folded bedclothes. “Where is the fabric from?”

“Z Corp. I did a deal with someone who works there, but it means I can only really use it for projects Z Corp would have no objection to, I can’t use it for any prototypes for my business idea.”

Amy’s eyes lit. “How’s that going? Submissions must be soon, are you excited?”

Calypso winced. “I forgot, and now it’s only two weeks away and I barely have thoughts, let alone product samples.”

Maria-Philippa entered with a tray. “Product samples are easy. I can get anything made in days as soon as you know what you want. Ideas are hard.”

They both sat at the smaller table in the corner, looking out onto the back garden. Amy watched her across the polished wood, suddenly looking uncomfortably like her intimidating cousin.

“Do you want to do it?”

Calypso had asked herself the same question several times now. The answer was the same every time. “Yes, I’m just terrified.”

This stranger who was a friend nodded. “Right. In that case, I’m going to interrogate you over sweetcorn fritters. If you can’t answer a question, fine, it’s something to research. If you can, great, it’s part of your submission.”

She retrieved a slick tablet/computer from a side table and set it beside her plate.

An interrogation was an understatement, Calypso was bombarded with questions about audience, pricing, distribution, branding and more. By the time Joshua was brought into the room, her head was spinning.

Amy went from incisive businesswoman to cooing mama, taking her baby from the smiling nanny and bringing him over to Calypso.

“And here’s your clever sister, do you have a smile for her?”

She added to Calypso. “He’s just started smiling this week and it’s so adorable I could die. Would you like to hold him?”

Calypso quailed. Her? Hold such a tiny, precious baby? “I don’t have much practice, I’m not sure…”

Amy grinned. “You can hardly have had less practice than me when I had him. Just remember to support his head. It’s all his brains you see, they make it extra heavy.”

With that, Calypso found herself holding her baby brother. He yawned gummily at her, and blew bubbles.

She looked up. “If I wasn’t completely in love with him already, I would be now.”

Amy said. “Smile!” And took a photo.

She looked at her phone screen. “Gorgeous, I’ll have it printed out for his picture frame.”

It was a sweet picture, and it somehow became her phone wallpaper on the way to the office.

She opened her computer to find Amy had already collated the answers to her questions and sent them through, along with a list of topics ‘for further thought’. Where did she get the energy?

The message she sent Circe after lunch left her feeling deeply satisfied and equally anxious. I’ve put all the odds and ends I’ve made into the post to you. Want to make sure things are looking okay so far, and if anything’s terrible, I have time to fix it before baby arrives.

Circe’s reply was a series of gifs involving fireworks, back-flipping teddy bears and exploding hearts. She must have been busy.

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