Homeless in Paris: A flash fic
I wake up on the other side of the Arc de Triomphe, the world full of sun and the scent of peppermint and roses, which is weird given when I’d fallen asleep on my patch of cardboard it had been blanketing snow. I close my eyes, open them, blink, but the road is still overgrown and green and peaceful where I’m sitting.
A tall woman towers over me, her hair done in intricate ringlets like the statues they have in The Louvre, a shining pomegranate balancing on her head. When she smiles, crimson juice stains her teeth. “Welcome,” she says as she extends me her hand.
“I’m dead, aren’t I?” Maybe it’s for the best. I’d had nowhere to go and no plan for the future when I’d run away from Andre’s drunken punches, but I’d soon found homelessness every bit as lonely and soul-biting as the newspapers said.
“What a strange question,” the woman replies, and I can see she believes it, grey silk sliding about her arms as she pulls me to my feet. She extends me a black goblet. “You won’t die unless you drink.”
I hold onto the goblet, but I don’t do as she says. “Where am I? Who are you?”
“The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, silly. Where else? As to who I am? I’m a woman who’s lost her way.”
I glance behind me, through the Arc, at a world that’s white and full of magic from the fairy lights on the trees and laugh. “Join the club. Where are you trying to get then?”
“Never heard of it,” I say dismissively, leaning back into the Arc. It’s weird having no one crowding for snaps or yelling because you’re ruining the aesthetic of a national monument.
“Not it. Who.” She smiles. “You know I’m Persephone, right?”
“Sure, and I’m Hades.” Still, there is the fact I’m in some kind of second Paris so maybe it’s not as mad as all that.
“You’re not mad at all,” she laughs and I’m trying not to freak out that she’s somehow read my mind. “The world’s gotten everything wrong about me. They say I wanted the underworld to escape my mother, that Hades kidnapped me, and I made the best of it, that other Gods and heroes came to woo me. They say Hephaeastus was one of them.” She steps forward to grasp both my arms. “Bullshit. It was you, Aglea, I yearned for.”
She tilts her head. “You truly don’t remember?” And before I can back away her honeyed lips are on mine and it’s intoxicating and frightening all at once.
“We walked through the Elysian Fields and we loved, but then you returned to Zeus and Olympus. You Charities were always too unselfish. I’ve waited so long for you to be reborn and to find me.”
My head feels like cotton candy as I let her take my hand and force the death goblet back to my lips. I’m thinking I’d rather stick with a goddess over Andre or begging and there’s the fact I remember someone who looked an awful lot like this Persephone in Algeria, when I’d bought my plane ticket to France. She’d given me money, told me some story about making a fortune in the city of love. Had it all been leading to this?
I’ll take the chance. I drink down to the bitter dregs.