It was late morning as I walked down the steps of the Museum of Science and Industry toward Lake Michigan. I was anxious to feel the wind under me and there was only a precious hour before the museum opened.
I saw her sitting with her back against one of the columns, looking out over the lake with sad green eyes. The icy wind tore through her black hair and whipped it about her face.
She didn’t see me yet; I could just stand there and watch the way that her nose twitched as she sat there in deep thought and how her eyes caught the light off the water.
I swallowed over the tightening in my throat, “Ruby?” She turned and looked up at me, a frown immediately distorting her features.
“Perfect,” she mumbled. “Just perfect.”
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“What do you want?” She snapped as she looked back over the lake.
I sat down next to her, careful to keep at least a few inches between us. Still, I was very aware of how close she actually was.
“So why do you look so miserable?” I asked.
Another breeze carried the scent of her perfume to my nose, making my toes curl in my shoes. It was a floral scent of some sort, but with a smoky undertone like the air right before a snowstorm.
“What are you doing here?” She asked.
I looked out over the water, trying to calm my pounding heart. “I like to fly over the lake in the mornings and then I thought I’d find a nymph wanting to have a good time.”
“A nymph?” Ruby asked with a disgusted smirk. “Is your ego needing a boost? You have to get a nymph to stroke your ego to feel manly?”
“It’s not my ego they stroke. Besides, don’t sirens and nymphs share similar gifts?” She rolled her eyes, “Is that really what you are doing?”
“No,” I chuckled and rubbed my shoulder against hers playfully, “So seriously, why do you look so miserable?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Ruby looked over the water and sighed, “Do you know anything about the story of Persephone?”
“Well,” Ruby sighed. “Did you know there are sirens in that story?” I shook my head, “I don’t remember that.”
“Most people don’t, but when Persephone was taken into the underworld, the sirens were given wings by Persephone’s mother, the goddess Demeter, so that they could go in search of her. Some believe that when the sirens failed, Demeter took away their wings and then cursed them for not protecting her daughter.”
I shrugged, “So what does that have to do with anything?”
“You’ll think it’s stupid,” she said with a shake of her head.
“Maybe not,” I shrugged again. “Try me.”
“Well,” Ruby said with a sigh. “Archer left this morning and he asked me to do something.” A stab of jealousy went through me, but I cocked one eyebrow, “And you’re wrestling with your morals? I find that hard to believe.”
“It’s nothing like that,” Ruby said with a shake of her head. “He made me promise to look after Melina.”
“No he didn’t!”
“Yes,” she said, looking even more miserable than before. “And besides the obvious, what if I fail? What if I fail just like the other sirens did?”
“Seriously?” I asked and then burst out in bitter laughter.
Ruby slapped at my arm, “Don’t laugh! It isn’t funny.”
“No, it’s hilarious.” I said as I stood and brushed off my jeans. “If you do your job well, he’s indebted to you, but still married. If you fail and something happens to her, then he’s available for you to sink your claws into, but he’ll never forgive you.”
“Oh shut up Poe.”
“Yes,” I said as I walked away, laughing as I ground my teeth. “That is quite a dilemma you have there.”
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