Squandered Gifts


© 2018 Lissette E. Manning

All Rights Reserved.


“Are you sure this is what you want, Artemis?”

A knowing look flickers across her face.

“Of course, it is.” She spreads her arms wide. “This is my kingdom. The milky water within that pool . . . It’s the essence that keeps me alive. A gift from Father himself.”

“A gift you’ve squandered, Sister.”

“Squandered? Is that what you think?”

Apollo nods. His eyes narrow.

“It is. How can you build this kingdom when it’s nothing but vapor across your fingertips?”

She snarls and slaps her hand across his cheek. The sound reverberates across the room.

“You don’t know me that well, it seems.”

He points to the crumbling wallpaper. “You forget, I was there when Father bestowed you with this derelict kingdom you now call yours. You’ve done nothing to lift it higher.”

She snorts, shoving her hair behind her left shoulder. “No?”

“Nope. And you never will.”

“You don’t know that.”

He smirks. “Oh, but I do.”

Artemis stares at the wallpaper and shakes her head. She shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot. Tears prick at the backs of her eyes.

“I would, if . . .”


“I’m alone here, Apollo. I’ve no one to give me a helping hand. I was banished here, remember? Father forbade me to return home.”

“I remember. You were the cause of our dissension and cared nothing for the pain you caused all of us.”

A strangled sigh bursts from her lips. “So all of this is my fault?”

Apollo shakes his head, shifting his position and facing the cracked window. “This dead garden is your home now.”

A muscle twitches across Artemis’ jaw. “This dead garden, as you call it, I will build it and make it better than before. The gods and those wretched goddesses, they’ll envy what I’ll create and then some.”

He turns and faces her. “Will they?”

“Aye. I’ll make this my own slice of heaven.”

Apollo eyes a cracked mirror tucked into a corner. The pool and its precious nectar are reflected within it.

“You’ll find a suitable means for your kingdom, I suppose.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“No matter how you slice it, you’ll never leave this place.”

She swallows and blinks her eyes. “Yes, I will.”

“You want to believe that. I get it. The truth of the matter is, you brought this on yourself.”

Artemis tilts back her head and roars with rage. “If you had supported me, I wouldn’t be here.”

“I do support you, Sister.”

“If you had, Father would have given you the nectar, too.”

He sighs.

“You don’t get it. That nectar, it’s not a gift. It’s Father’s way of keeping you alive.”

Her mouth thins to a tight line. The lump at the back of her throat prevents her from swallowing past the nervousness she feels deep inside.

“I don’t believe you.”

“You should. I never lie, you know that.”

She bites down on her lower lip. Several tears seep from the corners of her eyes.

“I hate you.”

Apollo approaches and curls his hands around her wet cheeks. “No, you don’t,” he says, leaning forward to press his lips against hers to taste the nectar’s remnants. “Be grateful that the Reaper never came.”

“You know about them?”

He lets go of her and runs an unsteady hand through his hair. A slight grimace contorts his face.

“The Reapers are my own creations, Artemis.”

Her eyes open wide. She roars with indignation and launches herself at him. Artemis’ nails dig into Apollo’s face, tearing his flesh and drawing blood.


He clasps her wrists and flips her around, holding her squirming body against his. “Father bade me to create the Reapers as a fail-safe. They guard his precious kingdom. When needed, they also do his bidding.”

She struggles to free herself of his grasp, fighting the tears seeping from the corners of her eyes.

“How could you?”

“I did what needed to be done,” he says, his breath fanning across her ear.

“You’ve betrayed me.”

Apollo shoves her aside. “You thought yourself a heroine, intent on saving us all. The Reapers were supposed to kill you, and bring back your empty vessel. I prevented that. You should be grateful.”

“Grateful? Those damned Reapers have become the bane of my existence. Why, Apollo? Don’t you love me?”

A distraught look flickers across Apollo’s face. It is soon camouflaged with a mask of disinterest.

“I do. In my own way, of course. Accept the inevitable, my dear. Make something of what Father has now given you.”

Artemis squares her shoulders and raises her chin with determination. “I intend to, Brother.”

A small smile dances across Apollo’s lips. “Good. That’s the Artemis I know and love.”

“I’ll become a heroine in my own right. Once I’m done building my empire, I’ll destroy your damned Reapers and all those who cross my path.”

“You’ll do no such thing. I control the Reapers. They’ll do what I say, when I say.”

Masking her emotions, Artemis replies, “That’s of no consequence. I will regain everything Father has taken from me.”

“I doubt that.”

“You shouldn’t. I always mean what I say.”

“Should you reignite Father’s wrath . . .”

“I don’t care! I refuse to further mask my intentions. Nor shall I live with the demons that constantly invade my soul. Father shan’t keep what belongs to me.”

He steps forward, intent on reaching for her. “Let it go.”

“No. I want my due.”

“Artemis, don’t you understand what you’ve done?”

She snarls. “No!”

“The demons that haunt you are of your own making. You should—”

She shakes her head, unwilling to hear what he has to say. “Get out.”

“But I—”

“We’re done, Apollo. Mark my words, I will have my due. Now, get out!”

He swallows and disappears, leaving her alone to ponder what is coming next.


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