Old Flame vs Aphrodite's Prostitute...
Location: Tina's House, Shady Side
Timeline: January 15th
Jesse pulled up to the clinic and parked his rental VW Jetta in the middle of the parking lot. He pulled out his cell phone and looked at the email again. Kyle had said that Tina lived above her clinic and the door was to the side of the building. After he opened the door and got out of the car, and walked towards the side, where the door was located.
Standing before the door, he took a deep breath and knocked on the door. After a few minutes of no answer, he rang the doorbell.
“Just a minute!” An irritated voice called from inside.
Jesse’s heart started racing, as he heard her voice. A voice that he hadn’t heard in years.
It took nearly that full minute for Tina to come to the door. When it opened, revealing a very disheveled Tina Cyparissus, it very nearly closed again. Her eyes widened with recognition beneath unkempt black hair, and while she’d changed her clothes within the past few days, the telltale smudges of Cheetos’ cheese marred her otherwise black yoga pants.
She stopped herself from closing the door in his face, but closed her eyes instead. Her lips moved, as she silently told Zeus exactly what he could go and do to himself if he thought this was funny. She, clearly, didn’t.
With a deep breath, she opened her eyes again and smiled a wide - and clearly fake - smile. “Jesse! Great to see you, all the way out here in the boonies. Long time, no see. Sorry, no time to chat... another time, perhaps?”
Seeing her, made his heart flutter, but seeing her in this state made his sad. Before he opened his mouth he did a quick eval of her state. “Hey Tina…. It’s great to see you too.” She was trying to rush things, to get him away, but he wasn’t going that easily. “Tina, we need to talk. Now. I know I am probably the last person you want to see, but this needs to happen.”
She blinked a few times, taken aback by his words as much as she was by his presence here, at her door, after nearly a decade. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you ended things nearly ten years ago... ‘this needs to happen’? Kinda doesn’t... at least not if ‘this’ is what I think you’re referring to.”
Shaking his head, “No Tina, you know I wouldn’t do that to you. I am here for business.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Business... I think I liked this better when I thought you were here for a booty call. What kind of ‘business’?”
Sighing the blonde psychologist continued, “Your family is worried about you. They called me to come and talk you. Something about… a game?” He tried to avoid the words addiction or obsession until he was sure that’s what it was. Cause it has only been a week since she started playing, so it could be that she really liked the game.
Tina’s expression darkened, and she muttered something in Greek. He could pick up the odd word, enough to know that she was swearing about her meddling sister. There were a few references to Greek gods in the mix as well... Zeus... Hera... Phobos... he thought he might have even heard the name Adonis as the string of Greek curses continued.
“What did Talassa say to you?”
“She said that you had an obsession to this game, World of Myths.” Jesse had done research on the game on the flight over, nothing to out of the ordinary for a MMO. “That you have been avoiding them, not returning calls, and logging off as soon as Melissa logs on. You have been cancelling appointments, and not sleeping. You know what no sleeps does to a person.”
“First things first, I don’t log off when Melissa logs on - if I did, I’d never be in the game at all.” Tina grumbled. “And it’s Worlds of Myth, and none of your concern. Seriously though? Ten years, and you just want to talk about a video game?”
“Tina, listen to me. This isn’t about the game. It’s about you. I’m sure Talassa wouldn’t have called me if she wasn’t worried.”
“Worry is Talassa’s thing.” Tina grumbled. “That, and being in everyone’s business. Trust me, I’m going to have a very long talk with her after this. I really hope you’re doing well, because you flew out here for nothing, Jesse. Not that it’s not good to see you, but, whatever Talassa said, I really don’t need a shrink. Promise.” She faked another smile. “Great to see you... another time, perhaps?”
“No. Why can’t we talk now?” Jesse asked, as he was losing his temper, “We are also going to leave your sister out of this. This is about you. Let’s go get coffee.”
“What, now?” Tina blinked in surprise. “I... I can’t! I’m busy.”
“With what?” Jesse asked a little too forcefully.
She stared at him for a moment. “Um... I, uh... have... someone upstairs?” She asked more than stated. It wasn’t particularly convincing.
Raising an eyebrow and looked her up and down, “You guys having a cheese fight?”
Tina blushed as she noticed the orange marks on her clothes and, embarrassed, tried to brush them away. “Well... you know me and food fights...”
Just looking at her, he gave her a look that said “Really”
“Fine... I was on a quest.” Tina sighed, looking up from the Cheetos stain.
Nodding, he knew that’s what she was doing, “Can you take a break? I feel that we need to talk about this.”
Tina sighed again, looking longingly upstairs. “I... have to save at least. Come in?”
“Sure.” Jesse said as he stepped into the apartment.
Tina led him up the stairs that led to the second floor. The main living area was nice, a classic, sophisticated elegance that was very Tina. There was a fireplace set on the wall under a large TV and opposite a comfortable-looking leather couch and chairs, with furniture that looked like it had come out of some designer catalogue, then been lived in for a while to get a nice, worn-in, comfortable look about them. The far side of the open-concept room was a gourmet-style kitchen with granite countertops and significant cupboard space - slightly odd, perhaps, since Tina had never been much of a chef in college.
She went the opposite direction, towards a hallway that led to a few separate rooms. He could see inside her bedroom, decorated in a classical ancient Greek style with a large bed that clearly hadn’t been slept in recently and a few clothes cast haphazardly on the floor.
The office was much, much worse.
Tina stepped gingerly over an open pizza box with the remnants of a meat-lovers’ pizza staining the cardboard with congealed grease. Her foot kicked an empty, half-crushed coke can out of the way as she tried to make space. “Uhh... ignore the mess...” Not that that was possible. The mess was, quite literally, everywhere. Even the walls bore brown drips from tossed Coke cans and there was barely a bit of floor left open. Mixed in with the food wrappers, cans and debris were printouts, many with images from the game or pictures of Greek gods - only Greek ones, though. They matched the series of mythology books on the shelves near the desk. Curiously, several of the books focused on one of the lesser gods, Phobos, the Greek god of Fear.
“I, uh... one sec. I can’t piss off Aphrodite. Bad things would happen.” Tina assured him as she pushed some books off of the adjacent fold-out couch and gestured for Jesse to have a seat.
Jesse looked around the room. She had always liked Greek mythology, but he didn’t know to this extent. Several printout from the games, and other sources. He sat down and looked around the room at all the pictures. “Still into mythology I see.”
“Heh.” She gave a small chuckle. “You could say that.”
He looked around the apartment again, this wasn’t like her. Jesse hadn’t seen her in over 10 years, but this kind of unorganization was common for someone with a high obsession and/or addictions. From what he remembered she was pretty organized and clean, she would sometimes leave clothes lying around, but she generally was pretty tidy.
Tina did more than just save her game. Her avatar - who looked remarkably like her, only cleaner, armed and with significantly more skin showing - darted around inside of a white marble temple, adorned with light, gauzy, colorful fabrics. The sounds of sex and laughter eliminated from the speakers as the digital Tina ran to retrieve things from chests, deliver items, and explore the area. “Just... just give me a minute. I have to have sex with one of Aphrodite’s temple prostitutes in order to gain her favour. Should only be, I dunno, maybe ten more minutes. Important task, but they make the foreplay pretty involved. Its no wonder this game is rated M for mature...”
Listening to what she said almost shocked him. He knew what the game entailed and all the crap that the game company got for some of the content. As a counselor, Jesse had heard a lot of stories, cringe worthy ones too. “Can’t you save and come back? You realize Aphrodite won’t know that you paused and logged off for a couple hours.” Jesse was trying to play into her fantasy a little, by not mentioning it was a game, but rather a friend that was waiting, “I mean she is a goddess, and won't die if you don’t have sex with one of her prostitutes right now.”
“Heh. Die? No... but the goddess of love was always written as fickle, and certainly is in here. If I don't play this just right, I won't win her favour, and it will lock out the quest path I need to find...” Her words trailed off. She sighed softly, turning the swiveling office chair to face him and turned down the volume to quiet the sexual moans from the computer. “Look.. I get how this looks. I do. If I explained what's going on, you'd think I was insane.” She gave a slightly maniacal laugh. “By Zeus, there are times I'm not sure I'm not. I just... I need you to trust me, okay Jesse? This game, it's important. It's more than a game, and I need to play it in order to find out what is going on and save... people.”
Jesse was taken back by some of the things there were coming out of her mouth. People’s beliefs sometimes change in ten years, but she had always been a Catholic, and Zeus wasn’t really involved with the church. But something else cause his attention, “Tina… what do you mean save people by playing? Is someone threatening to hurt you or someone if you don’t play this game?” He felt his face get red with anger. If he found out anyone was going to hurt her, he would find them first. “If someone is threatening you we need to get the authorities involved.”
“What?! No! I'm not being threatened, I'm fine.” Tina exclaimed.
“Then what do you mean it will save people? How is playing this game going to save people?” Jesse asked getting really concerned.
She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before continuing. “It's been a long time, Jesse... so, let me start with a question. Back in the day, you were... sympathetic... to metahumans. Mutants. What are your thoughts on them now?”
Jesse thought for a second, “The same. It’s my job to be sympathetic to all humans. Meta or not. But yes personally I am sympathetic and think they are given a bad wrap.”
Tina nodded, clearly approving of his answer. “Then let's say the ones who are in trouble are...” she paused for a moment. “Are a type of metahuman. Would that answer satisfy you enough to let me get back to this? Lives are at risk, Jess... Good lives. Ones that matter to me.”
“How?!” Jesse asked jumping from his seat. “How is playing this game going to save metahumans? Or anyone’s? I don’t understand.”
Tina sighed. Jesse never did give up easily, and clearly some things hadn't changed. “Athena, guide me.” she muttered under her breath. “Yeah, well, I never understood why you needed to study out West, so maybe we're even.” She sighed again. “Do you trust me? Can you just believe that I know what I'm doing and leave it at that?”
Not that old arguement again. “Look Tina. I can tell that you are still upset about how we left things, but that’s in the past.” taking a deep breath, he knew that a person would sometimes take time to open up. Grabbing an old envelope he wrote his cell number on it, “Here is my new cell phone number. I will be in town if you want to talk. I will be in Shady Side until Sunday night.”
“I won't be calling, Jesse.” Tina said softly. His presence here shook her, and she really didn't need that kind of distraction. Not right now. Not when she was so close to finding Phobos. Despite that, she couldn't manage to look him in the eye. “You shouldn't have come. Believe it or not, I've gotten over you. I did so a long time ago. You shouldn't be here. This... all of this... It's not about you, Jess.”
“Well. I didn’t come here to talk about us. This was about you, and a favor to an old friend. But you are obviously not ready to see me.” Jesse wasn’t about to tell her that he still loved her. “I will show myself out.” Just before he left the office, he poked his back in, “Your family is worried. If you don’t want to talk to me about it, at least talk to them.” With that he left her apartment and walked down into his rental car. His heart hurt for her, and seeing her in the state. He placed his head on the steering wheel and let the tears flow as old emotions came back.
He didn't see her get up from her desk or follow him to her door. He didn't see her watch him from her window as he sat in his car, and he didn't see the pain in her eyes when he finally drove away.
“Damn you, Talassa.” Tina muttered under her breath as she headed for her shower. “Damn your soul to Tartarus.”