If someone came up to me after I turned 18 and said, “Core, I know this sounds crazy, but you should know that you are the reincarnated soul of the Greek goddess Persephone, and next month you'll marry the modern reincarnated version of Hades and become the queen of hell,” then I would have probably called the cops so they could get some much-needed help.
Unfortunately, no one told me that, so when the situation came around there was no moment of, “Oh, so this is what that person was talking about!” No, instead, all I saw was a chance to escape my overbearing mother to live with some hot guy.
Growing up, I always thought my mom was overprotective. Everything in our house that could be was soft, and things that were not, such as a table, had bubble wrap around the edge of it. All the dish-ware was styrofoam, and I wasn't allowed to use a knife or a fork. My mom homeschooled me, and the only friends I had were ones that I made online since I wasn't allowed to leave the house.
I mentioned her security measures in a chat once, and everyone laughed and took it as a joke. When I sent pictures, one guy said that I should sneak out the window at night and go to a party. This might have worked if we had windows, and if my mom didn't have an alarm set for when the front door was opened. So I stayed at home and contented myself with drawing cartoons and watching old movies.
I never asked my mom what happened to my dad, and I never asked her why I couldn't leave. I figured something sad must have happened, and that she needed me there to keep her company. I didn't mind. We played board games, and she taught me the name of every plant in her garden. Half our house was filled with plants, and I had never seen a single one die. My mom just had the skill.
In mid-September when I was 18, I got the flu just like I always did at that time. Every year when the days got colder and the leaves started to fall, I would get really sick; as though my body rejected the cold weather. I'd stay sick until spring, and then I wouldn't get sick again till the fall. The year I turned 18, things were different. I could barely stand. My mom fussed and worried, and the plants showed it. For the first time in my life, I saw one of her flowers wilt and die. I tried to protest that I was fine, that she could go back to the flower shop, but it's hard to argue when you can't speak.
After two weeks of not going to work, her co-worker at the shop called her, complaining that he couldn't keep up with the orders by himself. I finally convinced her to go, telling her I would just sleep the whole time she was gone. She kissed me on the forehead and left, and I finally slept in peace.
I slept fine for a few hours, but eventually, hunger drove me to the kitchen. My hands were cracked and dry, my bones stiff. I opened the fridge to reach for a snack, surprised when the cold air cracked the skin on my fingertips even deeper. I frowned and made a mental note to put some lotion on. I grabbed an apple and a block of cheese. I set them on the counter and opened the drawer for the cheese slicer. I grabbed the slicer but as I slid the drawer shut I pinched my little finger in it. An instant mini burst of pain came, and I yanked my finger to my mouth. I bit it on accident, tasting blood. I muttered a curse, heading to the medicine cabinet.
I reached up to find the band-aids but decided to watch for a moment as the red dot grew larger on my fingertip. It slowly grew until it suddenly rolled and dripped, falling into the dirt of the flower box beneath it. With no more reason to delay returning to bed, I unwrapped a bandaid, tightly winding it around the cut. I glanced up, almost missing the flowers. I stared in confusion at the bright red poppies suddenly blooming in the planter. Strange, I thought. Mom hates red flowers. She would never grow a plant on accident, so where did this come from? It looked so appealing, and suddenly I was overcome with an urge to smell it. I have no qualms with the smell of poppies, so I leaned forward and took a sniff. The aroma seemed to engulf me, the scent pushing its way through every part of my body. My airways cleared and my headache faded. I plucked the flower from its stem, wanting to keep whatever healing properties it had close at hand. I raised it to my nose for another smell when I heard my mom scream behind me.
I turned around, wondering why my mom was home, and what had caused her to scream.
She grabbed my arm roughly and shoved me out of the room. I stumbled, and she yanked me back up, still pushing me away from the flowers.
“We need to get out of here before he finds you,” she gasped.
“Mom, what is happening? Before who finds me?” I asked while she shoved me.
“Hello, my love,” said a male voice.
I stopped midstep. My mother started crying. I turned slowly and saw a young guy with dark black wings smiling at me. My mother tugged at me. “No, no, don't.”
I felt drawn towards him. He took a few steps forward, and so did I.
“No, darling, no!” she said again.
I didn’t turn around to face her, but I did stop walking. The boy didn’t. He kept walking until he stood so close that his chest brushed mine. I felt a sudden urge to throw my arms around him; when he suddenly took my face in his hands and kissed me. I didn’t pull back. I felt as though I had known him all my life, that we belonged to each other. This was right. After a few seconds, he broke the kiss. I gasped. He kept one arm around me, holding me tight against him.
“I’ve come to take her,” he told my mom.
“No,” she sobbed, shaking her head.
“A deal is a deal,” he said. “The blood has been spilled. She’s mine now," he said sternly.
I turned in his arms so my back was against his chest. I met my mother's eyes, hers filled with tears.
“Please,” she whispered desperately.
“I love you, mom.” My voice quivered.
“I'm sorry, Ceres,” he said. She dropped to her knees, head hung low, sobs racking her body. His arm tightened around me, turning me back to face him.
"Let's go," he whispered.
I nodded, and his wings engulfed us.