A Short Story

For your amusement. A short story I wrote a while back called Peppi.

Peppi

Everybody says I was raped. But they’re wrong.

This is what Mother doesn’t understand: The first time *I* let a man take me, I made darn sure he was single and had something to offer. Now I’m the queen and she’s… what? Servant of mankind. Peaceful do-gooder. Get a life, Mother.

This is how it happened.

Helenis or Perseis or Doris or someone—by gods there are so many of that lot I can never keep them straight—and they’re supposed to keep me entertained, company, bah! Anyway, one of those ocean sisters blew up a giant fish bladder and started a game of catch down by the creek. Everyone thought that was great fun. They’re easily entertained.

Mother is always saying, “Don’t you roll those big blue eyes up like that at me, young lady,” but she wasn’t there to say it that day. By the gods, she’s almost never there because there is always some starving country in need of her special touch. She’s that important. Yeah, don’t tell her how high my eyes are rolling now.

So she also wasn’t there to see how far off I wandered from my “playmates” that afternoon. I wanted to be alone, away from their prattling and ridiculous giddy laughter. I was a woman of 16, and bloody sick of talk and silly games. I needed space to think.

The woods around there were always a great place to escape. They were peaceful and dark, and you could imagine that you were queen of all the shadows and that everyone there had to do your bidding. At least they left you alone. The ground was always rich this time of year with wildflowers. All sorts—yellow daisies, purple violets, forget-me-nots and tiny little multi-colored pansies. When I was a little girl, I used to pretend they were all my servants and I made them dress like that to make them look ridiculous.

I knew them all, of course, so imagine my surprise when there was something new. And it was actually quite beautiful, even to my refined taste. If this flower had been a servant, she would have been dressed in a gown of honor. She wore a deep blue skirt, kind of the color of my eyes—so blue they’re almost black, but with iridescent flecks of deep ocean, the color of my Uncle P’s eyes, echoing the depth of his violent passions. I used to worship that uncle. Sadly, he was already married, not that it kept him from messing around plenty. But not with me! I knew enough to wait, to bide my time. No single motherhood for me—Mother’s example at least taught me that much.

This flower I found, she was wearing that deep blue skirt, kicked up in high spirit, with a fringe of matching silk floating out from her waist. People call me cold, but that’s because they’re too shallow to touch me deeply. This flower though—it touched me.

I knelt and placed my long, elegant fingers beneath the petals to feel its texture and admire how the dark silkiness contrasted with the creamy background of my skin. I wanted to pluck its beauty and adorn my own sinuous waist with its sumptuous curves. I wanted to kiss it with my plump, deep red lips. I wanted to watch myself kiss it, watch those soft, curving lips part moistly and touch the satin darkness and press it, bruise it. I wanted to see how my golden curls cascaded down to embrace the petals as I bent to crush the flower, I wanted to see how I would devour its beauty into myself and rise again even more ravishing than before.

And that is when he spoke to me. “Do you like it?” Tones of silk, deep and powerful. “It’s for you, Persephone.”

I knew who he was immediately, of course. But that didn’t stop a thrill of expectant shivers from descending my spine. I froze to compose myself, then let my long thick lashes lift, and the color rise to my cheeks. I saw the tartarus-black hooves of the horses first and then I noticed the hot sound of their breathing as my gaze followed the slate-blue line of their legs bulging with muscle and veins, up to their flanks, streaked with sweat. Then those faces. Smoke curled from their nostrils and their eyes were blood red.

Of course. They were the horses of Hades, after all.

He stood holding the reins, steaming under his ebony fingers, only two steps away from me. I turned up the corners of my sumptuous lips in enjoyment, as I took in the sight of his royal blue robes trimmed in black fur and finished with buttons made of polished human bone. His eyes matched the color of the steeds.

Uncle Hades. Single. Sexy. Powerful. HOT.

I plucked the narcissus as I rose, twirled it in my fingers with their nails of crimson, faced him fearlessly, a thrill of expectation racing through my blood. The moment would have been perfect if Cyane, or one of the other nymphs—there was a tiresomely large multitude of dryads—hadn’t moved into the clearing at that moment and begun screaming some nonsense about a trap. Ice virgins, every one of them. Oh, the melodrama.

But there was nothing she could do. I turned toward the sound of her keening, and in the same split second, Hades’s strong right arm had encircled my waist and the next thing I knew, we were in the chariot, my golden curls streaming behind and the steeds galloping forward, striking sparks with every touch upon the ground.

And that is how I came to be the Queen of the Underworld.

Of course, there was a big to-do about the whole thing. Mother got mad and took her plea to Father, master of the Universe and blah blah blah, who had masterminded the whole thing in one of his endless schemings, and he felt bad and told Hades he’d have to give me back. Ha! When I heard that news, I grabbed the nearest thing I could—it was a pomegranate—and started gobbling it down as fast as I could, red juice dribbling down my delicate chin. You don’t ever really feel hungry in the Underworld, but if you do eat something there you can’t ever leave, at least that’s how it’s supposed to work, so that’s what I did and they couldn’t get me back up there for anything.

Well, I did finally agree to go visit Mother regularly, and I even help her with the endless sowing and harvesting and making things grow so people don’t starve to death. All of which is pretty pointless since they all end up in my kingdom eventually anyway, but it makes her happy. And as long as they keep procreating up there, it ends up being more people for me to rule down here. Everybody wins.

So now you know.

4 thoughts on “A Short Story”

  1. Overall I think this is strong. It says something about how strong it is that I’m thinking of it on the level of “If this were in a magazine, what would need to be changed.” It reads more YA because some things are kind of obvious to me… like in paragraph 4 I knew it was Greek and in paragraph 5 I guessed it was Persephone, so I saw the Hades thing coming. Not that that makes it bad. Like I said, I still enjoyed reading it — it’s Greek! I love period stuff. Also the tone of it is YA; it has teenage yip, which I think might be a bit overstated in parts but is pleasant overall.

    I wanted more conversation between Hades and Persephone. I feel like you built to that and then it was over, like the punchline of the story is learning that the “I” character is Persephone, married to Hades, which is fine, but maybe give those of us who figured it out early a little something to savor too.

    I was confused in the 2nd paragraph. Based on the tone, I thought this was a modern day teenager so the “queen” line threw me off. Also I think the 2nd paragraph is a little weak if you want us to remember your point enough so that “So now you know” will immediately trigger it. One of those, either the beginning or the end, would need to be tweaked.

    So do you see what I mean about me enjoying this and thinking it worked and only having small problems? Is this what you even wanted as a response or did you just want my overall impression of it? I don’t know. I’m such an editor. Kick me or hang me or something.

    I enjoyed it. More Hades please. I liked Persephone’s spunk. I also like that she had spunk, in standing up to Hades for instance, as opposed to many things I read where the voice is all spunky but then they cower or something.

    (The first draft of my book was like that…. Ummm.)

    1. This is why I love having writer friends as well as non-writer friends. I get the “wow, that’s awesome” motivational feedback from my beautiful non-writer friends (which makes me feel good), and then I get this useful, wonderful feedback from you lovely writers too. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular from you, except hoping not to hear, “Wow, that sucks and you should stop now.” :p This is really useful feedback, thank you. Things like, how soon will they know she’s Persephone–well, I just don’t know, because I wrote it. I already know who she is! So, it’s helpful to hear from others what their experience with it is. I wanted it to be both enjoyable to read if you do know, and also fun to figure out if you don’t, and also enjoyable even if you’re not really hip to Greek mythology. Though of course I assume those who are, will enjoy it more.

      And then, all these details–wanting more Hades! How fun–I’m looking forward to writing in more Hades. 😀 I tend to get fixated on one character and forget that there are all these other potentially interesting people in the story. What fun I can have with Hades! Maybe he’s actually a really fun guy, you know? With a terrific sense of humor and a soft spot for puppies. These stories I’ve written–none of them were serious, I just toss them off and then think, “well, that’s not much good,” and then they sit in a folder forever. Mostly I don’t even finish them. It was Lev publishing his fan fiction short that made me realize, what the heck, let me put them out there!

      So I’m glad to hear that you think it’s worth working on further. I’ve got a whole series of these Greek myth retellings sitting in a folder (most of them, of course, unfinished). I really want to finish the one that starts with, “She was working in the lab when God arrived, unannounced.” It’s a little further from the original story (as you can tell–“God” with a capital “G”), but still based in a specific Greek myth. There’s another about the same Greek character, but cast as a librarian. They’re a lot of fun to play with. Can you tell I used to be a classics grad student? I also have been trying to retell Odysseus’s homecoming for years.

      I feel like I’m good with strong beginnings, and then I get bogged down in the weeds partway through, and mostly I give up. I think the reason Peppi is so abrupt at the end is that I just wanted to be done with it. I want to learn to come back to it and grow it outward from its core. I keep getting distracted by new ideas, and it’s hard to come back to the old ones and grow them.

      Having stories posted here and then getting this kind of feedback is a great step in that direction, I think. Thank you. And OH how I wish we lived in the same town so we could have coffee chats over our fiction. How motivating that would be!

      1. That would be fun! What state do you live in anyway? I’m in Texas, which from your pleasantly green outdoors is probably nowhere near here. I think I knew once where you lived but I can’t remember.

        I do really enjoy Greek mythology. My first novel was a spin on Greek mythology. Like a bastardization of it, actually. Honestly it was an excuse to write an immortal, omnipotent character set in present day, full of regret over the past. One day I’ll probably rework that novel and publish it. It’s my baby. It needs a LOT of work. I hate how I lazily ripped off Greek mythology, and hated that the whole time I was writing it, and instead of just, I don’t know, stopping and attempting it later I kept going and rewriting it for 4 years until it was “done.” It probably works even if it’s bastardizing mythology — but I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it in a while. It’s got issues. The unwriteable story.

        At least you write your ideas down! I can never seem to write a short story. I like writing epic things… it sucks as far as building your career goes.

        1. I’m in NC, Charlotte to be specific.

          I don’t really believe in such a thing as “bastardization.” I like this word: “re-telling.” And frankly, re-telling old stories is about as close to the spirit of ancient Greek stories as you can get anyway, isn’t it? They didn’t have this idea like we do that the plot has to be entirely your own. They valued HOW the story is told, not which story you chose to tell. There’s no such thing as a new story, anyway.

          So that’s my take. Your story is probably better than you think. It sounds very interesting to me.

          And also, I like to write big epic things too, but I can’t ever finish them. I only started trying to write the short stuff because they’re less overwhelming. Unfortunately, a lot of them end up getting long once I get into it… and then I end up not finishing. As I may have mentioned.

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