Chapter Nineteen: Minthe, Again
Persephone didn't know why she'd stolen one of the pomegranates from Hades' orchard.
She hadn't meant to, truly, but one second she had been admiring them, and the next she had been slipping it into her bag when Hades had turned his back to her as he'd talked to Hecate. She hadn't even thought about doing it; it was almost as if the pomegranate had forced her to steal it, which was weird, and absolutely not true, because a pomegranate couldn't force anyone to do anything.
Unless it was a magic pomegranate, which, to be fair, the ones from the Underworld probably were.
Shame ate away at Persephone as she stared at the pomegranate sat on her desk. She'd been half tempted to tell Hades she'd stolen it, to say sorry for her wrongdoing, but when she'd opened up their text messages, she had frozen. What if he was mad at her? These things were dangerous, right?
"Kore, I'm heading out now," Demeter called as she knocked on Persephone's door. Persephone squeaked and leapt you're from her bed, snatched up the pomegranate from her desk, and tossed it into the closest plant pot. Just in time too, because that was when Demeter opened the door.
"Have fun at work," Persephone said as she idled across the room. She stopped in front of her mother so she could kiss her on the cheek. "I'll be here, doing nothing as usual."
"You can always invite Harmonia over if you're bored," Demeter said. "Aphrodite says she thinks you'd be good friends, and we can certainly trust Harmonia, seeing as her domain is harmony."
Persephone smiled. "I'll give her a call. Well, I'll give Aphrodite a call, and she can give Harmonia a call for me."
"Wonderful," Demeter said, and she kissed her daughter on the forehead. "It's good to see you making friends besides Hermes. Have a good day."
When Demeter left, Persephone huffed. She already had friends, thanks, and quite a few too.
Still, Persephone got dressed then sent Harmonia a text—Aphrodite had already given her Harmonia's number. If Demeter was expecting the pair to meet up, then they needed to see each other at least briefly, if only so Harmonia had something to talk about if Demeter started asking questions. Soon enough, they met at the edge of Mount Olympus, and they headed to the mortal world together.
Thankfully, Harmonia wasn't easily recognised amongst the humans, especially since that day she'd put on a pair of fake glasses and had changed her usual pink eyes to a bright blue. Persephone said Harmonia looked cute, and Harmonia gave her a bashful smile.
As they walked arm in arm, Harmonia said, "I think I need to give you my own nickname."
"I do indeed," Harmonia said wistfully. "It stresses me too much to call you Kore in front of Demeter, and Persephone in front of others. Being the goddess of harmony really is quite hard when lying does not agree with you."
"So, you need to give me a universal nickname, something you can call me in front of everyone?"
"Yes! How about Petal? It is close to Persi, and it suits your love of flowers."
Persephone grinned. "I love the sound of Petal."
"Then, henceforth, you are my dear Petal," Harmonia said, and she beamed.
As they approached Cassie's Coffee, Harmonia pulled Persephone to a stop and pointed towards a figure in front of them. A young woman in black with mint green hair.
"Minthe?" Persephone said. That was strange, considering Minthe didn't work on Mondays. Had she left her purse behind again?
"Why do you work with a chthonic nymph?" Harmonia asked quietly.
Persephone blinked. "A chthonic nymph? I mean, I know she's a nymph, or so I've been told, but I don't know about chthonic."
"Oh, I swear I sensed something," Harmonia said. "I must be mistaken. Maybe Eris and Lethe are rubbing off on me."
Minthe had already disappeared around the back of house when Persephone and Harmonia finally arrived at the shop. Cassandra and Merope were both standing behind the bar, and they looked up as the pair entered.
"Your girlfriend?" Cassandra asked as she eyed Harmonia, hanging off Persephone's arm. Harmonia simply smiled, her mouth firmly shut.
"Oh, I wish," Persephone said—truly, Harmonia was gorgeous, like all the gods were. "But no, this is a family friend. I met her in the way here and thought she'd like to try a hot chocolate."
"I am very much a taken woman," Harmonia mused, a little delayed. Cassandra only nodded.
"Has anyone ever told you, Harmie, that you look like Aphrodite?" Merope asked, a slight smile tugging at her lips.
"I get told that often," Harmonia said, which wasn't a lie; she was commonly told she looked like her mother. She smiled innocently, and Merope chuckled slightly. When she caught Persephone's eye, she smiled herself, in the way people smiled when they were sharing a secret, only Persephone didn't know what secret they were sharing.
"You grab a table, and I'll go clock in," Persephone said to Harmonia before she hurried around the back of house.
She almost crashed into Minthe as the nymph was leaving the office. Minthe was wearing the usual green apron and a tight skirt to her knees with a split up the side—a little inappropriate for work, maybe, but it wasn't like they were a particularly fancy place.
"I didn't think you worked on Mondays," Persephone said as she danced around Minthe.
"I don't," Minthe said. "I'm covering Psyche's shift because she's ill."
"Oh," Persephone said, and Minthe silently disappeared back around the front of house.
Once Persephone was in her uniform and had clocked in, she sent Psyche a get well soon text, then came back out the front to order Harmonia a hot chocolate. They chatted for a bit, but eventually Harmonia had to leave, and Persephone was left with Minthe, Cassandra, and Merope. Then it was just Minthe and Cassandra, and soon after that it was just Minthe.
"Persi, you're in charge for now," Cassandra said as she stood by the end of the bar with her coat on and bag slung over her shoulder, ready to go home. "Minthe hasn't worked a close shift, so you'll need to show her how. If you have any issues, call me."
"I'll be perfectly fine," Persephone said brightly. Three of her four shifts were closes, after all, so she knew perfectly well what she was doing, even if she was never in charge—usually it was Cassandra or Merope as the manager and assistant manager respectively, but when it was only Persephone and Psyche on shift it was typically Psyche that took over the role. The only thing she might need to call Cassandra about was counting the till at the very end.
When Cassandra had left, Persephone turned to Minthe and said, "Let's finish this drinks order, and then I can show you the start of the close down, yeah?"
"Sure," was all Minthe said.
When there was a lull in their work, Persephone made herself a hot chocolate and tucked it away in the corner of the bar, out of sight of the customers. She then turned to Minthe and asked, "Want a drink? Black americano, special roast, extra shot, no syrups?"
Persephone had expected a 'sure' in reply, but instead Minthe said, "Good memory."
This might have been as much of a compliment as Persephone was going to get from Minthe, so she grinned and got to work. She even got a thank you when she handed the drink over.
"I love the colour of your hair by the way. Is it natural?" Persephone asked as they leant back to take a breather and sip their drinks. Minthe raised her eyebrows at the absurd question, and Persephone added, "Well, you are a nymph, mint hair could be natural."
Persephone pointed at Minthe's pointed ears, to prove a point that she was a nymph. Now that Minthe wasn't wearing distractingly cool facial jewellery, and had her long hair tied back, her ears were pretty noticeable.
"It is natural, actually," Minthe said. "What about your eyes?"
"Wh-what about my eyes?"
"Uh, the colour changing thing?"
Persephone immediately looked away, focusing her attention on the nice, shiny coffee machine instead. The colour changing eyes really were a pain in the butt most times.
"You got me," Persephone said, supposing she might as well tell… a lie, but one a little close to the truth, at least. "I'm a nymph of Demeter."
"Huh," Minthe said, and there was a long silence, and Persephone was starting to think that was the end of the conversation, but Minthe then spoke again. "If you're a nymph of Demeter, why are you working here, and not with her?"
Good question. Persephone hadn't thought that far.
"Haven't you heard how controlling Demeter is?" Persephone asked, and she melodramatically rolled her eyes and hoped it added to the effect. "I left when I could. It's much calmer working here. Anyway, what are you a nymph of, if you don't mind me asking."
Minthe pursed her lips, then said, "I'm a nymph of the river Cocytus."
Persephone had to hold back a gasp. Harmonia had been right that Minthe was a chthonic nymph, but what was a chthonic nymph doing up here when they had a whole underground city to live in?
Persephone finally let herself gasp, though she hoped it sounded more pleased than surprised. "A chthonic nymph? I've never met anyone chthonic before! Apart from Hades, of course, since he comes her sometimes."
Minthe had been softening a little, but now she had a rigidness to her shoulders, and she frowned as she scoffed, "Don't talk about Hades to me."
"Why?" Persephone automatically said, a little too defensively. When Minthe scowled at her, Persephone quickly added, "I-I mean he's really nice, and he tips well whenever he comes in. Don't you want to be tipped well?"
But Minthe's scowl didn't disappear, and Persephone's heart had stopped for a moment. She knew that Minthe had told the other girls not to mention Hades around her, but Persephone had initially thought that was because, like Arachne, Minthe wasn't a fan of gods, especially one with supposedly bad reputations. But that had been before Persephone had known Minthe was a chthonic nymph. Minthe, a nymph from the Underworld, no longer in the Underworld, because she had beef with the king of said Underworld…?
What on Olympus had happened between them, if anything had even happened at all?
Minthe gulped down the rest of her coffee, then grumbled, "Aren't you supposed to be showing me how to do the close down?"
"Y-yeah," Persephone said, and she took a quick sip of her hot chocolate before the pair returned to work. For the rest of the shift, barely another non-work-related word was said between them.
On Tuesday, when Persephone and Merope had both come in to work the close shift, Merope had asked, "How did you get along with Minthe?"
"It started off well. I actually got her talking for a bit," Persephone said, and for a moment Merope had looked impressed, but then Persephone just had to add, "but then she stopped talking to me because I accidentally brought up Hades."
Merope sighed. "I warned you, Persi."
Persephone also sighed and explained that they'd been talking about Minthe being a nymph of the river Cocytus, and the topic of chthonic beings had naturally come up. She tried asking if Merope knew anything else about Minthe, and why she might have a thing against Hades, but Merope shook her head. Apparently, Minthe barely said anything about her personal life, especially from before she had worked at Cassie's Coffee.
Then, on Wednesday, Persephone finally decided she should ask Hades if he knew anyone called Minthe. She'd been tempted to ask him before, but every time over the past few days that she had written out the text, she had paused, then deleted the whole thing. Perhaps it would be better to ask him to his face.
Thankfully, Wednesday was their second month anniversary, and Persephone was around the back of house, washing the dishes, when Arachne came over and said, "Hey, your boyfriend is here. At least I think it's your boyfriend."
Persephone raised her eyebrows. "You think it's my boyfriend? I assure you; Hades is pretty recognisable. It's not like he always has a three-headed dog with him or anything."
"Uh, one, he doesn't have that stupid dog with him," Arachne huffed. She better not call Cerberus stupid within earshot of Hades or Hecate. That could get messy. "And I think he's casting this weird spell. Like, I look at him and know it's Hades, because he said he was hear for you, but my brain just doesn't want to see it."
"That would probably be his helm of invisibility," Persephone said.
"Yeah, yeah, I don't care. Just go serve him. It's weird talking to him since he's got to know I am—was—an infamous god hater."
Poor Arachne genuinely looked a little pale, so Persephone patted her on the shoulder and said, "He's not going to smite you, I promise."
Leaving Arachne to finish off the dishes, Persephone drifted to the front of house, where Hades was waiting at the till. He smiled when he saw her, and Persephone's hear fluttered as it always did. Even if he was nowhere near conventionally attractive, there was something about that awkward smile that always cheered her up.
"I thought I should briefly stop by to wish you a happy second month anniversary," Hades said as Persephone drifted over to the till and automatically started putting in his order. Of course, by now, she didn't need to ask what he wanted.
"Weren't you the one that spent last night asking me why people celebrated month anniversaries when that wasn't a long time at all?" Persephone asked, and she grinned up at him.
"Yes, but seeing as you are excited, I thought I should be excited too," he explained, in that matter of fact way he always explained things in, and he handed over the money for his drink.
"Where's Cerberus today?" Persephone asked as she handed Hades his change. He always told her to put it in the tip jar herself, but she felt too awkward doing that, so she had to hand it to him first.
"When I said I should briefly stop by, I did mean briefly," Hades said as he stuffed the change into the tip jar. "Unfortunately, someone filed a lot of souls in the wrong place, and it is taking a while to organise everything, so I must return as soon as I can, no walks for Cerberus today. Maybe tomorrow."
"Hence your invisibility spell," Persephone said, and she waggled her fingers at him as she headed off to the coffee machine to set up the steamed milk. "It must be easier to mask your presence when you're on your own than when Cerberus is with you."
"Precisely," Hades said.
As Hades stood at the end of the bar, and Persephone got to making his hot chocolate, she asked, "I was wondering, do you know a nymph called Minthe?"
There was a short pause, then Hades said, "No. Why are you asking?"
"There's a girl called Minthe who works here on weekends," Persephone explained as she put down the steamed drink and went to fetch the whipped cream. "Obviously, I've never worked with her, until Monday that is. She had to cover Psyche's shift."
"And what does this possibly have to do with me?"
"Because she's a nymph of the river Cocytus, a chthonic nymph, that's your domain," Persephone said. After adding on the finishing touches, she ruined the drink by slapping a lid on top, and she handed it to Hades. "I thought you might know her."
She didn't want to admit that the only reason she was asking was because Minthe clearly didn't like him. Hades probably had enough of being told people didn't like him.
There was another short pause, and Hades frowned a little. "No, I do not. It is impossible for me to know every nymph, especially ones who do not live in the Undercity."
"But she must have once, if she's a chthonic nymph—"
"I do not know her, Persephone," Hades said, and Persephone blinked at the sudden sharpness of his tone. Then again, he had said that they were busy in the Underworld today and filing errors must be awful to deal with in such a vast and important workplace. Maybe he was simply stressed.
"I was only checking," she said, and she smiled up at him. "Take care on your way back and enjoy the drink."
"I will, thank you," he said, and he nodded his head to her before he left.
When Hades returned to the Underworld, drink in hand, he immediately started to head back to his office. As he made his way down the corridors, Hecate appeared as if from thin air, and fell into step beside him.
"Wow, you really were brief," she remarked, as she waved her clipboard at him. "Good, because I had something—why are you frowning?"
Hades frowned. "I am not frowning."
"You are a hundred percent frowning, what happened?"
She lowered her voice as she asked, even though there weren't many around. Hades took a sip of his hot chocolate, then lowered his own voice as he replied, "Minthe works at Cassie's Coffee, but only on weekends, hence why I have not run into her yet."
Hecate sucked in a breath, her eyes wide and her grip tightening on her clip board. A few strands of hair fell out of place. "Then remind me to pay Cassie's Coffee a personal visit on Saturday so I can—"
"No," Hades said, and he reached up to brush Hecate's hair back into place. She scowled at him, then took a deep breath and sighed. The last thing Hades wanted was for Hecate to unleash one of her infamous bad moods on a poor, mortal coffee shop.
"Does Persephone know what happened with Minthe?" Hecate asked, and though her hair was perfectly straight again, she still scowled, and she still gripped her clipboard tightly.
"No," Hades said, "and she doesn't need to."
Hecate nodded, and the pair stared at each other for a moment. Hecate then flipped a sheet of paper over her clipboard and announced, "Anyway, I have something I need to talk to you about, regarding the misfiling today."
Hades waved a hand for her to carry on, thankful to return to the more comfortable topic of work, rather than anything to do with relationships or chthonic nymphs.