This story is by E.Q. Adair and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Tempest winds of humiliation and anger swirled Amphitrite. She glanced at a merman, his lifeless body draping boulders jutting from seething water, his long hair ebbing in agitated tides. Hearing of Poseidon’s betrayal, she’d had no choice but to kill the messenger.
The crustacean claw on her forehead throbbed in time with blue crabs skittering on volcanic rocks, flexing their chelae. Reflections of her golden hairnet catching waning sun rays taunted her, no doubt a symbol of Poseidon’s dwindling devotion. The favorite of all Amphitrite’s lobsters molted her chiton shell nearby, an unavoidable portend of the danger and excruciating pain of shedding the protective exoskeleton, exposing vulnerability. Everywhere Amphitrite turned another symbol screamed in judgmental silence that her marriage was ending, that she would be cast out from the gods, losing her husband and his protection and her position as Queen of the Sea.
Gulls circling overhead served as harbingers, alerting Amphitrite to her husband’s presence. She hurled an amphora at Poseidon before he could ask about the dead body. He deflected it with his trident. It infuriated her! Shattered orange and black clay shards oozing honey dripped down temple columns.
Tremors quaked, telegraphing his temper.
“Save your vindictive earthquakes, Poseidon! How could you! All the gods know!”
“She meant nothing to me. Since the day you danced among the Nereids on Naxos, I fell desperately in love with you, Amphitrite, most beautiful sea nymph ever to grace a beach.”
“Can’t you be discreet? You seduced her in the Temple of Athena!”
“Athena has already turned her hair to snakes as punishment.”
“Athena lacks empathy for women because she was born to Zeus without a mother! Why didn’t she punish you, Poseidon, for sullying her temple? Medusa couldn’t refuse you, a deity!” Amphitrite’s heart contracted with the avoidance of responsibility of a god accustomed to taking rather than giving. She despised him, yet she needed him.
Poseidon kicked the merman into the deep. “Amphitrite, my love-”
“Prove you love me!”
Poseidon discarded his trident. “I hunted the heavens for you when you hid from me. I sent Delphinus to discover your hiding spot and convince you my marriage proposal was honorable.”
He traded on this tiresome legend, taking her for granted. “I should have remained concealed in that bed of seaweed in the mouth of Oceanus and never married you!”
“Amphitrite, you can swim as far as oceans and primordial rivers permit, I will always find you.”
“That makes me your prisoner, not your wife. It isn’t proof of your love, god of the sea.” She dove into the Mediterranean. Marine creatures gathered, and together, they swam until she tired. She emerged from the Aegean Sea, on the island of Kos, as dusk settled over the harbor.
She cast around for signs of her moody, tempestuous husband. The balmy evening and calm waves suggested his absence.
She saw silhouettes of a young couple readying a boat. She sensed the man, a professional sailing skipper, invoke Poseidon’s blessing for a favorable voyage and safe return to shores. If they knew my husband! He is selfish and vengeful and his ego requires limitless worship.
Amphitrite envied how the skipper beamed at the woman, failing to place the last time her husband had smiled upon her with such love, fearing Poseidon saved that look for his many mistresses. “I hate you, Poseidon!” Amphitrite screamed into the wind.
“But I love you, Amphitrite.” He appeared at her side.
“Your words don’t matter, your intention and actions do!” Her jaw clenched. “Leave me be!”
“Long ago, Amphitrite, I vowed I would treasure you for eternity. You are my wife.”
She returned a vacant stare to the young couple departing on a Hanse sloop. Amphitrite observed without a smile, “they make a nice couple. He clearly treasures her.”
“She is beautiful,” Poseidon agreed. “Her eyes, between blue and green, are the color of the sea.”
“And he is handsome,” Amphitrite pouted at her husband. “Have you seen his Mediterranean eyes? Perhaps I should teach you a lesson with him!”
Poseidon caught his wife’s wrists. Aggrieved Etesian winds bellowed from the northwest abrading the churning sea. “I will send a sudden storm and kill them both, flooding the entire Dodecanese Islands, empowering Ceto to invade cities and towns. I’ll release the Giant Polyvotis from his prison under Kos to destroy everything before I allow that!”
“But that will not prove your love, Poseidon, only your god-like double standards.” Amphitrite jerked away. “Are you sleeping with Ceto, goddess of sea monsters, too?”
Poseidon sneered. “I will give my protection to the humans if it will please you.”
Amphitrite grinned at the tacit understanding of their marriage. She could never be free of Poseidon, but she could make demands to test him. “You can do better than that, Pelagaeus. You grant hundreds of sailors your protection. I want a meaningful sign of your love.”
On the sailboat, the woman’s pale hair blew around her face. The skipper pulled his
long hair, streaked with sun from days spent on the water, into a man-bun.
Poseidon summoned a pod of dolphins to the couple’s boat. The woman leaned port side to better view them dancing along the surface. The woman’s smile intrigued Poseidon.
Amphitrite divined her husband’s thoughts. “That will disprove your love.”
Poseidon grabbed Amphitrite and kissed her.
She pushed him. “You don’t love me!”
He smirked. “You’re wrong. Dolphins symbolize my adoration for you. Love will also prevail for the humans.”
Amphitrite glowered. She had grown to despise his arrogance. She focused her wounded gaze on the sailboat.
“Christie, I do not like you close to the boom. Move away from there!”
“I’m OK. I’m holding on.” She delighted in bottlenose dolphins playing with the boat.
“Christie, I don’t like where you are standing! You could fall. Come here!”
“Don’t yell at me! I am not one of your charter clients, Petros. Do not tell me what to do.”
“Your petty jealousy is causing problems for the humans, arguing because of your temper. The dolphins are not bringing peace and harmony. You failed.” Amphitrite saw the crestfallen look in Poseidon’s eyes. This invented challenge was more fun than she imagined.
“A change in wind could be dangerous. They are not immortal. The skipper loves her. He is keeping her safe.”
“Men constantly issue orders. He could have asked nicely.”
“First you tell me words don’t matter, only intention and action. Make up your mind, Amphitrite.”
She loathed Poseidon in that moment.
“If you are so clever, fix it.”
Amphitrite raised her brow. Twenty knots of wind died in an instant and the roiling sea, channeling the bad humor of the gods, turned to a turquoise glass pane without a single ripple, reflecting sparkling constellations.
Christie stomped to the stern, her arms folded like daggers. She perched against the port side.
Petros folded his arms, mirroring hers, defending the starboard.
They refused to meet each other’s eyes, instead searching opposing horizons with angry frowns.
The sailboat drifted between Pserimos and Nisyros. Minutes of resentful silence crept into fractions of hours.
The god and goddess of the sea watched Christie and Petros brooding on the sailboat. Poseidon grew bored. “How is your aerokinesis helping, Amphitrite? The whole night will pass in silent glares.”
“Women need time to recover when men hurt them, Poseidon.”
Several minutes lapsed before Christie said, “what do we do now?”
“I don’t care about the wind, Christie.”
She adjusted the strap on her denim overall shorts. “I hate when you talk to me that way.”
Petros looked down, “I know. I am working on it.”
“I doubt you talk to your charter clients like that.”
“You are right. I do not.”
“I don’t want to fight with you. Maybe sailing is not for me.”
“I only want you to be careful on a boat, so you are safe.”
“Then tell me that, Petros. Don’t tell me you don’t like what I do. Explain why it is dangerous.”
“Christie, I want to give you the feeling of sailing. I want to share freedom with you, the privilege to go to different locales, our destination dependent on the winds. I love you and want us to meet challenges together.”
“I will never learn to sail if you yell at me. I need you to be patient.”
“I will be patient with you. It’s not only about the now, but our future, the way we work together.”
Their eyes met.
“See? Reconciliation.” Amphitrite enjoyed besting Poseidon.
Poseidon took Amphitrite’s hand. She let him hug her. They kissed while the boat rocked with the couple making love. When they finished, they lay in each other’s arms. Amphitrite started the wind, pleased by the surprise on the couple’s faces.
Amphitrite allowed Poseidon to pull her closer. The blue flash nebula of the Delphinius constellation glowed in the indigo heavens. “I remember you placing those stars in the sky, just for me.”
“Eternal proof of my love, Amphitrite.”