The Near Future
The Near Future
The view from my bedroom window always took my breath away. Mountains jutted from the earth in every direction, a seemingly endless landscape of gray. The sky was always dark, though there were never any stars. Trees laid barren, never sprouting a single leaf. The only thing that bloomed with life were the white and yellow flowers that covered the small grounds around the mansion. It wasn’t very colorful… but it was home now.
“Are you ready, miss?” a small voice called from the door.
I glanced down at the gown I wore. It was beautiful, hanging off me like expensive gossamer. I was scared to death, but I knew any chance of getting out of this was long gone. This was the most important day of my life, and the stakes were far too high to run now. I looked back at the handmaid and nodded. She held out a small bouquet of narcissus, which I reluctantly took.
“Is he already there?” I asked her. She nodded.
“Yes, miss.” We stepped out into the hallway. She shut my bedroom door with a gentle click, and my heart pounded. She stepped ahead of me and led me down the hallway toward the foyer.
My handmaiden seemed to be a few years older than I was, though the concept of age didn’t appear to matter much around the kingdom. I was never sure of who was human and who wasn’t. She appeared to be a normal young woman, but it occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t even know her name. She’d been helping me for the last few days since I’d arrived terrified and confused. We’d hardly spoken outside of her duties, but I had a feeling we were going to be friends. We saw each other every day, and that had to count for something.
“What… what’s your name?” I stumbled over the words thanks to the nerves that were settling inside my stomach.
She lifted her dark eyebrows at the question, as if she were surprised. “I am Thalia, miss.”
“I’m Callie.” I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I hoped that I could get through this without fainting.
“Of course, miss.” She dismissed my comment, bowing her head slightly.
Thalia was good at what she did, and that usually meant keeping me at a distance emotionally. I was kind of her boss, after all. I was going to break her down enough to have a conversation eventually, but my anxiety was already taking up enough of my attention.
After what felt like half a lifetime, we were in the mansion’s foyer, which was decorated in the same dark palette as the rest of the world around us- jewel tones, black, and gold.
Thalia bent down and adjusted the hem of my dress before standing and lifting my veil over my face. She did a single scan of me from head to toe and nodded in appreciation. She took a few steps up to the huge double doors that led to the throne room and gripped the handle. Before she opened them, she looked at me and gave me an expectant nod, as if she were waiting for my approval to begin.
I can do this. He needs me; everyone needs me. I chanted the words to myself a couple times, then nodded. Thalia opened the gigantic ebony doors and stepped aside.
The throne room had been decorated lavishly. All the curtains were drawn, drowning the room in near darkness, but there were cream-colored candles sitting in gilded candelabras on every surface. The flames threw a sensuous glow onto everything around us. Green garlands hung above the windows and doorways, giving the dark scene a pop of color. It was the first time I’d seen anything green with life since I’d arrived, apart from the flowers that grew outside.
The room was gorgeous, but it wasn’t the reason that my heart was pounding and my breath was catching in my lungs.
Standing alone about fifty feet away, wearing an all-black suit and clutching two gold rings was my soon-to-be husband. His pale skin and dark black hair were stark contrasts to each other, but he was still beyond beautiful, especially in the candlelight. His ice blue eyes practically sparkled as he watched me march toward him. His delicious mouth lifted at the corners and he took a deep breath, taking in the sight of me. My feet carried me forward as my mind fogged with thoughts of the man before me. At last I reached him and he held out a hand. My breath caught again as I set my hand in his. My skin hummed with life, just as it always did when we touched.
He and I held eye contact for a few moments, and I felt as though I could see something in his eyes beyond appreciation. There was passion and admiration within him, all waiting to be mine. Eventually, he looked down to my hand in his and slid the ring on. Once he was done, he held out the larger band to me and I returned the gesture, sliding his ring onto his surprisingly delicate finger.
There was only one thing left for him to do. He clasped the end of my veil and lifted it up and away from my face. Despite his visible nerves, he leaned forward and kissed me for the very first time. Electricity practically shot through my veins, and my entire body hummed with joy. After a moment he pulled away and smiled. It was the first time I’d ever seen him with such a pure look of happiness, and I knew I wanted to see it more.
“I can never thank you enough, Callie.” He said softly, pulling me in close to him.
“You’re welcome, Hades.”
I blushed as he and I rested our foreheads against one another. He put a firm hand on the small of my back, keeping us pressed together. “Long live the Queen of the Underworld.”