Persephone waits on the balcony, the steel railings fading into the foggy landscape that lies beyond. The chair she sits in reclines, but she’s chosen to leave it upright as she stares out at the mist, not looking at her home for the next three months.
“You want anything? Pomegranate juice, maybe?” her uncles asks from inside the house.
“Funny.” She reaches down and pets the dog, a pit bull, brindle with a red nose. She’s not really sure which one of him she’ll get. Cerberus has three distinct personalities but luckily they all love her. One is more playful, one more loving, and one just wants to sleep on her feet. Whatever his mood, he’s also a watchdog. Her uncle walks out, a glass in his hand, ruby red amid all the grey and his unrelieved black. Hades fancies himself some kind of trendsetter — if death was the new black. But she has to admit he wears it well.
“Nice to have you back,” he says.
“Uh huh.” She lets her hand sit on the dog and hears him growl, but she’s unsure if he’s growling at her uncle or at some unseen threat in the fog.
“Glad to be back?”
“Not so much.” It’s her stock answer, what he no doubt expects her to say ever since he pulled her into his sports car and drove off with her. To the rage of her mother, his sister.
She has just come back from her mother’s. As has been happening more and more, she didn’t really enjoy her time at her old home.
She doesn’t fit in that world, anymore. Sure, she can still romp with the best of them through a field of flowers or a neon-lit nightclub, but her time in this gray house has changed her.
Her time in her uncle’s bed has changed her, too. She is lying when she says she isn’t happy to be back. She took four lovers when she got away from him, safe in her old bedroom, painted pink and lilac and powder blue and filled with frilly fabrics. Four lovers who were creative and sweet and failed to move her at all.
She has grown accustomed to a darker touch. To a rougher voice murmuring her name with an intensity she doesn’t think can be found in a place with sunshine. The gray magnifies his need.
She wonders if he has any idea how much she wants him.
He wanders to the edge of the balcony, part of him lost in the fog for a moment, until the cloudy tendrils make way as if he’s immune to weather events. He turns and studies her. “You look different.”
“Same old me.”
“My brother told me you were busy.” His gaze is bland; she doesn’t know if he means busy with her lovers or more general frolicking.
She used to be so good at frolicking. But being kidnapped by your uncle can change that. If the head of their family — Zeus, her other uncle and maybe her father, she’s never been sure — hadn’t mandated it, her mother would never have let Hades have her.
Her mother isn’t in charge of how things go for her. That’s been interesting. Because here, in Hades’ house, Persephone seems to rule. If she tells him she wants something, it appears. If she decides she hates a piece of furniture or art, it’s gone the next day.
She likes it, if she’s honest. This power. She likes it very much.
Hades has turned back to the fog, so she lets go of the dog and walks over to him. He doesn’t move, doesn’t say anything, until finally he sneaks his hand down her arm, finding her fingers, twining them with his.
She will not say it. It’s her rule.
He has not, in the past, asked, either. But this time, so quietly she can barely make it out, she hears, “Did you miss me?”
“Yes,” she says just as softly.
He squeezes her hand. “Your mother won’t like that.”
“My mother isn’t the mistress of this house — or of me. I decide what I miss and what I don’t.” She leans over and lets her shoulder bump against his. “I miss her when I’m here. But this time…” She shrugs.
“It is very bright where she is.” He holds out the glass of juice, and she takes it. “This would not stand out there.”
“No, it wouldn’t.” She takes a sip; this lovely nectar no longer comes with a price.
Delicious. It’s always delicious, and she has missed it. Her mother would rather die than serve pomegranate juice at any of her parties.
The dog snorts in his sleep; his legs move as if he is chasing monsters. She smiles and sees Hades smile, too.
“He missed you so.”
“And you. Did you miss me?”
He meets her eyes and nods.
He laughs, a soft puff of air that goes with this place more than a full-throated laugh would. It’s a house of small sounds. Nothing like the revels her mother threw while she was home. She closes her eyes and drinks in the softness.
“Next time I’m back with Mother, I think … I think I might sneak away and pop in here. To see the dog.”
“Of course. Only to see the dog.” He is smiling broadly. He’s handsome in his way, this man who wanted her so much, this man she should not be with.
This man her mother hates with every fiber of her being.
“Yes. That’s the only reason.” She pulls him down to kiss her.
His touch is sweet, his lips easy on hers, like there is no reason to demand—no longer a reason to steal — when he can simply accept what she offers.
The mist wraps around them as if hiding them from the world.
[Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. She has stories and poems published or accepted in: Escape Pod, Grimdark, Spellbound, Sword and Sorceress XXIII, Spinetinglers, She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror and others. She is editing an anthology, A Quiet Shelter There, which will benefit homeless animals and is due out in 2015 from Hadley Rille Books. See more at http://www.gerrileen.com.]