The first time he saw her smile, he could have sworn he was dying. His breath caught in the pale column of his throat, the remaining air seemingly forced from his lungs, and his heart froze before attempting to burst from his chest. He was immortal, he reminded himself, and had lived eons. He had seen the sun and the moon cycle around the earth more times than any mortal could count, but he’d never felt such peculiar things before in all of his millennia. So he must be dying, he concluded, because surely only death could feel like this. He’d even asked Thanatos and Chiron, his loyal servants, and both had gone to great lengths to assure their lord that he was still as alive – if they could even consider his dreary existence living – as the day he’d been birthed. His fears assuaged, he returned to his ebony throne but his mind still wandered to the beautiful maiden who dwelled above and the strange, yet welcome, feelings she’d inspired in him; and so, he found himself braving the surface world to be near her. It became a habit to sit outside her flower shop, hidden in the shade of a large, aged oak, just observing.
He loved her youthful exuberance, and it brought a smile to the sullen man’s face to watch her flit from one part of the store to the other like one of the nymphs who frequently accompanied her. With a snap of her finger or a wave of her hand, petals would grow heavy with dew, the flowers blooming right before his eyes; the myriad of colors were some of the most beautiful things Hades had ever seen, almost as beautiful as the woman whose power had brought them forth. He was awestruck as he watched her give life; he envied her for he could only take it away. It was during instances like this when their differences were highlighted even more: he was the epitome of darkness and she was all things light; from her head of sun-bleached hair to the soles of her bare, tan feet, to the radiance in her smile and the flowers in her eyes, to the sunshine which seemed to mingle with the ichor in her veins. While he wore a crown of bones overlaid with obsidian, she wore chaste lilies woven into her waist length curls. It was inevitable that he would corrupt her, darken her pure light, but he wanted her regardless of the obstacles because he loved her. Love – he’d mistaken it for death when really it was his heart thawing. The ice had fissured and shattered with just a glimpse of this otherworldly creature, his otherworldly creature, his light, his Persephone. He wanted her, and he would have her; he had her father’s permission so he would have her hand and, eventually, her heart.
It was a slow day in the shop for Persephone, but for once she had the store to herself – just her and her flowers which was how she preferred it. The nymphs were of great help, especially when the shop was particularly busy, but she was tired of their constant supervision. She was of age, had been for many cycles, and she wanted her mother to stop treating her like a babe. Her decisions were hers to make, not her mother’s, but her protests fell on deaf ears. Demeter still hovered, even millennia later, and had even opened up her own store next door so she could keep an eye on her Kore. She often stopped by, much to her daughter’s chagrin, but today she was tied up in her own affairs and Persephone had yet to hear a peep. She was grateful for such blessings, small as they were.
She hummed as she padded around the store, her arms laden with flora, their heady perfume clinging to her skin. She had work that demanded her attention; it was the end of the week and she had no doubt her father would stop by soon to pick up his order. It was always the same: a bouquet of a dozen of her best white roses. The flowers were always a gift for his wife Hera as an apology for his many, many affairs. Persephone pitied the goddess, and their marriage forced Persephone to understand her mother’s adamancy that she not wed. She understood, verily, but a part of her soul ached to be loved. She’d seen mortal weddings, had often snuck off to join in the festivities, and the love she discovered there could not be unlearned. She craved it nearly as much as she craved her freedom.
She was humming a wedding hymn to herself when the wind chimes above the shop door played their melodic tune, alerting her to her customer’s presence. She maneuvered gracefully around the counter, her chiffon skirt billowing around her bare ankles, to greet her father, but a stranger brought her up short. He was dark and brooding with his aquiline nose, cut cheekbones, and chiseled jaw. His skin was deathly pale, as if the warmth of the sun had never once graced his godly features, and his silken hair, the color of a starless night, brushed against his broad shoulders. He was handsome, there was no doubt, but it was his eyes that ensnared Persephone; they left her breathless and dizzy and without meaning to, she was falling into their dark, mysterious depths. His long, ring-adorned fingers grazed the delicate skin of her cheeks; they were cold, so cold, but they left her skin scorching as if it had just been licked by flames – for that was what he was, and, like a moth, she was inexplicably drawn to him. He drew back his hand and with it went the current of electricity which had crackled all along their skin. Instead he grabbed her hands and in them he placed a long stemmed, white flower, a narcissus. A current of understanding seemed to pass between them as Persephone tucked the beautiful bud into her braid. With this flower, he not only offered her the love she ached for, but the freedom she craved, as well as a kingdom of her own; she had accepted and she was now his.
Hades smiled at her and she tentatively returned it. Around her waist, his sinewy arm went and with a tap of his booted foot, the ground beneath their feet obeyed and the earth split in two. With little fanfare, the Lord of the Underworld returned to his domain with a mistress to rule by his side. He had found his light in a never ending darkness, already she had changed him irrevocably, and he would be a fool to let such a thing go.
Edited by Renee Luna