Standing on Ceremony

Ahead, people in blend-into-the-background suits were directing the guests towards seats. One of them materialised in front of them. “Level and department, please.”

Clio looped her arm through Calypso’s and said. “Reception.”

The other two smiled, the usher looked confused. “There’s no reception department on my list.”

Calliope leaned in. “Reception reports to HR, maybe just put us in with them.”

The usher frowned and scurried off to talk to someone else, who talked to someone else, who talked to Dionysus.

He looked where the person was pointing and laughed, then replied. Whatever he said was repeated, twice, then the original person came back, looking disapproving. “This way please.”

They were each seated at the aisle end of a row, Clio behind Calypso, then Thalia, then Calliope. Calypso turned in her seat, ignoring the disapproving glance from the sour-looking man beside her. “Why do I feel like I’m back at school and we’re being separated for being too chatty?”

The others chuckled, then quietened as the lights dimmed. Calypso turned to face the front.

Clio tapped her shoulder and passed over a small packet of tissues. “Don’t spoil your makeup.”

Calypso smiled; they knew her too well.

Once everyone was settled, the lights at the base of the stairs brightened and Pachbel’s Canon swelled from hidden speakers. A floral archway had been placed halfway up the stairs, where they split into two, and headed to opposite corners on the far wall.

Spotlights grew at the top of twin staircases, illuminating Jason at the head of the left one, and Hercules on the right.

They wore matching morning suits in dove grey, tailed jackets open. They were too far away for details; all Calypso could see was that Hercules’s cravat and waistcoat were lion gold and Jason’s were ocean blue.

Clio whispered behind her. “Who’s the old guy under the floral arch?”

Calypso looked as directed and leaned back. “Chiron. He’s officiant and best man. Apparently, he was their housemaster at school.”

The lanky, long-faced man was beaming as he stood at the base of the stairs, waiting for his former pupils to join him.

Clio turned to relay the information as the man beside Calypso tutted. She ignored him. Anyone with the poor taste to wear a black waistcoat embroidered with silver skulls to a wedding was not worth her time.

The music changed and swelled, and the two grooms trod down the stairs to the cliched but beloved strains of Wagner’s Bridal March.

When they reached the archway, and each other, the soundtrack faded into something softer, sweeter, and the congregation sighed as the pair joined hands, their eyes on each other’s faces, smiles as soft and sweet as the music.

The vows, amplified by discretely placed microphones, were simple, sincere, and delivered with a love that wrenched at Calypso’s heart. She went through most of the packet of tissues.

Finally, and all too soon, they were pronounced married, and the place erupted in applause as the pair kissed and the music turned joyous and triumphant.

The crowd stood as the couple strode down the aisle between the chairs, grinning and laughing with their friends as they passed. They both paused to kiss Calypso’s cheek but continued on before she could say anything.

As they left, the lights rose, and the disembodied voice directed the group to a side door near the back.

Expecting to walk out into a nondescript hotel corridor, Calypso instead found herself walking down a gently winding wooden path, lit only by a sea of twinkling blue fairy lights below them. Calliope murmured behind her. “Dionysus is insane if he thinks the weird TVs were a greater stroke of genius than this.”

Thalia chuckled. “Well, he is insane, but he also knows his audience. For all this is Jason and Hercules’s wedding, it has to cater to Zeus as well.”

The others hummed agreement and stepped through a gauze-hung archway into the reception room.

Thalia came to stand beside her as they took it in. “This is a social media paradise.”

Calypso didn’t voice her quibble with the last word. Everywhere she looked, people had phones out, turned on themselves, or focused on artfully posed colleagues.

This part of the room had been transformed into an indoor garden, roofed with wisteria, walled with climbing roses, and furnished with bushes of blooms in every shade imaginable.

As they moved further in, the garden gave way to the inside of a silk-hung tent in lion gold and ocean blue. The grooms stood at the centre, greeting their guests.

The waiters were back, this time with trays of canapes as well as drinks. Calypso opted for food while she could get it. This party was going to go on for a while and the champagne was already going to her head.

Finally, the four women got a moment with the grooms. There was laughter and air kisses and photographs, but Jason seemed tense, and Hercules squeezed her shoulders just a little too hard when he put his arm around them for a picture.

As they moved away to make room for more well-wishers, Calypso asked. “Why were the ushers so confused about the reception team thing earlier?”

Clio replied. “Because they still haven’t got one. It’s just a succession of whichever juniors don’t look busy enough when one of Hera’s underlings roams the floors to set up the roster each week.”

As they wandered onto what would later be the dance floor, Aphrodite called to Thalia. “Come and take photos. Echo is getting more pictures out than the official accounts and her composition is terrible.”

Thalia winced and obeyed, flinging a “Don’t misbehave till I’m back” over her shoulder as she went.

Aphrodite, in a shimmering sheath of what seemed to be mother-of-pearl, smiled like a shark and added. “Blue-dress girl, you come too. That colour will look good in my background.”

Clio wavered, but went, and Calypso continued on to nowhere in particular with Calliope.

Eros had cordoned off a corner and was creating tableaus for upcoming editions of favoured magazines. As the two women went by, he was glaring through his camera at Dionysus, who was splayed out on a chaise lounge; coat off, waistcoat and shirt unbuttoned. Eros glanced around, then summoned Calliope. “Come and seduce party-boy. He’s looking tired instead of erotic.”

Calliope raised a brow and stayed where she was. Eros, not seeing her appear in his viewfinder, looked up again. “Come on, I don’t have all night and it’s not going to take too much manipulation to get your dress matching his waistcoat, your butterfly princess there would be a nightmare to coordinate.”

Calypso nudged her. “Go on, see if he’s ticklish.”

Dionysus called out. “I heard that, Pretty. I’m not.”

Calliope smirked and whispered. “That means he is. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Calypso grinned and watched as her friend sashayed over to the makeshift studio, then turned to watch the crowd still milling around Jason and Hercules.

A strange hush, followed by a swell of whispers began to move around the room. Calypso turned, trying to pinpoint the sound and the cause, then froze. Crossing the dance floor towards her was a smug-looking Zeus (purple waistcoat with gold thunderbolts) and beside him was her father.

Atlas, of course, was wearing classic black tie. Tuxedo, black bow tie and plain white waistcoat and shirt. He looked so distinguished, and his smile was warm, as he strode across the room towards her.

Calypso was a second away from hurling herself into her father’s arms when he stopped and frowned. “What are you wearing?”

She stiffened. “What?”

He looked her up and down. “That dress is far too mature for you, and the colour is entirely wrong for an evening event. Why aren’t you wearing one of your Titan dresses?”

That’s what he had to say to her after not seeing her for two years? That’s what he cared about?

She put one hand on her hip. “I’m not wearing an out-of-date dress as I was asked to wear this for the launch of the Arachne Originals line.”

Atlas turned slightly purple. “My clothes do not date and you are far too young to be wearing such an adult dress.”

Ahh, he was having issues with the neckline. Calypso swished the dress and spun, letting the skirt swirl and flow. “I like it.”

She stopped and hit him with her hardest stare. “But I doubt you’ve flown across the globe merely to judge my clothing choices. What are you doing here?”

Atlas straightened and forced his face into a facsimile of a smile. “I’m attending your engagement celebration, my dear.”

“My what?” Calypso winced at the high squeak her voice disappeared into.

Atlas waved a hand at her. “Well look at you, it’s clear you’ve been deprived of proper protection and guidance for far too long. And I’ve found the perfect man to take care of you for the rest of your life.”

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