THREE - Slipping Fingers
Demeter - Goddess of the Harvest
Demeter is known for being the goddess of agriculture, grains, and the harvest. She always liked to think of herself as a life-giver, and that is how she presented herself to anyone and everyone. But the truth was far from the way she presented herself. When she was called to war by her three brothers they had made it seem valiant and noble, like their cause was one of great importance. They had made it sound as if there was no other choice, kill, or be killed. Control or be controlled. They spoke of their father as a tyrant and their mother as a weak woman, and they had been right. Their call to arms had worked and as all of her siblings ran to war she followed. She quickly found she had a skill of bringing giants to their knees. It had filled her with pride that she could bring the brightest golden blood to the surface. She was praised as a skilled warrior among the original six traitors, a title that began to grow heavy upon her shoulders. As the war dragged on its weight only seemed to grow until it was a title she no longer wanted to bear.
After the war was finished she had sworn to herself to never pick up her sword again, instead, she savored the peace she and her siblings had created. Choosing to foster life and to hate death. She cultured life where she could and bloomed beauty everywhere.
It was so simple in the beginning.
As time dragged on, as it always must, she found the praise she had been given during war begin to diminish. The gallantry of a warrior was never remembered in peace. Though she tried to ignore her pride she soon found that she missed the praise that it fostered. In her seclusion, she had made her home upon the earth instead of mount Olympus, as most of the other gods had. This decision, meant to save her, only served to leave the goddess forgotten and therefore powerless in the minds of her siblings. She had not been as wise as Hera to claim a crown and with it the power she did not know she wanted. And so she had held onto whatever she was given.
Then when she became pregnant it felt like life was giving her one more possession that could be taken away. But soon she saw it as the opportunity it was.
She saw the power, and in it, saw the respect she had lost.
They had shared many kisses throughout the years but this one seemed to be filled with so much more than love. It had a sense of promise and of permanence. Something neither had until this point. It was an intoxicating taste, one she couldn’t get enough of. His lips seemed to know exactly how to move and where she wanted them to go.
As they pulled apart and his lips found themselves following a path down her neck. She had almost lost herself in the feeling of his lips until her eyes opened suddenly at the sound of footsteps. They were the ones she would have heard from farther away if she was not so distracted, but now it was much too late.
Standing behind Hades, she could see the silhouette of her mother. Demeter. She was standing in her usual pose, strong and confident, never anything less than powerful. But this time there was a slight difference. Even though she could not make out her mother’s expression through the darkness she saw how her mother’s hip jutted out slightly in the form of a question.
There was no way to hide now, they had been caught.
She quickly took half a step away from him, resting her palms against his strong chest as if telling him to stop. As if warning him of what was to come.
“Persephone, what is it?” he asked, taking one strand of hair that had fallen from her updo and brushed it behind her ear. If her mother had done the same movement it would have been in a demeaning way. One move to tell Persephone she would never be perfect, there would always be something to fix. But when his fingers brushed past her ear she knew it could never be anything as harsh, instead, she knew it was done in love. It had taken her many years to learn the difference.
She tried to tell him. She wanted to tell him. But words could not come. Instead, her mother spoke first. Her sharp voice shot through the garden to them, “Kore, there you are.” she said as she always would almost as if everything was normal but Persephone knew better than anyone that her mother had seen them together and that she was angry. She knew her mother was boiling over in furry. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” she said again when Persephone did not answer.
With the sound of her mother’s voice, Hades instantly froze with his hand still resting on her cheek. He didn’t move or turn around but instead looked at Persephone and she returned the action. They both knew their moment had come to an end, and that their happiness had been short-lived. They both knew they would now have to deal with the uglier side of their news.
Finally, he turned around. It was refreshing to watch him interact with her mother. He did not cower or fidget, like all the other gods and nymphs she has seen interact with her hell-bent mother. But he was also the King of the Underworld and had seen more frightening sights than Demeter’s fury. So he met her eyes and stood his ground awaiting her judgment.
Persephone was not as strong. Although she could draw on his strength and sureness she still felt herself fall back into her pattern of submission. She felt herself hide slightly behind his large shoulders. Hades did not mind though, in fact, she felt his hand move slightly, searching for her hand, she readily grabbed it, steadying herself.
“Demeter,” Hades said in a sort of greeting.
“Hades,” her voice rumbled his name. For an instant her eyes left the lord of the Underworld, traveling down to their joined hands and back up to meet her daughter’s fleeting eyes. “Kore, come inside,”
It took everything in Persephone not to act on her mother’s command, a strong squeeze of his hand reminded her that if she did what her mother asked they would never have a chance. She would surely never see him again. So she did not move. She couldn’t remember the last time she disobeyed her mother to her face like this. Her mother’s expression echoed this thought. “Kore” her mother’s sharp voice boomed and Persephone could feel herself shrink further behind Hades. She hated this about herself but was comforted that Hades was there for her and that her mother’s voice did not affect him as it did her.
“Mother-” she tried to say something, anything to make the situation better but the words still could not find her. They were stuck in her throat. Once again Hades rescued her.
“Demeter, there are matters we must discuss.” He said in a voice she had heard him use with his court or his subjects. It was a strong, demanding voice that left no room for discussion. Sometimes when he used it she was reminded that he had many sides and layers to him. This being just one of them. One very different from the one he saved for her.
“We?” her mother asks accusedly looking between the two of them. “Step away from my daughter Hades,” Demeter demanded but Persephone hoped beyond all hope he would not leave her. Not now. Her worries were silenced when he tightened his grip on her hand. She wondered if he was trying to hold onto her as much as she was holding onto him.
“I cannot do that,” he told Demeter. She watched as her mother’s eyes blazed and knew what was about to happen. No matter if the words had found her or not she could no longer stand by and watch. She had to summon whatever courage she could muster. No matter how willing Hades was, she could not let him fight all her battles.
“Mother, please don’t overreact,” her words almost propelled her forward half a step so that she was no longer behind Hades but beside him, “just listen to me.”
“There is nothing to listen to.” her mother told her, “We are leaving now, Kore”
“Mother, I’ve been trying to find the right time to tell you,” she could not help but hope that if she could only explain herself it would cause her mother to see sense and understand. Don’t all mothers want their children to be happy? She immediately had to remind herself that her mother was not any mother. She was Demeter, goddess, and divine. She was unlike any mother there was and there would be no predicting her. Still, she hoped. “Please just listen to me.”
“Listen to what?” she asked them as if she did not already know, as if their secret kiss in the garden did not already say enough. “What could there possibly be to discuss with him here!”
“Hades,” she said definitively, her words finally finding their place in her mouth. She was tired of her mother actively hating the man she loved. “His name is Hades.” She told her even though she was well aware her mother knew who he was. Who on Olympus didn’t know everything about all of the Three King Brothers? It must have been the way her mother so easily dismissed him as if he was trash or something belonging in the ground. It did not rest easily with Persephone.
“I know who he is Kore.” her mother told her “It is appropriate for you to be here, alone with a god such as him.” of course that was what her mother would say. Ever the politician. Her mother would not tell her that he was an ugly god or that he was evil and wicked like what all of Olympus though. Instead, she only mentioned how it would look if Persephone and he were to be discovered together. The Spring Goddess and the God of the Dead. What a scandal. Persephone knew well that affairs of the gods were no small thing.
“But mother i want...” she looked up at him only to find him already watching her, his eyes only smiling the slightest bit, a small message only for her. With the courage only he could give her, she continued to tell her mother all they had decided. “I want to be with him.”
Her mother took only a moment to threaten her “Kore, be careful what you say next,” Persephone knew this was no empty threat. Mother and daughter knew better.
“Demeter, i think this is all getting out of hand” Hades interjected, “Maybe we could take a moment and go somewhere less public.” he made a movement with his head pointing over to a window where Persephone could now see two young wind spirits watching them, whispering to each other.
Demeter did not bother to look behind her at the growing onlookers. “There will be no further discussion.” she demanded, “Now, remove your hands from my daughter.”
“No, Demeter.” he answered her, “She stays. There are things we must discuss.”
“Whatever you have to say I don’t want to hear it! I do not listen to anything the god of the dead has to say.”
“Mother, this is important to me, please.” she pleaded with her mother, asking only for a miracle. “I love him,” she confessed.
“You love him?!” her mother’s screech echoed across the garden. “You don’t know what love is.”
“Demeter-” Hades tried once again to talk to her.
“I’m taking you back to earth and I do not see you again Hades! Mark my words do not cross me!” In response to the threat, Hades took a protective step forward. She knew that if there was one thing Hades did not react well to, it was threats. And now with Demeter’s threat, Hades must have felt cornered and had no other response but action.
Persephone spoke up before there could be any more escalation, knowing it would only worsen the problem at hand. “Mother, I’m not leaving. I’m going to be staying with Hades,” she told her mother finally.
“What?” her mother yelled. Persephone knew then Demeter would always hate her for this betrayal. “Persephone you know that is not possible,” she said at a lower octave, this time just speaking to her daughter. Beseeching her not to do this. She knew what was going through her mother’s mind and wanted to fix this chasm that had grown between them. But no matter the problems this might cause she had made up her mind and would not be going back on it.
“Mother, please,” she pleaded with her again. “It will be fine! I promise.”
“How? How will it be fine? You will be far away from me and from our home.” Demeter reminded her that she would be leaving everything she had ever known. She knew she would miss the field she loved and the feel of the wind and sun on her face but there were many things in the Underworld she loved even more. Things that were not on earth. Things that mostly had to do with Hades.
“Demeter rest assured she will come to visit y-” Hades tried to tell her before he was interrupted.
“Silence!” Demeter yelled effectively stopping him mid-sentence. “You do not know what you speak of.” Hades was taken back by the goddess’ action, Demeter was usually so composed and only acted once she had thoroughly thought out her next words. Now she seemed frantic.
As much as Persephone would have liked to be on Hades’ side at this moment her mother was right. He did not know what he was talking about. Only Demeter and Persephone knew. That was the way her mother had always wanted to keep it and like the good daughter she was, she never told a soul. Not even to Hades. She had always been far too disappointed with herself to tell him her secret.
“Don’t know?” Hades asked, not understanding her words. “I can imagine the soft heart of a mother.” he tried again.
“Hades.” Persephone softly whispered to him, getting his attention away from her mother. Somehow searching for the words that would set this straight. “It’s more than that,” she told him hoping it would be enough, but knowing it wouldn’t be.
Even though she had been whispering, her mother still heard her words. A mistake she had realized too late. “He doesn’t know? You haven’t told your ‘true love’ our secret?” her words were phrased as a question but stung all the same.
“Don’t mother.” Persephone pleaded.
“Secret?” Hades asked Persephone but both women stopped talking at the word. All of them now waiting to see what she would say. She looked up into his eyes full of questions, desperate for this to go away. To go back to their happy moment only interrupted moments ago. Now she saw no other way other than to tell him.
What would he think of her?
Would he still want someone so weak?
“Hades I wanted to tell you,” she told him first, holding onto him as if she would float away. Begging him to understand. When her mother started to talk he was the first to look away from her and towards Demeter.
“But instead you did not! This proves it is only a fling. This will be over before long and when it is he will be a faint memory.” her mother promised in what Persephone was sure was her mother’s form of comfort. Demeter smiled triumphantly knowing she had proved her point. That this was not a serious relationship. That they had not been true with each other. Not like Persephone should have been. The thought of this feeling they shared ever fading brought a feeling of pain to her chest. She didn’t want to leave Hades and she would always love him. She could not imagine never seeing him again.
There was only one option for her. With a deep breath, she turned to face him. If her mother was going to force her to bear her soul to him then she would do it her own way. There was nothing else she could do but to tell him. He met her eyes and his stern shield softened once he saw her nervous fidgeting.
“My mother and i-” she started but was cut off before she could say anything more.
“Kore! Do not utter another word.” she turned to see her mother fuming. Demeter was furious that Persephone would tell someone their secret but she could also see a hint of worry in her eyes. This secret would expose them both.
“I must tell him, mother,” she told her simply. There was no other choice for her. Her mother had pushed her, thinking she wouldn’t have the nerve to tell him, but she was wrong. “You were right, I should have told him long ago.”
“But, we agreed it would not be said to another.”
“This is different. I love him and I want to be with him. I was wrong to have kept it from him for so long.” she tried to explain.
“Tell me what?” she turned back to him effectively cutting off her mother’s argument.
“My powers they-”
“They are the spring,” she told him, even through her mother’s yelling. He nodded along confused. He knew this about her, everyone did, it was no secret. She had never thought of how to explain this and now she did not know how to tell him in a way that would make sense.
“Yes you are the goddess of the spring,” he agreed, confused.
“No, you don’t understand, they are the spring, and the harvest,” she told him hoping he would understand. She saw when he finally understood, his face changed and he looked from her to her mother and back as if to check that he understood correctly.
“Do you mean?” he asked without saying the dreaded words.
“I grow it all,” she confirmed his thoughts.
“Not all!” her mother interrupted saving herself from total humiliation.
“No, not all. But most of it,” Persephone said. She had not meant to be harsh but now that the truth was said she could not help but let it flow out. “It was decided when I was young and my powers were discovered, that I would grow the spring and harvest for my mother.”
“So that means?” he asked, turning to Demeter to ask her all of his questions. “Your powers?”
“This changes nothing lord Hades, i am still one you should fear for i will never let you take my daughter.” her mother now showed her power stance more than ever trying to grasp the last of power she had in this situation. But her words were true. Persephone was not only her daughter. And now they knew Demeter would never let Persephone leave. “This only proves that i will never allow her to leave.”
It took him only a minute to make up his mind and save any questions he might have for a later time. She could not hide her slight smile when she realized he still wanted her even though she had been weak enough to be controlled by another goddess.
“I still respect you as a goddess Demeter, you and I have a complicated history but I have always seen you as fair. Certainly, you can see Persephone is a grown woman who can decide for herself how to use her own powers and who she loves.” he tried to speak to her reason but Persephone knew her mother was past all reason and now was acting off of the fear of losing her throne and anything else she saw as her’s.
Demeter was a cornered animal.
“She certainly can not! You have tricked my daughter and filled her head with daydreams of love. But we are both old gods and we both know the truth. What will happen when you leave her? When the sparkle is gone and she is no longer the light of your eye?”
A hint of doubt made its way into Persephone’s mind following her mother’s words. She had always known she was not the perfect match for him, but still, he loved her. Would there ever come a day when their differences would separate them instead of bringing them together? Would there be a day when she found he no longer loved her? She shook her head getting rid of any doubt. He did not need to prove anything for her to know he loved her eternally. And she loved him equally as much in return.
“Demeter, you do not understand me.” He calmly said, as if everything was not ruined. As if he knew everything would be ok. Somehow she was calmed by the soothing tone of his voice. “I love her, I intend to love her for the rest of my life. I would rather lose my realm than to lose her.” With his words, his arms wrapped around her pulling her into his body, and softly kissed the top of her head. Hearing his words she wondered why she ever doubted.
“You won’t get away with this! I’m going straight to Zeus. You’re never going to have her Hades. Never.”
The realization hit her hard, her mother would never give up a battle easily. Sweet words and promises would never cover up the fact her mother was losing her most valued asset. It hurt her, even more, to know her mother was not fighting for her daughter but fighting for Persephone’s powers. Though Persephone had always known this, it hurt to see that her only true value was in her abilities, “Mother, one last time, please, allow me to be happy.”
“Persephone, in time you will thank me for stopping him.” her mother told her. Her heart sank knowing what must now happen. She now saw no way around the inevitable. With a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, she looked up at Hades who was studying her, watching for his cue. A heavy sigh follows but she knew her mother would never understand this was something she must do for herself.
“Then hopefully in time, you will forgive me,” she told her mother then turned back to Hades. Holding his hand she smiled then said, “Take me home, Hades.” She gripped his hand tighter if it was even possible. Her mother had a look of confusion across her face not quite understanding what could possibly be happening.
They did not leave as she had anticipated but instead, Hades asked her in a lowered voice. The voice he saved only for her. “You are sure?” He held her close hoping she would not change her mind but still checking to make sure she had not.
“Don’t you dare touch her!” Her mother yelled taking steps closer to them, threatening to break them apart. Persephone knew it is now or never. If she wished to be with Hades, to be his queen, then for the time being she had to choose not to be the goddess of spring. She did not say a word but gave him a gentle nod.
Giving him the only answer he needed.
Her mother got closer to them and Persephone watched, unable to move, as her mother reached out her hand for her arm. She tried to grab Persephone’s arm but was too late for they were already fading. She had no choice but to watch as she slipped through her mother’s fingers. And watch her mother’s eyes drop as a hint of the sadness filled them.
In her mother’s own words, she will forgive her one day.