Rite of Spring – Part 3
“Excuse me, Sir?”
He turned to the voice and promptly lost his ability to speak. There was a waitress in front of him, and for the first time in this life, he could see her. He could see her! There, right in front of him, was a girl, not much younger than his now body, twenty at least. Her bronze skin was a shade darker than her hair, which was tied back in a wavy ponytail. Her eyes were a vivid chocolate brown with gold streaks and her lips had been covered with purple lipstick. His eyes hastily flicked over her features, drinking in the colors, his memory of the past and present overlapping. A green chiton replaced her uniform and the smell of brown soil filled his nostrils.
“Who are you?” he asked. It must have come out rather rude, because he saw her face —it was so odd to see just her and nothing else—twist into an irritated pout.
“I came to tell you that your coffee will be out in a few minutes,” she said curtly before turning to leave. He launched out a hand to catch her before she could.
“Wait! I’m sorry.” He forced himself to release her arm. She was so warm, warmer than a human should be. Warmer than Hestia, even, but it was a good kind of warmth; and he could risk the burn. “I didn’t mean to be rude, I just didn’t recognize you. It caught me by surprise.”
He watched her assess him thoroughly before nodding her head. For some reason the gesture made his heart pound in relief.
He sighed. “Thank you. I’m guessing you’re Antoni’s niece?”
“Oh, my God!” She buried her face in her hands. “What did he say?”
Hades chuckled. “That you’re single.” He watched her as she sent her Uncle (he assumed) a withering look. The sheer ability to see her made him feel like a man in the desert that had finally found a water bottle filled to the brim. He wanted to take her in all at once and slowly at the same time.
“I’m sorry about that,” she said turning back to him.
“Don’t worry about it, it was nice, actually. He’s very proud of you.”
A light blush broke out over her cheekbones. Gods, it was beautiful.
“I’ll go get your coffee,” was all she said. In her absence the world was dark again and desperation lurked in his body like Cerberus after a wayward soul. Minutes later she was returning with a steaming cup that smelled of spices and bitter coffee.
“He said it’s your usual,” she said, setting it down in front of him. The cup vanished from his vision as soon as she released the handle. He mourned the loss of the blue porcelain and tried to place it’s location on the table, failing utterly when he smacked his abandoned gloves over the edge and onto the floor.
“I hate to ask this,” he sighed, already embarrassed. “But could you help me find it?” he saw her eyes widen as she realized. Hades knew how he often appeared at a glance. He didn’t wear tinted glasses to announce his condition, and without his cane he would seem to be perfectly capable. Many others had made the mistake.
“Oh, God, I‘m so sorry!” She grabbed hold of his hand and began directing it towards the cup. “Uncle told me you were blind, but I forgot. You just seemed so… ” The soft pads of her fingers sent a new kind of warmth into the skin and muscles, one that banished the chill that had lived in his bones in every lifetime. It reminded him of steam curling off of river rocks after a summer storm. Something he’d forgotten.
“It’s alright,” he said once his fingers found the cup. “Do you want to sit?” He knew Hestia, whose loud laugh was filling up the remaining half of the restaurant, wouldn’t be returning any time soon. He took a bracing sip of coffee while she seemed to consider it. Seeing facial expressions after so long was strange.
Antoni’s niece gnawed on her lip. “Your girlfriend won’t mind?”
Hades nearly choked on his coffee. “She’s my niece,” he said once he could breathe again. The waitress scrutinized him before she visibly brightened.
“Well, my shift’s almost over anyway.” She left and returned with a similar mug, maneuvering into the remaining half of his side of the booth. As she settled, he noticed the faint smell of flowers. The smell that had seemed cloying when he’d first entered the establishment was suddenly sweet and endearing. Gods, he was already half in love with her and he’d only just remembered her. His wife.
“What’s your name?” he asked, finally remembering that, in this life, they were strangers. She sipped from her mug before humming with relief and looking him over again.
“Kora, friends call me Korie.”
Her name sang through him, carrying with it a million contradictions. Fresh, green, baby leaves against a thunderous sky, purple crocuses and narcissus popping out of silvery snow, flower crowns falling apart in dark hair, a warm brown hand and bright eyes leading the way into the Underworld. Plump, red seeds against smiling white teeth and pink lips. The creation of new life, while the earth died above them. Looking at this girl, he saw thunderstorms that grew out of blue skies. He saw spring more clearly than he ever had when his eyes were wide open and watching. He saw home.
She didn’t reach out to shake his hand the way a few others had out of habit, for which he was grateful.
“David,” he offered. When her lips curled he was struck with the hope that she’d remembered him.
“I know. Uncle Antoni’s been trying to set us up for a while, but I was always busy.” She hesitated. “And I honestly didn’t think it’d be worth it.”
“And yet here we are,” Hades muttered into his cup with a timid smile, flirting wasn’t his strong suit. “On the one night you’re here” Corrie nodded.
“It’s obviously fate,” she said when the chuckles finally died down.
“But does that make it worth it?” he asked into his coffee, thinking of Clotho’s words earlier. The old woman deserved a reward, he decided. He’d make arrangements to send her a flower basket littered with diamonds that matched the color of each flower. Hestia could help with that when he got home.
“I’ve never really believed in fate,” Persephone said, suddenly serious as her free hand wandered over to rest beside his on the table. Seemingly without conscious thought on either of their parts, their hands wound together, fingers intersecting to form a contrasting mesh of olive and his own, newly revealed, pale skin tones, her brown eyes rising to meet his challengingly. The internal axis Hades revolved upon seemed to shift, ever so slightly, to the left, slotting into place and making him realize just how broken it had been before.
“I find it often pops up unexpectedly,” he said, basking in the feeling of completeness that had been missing from several of his past lives. How could he have forgotten her? How?
Her memories decided to appear at that moment. He felt the shift in her, the way her body tensed and recoiled as they settled themselves over her frame the way they had with his. He remembered the moment he opened his door, wearing nothing but pajama pants, and heard a sweet, feminine voice say “Hello, Hades.”
Hestia’s voice had sent off a roll of flame that seared through his body and brought him to his knees at his threshold. When he’d come to, she’d been rocking him gently, soothing him as tears tumbled down his face as the lifetimes he’d lived crashed over him. Dozens of sets of memories, all the way back to his godhood, most incomplete, had scrolled through his head like a film reel, cliff-noting his lives enough to inform him of all that he had been and was capable of. Though there were glaring blanks that nothing rose to fill. Now Korie filled them like a cup overflowing.
He knew she must be experiencing something similar, if not even more painful, as far as he was aware, this was the first time she’d encountered any of them. Despite the pain he could see twisting her features, through it all her eyes never left him. He watched as they grew softer and wilder, the powers that had been absent reigniting under her skin.
“I’ve missed you, Husband,” she whispered, the scent of cardamom and coffee wreathing his lips as she leaned towards him. She had returned to his side. His love, his heart. Every tumultuous, headstrong and defiant inch of her was settled inside the booth next to him alive and whole and so damn warm. Tears that she delicately wiped away rolled down his cheeks.
What could he say to her? How could he tell her about the emptiness that had followed him for lifetimes? Followed him from Greece to Italy to Norway to Canada and, finally, to America? To this restaurant run by a man that had bragged about his niece, not knowing that he was speaking of the piece of Hades’ soul that had been missing since the fall of the gods? What could he say to her now that she was before him, her eyes lit with the knowledge that came with an immortal spirit, barely touched by deaths that were mere setbacks to living? What could he say?
“Is it worth it?” he whispered again, not entirely sure what he was asking.
“Every moment and more, my Love,” Persephone replied.
“I would have waited a thousand more lifetimes…” he choked out, on the brink of tears again.
Persephone shushed him. “You don’t have to.”