What if the stories we've been told through mythology got it wrong? There's always a different side to a story...
“Gods!” moaned Persephone, “She’s like a limpet. Can’t leave me in peace for a moment.”
She plopped down on the grassy knoll next to her friend, Hecate.
“It’s bad enough that the paparazzi always chase me. Being the daughter of Zeus ain’t no joke.”
Hecate rolled her eyes and sprinkled flowers on her friend’s hair, “Poor baby. Your daddy is famous and your mama loves you. That’s what we call #MountOlympus problems.”
Persephone brushed the flowers from her hair and continued ranting about all the ways her mother coddled her. Demeter had cut the crusts from her toast this morning, as she had when Persephone was a child. Then she insisted on dressing her and picking out her clothes.
“Just because she had no childhood, she somehow thinks it’s okay to treat me like a child, even though I’m nearly a woman!”
“What you need is a vacation,” Hecate mused, “Hey, doesn’t your uncle rule the Underworld? You should go visit him to get away from your mom.”
“Hades? I barely know him. Still...that could be a good excuse. Let’s go talk to him.”
Picnic in Hell
The next day, the two girls packed enough food for the day’s journey and sneaked to a cave with a shortcut to the Underworld. When stopped by a guard, Persephone haughtily told him she was Hades’ niece.
The guard shrugged. If two teens wanted to visit the Underworld, who was he to stop them?
After a long journey, the two reached Hades’ lair.
“Well, well, well. You’re looking more like your mother every day. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Hades slithered over to Persephone, running a finger through his slick black hair.
He invited the girls to sit down and eat, though, with a warning look, Hecate discouraged Persephone from eating the fruits and wine Hades had set before them. Instead, they opened their baskets and ate the food they had brought.
Between bites, Persephone complained about her overbearing mother who treated her like a child.
“Can I come stay with you for a while, Uncle?” she asked.
Hades guffawed. “Never in a million years would your mother allow you to stay here with me, Lord of the Underworld. Or anywhere else that she couldn’t keep her claws in you. That woman is a nightmare. You should have seen her when we were growing up.”
He stretched indolently on his throne. “Sorry babe. No way, no how.”
Persephone, who perhaps had a bit of her uncle’s fiery temper, glowered at him.
“I won’t stay under her control! If you won’t allow me to stay here, I’ll...I’ll...I’ll run away!”
Hecate and Hades exchanged worried glances. Both knew that a daughter of Zeus was a hot commodity for an opportunist who might stumble upon her, far from home. Wars had been started over less.
“Maybe there’s another way,” mused Hecate.
A Plot is Underway
“You’re not worried Mama will be mad at you, Hades?” Persephone asked, once Hecate had laid out her plan and the others agreed to it.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass if that woman is mad at me. I’m more worried for you,” he said.
“Well if she thinks you kidnapped me, I’ll look innocent. Plus she won’t even know where I am for a while, so at least I can have some time away from her.”
They agreed that the “kidnapping” would occur the next morning. Persephone would go out alone, under the guise of picking flowers and Hades would crack open the earth to pull her to the Underworld. Easy as pie.
That evening, Persephone was especially nice to Demeter, which, rather than causing her mother to raise an eyebrow, only made her happy, since normally Persephone was surly, as most teenagers are.
Persephone complimented her on dinner, making no sarcastic remark about chicken and stars having been her favorite meal when she was five. Before bed, she hugged her mother tight.
“I love you, Mama.”
And the Ground Shook
The next morning, she tiptoed out of the house with a few of her favorite books and things in a basket. Demeter had not yet risen.
Persephone headed to her favorite hill and busied herself with flower picking, just in case someone was watching.
“Hurry up already, Hades,” she groused.
Just then, the ground shook and a large crack appeared to her right. She rolled her eyes. The crack was supposed to be directly below her so she would fall into it. Persephone scrambled over to the crack and put on her most dramatic wail as she tumbled down into the earth.
She landed at Hades’ feet, a bit battered and bruised. She looked up.
“Welcome to paradise, sweets.” Hades grinned.
A Worried Mother Hen
Demeter paced impatiently across the kitchen.
“What could be keeping that girl? She knows breakfast is at 8 sharp.”
She grabbed her cloak and marched toward the hill where she knew Persephone often gathered flowers. Her daughter was nowhere to be seen, though there were a bunch of flowers scattered, as if dropped in a hurry.
Demeter’s Spidey sense tingled. Something wasn’t right. Her daughter was never late, and she would never have left her flowers behind.
She ran home and asked all the neighbors if they’d seen her daughter. None had. She spent the day searching every nook and cranny for her, to no avail.
Demeter waited all of five hours before contacting Zeus.
He answered the phone with a sigh, “Did my child support check bounce?”
“Zeus, she’s gone. Persephone has disappeared.”
“How long has she been gone?” he asked, only mildly concerned.
“Only a few hours, but I know something terrible has happened to her.”
“Look, Dem, the police won’t even investigate a missing person until it’s been at least 24 hours. Why in the blue blazes would you think the God of All would act any faster? She’s probably rolling in the hay with some boy,” he snorted.
Demeter bit her tongue against making a snide comment about how a roll in the hay had been exactly how the two had ended up being parents. She hung up. He would be no help.
She packed food and a warm cloak, left a note in case Persephone came back, and headed out to find her daughter.
Wish You Were Here
Meanwhile, Persephone was having a fine time in the Underworld. She worked on her tan near the fires of hell and entertained Hades with impressions of her mother.
Hades seemed to appreciate the company. Ruling the Underworld was a pretty lonely job, when you thought about it. And the souls he did meet, well, they weren’t exactly quality company. He enjoyed his niece’s lust for life and witty humor.
After nine days, however, he grew a bit weary of her and rather missed his alone time. Teenage girls required a lot of energy. “How long were you planning to stay, exactly? When does your kidnapper give you back? Should we ask for a ransom? You know Demeter would pay it.”
“I’m not going back,” she said with a jerk of her chin.
Hades began to consider his own plan.
So Within, So Without
After nine days, Demeter was exhausted emotionally and physically. She’d found nary a sign of her daughter, and she barely noticed that the world around her was reflecting her inner turmoil. Crops, which only a week ago had been green and thriving, had withered away to husks. The air had a sudden chill to it, and the people in the villages she passed through were afraid of what this meant, since the crops they relied on were now gone.
Finally, having given up hope, she returned home.
On the road, she met Hecate.
“Oh, Demeter! How are you? Is Persephone home yet? I bet those two are driving each other crazy.” She stopped short when she realized what she’d said.
“Hecate! Where is she? What do you know?”
She shook the girl until she let out that Hades had kidnapped Persephone and taken her to the Underworld.
Rage filled Demeter’s eyes as she stormed to the cave leading to the Underworld.
Let’s Make a Deal
Feeling the trembles of Demeter’s wrath heading his way, Hades sighed, “Here she comes. You’re mother’s on the warpath.”
He considered life in the Underworld without Persephone, and while it would offer the solitude he was missing, he knew he’d also feel lonely without her there.
“Listen, sweets. She’s going to come in here and drag you by your hair, and powerful as I am down here, there’s not much I can do with a woman scorned. So I’ll make a deal with you. If you eat some of these pomegranate seeds, you would have to return to hang out with me a few months of the year. That way, you get a break from Mom and I get someone to make me laugh. Deal?”
Persephone, who’d broken out in a sweat as soon as she realized her vacation was almost over, smiled at the silver lining her uncle had presented her.
“Deal! On one condition: I get to be Queen of the Underworld when I’m here, and I’ll have as much power as you.”
Hades, realizing that title didn’t really amount to much, agreed.
Not Without My Daughter
“You son of a bitch!” Demeter shrieked as soon as she stomped into the room where Hades and Persephone were quietly waiting, “How the hell dare you kidnap my daughter?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m a real bastard. Sorry, sis.”
Demeter socked Hades in the jaw and grabbed Persephone. “Oh my baby. Did that evil God hurt you? Are you okay? Let’s get out of here.”
Persephone played the part and even managed to evoke some tears. She found she didn’t much mind her mother’s tight hugs, and realized she’d even missed her a bit.
The two made their way home without event, and life resumed as it had before Persephone’s adventure.
To Everything There is a Season
Nine months later, Demeter awoke to Persephone standing above her, bags packed.
“Sorry Mom. There’s something I forgot to tell you. One of the conditions of Hades letting me go was that I had to return to him three months each year. But don’t worry! I’ll be back before you know it!”
She gave Demeter a kiss and bounced her way back to the cave.
The three months were interminable for Demeter, and her mood, as always, impacted the weather. Below ground, it might have been hotter than, well, Hades, but the earth, so attuned to Demeter’s moods, sunk into winter. By now, the people of the land had figured out how to deal with what they were calling “seasons” and were able to set food aside for those bleak months.
One day, while Demeter was pulling frozen laundry from the clothesline, she spied Persephone making her way home. As she hugged her daughter, the trees blossomed and the sun came out.