Christopher sits facing a tall, lean young woman with short, shaggy hair a mousy shade of chestnut, framing a face with sharp cheekbones, a hook of a nose, and a generous mouth that quivers with discontent. She wears a loose black tunic and matching pants, sandals on her feet, There’s a silver charm around her neck in the shape of a cup and her eyes are stormy gray.
Christopher: Is it me or are you particularly angry right now?
Hebe: I thought I was going to visit the Cauldron right after Mother did. Only you had Grace and her bear over instead. And Nathalie.
Christopher: (spreading his hands in an apologetic gesture) I’m sorry. Our scribbler was promoting her holiday book; Wind Me Up, One More Time. She decided to have characters from that story visit.
Hebe: Bet it didn’t help sell her book at all.
Christopher: We don’t know if it didn’t-
Hebe: Bet they all have pretty noses; Grace, Nathalie, even Theodora Bear. Just as you have a pretty nose.
Christopher: Um, thank you, although I don’t think my nose and Theodora’s are all that alike-
Hebe: Why couldn’t I have a pretty nose? (She run a finger down the slope of her own.) A cute little button nose just like yours?
Christopher: You wouldn’t believe the trouble I have, keeping glasses on. They slip over the bridge of my nose whenever I wear them. I’m guessing you don’t have that problem.
Hebe: Do you wear glasses that often?
Christopher: Err, no.
Hebe: Neither do I. You know he had a pretty nose, too.
Hebe: The boy who stole my position as cupbearer at my father’s side. Along with my position. Made me realize just how useless I am.
Christopher: You’re not useless.
Hebe: How would you know? I had one purpose and it was taken from me.
Christopher: Did you like it? Your former purpose?
Hebe: Not really. It defined. My siblings and I all had a task, a function, an affinity which defined us.
Christopher: You speak in the past tense of your siblings as well as yourself. Did they loose their purposes as well? Or are they even still alive?
Hebe: Yes. No. (She frowns.) Our functions were so much a part of us, I have a hard time seeing any of us surviving without them.
Christopher: Did they survive?
Hebe: I’m not sure. I lost mine before anyone else did, but my parents lost their own place, ruling over the heavens, becoming diminished versions of themselves. My siblings might have done the same.
Christopher: Have you thought of looking for your siblings?
Hebe: Why should I? None of them could be bothered with me. Why should I bother with them? There’s only Mother and Father now. They’re quite enough to cope with.
Christopher: You live with your parents in Omphalos, don’t you?
Hebe: You know I do. Father is practically an invalid or he pretends to be. Mother fusses over him, takes care of him, and makes certain he can’t go anywhere. For a while she was happy, having Father all to herself, administering tea to him, keeping him too docile and sleepy to chase other women or boys, but only for a while. Now even she is discontented. She longs to return to the heavens, to what she once was. Father thinks of nothing else.
Christopher: Do you long to return to the heavens, to being the cupbearer you once were?
Hebe: No. All I did was pour wine. I want something different, something more. I want to open doors to other possibilities. I want to be the sort of person brave enough to open those doors. I want to be like Gabrielle, your mother.
Christopher: ‘Brie? She doesn’t open doors. She waits for one particular door to open, the door to the Navel. She waits for people and the worlds they carry within to come to her.
Hebe: Ah, but they do come to her. ‘Brie could open doors to those inner worlds if she wished to. She’s everything I want to be, a beautiful woman with golden hair, only I want mine to be streaked with silver. (She becomes more enthusiastic, waving her hands as she speaks.) And I want blue eyes as vivid as hers only with more violet and silver flecks within them which allow me to see things others can’t. And hands that can open doors, leading to other worlds.
Christopher: (He goes very still at her description of her dream self. As Hebe becomes animated, he becomes more grim.) You want to open a Door to the Shadow Forest.
Hebe: Better to open that Door than to continue stalking the Navel, mooning over your mother, and taking cup after cup only to smash them.
Christopher: Why do you smash the cups?
Hebe: I’m not sure. I love those cups. I’m drawn to each drinking vessel almost as if I recognize a part of myself in it. Only I start remembering myself when I hold it in my hands, remembering my father. I can almost feel myself pouring the wine for him and I start thinking of that boy. The one who took my place at my father’s side. I think of how beautiful that boy looks, the grace he puts into pouring the wine, more grace than I ever possessed. In the end, I can bear it no more. I smash the cup.
Christopher: You seem to be haunted by your former self, Hebe.
Hebe: I wish I wasn’t. I wish she’d go away. I have no desire to be her any longer. I want to be more like your mother, a ‘Brie who goes looking for Doors and opens them.
Christopher: Be careful what you wish for. Especially where the Shadow Forest is concerned.
Hebe: I’m sick at heart at being full of care, Christopher. I’m sick of being unnoticed, quiet, the invisible presence pouring the wine, the damaged daughter who picks up cups. I’m sick of being me. I want my Door, Christopher, my Door leading to a new self. I want to change.
Christopher: Do you really need a Door to change?
Hebe: Yes, I fear I do. Other people can change without them, even if it’s extremely difficult. For me, I feel a Door is necessary.
Christopher: I hope this quest for a Door goes well for you. I truly do.
Hebe: Only you’re certain it won’t. (She eyes Christopher with a cynical, humorless smile.) Neither do I.
Christopher: Knowing it won’t turn out the way you hope it will, you’re still going to look for your Door?
Hebe: Like I said, it’s better than continuing as I am.
Christopher: I hope it is. I truly do.