A Touch of Darkness(3)

By: Scarlett St. Clair

She was determined to make a good impression, and showing up hungover or sleep-deprived on her first day wasn’t the way to go about it.

“You’ve studied!” Lexa indicated to her laptop and stack of notes on the table. But what Persephone had really been doing is studying a flower and thinking about the God of the Dead. “And we both know you’ve already written that paper, you’re just a perfectionist.”

Persephone’s cheeks flushed. So what if it was true? School was the first and only thing she was good at.

“Please, Persephone! We’ll leave early so you can get some rest.”

“What am I going to do at Nevernight, Lex?”

“Dance! Drink! Kiss! Maybe gamble a little? I don’t know, but isn’t that the fun of it?”

Persephone blushed again and looked away. The narcissus seemed to glare back at her, reflecting all of her failures. She had never kissed a boy. She had never been around men until she’d come to college, and even then, she kept her distance, mostly out of fear her mother would materialize and smite them.

That was not an exaggeration. Demeter had always warned her against men.

“You are two things to gods,” she’d told Persephone when she was very young. “A power-play or a play-thing.”

“Surely you are wrong, mother. Gods love. There are several who are married.”

Demeter had laughed. “Gods marry for power, my flower.”

And, as Persephone had gotten older, she had come to realize that what her mother said was true. None of the gods who were married actually loved each other, and instead spent most of their time cheating and then seeking revenge for the betrayal.

That meant Persephone was going to die a virgin, because Demeter had also made it clear that mortals weren’t an option, either.

“They…age,” she’d said in disgust.

Persephone had decided not to argue with her mother about how age didn’t matter if it was true love, because she’d come to realize that it wasn’t about being Divine or a mortal—it was that her mother didn’t believe in love.

Well, not romantic love at least.

“I…don’t have anything to wear,” Persephone tried weakly.

“You can borrow anything from my closet. I’ll even do your hair and makeup. Please, Persephone.”

She pursed her lips, considering.

She would have to sneak away from the nymphs her mother had planted at their apartment and strengthen her glamour which would cause problems. Demeter would want to know why Persephone was suddenly in need of more magic. Then again, she could blame the extra coverage on her internship.

Without glamour, Persephone’s anonymity would be ruined as there was one obvious characteristic that identified all gods as Divine, and that was their horns. Persephone’s were white and spiraled straight into the air like those of a greater kudu, and while her usual glamour had never failed around mortals, she wasn’t so sure it worked for a god as powerful as Hades.

“I don’t really want to meet Hades,” she said at last.

Those words tasted bitter on her tongue because they were really a lie. A truer statement would be she was curious about him and his world. She found it interesting that he was so elusive and the bets he made with mortals completely appalling. The God of the Dead represented everything she wasn’t—something dark and tempting.

Tempting because he was a mystery and mysteries were adventures, and that’s what Persephone really craved. Maybe it was the journalist in her, but she’d like to ask him some questions.

“Hades won’t be there,” Lexa said. “Gods never run their own businesses!”

That was true, and probably truer of Hades. It was well-known that he preferred the dark gloom of the Underworld.

Lexa stared at Persephone for a long moment and then leaned across the table again.

“Is this about your mom?” She asked in a low voice.

Persephone stared at her friend for a moment, surprised. She didn’t talk about her mom. She figured the quieter she was about her, the fewer questions she’d have to answer, and the fewer lies she’d have to tell.

“How did you know?” Was the only thing Persephone could think to ask.

Lexa shrugged. “Well, you never talk about her and she came by the apartment a couple weeks ago while you were in class.”

“What?” Persephone’s mouth dropped open. This was the first time she had heard of this visit. “What did she say? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Lexa puts up her hands. “Okay, first, your mom is scary. I mean, she’s gorgeous just like you, but,” Lexa pauses to shiver. “Cold. Second, she told me not to tell you.”