Volume 5 Number 4
The black mist rolled over the courtyard. A gift from Lethe, offering forgetfulness to make the journey to the upper realms easier. Persephone stepped carefully, finding a way around the dark wisps, into the small room that was her favorite.
"I thought you would want to forget." Hades sat in the shadows.
"I don't." She put down the two pomegranates she had picked, moving them around in the silvery light. Up above, the light would be golden. Only at night, when Selene bathed the world in moonlight, would Persephone be able to recall the quiet brilliance of this realm. "Maybe I don't want to forget you this time."
He laughed. The sound echoed under her breastbone, in her groin. Her lover's laugh.
"You think I'm lying?" she asked.
"I don't know." He stood, loomed over her, fearsome and so often silent. But then he was death, she was only death's queen.
During their early years together, forgetting had been a blessing. Persephone served her time and then let Lethe cleanse her memory before she returned above. Each time she came back, Hades led her first to the pool of Mnemosyne to collect what she'd forgotten for all those months. The memories would hit with such force it felt as if each moment she'd forgotten was being carved back into her.
But in the later years, she'd been less anxious for Lethe to wipe her clean, and recollecting had stopped hurting. And this last time, as her mother had wept and told her to be a brave girl, Persephone had looked into Hades' eyes and, even not knowing him, had smiled. And he had smiled back, utter surprise on his face.
She offered him one of the pomegranates. "Why did you take me?"
"You know why."
Peeling a bit of the hard skin, she bit into the pomegranate, laughing as the juice from many punctured seeds ran down her chin, spilling onto the black dress she wore, the ruby stain sucked in by the darkness.
"You are in a strange mood." He picked a few seeds, the way some said she'd done—who could eat only a few seeds?
"She suffocates me."
"My mother. She suffocates me. There is no air around her. I have all the world at my disposal. And I am bound."
"I saw that when I watched you. That you didn't know you weren't free."
"No. You gave me that."
"I gave you much worse."
"It was a long time ago." And while he had forced her to come to his land and to marry him, he had never forced his body on her. Although once he'd drunk himself into a rage and roared into her bedchamber, standing over her, his gray-black eyes stormy and lost.
"Why will you not love me?" he had asked. And then he had run.
All that night, Cerberus had howled, three sounds so discordant they'd sent chills down her spine. She'd ended up walking along the rivers with the hound, searching for her lord.
He had not come home for five nights. When he returned, he did not speak of his absence. Two nights later, she'd risen from her bed and joined him in his, expecting coldness and dark passion. But he had made her laugh. He had smiled tenderly as his cool hands had worked magic on her senses. He had loved her.
And now...she loved him. She heaved the pomegranate out the door, straight into Lethe's mist. She heard it hit the ground beyond, heard Cerberus sniffling, one of his mouths making the whining sound that meant he knew she was leaving.
"I don't want to go."
"You must. We made a bargain."
"Come see me. While I'm up there."
"Up there, things die where I go."
"Up there, things die when I am down here. And no one blames my mother, anymore. They accept it. They will accept you in time."
"How long do you expect me to stay?" His smile was indulgent.
"Don't humor me."
"I wish I could come to see you."
"I must wait here."
She could feel the tears. Tears she had never cried before when she'd left this land. In the early days, she'd only cried when she'd left her mother. "I will miss this gentle gray light, Hades. It's so bright up there."
"Don't you know that you take the light with you? It will be dark here until you return." He pulled her up, took her in his arms, kissing her openly, for any of their servants to see. He had never done that before--his tenderness had been only in private.
"There is another side to me. A side that only lives down here."
"Yes. And she is waking up."
"Someday, she will never leave you."
"Perhaps." His smile was indulgent again.
What would happen to the earth if she never came back? To the flowers and the meadows? Persephone still cared about them. "I need to make my mother want to let me go."
He studied her. "She will not."
"She may." In time. And it wasn't as if any of them was getting any older.
But she could still grow up.
"I will see you to the entrance," Hades said.
The journey seemed to pass in a heartbeat.
Demeter waited just outside the entrance, a golden glow around her, the smell of hearth and home strong on the wind. "My dearest child."
Persephone turned away from Demeter and pulled Hades to her, kissing him. The glow around them dimmed. The smell of hearth turned to cinders.
"Goodbye, my love," Hades whispered. And his smile—it was more luminous than the sun.
"My husband." She touched his cheek, then turned and walked the rest of the way alone. Silver light gave way to gold. "Mother," she said, not rushing to hug Demeter as she had in the past.
They embraced slowly. Carefully. As equals.
And the golden light dimmed a little more.
Bio: In addition to earlier appearances in MYTHOLOG, Gerri Leen's work has appeared in Fusion Fragment, The First Line, and the Star Trek anthology Strange New Worlds. Look for stories in the Sails & Sorcery anthology, Renards's Menagerie, GrendelSong, Shred of Evidence, and the Fantastical Visions V anthology.