Astra held her purse over her head as she streaked toward the sliding door. The sensors detected her and granted entry. Panting, she turned around to see the torrential downpour cease all at once. “I can’t – I can’t—” she could not stop huffing as her lungs struggled to refill on oxygen. “I can’t believe I made it!”
Drenched strands of hair dripped water down Astra’s angular face. She tugged loose locks away as she examined the state of her disheveled garments. Her sopping yellow blouse and capris hugged her shape, concealing little. Already, wolf whistles chased after her. Her cheeks brightened at the sound. Forcing herself to straighten her posture, Astra stalked into the retail store, determined to find out what her father saw in this place.
Astra wrung out her braided ponytail, splashing the white tile floor. “Where do you keep the – uh – the umbrellas?”
“The what now?”
“Umbrellas. You do work here, right?” Why did I have to ask for something so pedestrian?
“Work here?” The balding man’s blue vest and nametag suggested as much, but his focus fixed below Astra’s neck rather than on her words.
“I need some help. Are you going to show me?”
“Show me?” He licked his lips.
Gnashing her teeth, Astra abandoned the effort and charged through the aisles, intent on the search. Her father never seemed to have this kind of trouble. People always snapped to attend him, and that was without awareness of his importance. Maybe it’s the location. All the good ones at home. This trip strikes me as a bust.
“Dang, girl! You’re lookin’ mighty fine. You wanna get outta here with me? Just the two of us in the back of my pickup?”
“Seriously?” Astra whispered at the floor. “Is this bravado supposed to be attractive?”
A woman held up a hand to her eyes as if shielding them from extreme brightness. Though squinting, she seemed incapable of looking away from Astra. All around, it seemed the entire store had come to gawp at the pretty, soaked stranger. None of them could capture Astra’s heart. Did father really meet mother this way?
Astra’s hair stood on end as the need to return filled her thoughts. The amassed crowd of onlookers shouted at her for attention, refusing to stand aside. She stormed by, shoving a few out of the way. Her touch dropped them to the floor, smoke rising where her hands had made contact. A sonic boom knocked down all within ten feet of her. Before anyone else could protest, Astra bolted for the exit.
The doors slid open. As soon as her feet touched the outside pavement, the hostile precipitation resumed. She did not complain that it always rained whenever she went out. After this interaction with humanity’s worst, Astra welcomed a return to normalcy. She leapt heavenward and did not descend.
In the clouds, a voice boomed her name. Frozen to the spot, she awaited judgement.
“Why did you not return to me immediately?”
Astra stammered, unable to find the right words. How it wasn’t fair that she could never walk abroad on the Earth or know what it was to fall in love. She could not raise her eyes to the man towering over her. His fatherly glower displayed more than disappointment.
“Because of your recklessness, three people are dead. Atropos had to make a hasty cut, and now reality itself is at risk. What were you thinking?”
Astra found her courage at last. “What are you going to do about it? Ground me? Those people were pigs! The whole lot of them. Did you see the way they spoke to me? As if I were nothing more than a pair of breasts. All I wanted was to follow in your footsteps. A chance to meet someone down there. And I can’t even have that, can I?”
Zeus frowned at his daughter. “Astra, you are one of the most beautiful creations in the heavens. Yet your touch is lethal. Lightning is meant for admiration and grandeur, not love.”