I jumped, spinning around to face the man on the other side of the counter. “I’m sorry?”
“The flowers.” He gave me a strange look. “They’re beautiful. Poppies and daffodils, right?”
I made a noncommittal noise, and he smiled as if pleased to have guessed right. “It looks great. You have a real gift.”
“Thank you.” I was sure my face was bright red. I’d jumped like the devil himself had patted my shoulder. Now this guy probably thought I was crazy too.
That would be a tragedy. His eyes were the precise shade of liquid gold as Orpheus’. With the exception of his angular face, short haircut, and leaner physique, he could be Orpheus. I wonder if they’re related.
Horrified, I realized I was staring. “Oh…uh…how can I help you?” I tucked a wavy strand of hair behind my ear.
His eyes twinkled in amusement. My cheeks heated as I realized a guy as hot as him must be used to shop girls getting flustered for different reasons than being caught off guard. I glanced at the antique golden bell against the door, cursing myself for being so wrapped up in the stupid flowers that I hadn’t heard it ring when he came in.
“…arrangement to be delivered next weekend,” he was saying, leaning on the counter.
“Of course.” I took a breath to pull myself together. I fished the pen and ordering pad from the pocket of my apron, gathering confidence from the familiar routine. “Can I get your first and last name?”
“Pirithous,” he answered, spelling it for me. He looked down to read the name emblazoned on my chest. “Pleased to meet you, Persephone,” he said, pronouncing it Purse-a-phone.
I ground my teeth together. My mother refused to change the monogrammed name on my apron to Kora. It was getting to the point where I was thinking of getting it fixed myself.
“It’s Persephone,” I corrected. “Kind of like Stephanie. What’s the occasion?” I held the pen poised over the paper.
He grinned and ran his fingers through his golden hair. “My mother’s birthday.”
My eyes widened as I realized why he thought I’d asked. With more emphasis than the situation called for, I wrote “mother’s birthday” on the appropriate line to show him I’d been asking professionally, not fishing to see if he was single.
My face stayed red throughout the ordering process because Pirithous kept teasing me or misinterpreting my questions. I grew angry when I realized he was enjoying seeing me so flustered.
“I meant what I said, you know.” He leaned so far over the counter I wondered how he kept his balance.
“Huh?” I replied articulately.
“You’re beautiful. Do you…wanna grab a coffee sometime?”
Okay, I thought, enough is enough. Time to pull out the big guns. “Sorry. My mom won’t let me date until I turn eighteen.” Some guys didn’t care that I was underage, but the ones that did always made faces like I’d just offered them rat poison.
I gave him an innocent smile and dropped his change into his open hand. Pirithous closed it as the cold quarters touched his skin. His fingers brushed against mine. He grinned and, for the first time since he’d walked in the flower shop, looked into my eyes.
His pupils widened and he quickly closed his eyes, looking away from me. “I don’t believe it.”
“No, really,” I babbled, so fast the words ran together. “I just turned sixteen this March. My mom’s a bit paranoid, but you can’t blame her with the university down the street and frat boys all over town.”
“He was right! A daughter of Zeus. I didn’t think there were any left.”
Speaking of frat boys…“Isn’t it a little late in the semester for pledging?”
His hand wrapped around my wrist like an iron vice. “Let me go,” he demanded, eyes glittering.
“After you!” I struggled to pull my hand free.
He laughed. “You have no idea, do you? What you are? What you’ve done? Oh that’s right, you can’t lie. You’re really sixteen.” He shook his head as though in disbelief. “Even better. I thought he’d sent me on a fool’s errand. Everyone knows Zeus is dead, but here you are—” his eyes glittered maniacally “—my chance at immortality.”
I yanked my arm back but he didn’t let go. Panic flooded my chest. “Are you high? Let me go!”
I struggled against his grip as he pulled me around the counter. “You’re mine. I found you first. You belong to me!”
I grabbed the counter with my free hand. My fingers closed around a pen, and with more strength than I thought possible I slammed it into his arm.
He howled in pain and I ripped my arm free and scrambled back behind the counter. I yanked open a drawer, spilling the contents, searching for the small knife I used for cutting wires and flower stems. I caught a glimpse of the green handle and grabbed it.
“Stay back!” I waved the arrangement knife in his direction.
“Persephone?” my mother called, throwing open the storage room door. “Is everything—” She looked from Pirithous’ bleeding arm to the knife poised in the air.
I moved between him and my mother. “I’m calling the cops!” I fished my cell phone out of my apron pocket.
That seemed to penetrate Pirithous’ maniac rage enough for him to look up at me, eyes saturated with hate. “I’ll be back for you,” he hissed before running out the door.
“Like hell,” I muttered, locking the door behind him.
Pirithous was an interesting character in Greek mythology. He and his buddy Theseus decided they were so awesome the only wives they would accept were Zeus’ daughters. Now Zeus had no shortage of daughters and Theseus set his sights on the then ten year old Helen of Troy (well not of Troy yet, but eventually). Theseus and Pirithous kidnapped her and stashed her with Theseus’ mom for safe keeping until she was of marriageable age. She was later rescued by her brothers Castor and Pollux.
Pirithous was more ambitious. He chose Persephone. The two friends ventured into the Underworld. Hades pretended to welcome them and invited them to a feast. He offered them two chairs, the chairs of forgetfulness, and as they dined they turned to stone. Hercules later rescued Theseus, but Hades wasn’t letting Pirithous out of his realm for anything.
Why did I change it?
In my version of the story, Pirithous and Theseus didn’t exist at the same time, so there was no reason to include Theseus. Theseus still kidnapped young Helen back in her time, but instead of being friends, Pirithous and Theseus just worship the same deity.
I also added Demeter cursing Pirithous with eternal hunger. Demeter did curse a person with eternal hunger, it just wasn’t Pirithous. I needed Pirithous to have a stronger motivation for going into the Underworld than the Pirithous of the myth did. I mean, seriously? Who would think abducting the wife of Hades was a good idea?