(Author's Note: Hello to all who have stumbled upon this story. As the description mentions, this is sort of a modern twist on the story of Hades and Persephone, my favorite mythological couple. I'm hoping this won't be a super-long story, but we'll see how it goes. I'd love to know what you think after reading this first chapter, so be sure to drop a comment and let me know if this is worth continuing!)
It was a sweltering day in mid-August when the gods and goddesses first arrived at Olympus University. Not a single one had the faintest clue who they were just twenty-four hours earlier, or the catastrophic series of events that had led them to wipe their own memories and seek refuge in the mortal world. But more on that later.
It all began when Penny Fields plucked a floral top from her freshly-unpacked closet to wear to the freshman party.
"You really like flowers, huh?"
Penny smiled, shedding her rose-covered t-shirt.
"You could say that," she answered, pulling on the new blouse and adjusting it to fit over her slender frame. Her roommate, a girl named Demi, chuckled to herself as she put the last of her books on the shelf above her desk.
Anyone looking at Penny and Demi would have thought they were sisters. They were too dissimilar to be twins, but with the same tanned, skin, hazel eyes, and auburn hair, the similarities were uncanny. Yet even after knowing Demi for only a few short hours, Penny had a suspicion that the young woman was going to be more of a mother than a sister.
As Penny headed towards the door, tingling with excitement, Demi called after her.
"Don't forget your sunscreen, silly." Penny raised an eyebrow.
"Sunscreen?" she said in a dubious tone.
"Didn't you read the flyer?" said Demi, fetching a bottle of lilac-scented SPF 30. "It's going to be outside in the courtyard." Penny waited as the girl lathered her arms and legs with the purple liquid. Demi tossed her the bottle, and Penny did the same, deciding not to question how the two of them used the exact same sunscreen brand.
"Now let's go get our party on," Demi squealed, sliding on a pair of black sunglasses for effect. Penny laughed, linking arms with her newfound friend as they exited the room and followed the crowd of freshmen girls down the hall to the elevator.
Penny and Demi were resigned to live on the top floor of Helios Hall, which bore witness to the stunning California sunsets every night. When they reached the bottom floor and skirted out the front door, Penny was awed to find that the setting sun had changed the hue of the building to a bright gold. It was blinding to look at for more than a few seconds, however, and Penny averted her gaze as Demi led her down the stone path towards the rest of campus.
Their dorm was perched on top of a small rise, overlooking the rest of the small, private school. Arm-in-arm with Demi, Penny surveyed the men's dorm, Titan's Hall. It was bulkier than the women's, with a wider berth and sturdy concrete columns out front. A flurry of men were spilling out onto the pathway, mingling with the women in a burst of electrified chatter and conversation.
Penny found herself feeling shy all of a sudden, and stayed close to Demi as they sauntered down the last stretch of the path.
"And who might you two ladies be?" Penny jumped, startled at the unfamiliar voice speaking right next to her.
It was a tall, thin man with slick brown hair and bright blue eyes.
"P-Penelope Fields," Penny stammered, accepting the man's firm handshake. "Most people just call me Penny." Demi smiled, presenting a much more composed front as she peered around Penny to introduce herself.
"I'm Demi Forrest," she said.
"And I'm Henry Messin," the man replied with a toothy grin. "Communications. What about you?"
"We're both Agriculture, actually," Demi answered.
The two set off to chatting over Penny's head as they approached the courtyard. The oval-shaped atrium stood in the center of the four main buildings, each named for the direction it faced. The crowd of students slipped between the North and East buildings to enter the courtyard, where loud music was already blaring.
Penny's eyes lit up when she spotted the tiny gardens spread throughout the courtyard, layered with deep green leaves and flowers of every color imaginable. She left Demi in the capable hands of Henry, maneuvering through the crowd until she came upon a garden overflowing with tiger lilies. Ignoring the noise around her, Penny reached out to caress the nearest bloom. She blinked, both surprised and confused when the flower responded to her touch. The petals seemed to grow even brighter, more magnificent.
Penny withdrew her hand, glancing around to be sure no one else had seen. When no one paid her any attention, she shook her head. Must have been her imagination, she thought.
"Well you're just a pretty little thing, aren't you?"
For the second time in a matter of minutes, Penny flinched at a strange voice addressing her. She spun on her heels, coming face to face with the darkest pair of brown eyes she had ever seen. Accompanying the piercing set of eyes was a pale face, framed with messy black hair and completed with a leering smirk.
"E-excuse me?" said Penny, although she had heard the stranger perfectly well. The young man, garbed in dark jeans, a faded t-shirt, and a black leather vest, offered her a cup of murky red liquid.
"Hayden Underwood," he said in a cheerful tone. "And let me say, it is an absolute pleasure to make your acquaintance." Penny hesitated, then took the cup of mysterious liquid. She gave it a sniff, then crinkled her nose at the smell.
"What is this?" she asked in a wary voice. Hayden laughed; a throaty sound that carried far away into the growing crowd.
"Just your average beer. With a little splash of something special." He winked. "Pomegranate."
"Hmm," Penny murmured, swirling the liquid around the cup as she debated whether or not to try it.
"Still haven't caught your name, sweetheart," said Hayden. Penny's stomach clenched as he shifted closer towards her. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something about this guy seemed… odd.
"It's… uh, Penny," she said, inching away from him as her grip tightened around the cup.
"Penny," Hayden repeated, nodding for a moment as if in deep thought. He snapped out of it after a second, diving back into his tiresome attempts at flirtation. "Gotta say, Penny, you're putting on a pretty good act here." Penny frowned.
"Act?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.
"I mean, don't get me wrong," Hayden continued, eying her blouse, then the garden behind her. "I'm digging the whole 'flower power' thing you got going. But let's be real. You're definitely the kinda girl to go for a bad boy."
Something snapped inside of Penny, and she stepped closer towards him with a scowl etched across her face.
"Hot tip," she snarled. "If you're really desperate for a girl to like you, maybe try not to slap a label on her five minutes after meeting." The man's face darkened a bit.
"I didn't -"
"And furthermore," she interjected, standing toe-to-toe with him now. "You missed any chance you had with me the second you reduced me to 'just a pretty little thing'." Before he could utter a response, Penny stepped back and hurled the bright red contents of her cup directly into his face.
Hayden shuddered as the cool liquid seeped through his jack and shirt. The people around them stopped and gawked, laughing at the red stain dripping down his chest. His eyes were nearly black now, storming with an intensity that rivaled a typhoon. Penny stared unflinchingly into his eyes for a moment. In that instant, she knew she had just made herself an enemy. There was an air of coldness between them now.
"You're going to regret doing that," he growled, balling his hands into fists. Penny's lips curled upward in a smirk.
"No. You will."
Without another word, she turned and marched far, far away from Hayden Underwood.