Not for the first time, Hestia was considering the best way to kill every member of her family.
The best way, she had decided, was to slip a bit of aconite into their evening ambrosia. It had worked beautifully the last time.
Naturally the fact that her relatives were all immortal meant that they would only receive a mild stomach pain and a fuzzy sort of headache, but the principle of the thing did wonders for her aeons of repressed frustration.
She slipped into her "I'm sure that whatever you've assumed I'm listening to you say is important" deferential smile as Hera continued her diarrheic stream of chatter. Something about a party. Judging by the violence with which she was slamming her various closets and possessions, Zeus had forgotten an anniversary again.
"You are absolutely right" Hestia recited at the appropriate breach in the flow, pointedly stirring the coals on the great hearth of Olympus, trying to convey the message that there were vastly more important things she would rather be doing, without actually telling the queen of the heavens to shut up.
"Of course I'm right," said Hera, casting gowns and robes across the inlaid floor of her palatial room with the frenzied abandon of a lycanthropic fashion diva. "You'd think after four aeons of marriage..."
About twenty years earlier Hestia had found an advertisement for mp3 players in one of the numerous magazines she subscribed to, and made what she considered the wisest decision in her admittedly-long life. Silently she slipped the tiny darn-near-invisible earbuds in, and Hera's mindless tirade vanished compliantly under a layer of pleasantly aggressive thrash metal.
She watched Hera seethe, strut, try on garment after garment, throwing silks and pearls on the ground in perfect step with the beat of "Red-Hot Thumbtack in the Eye."
Hera finally selected a dress, a large gaudy number with entirely too much frilly lace for Hestia's taste, and yet when prompted, Hestia helped lace her younger sister into the preposterous confection, helped her locate a suitable hat-and-complimentary-handbag before helping the lady of the skies find her way to the door, all before the end of her new favorite song, "Slowly Burnt to Death."
Now there was a thought....
She had just settled down to a comfortable night in the rapturous embrace of her stack of Sharper Images, when the door swung open.
"Look, all I'm saying is that maybe this time you give the guy a chance before you pull out the gutting knife"
Artemis, who had already been picturing the faces Aphrodite might make while being chased up a tree by a pack of hounds, was jolted out of her fantasy with an altogether unpleasant bump.
"I haven't even said I'm going yet!" she said, storming past Hestia as she sat, discreetly people-watching.
Aphrodite flicked her luxuriant golden hair in a way that would have given anything male in the room a heart condition. "Well why shouldn't you go? It's a Saturday night, even Athena's going!"
For the first time that night, Athena's head popped out of her book. "I am?"
"You are," said Aphrodite, not even looking over her shoulder. Athena prudently decided not to pursue it. "And I don't understand why you're being so stubborn. It's girls' night, and despite your ugly jeans and hideous hairdo, you are still technically a girl."
There was a pause, where Aphrodite studied Artemis.
The only thing stopping Artemis' impressive hunting-knife from cleanly removing the obnoxious smile from Aphrodite's jaw-drop stunning face once and for all was Athena's copy of "War and Peace."
"You see, this temper of yours is what scares all the good ones off."
"I'm not going." said Artemis, removing her knife with difficulty from the enormous book, and re-sheathing it in her sleeve.
"Oh come on" Aphrodite whined, in a voice that would make any operatic soprano within earshot take a vow of silence out of sheer depression, "give me one good reason why you shouldn't. Just one."
Artemis whipped around, eyes blazing with enough rage to level a reasonably-sized empire. "I tell you what. The only way I am going with you
She paused to scan the surrounding universe for something suitably impossible to use as a condition, finally finding the perfect one staring back at her with cautious curiosity. "
is if Hestia's going too."
The room went deadly silent, except for Athena, who snorted and hid a quiet sort of snigger behind her book. Aphrodite glared icily at a triumphant Artemis, before the silence was unexpectedly, and unprecedentedly shattered by the last thing any of the assembled goddesses had ever thought they'd hear:
"I'll go, if that's alright
Aphrodite acted like she had only just noticed that Hestia was even in the room, which was probably true. "You what? I mean, can you?"
Hestia stood up from the hearth for the first time in two-and-a-half centuries, and stretched her stiff knees. "Please," she said, wiping soot off the dingy red housedress she wore, and shaking her hair out of its restraining bandanna, "do you honestly think I don't know how to bank this thing? I can spare a night; the house won't burn down that fast."
The group considered this, then shrugged as a unit, and said "why not?" in perfect three-part harmony.
"Although," said Aphrodite critically, "we're definitely going to have to find you a new outfit, that thing is ghastly."
Ten minutes later, the goddesses were all at Dionysus', the biggest, loudest, rave-iest, claustrophobe-iest club on Olympus, and shaking their respective groove things.
Hestia, for her part, was just kind of watching from the sidelines, sitting at a bench with Athena and her book. Aphrodite, true to form, was entertaining six dance partners at once, while Artemis was in the corner, trying to communicate to the tattooed and pierced thing trying to court her, that she was not now, nor would she EVER be interested.
She took a shallow sip of her Asphodel Supremacy, trying to remember the last time she'd had alcohol, then trying to remember breakfast that morning, and having similar levels of success. She had recognized the song the DJ played when they walked in, but was having trouble picking out enough of the notes to even recognize the current background noise as music.
Come to think of it, this could've been the worst decision she had made since her decision to invest in the Chicago Housing Market in 1871. It wasn't a "girl's night," it was more of "Aphrodite's night to prove how superior she was to all the other girls."
It was while occupied contemplating what unpleasant insects Hestia could introduce into the nurturing environment of Aphrodite's room, when someone tapped her on the shoulder.
"Hey," said an impressively masculine voice, "wanna get out of here?"
It was as if he'd read her booze-sodden mind, Hestia had no choice but to say "yes please," and allow herself to be led out of the club and into the parking lot, where she got her first good look at her rescuer.
Of course, the first look was a bit shaky, and so she tried a second look, meeting a similar conclusion. The third look, built on top of the shattered and fallen foundations of the others took root, and took in the earnest face and shiny hair of that new upstart sun-god Helios.
"Oh," said Hestia, failing spectacularly in her attempt to contain he disappointment with her evening thus far, "It's you."
"Yeah," he said with a winning smile that would have made any movie star run and purchase dentures, "it's me. You didn't look like you were having too much fun."
Having never been especially good at the small talk, or at conversation much in general, and having never quite grasped that mystic and ephemeral thing commonly referred to as "tact," Hestia simply allowed the words "nope
.definitely not" collapse out of her mouth.
"Tell ya the truth," said Helios, looking up at the faintly-starry-mostly-smoggy sky above them, "I wasn't either. I'm not a fan of these sorts of things, my friends talked me into going."
Feeling, against all odds or attempts at squashing it, a sense of camaraderie with Helios, Hestia found herself saying "I don't get out much, and I'm not really a big partier
." She gave a short, bombastic hiccup, before adding "
I'm just about ready to go home."
Capitalizing on an opportunity, Helios mumbled "well, I'm headed home
Something about the awkward, stammering way this came out, and the dimple only on the right side of his terrified smile, made Hestia say "
The next morning, the three goddesses stumbled their way into the Great Hall of Olympus, nursing headaches and sore feet.
" said Aphrodite, massaging her ankles as she sank into an enormous, plushy couch, "
was awful. I can't believe Persephone just moved in on my guy like that! I mean, who does that?!"
"You" said Artemis bitterly, sick to the topknot with Aphrodite's near-constant verbal replays of last night's disaster.
"I still can't believe you got us thrown out" said Athena, collapsing into an armchair, "what possessed you to have a catfight in the middle of the dance floor?"
"Ugh," said Aphrodite dramatically, maintaining her position of authority over the conversation flow by any means necessary, "at least we know one thing: Hestia had it worse than all of us. She left all early, the poor little thing."
There is a curious principle at work in the universe that makes sure, no matter how unlikely it may seem beforehand, that someone who makes an absolute statement like "Hestia had it worse than all of us" must be immediately proven wrong.
Conveniently, at that precise moment the door swung open to let in a glowing Hestia, who fluttered through the marble and alabaster halls of Olympus whistling "I'm Walkin' on Sunshine" to herself as she set about cleaning house.
"Morning girls, beautiful day isn't it? And what a wonderful evening!"
They stared in disbelief as she danced into the next room, before Artemis broke the silence.
"Not. Another. Word." Aphrodite growled.