This story was written for the ASSM Easter-fest, and although there are no adorable bunnies or dead biblical characters, we feel that it is an Easter story because it deals with the origin of spring. Comments will be appreciated, treasured and loved.
It wasn't a loud sound, the distinctive screech of the owl in the distance, but it sent a slight chill through her shoulders as she reached to pick the white blossom from the tree. She tucked the flower behind her ear, burying it in the gentle folds of her hair. As its fragrance surrounded her she tried to shake off the small feeling of foreboding that the cry of the bird had laid like a nest egg in her belly. She turned and scanned the field behind her, looking for her mother.
Demeter's voice echoed softly across the waving grass. "Sephone! Where are you? Persephone! Come on back dear, it's time to move on!"
Perhaps it was guilt that gave her the shiver, Persephone thought. When the owl had screeched, Persephone had been daydreaming again, looking through the trees, making up stories about people who didn't have a goddess for a mother. Her dedication to her mother was so strong, even daydreaming seemed to be unfaithful. She quickly forgot the story she was weaving, leaving the fictional princess to come up with her own escape. Sighing softly, the young maiden stroked the rough bark of the cherry tree with her delicate hand, thanking the tree for its flower before she turned to go.
"Sephie! Now please, we don't have all day!"
"Coming mother," she called, wishing the tree a fond farewell as she let her legs carry her through the grass and back to her mother, her companion. She was also fleeing from her daydreams. As much as the world held temptations for her, she was too terrified to reap them herself.
His dark eyes watched her as she ran. He allowed himself a small smile as he absorbed the sight of her legs working beneath her skirt. The gossamer fabric floated around her thighs giving him just a tease of the lightly tanned flesh beneath. She ran easily, smoothly, appearing almost to fly across the grass. She reminded him of nothing more than one of her own butterflies, flitting from blade to blade, flower to flower. This maiden offspring, this creature of delicate wings and flowing mane, this perfect being would be his.
He stepped away from the tree, and had any casual onlooker been present it would appear that he seemed more to pull out of the bark rather than move from behind it. Such was his nature. The rough covering of the trunk matched the deep bronze of his skin, and it was difficult to discern from a distance where one stopped and the other began. But as formidable as his presence was, as overpowering as he appeared in the flesh, he moved with a grace known only to the gods. The fluidity of his motions brought to mind the flowing of melting gold, or perhaps molten lava; the empty space he left behind, the feeling of absence that was palpable when he moved betrayed his divine origins.
As he began to stride through the waving grasses, he gave the impression of leisure. There was a casualness, a summer laziness about his pace. Only if one was privileged enough, or foolish enough, to be near him as he walked would one see the muscles ripple under his skin, the set of his jaw, and the intensity of his gaze. All of which betrayed the purpose behind this seemingly innocent stroll. Not once since she had turned her back to the tree had his gaze left her. Even now, as the last image of her floating hair disappeared over the rising mound of the earth, his eyes never faltered. He didn't rush because he had no need to hurry. She would come to him when it was time. All things came to him in time whether he desired it or not.
Persephone felt, rather than saw, the presence behind her. Whipping her head around, her hair flying around her face like the wind, she knew that she 'almost' saw whatever it was watching her. She could feel the renewed presence of dread deep in her stomach, as though the owl had again passed over her on silent wings, temporarily blocking the protective warmth of the sun; leaving her with the unpleasant knowledge that all was not well in the world.
Her mother's hand on her shoulder brought her back into the safety of their world. "'Sephonie? Darling? Are you okay? Something's troubling you." Demeter's voice was kind, nurturing, and reassuring to the young girl.
"No, mother, I'm fine. It was just a passing feeling. It's gone now." She spoke firmly, to reassure herself as well as her mother.
"Well, then, dear. It's time we move on. We have a long ways to go before dark if we're going to check on the progress of the fields. Must not dawdle. We have obligations, you know."
Persephone fought back the impulse to roll her eyes at her mother's chiding. "Yes Mother, I know. Crops to oversee, weather to watch, blah, blah, blah."
Demeter smiled indulgently at her daughter. She remembered what it was like to be young and to feel as though the world existed only here and only now. Sometimes she would watch her daughter float through life, bringing Spring to whatever she touched, and Demeter would be brought back to her own youth. The carefree times when immortality meant being young forever, not simply 'being' forever. "Let her have her time," Demeter told herself. "Let her enjoy her youth and the comfort of not knowing the darkness in the world." She tugged lightly on the young maiden's arm, directing her into the movement of the wind, letting the breeze guide them to their next destination.
Persephone followed her mother willingly, watching the earth around them change as they passed. Spring, Persephone's time, was moving quickly into Summer and the crops would soon need tending. Her mother would be busy overseeing much of the activity, although the reaping of the harvest wasn't technically her position. So many jobs melded into each other, and things moved much more smoothly when the Beings simply worked together and ignored so many of the petty territorial arguments that were always threatening to boil over. The biggest advantage, of course, was that Persephone would be granted some leisure time of her own, and there were always wonders to discover. Maybe this summer, she would actually go exploring for them.
As they approached their home, Demeter motioned to her daughter. "Dear? Didn't I see some of those wonderful elderberries ripening behind the house? Go gather some. They'll be wonderful after dinner."
Persephone strolled between the bushes, gathering the ripe berries in the hem of her skirt. As she pulled the fruit from the branches, she could feel the newly ripe globes strain against their skins, threatening to burst at the slightest touch. She brought one to her mouth, savoring the feel of their shade-cool tautness against the warmth of her lips. With just a hint of pressure, the fruit erupted between her teeth, bathing her tongue with its sweetness. Her eyes closed as she enjoyed the simple pleasure of the treat, her lids fluttering lightly, her lashes brushing across the creamy skin beneath her eyes.
A cry wrenched involuntarily from her throat as her arm brushed against his rough skin. His voice was low, and she wondered at first if he had actually spoken out loud or if he had spoken directly to her soul.
"You've been waiting for me." It was just like that. A statement, not a question or an accusation, just a simple recitation of fact.
Without thinking, she nodded slowly. The voice was so confident that it demanded an answer before she could wonder who was doing the asking. An excitement bubbled within her, recognizing that she had been waiting for - something - and now it was happening.
"You know, don't you, that there's so much more than what she's shown you." He nodded towards the house she shared with her mother as he spoke. Again, he wasn't asking or seeking confirmation. It was as though he was reminding her of something she had forgotten. "She kept you shielded from the rest of us. She's kept you locked away in your world of flowers and beauty. But you know that your cage, gilded as though it may be, is still a cage."
She wanted to protest, to defend her mother against the accusations this, this, person was making, but she found herself unable to speak. His voice was like a mountain slide, threatening to bury her with their strength of conviction. The words pulled from her throat. "My mother loves me. I... I can't stay. The fruit, dinner..."
His voice flowed through her like heat moved through the air. Not the gentle, healing warmth of the sun, but the crackling heat from the flames. "Yes. Go. I'll wait."
And as suddenly as he had appeared, he was gone.
Demeter was worried. Her daughter had been "off" for a number of days now. At first she had shrugged it off to the fickle moods of young adults, but it had gone past that. Her daughter was clinging to her mother at every waking moment. She liked to believe it was due to a renewed fondness, but she was too wise to convince herself of that. She could even pinpoint when the change had happened. Since bringing in berries three evenings ago, Persephone had done little more than wander around the house, occasionally poking the embers of a dying fire or aimlessly rearranging a bouquet of blossoms, long past their prime.
.... There is more of this story ...