Authors: Jill Myles
Tags: #General Fiction
By Jill Myles
Copyright 2012 by Jill Myles
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Rose woke up to birds chirping in a field, leaves swaying in a breeze, and a small hand tapping her on the cheek. She opened her eyes, only to see a fat little old woman looming over her, a worried look on her face. “All right, Rosie girl. Whatever you do, don’t panic.”
“Panic…?” She sat up, her muscles aching and stiff. She frowned at her pastoral
surroundings, trying to place them. Birds. Trees. Breeze. Deer and rabbits frolicking nearby.
Rolling fields full of flowers. This wasn’t familiar. At all. What was going on? “Am I in a Disney movie?”
The old woman gave a high-pitched, nervous giggle. “Oh mercy. That’s a new one. No, not quite, my dear. You’re not panicking, are you? We can’t start things until I’m sure that you’re calm.”
Rose looked around, squinted at the bright sunlight, then stared down at the small woman at her side. The woman was elderly with white curls drawn into a hairdo that might politely be called a cornucopia… if one was being polite. And she wore a bright green toga of some kind.
Under her arm was a purse… at least Rose thought it was a purse until a second glance showed that it was a book looped on a chain and settled on her hip like a purse. Rose frowned at the woman. “I think I’m calm?”
The woman beamed. “Good. I have this handled. It’s a big assignment, but the man upstairs thinks you’re up to it. He has a soft spot for people who have been in a coma for years and years.”
Rose yawned, stretching. She rubbed her eyes. “Coma?”
The old woman stilled. She stared at Rose for a minute and then shook her head. “I don’t think we’re on the same page here, dearie. Why don’t you tell me what you know?”
She blinked. “About what?”
“Oh boy. All right, honey. Who are you and how old are you?”
“Rose Hawthorne. I’m twenty-one. Who are you?” She rubbed her eyes again, still feeling a bit sleepy, as if she’d come out of a long nap.
“I’m Muffin, your fairy godmother. And you’re thirty. Sort of.”
Rose frowned and rubbed her ear, not sure she heard her correctly. “Come again?”
“I said…” The old lady yelled into Rose’s ear as if she were senile. “I’m your fairy
godmother and you’re thirty.” After a moment, she added, “At least, you were thirty when you died.”
“Sort of. It’s complicated. Basically I needed a helper for a job, and you were just sort of lying around, so I thought I’d tap you to do it.”
Rose rubbed her eyes again. “Wait, what? I’m not following.”
Muffin rolled her eyes as if she were dealing with an idiot. “I’m explaining. Try and keep up.
I’m your fairy godmother. You were in a coma for nine years and then you died. I need someone to pluck a flower from the underworld, so here you are.”
“I died?” Rose clutched her chest, as if trying to determine if her heart was still working. It pounded in response to her anxiety as she stared at the elderly woman.
Dead? She thought back. She could have sworn that she’d been sleeping and just woken up from a nap. A really, really long nap. Muffin had said she’d been in a coma for nine years. She stretched an arm out and winced at her sore muscles. “I’m dead?”
“Not really.” Muffin waved a hand at her dismissively. “I fixed that for you. Can’t really have a zombie lumbering around here trying to do tasks for me, can we? I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.” She wrinkled her nose. “Plus they tend to leave body parts everywhere. It’s really unsanitary.”
“But I’m dead? What happened?”
“Well, you were in a coma for nine years. I’m guessing someone turned you off, honey.” She patted Rose’s arm sympathetically. “Hospital bills get expensive.”
“I don’t even remember going to the hospital!”
“I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version. You drowned, got revived, coma for nine years, blah blah blah blah.”
Rose burst into tears. “Oh my god, I’m dead!”
“Oh dear.” The woman passed a hanky to Rose. “No, don’t cry, sweetie. Here, I’ll fix it for you.” She leaned forward and pressed her thumb to Rose’s forehead.
Immediately, a strange, cooling sensation swept over Rose’s forehead. Her anxiety and grief dissipated and she looked at her fairy godmother in surprise, wiping her eyes. She felt… better.
That was odd. “What did you do?”
“I just did a tiny fast-forward. You spent nine years in the coma so I fast-forwarded your grief nine years. Can’t really have you weeping all over the place while I’m trying to get you your fairy tale, can we?”
She did feel better—the ache of loss was there, but it was no longer crippling. Her fairy godmother still wasn’t making sense. “Huh? Fairy tale?”
“You’re Persephone. The Greek-myth one. It’s not exactly a fairy tale, but close enough if you ask me.” She opened the book at her side and began to flip through it. “Actually, we could probably find a fairy tale or two similar enough to give you some guidelines—”
Rose put a hand over the book, stopping Muffin’s idle flipping of pages. “I’m sorry, you said I was who again?”
The fairy godmother glanced up. “Eh? Persephone. Goddess of Spring. Daughter of
Demeter.” She snapped the book shut, pinching Rose’s fingers. “What did I tell you about paying attention?”
Rose flinched and put her fingertips to her mouth, wincing at the sting. “Sorry. I’m just having a bit of trouble stringing things together. You said I’m a goddess…? How is that possible?”
“You’re a goddess on this plane. There are lots of realities, my dear. Yours doesn’t have gods. This one does. And I could switch you out with Persephone because, unlike most of the gods here, she’s half-human.”
“Where… where did the old Persephone go?”
“She wanted to go to college. Harvard or Yale or something.” Muffin shrugged. “Who am I to stand in the way of academics? Anyhow, we needed a replacement and like I said, you had spent the last nine years in a coma before eventually kicking the bucket. I thought you might be interested in giving it a shot.”
Rose’s hand crept to her throat as if she could somehow stop the knot that had formed there.
“I can’t believe I’m dead.”
Muffin smiled brightly. “Not anymore. And now that you’re here, I need you to do one teeny favor for me.” She pinched her thumb and forefinger together. “Teeny tiny favor. Promise.”
“What do I have to do?”
“I need a rare flower from the underworld. It’s for a spell.”
Rose glanced around the flowering meadow. The skies overhead were blue as the ocean and birds sang in the distance. It was lovely and serene and pastoral… and definitely not anywhere close to the underworld. “If I’m the goddess of spring, how am I supposed to get you a flower from the underworld?”
She patted Rose’s hand. “I can’t tell you everything, now can I? You’ll have to figure out that part on your own.”
Rose nodded and tucked a strand of red-gold hair behind her shoulder. She glanced down…
and gasped at her clothing. The toga-like dress she was wearing only covered one breast. Good lord. Cupping her breast to cover it, Rose glared at her fairy godmother. “Where are the rest of my clothes?”
“That’s how everyone wears their chitons here, girlfriend. Let it all hang out.”
She clutched her boob tighter. “No way.”
“Suit yourself. I don’t care what you do as long as you get me that flower.” Muffin pulled out the book again and began to flip through it one more time. “I could have sworn that I saw something about springtime goddesses in here…”
“What happens if I don’t get you the flower?”
“Well, you can’t stay, honey.”
“And if I get you the flower, I get to stay here and be a… goddess?” It seemed like a one-sided deal. “Like, with goddess powers and immortality? Are you kidding me?”
“Don’t get too excited there, sweetie. You’re a goddess of spring. Not exactly anything vital.
Oh, and you have an overbearing mother, so good luck getting to do anything with those powers.” Muffin smiled tightly. “She’s kind of a battle-axe, that Demeter, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. It beats a coma, right?” She leaned over and pinched Rose’s cheek. “Right.”
Rose pulled away, rubbing her cheek. “One flower of the underworld, coming right up.”
“I thought you’d see it my way.” Muffin beamed, then glanced down at a sundial strapped to her wrist in place of a watch. “Now I’ve got to run. Have fun and don’t forget to call me as soon as you get that flower!”
She disappeared in a puff of glittery smoke, leaving Rose coughing and alone in the field.
Rose got to her feet, smoothing her dress and trying to hike it up over her bared breast. No dice—the darn thing seemed to be deliberately cut to expose her. Well, when in Rome… or Greece… or wherever she was. Muffin had said it was a different plane.
And that she was a goddess. It seemed unreal, but here she was. She didn’t even remember the coma. She just remembered swimming in the ocean, and, well… nothing past that. Had she drowned?
Nine years in a coma. Good lord. She’d missed out on nine years? Rose clutched her
stomach, feeling sick at the thought. How could so much time go by and she not notice? Surely she would have noticed… something? Wouldn’t she?
A goddess. Muffin had said she was a goddess. That was totally crazy. Goddess of spring, even. Rose glanced down at the field of flowers she stood in and stared hard at the greenery at her feet, concentrating.
Sure enough, the flowers began to twist and grow to an abnormal size, blooms unfurling at her thought.
All right. So the fairy godmother wasn’t lying.
Now she just had to find a flower of the underworld.
She was gorgeous.
She was forbidden.
Hades’s gaze was riveted to the maiden at Demeter’s side, her reddish-blond curls twined with bright flowers. She was such a contrast to Demeter’s stern, frowning face. Persephone was beautiful and smiling, her oval face tanned from the sunlight, blue eyes sparkling as she looked around her with wonder. Her slim figure swayed in her pale green chiton as she kept a few dutiful steps behind her mother, and he noticed her feet were bare. Even Demeter wore sandals over her feet in Olympus.
Gorgeous and just a bit headstrong if the lack of footwear was any indication. Demeter cast her daughter a disapproving look as they strolled down the long galley toward Zeus’s throne, and his mouth curved into a smile. Headstrong and rebellious.
Perfect for him.
He had to have her.
Of course, that would be if he could pry her away from her mother’s side. Even now Demeter shepherded her beautiful daughter through the halls of Olympus as if it were a singularly unpleasant task. Perhaps it was. Demeter was most at home in the fields, surrounded by humans.
Rumor had it that her daughter was half-human.
Hades didn’t care about that. Demeter was no relation to him. Though he might call her
“sister” as he did any descended from the Titans, she was of no blood relation and that made her daughter fair game.
He needed a queen for his kingdom. He needed a woman in his bed.
And he wanted Persephone. He cast a speculative glance over at Zeus, who was watching the young maiden with greedy eyes of his own.
Best to not waste any time, then.
Now she was finally getting somewhere.
Rose knelt before Zeus, uncomfortable with the way he was looking at her. Like he wanted to see what she looked like… without her clothes. Creepy old guy.
“My daughter, brother Titan,” Demeter snapped. “Persephone. I have given her a portion of my powers. She is to be the goddess of spring.”
At those words, Rose did as she’d practiced. She crossed her hands over her heart and knelt deep, giving the king of the gods the proper greeting.
“She is quite comely, your daughter,” Zeus said. “You should bring her to Olympus more often.”
Demeter’s lips pursed unpleasantly. “You know I stay busy in the mortal realm. I do not have time to sit here in Olympus and drink and idle at festivities.”
“Ah, but your daughter might have that time.” He gave Rose a wink that made her skin crawl with discomfort.
“She does not.”
They continued to argue and Rose sat there, waiting patiently. It had been months since the fairy godmother had dropped her off in this strange place. She’d taken up the mantle of goddess of spring and all the duties it entailed. Life was peaceful and serene, if a little dull. Muffin had been right, too. Demeter was a control freak and allowed her—as Persephone—very little freedom. No wonder the other Persephone had wanted to run for the hills.