I should start at the beginning.
I was born in Greece. Not the Greece of today, overrun by tourists and all this new technology. No. I was born in what historians now call Ancient Greece. And the day of my birth wasn’t one of celebration. None of us ever had birthdays. There were too many of us for that – and, besides, we lived so long, none wanted to be reminded of our true age.
I remember bits and pieces of my childhood. My father was Pan, ruler of the forest. My mother was human. An Athenian princess. She went riding in the forest and my father was taken by her.
I never knew my mother. I was told that she was very beautiful. I don’t know if it saddened her to give me away. I don’t know if she ever thought of me after taking me to the forest and giving me to the nymphs there.
None of us knew our mothers, but many of us were half-sisters. There were also many foundlings among us; babies who had been abandoned in the woods, either as an offering to the gods or as a sacrifice. Or they were simply abandoned to die.
The other nymphs were my family. My father rarely came to visit. He was always more interested in pursuing his next conquest. I grew up with only the female nymphs around me for company. It was a long time before I saw a man – but not that long before I saw a woman. A goddess.
She came striding through the forest on a day that thunder rolled across the sky. We were hidden, of course, but it seemed as if her eyes could pierce through the shadows and trees to see each of our forms.
She was angry. Not the raging hot fury like that of a volcano, but an ice-cold rage that turned her gaze frosty. She was also very beautiful. More beautiful than any of my sister nymphs. When I saw her, I thought that Aphrodite herself had come to visit us.
And, because I was still a child, I spoke my thought out loud.
Immediately, all of my sisters hushed me. But my words stopped the cold woman where she stood. She turned and must have seen me peeking out at her, because she beckoned me closer.
I knew, even then, that no one disobeyed a summons from one of the gods. I approached and looked up at her, into eyes as blue as the ocean and at a proud face framed by a cloud of black hair. Remembering to be polite, I curtsied to her. “I didn’t mean to cause offence, my Lady.”
She smiled at me, but her smile was tinged with sadness. “You called me Aphrodite.”
I nodded, eager to please. “Yes, my Lady. You must be Aphrodite. You are too beautiful to be anyone else.”
She held a hand out to me and I drew nearer. “Sweet child,” she murmured.