Forbidden Fruit

To all those who've ever whispered the story of how Hades stole me away and I begged, pleaded, to go back to the surface to be with my mother, how he tricked me and forced me into a marriage, there is something I must tell you: You were wrong. Now listen to my story as it really is and retell it, tell the story of Hades and Persephone the right way. Tell the truth, please. Read the truth; read my story. (Oh, and don't call me Kore, please!)

(…)

'Kore, are you there, love?' my mother's melodious voice chimed from somewhere a few paces away. I huddled farther inside the rose bush, ignoring the thorns that pierced my delicate skin and tried to ignore her as she continued to call out to me. 'Kore? Love? Yoo-hoo!' I didn't want to come out of the bush. I didn't want to confront her. She could be so annoying sometimes, that mother of mine.

As she passed by the bush I was hiding in, her tread light and care-free, the roses around me burst into full-bloom and the thorns disappeared. One of the rose petals tickled my nose, but I knew that I couldn't move to stop the annoying sensation, as the bush would move with me, my mother would see me, and my hiding place would be revealed to her. But I couldn't bear the tickling any longer, and neither could my nose. It wrinkled of its own free will and, hard as I tried to suppress it, to stifle it, a sneeze erupted. Oh, bother.

The whole bush trembled and I was certain my mother had seen, certain she would be upon me in a moment, fussing, fixing my hair, cooing over the little scratches I'd acquired. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed o the gods she wouldn't find me. But, feeling stupid, I reproached myself; what use what would praying to the gods help? I was a god. A goddess, rather. And so I waited, huddled in the bush, for Demeter to swoop down on me…

'Kore? Was that you? Oh, dear, are you hiding in that bush? Tut-tut, love, come out now and let me fix your hair, sweetie.' Oh no, she'd found me. I wriggled deeper into the bush but knew it was no use. She had seen me and she'd drag me out of my sanctuary if she had to. I would come out with some dignity, I decided as I raised myself and faced her, standing in the middle of a rose bush.

Demeter's eyes were a shocking, warm shade of blue, her hair golden curls that bounced as she moved, her features porcelain in all ways and yet her cheeks flushed a delightful pink. The sight disgusted me. 'Hello mother,' I greeted her, trying to sum up some more enthusiasm. She turned to face me and smiled her perfect smile. Her supposed-to-warm-your-heart smile. I nearly scowled at her but stopped myself. 'You know I hate it when you call me Kore,' I reproached her, dusting off the leaves and thorns that stuck to me. 'Or dear, or love, or sweetie…'

'I didn't know, my love, but I'll stop. I love you so much!' and she threw herself at me. I was forced to catch her in my arms, though I wanted to drop her. I wanted to run a dirt-smeared finger down her perfect, crisp-white tunic, smear it with filth. I wanted to take away that infuriating perfect-ness. I reminded myself quickly that Demeter was my mother. She'd raised me. She loved me. I had to respect her more. And besides, she couldn't help the way she looked any more than I could.

I was not as beautiful as my mother. My rust-colored curls didn't shine like hers. In some places they appeared darker, almost brown, and in some lighter, almost blonde. My cheeks weren't pink like hers and I had a few freckles dusting the area around my nose. My eyes were blue, but not shocking like hers and nearly turquoise. I was petite as well, but I was skinny. And I was so, so short. I hated that. Why couldn't I be tall and imposing like Zeus? Or tall and slim like Athena? Or tall and beautiful like Aphrodite? But I was who I was. No one could change that.

'Kore, do you want to come pick flowers with me?' my mother asked, shamelessly using the name I'd asked her to abandon. I shook my head quickly, indicating a clear no. 'Ok then, let's go!' Demeter called out, tugging on my hand, as though she hadn't heard, or rather seen, my plain-as-day refusal. Groaning, I shook my hand and freed myself from her grip and then followed her, not wanting to at all.

Demeter leaned over in her favorite clearing and began plucking some purple flowers from their places in the dirt. As she did, new ones grew in their place almost immediately. I sat down in the grass and watched, scowling, my boredom etched onto my face. Suddenly, I could hear and feel a small rumbling beneath me. Surprised, I checked to see if my mother had heard or felt it, but she was farther away now, singing loudly to herself as she pulled up bunches of pink flowers several paces away. Curious, I walked over to where I thought the noise came from.

The ground suddenly opened up, quite silently actually, and out stepped a dark, mysterious, tall man wearing a fluttering, impressive cape and black clothes. I stared at him in astonishment from where I sat on the ground. When he looked at me, his stern gaze suddenly softened and I saw something unfamiliar twinkling in his dark eyes. And yet I wasn't afraid.

'Hello,' I greeted him, getting to my feet and noticing I reached up to his shoulders only. 'I'm Persephone. Who are you?' I was feeling, for some reason, brave, but also as though I was being spurred on by something.

The man seemed amused. 'I know. You're Kore. And I'm Hades.'

I wasn't even surprised to hear his name uttered. 'Don't call me Kore,' I snapped at him, angrily pulling up a red flower and scattering dirt particles all over the place. Hades chuckled and took the flower from me.

'For me? Why, thank you…Kore.' I scowled at him, my most chilling scowl, but I could see he found it amusing, which was the opposite of what I wanted him to feel when faced with that scowl. And suddenly I didn't feel like scowling anymore. I felt like smiling a radiant smile, the way my mother did.

Hades bent down and plucked a yellow flower, then handed it to me with one hand behind his back, bowing low. 'For you, beautiful little flower.' I blushed, and then gazed at him in astonishment. I wasn't beautiful. But he was calling me beautiful. I accepted the flower happily, putting my nose to the core and inhaling the wonderful smell. Yellow was my favorite color. How did this wonderful man know that?

'Thank you,' I said honestly, all traces of reproach gone. Hades smiled at me and I had the fleeting thought that he was quite handsome, even though some other people may have considered him dark, cold, cruel. Really he was tender and affectionate…but, unlike my mother, I reveled in the love I could feel pulsing from him. Was it love for me?

Hades held out one hand to me and asked, 'Would you like to come with me to see my Kingdom, Persephone?' I smiled at him and nodded vigorously. Hades took me in his arms while I looked on in shock as the ground opened beneath us and we were swallowed by it. Where was he taking me? But I didn't feel like fighting him, struggling in his grasp, trying to get free or calling for help. No, I felt safe in his arms. I wanted to stay there. And I wasn't afraid of where he was bringing me, even if his destination was the Realms of the Dead themselves. Though that was unlikely.