Loved By Death; Chapter 20

Walking to her mother’s cottage, Persephone found herself smiling, lost in pleasant thoughts of touches and kisses. She didn’t notice the butterflies nor the flowers, both of which multiplied in numbers the closer she got her mother’s home. Why notice a garden that she already knew as intimately as she possibly could? There wasn’t a square feet of ground that her mother hadn’t made her weed back when she still lived at home.

And it wasn’t like it’d been necessary. A couple of whispered words to the ground, and there wouldn’t grow a single plant that they had not allowed there. But apparently weeding kept young girls from thinking bad thoughts. At least that was the explanation that she’d gotten from her mother. Persephone rather thought that she’d just recently learned exactly what kind of bad thoughts her mother had tried to avoid.

Persephone herself hadn’t done any gardening in weeks. It wasn’t like she didn’t enjoy it, but now she had books, and she had gossip and fun and Hades. None of which were things that her mother would have allowed if only she’d been capable of forbidding them.

Nowadays Persephone did an awful lot of things that she didn’t use to be allowed to do. Such as kissing. Blushing, Persephone wondered how kissing could have felt so awful with Ares and yet so very, very nice with Hades.

Her life was good, she decided as she closed her eyes to better enjoy the sun‘s gentle touch on her face. Her husband adored her, she only saw her mother a couple of times a week, and she had found a truly good and scandalous friend in Hermes. Life was good.

“You’ve made no progress whatsoever!”

Stopping in her tracks, Persephone hesitated. She hadn’t told her mother that she was coming as she usually did, but she hadn’t thought that it might matter. Demeter usually never had company, and Persephone hadn’t considered that she might disturb her mother. Maybe she should just leave. Mother sounded furious, and Persephone had been on the wrong end of her scoldings enough times already. Then another voice answered.

“It’s not as simple as that.”

The voice sounded familiarly amused, and Persephone frowned. She knew that voice, but whatever was Hermes doing talking with her mother?

“Don’t be silly!” her mother’s voice sounded. “Your competition is Hades. Whom my sources telling me is kissing my daughter! How hard can it be to seem like a better choice than him?!”

Persephone felt indignation well up in her. So Demeter was still watching her, though she was clearly more subtle about it than previously. Not that she and Hades had been particularly careful never to kiss somewhere where they might be seen. They had to be more cautious in the future.

What was she thinking? Hades was her husband. They shouldn’t have to hide away like a pair of illicit lovers just because her mother didn’t approve. And what did Demeter mean when she said that Hermes was Hades’ competition? Hermes had never showed any sort of romantic interest in her.

“I’m building a foundation,” Hermes said, sounding exasperated, and Persephone wished that she was better at understanding this sort of things. Hades was right. She was too naïve.

However, she wasn’t naïve enough to choose to step forward and letting herself be seen. She wanted to hear this conversation that was clearly not meant for her ears. Hermes continued, unabashed.

“Your daughter isn’t the type to fall in love with pretty words and empty promises. She needs to feel a certain bond between her and the man. Friendship. Trust. I’m building that bond. What does it matter that Hades kisses her? She’ll leave him eventually.”

Persephone couldn’t withhold a gasp and froze, terrified that they’d heard.

“Well, I want you to be faster about it!” her mother said, clearly annoyed. “I’m sick of hearing about that man touching my daughter.”

Ice-cold fury welled up inside of Persephone. She’d been angry at Demeter before, but she expected this sort of thing from her mother. Making someone else seduce her, just so that Hades couldn’t get her, was just the kind of thing that her mother might do if she got desperate enough.

But Hermes!

The friend, who’d told her secrets that Demeter had forbidden her to hear. The friend, who’d made her laugh and who had honestly and genuinely seemed to enjoy her company.

The friend whom Persephone had defended to Hades.

She should go in and rage and scream at them. She should show them that she wasn’t as stupid and naïve as they thought, even though she suspected that she really was. She should let Hermes know that she no longer considered him a friend.

But Persephone had never lost a friend before, and the loss hit her hard and without mercy. Rather than demanding explanations and apologies, she turned around and fled, unable to deal with the reality that so blatantly stared her in the face.

¤ ¤ ¤

Back at the castle, Persephone walked around aimlessly. Her first instinct was to find Hades, but to tell him what she’d discovered would mean to admit to how stupid she’d been, and Persephone didn’t think that she could bear it. Her desire to scream and rage had disappeared. What good had it done her in the past? Every progress she’d made with her mother hadn’t been made through those means. She’d been able to move to Mount Olympus because she had basically blackmailed her mother. She’d been able to escape her mother’s constant presence, because Demeter had overplayed her hand and not realised that Persephone wouldn’t support her in her lies.

Her relationship with her mother was like a never-ending game and Persephone was sick of losing.

Her mother had several advantages. She wasn’t above using guilt and trickery to get her way, and Persephone realised that if she wanted to win, she had to do the same.

Slowly, and without Persephone realising it herself, the despairing look in her eyes disappeared as she lost herself in her thoughts. She would show Hermes that he couldn’t trick her like he tricked his mortal women. She would show Demeter that her constant deceits had consequences.

And she would prove to Hades that she wasn’t a little child.

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