FORTY ONE - Trust and Truth
Just as the night in the Olympian garden Persephone was left with smoke. This time her mother had been the one to disappear instead of Persephone. But the feeling of emptiness and unforgettable stillness was the same. Though it was what Persephone had wanted, her mother’s exit left her lonely even though she knew it was the right thing to do. Her mother had gone and she doubted she would ever return. There was no place for her here. Now there never would be.
She had been a fool to invite her mother here.
She had ignored every warning and instead chose to see her mother the way she had always wished her to be. Kind and loving, the type of mother who would welcome her into her arms, kiss her forehead, and wish her only happiness. She had ignored the fact that Demeter had never been that mother. Love was irrelevant. This was the consequence of Persephone wishing impossible things into existence. She had been warned before of her wishful mind but now she had finally learned her lesson. See people for who they are not how you wish them to be.
People are not wishing wells, you can not kiss them and whisper the things you want them to be.
Persephone stood, unmoving, in the place her mother had left her. She was crushed underneath the weight of the morning. War was coming to her door, her love was in jeopardy, and she had just lost her mother, her only family, her own blood.
She should have been crying. She should have been broken from the harsh wards her mother had left her with. Kore would have fallen to her knees, but Persephone was a wiser goddess. She had learned, she understood. Family did not always mean loyalty, and blood was not a promise. The trust Persephone had given her mother was ill-advised and a weakness that she was finally starting to see. While standing in her garden she knew she would never make the same mistake again.
She should have been crying.
She should have been crying, and yet she wasn’t.
When she pictured her mother’s scornful face, seconds before she vanished, she did not feel sad. She did not feel like she would have months ago. Now when she looked into her mother’s vivid eyes she felt numbness. Numbness and hatred. Feelings that until this point had been mutually exclusive.
She found herself walking the castle, needing to move, in what direction she didn’t know. She could not stay still and yet she felt drained from the morning and felt like she could collapse. And still, she walked. Nymphs and spirits that worked in the palace offered her smiles and worried glances. She didn’t know if the news had spread of what she had done to the nymph or her conversation with Demeter. But certainly, everyone in the Underworld had heard the whisperings of the dinner with the nymph, of her flirtatious glances, and her obvious flirtation. While Hades made sure rumors did not make a circulation, not as on Olympus, gossip was still a currency in the Underworld.
Persephone was sure the kingdom would soon be abuzz with today’s happenings. She had never sought privacy while confronting neither her mother nor Minthe. Now she understood that it was an oversight. She was sure that at least one maid had caught the sean.
The clock that had started counting down the second until she would have to leave Hades had begun to tick louder. She knew that sometime soon she would have no choice but to join her mother, no matter what she wanted. She would soon have to say goodbye to Hades.
Soon. Too soon for her liking.
Instead of her need for Hades replacing the heavy feeling her mother had left her with, it simply added to its load. She now felt like she was drowning and unable to escape. It was a crippling feeling, one of which she had never experienced.
Hades. She thought. She needed Hades.
Her feet seemed to know the way without her having to tell them where to go, as she made her way deeper into the castle. It felt like Hades himself was pulling her to him. She could practically feel his hands low on her waist, gently drawing her closer.
As she turned the corner she knew he would be there. She had felt his magic emanating down the hallway. The sight of him was something different. She needed to be held by him and had not prepared herself for the sudden sight of him. It was as if she had never laid eyes on the god before. It was always like that. His voice always gave her butterflies, his gaze made her nervous, and the thought of him could distract her from any task. She hoped it would always be this way.
Further down the hallway, he stood conversing with Thanatos over the report he held in his hand. His stern face told her he was deep into his role as king, enforcing his reign. Her heart could not have melted more than when she watched his hard eyes shift into ones of love and adoration within seconds of setting their sights on her. In that one glance, she knew she would always love him, and that he would always love her. Their love is as eternal as the Olympians themselves.
Their love would last longer than Olympus itself.
His loving gaze did not last long, only a second, before shifting into one of worry. He must have seen something in Persephone’s eyes that worried him. Something she had not been able to hide. Something only he could see.
He said only a word to Thanatos in dismissal, his eyes never leaving hers, but still, the god vanished as easily. She walked right up to him, leaning some of her body weight onto him, needing his touch. Immediately he took her into his arms, out of reflex or concern she did not know. When she looked up at him he studied her features, waiting for her to tell him what was wrong or what was bothering her.
“Can we talk?” she asked him, her voice surprising her when it came out sounding broken and crisp as if it was chipped and shattered.
Hades quickly took in the seriousness in her eyes and nodded once, “Come into my office, we can talk privately.” he offered, leading her down the short hallways and into his office without having to wait for her reply. She did not have to tell him that she needed him; he already knew something had happened.
He always knew what to do. What to say.
Once inside his office, he led her to the couch that lined one of his office walls, in one motion he picked her up and sat down so she was now placed into his lap. He held onto her tight with one arm rubbing soothing circles on her back and the other on her thy. His hand was dangerously high and if it got much closer to her she would not be about to tell him what she had learned. As it was, it was already distracting her.
When she looked at him she saw his face cast in worry. He knew she had left hours ago to confront the nymph and she was sure he had been worried about it even though he had hidden it so well this morning. That had always been his greatest asset, his greatest power. He could always mask every emotion, every feeling, every thought from the outside world. Showing others only what he wanted to convey. But when he was alone with her all his walls would fall down. He always seemed so put together and strong until it was just them together, then his true self and true feeling could surface. She had always loved that he felt like he could be himself with her. That he felt no need to hide anything.
Studying her features he looked for clues before he finally asked, “what is wrong?”
“My mother has left,” Persephone reported plainly. She did not know if he already knew this or not. He had been able to tell that she had arrived even before she had been announced but his confusion told her otherwise.
“So soon?” he asked, brushing his thumb lightly across her cheek in comfort. It donned on Persephone that Hades did not know what she did now. He had assumed that Persephone was heartbroken by her mother leaving and that she had come to Hades for comfort. While she had come to him for comfort he did not understand that she had been the one who made her mother leave.
Shaking her head she corrected him, “I asked her to leave.”
“You did?” he asked shocked.
“Yes. Are you surprised?” she asked. Persephone had always spoken of love for her mother, she had prayed for the day they could reconcile their misfortunate situation, and had pleaded with Hades to allow her to visit. Hades was right to wonder why she had asked her mother to leave after only one night. He had not heard her venomous words. He had not heard of the plot.
Hades nodded, “Well, yes. You were so excited to have her here. I would have thought she would be staying longer.” He confessed.
Persephone’s hands wandered their way up to Hades’ face where they gently caressed the stress lines that had formed over years of practice.
She had not said the words out loud yet. She had not told a soul. It took her a moment to find the right ones. “It turns out you were right.” She confessed. “My mother is not… was not here for me.” The words stung her surprisingly. While she held no love for her mother any longer it still hurt her to say the words. To acknowledge that her mother had never seen her as lovable. Her only worth had rested in her powers.
Hades shook his head once again. “I never said that Persephone.” Taking both of her hands into his, he gently kissed each fingertip. “I am sorry,” he told her as if he knew the pain she felt.
“Why are you sorry? You have done nothing but try to protect me.” Persephone asked, “Hades, why would you want her here, in our home?” She asked. Her mother hated Hades and he held no kind feelings for her. Yet still, Persephone had thought it would be a great idea to gather both together. And he had let her, he had encouraged her never complaining that his home had become a battleground.
What would he think when she told him the truth?
“Because,” he told her, grabbing her attention back from her own worries. “She is your mother and because you wanted her here. It was as simple as that,” he told her easily. It was then that she understood something that she should have already known. He had always been so understanding of her mother, so forgiving and so accepting of what Persephone needed. She had given the credit for this to his kind heart but now she understood what she had previously missed. Hades understood her pain in a way she had not understood. He understood what it felt like to be betrayed by his mother. He too had been called worthless by those who were meant to be his closest allies. He knew what it was to feel unloved. Looking into his eyes she saw her own pain but this time it was a shade all his own.
He had never spoken a word to make Persephone think otherwise but she knew this was why he had always been accepting of Persephone’s mother.
Persephone smiled up at her husband who was always too kind to her, yet still, her hands fiddled in her lap. He noticed this immediately, as he always noticed everything. “Persephone tell me what has happened?” he asked, his worry mixed with confusion. He had seen her at her worst but had very rarely seen her angry before. The night before when she had been filled with fury over the nymph was the closest he had come to seeing her anger. He must have known that while the nymph had her part to play this anger was different. It was bigger. Deeper. As hurt mixed with her rage it only seemed to amplify it.
“That woman, that whore of a nymph, she told me what my mother has been doing. What she had been planning.” Persephone confessed to him. She knew he would be angry when he found out be she had made a promise to never keep anything from him. Never again. “It is horrible. She’s been gaining forces and forming multiple alliances. She didn’t give me any details but the implication of what could be coming could be disastrous.” she told him.
She watched as stress covered him as he took in the news. He ran his fingers through his hair as he got up from the couch. “Damn that woman,” he mumbled to himself. She watched him as he walked to his desk and began to wildly look through papers and drawers. It was as if he had forgotten she was there.
“What are you doing?” she asked him.
He glanced up but still continued his search, “I am trying to find a series of reports, i know it’s here somewhere.” he told her “i need to meet with Thanatos and finish the preparations immediately.” he told her as he paced behind his desk reading a thick stack of papers that she assumed was the reports he was looking for. She was about to offer her help when she heard him mumble to himself ‘i didn’t know she was this far along.’ and it made her still.
She had known that he was wary of her mother. She knew that he suspected Demeter among others. But she had always thought he would share if he ever found anything. She had come to him thinking she was sharing new information not telling him something he already knew. She had thought he wouldn’t have kept something of this magnitude from her, not after so much talk of trust and truth.
“What?” she asked him as he turned around to her. “You knew my mother was the one plotting against us?” she asked again when he did not answer her. But it was obvious by the thick stack of reports and his calmer demeanor that he had been prepared for this. Even worse it seemed he wasn’t even surprised. Hades had known her mother was starting a war.
“I told you i did not trust her Persephone,” he answered plainly. As if his doubt had given him permission to spy on her mother and then keep all information from her. Had he known when she had pledged to him her mother’s innocence? Had he been aware when she had asked him if she could visit?
“But… you knew, didn’t you Hades?” she asked again. “You weren’t just suspicious. You knew.”
He simply nodded once, “I’ve been having her followed.” the meaning behind his words hung in the air between them.
For the first time today, she had begun to feel her eyes tear up. He had known. He knew her mother was plotting. That armies were rising. And yet he never told her, he didn’t even hint. Wasn’t he the one to profess honesty being the core pillar between the two? She had felt so guilty hiding all of her secrets behind his back but at the same time, he had been keeping secrets as well. This was just as much of a betrayal if not more because it involves her own mother. It involves her, her throne, and her love. Why had she not been told?
Suddenly all of her anger was beginning to be channeled towards him, “followed?”
To his credit, he did not try to hide or change the subject but told her whatever she asked. It was a small credit to her knowing that he should not have waited for her to ask. “Yes, I have had information following her ever since the night in the olympian gardens. It became clear that she was hiding something so I sent Hecate to get close to her.”
“Hecate knows of this?” she asked shocked. She had counted Hecate as a close friend down in the Underworld and had thought the goddess had felt the same. Was she the last to know? How much of a fool had she seemed when she had given her mother a tour yesterday.
“Only for a day or so. I needed someone that could get close to Demeter and Hecate’s hatred of men seemed to be a good fit,” he explained. He looked at her shocked expression carefully now that he understood how hurtful this secret was to Persephone. Once again he ran his fingers through his hair and took a few steps closer to her, she did not move a muscle. “After she threatened me i knew she was plotting something and so i placed someone close to her that could keep us informed,” he explained.
She wanted badly to tell him how pathetic his use of the word us was. There was no us in this decision because she had not been aware of any of it. It was to keep him informed. But instead, another, much bigger piece of information popped out to Persephone.
“She threatened you?” she asked slowly but then her worry grew as she released that her mother never made an empty threat. They always were made to draw blood. “When? Why didn’t you tell me?”
A tiresome sigh left his lips as he got closer to Persephone and pulled her into him, this time she let him. “The first day she arrived she had found me in my office to discuss some things.”
“What things?” she asked, there was no more time for secrets, she needed to know all the pieces on the board, she would no longer be kept in the dark.
“What do you think?” Hades said pointedly. Of course, she knew what he was referring to. There was no doubt in her mind that her mother had come to ask Hades to leave Persephone. But now was not the time for Hades to be unforthcoming.
She pushed him away from her immediately. “What do I think? What I think doesn’t matter apparently Hades because you chose not to tell me anything was happening when I could have helped!” she shouted. If he thought he had been forgiven he would have been wrong. “I would have thought that my husband wouldn’t have hidden something so important from me. Now do not test me. What things did my mother come to discuss?”
Hades paused in an uncharacteristic way as if he could not decide what to do. Finally, he told her, “She wanted to know what it would cost to get you back.”
He had spit the words out so fast that it had taken Persephone a second to register his meaning. Her mother had come to buy Persephone. To purchase her as if she were an animal. She had learned that her mother had only seen her not as her own daughter but as a sum of her worth. It should not have shocked her but still, it stung.
Once again Hades comforting arms were around her as he brushed hair behind her ear. “I never meant to hide this from Persephonehone. I just did not want to hurt you.”
She looked up at him only to find him already studying her, waiting for her reaction. “In the last couple of days, I have found out one secret after another. First, I found out you and the nymph had a history. And that was hard but I accepted it, didn’t i?” she asked even though it was not a question. She had been angry at first but then she had understood that all gods have a past, she could not fault Hades for choices he had made centuries ago. Even she had exes in her past. What had angered her the most was that he had kept it from her. And yet here they found themselves once again.
“Yes you were very accepting,” he nodded.
“Then this morning Minthe tells me that my mother is plotting against us. That she is gaining support in Olympus. This hurt me. She is my own mother and I thought everything was behind us. That we could grow past everything.” she told him trying her best not to let tears drop as she looked up to him again. She so desperately wanted to look strong now. To look the part of a queen, not a weeping goddess. “But do you know what hurt most of all? Finding out that you knew this whole time. You knew what was happening and how my mother had been conspiring against us and did not tell me. Why? Why wouldn’t you tell me? After everything secrets have done to us. After all the promises we have made to each other about being truthful. Why wouldn’t you tell me? Why would you keep this from me? You let me act like a fool and welcome her with open arms.” she ranted angrily to him before she asked what she really wanted to know, “Why must I always be the last to know?”
He searched her eyes desperately. He looked as if he too were searching for answers, looking for anything that would make this right again. “I wanted to tell you, darling. I was trying to protect you,” he repeated.
“Protect me? From what?”
“You love your mother,” he told her as if it were the most obvious answer. She had been telling herself that she held no more love for her mother, someone who had told her that love was irrelevant even between mother and daughter. But even now she had to look away when he said this. “Even after everything she has done, Stealing your powers and ripping us apart, you still found room for forgiveness and love for her. I could not ruin that,” he explained to her. “I was honestly going to tell you. I had only just found proof myself when you wanted to invite your mother to the Underworld and I could not ruin that. Then you were so happy that she was here and that you were patching things up. And soon you must go back to her, i wanted to make that transition as easy for you as possible.”
She watched as the truth spilled from him in waves. She had never known Hades to deceive or lie to her or most anyone. He was not one to hide his intentions or to mince words. Mostly he was straightforward and truthful to a fault. So when he told her he was going to tell her, she believed him even though she was still angry with him for keeping it hidden for so long.
“But you knew that she was not here to fix things between us,” she said now that she was filled with even more questions. “You should have told me.”
“Maybe I should have.” He nodded somberly, “I was not trying to hurt you. i hate to see this sad look in your eyes, I would do anything to keep it from you even for one more day.” he told her. It angered her more but she understood this for she too felt this way. Whenever something upset Hades or even worried him she wished she could have kept this from him or could have kept him happy for even a second more. She knew that this was why he had kept it from her. He was only savoring the moments.
“You hate my mother. You have never said it to me but i can see that you have cursed her every day since the trial. Wouldn’t life have been simpler if I had finally accepted that and saw the destruction that follows her?” she asked him.
He shook his head immediately. “Persephone she is your mother.” He smiled sadly and softly brushed her face with his larger hand. “I never knew my mother, the only family I have is my brothers who plot behind my back and who sent me down here to be forgotten, and sisters who have caused more pain than one god can handle. My own father wished me dead. I do not pretend to understand a loving family, but I do understand you and how your love for your mother is all vital to you. She has cared for you and loved you in a way my mother never did. I have only seen a segment of your life with your mother, I know nothing of the love and warmth that you miss so much. I thought that if i could handle it silently then i could spare you this heartbreak.”
As he spoke she leaned into him, needing his comforting arms. It had been a long day, filled with more secrets and truth than one goddess could take. “You still should not have kept this from me.”
“No, I see that now.” he agreed. “Please forgive me.”
She nodded silently “I don’t want my last days with you to be spent angry at you.” she told him. She knew that while she still might be hurt a little she understood what he had been trying to do and was too tired to be angry anymore. “She sent the nymph to you. She wanted to tempt you and break us up,” she told him once they had soaked up the silence between them.
She heard him curse under his breath but he still did not let her go. Instead, he only held her tighter. “You know that would have never worked right? You are my only.”
She nodded echoing his words back. My only.
“She has gone too far this time. How will we fight her? The nymph told me she already has an army.” she asked.
Hades chuckled, “Babe, do not worry, If there is one advantage to being an old god it is always being prepared for war. Everything will be fine.” he told her before kissing her, his lips hovered over hers as he whispered gently, “darling,” he leaned down and pressed a tender kiss to her lips and she instantly relaxed. “We’ve only got two weeks. There’s no time for worry and fights.”
She looked back at him shocked, “No, it can’t be so soon.”
“I am afraid so.” he nodded.
“I do not want to go, Hades. Not now,” she told him as she kissed him back a little harder this time. “We did not have enough time.”
“It is not over, after spring and the harvest you will come back to me. We will get through this next six months, you will plant and grow a miraculous spring and harvest, then you will return not as my queen but as my wife,” he told her as he had been telling her ever since they found out she would have to leave the Underworld. He was constantly calm, certain that they would survive the separation as they always had. She had not always been so calm.
“Will you come to visit me?” she asked him.
His smile gleamed with promise “There is nothing that could keep me away.”
They start to say the prologue ???