My mind faded out of Amelia Coeur’s and I stared into the eyes of my mother. She smiled sadly at me, her one blind eye now holding more meaning to me than anything else could have. I felt tears stream down my face and my upper lip quivered. A tear ran down my mother’s face.
All the so called heros don’t really refer to people who have more courage than others but rather to people who can give courage to others. Janus was that type of god, he gave courage to his wife to save their son. Me.
“There was nothing I could do.” Amelia cried. “I couldn’t save your father.” I stared blankly before looking at my mother. This was such a dump of information that I really didn’t know how to respond.
“Why did you give me up?” I could hear the tears in my voice.
“My wounds were more serious than I had thought. I wasn’t healing properly. And my eye,” she whispered, holding her hand up to touch underneath it. “I couldn’t be the mother I needed to be. So I asked Sarah and Edward to take care of you.”
“You knew them?” It seemed strange to me that they had actually known my mothers.
“From before I met your father, yes.” She got a longing look on her face as she relived some of her memories by herself. “Sarah had been my neighbor growing up. She was a childhood friend. I asked her to keep you for me until I was able to take care of you again. But when I went to pick you up, you must have been 12 at the time, your powers were still sealed. I thought that you would be better off without knowing about me.” She whispered the last part, a parent trying to do her best for her child. “You could live a normal life with them. When I found out about their deaths…I didn’t know what to do. I’m glad that Sarah kept the letter and was able to give it to you as her last wish.”
“But my life wasn’t normal.”
“It was more normal that I could give you.”
“What about Janus? Why hasn’t he appeared before me more often?”
“He is…trapped in the other world.”
“But he’s a god, how can he be trapped?”
“When you were three and your powers activated, it sealed your father there. You unknowingly trapped him.”
“But couldn’t he have destroyed the seals?”
“No, because if he had done that then that world would have collapsed. If that had happened, all the worlds it was connected to would have fallen as well. Echo, who do you think the real hero is? The one who sacrifices one to save many or the one who sacrifices many to save one? Your father decided to sacrifice himself in order to save everyone. One over many, that has always been his philosophy.”
“Why did you not try to save him?”
“I couldn’t, your aunts kept me from doing so.”
“My aunts? Don’t I only have an uncle, your brother?”
“They are your father’s sisters.”
“He has siblings? I couldn’t find anything about Janus in any books I read.” I motioned toward all of the books in the library, irritated that none of them seemed to give me a clue to get rid of Nergal.
“Your father is the God of Time, he created most of the world as you know it. Older than Time is your grandmother, Moera.” I listened intently to my mother. Her one good eye was looking off into the distance as if she was reading a book long forgotten to this world.
“Moera lived for centuries before she decided that she wanted to create worlds. She created the first world as a curiosity, mainly as a play thing. On that world she gave it water, plants and animals.” Amelia sighed and ran a hand through her long hair. “Seeing the animals procreate, she then decided that she would birth her own child. That’s how your father, Janus, was born. He spent a millennium next to his mother, creating worlds and places for humans and creatures alike to thrive. He was also given the power to destroy at will. Seeing how these new mammals had no rhyme or reason to the way they lived, Moera gave birth for a second time. This time it was a set of triplet girls, your aunts.”
Amelia leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest, a scowl on her face. Her scars were stark in the incandescent lighting, they made me want to heal them. They were my fault after all.
“The first to be born was Clotho. She spins out the thread of life, which carries with it the fate of each human being from the moment of birth. This also includes all of the gods and goddesses that had yet to be born in any of the worlds. Second to be born was Lachesis. She measures the thread of life, and determines what that new life will do. And last to be born was the smallest of the triplets. Atropos. Unlike her oldest sister, she cuts the threads of life and brings life to an end.”
“The three fates.” I whispered.
My mother nodded, and grumbled under her breath, “Annoying sister in laws.”
“How come I’ve never met them?”
“Oh, you have, trust me. They can disguise themselves as anyone. You need to be careful. As far as what your father has told me, there are only three entities in all the worlds that are free from the Fates.”
“Their mother and my father, but who is the third?”
“It’s you, Echo. They cannot touch you.” I felt my jaw fall open, I had not expected that answer. It reminded me of my conversation so long ago with Jax. He had told me that I could choose my own fate. I didn’t realize how true those words would be.
“Would they know how to defeat Nergal?”
“They would,” my father’s voice came from the shadows. Like all the times before the room was covered in darkness. His shadows still covered him, his skin paler than the last time I had seen him. From beside me, my mother stood stalk still, as if she was afraid to move. She breathed in once, twice.
“It cannot be,” she whispered. She turned her head slowly and trained her one eye on my father. He had all the love written on his face with the one simple smile he bestowed on her. Tears began to stream freely from her eyes. Her entire body was shaking. He opened up his arms, his palms up.
“Hello, my love,” he whispered. She jumped from her chair, knocking it over and ran into his awaiting arms. She snuggled into his chest and he held her back with just as much passion as she did.
“How is this possible?” She sobbed, her tears still flowing.
“I can only stay a couple minutes at a time. I’m connected to Echo through our powers.” He squeezed my mother to him and looked over at me from over her shoulder, his blue eyes large on his pale face. “I can send you to their world so you can meet your aunts. But I can only open up the wormhole, I can not guarantee anything after that.”
“They can help, though?” I asked my father, still thinking of Nergal even though my parents had just seen each other for the first time in fifteen years.
“Yes, I can gather enough power to open the space in four days hence.” My father said, reminding me that he was a god. I did not know if I wanted to see the Fate by myself, even if they were my aunts.
“Where will it be?”
“Here, in the morning before the sun rises.” His eyes darted to the window, the morning sun still streaming through them. He sighed, pulled away from my mother, put his hands on her cheeks. “I have to go, love. My time is up.” My mother cried harder. She reached up and pulled his face to hers, kissing him for all she was worth. Embarrassed, I turned my back on the two of them and stared up at the ceiling, listening to their conversation.
“This won’t be the last time you see me, love.”
“I know, but-”
“Shush, love, soon you won’t be a world away.” There was no sound and I knew that they were kissing again. “You’ll only be a moment away.”
“Is that a promise?”
“I promise on my love for you, Amelia. I will be back.”
“I love you, Janus.” My mother’s weeping got louder, when I turned back around, she was on her knees, crying into her palms. Confused, I sat in my chair for a while before I got up and kneeled beside her.
“Mom?” I said, unsure of how the word felt on my tongue. It jolted her out of her crying, when she looked up at me, tears trailing down her cheeks, I knew that had been the right thing to say. She reached out her arms and wound them around my neck, pulling me in for the tightest hug I had ever received in the seventeen years I had been alive.
“Echo,” she cried my name freverently. I don’t know how long the two of us stayed like that, wrapped in each other. I thought of all the lost time that I had to make up now that I knew she was my real mother. I felt like I needed to somehow make up the years I destroyed the time that my mother and father could have spent together. I vowed to myself, at that moment, that I would free my father from whereever I had sealed him.
Jax, Juni, and Sam found my mother and I in the library, talking quietly to each other. When they announced their presence, I looked up at them and found all three of them smiling. I knew that they had all known and were keeping it from me so that nothing would hurt me, but I was still hurt that they hadn’t told me. Sam walked over to my mother and said something about his father needed to talk to her. She stood up from her chair, I followed. Giving her a quick hug, she walked away briskly with Sam following her.
Jax and Juni stood beside me and Juni hugged me. “Good for you.” She whispered happily. “Now let’s go get some lunch.”
The cafeteria was almost empty with only a few students mingling in small groups. Juni decided that she wanted to eat a peanut butter and raspberry jelly sandwich, while Jax got a plate of meatloaf. I ended up deciding on a meatball spaghetti. With all of our food in our hands, we found the table farthest away from anyone else in the room. We finished our plates of food, but didn’t move from the table. Juni stretched out and swung her legs underneath the table. Jax, seated beside me, had one hand underneath his chin, looking at me patiently. I sighed, and brought my hand to my mouth to chew on my finger nails.
“Apparently, the Fates are my aunts.” I told the two of them. Jax grabbed my hand away from my mouth and pulled it underneath the table with his other free one. I glared at him, he just shrugged at me and squeezed.
“I’ve met Clotho, I think it was.” Juni divulged, her feet still swinging beneath the table. “She’s alright for one of the only gods that can actually determine whether you live or die.”
“That makes me want to meet her more, Juni.” She grinned at me and sat up, her hands slapping the table.
“The Fates, from what I know, are all old ladies. They never leave their realm either.”
Jax nodded, affirming the information before adding in, “I’ve heard that they aren’t very welcoming to anyone.”
“Well then,” I muttered, squeezing Jax’s hand beneath the table. I sighed and grumbled, “I’m guessing both of you are going to decline my offer to go with me to meet them, then.”
“What?” Juni screamed. Everyone that was left in the small cafeteria looked over at the three of us, I put my free hand to my lips and indicated her to tone it done. She shrunk back, an apologetic look on her face. More quietly, she said, “Meet the Fates?”
“Of course I’ll go,” Jax confirmed.
“That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Juni breathed, her face alight with possibilities.
“They’re not going to strike us dead as soon as we get there, are they?” Jax muttered, squeezing my fingers again.
“My father says they won’t.” I told the two of them. “He’s going to set this all up. Hopefully, my aunt’s will know a way to get rid of Nergal.”
“When do we leave?” Juni said, suddenly anxious.
“Four days, and the hole will open in the library.”
“Then the both of us will be ready.” She replied for the both of them.
“You’re not doing anything alone any longer.” Jax promised. “You have us for a reason, Echo.” My heart swelled and I grinned at the two of them, my heart in my throat. I could not wait for these few days to pass quickly so we could once and for all defeat Nergal.