Four a.m. in New Orleans in a hospital set off from the rest of the road she was born. A mess of freckles and dark, thick curled hair. Her mother named her Athena after the Greek Goddess, hoping that this would bring wisdom, courage and justice into the little girl’s life.
Her mother and father grew up in Greece as young children they were neighbors as teens they were lovers and they married with a large wedding at the age of nineteen and twenty. They had two children before moving to the United States for education and work purposes. At that time her father had been accepted into a Law Firm in New Orleans and her mother had agreed to continue schooling in order to become a Doctor.
Athena, being the youngest of three children and the only girl grew up in a large house always filled with laughter, running and the rule that family came first, education second and then joy. They taught her that success will bring anything in life and that even though money was not the object of everyone’s desire it helped to pave the way for happiness. Maybe it was an odd thing to teach their children but the idea of wealth and status in society seemed to be a very important and Athena learned quickly that if driven enough she could succeed in whatever she wanted.
That success came in the form of Industrial Design, the idea that she could create things, functional things and improve upon things was fascinating to her. To take a problem and solve in the most simplest of ways while maintaining it’s beauty. After highschool she enrolled in the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
This is where she met Lizzie.
Lizzie was a modern marvel of a woman one who believed in striving for everything good in life and who thought the stars danced because they were happy watching over the earth.
They became friends as soon as they laid eyes on each other, Lizzie enjoyed watching Athena work, tireless in a garage, hunched over a welding machine with sparks flying like fireworks. Athena liked to listen to Lizzie speak, slow and smooth, like reading a book of poems a thousand years old.
With all that the world has seen in it’s short life it is always jarring to see the horrible things people do to one another on the television, in the newspaper, everywhere. The idea that someone can be hated for the color of their skin or something as simple as the person they chose to love… Was never something Athena understood completely. But hatred happens no matter what one’s opinion may be and sometimes you just have to live with it.
Hard reality, it set in in her first year of college. That sometimes people were just assholes.
She was gay and the simple truth is that some men don’t like that. Some men who may lurk in bars, in shadows and in alleyways were kids shouldn’t roam anyway. And sometimes those men have knives and fists and words that hurt more then the idea of hate. And sometimes they don’t understand that when a pretty brunette girl turns them down it doesn’t mean to launch a full on assault in the middle of a bar.
Lizzie was a beautiful girl with long brown hair and a need to dance at odd hours of the night. Athena was a girl who couldn’t say no to a smile and a promise of free drinks. Besides who else would walk Lizzie home? To protect her from those men who swarmed in and wouldn’t let go at a simple no.
They were there when Lizzie decided it was time to go home, when instead of calling a cab it was a better idea to walk the few miles from the bar to her apartment. Maybe the few bucks a cab would cost would be better than the hands that grabbed at Lizzie as they both walked by.
It was easy for Athena to go into protect mode, to push the men off and yell at them like she had something to prove to the girl she was silently falling in love with. To prove that she could protect and hold her own. But all valor in the world couldn’t save her from those sharp knives that dug themselves in her skin. Or the word dyke she kept hearing in her head even after the act was over.
In the end she had been stabbed ten times, four times in her back as she hunched over, trying to avoid their blows to her chest and stomach, two times in the right side as she tried to move Lizzie out of the way, and twice in the chest, once in the stomach and the last in her arm as she raised it to keep the knife from slicing through her face.
The sound of Lizzie’s scream brought down the police, Athena was alive and let go from the hospital weeks later baring more mental scars than physical.
She was her world, the person she even dared to say she loved more than her own self. In was evident in the way she protected the girl. In the hospital they became more than friends. And quickly moved in with one another.
They went through the hoops of a relationship, of meeting each other’s families, of sharing their space. Lizzie took care of Athena’s wounds, her limitations, her mental scars and everything inbetween.
Maybe that was too much to ask for? Maybe it became harder when Lizzie began to find Athena asleep in odd places. The park at first, then the neighbor’s balcony and a million other places she had no idea how she had gotten to. Or maybe it was the way she spoke of her dreams to Lizzie, how they felt so real to her… How she swore she could see things while wide awake. Or the fact that nights on end Lizzie was left to fall asleep on her own.
After years together Lizzie finally left. She couldn’t handle it anymore. She was no longer in love with the friend that had spent nights with her pouring over poetry, the friend who bore scars for her. She couldn’t take the sleepless nights, the mutterings of shadowy figures or the terrifying idea that Athena could one day just sleep walk herself into an oncoming car… Or worse.
They each packed up their things and said goodbye.