A Touch of Darkness(2)

By: Scarlett St. Clair

“I think he must have a sense of humor,” she explained. “The narcissus are a symbol of spring and rebirth,” her fingers hovered over the wilted petals. If anything, the flower should be her symbol. “Why else would he claim it as his?”

Persephone stared back at the girl, and her cheeks flushed. She stammered, “L-let me know if you need anything.”

She bowed her head and went back to work.

Persephone snapped a picture of her latte and sent it to Lexa before taking a sip.

She put her earbuds in and consulted her planner. Persephone liked being organized, but more than that, she liked being busy. Her weeks were packed—school on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and up to three hours each day at her internship. The more she did, the more excuses she had for not returning home to see her mother in Olympia.

Next week, she had a history test and a paper due for the same class. She wasn’t worried, though. History was one of her favorite subjects. They were discussing The Great Descent, the name given to the day the gods came to Earth and The Great War, the terrible and bloody battles that followed.

It wasn’t long before Persephone was lost in her research and writing. She was reading a scholar who claimed Hades’ decision to resurrect Zeus and Athena’s heroes had been the deciding factor in the final battle when a pair of well-manicured hands slammed Persephone’s laptop shut. She jumped and looked into a set of striking blue eyes. They were set in an oval face framed with thick, black hair.

“Guess. What.”

Persephone took out her headphones. “Lexa, what are you doing here?”

“I was walking home from class and thought I’d stop by and tell you the good news!”

She bounced back and forth on the balls of her feet, her blue-black hair bobbed with her.

“What news?” Persephone asked.

“I got us into Nevernight!” Lexa could barely keep a handle on her voice, and at the mention of the famous club, several people turned to stare.

“Shh!” Persephone commanded. “Do you want to get us killed?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lexa rolled her eyes, but she lowered her voice, knowing Persephone wasn’t overreacting. Nevernight was impossible to get into. There was a three-month waiting list, and Persephone knew why.

Nevernight was owned by Hades.

Most businesses owned by the gods were insanely popular. Dionysus’ line of wines sold out in seconds and were rumored to contain ambrosia. It was also exceedingly common for mortals to find themselves in the Underworld after drinking too much of the nectar.

Aphrodite’s couture gowns were so coveted, a girl killed for one just a few months ago. There was a trial and everything.

Nevernight was no different.

“How did you manage to get on the list?” Persephone asked.

“A guy at my internship can’t make it. He’s been on the waiting list for two years. Can you believe how lucky? You. Me. Nevernight. Tonight!”

“I can’t go.”

Lexa’s shoulders fell. “Come on, Persephone. I got us into Nevernight! I don’t want to go alone!”

“Take Iris.”

“I want to take you. We’re supposed to be celebrating. Besides, this is part of your college experience!”

Persephone was pretty sure Demeter would disagree. She had promised her mother several things before coming to New Athens to attend university, among them that she would stay away from the gods.

Granted, she hadn’t kept many of her promises. She’d changed her major halfway through her first semester from botany to journalism. She would never forget her mother’s tight smile or the way she’d said, ‘how nice’ between gritted teeth when she’d discovered the truth. Persephone had won the battle, but Demeter declared war. The day after, everywhere she went, one of Demeter’s nymphs went, too.

Still, majoring in botany was not as important as staying away from the gods because the gods didn’t know Persephone existed.

Well, they knew Demeter had a daughter, but she had never been introduced at court in Olympia. They definitely didn’t know she was masquerading as a mortal. Persephone wasn’t sure how the gods would react to discovering her, but she knew how the entire world would react, and it wouldn’t be good. They would have a new god to learn and to scrutinize. She wouldn’t be able to exist—she would lose the freedom she had just gained, and she wasn’t interested in that.

Persephone didn’t often agree with her mother, but even she knew it was best she lead a normal, mortal life. She wasn’t like other gods and goddesses.

“I really need to study and write a paper, Lexa. Plus, I start my internship tomorrow.”