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