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I had dropped the pomegranate a long time ago and was still sitting in the tree, my hands stained blood-red, and couldn't help thinking of the juice spilled all over me as my blood. I listened to the nonexistent rustle of leaves because there was no breeze. I looked at the nonexistent flowers because this was the Underworld and all plants were artificial. I felt the nonexistent warmth of sunbeams on my skin because there was no sun. I tasted the nonexistent taste of pomegranate, because the food of the Underworld really has no taste, in the end. And I thought I would go mad. Stay here for the rest of eternity? My love for Hades wasn't enough to make me able to endure that. And all of a sudden I hated this place, the artificialness of it all.
A sudden cry of joy rang out across the Elysian Fields and I, surprised, nearly dropped out of the tree. It couldn't be one of the dead because the dead were very silent, never speaking louder than a whisper. So who was it? Everyone here apart from myself and Hades were dead. And I doubted, even, that I was not dead. I could very well be dead. Somewhere during the journey here, did Hades kill me to make sure that I stayed with him forever? As soon as the thought occurred to me I felt ashamed and stupid and began to berate myself. Hades would never do that, he loved me; if I wasn't willing to stay with him he wouldn't force me. And I couldn't die, I was a Goddess!
'Persephone!' the all-too-familiar voice yelled, and, shocked, this time I really did drop out of the tree, falling and landing in the grass below with a painful thump. 'Oh, my daughter, my dear, my Kore!' my mother shrieked as she ran toward me. Here she was. I was seeing her, unless she was a figment of my imagination, and all previous longing to see her disappeared. Go away, Mother, this is the Kingdom I share with Hades! You have no right to be here!
I watched helplessly as she approached and threw herself at me. When she saw my stained garment and the position I was currently in, she let out a shriek. 'Oh! Oh, daughter, are you hurt?' she inquired, gasping as she saw the red stains. 'Is that...blood? Hades, brother, what have you done to her!'
'No, Mother, it's not blood. It's the juice of a pomegranate.' I looked over at Hades, standing half-concealed behind one of the trees, an apologetic look on his face, as though saying sorry for not being able to keep my mother away. When I mentioned that it was pomegranate juice, his look slipped into surprise, understanding, and then horror. He knew. We shared the secret.
'Oh! Was it a good pomegranate?' my Mother asked cheerfully, happy that I was OK. 'I would like to taste it if it is. I love fruits! I love all plants.' She looked expectant and bouncy. I swallowed, afraid to tell her the truth; that she shouldn't eat the pomegranate if she wanted to be able to stay on the surface.
Hades saved me the pain, stepping forward. 'Demeter, if you eat some of the food from my Realm, you'd have to stay here forever.' She looked surprised, and then relieved that she didn't eat the fruit.
'Well, it's good that I didn't eat it then!' she announced with a nervous laugh. But she didn't seem to realize that I'd eaten it already. She looked as though she was ready to do a few twirls, jump up and down…she was so happy. And I realized that with her, I was not happy. But with Hades…
And then I knew what I had to do, what I had to say. 'Mother, I ate a pomegranate seed,' I told her quietly, looking at Hades while I talked. She froze, and then slowly turned her head toward me.
'No,' my mother whispered. She looked at me with such horror that I knew I couldn't leave her for Hades. It would be too cruel, no matter how much I loved the dark god. I just couldn't leave my mother like that. I was her source of happiness. I was what made her happy. And Hades was mine. What a dilemma.
'No, my daughter, you can't be locked up in here forever with awful Hades! No!' My mother cried, seizing me in her arms and holding me close. 'Don't worry, lovely, I'll get you out of this,' she whispered desperately, turning to face Hades with rage in her eyes. 'You! You kidnapped her and then tricked her into eating the seeds! You bastard! How could you!' she yelled, loudly. I was embarrassed on her account, but understood where all the anger came from, as misdirected as it was.
'Mother, Hades didn't kidnap me,' I told her gently, knowing that what I had to say would hurt her. 'I went with him voluntarily. Because I wanted to.' I paused and she took the opportunity to fill in my story with one of her own.
'But now you realize what a mistake that was,' she put in, voicing her wishes, her hopes, her desires. I shook my head, tears streaming down my face.
'No. I don't think it was a mistake. I love him. I love Hades, Mother,' I told her, sobbing. She stared at me, shocked and looking a little disgusted.
'Love? Love Hades? Has Eros shot you with his arrow? Oh, unhappy day! That little son-of-a-dog Eros has taken you from me! My daughter! Seized by Eros! No! No! I shall have you back! I shall save you from this fate!' She was desperate, and I forgave all her cruel words.
'No, Eros didn't shoot me. I really do love Hades, Mother, and I won't go back without him. I love him…the way you love Zeus.' I was gazing absently at Hades and sometimes at my mother, and he looked surprised but overjoyed when I declared my love for him before my obstinate mother.
She froze, surprised. 'I don't love Zeus, daughter, dearest,' she whispered, honestly, tears streaming down her face now too. 'I didn't love him at all. But it was his whim…it was a mistake, that you were born, Kore. He…I didn't want him to…but it happened. Only don't think I don't love you! I do! Oh, so much!'
I was surprised that my mother hadn't loved Zeus and he'd forced her into it. Was that why she had such a violent reaction to me and Hades? 'Mother, I'm sure that loving Hades is not a mistake. Eating the pomegranate was, but…'
She was sobbing openly, while I was drying my tears, though they kept coming. Hades looked melancholy as well, torn. It was at that moment, the right moment, that he came.
I felt a warm presence next to me and turned, surprised. What I saw surprised me further; it was a young man who seemed to be shining from his own internal light. He wore a circlet of laurel leaves around his forehead, had beautiful blond locks, and was full of light and warmth. He was laughing, happy for eternity. I gasped. 'Who…?' I asked him, rather pathetically. He just laughed at me.
Leaning in, the God whispered, 'I'm Apollo, sweet. God of light, music, prophecy, healing, and reason. Useful, aren't I?' He winked at me flirtatiously and then turned to face Hades and Demeter. 'So, what seems to be the problem?' Apollo asked.
'Well…Demeter wants her daughter back, but Persephone can't go back because she ate some of the food of the Underworld. You know the rule. That's our dilemma, Apollo.' Apollo looked at us thoughtfully.
'Then why don't you just make an exception to the rule, Oh Uncle of Mine?' Apollo pointed out good-naturedly. Hades looked surprised, as though this hadn't occurred to him.
'But I don't want to go back with my mother forever, or stay here forever. You see, I love Hades, but I also love Demeter,' I explained to him quietly. Apollo raised his sunny eyebrows, and then another idea seemed to occur to him.
'Well then, spend half the year with Demeter and half the year with your beloved Hades!' he proposed reasonably, even as he started to fade away, leaving behind him a sweet smell, the distant sound of music, and light.
I was astonished to realize that the God was absolutely right. It was the solution. Demeter's face lit up and she ran to me, hugging me and exclaiming over how reasonable, wonderful, her nephew Apollo was. I just smiled, sometimes looking at Hades, thinking of the future. A bright future that we would all have a part in. And I couldn't help smiling like Apollo when I thought of the future I was lucky enough to have before me. I wouldn't trade places with anyone else in the world.
And that, readers, is my true story.