Written by Jessica Liu
Art by John William Waterhouse
Persephone went with Hades willingly–that’s what people didn’t know.
Hades hadn’t kidnapped her. She chose to go. And she hated herself for it, but if she was presented with the choice again, she wouldn’t have changed a thing.
She still remembered the first conversation she had with him, complaining about her dad’s overprotective authoritarian parenting.
“Yeah, Zeus can really be a douche, sometimes,” Hades said.
Persephone laughed, a surprised cheery sound. She hadn’t heard anyone other than her mother be so blunt about her dad in a while. It was refreshing.
“That’s for sure,” Persephone looked at Hades. Like, really looked at him.
No one had ever stared at Hades so intently before, and he felt self-conscious.
“Is- is my hair-” he raked his nails through his dark, curly hair, matted from his constant helmet-wearing.
“Your hair’s fine,” she told him. “I just always thought your eyes were black.”
“Are they not?”
“No,” she decided. “They’re indigo. Almost purple. Like an iris, or a hyacinth.”
“Yeah, right,” he scoffed.
“You’re full of shit,” his cheeks were burning. She could make the lord of the underworld blush.
Time seemed to stand still when she was around him. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had asked her so many questions about herself. He asked her what her favorite fruit was. Pomegranate. What her favorite flowers were. Hyacinths and petunias. Her biggest pet peeve. Her mother chasing away all the men who came near her.
As they were parting, Hades whispered, “Come on, Persephone. Meet me after the sun sets.”
So she waited until it was dark, and slipped on a dress far too light for the drafty cold night.
Her mother was still asleep. She told herself she’d be back before sunrise. She ran through the meadows where she’d lived her sheltered life, picking daisies and eating persimmons. It was later than she’d ever been out, and she was meeting a man she’d met only a few days prior. She should have been terrified.
“Persephone,” Hades stepped out of the shadows. He had picked a narcissus, whose petals looked like watercolor splatters of mustard and ivory, and pinned it behind her ear.
Oh, all the things she wanted them to be.
They made her giddy with hope, with possibility. They kept her up at night, when she was entertaining scenarios that only ever played out the way she wanted them to in her mind, in her dreams.
So when he asked her to go to the Underworld with him, how could she say no?
“I’m scared,” she had said at first.
“What are you scared of?”
“I’m supposed to be scared of you.”
“And are you?”
She was silent. And he didn’t make any attempt to reassure her, or convince her. He just stood there, quietly staring at her, with those unnerving midnight eyes. Was she? She should be. He was everything her mother had ever warned her about.
“No,” she whispered.
He smiled, a light curve of his lips.
“Okay,” he said. “Then I don’t see what the problem is.”
He held out a calloused hand. Persephone took it, and they disappeared into the night.
The underworld was much different than Persephone had imagined it. It wasn’t dark, it wasn’t fiery, and it didn’t look like a place of torture. But the occasional wails from souls reminded her that it was. She shuddered, and stepped a little closer to Hades. She was so glad she wasn’t mortal.
She followed Hades to his throne room.
Persephone was falling. She never meant to. But she couldn’t help it. A little bit at first, and then all at once.
One day, Hades came into her room. Something was different, and she could tell. Words spilled from his mouth, and all the blood rushed to her ears, blocking out everything.
“I’m so, so sorry,” he ended.
About what? Sorry about what?
Persephone didn’t understand. She didn’t understand what was going on. Whatever “it’s not you, it’s me” bullshit he had said wasn’t making sense. And she definitely couldn’t see clearly with the blurry film that had formed, obstructing her vision.
How many girls had seen their reflection in those eyes? How many girls had he promised the underworld?
Her narcissus looked like a lie, was picked by a cheat, felt like goodbye and reeked of deceit.
Her mother was already waiting for her back at home with a knowing smile.
She knew that little girls were a dime a dozen, and a man would never stay.
It was winter. All the wildflowers had wilted. Fuschia and violet daydreams faded into the umber of a distant palm tree.
What was a first love if not ephemeral, to have lost it as quickly as it arrived, have it come and go when the seasons change?
She met him in October; he came with the autumn leaves. Left a chilly night in November, whispered goodbye like a winter breeze.
Her eyes were rivers. Her heart was glass. And nothing had ever hurt as bad.
All the things she wanted them to be.