I felt the sound of the door closing more than I heard it. The solid thud that was not only closing in front of me, but also on my heart. Hope was no longer a shining rose that glimmered before me. Hope was now as dead as everyone in the Underworld. Cold washed over my body as I felt the last shred of light die.
That was that. We were done. Finally returning home to our apartments we had lived separately in for the years before he vanished, he spoke politely and cordial. Every bit of emotion that I had locked up for years bubbled. But I repeated what I had always said: as long as he was happy. If you love someone, you have to let them go when they ask. It was what I had done.
But his request to remain friends? How would I be able to do that?? He seemingly lived years with his decision. I had only seconds to wade through my thoughts. To him, I was still “special”. But not special enough to love, not anymore. I snorted in frustration, an unpleasant noise, as I paced the room. It was good I had the plush rugs beneath my feet or the slap of my skin against the stone would have echoed through my chambers. I replayed the whole conversation, feeling his words etched into my bones as if by a knife. He doesn’t know who he is, where he is going. NOW he has a crisis? He is the Zeus-be-damned god of the Underworld! King of this land! But it was not enough.
In the blink of a few words, everything we had or had been was thrown out the window because this is what HE wanted. What HE decided. No conversation, no talking it over, nothing. He made the decisions and whatever those were, I had to live and die by them. My soul burned. I was certain Ares could feel my anger burning all the way to Olympus. But damned if I didn’t just roll over. I just smiled over the screaming pain in my head and wished him happiness.
I was a simple naive fool! Every time I defended him was out of love. All the others who whispered behind my back, looking at me with either pity for my foolish belief or with derision because they had heard “rumors”. Had heard I was (shock!) “unfaithful”. Not one rose to defend me. No one stood and said they were sorry. I was as invisible there as I had become here.
The sound of shattering pottery shook me to my core, brought me back from the edge of oblivion. I looked to the potted plants that adorned my room, bright spring-colored flowers. All of the pots had burst in my anger, the roots reaching out aggressively, shattering the terra-cotta. The dark dirt of the mortal realm provided a stark contrast against the light rugs covering the floor. Vines tangled around the bed, widening the cracks in the stone that it had been carved from, growing in and around until the bed itself seemed alive. Stalks grew and wove high, bending against the ceiling, arching over my head, obscuring the white paint. Just the sight of the destruction I had wrought in my anger was enough to remind me to be fair and calm.
I had not only been naive. I had been deluded. I should have known my marriage was over years ago. I just hadn’t allowed myself to admit it. I knelt on the ground, running my fingers through the dirt scattered on the floor in the wake of my explosive display of power. Feeling the cool earth of the mortal realm damp against my skin, I reminded myself I needed to find out who I was again. Maybe even as much as Hades needed to.
My thoughts began to meander, flitting from one place to another as I cleaned the mess I made, coaxing the winding plants back into a sense of control.
Mortal and immortal looked forward to the Spring when the world would sprout anew, and things would grow. When life through the realms was reborn. So many think of the spring as soft. It is not soft. I am not soft. The plants grow, they thrive and take back the land if left untamed. When a place lays abandoned, each spring the plants take back more, devouring the trace of any mortal hand. I remembered that my world was a duality. Life. Death. Kore, the Flower Maiden and Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. The plants I sprouted in spring could bring a mortal life or cause their death. Every living creature knew Spring was renewal.
I ruled over the Underworld by his side. Though he cast me aside, I am still the Queen, and he cannot take that from me. Every winter I came here out of love. I left my family when he asked it of me. I left the mortal realm because I loved him and loved our home. I would always live half my life in either place. It was how things had been and how they would remain, and I was good with that. I would not ask Zeus for dispensation. I would not ask him to break the binding even though we all knew everyone bent the rules in some way. I would not ask for favor.
But now what would I do?
Now, I would mourn as a wife mourns a husband. As I listened to the prayers of those left behind when we welcomed the souls of the dead into the Underworld, I too would tear my hair and gown in grief. I would mourn the loss of my husband, and then I would be reborn.
A sudden rumble shook me. Shook the room around me so violently, I thought I had, for just a moment, woke the rage inside me again. I steadied myself. The feeling was farther away, and the dread was much deeper in my gut than just my own loss of decorum. This was not my doing. It was not Hades’ doing. It was much worse. I grabbed my shawl and flung it around my shoulders as I dashed barefooted into the hallways of the apartments. The cacophony of sounds shattered the peace of the Underworld, and I ran towards what I knew to be the most horrific thing possible. As I emerged from the doors, I could see it. The horrible event that shattered my home. The prison of Tartarus burst open; rubble strewn about. The gash, a gaping wound that I could feel on my body as if it had ripped through me as well. The Titans were free, and they had destroyed my home.
I would not allow this. This would not be taken lightly.
I was Persephone, The Iron Queen, they called me in the stories, the Bringer of Death. My crown sat on my head as sure as one sat upon Hades’ brow.
I would show them exactly what it means to be the queen in this realm, and I did not need a King to do it.