The Scarlwright Sisters
Despite a mutual distrust of the opposing stepsister, when Adam Cartwright married Celia Scarlett and went on their honeymoon with their daughters in tow, both Sophey and Ariel had to admit that the disgustingly happy newlyweds had chosen an excellent spot in which to enjoy being disgustingly happy. Tucked away in a corner of Greece, the step-children spent their mornings exploring the island in the back of a dusty hire car and their afternoons stretched out on a beach while their parents drank ouzo in a nearby restaurant.
Toward the end of their fortnight when Adam and Celia had discovered a tiny tavern perched on a cliff and left the girls on an equally tiny and completely deserted beach about sixty feet below, Sophey and Ariel were left wondering if their conversation would ever move past discussing the weather or the how lovely the wedding decorations had been. Once a day or so, one of them would attempt to start a conversation, and the other would reply, then after a few sentences they would go back to their iPod or novel. Sophey decided to try breaking their previous record of a ninety seconds chat about stray animals on the seafront.
"It's hot today, isn't it?" she asked timidly, readjusting the straps of her swimsuit. Ariel grunted noncommittally, not looking up from her gossip magazine. The silver studs dotted about her ears twinkled in the afternoon light and Sophey wondered how she could stand to get so many piercings. "Your earrings must get sandy on the beach," she continued, suddenly determined to hold an actual conversation. "Can you not take them out?"
Behind her sunglasses, Ariel turned her periwinkle-blue eyes on Sophey's pale brown ones and blinked a few times. "I can," she said, twisting one stud for emphasis, "but the saltwater's good for them to heal, so I leave them in. What about you?" she asked suddenly, also aware that time was running out for them to actually bond as stepsisters. "I don't see that you have any work? Unless you're more into tattoos?"
Sophey giggled, taken aback by the idea of a fifteen-year-old with tattoos.
"I'm afraid of needles." Ariel made a tutting sound and returned to her magazine for a minute.
"So," she said abruptly, "what do you think of this?" She waved an arm about and Sophey wasn't sure if she was talking about the beach or their parents' whirlwind romance.
"Well," said Sophey cautiously, "I like this holiday so far. It's nice to have company." Ariel nodded but didn't reply. They gazed out to the horizon for a minute, aware that they were both thinking about how pleased they were - secretly - that their parents had found happiness after being alone for so long. Whatever they thought of one another, neither girl had raised any objection to Adam and Celia's wedding because neither of them wanted to begrudge their parent a happy marriage.
Sophey was about to offer something about how beautiful the waves looked when a swirl of white foam, far out in the little bay, caught her eye. Ariel must have seen it too, because she took off her sunglasses and blinked again.
"Is that wave growing?" she asked, glancing at Sophey for confirmation. Sophey was staring at the oncoming wave, mouth open slightly. She checked to see if the rest of the sea was still there.
"It's not a tsunami," she replied, "but the wave is definitely growing." Now nearing the water's edge, the wave was nearly six feet high and the sea inside it seemed to be spinning, bubbling as it approached the beach and turning rapidly into white foam.
As the girls watched, nonplussed, the column of wave seemed to separate. The moment it hit the beach two women stepped onto the sand and strode towards where Sophey and Ariel sat, mouths hanging open, wondering if they had just witnessed a Biblical event. The women stopped at the foot of the sun loungers and close up they appeared to be solid humans - tall and willowy with olive skin and sparkly dark-chocolate eyes. They were both wearing crisp white dresses a bit like togas and were holding some sort of Medieval armour.
"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Ariel asked Sophey faintly.
Sophey nodded. "Yep. I think we've both had too much sun." The woman at the end of Sophey's sun lounger, who held a shield in one hand and wore a battle helmet on top of flowing dark hair, smiled and shook her head.
"No, Sophey, you've not had too much sun." She spoke with a low, musical kind of voice in perfect English with just a hint of a Greek accent.
Her companion, who held a hunting bow instead of a shield, stepped forward. "Do you know who we are?" she asked, in a similar musical voice.
"Perpetrators of a TV-based magic trick?" Ariel struggled out, and the women laughed. It sounded like wind chimes.
"My name is Athena," the first woman said after a moment.
"And I am Artemis," the second continued. "We are here because of you."
"Because of the TV trick." Ariel said. "Are we on Greek TV right now?" she looked around the beach for concealed camera-people and a producer.
"Ariel," said Sophey quietly, "I don't think this is a TV thing." The August heat had made her brain sluggish and a small part of her was convinced that she was hallucinating, but another part of her seemed to be connecting the dots on a badly-printed children's art book. "I think…" she frowned and squinted up at Athena and Artemis. "I think we've seen these women before."
"What, at a taverna?" Ariel still wasn't letting go of the possibility that this was a rouse to boost tourism.
"No, in all the gift shops we've been in lately. We saw them… on a shelf?" Wind chimes sounded again and Athena rolled her eyes.
"Yes, they do insist on making effigies of us after all this time. Part of me wishes Aphrodite would just go down there and pose for them like she's always threatening so they can get at least one of us just right. Not that I'm complaining, of course, generally they're very good, but since they lost my statue they got sloppy with their sculptures."
Aphrodite… For the first time, Ariel thought she understood the conversation. "We saw a little sculpture of Aphrodite in the gift shop by the lighthouse," she remembered. "There was a whole lot of them there for sale. Little statues of… the gods."
There are few genuine moments when two people have the same thought at the same time and know that they're having the same thought, but there was a long moment when Sophey and Ariel knew that they had come to the same realisation simultaneously. What's more, they both knew that they were right. They shouldn't have been right, but at that moment, neither of them had been so sure of anything in their life.
"Artemis and Athena," Sophey said slowly, looking from one to the other and back again. She and Ariel shared another glance and spoke at the same time.
"You're Greek goddesses."
This is the first not-short story I've published in ages, so it'll be interesting to see how it goes. Please review with your ideas/opinions!