Athena’s Dance



Athena’s Dance is similar to stories that I have written in the past, but is also quite unique. It is a tale of forbidden love, sacrifice, the lies we tell to protect those we love, and the truths we find in the telling of stories. I hope that you enjoy reading it.

Mortal Lives

Our parents were weird. Not bad weird, just weird. Dad was a professor of mythology and comparative religions. He spoke in terms of metaphor and mysticism. Mom was a biochemist, a hardcore scientist. She used logic like a duelist used a rapier. For whatever reason, they clicked, a perfect matching of opposites. According to Mom, it was “primal attraction that deepened quickly into pair bonding.” I try not to think of what she means by “primal,” but I guess it makes sense. They only dated a few months before Mom got pregnant with me, and they decided to get married almost as an afterthought, which probably drove my grandparents insane. But I’m getting off on a tangent. They got married, had me, then four years later, my sister. Things didn’t go so well with her birth, so Mom couldn’t get pregnant again after that. I think that’s why we all dote on Ath so much.

Oh, yeah, so Dad loves mythology, and Mom’s just a huge nerd. Apparently, I came out generally unhappy with the world, and there was something wrong with my right eye, which kept me from opening it for a few days. The doctors even worried at first that I had Anophthalmia, which means that I would have only had one functioning eye. But after a short time, I disproved that theory by opening both. Naturally, my father insisted on naming me Odin. Yes, Odin. I know. It’s ridiculous, but here we are. At least they gave me the middle name of James, so I often go by that with friends and acquaintances. My family will never use anything but my first name, much to my chagrin. My little sister calls me Od, as in “odd.” I call her Ath.

Athena’s birth was quite different from mine. There were so many complications. I was too young to really understand, but I remember being really worried about Mom while she was pregnant. She more or less had to remain in bed for the last three months, and very close to her due date, she had a series of migraines. The birth process was long and arduous, with labor going for more than twenty hours. When she finally gave birth, there was quite a bit of bleeding, and as soon as that was over, something else happened. Mom doesn’t really remember, but when Dad talks about it, he grows quiet and solemn.

Mom passed out briefly, and when she came to, she didn’t know where she was, and she complained of extreme dizziness and head pain. She was terrified and didn’t remember that she had been pregnant, much last just given birth. The strain of the ordeal had given her a mini-stroke. We were all lucky, however, as she regained her memory after less than a day and some sleep.

The doctors were quite clear, however. More children would pose a lethal risk to my mother’s health. My Mom, knowing her mythology almost as well as Dad, decided that her name should be Athena, after what a “big headache she was.”

It’s funny if you’re a huge fucking nerd, I guess. Which I am. I think Athena is too, in her way. The point is, we have weird names, an odd family, and we all love each other. Ironically Athena didn’t inherit our mother’s condition, whereas I did.

We have problems like any family does, however. When Mom got an opportunity to do cutting edge research at a world-class university with an associated hospital, we moved across the country. Dad worked his job, fed us, got us to school, and basically was a one-man army for the first year or two. Mom got home at 8 on average, but at times even slept overnight on a cot in her office.

I can only ever remember being protective of Athena, which I guess is natural. With Mom being gone often and Dad being busy taking care of us and his own work, I stepped up. That sounds like bragging, but it isn’t. It was more like I saw that Ath was lonely, and I decided to spend more time with her. I played with her. I hung out less with my own friends, and instead, we stayed together and invented new games. And of course, she danced.

Athena was already taking dance by that time, and it was pretty much basic instruction for small children, which is to say that they told her what to do and how to do it, but no one freaked out if things didn’t go so well on stage. Ath really tried, though. She was maybe a little more coordinated than her peers, but you could see the focus and determination with each step she took, each little spin and turn and bend. I wouldn’t say that she was a prodigy, but it was clear how important to her this was, even then.

When Mom decided to take on a second project that interested her, Dad put Kars Escort his foot down. It would require that she work even more hours and most of the weekend. They fought over it and looking back, I think Dad worried that she was having an affair. This last part turned out to be way off, but he was right in that it meant that she would basically never see her family.

Mom called his bluff and took on the second project. It turned out that Dad wasn’t bluffing. They had one final big fight, and Mom moved out and got an apartment. She had agreed to weekend visits “when she could,” but we didn’t see her at all for the first month. Dad was sad, but he kept up the house. I started doing more chores, thinking that maybe if I was a better child, Mom would come home.

It was all scary to me as an eight-year-old, but for Athena, it was like her world was ending. She stuck to me like glue, and I didn’t dissuade her. When she was with me, she was less fragile and at least a little distracted. I helped her with what homework she had and listened to her explain the new dances that she’d ‘korygrafed’ on sheets of construction paper in bold crayon. I didn’t ever want her to think that she’d be alone, or that Mom and Dad didn’t love her. That was when it really clicked between us, I think, and I don’t mean anything weird by that. Just that we became very in tune with each other’s emotions and thoughts. In the future, we’d spend time apart, but the idea of not being in each other’s lives was unthinkable.

Looking back, we’ve really been best friends since then.

Fortunately for everyone, the separation didn’t last all that long. Finally, Mom picked us up on a Friday night to spend the weekend with us. She and Dad were polite to each other. Affectionate even. Mom was tired, but she spent all of her time with us, and for the first time in my memory, I didn’t see her get out her laptop or “make a quick stop at work.” When we came back to our house on Sunday, they talked for a long time, out on the porch swing.

It was a cold fall night and trying to be the peacemaker, I made them cocoa (instant of course), and Athena and I brought it out to them. We caught them making out like teenagers, and while it grossed me out a little, it also made me very happy. Mom moved in again within the month, and she dropped the second project and reprioritized her life, becoming a partner again to Dad and a parent to us, much more available at night and on the weekends. For his part, Dad accepted that some extra hours would always be a part of Mom’s job, and sometimes we’d all drive up to her office and have dinner there together before we left her there to finish her day.

I guess what I’m saying is, we’ve had our share of problems, and we’ve overcome them together too, and grown closer for it. We seemed dysfunctional at times, but we weren’t. In fact, the more we shared and supported each other, the more smoothly all of our lives went.

We were charmed, really. It had to end sometime.

Craft and War

I grew up, got rebellious and moody, jumped from art to science, and back again. You could say I never really found my calling, but that wouldn’t be correct. The truth was that I loved to mix things. I loved to bring science to art and vice versa. I’m pretty sure neither Mom or Dad knew what to do with me, so they just kept getting me books and tools and electronics and art supplies. I’m not a genius or anything, I don’t want you to think that. I’m not really great at any one thing, but I’m good at a lot of things, especially if those things are technical, mathematical, or musical.

Athena was a different story. She showed us all that she was a genius. After two years of dance, it was evident that she not only took it more seriously than other children, but she was developing faster, with a natural sense of rhythm and movement. She took classes in ballet, interpretive, fusion, historical, and contemporary dance.

We used to play a game when I was in high school. I always had one of my “instruments” around, which basically were devices that I’d hodge-podge together and then hook up to a basic PC interface. I wrote or played music on them. A lot of the time, it was trash, to be honest, but sometimes I would make something that people liked, or at least found compelling enough to listen to.

I would write simple songs, and Athena would dance to them. It wouldn’t just be a one-off thing. I’d play it, and she’d dance, then we’d talk about it. She’d do it again, with changes. By the third repetition, her movements were like a part of the song, and that was when she usually started making suggestions to me about ways that I could improve the song itself.

It would have been infuriating if she wasn’t always right, too.

After we’d worked on something for an afternoon, Athena would spin and blend Kars Escort Bayan through multiple styles of dance – styles that were never meant to work together so closely. Still, she made the transitions seem as natural as the weather and watching her affected me. I hoped that one day I would create or design something as beautiful as she moved.

Together, we worked on a project the last year I was in high school, a composition, just between us. We didn’t work on it consistently, both of us were too busy for that, but at least once a week we’d go over what we had and revise and build and compose and choreograph, together. When it was done, we saved the music and the plans and stored it. I was sure that it would never really come to anything, but that didn’t keep me from opening up the files periodically, even at college, and reviewing them. I was sure that Ath did the same.

Of course, she was beautiful in motion or still. Boys (and girls) had noticed that. She dated, which worried me a bit. I told myself it was just my natural protectiveness, but she never really had time to go out with anyone more than once every two weeks, and for that reason, her relationships never seemed to work out. I always felt a guilty sort of relief when she told me that she’d broken up with someone, and I’d hug her, and she’d sit on my bed with me and cry a bit. It was never anything too serious, but even then, she knew that she was giving something up for the future.

I dated with some success. I lost my virginity in a fumbling way to a girl one year behind me in high school. Monica was lovely, and we did like each other a lot. When we broke up, it was kind of natural. She never liked Ath, though, which I found strange. Everybody liked Ath. A few months after we broke up, I got the courage to ask her why. Monica just kind of rolled her eyes.

“Your little sister isn’t big on competition. Didn’t you notice how she always wanted to hang out with us when we were at your house? Or sit between us when we were on the couch? Or find random reasons to interrupt us if we were in your room together? It was a little cute and a lot annoying. I don’t really dislike her, but she has serious jealousy issues.”

I was surprised and confused by this. I’d never once seen anything Ath had done from that perspective.

In any case, Ath focused on her dance, but her grades were almost always perfect. Mine were more irregular as my interest waxed and waned, which drove my Mom and Dad crazy. Her’s stayed constant. She admitted to me later that she never wanted to give our parents any reason to stop her from going to her dance classes.

By the time I was in college, and she was in high school, she was performing in adult-level competitions and occasionally moonlighting for our nearest city’s interpretive dance company. They were less formal than the kind of ballet school that she really wanted to get into, but our parents weren’t going to let her skip the rest of her education to get ahead. This drove her insane, but she put up with it. Always diligent, always bright, always happy, she pushed forward. There was no doubt in any of our minds that she would be famous.

* * *

Our grandfather Joel was the only one left out of our grandparents, the others having passed when we were very young. He was tall, burly, and had hair and a beard like a German philosopher. He was also much kinder than he looked. During the bad times, Athena and I had stayed with him for a week or two. Our family always left the city for the small university town where he lived every Christmas season, and he visited us quite often throughout the year.

Mom and her father had always been close, and he’d encouraged her to pursue the sciences when she’d shown interest. He was where she’d gotten her stubborn nature, and they consistently argued, if in a friendly way, whenever they got together.

Grandfather Joel loved Dad too because they were similar. They both were in the humanities, Joel teaching literature for most of his life at the local university. He was never overbearing or pretentious, and every visit, he would tell us stories from world mythology and folklore, making them come alive.

Joel especially loved to tell stories about our namesakes: Odin and Athena. Everyone knows the father of the Norse gods now thanks to the movies, and he was kind of a one-eyed jerk, but he was also wise and adventurous and could be both kind and ruthless. He traveled with two ravens and two wolves and rode a horse named Sleipnir, which had 8 legs. I kind of still hated my name, though, since even my friends would make fun of it from time to time.

Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom, craft, and war. Craft not necessarily meaning art, but strategy and thought. She was graceful, clever, and dangerous. Ath loved her name, and at times I felt it a bit unfair that she got one that was more “normal” than mine. Honestly, she seemed more like the Graces Escort Kars and Muses to me than a warrior, but I was wrong about this.

I was wrong about a lot of things, as it turned out.

* * *

I attended college “away” from home, but really it was a half-hour by public transport, in the downtown of a nearby city. I may have stayed at the dorms, but I came home once a week, at least, and always made sure to attend all of Athena’s dance recitals. When my friends gave me shit for it, I told them that it was just how our family was and that I was expected to be there.

The truth was that I wanted to be there. I wanted to watch her dance and move and spin. I wanted to see how she would surprise us all, either as a lead or a supporting member of the troupe. I look back now, and I wonder. I wonder if things hadn’t happened the way they had, would we still have been pushed together?

I don’t know. I do know that she always looked forward to seeing me after every dance, and she hugged me first. I know that if I couldn’t come home in a given week, that she’d come up and visit me for lunch or dinner. I know that she always asked me about my love life but never seemed disappointed that with my ambitious (some would say ridiculous) course load that I never had time to date seriously.

I also know that I spent more time looking at her figure. Noticing how she filled out, modest breasts curving through a perfect hourglass into lovely proportional hips. I saw how her eyes, always crystal blue, seemed to invite the observer to look more deeply. I noticed how her cupid’s bow mouth complimented her elfin features, and how her dark brown hair poured over her shoulders.

I saw the confidence she had in her appearance, and the cleavage she showed in tank tops. She often wore tights when she visited me, and a lot of men frankly observed her without even bothering to conceal it. Once, when we were eating together, I got a guy checking her out and glared at him. The dude had the decency to blush and look away. Ath, always perceptive, saw my reaction.

“Does it bother you?”


“How guys…you know…look at me? If it does, I can change how I dress when we meet.”

I was kind of stunned. She was beautiful; gorgeous, even, and she dressed to accentuate her figure. But the clothes she wore were far from scandalous, and even if they were, I’d never ask her to change because guys couldn’t make their eyes behave.

“No. Okay, yes, it bugs me sometimes. I mean, checking someone out is one thing, but just kind of leering and staring? That’s fucked up. But no, I don’t want you to change. You look incredibly sexy.”

I immediately regretted the last sentence. There were so many words for beauty, but I’d chosen “sexy.” Why? Fortunately, Athena smiled and blushed, looking away in a way that somehow managed to make her even more attractive.

That was when I realized that I had a problem.

* * *

An attraction is just an attraction, though. If you don’t act on it, it doesn’t matter how weird it is. Right?

Yeah. That’s what I told myself. I was lying, but it was easy. After my new self-awareness, I didn’t hang out with Ath as much, and I’m sure she noticed. Fortunately, her schedule picked up, too. I still never missed one of her performances.

Things went like that until I got the call. It was late on Wednesday night. I had a mixed-media project due to be in a show early the next week, and I needed to make sure that all the audio and video worked properly for the installation. So I was at the Art Building when I got the call.

“Odin, It’s your mother.”

Her voice was more haggard than I’d ever remembered.

“Hey, Mom, what’s up?”

“It’s your grandfather,” Mom said, “He collapsed today while he was walking. We’re going to the hospital. Can you make it if we go ahead?”

It was at least an hour’s drive to get to the small town where he lived, so I understood the question. Mom was torn. She wanted to wait for me, but she was afraid that if she got there late, he’d already be gone. It was obviously dire.

“Of course, I’ll get my car and then drive out separately.”

“Good. Thank you. We’ll see you soon.”

I kept my car at a long-term garage near the university. It wasn’t free, but it was cheap for students. I had to put my project away first, and between that and the walk over, I didn’t get started on the drive for another half hour. I got stuck in traffic, too, so by the time I pulled in to the hospital, I was about an hour behind my parents. I hoped that it wasn’t the case.

I practically ran inside and, with the help of a merciful attendant, found my way to the ER waiting area. Mom was crying, standing up, and Dad was holding her. Athena sat near them, staring blankly. When she saw me, she teared up too.

I was too late.

* * *

We stayed a little longer while Mom and Dad signed some paperwork. I sat next to Ath. When she reached out for my hand, I gave it to her. She leaned into my shoulder, and we were quiet for so long that I thought she had fallen asleep. When she spoke, it surprised me.

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