Read The Dark Wife Online

Authors: Sarah Diemer

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fairy Tales & Folklore, #General

The Dark Wife

BOOK: The Dark Wife
2.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

The Dark Wife

by
Sarah Diemer

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2011 Sarah Diemer

All rights reserved

Edited by Jennifer Reho

Cover art by Laura Diemer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Jenn--

always
.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements:

 

There are many more wonderful people than I have space to list who I appreciate immensely, and who supported me along the way—I am so grateful to every single person who helped me breathe life into this story and who believed in it.  You know who you are.  Thank you, thank you,
thank
you. 

I am deeply grateful to the following amazing ladies for their insight, input, prowess and random awesomeness, without which, this novel would be a sad shell of what it ended up becoming.  Bree, Jen,
Maddie
, Tara and my own Jenn were instrumental in helping me make my story beautiful.  I could not have done any of this without you—I will never be able to articulate my gratitude deeply enough.  Thank you.

Rhi
believed in my story from the start (and wondered how it would smell), Rachel always knew I could do it (and, when I lost my way, reminded me tirelessly and wonderfully), Kat loved it (and it meant the world),
Gemma
was always incredibly supportive and wonderful, Jen knew this was “the one” before I did,
Maddie
has never stopped reminding me of who and what I am and Jenn read every draft and loved it as much as I did.  Again, I
can not
express my gratitude adequately enough—thank you.

My mom always believed I would get my books published. 
Always.
  When I was a tiny girl, she knew I was going to be a writer—that kind of faith moved mountains.  Thanks for believing, mum.

My sister, Laura, is a paragon of intellectualism, bosom and talent, and without her staunch support, grandiose artistic abilities and constant belief in me and the story, it would not live. 
Thank you, kitty.

Jenn spun straw into gold.  It is my supreme blessing that I married the most amazing editor in the world.  She perfected this story—any errors left are mine.  I love you, baby.  Thank you for everything. 

 

 

Before

 

I am not my mother’s daughter.

I have forfeited my inheritance, my birthright. I do not possess the privilege of truth. The stories told by fires, the myth of my kidnap and my rape, are all that remain of me. Forever I will be known as the girl who was stolen away to be the wife of Hades, lord of all the dead. And none of it is true, or is so fragmented that the truth is nothing more than a shadow, malformed. The stories are wrong. I am not who they say I am.

I am Persephone, and my story must begin with the truth. Here it is, or as close as I can tell it.

 

~*~

 

“O, Demeter,” they crooned, tossing flowers at her statue in the temples and sacred groves, anointing her beloved forehead with honey and milk, stretching at her marble feet in the throes of worshipful bliss.

In the Greece of long ago, gods rose and fell in prominence according to the whims of the people. Hestia was beloved, and then Hermes, and then Ares, and then the next god or goddess in a long history of mortal fickleness. One never remained at the peak of popularity for long, but my mother didn’t worry. She was adored. To be fair, she loved the people as much as they loved her.

She loved me most of all.

“You will be queen of all the gods,” she would whisper in my ear as we rested beneath her fragrant green bower. We listened to the hum of mortal prayers spoken through flowers blossoming upon the vines. She would simply clap her hands, and together we laughed as the wheat ripened and the grapes sprung forth along the long, low lines of arbor. Everything my mother touched turned
golden,
came to life, and I was in awe of her.

“You will be queen,” she said, over and over, and I almost believed it, but I did not want it. Each time she spoke the words, my heart panged, and I changed the subject, showed her a hive of particularly fat bees, or the lining of a gull’s nest, made perfect by its silver feathers. Her face closed up, and she made me say it, too, that I would be queen of all the gods, far surpassing my competitors in beauty and influence and charm. I was a new evolution, part of a generation of young gods and goddesses created not from foam or other mysterious means but through the power of their immortal mothers. Hera’s daughter was Hebe, Aphrodite’s daughter was
Harmonia
, and Demeter’s daughter was Persephone.
Persephone.
Me. We repeated the litany while she combed and oiled my hair: it was in my stars that I would be greater than all of the others. And then, of course, Demeter would be greater, too.

I dreaded this with all of my heart.

I didn’t want to be greater than the other goddesses—I mostly wanted to be left alone. I was a quiet child. I wandered the woods with my mother’s nymphs. I could play with the pups of wolves or tigers, could climb the tallest trees, could eat any poisonous fruit I touched, and nothing would ever harm me. In this, in the beginning, I
was
my mother’s daughter, and the earth cradled me as its own child.

I grew slowly, wild and tall, my reflection in the riverbanks that of a beautiful, sun-kissed creature. I was, after all, the offspring of Demeter, a goddess, perfection in flesh. I lived in the untamed green, lying for hours in sunbeams or cavorting with rabbits in meadows. These were my pastoral days, when I was free and not yet a woman. My life was simple and idyllic, though astonishingly empty, before.

Even now, sometimes, I dream of her.

Her name was
Charis
, and she was one of the nymphs in my mother’s wood. For the most part, the nymphs were gentle creatures; they frequented the festivals of Pan, sought out other earthy creatures for pleasure. They were always happy in my mother’s perfect gardens and among the trees, what was known, then, as the Immortals Forest.

Charis
was not like them. She was a nymph, yes, but she carried the deep regret more common to mortals. She fascinated me, endlessly. “Why are you so sad?” I asked her, over and over, but
Charis
said nothing, wove flowers into my long, tangled mane. Her fingers were gentle, her eyes filled with tears.

She never spoke to anyone.

It was close to the anniversary of my birth. Most gods did not count their years—what would be the point in counting forever?—but my mother had jealously kept track of mine. Soon, it would be time for my introduction to Olympus, time for me to meet all of the gods, particularly the goddesses I had always been measured against. I had never been outside of the forest, my home, and the thought of leaving that beloved sanctuary woke within me a deep anxiety.

But I tried not to think about it. I made flower crowns, and the sun rose and set, marking off another day nearer the dreaded beginning of my future. Moments flitted by too fast, now that they were more precious, and it was three months away, my trip to Olympus, when everything changed.

The nymphs strummed their lyres at the edges of mirror pools, chatting on heroes and Olympus gossip. I sat at the edge of the water and their world, watching the clouds float over us all.
Charis
was beside me, and we shared no words; her presence was company enough. The day was new and warm—the days were always warm—and the air smelled of sprouts and ripe peaches.

Charis
took me by the hand and led me to a tree.

I did not know what love was. I had heard the songs, had watched the nymphs grow besotted with satyrs and foolish mortals (foolish enough to tempt the gods’ anger by venturing into the Immortals Forest), and I had witnessed heartbreak when lovers lost interest or, worse, were turned into trees or constellations because they had provoked the wrath of some god or other. If that was love, I wanted no part of it. It seemed so fickle, destructive,
pointless
.

That was before she kissed me, of course.

“I am afraid,” I told her. We were sky-gazing together, seated in the arms of the broad oak. I was curled next to the trunk, and she was farther out along the lowest branch, close enough that I felt her warmth, smelled her green, mossy scent. My stomach was fluttering, though I didn’t understand why—nerves, perhaps. Dread over the journey to Olympus. The days were blurring by, and I felt that I was about to lose all I had ever known.

“Afraid?” she asked me, uttering the first word I had heard her speak. My eyes grew wide as she leaned closer, shaking her head, the ever-present tears beneath her lashes unshed. “You should not fear, Demeter’s daughter. You have nothing to be afraid of.”


Charis
,” I whispered. “Your voice…” It was the sound of rocks grating against one another, rough, deep, a bear’s growl.

“I have been cursed for my past indiscretions,” she smiled at me sadly. “I thought that, if you heard my voice, you would find a better companion.”

We stared at one another for a long moment, feeling raging through me—pain that she had hidden her secret from me for so long, untrusting, assuming that I would, that I could, throw her away. I didn’t know how to respond, but I forced out a whisper: “You’re not a plaything to discard. I would never do that to you.”

“Others have.” And her tears began to fall. They streaked down her face, silver lines like the tails of comets. I touched her, just as we had done a hundred, a thousand times before: a finger to the cheek, a comfortable, comforting thing. She sat still, eyes closed, and permitted me to wipe away her tears, and when I was done, as simple and smooth as a prayer, she wrapped her arms about my waist, pulled me near her, so that she could kiss me.

I had seen nymphs do this amongst themselves, and I had caught a hero and one of the tree girls trysting in the briar hedge. I knew what a kiss was, but not what it was for.

Now, there was softness against my lips.
In my nose, her scent of wild green things, leaves and grass.
And as she drew me closer, pressed me hard against her chest, I felt a fire catch within me. It was so hot, this new heartbeat that burned through my body, my skin, coursed down to my fingers and toes and back up again, and she tasted warm and good. I was drinking her in, and she kissed me deeper, and there was so much emotion in me, in every part of me, a pure, unbridled and impassioned joy.

This, then—this was love. I finally understood.

We met, that night, beneath the brilliant silver moon, Artemis’s crescent hanging low in the eastern sky. We, too, found ourselves at the briar hedge, and there the moonlight patterned the lines and curves of her body.

“You are so beautiful,” she said, moving her fingers over my skin until it prickled, then ached.  She moved the linen away from my legs, my hips, as we lay down side-by-side and murmured together. In her arms, I felt things I had never felt, and she touched those places I had not yet understood. Perhaps I was naive, nearly a woman before I came to know all I could know about myself, about the solace to be found in another’s embrace—but I don’t regret it. That night, beneath the stars, beneath her, I knew love. It all came down to this: this moment, this touch, this kiss. It was easy and perfect, and I would never forget it in all of my immortality. I loved
Charis
in that hedge, under that moon, with all that I was.

BOOK: The Dark Wife
2.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Pickers 4: The Pick by Garth Owen
Quarantine by Jim Crace
The Trainmasters by Jesse Taylor Croft
Duncton Found by William Horwood
The Emerald Talisman by Pandos, Brenda
Dan and the Dead by Thomas Taylor
F Paul Wilson - Novel 02 by Implant (v2.1)
Machine Dreams by Jayne Anne Phillips
Cantar del Mio Cid by Anónimo