As he strolled down the sidewalk, Icarus couldn’t help tilting his face to bask in the late morning sun.
It was the one thing that hadn’t changed. The air here was thicker, always choked with smoke; the sky was tainted with smog and artificial lights; even the moon seemed farther away and colder than before. Perhaps it was because no one believed in Artemis anymore. No one in this new time believed in his gods, he had found. He wondered if any had faded after all this time.
Icarus had always loved the sun. He had loved when its warmth kissed his skin, loved the way it lit up the world, loved it for bringing life.
He was well aware of the irony.
Idly, he wondered if he was missed in the Underworld. True, he had no recollection of his time in the realm of Hades, but he was no fool. There was no other place that could have taken him after his fall. How he came to return to the mortal world, though, so many centuries later, was a question he had yet to discover the answer to.
He hoped his father was doing alright, in any case.
Icarus’s eyes caught on a familiar red, white, and blue canvas awning drifting slightly in the breeze. He smiled.
The store called Sweet on America had saved his life. Ellen, the widowed owner of the candy shop, had offered him a job and housing when he had appeared on her doorstep nearly a year ago, lost and bewildered and tearful. She had helped him acclimate himself to New York, had been patient and understanding even when he didn’t recognize the simplest of objects. Icarus had become fast friends with one of her employees- a college student named Odessa. (Women had much more influence these days, he had quickly found out. It was fascinating, and definitely not a negative change; he noticed that many women were far more capable than men he had known.)
Icarus didn’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t stumbled upon the shop. He likely would have landed himself back in the Underworld within a week. He knew the gods had favored him. How else could one explain his fluency in this strange new language called English when he had never heard a word of it in his life? He had sacrificed the best cut of his first meal to Athena, for this was undoubtedly her blessing.
This was his second chance. He was determined not to let it go to waste.
Icarus pushed open the door to the shop and was greeted with the tinkle of a bell and the scent of sugar.
A familiar figure popped out from behind a shelf.
“Icarus!” Odessa cried, hurrying towards him with an overflowing box in her arms. Her black hair swept over her face, and she tossed her head irritably to flick it away. “It’s about time you showed up!” She dumped the box into his unsuspecting arms and he fumbled it for one panicky second (“Gods of Olympus, Odessa!”) before getting a firm grip.
“Some girl put in a special order for all our blue candy, of all things, and she’s picking it up in, like, fifteen minutes,” she said, reaching up to tie her hair back into a ponytail. Icarus decided not to point out that it was comically messy. In the mood she was in now, Odessa would likely use him as a practice dummy for her fencing practice. Odessa shot a piercing glare at Icarus and motioned for him to set the box down on a nearby counter. She started rummaging through the box. “And I didn’t find out until now because you were supposed to be monitoring the orders. We’re lucky my class ended earlier than I expected.”
Icarus bristled. “Well, how was I to know? You said nothing about it!”
Odessa paused to narrow her eyes at him. “I told you yesterday while we were closing up, and I texted you,” she said. “ Multiple times, in fact. I even called. Did you lose your phone again?”
“Of course not,” Icarus protested. He stuck his hand into his jean pocket and pulled it out. He waved it triumphantly in her face. “It’s right here!”
He turned it on, glanced down, and wilted slightly at the barrage of notifications that appeared on the lockscreen. He sagged against the counter and peered up at Odessa’s stony face. She raised an eyebrow expectantly. He looked back down at the screen.
[yesterday 9:41 PM] your only friend: hey don’t forget you’re in charge of online orders from 8-11 tomorrow bc I have class and ellen’s sick
[yesterday 9:43 PM] your only friend: the fate of the shop will rest on your shoulders, so don’t forget
[5h ago] your only friend: hey, are you alive? if so give me a call
[4h ago] Missed Call From your only friend
[4h ago] your only friend: if you’re ignoring me on purpose, you’re an asshole. I’m actually getting worried. I hope you’re okay. call me!!
[3h ago] Missed Call From your only friend
[3h ago] your only friend: alright, I gotta go now…
[3h ago] your only friend: everything had better be running smoothly when I get back
[3h ago] your only friend: if you’re lying dead in an alley somewhere, I’m going to kill you. you’ll be double dead.
[3h ago] your only friend: ffs, icarus, check your damn phone!
“When did you change your contact name?” Icarus demanded. “How do you even know my password? And you are not my only friend.”
“Sure, buddy,” Odessa said condescendingly, not looking at him as she pulled out handfuls of blue candy. Icarus scowled and tapped forcefully at his phone screen. He changed Odessa’s contact name back to Odessa Wu and changed his password as well, pointedly angling the screen away from her so that she wouldn’t be able to see what he was typing. She noticed what he was doing and rolled her eyes.
“Oh, whatever, it’s no big deal,” she sighed. “It worked out in the end, anyway. Mind fetching a large gift box from the storeroom?”
Icarus nodded and pushed off from the counter, shoving his phone into his back pocket. He returned moments later with a red, white, and blue striped box with an attached silver ribbon. Odessa nodded in thanks and began unceremoniously dumping candy into the box. Icarus leaned over to help sift out the blue candy. After a minute of tense silence, Icarus said quietly, “I’m sorry. For not answering, and forgetting about your class.”
Odessa’s shoulders relaxed slightly, and she glanced up to offer him a small smile.
“Everyone slips up once in awhile,” she said with a shrug. She nudged his shoulder. “Just check your phone more often, yeah? I thought you’d gotten mugged or something.”
“Me? Mugged?” Icarus feigned disbelief. He struck a dramatic pose. “No one could lay a finger on this.”
Odessa let out a surprised laugh. He grinned, pleased. He didn’t make many jokes. Humor in the future was odd and quite hard to grasp. Certain offensive statements were hilarious, others were simply offensive. Social etiquette was as intricate as one of Father’s inventions.
The flapping of the canvas awning cast shadows in Odessa’s eyes, causing the sunlight reflected in them undulate through her irises. Icarus’s grin faded. It bore an uncanny resemblance to the rippling of the sea, he thought, right before he had-
Odessa blinked, breaking the spell.
“You’re not invincible, Icarus,” she said firmly but fondly. Giving him one last worried look, she closed the lid of the box and began tying the satin ribbon into a bow with deft fingers.
“I know,” Icarus said. He twitched, remembering the burning of hot wax seeping into the pores of his skin, each droplet as deadly and damning as a blow of a sword. I know.