James Broussard, a Professor of Anthropology and Mythology at Yale, finds himself irresistibly drawn to Cytherea Sagapo, the author of an obscure treatise on the legend of Adonis and Aphrodite. The humble elementary school teacher, who lives in Paphos, Cyprus, reveals to James that she has written other manuscripts; and the curious professor decides to try and recruit her for the graduate program at his own university. As he learns more about the mysterious Cytherea through email correspondence, he imagines that she may in fact be his life’s very own Aphrodite; and, with a single-minded romantic purpose, he plans a trip to visit her and meet Cytherea face to face. When he arrives, it seems clear that Cytherea is actually the real Aphrodite—and that he, surprisingly, may be the reincarnation of her one and only true love, Adonis.
Cytherea is a witty and clever romantic fantasy that features contemporary portrayals of the ancient deities set in modern day. This novella, which spans genres, will appeal to lovers of paranormal fiction, fantasy, and romance alike. The well-known characters from Greek legends come to life in these pages, as the author spins a creative and delightful tale of love, forgiveness, and redemption with a happily-ever after—albeit surrealistic—ending.
Cover art by Deron Douglas
Cytherea by Charles J Schneider is available on Nook, Kindle, Reader, and iTunes, and in paperback.
I deplaned in London, then in Athens-finally arriving at Paphos International Airport after a tiring twelve-hour journey. I had always had difficulty sleeping in coach-class seats, and this trip was no exception. By the time I arrived in Cyprus, I felt severely jet-lagged.
I picked up my rental car, entered the hotel address into the navigator system, and drove directly to my quaint accommodations at the top of a winding cobblestoned hill. As soon as I arrived-checking in with bleary eyes and dreams of a soft feather bed-I climbed the stairs to the second floor landing; turned the key in the lock to my room (lucky thirteen); threw my suitcase into the corner; turned down the bed-sheets; and fell immediately into a deep and refreshing sleep.
I awoke to the ring of my phone-the 6 pm wake-up call that I had requested at check-in. Two hours would be plenty of time to ready myself for the 8 PM reservations that she had made for us at Taverna Hephaestus-located conveniently within walking distance of my hotel. After a shower and shave, I found myself walking down the street, map in hand, on my way to meet my destiny.
Hephaestus-the ancient God of Fire, and Aphrodite’s mythological husband. This was, of course, a perfectly logical name for a restaurant in Cyprus-especially one that specialized in grilled seafood and other flamed delicacies. Still, I found myself pondering the irony of yet another incredible coincidence. How strange that I would soon meet Cytherea-aka, Aphrodite-in a restaurant named after the Goddess’s lame and neglected spouse. I laughed to myself as I consulted my map; and after three short blocks, I rounded the last corner on my walking tour, finally reaching the restaurant well in advance of our reservation time.
The restaurant was dark, quiet, and intimate-a perfect setting for our first meeting. I nervously scanned the small room for signs of my mysterious blind date. The restaurant could accommodate perhaps a dozen small parties at the most, and all of the tables except for one were occupied. I noted with more than slight relief that there were no unaccompanied women on the premises. The perspiration on my forehead was not entirely due to the brisk walk from the hotel to the restaurant, and a few moments alone at our table before she arrived would help to calm my nerves and still my pounding heart.
I was greeted cordially by a tall maitre-de with coal black hair. He smiled insincerely, and did not speak. He had undoubtedly judged correctly from my appearance that I was a tourist with an embarrassingly scant Greek vocabulary.
She said the reservations would be in her name. Clearing my throat, and hoping that my bland American accent would not butcher the correct pronunciation, I made my bold announcement. “Sagapo,” I stated with feigned assurance, shoving my hands into my pockets as I watched him look down at his reservation list.
He shook his head. “No,” he said, glancing back in my direction and raising his eyebrows suspiciously.
Mildly surprised that she would not use her surname to reserve our table, I offered her given name instead. “Cytherea,” I suggested hopefully. He scanned the list with a skeptical expression on his face.
“No,” he concluded, shaking his head again for emphasis. “There is no reservation under eithername, unfortunately,” he said.
At least he spoke English; but he was not about to engage in any verbal pleasantries with a mere tourist. He started to turn away, the contempt obvious in his shrug as he began attending to more important matters. His abrupt dismissal made my face burn with self-conscious embarrassment as I glanced longingly at the empty table that I knew belonged to us.
I found myself involved in a ludicrous subconscious dialogue with my absent partner. “What would you have me do now, my sweet Goddess of love?” I asked myself-I asked her-as I tried to decide whether to stay or go.
Then, it struck me. It seemed so obvious, so simple… and so perfect.
“Check under the name Aphrodite, please,” I suggested, confidant that this time I’d hit pay dirt.
My examiner frowned, obviously disappointed that I had given the correct answer this time. He bowed, contemptuously I thought. “Right this way, sir,” he said, his outstretched arm directing me towards the empty table in the corner of the candlelit dining room.
I was escorted, quite unnecessarily, an exceedingly short distance to a solitary empty table located in the far corner of the dining room. I chose the nearest chair, intentionally. Although it would not afford me a view of the restaurant’s entryway, it would instead provide an excellent panoramic view of the street through a large picture window. I thought I could perhaps catch sight of her as she approached on the sidewalk outside, and in this fashion prepare myself with a brief moment’s advance notice for our auspicious meeting.
I watched expectantly, as a handful of couples strolled by arm-in-arm; followed by a group of raucous students; and then by an elderly man who was being rather obviously walked by his leashed mastiff rather than vice versa. Thirty minutes passed, during which time I saw no passers-by who would even vaguely fit my imagined vision of the beautiful Cytherea.
I finished two glasses of native Agiogitiko-highly recommended by my waiter- while I waited for my fantasy; and still, no sign of her. I glanced at my watch nervously, noticing that it was now forty-five minutes past our reservation time. My dejection deepened as more time elapsed. Had she stood me up? Perhaps she had; and if so, I could hardly believe I had been duped so easily.
As I was lamenting my gullible vulnerability, I felt a tap on my shoulder as the maitre-de handed me a folded note. “For you, sir,” he stated happily-victoriously?-as he turned abruptly to go. My heart was in my throat as I noticed that Jamie was written on the outside of the letter in a feminine hand. I gently grabbed the maitre-de’s elbow, rising from my chair with unsophisticated haste.
“Who gave you this note?” I demanded, waving the unread folded piece of paper under his nose.
He looked at me calmly, intentionally prolonging the torture with an unnecessary pause. “Only the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” he finally responded, apparently pleased that she would not be having dinner with such a contemptible American tourist.
“Where is she?” I asked, looking wildly around the restaurant as if I might spot her standing in a corner or against the wall.