Persephone

Flash fiction by Elizabeth Varadan

My mother returned to her parents in L. A. whenever things didn’t go well in her life. To sort things out, she would explain to me. In time, I grew used to these trips and thought of L. A. as the one home that never changed. There were the applesauce turnovers on the day of our welcome, followed, days later, by excited scenes that left my mother in tears, followed by our departure that left my grandmother in tears, until the next welcome home with turnovers.

My grandmother bought an abundance of pomegranates when they were in season, and through successive visits, I developed a taste for their tart sweetness.

The November I was fourteen, I was into Greek myths, particularly the story of Persephone. Carefully peeling away the pomegranates’ russet husks, I couldn’t help thinking about the deal Ceres worked out with the God of the Underworld—six months in each location; almost as bad as my mother’s yo-yo-ing life.

After I peeled off the thin membrane in each section, I’d spill the seeds into a little dish, where they glistened, like the tiny garnets in my grandmother’s earrings. And I wondered: did Ceres welcome her daughter home each time, only to make scenes that would chase her off again? Or did she cry hard enough each time Persephone departed with her husband to make sure she’d return?

And if I ran away from home, as I was considering, would my mother be able to find me? Ceres knew where Persephone was, but in my fantasy, I would bleach my hair, wear high heels, slather on lots of make-up, get a job in some city we hadn’t been, and then I would stay there. If I could sort out my life, maybe my mother could sort out hers.

I saw garnet earrings last week at a flea market. I almost bought them. Instead, I bought a pomegranate from the farmer’s market at the far end of the grounds, past all the junk stalls.

At home, eating the tangy seeds, I thought of Persephone and the weeping Ceres. I thought of my grandmother who never could let go of her children after the loss of her first two sons. I thought of my mother, the rebel daughter, who had caused my grandmother so much grief and then kept spoiling her own life so she had to come home again.

And I thought, too, of myself—my mother’s own wayward daughter whom she thought lost to her for so many years, until the long winter was over.

Elizabeth Varadan’s work has appeared in The Rockford Review, Word Riot, Art Times, Long Story Short, Flash Me Magazine, Epiphany, Melic Review, Whim’s Place, Laughter Loaf, Banyan Review, C-Oasis, and Notes Magazine.

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