Calliope spent some time in Hades with Mom and her sons. She came home before anyone outside the family could miss her. Our sisters didn’t ask questions, but Clio, the official historian of the Pantheon, always knows when a divine baby is born. She showed me her record of the Corybantes’ birth in her most secure archive, the one only she can access. Under “Parents,” she had entered:
Apollo and Thalia
Apollo and Calliope?
Zeus and Calliope?
I looked at her and said nothing. She looked back at me and locked the archive. We never brought it up again.
It was a mercifully quiet summer. Epione went home after the wedding, Aglaea and Hephaestus took a season-long honeymoon, Psyche kept Eros out of everyone’s hair, Zeus and Hera went back to overlooking us, and it was an off year for the Pythian Games. Then came the Autumnal Equinox, and it was time for Persephone to return to Hades. Demeter marks Persephone’s departure with far less pomp and circumstance than her arrival, when she marks it at all. That year, she held a small picnic on the slopes of Parnassus. My sisters were all there, as were Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Eros, and Psyche.
As the sun was beginning to set and the day, the party, and Persephone’s visit were coming to a close, Apollo sat down next to me under a very small shade tree I’d claimed. He was unusually eager to tell me about a vision he’d just had. “Was it a vision of you bringing me a cool goblet of pomegranate juice?” I smiled with hope, trying not to laugh at the almost childlike enthusiasm in his eyes.
“No, silly creature,” he laughed, “but you were in it.”
“I was in a goblet of pomegranate juice?”
“That’s an intriguing idea, one I’ll have to revisit in the future. But again, no. In this particular vision, you, Aglaea, and a third woman were dancing by the Springs of Helicon. I was playing the kithara for you.”
“Who was the third woman?” I asked. I didn’t go into questions like, Was she prettier than me? What were we wearing? What kind of dance were we doing? Was the interloper dancing better than me? Could she sing? Was she funny?
“You called her Euphrosyne,” he said.
“Never heard of her. Pretty name, though.”
“Pretty girl, too. Thick brown coils of hair that could keep an ironmonger in business for eternity. She had a shy, sort of awkward smile, but there was still this indefinable air of grace about her. Her most striking feature by far, though, was that she had Hera’s eyes.”
“Oh my goodness!” I felt my face involuntarily spreading into a grin. “You think?”
“I don’t think; I know,” he grinned back. “She called Aglaea ‘Mom’.”
“I always kind of wondered whether Hephaestus could have children or not,” I commented. “Of course, there is that whole Athens deal, but it’s a given that none of Aphrodite’s are his.”
“We’ve all wondered that. I wouldn’t count him out, though,” Apollo said dryly. “When the dance was over, I told Aglaea to start taking it easy since she had a baby on the way. She retorted that she’d handled the last four pregnancies just fine, thank you very much.”
“Did you see any of the other kids? Are they boys or girls? I hope they’re girls.”
“I didn’t see them, and yes, that’s just what this family needs, more girls,” he gave me a playful shove. I decided to simply enjoy the moment and not give him grief about the fact that he’d called us a family.
Our attention was drawn to Aphrodite’s appearing, which I’m sure was her intent. She strode forth in grandeur to Persephone and presented her with a handsome wooden box. “I couldn’t let you leave without giving you a farewell present,” she sweetly offered. “It’s the most wonderful surprise. But you have to promise that you won’t open it until you get back to Hades,” she sang.
“Sure, whatever,” Persephone took the box. She immediately produced a knife and started working on the lock. “Crossed my fingers.”
“No, no, no, wait, don’t do that, you’ll – well, it’s yours now anyway,” Aphrodite protested as the lid sprang open. “No givsies backsies.”
Persephone alternated a dumbfounded glare between the box and Aphrodite. “This is a baby,” she eventually managed to stammer the obvious.
“That’s what I thought, too,” Aphrodite confirmed.
“Is there a particular reason you’re trying to pawn your latest bastard off on me?”
“He’s not mine!” Aphrodite felt most affronted by this aspersion. “Honestly! Have I looked pregnant this year? Anyone? I thought not. No, one of my priestesses died in childbirth, and since I’m pretty sure the brat is a demigod, I didn’t want to leave him at the temple at the mercy of those ignorant mortals.”
“Fascinating little tale,” said Persephone. “Irrelevant, though, since it doesn’t answer the question of why you’re giving him to me.”
“Because you’re leaving,” said Aphrodite. “I can’t stand babies. If he leaves with you, I’ll probably never see him again. Please, just give it a chance. I never wanted a baby until Hephaestus talked me into keeping Eros, and the little guy really grew on me after awhile. He turned out to be quite endearing after he started walking, talking, flying, and feeding himself.”
“Love you too, Mom,” Eros waved.
“Oh, well you know Hades and I just love anything cute and cuddly,” Persephone grumbled. “Look at this thing. He’s like a living sunbeam. No, he’s worse than a sunbeam. He’s practically a damn prism.”
“Did you…?” I suspiciously eyed Apollo.
“Are you kidding? I have standards,” he said in noble indignation.
“You also have a terminal lack of sense when it comes to hot mortals.”
“Whatever you think, even I have the sense to stay away from Aphrodite’s priestesses.”
“It wasn’t Apollo,” said Erato. “I knew the priestess, Smyrna. I don’t think they ever met.”
“We didn’t,” Apollo confirmed.
“Smyrna was a minor princess before she entered Aphrodite’s service,” said Clio. “If the father’s who I think it he is, he’s a minor nature god, one of Selene and Endymion’s sons. They have so many, even I have a hard time remembering which is which.”
“Isn’t he just the cutest little thing,” Psyche was cooing into the box. “Yes, he is. Who’s a cute little thing? Eros, you think maybe we could take him if Persephone doesn’t want him?”
“No,” Eros quickly replied. “It’s, I mean, he was a gift to Persephone. You don’t ask a goddess to give up a gift. Besides, we can always make our own. When we’re ready. In a few years. Or decades. Or something.”
She gave him a meaningful look. “We’ll talk later.”
“No, really, I wouldn’t mind,” Persephone encouraged. “We could start a new custom. ‘Re-gifting’, we’ll call it.”
“We could take him,” Athena suggested.
“Who is we?” Artemis frowned.
“You and I.”
“Fantastic idea,” said Artemis. “That ought to take care of those two or three people who still believe we’re not a couple.”
“Good point; hadn’t thought of that,” Athena sighed.
“Parnassus seems like a good place to raise a kid,” Persephone observed. This was met by a cacophony of disapproval from all ten of us, especially Apollo, Calliope, and me. We’d already had enough baby drama to last an age or two.
“Honey, if I were you, I’d take advantage of this,” Demeter advised. “After all, in all these centuries, you and Hades haven’t been able to-”
“MOM!” Persephone groaned.
“I’m just saying, it’s a little embarrassing for a fertility goddess.”
“Not that it’s your or any of these people’s business, but we haven’t been trying. In fact, we’ve been deliberately avoiding it. Because we don’t want any damn kids. We hate kids. Kids, us, not happening. And even if I didn’t completely detest the idea,” she added, “which I do, what kind of place is Hades to raise a child?”
“I think I remember someone warning you that that might be an issue someday if you ran off and married the Lord of the Underworld,” Demeter lifted her eyes in thought. “Oh, that’s right, it was your stupid mother.”
“Persephone,” said Calliope, “we grew up in Hades, and we didn’t turn out so bad. And we didn’t even have a house. We just had a pomegranate tree on the shore of a magic lake. Your son would have a whole palace. I know parenthood isn’t for everyone, and I understand if it truly isn’t something you want. But if raising a child in the Underworld is all you’re worried about, I’m just letting you know that it’s not really anything to worry about. Now, Hades’ temper on the other hand,” she laughed.
“Screw Hades’ temper,” Persephone resolved. “He’s all bark and no bite, unless I want it otherwise. We’re taking the kid, and Hades’ll just have to get used to the idea. Which he will, because contrary to certain mothers’ opinions, he doesn’t completely suck as a husband.”
“Congratulations, dear. May your son’s choices in love bring you as much joy as yours have brought me,” was Demeter’s generous blessing.
“‘The adopted son of Persephone and Hades,'” Clio made the official record on her scroll. “Do you have a name for him, or are you going to wait and pick one out with dear old dad?”
Persephone laughed a dark, sardonic laugh that we knew meant all was well. “If I leave it up to Hades, he’ll be stuck with ‘Whatever’ or ‘That Kid’.” She gazed thoughtfully upon her farewell gift.
“Adonis is a nice name, don’t you think?”