A/N: Finally, chapter 8! I got up at seven this morning in order to write this, so I surely hope it’s good. I honestly have no idea where I’m going with this, so if anyone has any ideas, feel free to comment any ideas you might have!
Persephone stared at the wall dully. Her mother was visiting her – again – and Persephone truly wished Demeter would stop coming around so much. Demeter had always demanded a lot of patience to be around, but lately it had been just ridiculous.
For the last three days Demeter had come by her chambers in order to scold her. For three days. The longest three days Persephone had ever gone through. All for talking with Hades.
And so Persephone had spent the last three days listening to what she, Persephone, had apparently told Hades by having a somewhat pleasant conversation with him. According to her mother Persephone had, evidently, practically given Hades permission to rape her.
“I meant nothing of it!” Persephone had protested. “I was merely being polite.”
“For men there is no such thing as merely being polite! Everything but a direct no is an invitation. Honestly, Kore! I really thought I had raised you better than that!” And so Demeter went on.
For three whole days before she finally felt satisfied that Persephone had understood why talking with her husband was so very horrible. On the fourth day Demeter smiled once again and wanted to talk about flowers and gardening and relief filled Persephone. Relief and annoyance.
It was just after her mother’s fourth visit, and Persephone couldn’t help but think that Demeter was a vexation to be around. She loved her mother, but lately she had started to consider whether or not she really liked her.
It was just so unfair. Being scolded for three days for a conversation! It was ludicrous, and Persephone felt embarrassed at the thought. Surely none of the other goddesses her age would stand for their mothers talking to them like that. Though to be fair none of the other goddesses had Demeter as their mother.
Hadn’t her mother understood that she hadn’t planned to have the conversation with Hades? Persephone had tried to explain that she had merely run into him by coincidence, but Demeter wouldn’t listen to excuses.
All Persephone had done was accidentally run into the man who called himself her husband and have a civil conversation with him. She hadn’t flirted back, hadn’t invited his advances. She had merely been polite.
It would probably have done Demeter some good if Persephone had actually invited Hades’ company.
Persephone stopped at that thought, shaking her head. She couldn’t do that. She just couldn’t. If she was unable to fight with her mother when she had done nothing wrong, how would she be able to tell Demeter that she had actually done something bad. And on purpose no less.
Except, Demeter didn’t have to know.
The mere thought was for a second more than Persephone could fathom. She had never lied to her mother before, had never withheld anything that she thought Demeter would might like to know.
But the idea of starting now wasn’t an unpleasant thought. In fact she rather liked the idea of having secrets from her overprotective mother. And she could still get that little thrill of rebellion without actually having to have the courage to look Demeter in the eye and tell her.
It could be her dirty little secret, her way to fight her mother’s vexing behaviour.
Taking a deep breath Persephone decided to act now before she could lose her nerve. She called her personal servant and took a couple of deep breaths to steady herself.
“Yes, my lady?”
“I would like to invite Lord Hades for lunch tomorrow,” Persephone told her, trying her hardest to act like it was no big deal. “Please ask him if he is available. He should be in the Palace at this time. And do not tell my mother of any of this,” she added as an afterthought.
“Yes, my lady.”
The servant disappeared and Persephone immediately regretted her rash decision. What was she doing?!
Asking the man who had kidnapped her to lunch! All in a childish attempt to get back on her mother! But the invitation was sent, and Persephone felt too embarrassed to call the girl back.
“What have I done?” she murmured. “I invited him for lunch. For lunch. Like we’re friends. After he so obviously flirted with me.” She took a deep breath, forcing herself to relax. She would just have to tell him that there would be no flirting of any kind. He was just there to chat. That was all.
Mother would of course say that he would see her lunch invitation as a pretext for sex and then rape her when he realised it wasn’t so, but Persephone knew Hades wouldn’t do that. He’d had her at his mercy for months in the Underworld and had still only kissed her that one time. She would be safe with him. At least from that particular horror.
The next day Persephone threw yet another worried look in the mirror. The servant had returned with Hades acceptance, but getting Demeter out of the picture had proved to be quite the challenge. Demeter had only agreed to postpone her visit for supper after Persephone had told her that she wished to spend a quiet day planting flowers on the little balcony that came with her chambers.
Now all there was left for Persephone to do was pace nervously back and forth and await her husband. She had changed her clothes four times already. She couldn’t look too good or he might misunderstand and think that she was flirting with him, but she didn’t want to look as embarrassing as the one time Demeter had dressed her either.
Finally she had chosen a dress in a soft yellow. She’d made sure to pick a cotton one as she didn’t wish to wear one of his gift in front of him. It was modest and seemingly innocent. Now however, Persephone worried if perhaps the dress hugged her curves a bit too tightly and wondered if she had time to change.
Her servant entered. “My lady,” she said with a bow. “The Lord Hades.”
Persephone took a deep breath and turned around to greet her husband.
“Lord Hades,” she said, blushing slightly at the sight of him. How had she forgotten how imposing he seemed? How he appeared to take up the whole room merely by being in it?
“Lady Persephone.” He bowed and looked at the servant with curious eyes.
Persephone faltered before realising what he wanted. “You may go,” she told the girl who immediately left. She had probably been as uncomfortable in Hades’ presence as Persephone was.
She looked in Hades in uncertainty, unsure what to do now that he was in her chambers. She hadn’t realised how much more intimate it would seem than randomly running into each other in the hallway.
Hades broke the silence.
“I was surprised to receive your invitation,” he said.
Persephone fidgeted. “Yes, I realise you must have been. We are not exactly… friends.”
Hades’ smile had a bitter tinge. “Indeed not. And yet you did?”
Persephone shrugged. “We are supposed to spend the rest of our lives together whether I want it or not. Being civil with each other will certainly make life easier.”
“It most certainly will.” Hades tactfully decided not to remind Persephone that this certainly wasn’t how she’d felt when they were still Underground. He had never wished he could read her thoughts more than he did in this moment. Seeing how uncomfortable his wife looked, he decided to change the subject.
“I hope your mother wasn’t too upset with you over our conversation,” he said. “She looked rather angry, and I know my sister. I am quite shocked that she even allows my presence here.”
Persephone grimaced. “Mother doesn’t know of this. I would prefer if it stayed like that.”
“I see,” Hades merely said, and there was something like understanding in his eyes.
Persephone swallowed nervously. “Would you like to sit down?” she asked, gesturing towards the table she’d had prepared.
Hades nodded regally. “Thank you,” he said, pulling one of the chairs out, and it took a moment before Persephone realised what he was expecting. Sitting in the offered chair, she smiled nervously at him, fidgeting with her skirt. This had been a bad idea. She couldn’t wait for lunch to be over. She was sure she wouldn’t be able to get a bite down.
“How is everything in the Underworld,” she asked, desperate for a distraction and Hades willingly answered.
He told her about the Judging, and Persephone felt herself unwillingly interested. Soul after soul being judged for every action and every thought they’d ever done. It must be a hard job to do, and Persephone found herself thankful that it was Hades who had this particular duty rather than Zeus or Demeter. Zeus would no doubt allow beautiful woman to go to a better place than they’d deserved if only they slept with him, and Demeter would be unjustly harsh with the men.
And rather than sitting meekly and listen like Persephone often did with her mother, she found herself talking more and more as the following hours went by.
Hades was so obviously interested in anything she had to say, and asked an innumerable amount of questions. He wanted her thoughts on anything and Persephone strived to explain her opinions as well as she could.
It was an odd experience. Her mother rarely cared for her views on things, and if she did ask for them it was with the same air that one would ask a little child. In order to satisfy them, not because you had any real interest in their answer.
“What about sinners who truly regret their actions?” Persephone asked Hades, excitement welling up in her. Mother would never have allowed her to have such a conversation, but Mother wasn’t here.
“They all regret their actions,” Hades answered calmly.
“No, I didn’t mean because of their punishment. If they honestly regret their actions because they feel ashamed over what they did in the heat of the moment?”
Hades considered it. “It would depend on the individual soul,” he slowly said. “But often I will have their memory wiped and send them back to Earth in order to try again. Hopefully they’ll do better the second time around.”
Persephone nodded thoughtfully. “It must be a tiring job,” she said.
Hades smiled softly at her. “It was at first. In the beginning I could not judge more than a single soul or two a day. Now I’ve gotten used to it. Perhaps you would like to come with me to a judging once you’ve returned home?”
Any friendliness Persephone felt towards Hades disappeared in that moment. She had been so caught up in the conversation that she had forgotten about reality. He had kidnapped her and in four short months he was going to drag her Underground with him if she wanted to go or not. It wouldn’t matter if she fought and screamed, the choice had been taken from her.
“There’s a long time until then,” she said, all cordiality leaving her voice. Hades grimaced at her tone, but Persephone paid him no heed.
“You should leave,” she said slowly, and Hades nodded regally and with pained eyes.
“Of course.” He stood up and bowed to her. “Goodbye my lady. For what it was worth I have truly enjoyed our day together.”
Me too, a part of Persephone wanted to say because she had, but she stayed quiet. She shouldn’t have encouraged Hades like this, thinking they had a future. In four months she would go with him with all the dignity she could muster and then spend the following seven months avoiding him as she best could. It wouldn’t be the life she wanted, but Persephone just had to deal with it.
“Goodbye,” she told him, and watched him go with an odd guilt filling her. It was ridiculous. She had no reason to feel guilty. Stupid, yes, and certainly naïve, but not guilty.
And yet it was all she could think of all day. When Demeter came to visit her she hardly heard a word her mother said, but merely nodded and hummed at what she thought was the right times.
Why did she feel so guilty?
Because she’d had a pleasant time, Persephone admitted to herself. Because for a second it’d felt like having a friend her mother hadn’t given her. Because Hades had certainly enjoyed their time together, and it had hurt to see the pain and disappointment so clearly written on his face.
“Mother, if someone does something bad, but feels truly guilty about it, it that person still a bad person?” she asked thinking of the conversation she’d had with Hades.
Demeter looked at her in surprise, before answering. “Are you thinking of that man? Don’t be silly Kore. That man is going to tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear, but I can promise you that not a single part of him feels anything remotely pure hearted. Such as guilt. He’s only lying to you because he hopes that you will pity him.”
For a second Persephone feared that Demeter realised who she had spent her day with before she realised her mother thought that she was talking about something Hades had told her while Persephone was still Underground.
“I wasn’t talking about Hades,” she murmured, but Demeter couldn’t surpass such a chance to once again talk about the evil that was Persephone’s husband. Persephone quickly stopped paying attention. She’d heard it all before, and her mother’s conversations were honestly never so terrible interesting.
Nothing like Hades’ had been, though Persephone felt guilty for thinking so.
She wondered if he did feel guilty for taking her. She wished she could just ask him. Perhaps she could. She didn’t have to admit that she’d done anything wrong by kicking him out.
She could pretend to just happen to run into him, but suddenly she just had to know whether or not he actually felt guilt over what he’d done to her.
If he didn’t feel guilty, she could write him off as just as evil as Mother described, but if he did… well, Persephone could hardly feel more confused than she already did.