Dolores was changing. Her dreams told her so, her thoughts, her desires. All three frightened and excited her in equal measure. As time went by it became harder and harder for her to tell the difference.
Of the three of them Dolores was the most prone to such conflicts of emotion. Imelda relished confrontation, met aggression with aggression and walked open-armed and smiling towards a fight. Electra was too rational, too cerebral to let fear touch her. ‘The physical responses to fear and excitement are the same,’ she once told Dolores. ‘So choose to be excited.’
Ever since they met at college in New England the three women had done everything together. Each acknowledged the other’s differences and different needs, a trio without conflict, without jealousy. They never lied. If one of them wanted something – or someone – they just said. Koponen had been perfect – a man whose ego and appetites were large enough for them all, whose wealth, ambition, and generosity gave them the freedom to indulge their own dreams of exploring the world’s oceans, of seeing it all. To know it and understand.
But Koponen was not like them. Over time the flattery to his masculinity of having three beautiful, intellectual and passionate mistresses gave way to a deeper attachment to Dolores.
The three women remained content. Imelda and Electra occasionally joined with Koponen in erotic experiment while Dolores used her greater influence to get them all directorships in Koponen’s company. It was a tax efficient way for Koponen to give them money.
Then something else changed, something that had never happened before. After all, three may be indivisible but four can be divided in several ways. Typically Dolores was the last to realise. It took Electra to tell her why.
Koponen had been raging at the loss of another deep-sea drone. He thumped the table with his fist and fulminated at the incompetence of his marine engineers.
‘It’s not their fault,’ Electra said.
‘I know.’ Koponen slumped back in his chair and petulantly flicked his pen spinning across the desk. ‘They are good people, skilful and experienced, and I am being unfair. Once more there is delay and expense and I am frustrated. Perkele! We are getting nowhere. There is no mining, no revenues, and still we do not know why.’
‘Send someone down to take a look.’
Koponen waved the suggestion away. ‘It is too deep. The bathyscaphe would be near the limit of safety.’
‘There are better models.’
‘Yes, yes,’ Koponen clenched his fist. ‘More delay, more cost. These vessels cost millions, what choice do I have?’
Without understanding why Dolores felt words rise up in her mouth. ‘We’ll go.’
Koponen shook his head. ‘No, my dear, it is far too dangerous.’
‘Markus, listen. We’re qualified and we’re experienced. We can find out what’s wrong and restart the mining operation. Let us go and save all that time and money.’
We? Electra and Imelda were speechless with astonishment. We?
‘What the fuck did you say that for?’ Imelda said when the three were alone.
Dolores couldn’t see the problem. ‘Markus is in trouble, we can help him. After all he’s done for us, how can we do nothing?’
‘Easily. It’s fucking dangerous.’
Dolores shook her head. ‘This is what we’ve been trained to do.’
‘Not at ninety-eight percent of operational limits. Why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut?’
‘Because she’s in love with him,’ Electra said.
‘What?’ Imelda laughed in disbelief. ‘Is that really true?’
To her immense surprise Dolores discovered she couldn’t deny it.
For a while they tried acting as though nothing had changed. That was why, in the end, they agreed to the dive. By the time they returned to the surface everything was different.
Now Dolores lay beside Koponen in his bed, naked under the covers. Even here, safe and secure in Markus’s arms her belly trembled with nerves at what would soon happen to her, Imelda, and Electra. In the past there had always been the thrill of complicity, of watching Electra and Imelda and wondering what they were going to do next. She was the passive one but it was her who had set them on this wildest of paths.
Am I mad? Dolores thought. I yearn for Tuoni, I love Markus yet conspire against him.
In one sense it didn’t matter because it was too late. Tuoni waited in her dreams, more than dreams for Electra and Imelda were there too. Yet whatever that creature really was he was no more lord of the underworld than she was his daughter, Kivutar. Not yet. They were just stories plucked out of her mind from the myths and legends Koponen loved to tell. Stories that would, over time, become true.
Koponen stirred beside her and woke. Dolores rolled against him and kissed his mouth. She ran her hand down across his chest and stomach and took hold of his sex.
‘Tell me about Loviatar,’ Dolores breathed into his mouth.
Koponen lay still for a moment then said:
‘Old Lowyatar, that wicked witch,
Eyeless daughter of Lord Tuoni.
The ugliest of her father’s children.
Of all hell’s women, the very worst.’
His recitation faltered as Dolores caressed him, ceasing entirely when she pulled him onto her.
Koponen’s presence, his certainty, their sex, had always been reassuring. She needed that now more than ever. Tuoni’s kingdom under the Atlantic was not the dreary hell Tuonela, Electra could never be Loviatar, she was too beautiful for that fate. Whatever happened none of them could truly become those monstrous myth-women.
Yet a worm of doubt still gnawed.
Markus looked down at her. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘Nothing.’ She moved her hips and felt him move deliciously inside her. ‘I love you.’
To be continued…