Chapter Twelve: When a Bad Day Starts to Get Worse
It was Thursday afternoon, and Persephone was busy making drinks when Odysseus came into the shop. Usually, either Persephone or Psyche would serve at the till—Persephone because she was apparently the nicest, and Psyche because all the boys had a crush on her and it made up-selling easy—but as Persephone was in the middle of something, Arachne served Odysseus instead. As he was the last in line, it meant he was available for a chat.
"Where've you been?" Arachne asked as she tapped in his order without asking. He was a regular, so they all knew his order by heart. Persephone was already readying the cup for when she'd finished making her current order.
"Oh, it sounds like you've missed me," Odysseus said as he leant one elbow against the counter. "I apologise; running a business can be stressful and busy."
Arachne snorted. "Understandable. Also, I don't miss anyone. I just don't like out usual boyish and annoying regulars more than our other regulars."
"I'm touched that you dislike me less than you like others," Odysseus said as she handed back his change. Without looking, he put it into the tip jar next to him.
"Yeah, well, you have a dog," Arachne said, and she leant over the counter so she could peer through the front door, where Odysseus's dog, Argo, was sat patiently at one of the outside tables.
"Yes, and I hear Hades has also been coming here with his own dog," Odysseus said. "You must truly be blessed to see a three-headed dog. It's almost a three in one package."
"Ugh, don't get me started on Hades," Arachne said, and she scowled as she waved Odysseus over to Persephone's side of the counter. "I would never pet a dog from hell in a million years."
Persephone, who had been listening in on Arachne's and Odysseus' chat, sighed as she returned to making drinks. She expected nothing less from Arachne.
"I believe it's a misconception that the Underworld is hell," Odysseus said. "I assume you would get on Hades' bad side if you referred to it as such."
Persephone didn't imagine one would get on Hades' bad side if they called the Underworld hell, but she definitely could imagine him painstakingly explaining the difference in the exasperated tone he typically reserved for when he was explaining he was the god of the dead, not death.
"I don't really care," Arachne huffed. "I say gods shouldn't be allowed here full stop, but Cassandra says Hades tips well, so there's nothing we can do."
Gods shouldn't be allowed here. Persephone sighed again.
"What's that downcast expression for?" Odysseus asked as he drifted over to Persephone's side of the bar. He was in his typical laid-back attire, with his usual shorts and black beanie, but that day his vest shirt said home is where the heart is, but I lost mine at sea.
"Oh, please don't tell me you're going to demand a smile like all the other men I have to serve," Persephone said. She'd already handed off the previous set of drinks she'd been making, so she was now working on Odysseus'—a luxury hot chocolate, of course. "Legit the other day I was focused on making drinks, and a guy asked me why I wasn't smiling. Because I'm focused on making your drink!"
"I will fight him on your behalf the next time I see him, if that would please you," Odysseus said as he leant against the bar. "And I was only asking because usually you're rather cheerful. You don't agree with Arachne's view on gods?"
He wore a slight knowing smile, which was fairly valid, in his defence. He had seen her with Hades in the dog park, exactly two weeks beforehand when she'd gone out with Hades after she had visited work. Of course, he'd think Persephone would disagree on Arachne's views, especially when Hades was involved. She was dating him after all. Only, his knowing wasn't entirely correct, seeing as he wasn't aware that Persephone was a goddess herself.
Persephone forced a fake smile, and she gave a half-hearted shrug as she finished off Odysseus' drink, topped with extra whipped cream that day. She even filled a tiny cup with cream and said, "Don't think I've forgotten Argo."
Odysseus' eyebrows rose. "That's a little more cream than usual."
"A thank you for being a gentleman," Persephone said, and she winked.
Hopefully Arachne, who was still in earshot, would see this as Persephone thanking Odysseus for offering to fight on her behalf. Really, she was thanking him for not telling anyone about her and Hades. By the way he smiled, he knew that was what she meant.
When Odysseus had taken his drink to sit outside with Argo, Psyche skipped out from the back of house and chirped, "Persi, it's time for your break now!"
Persephone nodded, then grabbed herself a cup of water and waved goodbye to Psyche and Arachne as she rounded the corner to the back of house. After making her way around the boxes piled on the floor—no one had put away that day's food delivery yet—she checked the fridge to see what food was available. Instead of throwing away food that has gone past their sell by date, the girls put it in a box out the back to eat the next day. Waste not want not, Cassandra would say. After picking out a yogurt with oats and cherries, Persephone headed to the office at the far end of the back of house.
It was only a small place, with a computer a tiny table, a safe, and a microwave that they kept having to switch plugs with the printer, because there weren't enough outlets in the room. Sat at the computer, typing out a few emails, was Cassie's Coffee's assistant manager, who was in charge on Thursday's and Sunday's, when Cassandra had her days off.
Cassandra may have been the manager, but it was Merope that the younger girls saw as the resident barista mum. In all fairness, she was the only one that was married and with children, even though she didn't look old enough. Well, she did look old enough (forty, maybe, but Persephone wasn't the best at guessing ages) but Merope's children were all Persephone's age at least, and older too. Merope was either a lot older than she appeared or had kids at quite the young age.
She had lightly tanned skin, almost like Hermes, and dark hair always pulled back into a Cinderella-esque bun. Unlike Cassandra, who rarely changed from a standard neutral expression, Merope was always smiling.
"How has today been so far?" Merope asked as she paused in her email typing.
"The usual. It's going to get busier now Psyche is back from her break," Persephone replied as she crouched by her bag to fish out the sandwiches she had made that morning. "Odysseus is here too."
"Oh, he hasn't been here for a while," Merope said as she turned her attention back to the computer. "I hope he's doing well."
"Sounds it," Persephone said as she sat down on the only chair at the tiny table, then she took her cup of water and poured a little of it into the plant pot in the middle of the table.
Persephone had bought the plant to liven up the office, or that was what she had said. Really, it was because she liked to be around plants and flowers when she was relaxing. It certainly helped her calm down on her breaks after a busy period. The other girls had been curious as to how the plant had survived so long, when there was no sunlight in the office. Persephone always shrugged and said it must have been because she watered it every break. Really, it was because she used her magic to keep it alive, not that the others needed to know.
Halfway through eating lunch, Arachne stomped into the office. Merope looked up in surprise and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, I'm just looking for some till roll," Arachne said as she stepped up on her tip toes to look through the shelves.
"Running out of till roll doesn't require a scowl, dear," Merope said.
"Ugh, it's just I want outside to pet Argo—Odysseus is here, by the way—and he brought up Hades again—Odysseus, I mean, not Argo—and I can't help but be mad!" Arachne exclaimed, and Persephone automatically hunched her shoulders in response. "We can't go a day without someone asking us about Hades. I wish we could go back to a god free zone. They shouldn't be allowed here."
There it was again. The gods shouldn't be allowed in the shop. Not that Persephone really blamed Arachne for her hatred of the gods. It wasn't as if the gods were ever kind to humans, apart from a select few. Arachne was fully allowed to hate the gods, but that didn't stop Persephone's heart from breaking whenever Arachne mentioned it. It was worse now that Persephone was dating Hades, and she so wanted to defend him. Misunderstood by both gods and humans alike.
But all Persephone could do was eat her lunch as she stared sullenly at the plant on the table. She couldn't defend Hades, not when she couldn't even defend herself. If she did, then Arachne would know she was a goddess, and Arachne would hate her. Persephone didn't want any of her friends to hate her.
"And then I might have accidentally mentioned how Athena's the worst, and of course Odysseus somehow worship's Athena so that was awkward," Arachne huffed as she finally found the till roll. She spun around, aiming to leave. "As much as I'd like to whine, I can't leave Psyche alone—wh-what happened to the plant?"
Persephone blinked, then swore when she saw the plant in front of her had turned black and started to droop. She'd been staring at it so sullenly that she'd killed the poor thing.
"Oh my gods, I'm sorry," she squeaked, and she immediately reached for the plant and rejuvenated it, so it was alive and green once more. Silence filled the office.
Oh, for the love of Olympus. Persephone must have lost her last few brain cells during her moping. What on Earth had she just done?
"Persi… was that magic?" Arachne asked. Her mouth hung open as she dropped the till roll.
"Yes, I mean no, oh my gods, ignore me," Persephone babbled. "I didn't mean to. Pretend you saw nothing. Oh my gods, maybe Hecate can wipe your memories."
"Hecate?" Merope asked, her eyebrows raised. "As in the goddess of witches?"
Dammit, Dammit. Persephone was really digging herself into a deep, deep hole.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled again, and she stuffed the rest of her lunch into her bag. "I should go. Gods shouldn't be here. Please tell Cassandra I'm sorry."
"P-persi, wait!" Arachne cried, but Persephone sprinted out the room.
It was only as Persephone trudged through the Underground that it dawned on her how badly she had messed up.
Yes, she might have accidentally killed a plant in her misery, but she could have feigned ignorance. She could have played into Psyche's theory that Persephone had a secret, magical father that had abandoned her and her mother. She could have pretended to be a demi-god or something who had only just discovered her magic. Arachne surely wouldn't have hated her then. She wasn't all too fond of demi-gods, but not on the same scale as her hatred of the gods. Demi-gods couldn't help it, after all. Some of them were even worse off because of their status; case in point, every child of Zeus that Hera had tried to sabotage.
But no, Persephone just had to go and panic. She couldn't have been smart; she had to be an idiot and revive the dead plant. Then, to make it worse, she had run away instead of bothering to defend herself.
Both Psyche and Odysseus had asked if she was okay, and she had muttered something about a family emergency. Psyche had said she'd see Persephone on Monday, then, and Persephone had hurried away without another word. That was if she was still going to be allowed to work at Cassie's Coffee.
It was only a matter of time before Persephone had found herself on a bus to the Underground. Now she was trudging through the city in the direction of the Underworld, and she was already regretting her choice. She had only wanted to talk to someone who would understand her, and all three of Hades, Hecate, and Hermes worked in the Underworld. The key word being worked, of course. Unless Cerberus needed a walk, then they would all be busy, especially Hermes as psychopomping was notoriously time consuming.
But Persephone couldn't just waltz into the Underworld and lament to Hades about what she had done. They hadn't been dating that long, only a little over a month now. She had no right to barge into his workplace and demand his time and attention. Especially since he was a king, and an extremely powerful god, and she was a twenty-three-year-old mess.
To make it even worse, she hadn't changed out of her uniform before rushing away. She had stuffed her apron into her bag, but she needed a place to get changed out of the rest of her uniform. Guaranteed, the rest of her uniform was all black—compulsory black polo shirt, and s skirt to her knees—so she certainly fit into the gothic Underworld far more than she would normally.
That didn't stop people from staring at her, of course. Maybe she should stop standing in the middle of the street, wiping at her teary eyes. She should really head home before someone important found her—
"Well, well, well, what have we here?" someone chortled behind her. "A spring goddess, huh? Ooh, I'm really scared!"
Persephone squeaked and spun around. Behind her, there were two people. One was a young woman with long, pale blonde hair that fell past her hips. Almost everything about her was perfectly symmetrical, from her white dress, to the way her hair curled. Her deep pink eyes were eerily familiar.
The other person, whom Persephone assumed was a woman too, but she couldn't be sure, had deep grey skin and pointed ears. They weren't dressed symmetrically at all. Half their hair was spikey and black, whilst the other half was shaved and white. Their eyes were different sizes, and their nose was crooked, and their sleeves and shorts were different lengths. It seemed they'd picked their outfit out in the dark, because nothing matched.
The one that had spoken was the grey-skinned one, and they skipped forward as they continued to sing, "So you're the one that everyone's talking about!"
"I'm sorry," the blonde one said, and she smiled pleasantly. "That's one of their favourite songs from one of their favourite movies, so you have to excuse them."
"Oh, um, I know that one…" Persephone said as she clutched her hands to her chest, wishing desperately to disappear. "The Christmas film, right?"
"If you know it, then sing it with me!" the grey-skinned one said, and they took Persephone's hands as they spun her around. "You're joking, you're joking, I can't believe my eyes. You're joking me, you gotta be, this can't be the right guy! Or girl, I'd hate to misgender, y'know."
"Girl is fine…" Persephone said when they'd stopped spinning. She tried to shake her head clear, but only made herself feel worse.
"I'm sorry," the blonde one said again, and she was still smiling pleasantly. "They are compelled to cause chaos wherever they go."
"It's fine," Persephone said as she took a step back. The last thing she wanted was to be dragged into a mess with two strangers in the Underground city, not when no one was supposed to know she was there. "And you two are…?"
"Oh, I'm Eris, if you couldn't tell," the grey-skinned one said, and they flashed Persephone a crooked grin. "This here is my girlfriend, Harmonia."
Persephone's heart dropped right into her stomach. No wonder why Harmonia's blonde hair and deep pink eyes had felt familiar. They were the same as Aphrodite's. Persephone had never met Harmonia, but she had met Aphrodite several times, and she knew Aphrodite had a daughter named Harmonia.
The thing was, Aphrodite was close friends with none other than Demeter, and Persephone only really knew Aphrodite from her visits to their house. Now Harmonia had seen Persephone in the Underworld, and was surely going to recognise her face, just as Persephone had recognised hers. She would tell Aphrodite that she had seen Persephone in the Underworld, and Aphrodite would tell Demeter, and Persephone would be in so much trouble that she wouldn't even be able to call herself Persephone anymore. She would have to go back to Kore. She was so doomed.
"Oh dear, why do you look so frightened?" Harmonia asked.
"Please don't tell Mother you saw me here," Persephone begged. Her hands were shaking. She hadn't been this terrified since her first meeting with Hades, but this time she had no extra whipped cream to bribe them with. "Please don't tell her, I can't get in trouble, otherwise I'll never be able to go outside again…"
Go outside to do what, though? Work in the coffee shop? Persephone had already messed that up. For the love of Olympus, Persephone might as well go and throw herself into Tartarus before everything got even worse.
"Uh, why would we tell your mother we saw you here?" Eris said, and they snorted. "You're Hades' girl. If I got you into trouble, he'd make my job miserable, trust me."
"I-I'm not his g-girl," Persephone stammered, and her eyes were stinging. She'd already been trying her best not to cry, and this wasn't helping. "But we are dating—w-wait. You know?"
"Uh, of course I know," Eris said, and they snorted again. "Hecate told Mum that Hades was dating someone, because she tells Mum everything, and I overheard Mum talking about you, so I pestered Hades to show me a photo of you! Don't worry, none of us are gonna tell the Olympians. We're like family down here, so I'm not about to get someone who's kinda, basically my dorky brother in trouble, right?"
"Right," Persephone said, and her eyes darted to Harmonia.
Harmonia only smiled. "I would never tell, not if you don't want me to. Besides if I maliciously spilled another's secrets, I would tire myself out by the end of the day. My domain is harmony; therefore, I must keep everything in order to keep myself feeling well."
Persephone supposed that made sense, but it did nothing to calm her super-fast heartbeat.
"Come on," Eris said, their hands on their hips. "We should prolly get inside somewhere, in case anyone outside our little family circle recognises you."
"Your family circle isn't little," Harmonia said.
"I know, Harmie, I know," Eris said, and they clamped their hand over Harmonia's mouth. Even beneath Eris' hand, it was obvious Harmonia was still smiling pleasantly. "Anyway, we should go. You kinda look like you're about to cry."
"I've had a really bad day, that's all…" Persephone said. "I wanted to speak to Hades about it, but I feel bad for disturbing him…"
"Well, we'll have to try and make your day un-bad then, until Hades is available to do it for us, right, Harmie?"
Harmonia wriggled free from Eris' grasp, and smiled at Persephone. "I cannot have you being inharmonious, otherwise you might make me sleepy. I will gladly help put your day back in order, if you wish."
"Excellent," Eris said, and they wrapped their arm around Persephone's shoulder and started to steer her down the street. "Y'know, it was about time I paid Mum a visit. Besides, I'm sure she would love to meet you."
"Mum?" Persephone asked, and then she gasped, because she knew exactly who Eris' mother was. A goddess far, far, far more powerful than Hades and Hecate combined, who was rumoured to be the only woman Zeus was scared of. "Wait, you don't mean…?"
"You know who I mean." Eris grinned. "How'd you fancy having tea with Nyx?"