THIRTY SEVEN - Unwanted Dinner Guest
AN UNWANTED DINNER GUEST
It was much later before Persephone got to see Hades again. His meetings had kept him later than he had previously expected. Persephone hadn’t minded, it had given her some much needed alone time with her mother, but still, he had not stopped apologizing.
She had been nervous about her mother’s visit, to be honest, she hadn’t been sure she would come, but now that her mother was here she felt the nerves melt away. They had not yet talked about the major cause of their conflict, instead choosing to forgo the uncomfortable conversation for another time. It had quickly been decided without using words that the mother and daughter would instead enjoy their time together after the long separation. Demeter had remained quiet most of the tour Persephone had given her, but that had been expected. Her mother had never been one for excessive words, instead, Persephone read her facial expressions and was proud of the smiles her garden had caused. Though her mother had made some off-putting comments about the Underworld and its inhabitants, Persephone felt positive the dinner would go smoothly and that this was the beginning of the harmony she so desperately wanted.
They only needed to get through dinner. The only difference was this time Hades and her mother would be together in the same room. They had never had a good interaction that Persephone knew of, and she very much doubted that stealing Demeter’s daughter away from her and humiliating her in front of Olympus’s eyes would have put him in her good favor. Still, it needed to be done, and hopefully, with her there mediating the dinner it could be peaceful or at the very least not end in bloodshed.
Her eyebrows pulled together with skepticism as she studied the dress she was wearing in the mirror. It was a long sleek black dress that cut down into her cleavage. It held her figure perfectly and had become one of Hades’ favorites rather fast. It had always made her feel powerful and confident which is why she had chosen it, but now she was starting to second guess her choice. She had learned quickly that a woman’s outfit had a strangely important effect on any encounter. Her wit and intelligence would always be her most useful tool but her body would be the first impression and direct all further conversations.
She could see Hades walk out of his closet, in the mirror’s reflection. He was working on tying his tie around his neck but the moment he saw her dress he was stalled. Once again proving her point.
A woman doesn’t always need words to bring a man to his knees.
“Do you think my mother would like this dress?” she asked him, doing a half turn in the dress to see how it fell around her legs. If it wasn’t bad enough that there was a plunging neckline there was also a slit up the side of her leg. It barely reached her knee and was only obvious when she turned quickly but she knew her mother would hate it. It showed she was a woman and no longer her little girl who she could dress in only the most modest robes.
She had always been dressed as a temple priestess, but now she was dressed as a goddess.
She shook her head after biting her lip. She could not wear this to dinner, it would only spark a war, if there was not already one on the horizon. “Never mind, will you unbutton me?” she asked him.
He left his tie to hang loose around his neck as he walked to her wordlessly. But instead of reaching for the buttons on the back of her dress he circled his arms around her waist and rested his chin on the top of her head. His eyes studied her’s threw their reflection on the full-length mirror. “I like you in this dress.” he simply told her.
“Yes, but i don’t think it’s appropriate. I have a light pink one my mother gave me for my birthday, that one will be better for a dinner like this one,” she said reaching for the buttons herself.
He growled in response before stopping her hands, “You promised.”
“What?” she asked in confusion.
“You promised you wouldn’t change for your mother,” he said sternly. She turned to meet his angry eyes and matched their sternness just as well.
“That is not what this is,” she told him. She stood fast defending herself even when he quickly laughed at her words.
“Of course it is,” he told her as if she didn’t understand.
“Tell me, Hades would you want to see any daughter of ours in a dress like this?” she asked him pointing to her clear cleavage, his eyes followed her hands and stayed there.
When he looked back up at her, his eyes darkened with anger as if he was imagining the situation, “I would hate every second of it.” he growled once he found his words. She had no doubt this was true but she also suspected it was the simplest version of the truth. She could easily imagine him yelling and demanding a daughter of theirs to put more clothing on. She had always known how protective Hades was of her and had no doubt this nature would transfer over to any children they might have. “But I would also want her to feel comfortable enough to be herself around me and not the version she thought I would approve of. Even if it was against my every wish,” he said grinding his teeth together towards the ending.
“I was only trying to be courteous to her,” she admitted to him.
He nodded knowing her kind heart, “i know you were, but Persephone, don’t let your mother change you. This is what i was afraid of, first this then something bigger. Do not let your mother kill your spirit.” her eyes lowered remembering months ago and the feeling of wanting to always please her mother. She quickly realized this was the same feeling. When her mother had come to visit, the nymph was not the only thing she brought with her. He grabbed her chin between his thumb and forefinger bringing her eyes up to his, “If you truly want to change that is one thing but if you like the dress then wear it. Don’t wear it for her, and don’t wear it for me. I would love you in anything, or nothing at all.” he smiled naughtily, something she couldn’t even resist mimicking.
“It is my favorite.” she reasoned quietly.
“Then you should wear it,” Hades said, matching her own tone. It was not a demand but merely a suggestion.
“Ok, I’ll wear it.” she decided, watching his smile stretch further across his face. She reached up and began to tie his tie for him. While doing this he merely watched her as she worked. Clearing her throat she looked up at him, “I’ve been meaning to thank you.”
“For what darling?” he asked.
“For being so welcoming to my mother,” she said as she saw him swallow hard, watching as his Adam’s apple bobbed. “I know she is not your favorite, nor you hers, but i just wanted to thank you, for everything you have done. I know it cannot be easy to have her in your home after what she said about you at the trial.”
She had many things to feel guilty about; for lying, for the many dangers she had brought into Hades’ life, and how she had the nack of complicating his life. But the number one thing she would always feel personally responsible for was the slander added onto Hades name. As if he did not already live his life in the shadows of everyone’s mind. Her mother had called him a kidnapper and a rapist. She had charged him and if things had gone the other way Persephone knew Hades would not be standing here in his own realm and in his own home. It was unthinkable.
“Our home.” he corrected as he always did when she called it his home, instead of acknowledging her comment about the trial. He kissed her lips lightly before telling her softly yet surly, “She is your family, And no matter what she has done you still love her.” He paused for a moment but did not look away from her eyes, “And so i will always support you and what you need. If that is your mother then i will do anything to make peace with her.”
She smiled sweetly at his words. Hades was the only immortal she knew that deserved the title of a god. “Thank you. Just know it does not go unseen. I notice all the effort you put into it and it makes me love you even more if that is even possible. After this dinner, I might even reward you for it. I can be very thankful.” she giggled as she felt him pull her in closer and his grip on her hips tighten. She looked up at him calmly, and sighed heavily, “I know it might not look like it, but I think she’s mostly just sad,” Persephone admitted.
Hades nodded before looking off to the side saddened. “I understand,” Hades replied. “The days you would leave were… difficult for me, to say the least. When you used to leave me it progressively got harder and harder. And now that we are heading towards another goodbye I can only sympathize with your mother more.”
Persephone watched him in aww. He had never admitted this to her before, not this blatantly. Hades was not a man who liked talking about his feelings, it was usually torturous trying to get him to admit how he was feeling. And this she knew was particularly vulnerable for him to admit. It was a feeling she too had experienced. “It was?” she asked.
“Every day you were gone was harder than the last.” he nodded. “But I had hope, knowing I would see you again. Your mother will find solace in this hope too, knowing you’ll return to her,” he said. The goddess of flowers’ heart swelled. Not only had he confessed how much he had missed her, but he alleviated some of her guilt about leaving her mother. “I hope we have a daughter who adores her mother as much as you do,” he told her as he wiped a tear from her cheek, she had not known had escaped.
She laughed at him and his random comment. “Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself?” she asked. His mind had recently seemed to always wander to their future children, even though she had told him she wanted to wait until she was older. He had rejected this plan the first time he heard it reminding her that he was much older and could be responsible enough for both of them. He had argued age had nothing to do with responsibility.
“I can not help but think about it. The little patter of children in our home, the grubby fingers, and the laughter. Don’t you?” he asked her. She could not help the smile that quickly spread. Even though she wanted to wait did not mean she didn’t think about it all the time. She always dreamed about how great it would be to carry Hades children.
“Well yes,” she admitted. “I just thought it would be far off.” she could have laughed at the immediate frown that appeared on his face the moment she spoke.
“I want so many children with you, Persephone. Little girls with their mother’s eyes and Princely boys. Every time i see you i cannot help but wonder what you will look like with our baby in your arms.” he admitted as he wrapped his arms around her protectively as if he was the one cradling something precious.
“I would love nothing more. You would make the best father, Hades.” she grinned towards her husband but her smile quickly dropped when she watched his eyes darken and he looked away from her. She cupped his cheek in her palm to bring him back to her. “what is it?” she asked softly.
At first, he did not speak but then his hard exterior, which she hated, melted away. “I know you would be a doubting mother, of that I am sure, but sometimes I don’t-” he purposely stopped himself. He hadn’t lost his words, no he knew exactly what was bothering him but did not want them to be spoken aloud. She placed her hands on his chest, waiting patiently for him, letting him know she was there for any support he needed. After a moment he cleared his throat to carry on, “My father was less than ideal,” he said simply not caring to go into detail, knowing she already knew the horror that was his childhood. “I want children with you, to see them grow and be happy. But I sometimes worry I would not be what they will need.” After his confession his eyes once again looked away from her, ashamed of his fear.
Her heart instantly broke for him. This man had always been kind and caring to a point of putting himself last for the people he loved. Hades did not deserve the doubt that now filled his mind. She knew this stemmed from his upbringing and it made her feel helpless knowing she could do nothing to change the past. Like she was grasping at anything trying to keep him together as she watched as he still fell apart.
“Oh Hades,” she said, her voice seemed too small for her body. She was trying to be strong for him, as he had always been for her. Reaching up she softly kissed the corner of his lips, bringing him to look at her. “When we have a baby, you will be the best of fathers. I know this because you are kind, loyal, and loving to all those around you. And most importantly I know you are not your father. Of that, I know for sure, and I believe deep down you know it too.”
He smiled sadly down to her, “I just want the best for any child we have.” he confessed.
“I know. That is what will make you such a great father. They will adore you, just as i do.” she told him as she straightened his tie.
Walking into the dining room Persephone had been too distracted listening to Hades’ complaint about the antics of his nephew Hermes to notice her mother had arrived early to dinner. Her laughter quickly died in her throat as she saw her mother standing in front of the table waiting for them. Persephone knew Demeter was not patient and even now she was not happy.
Her mother looked her up and down, analyzing her dress as she knew her mother would. Under her mother’s stare, she knew why this dress always made her feel so confident; it was the way Hades would look at her like she was his queen. She knew Demeter would disapprove but it was Persephone’s favorite and she did make a promise to Hades. That was why she could not change into something Demeter would like. It would have to be added to the list of the many things her mother would have to deal with.
Still, Persephone could not help but wipe invisible dust off her dress while under her mother’s critical eye. Hades must have seen her action because he grabbed her hand into his larger and comforting one. She smiled up at him and squeezed his hand in thanks. No words of affirmation would be better than his actions and how he knew exactly what she needed. When she looked back at her mother she saw Demeters eyes were not on her dress but trained on their joined hands.
Persephone cleared her throat trying to elevate some of the uncomfortable tension from the room, “Sorry, we kept you waiting.”
“It does not matter,” Demeter said, even though Persephone knew in fact, it did matter. Demeter was keeping track and this was going to be another strike against them. “let us start now that you have graced us with your presence.” Demeter spoke as she turned to sit without invitation.
Hades took his normal seat at the head of the table after pulling out a seat for Persephone at his right. She quietly thanked him as she sat down. The correct spot for her would have been at the other end of the table, for she was co-ruler, and his queen having equal rights and equal power. But she had never been able to bring herself to follow this stiff tradition. She had much rather enjoyed sitting next to Hades, where she could reach out and touch him.
She saw her mother sit next to her but that was not surprising. What was surprising was the nymph Demeter brought with her taking the seat on Hades’ left side. There was an open seat on the other side of Demeter yet the girl had chosen to sit next to Hades. What an odd and bold move for a nymph. She chose to ignore it, she had much larger things to worry about tonight. The drifting eyes of a young girl would not be one of them.
The silence began to suffocate the room as all the guests sat in silence. That is until dinner was served, then the sounds of dinnerware on the dishes was a welcome sound. Persephone sat in between her mother and husband, the two most stubborn people she had ever known. She knew neither one wanted to be the first to speak, instead choosing to sit in silence. As she turned to look at Hades she saw he was sitting completely comfortable, clearly, he had no problem with the uncomfortable silence. Hades glanced up noticing the scowl Persephone was sending him, telling him he better break the silence or he would regret it tonight.
He quickly cleared his throat, “how were the gardens today?” he asked nobody in particular. While it was not what she was looking for she was still thankful for the distraction. She took the topic and ran with it, carrying on about the garden and what her mother had seen. After some time it seemed like everything was going well. Her mother was telling a quite embarrassing story of Persephone when she was a child. While she hated anyone hearing the story, Hades seemed to be eating it up.
Persephone was beaming with joy that her family was finally at peace when the movement of a hand caught her eye. The nymph’s hand was now resting on Hades’ arm as she laughed along with everyone else, except she was only looking at Hades. Suddenly Persephone’s face dropped onto one of anger. Persephone was far from a seductress but she knew when someone was flirting, especially when they were flirting with her husband.
Thankfully Hades moved to lean away from the nymph and towards Persephone, making her drop her hand. His eyes were light and cheerful, he did not know what the woman was doing. It all made sense now why the nymph did not take the seat at the end of the table, she wanted to be close to Hades.
A fire raged in Persephone as she realized the nymph’s intentions. This woman had planned on flirting with her husband in front of her and in her own home. The nerve of the woman. The nymph must have thought she could get away with it either because Persephone was too naive to notice or she simply wouldn’t do anything. Well, she had noticed and she would rather trade places with atlas than let this whore touch what was hers and get away with it.
Her mother continued trying to talk with Persephone as she once had but there was nothing that could distract her away from the look floating in the nymph’s eyes. It was funny that all she had wanted was for her mother to visit, to have forgiven her, and to get along with Hades. And now that it seems she has all those things she still cannot find happiness. Instead, anger continued to fill her.
She knew the last thing she could do was to make the dramatic scene she so desperately wanted to make. She wanted to pull this woman’s hair until she stepped away from Hades, yell all the insults she has been thinking of, and drag her out of the Underworld talking of course the longest way. But she knew she couldn’t do such a thing. The display of such anger and jealousy would only cement into her mother’s mind that she was juvenile and unable to make her own decisions. And furthermore, it would embarrass Hades and cause her rule to look uncertain.
No, the time for her revenge would have to be done silently and in private.
A queen could make a show of traitors and trespassers. All threats to their rule. But when it came to another woman, it must be kept silent. The greatest threat to a queen’s rule was the thought that she no longer had the king’s eye. Whether it was a valid rumor or not.
Sometimes the most dangerous rumors were the ones based on lies.
So Persephone sat through dinner confined to her silence. Hades had noticed but did not know how to ask in front of her mother, instead, she watched him swallow his question for another time. But still, throughout the whole dinner, his quizzing eyes followed her. She much preferred it this way for it kept him focused on her and not the whore next to him.
During the second course, the nymph finally looked up at someone other than Hades or her plate. What she found was Persephone’s cold stare. It was not the deadly eyes of the goddess of spring but the queen of the Underworld. In her divine stare, the nymph saw that she was dangerous and not a goddess she should cross. The fear that Persephone saw in her eyes brought her the slightest bit of joy.
By the nymph’s shock, Persephone knew she had not been meant to notice the nymph’s actions. But she had noticed. With every look, every touch her hate for the flower nymph grew.
With the distraction, Persephone had not noticed the dinner had come to its end. The only indication she was given was when her mother had invited her to go on a nightly stroll with her, as they always had. Persephone almost said yes, jumping at the chance to go back to the way things used to be. But with one glance across the table, she noticed the nymph once again flowing over her husband who looked completely bored with the girl. Even after Persephone’s murderous glare, the girl had continued to move closer to Hades. This was unforgivable. Persephone knew if she went with her mother now the nymph would certainly follow Hades to their corridors. While she trusted Hades not to act on any invitations the nymph might offer, the thought of her speaking to him alone left a bad taste in her mouth.
Turning to meet her mother one last time she tried not to let her anger transfer into her voice, “Actually i am feeling quite tired, i think i will go to bed.” she told her. When she saw her mother’s face drop in what she knew was meant to guilt her she quickly offered, “perhaps tomorrow?”
“That would be lovely.” her mother nodded.
Taking that as a sign to leave, Persephone rose from her chair and exited the dining room. When she heard Hades’ footsteps following her, a rush of relief flowed over her. She had not known until that moment how nervous she was that he would stay.
Her moment of relief was short-lived as she remembered her reason for such worry. The nymph. She wished her mother had never brought her here. She wished she had sent her away the moment she had arrived. Persephone knew that it wasn’t over. She wouldn’t allow this girl, this nymph, to think she could lay a single finger on her husband and get away with it. When she is done with her the poor girl will have no hope.
For once Persephone didn’t care about the prophecy or her evil instincts. Her anger would be worth it. The sweet revenge that would be coming would be worth the evil that would consume her.