'False Gods' by SJI Holliday



Her username was ‘Venus85’. She’d wanted just ‘Venus’ but obviously so did someone else so her birth year was as good a suffix as any. His was ‘Adonis82’. She supposed he’d had the same thought.
They’d started off in a chatroom, then emails, but neither had been brave enough to pick up the phone. She’d sent him a photo of her in a bikini on a beach in Crete, taken when she’d just started Uni. Lithe and smiling and sunkissed. His had been taken on a field trip to Mount Olympus. He wanted to be an archaeologist. She didn’t have such heightened plans. A teacher, she hoped. High school. Biology maybe, although they all seem to do a bit of everything these days. They talked about books and films and heroes and heroines. They talked about how everyone met online now. It was the thing to do. We’re Gods and Goddesses, they told each other. These ‘real’ people; they don’t even come close.
They decided to meet at the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus. Seemed fitting. She arrived by bus to Victoria Coach Station and walked past Downing Street and Nelson’s Column. He was coming by tube, he’d said. He didn’t live far. She was early; sat on the edge of the fountain, watching the crowds that bustled and hovered around, taking it all in. Japanese girls giving the Victory sign to the cameras, giggling. Americans in shorts, swollen feet squeezed into gaudy-coloured Crocs.
He was late.
She wandered around what she thought was the main tube exit, but there were too many others and she didn’t know which one he’d appear from. She glanced up at the neon screens, the giant faces of the beautiful people. Watched the buses, the taxis; the people playing chicken with the traffic, risking their lives trying to get across to Burger King. Horns honking; chattering: French, Spanish, Italian. Teenagers with backpacks and braces.
Then she saw him.
Well, she assumed it was him – he carried a single red rose. He looked nothing like his picture. Thinner, spottier. Crumpled clothes. She looked down at herself, cleavage threatening to burst from the long floral dress she’d chosen after discarding multiple less-flattering outfits. Nothing fit very well at the moment. Her hair was good though, long and shiny, dyed a golden-flecked red. She was still Venus, she’d decided. Even if she wasn’t quite the one in the bikini-shot. He, though – he was no Adonis. She wondered if he’d photoshopped his picture.
Charlatan, she thought. Beware False Gods. She slipped into the crowd before he could see her; let herself get carried away in the throng towards Leicester Square. She turned once and saw him standing near Eros, a puzzled look on his face as he glanced at his watch.
Lucky escape, she thought.
As she turned away again, she just missed the man who came running up the stairs from the tube, panic on his fine-looking face.
If only she’d waited a little bit longer.


First published in What the Dickens? Magazine (The Olympia Edition)

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