The Waiting Game

She arrived at the office early on Friday, not surprised to see a small crowd of people waiting at the door. From the look of things, a few of them were about to fulfil Aaliyah’s hopes.

The deadline was midnight, and there seemed to be a lot of people who’d left it very late to make a start on their forms.

Boreas found a moment to drop by the reception desk. “I’ve finished up on that review, do you want to take a look before I send it?”

Calypso shook her head. “The less I know, the better.”

He nodded and headed back to the table he’d staked his claim on, now surrounded by anxious would-be entrepreneurs.

Eos came by a little while later to drop off coffee and cast an eye over the crowds around her sons. “Next time, I’m insisting on meeting rooms upstairs, my boys are being mobbed.”

Aaliyah put her chin on her hand and considered the scene. “I get the impression your boys get mobbed walking down the street, it’s nothing they can’t handle.”

As the day wore on, the bin received some highly imaginative and impractical submissions, and the group wanting advice shrank but grew shriller.

Calypso send a mental note of thanks to Heimdall, who’d increased the security presence for the day and had to physically remove several people demanding to speak with Hel about their idea (Hel was in Stockholm). Traffic didn’t abate as the end of the day approached, and the doors only closed when the implacable guards insisted on emptying the building. They then accompanied both Calypso and Aaliyah to the station, blocking attempts by stragglers to have them ‘just take a look at this’.

Aaliyah blew out a breath as they walked towards their respective trains. “Remind me never to become a celebrity. That was hideous.”

Calypso smiled. “I’ll make a note. Next week should be a little better.”

They parted at Calypso’s platform, and she flopped into a seat on the waiting train, groaning when her phone pinged.

It was Adonis. Hey stranger, are you joining us this evening, or do you not love us any more?

She just couldn’t. Sorry, submission deadline day at work, I’m worn out. Still love you all but am very bad company.

Her phone pinged back. Only forgiven if you promise to come along next week.

His reply made her sigh, she had been neglecting them. It looked like a Saturday morning train next weekend as well. You have a deal. Looking forward to catching up.

She’d been neglecting Circe too.

As if summoned by the thought, she rang. “Hey stranger, so sorry I’ve been incommunicado, the whole late pregnancy thing is dire.”

Calypso laughed. “I was just feeling guilty about not being in touch with you. All I’ve got as an excuse is the submission deadline for the start-ups at work.”

Circe replied. “Ooooh, I’d forgotten about that, when are they due in? Have there been any more really dumb ones?”

“Today and oh yes. But how about you? How are things? Any movement from your little passenger?”

Circe grumbled. “The hijacker, you mean. Seems to be settled in for the duration, no interest in arriving early, which I probably should be grateful for but eugh! I so want this part to be over.”

“So you can go on to nappies and sleepless nights?” Was that a bit mean as a rejoinder?

Circe laughed. “Very true. I finish work for the duration at the end of this week and I cannot wait. Oh, and extra thanks warranted. There’s apparently an office whip-round going on to buy me something for the baby and since my nursery is already outfitted in something not barfed up by the magic mouse, they can’t get me any ‘baby gear’.”

Calypso spluttered into laughter in turn. “If I ever decide to go into the baby side of homewares, I’m going to use that as my marketing pitch.”

Circe’s voice sharpened. “Does that mean you’re thinking about going into the non-baby side of homewares? Please say you are, I am still dying over those gorgeous cushions you had designed for the Milan range.”

What to say?

She bit her lip. “I’m thinking about it, but it’ll all have to be new. Different from the Z Corp range. They own those designs, even if they don’t do anything with them.”

Her best friend huffed. “Well, if they’re still gathering dust when I get back from maternity leave, I’m going to pick up the project and make sure your awesomeness is turned into something real. Then I can bring you on board as a creative consultant and pay you stupid amounts of money to do whatever you like.”

They chatted until Calypso got to her station, and Circe needed to sleep. She realised she was smiling as she walked home. She rather liked the idea of Circe taking on the Cities project, even if it did mean they ended up competing. It was a huge market and badly underserved, and it wasn’t like she was interested in world domination, she left that ambition to people like Zeus.

She wondered if Heimdall was still on the scene in Milan. Circe hadn’t mentioned him. Had he disappeared? Had she lost interest? Maybe she could message in the morning, on her way down to Herne, and find out.

The text conversation confirmed he was still on the scene, and attentive in a frustratingly silent sort of way.

I just don’t know how to read him, or what he wants or expects from our interactions. We’ve been out to dinner a few times (I’m still trying to work out who asked who) and Mateo likes him, so I guess I’ll see where it goes.

There was a pause, then another message.

He gave me a gift for the nursery too, it’s a mobile-type thing, made of these crystals he swears are unbreakable and splash rainbows all over the room. I sometimes sit in there just watching them move across the walls, then realise an hour or more has gone by.

The photo sent in the message’s wake showed a room decorated in the pieces she’d made, with softly shimmering rainbow colours painted over them.

She replied. Please ask him where he got it from, I would love one, or fifty! I keep thinking of more places I could hang one.

The rainbow, smiley face, and thumbs-up came through as the train slowed for her station. She tucked the phone away and headed for the carriage door.

Her smile drained away when she spotted Cernnunos on the platform instead of Herne. “What’s happened? Is everything alright?”

Cernnunos rolled his eyes. “Everything’s fine, other than the dog that got hit by a car and was brought in at stupid o’clock this morning. He’s still in surgery and I’m on chauffeur duty.”

He took her overnight bag from her and headed for the carpark. “Before you ask, Herne’s the practice specialist in small animal surgery and treatment, dogs and cats stuff.”

Calypso asked. “So, what’s your area?”

Cernnunos replied. “Horses, cows and sheep. Herne’s good to treat them but if they need surgery, I step in; and vice versa with the domestic pets.”

The drive to Wildwood was silent but not entirely uncomfortable, Calypso wondered if Cernnunos was coming round to her presence in Herne’s life. She decided it was better not to ask.

Cernnunos handed her a key as they headed across the forecourt to Wildwood’s front door. “He was going to give you this at some point so you may as well have it now. He said to tell you the dogs have had breakfast, so not to believe them when they claim to be starving.”

He waited for her to get the door open, dumped her bags inside and left with a final nod.

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