Grand Entrance

Echo chivvied them all forward, waving her clipboard when they didn’t move fast enough. The driver of the car she’d been assigned opened the door for her and helped her in.

She smiled. “Thank you, this feels like a terrible fuss for no distance.”

The driver grinned and shrugged. “I don’t have to deal with traffic and the pay’s good. I’m not about to complain.”

With that, she shut the door and headed round to the driver’s seat. “You all set for your grand entrance?”

Calypso replied. “No, but that’s never stopped me before.”

The car drew up under the entryway, a man in the hotel’s uniform opened the door and held out a hand. Calypso took the hand and carefully exited the limousine.

Whispers and murmurs started as she stepped onto the red carpet, the tourists and passing Londoners passing judgment on her and her dress, while trying to work out who she was.

A voice called out. “Calypso, Calyso Titan. Could you tell us a little about your look this evening?”

She looked over to the cluster of professional photographers and journalists – a mix of fashion commentators and gossip columnists – and spotted Perseus, her acquaintance from Hephaestus’s show.

She smiled and glided over to speak with him, neatly avoiding a furiously serene-faced Artemis, who stood in the middle of the red carpet.

Calypso’s name echoed and repeated across the press section and into the crowd beyond. She caught some of the whispers – the daughter of a failed fashion empire, disappeared from the scene, thought she was married, she didn’t used to look like that – she was surprised how little she cared.

Perseus winked and said. “I recognise your necklace from the new Hepaestus range but can you tell us about your dress? Is it Couture by Artemis?”

Had he been primed by someone beforehand? Probably.

She kept her best model smile in place and replied. “No, it’s a new line, Arachne Originals. I believe you’ll see a couple more this evening, but since she designs and oversees the creation of everything from the fabric on, each piece is a one-off.”

With that, every camera was pointed her way. She caught sight of Artemis gazing back at her from the entrance to the hotel, venom behind her benevolent smile. The next car drew up and disgorged Athena, then Arachne.

Calypso smiled graciously at the crowd. “And here’s the designer herself, with Athena in another of the creations.”

The cameras shifted en masse, and Calypso stepped back. She was recalled by Asteria, an older woman with too-clever eyes; one of the UK’s most respected and feared society reporters. “Do tell us, my dear, where have you been hiding yourself?”

She smiled again. “I worked at Z Corp for a while, and made some wonderful friends there, including this evening’s grooms, then took up a wonderful opportunity in the start-up space. It’s very different to fashion and I’m learning a great deal.”

The woman smiled back in a crocodile sort of way. “You’re also not saying a great deal. We’re long overdue for an interview, I’ll be in touch.”

Athena called out. “Calypso, join us.”

As she turned to do so, Perseus called after her. “And how are your own business plans going?”

Athena’s eyes narrowed and Calypso forced a laugh. “More like business dreams I’m afraid. It’s hard not to have them when you’re surrounded by entrepreneurs, but I’ve yet to settle on anything solid.”

She headed for Athena and Arachne a little too fast for true elegance, she needed to escape Perseus’s sceptical eyebrow.

As the three of them posed together, Athena said. “And what have you been dreaming up?”

Calypso replied. “You’ve seen Yggdrasil, it’s harder to not dream things up. Nothing of substance yet though.”

They were interrupted by the arrival of Narcissus and Adonis, who added themselves to the photo group and argued good-naturedly with the press group about which outfits matched best.

Narcissus, possibly the only man on the planet who could get away with a pale green suit and soft yellow waistcoat and bow tie on a pristine white shirt, proclaimed himself the best partner for Calypso. Adonis, in more conventional black, but sporting a white waistcoat embroidered with anemones gleefully (and diplomatically) offered an arm to each of the other two.

Entering as a group spared Calypso the ire of Artemis, who instead focused her toxic compliments on Arachne and Athena, with Athena gleefully returning serve.

Calypso looped her arm through Arachne’s and guided her away from the conversation. The other woman looked startled but went quickly enough. She glanced back at the molten gold figure, smiling daggers at the equally statuesque Artemis, in midnight blue and silver, then turned to Calypso. “How do you deal with the politics?”

Calypso replied. “I didn’t and I don’t. Reception is physically removed from general office dramas, and I wasn’t on Athena’s project long enough to create issues.”

Arachne looked unconvinced but peeled off to join members of her team when they called to her, sending an unexpectedly warm smile Calypso’s way as she did. “Be sure to enjoy yourself.”

Calypso waved and went looking for the former Reception team. She found Thalia, Clio and Calliope, sipping champagne and watching the crowd. They pressed a glass of champagne into her hand, Clio asking. “So how did the red carpet go?”

“It was fine, although Asteria wants an interview.”

Thalia’s eyes rounded. “Oh wow, that’s intense. Did you get any good pictures?”

Calypso held up her purse. “No phone. Which means Circe’s going to be left out.”

She paused and, as she’d hoped, Thalia leapt straight in. “On it! She’s going to get better coverage of this than all the fashion channels combined.”

She swept off, champagne in one hand, phone in the other.

Calliope asked, far too casually. “Any word on the house?”

Calypso grimaced. “No time to even think about it I’m afraid. Maybe once this week’s done…”

Her friend said nothing, but raised her brows meaningfully, Clio glancing between the two of them asked. “What house?”

Calypso replied. “I apparently own a house. Unfortunately, no one thought to tell me until Calliope did a little digging.”

She smiled and caught the eye of a nearby waiter. “But that’s a tedious story for another day, today’s for celebrating.”

The waiter arrived, topped up their champagne, and moved on.

Hermes arrived just in time to miss him, brandishing a pink and gold tiara. “You forgot something, Princess.”

Calypso pretended to sip her champagne. “No, I think it was exactly where it needed to be.”

Clio plucked it from Hermes’ grasp. “Oh pretty, it would go well with Narcissus’s outfit.”

And with that, she was away, collecting Thalia and her photography skills en route.

Hermes watched her go, mouth agape, as Calypso and Calliope spluttered laughter behind him. He turned a suspicious eye on the pair of them. “Does she really think she’s going to talk him into adding pink sparkles to his current get-up?”

Calypso said. “If anyone can, it’s those two.”

Hermes wandered off in Clio’s wake. “I’ve got to see this.”

The quest to turn tiaras into the next male must-buy was cut short by the slow opening of the huge double doors at the end of the room, and a voice echoing through hidden speakers. “Ladies, gentlemen, and all other persuasions, please take your seats.”

The drift was gradual, the crowd far too refined to create something as crass as a bottleneck at the doorway. Calypso and Calliope followed the flow joined by Thalia and Clio, who still clutched the tiara.

Thalia said. “You can’t lug that around all night.”

Clio placed it on a passing champagne tray, thankfully empty. The waiter started, then took a deep breath and kept walking. Clio smiled triumphantly. “Sorted.”

They walked into a long, high-ceilinged room with a sweeping staircase at the far end. The stark white and gold of the walls and decorative columns were softened by swags of greenery and white flowers. French doors marched down the walls on either side, facing out into ornate gardens. Impossible gardens under sunny, blue skies.

Calypso nudged Calliope. “Isn’t that the garden at Versailles?”

Calliope looked, then looked more closely. “It is, and the other side is showing the riverside garden at Hampton Court Palace. That’s –”

Dionysus grinned as he swept past. “Stacked TV panels, three hours of looped video. Remind Zeus I’m a genius when bonus time comes around.”

Calliope looked after him. “I was going to say, ‘deeply unsettling’ but I’ll go with that.”

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