Don’t ask me why the three of us thought this was a good idea—strip off all our clothes and try to convince a sleepy-eyed human male to hand over an apple made out of gold to one of us. It’s impossible to say why we were all so desperate for that apple. I mean, hello? Goddess of wisdom over here. But it didn’t matter. It was nearly too beautiful to look at. It glowed as if its core was a source of light, and it made me thirsty simply to look at it. As if I’d been marching through a desert. I had to have it. I would place it in the sill of the east window of my workroom, where I could see it every day, slaking my thirst whenever my eyes met it.
Hera went first, offering Paris a couple kingdoms. It wasn’t a bad offer, but she really resented being naked. She kept hunching her shoulders and trying to pull her hair in front of all the bits men most like to see. His eyes glossed away from her.
Then I spoke. I stood straight, though I felt his eyes leave a slimy trail wherever they touched my skin. I offered wisdom and victory in well-fought battles. Honor. Pride. Knowledge. The best I had to offer, the best any man could want.
Then Aphrodite leaned in and whispered in his ear that she’d give him Helen. He swayed back and took in her pouty lips and her harlot-shaped hips and said, “Oh…” in the same breathless exhalation a man makes when he takes a spear to the belly.
He gave her the apple.
So I did what I do best—hid my thoughts behind my gray eyes and began to plan.
I am a proud goddess, but I cried in my workroom after it happened, big humiliating sobs that shook my shoulders and made my owls blink and glare at me. I’d stripped naked for him, I’d offered him everything I had. But it hadn’t been enough.
Aphrodite gets everything she wants. A doting husband, a virile lover, gorgeous children. Why couldn’t she have let me have this? This one thing. She has baubles from all her suitors. She wouldn’t notice the lack of one stupid apple, but it would be the only pretty thing I’d own, the only thing that was made solely to be beautiful.
I looked around at my scrolls, my scales and compasses, my owls. Even I will admit I’d taken the owl thing too far. The air was thick with their down and they coughed up the bones of their kills all over my battle plans. Of course he chose beauty. Who would want wisdom and victory if it meant living like this?
So I did what I do best—hid my thoughts behind my gray eyes and began to plan. I would get even. Nemesis knocked a few times and asked if I wanted help. She could sense something was up, but I declined. This would be mine alone.
Aphrodite had created the greatest love story, the face launching a thousand ships, true love overcoming marriage bonds, blah blah blah. But I would tear it down in the greatest battle. I’d destroy the thing she’d built. I’d turn her two gorgeous, moony lovers into an adulteress and a hedonist. I would bring it all down, all of her falsity, all of her selfishness, and I would make it burn.
I came into the battlefield calm, my plumes high, my shield level. Even in the early years when she had the upper hand, she was frantic in her pearly armor, racing between the Trojan fighters, trying to save one, then the other. No plan, no strategy.
Then I helped Odysseus out of that wooden horse-belly and led the charge, straight to the temple. I told him to start burning there and keep going. She hadn’t seen that coming at all. My back was spear-straight as I led the Greeks, and she went tripping and screaming as she tried to save the Trojan women and children. I torched everything around them. I tried not to look too hard at the question of which one of us, Aphrodite or Athena, was acting with wisdom.
You can say it was shallow of me, you can say that the legions of human death wasn’t worth it.
You can say it was shallow of me, you can say that the legions of human death wasn’t worth it. Perhaps. But this was the only way I could compete. My hips will never curve like hers, my lips cannot make that troutish pout. This was the only way I knew to salve my humiliation. But in doing so, I unmasked a new reason to be ashamed—realizing I was just as petty as any other female of Olympus, no matter how much I tried to be above such worldly things.
Aphrodite, dazed and distracted, her armor and hair still spattered in blood, handed the apple to me. I put it in my east sill as planned, where it glowed. It was not quite as beautiful as I’d remembered it, though, and when one of my owls swept it out the window as he flew to hunt, I wasn’t too disappointed.
For more great mythical clashes, check out the latest issue of Havok.
Meet the Author
Andrea Eaker’s first grade teacher taught her about Greek mythology and a few decades later, she’s still hooked. She loves coffee, theater, and the misty days of the Pacific Northwest that give her an excuse to stay inside and write. She lives in the Seattle area.
Andrea’s stories have appeared in journals including Stratus and Flight Journal. Her story in Shooter Literary Magazine, “How Aphrodite Fell in Love and Then Her Husband Ruined Everything” tells Aphrodite’s side of things. You can find her on Twitter at @Ophelia_Reynold.