Demeter had fallen in love with a mortal, and for a brief time, she thought she had found happiness.
But the mortal loved her for only a little while; unaware he was courting a goddess, he grew uninterested in her, as mortal men did, and he strayed away from her. And Demeter was inconsolable. Her grief was uncontainable.
And she sought her revenge, not against the one who had wronged her, for she loved him so, but against all others. She lured mortal men into her trap, enticed them, seduced them, used them, and hurt them, as she had been hurt. The once kind goddess had become bitter and lusted for vengeance. It became too much for her brothers and sisters to handle her. The mortal cries out to Zeus when she left so many broken hearted stirred too many sympathies, and the immortals grew tired and unamused of the frequent sorrows. They called out for Zeus to punish her.
But Zeus was kind-hearted also, and he pitied his sister, for he saw her broken heart. And so he thought, and he offered what he thought would become a better solution. He offered her a daughter.
She was not particularily moved by the idea. She did not want a baby - she wanted a man. But Zeus was her only brother that she still trusted, and ultimately, the only one she forced to listen to. So he gave her Persephone.
And Demeter... Demeter found her purpose.
Demeter was a good mother, and therefore raised a good girl. And aside from being a good girl, she was a very simple girl, who was content to sit and pick flowers in her mother's garden or bathe for hours in the spring river. Yes, Demeter loved Persephone very very much and was filled with pride at her daughter naivete. Demeter's brothers, though she loved them too, were selfish, greedy gods who married selfish goddesses and produced greedy offspring, and she was so incredibly proud to have such a gentle daughter to call her own. This daughter was special, for she was raised without a man, and therefore was not exposed to the terrible acts that masculinity offered.
Her precious daughter was the only thing that mattered.
And she would see that no one ever took her from her.
Persephone lay on her back on the shore of the river, water running through the fabric of her dress and making her hair rock back and forth against the sand. Laying still was paradise to her in a busy world - sitting in the nature, listening to bird calls, and smelling the air.
Others made fun of her. She knew they called her 'simple', even 'stupid', if they were less kind. They mocked her for being a foolish as a newborn lamb, as clumsy as a young fawn, and as blank as a baby rabbit.
"Ignore them," her mother had always instructed in her lovely tone. "You are worth more than they are. How could you possibly be simple, when you are my life? My flower, my whole world. Quite the opposite of simple." And after hearing these words, Persephone had always, always felt better.
And most of all, with her mother, she was content. She did not consider herself lonely, although she had few friends and almost no companions. She had her mother, and what more did she need? Her mother's love was like a thousand oceans that waved over her through the years, like how the water made pearls in the rocky sand. How blessed she was, to be a pearl to such a fine goddess of a mother.
A low voice broke the peaceful silence:
"Persephone, my lovely girl!"
She continued to rest on the earth, very still, not raising her head at all. She closed her eyes in vain hope that he might go away at once and leave her alone.
"Persephone! I called you. Surely you do not have your ears underwater?"
The voice of the most foolish god of all.
Without warning, the strong hands of Ares pulled her up none too gently out of the water. The headstrong god smiled down upon her, his brownish blonde hair waving slightly in the wind, his playful eyes twinkling. His heavy arms wrapped around her for one squeeze, and then released her in a sitting position.
Persephone frowned at him. This riverside was her personal space, a place given to her by her mother. Demeter did not allow anyone else to be here without her expressed permission. Ares especially, was forbidden by her mother - he was often violent and ill-tempered and even Persephone was forced to admit that she feared him. "Ares, you should not be here. My mother will be most displeased."
"But we are friends," he said with his same brazen smile, coinciding with his sharp eyes. "Surely your mother cannot still be preventing you from even having friends?"
Yes, she could. And even then, only female friends were typically allowed. "You will be in trouble, Ares. You might as well leave now."
Ares laughed. "But I am already here. And she has chased away many, many, many from this place. And still, we all come, begging for your hand, do we not?"
Persephone made a face. "I thought you said you were a friend?" she asked peevishly, and she withdrew herself out of his grasp, the water from her hair dripping into tiny streams down her back. "Ares, go home. Please?"
"You need more people to visit you here. You need friends. I am smart, you are not - I know what is best for you."
"My mother, unlike you, or anyone else, knows what is best for me." Persephone said shortly, turning away from him. "Besides, I do not wish for anyone to have my hand. I am with my mother."
"You are all grown, you will not be with your mother for much longer," Ares answered knowingly. "Zeus has good plans for you. Demeter cannot stop them, when he makes his decision."
Persephone shuddered. "Then I pray he will not make his decision for a very long time," she said quietly.
Ares let out a sigh, and without warning, scooted very close to her so they were touching. She glanced over at him, and found his usually stern face was very gentle. "Come, maiden," he said comfortingly. "What is so bad about us males? We would take care of you. You are a delicate flower. You would be surprised how much you would blossom under the hand of one of us. Make lovely babies for us. Lovely daughters like you, and handsome sons like me!"
"Your mother is a trying bitch, my dear, and she will not be controlling you much longer, whether you like it or not." He reached out and stroked a lock of her hair. "Do not strive to be like your mother. A real goddess knows how to marry off her daughter. A real mother would want what is best for you, not best for her."
She pushed his hand away. "Don't," she said loudly. All the positive feelings she had developed for him vanished when he insulted her mother.
He laughed softly. "You are still young," he murmuered, but his eyes dropped and scanned her body and Persephone didn't feel very young at all.
She scowled at him. "Leave, or my mother will hear about this!"
Ares sighed. "Of course she will. Demeter misses nothing with you. She will complain heartily to Zeus, annoying everyone who crosses her path. Such a shame. I thought we were friends, Persephone, my feelings are rather hurt."
She blinked, confused. She had not meant to hurt his feelings. But surely, he understood that her mother had rules...?
But he laughed at the expression on her face, gave a swift kiss on her cheek, and then ambled away quickly, his booming chuckle still echoing even after he disappeared from her sight.
Persephone drew her legs up to her chest and pouted. She did not like when people laughed at her. It was one thing to be openly mocked- it was another thing to not even be able to tell if she was being mocked or not! How frustrating! And the slights about her mother simply made her angry and upset. No one ought to speak about her mother like that, not if she could help it!
And Ares had plenty of brides he had taken, although everyone knew it was truly Aphrodite that he constantly longed for. Persephone did not wish to ever become the lover of anyone who already had Aphrodite in their bed. And yet, perhaps mere hours after he had slept with her, he came here!
Her temper tantrum was on the verge of running wild, and she settled herself back on the sand when something, almost a sensation, ran through her mind.
She jerked up immediately, although this time unaided.
It was as if she were being watched.
The wind returned to still, and she instantly rose to her feet, glancing around. Had Ares not left? Her eyes scanned the horizon, but he was long gone and had nowhere that he could be hiding to see her. How terrifying. This was her one special place where she counted on to be alone. Ares should not have been there at all, but now the threat of someone else also being present was too much for her to handle.
Her lovely day was ruined. Shivered, she pulled her damp outfits around her and rushed home to find her mother.
Hades let out a silent breath of withheld air as the young girl ran away into the approaching dusk. Without delaying a single second, he instantly disappeared.
Demeter was beside herself.
"How dare he!" she exclaimed over and over again, pacing like an angry lioness in front of the stove. "How dare he!"
"Mother," Persephone said soothingly. "He is only my friend..."
The lights were low in their little home, but Persephone thought her mother made an oddly formidable force in the shadows, walking back and forth as she did. The flowers on the windowsill had curled in Demeter's anger. Persephone kept glancing at them mournfully, hoping her mother would calm soon, before they wilted permanently.
"Only a friend? A god who comes, insisting to speak of false romance, asking for your hand, smothering his hands around you? I created that place for you and no one else!" Demeter insisted, throwing her hands in the air. "The charms placed upon it Zeus promised would keep others out! Not for anyone else! Not Ares! You!" She scowled and crossed her arms. "I ought to be having a talk with that young god either way, he's been such an irritation for so long that perhaps it's time to do something about it..."
"Perhaps, mother, he was only-"
"There is nothing else!" she interrupted angrily. "You fail to see that when an order is disobeyed, there must be consequences. I must teach you. I must set a good example, as your mother." Suddenly, all of the fight went out of Demeter. Her shoulders slumped, and she sunk into the chair next to Persephone. "My love," she whispered, looking up with despairing eyes. "Am I a good mother?"
Persephone reached out her arms, her heart breaking to see such grief. "Yes, mother, yes! Why would you ever ask such a thing?"
"You are not going to leave me, are you?"
"No, mother, never. I am always here, with you."
Demeter reached out and pulled her daughter into a tight embrace, her nails digging into her back. "Good," she murmured. "Good. Then we have no more reason to speak of this any longer."
Persephone hesitated. She wondered if she should tell her mother of the presence she had felt long after Ares had left. She wondered if she should tell her mother that she was almost certain someone had been watching her. For some some reason, she held her tongue.
It was the first time she had kept something from her mother, ever.
On the windowsill, the flowers began to bloom again.