Andromeda takes a drag from her cigarette.
"You know, that guy Tolstoy really had a good line about this sort of thing. Yes - Tolstoy. The Russian dude. What? Why are you looking at me like that? You think we don't have books up here in Constellation World? That I'm too dim to actually read? Fuck that."
"Anyway. Tolstoy. What was it exactly? All happy families are boring, and all unhappy ones are fucking crazy in their own special way? Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was something like that. That guy was a genius."
She starts another sentence, but is interrupted by her cell phone flashing - a text message.
"Sorry, I have to answer this. Pegasus is having a bit of a mommy thing lately - sooooooo annoying, but what can you do? Family, right? Sort of? You understand."
She doesn't actually wait for the Interviewer to answer her. She just sort of turns away from him - not overtly, but clearly expressed in body language, in an alarmingly decisive manner - all while precariously dangling a cigarette in one hand while texting her response to the message. In this moment, the Interviewer begins to regret his decision to bring along only one camera, whose purpose is solely a documentary record of the conversation he's supposed to be having with this princess-cum-constellation. It's not that what he's witnessing right now is in any way revolutionary. It's not that the image of a famed Greek legend being (if fortunes were reversed) a smoking, texting, and generally ditzy, self-absorbed, and basically forgettable ordinary person is something altogether surprising - or newsworthy (or news-selling). Sure, she's got kids, but so does Jordan, right? Or, like, some [insert name here] American celebrity?
That's not it at all.
Andromeda presses what can ostensibly be guessed as send on her phone, takes another drag off her cigarette and breathes - and just then, it happens. For one shining, brief yet everlasting moment, hers is the face of Atlas, the weight of the entire world on her tiny shoulders. It's the face of Tantalus and Sisyphus; of those dudes at the Alamo, or (prior to 2004) the Boston Red Sox.
In short, it's a mixture of emotional defeat, physical exhaustion, and blind hope. In Andromeda's case, it's nothing sort of tragic.
Then she looks up, smiles brightly like nothing is the matter, and says, "So where were we?"
She still has the scars on her wrists.
The Interviewer doesn't make the mistake of asking about them outright. He's been tasked to spend an entire week on this story, so he waits until she's used to him around her environment - used to him poking and prodding, and generally teasing out aspects of her life that she'd probably not ordinarily discuss.
They're in the midst of an argument about corporeal beings vs. the constellational ideal as a preferred mythological form, when the Interviewer (admittedly, influenced by more than a few glasses of rice wine) suddenly tumbles out with:
"Oh, come on, at least as a constellation, you can't actually be chained to a rock anymore, right?"
If this was a movie, the record would skip and everything would grind to a halt.
"Yeah." She's hand-drying a dish, and is now drying it extensively. "Definitely... yeah."
Immediately, the Interviewer feels like a fucking asshole. (As well he should.)
Later, he finds her chain-smoking out in the garden behind the small family temple, and learning after the fact that Perseus in his old age had begun to mistake his wife's face amid a cloud of smoke for Medusa - this moment is immensely important, even now.
The Interviewer stammers. "I wanted to-"
"I hate this place," Andromeda says suddenly.
The Interviewer blinks. Greece? "What?"
She gestures at the family temple. "This. It's so fucking Roman. I hate it."
The Interviewer nods. "Okay." This is what you do, see, to get your subject to keep talking-
"Oh, don't even fucking do that, all right?" she explodes. "Babying me and telling me it's all right, just give us the dirt, Andromeda, yes, talk, let's all talk about my stupid fucking arrogant mother and the rock and the severed magical head and - and - and- yes! In the middle of everything, I was suddenly randomly engaged! Surprise, we are married now! And now your in-laws are crazy people, too! Jesus Christ, this profile was a stupid fucking idea."
The Interviewer's mouth quirks. "Should you really be saying that?"
Andromeda blinks. "What?"
"Jesus Christ. Seems a bit - yeah."
She looks at him like he's a crazy animal who just stood up on his hind legs and juggled, then suddenly smiles brighter (and more genuine) than he's ever seen before. "Birds of a feather," she says, almost after the fact. "We stick together."
She pulls her sleeves over her hands, and the Interviewer notices that her cigarette is almost half burned at this point. There's a light breeze, and the ash goes flying.
"We should get inside," she tells him.
He doesn't argue.
Here is the story, in a metaphor:
Andromeda breathes. "It's not that I don't love my husband. Shit. It's never that."
She takes a long pause.
"You know, when you spend time as a constellation, you get to read a lot. I know, right? Stars, reading. But I'm serious - you do. I did. The first time I read Cinderella - I don't know, am I broken? Scared? Demented? I felt bad for the stepsisters. Sure, they were supposed to be awful - and sure, they forced Cinderella into servitude , but could you blame them? With a mother like that? How else were they supposed to turn out?"
Her mouth quirks.
"The ending with the crows was horrible, by the way. Thanks for fixing that, Disney."
Once upon a time, a wife boasted to some sea nymphs; a god sent a vengeful sea monster; a father chose the path that made Isaac look like a faithful and devoted human being.
Once upon a time, a god seduced a woman (or maybe she seduced him, we'll never know); a goddess felt defiled, and struck a blow to this woman so severe - looks that could kill, literally.
It's strange that their paths would converge. It's strange, and almost expected, and damned strange. Like all good stories, there's usually only one prevailing "truth" about it all, and unfortunately, being a constellation, Andromeda can't sue Ovid for defamation of character (or defamation of lack of character).
"Sometimes I think I'm lucky," she says one day.
The Interviewer taps his pad casually, like he isn't just suddenly grateful she's started speaking to him again. "Yeah?"
She leans forward. "Yeah. So, okay - that happened. Cetus. It was wrong, it was awful, it... happened. I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, it could have been a lot worse."
"'A lot worse'?" the Interviewer repeats back, incredulous. "Seriously?"
"That woman died," she replies quickly. "That woman died, and in a twisted way she saved me. In a twisted way, she was dead for a long time, and eventually it meant something. Yes, seriously."
"That woman - you mean, Medusa?"
"Fuck me, of course I mean Medusa. Who do you think I mean?"
"It's just... I'm surprised, that's all."
"Why? Because that Latin bastard said her punishment was a just fucking thing? Fuck that. Listen - no. No. Stop. Don't stop writing. I want you to listen. Okay? People think I'm sort of not a big deal, and you know what, that's great. Chained to a rock, fine; biggest accomplishment to mythological canon is being saved by a guy with flying shoes and a severed head in hand, and oh, in the middle of everything, let's all pause what we're doing and suddenly propose marriage to - not me, but to my parents, also known as the same people responsible for my current, you know, chained-to-a-rock thing. You know what? I'd write me off, too. At least Persephone vaguely tamed the wild heart of a chthonic deity, right? At least Eurydice was so awe-inspiring that her husband traveled to the depths of Persephone's husband's realm to get her back."
Andromeda thumbs her coral necklace. It's a gorgeous thing, actually, a piece of jewelry he's never noticed before. Immediately it feels like one of those things that has a story.
"At least Ariadne-" her anger begins to give way, "at least- shit."
She laughs derisively. "I don't like you, you know."
The Interviewer's eyebrow arches. "Oh?"
"No," she says emphatically, yet smiling. "You ask too many questions."
"I'm a journalist," the Interviewer points out.
The Interviewer laughs, once.
"I mean it," she says eventually. "She died."
"Okay." (It's what you do.)
"She died, and my husband gave her head to a fucking important goddess on a fucking important plate, and I'm supposed to feel great about that - and I do, really, but - she died."
"Stop saying that."
Once upon a time, a guy saved a girl, and then they got married.
(Once upon a time, a father feared his son, and locked him and his mother in a chest. The son lived, and eventually killed a Gorgon - an evil creature, we have all decided - and then that saved a girl, so then they got married.)
The timeline is a little fuzzy on the actual sequence of events.
To most people, it doesn't matter.
She still has the scars on her wrists.
"So anyway," Andromeda says, "let's talk about Persia. Could we?"