It wasn’t as if she hadn’t enjoyed her position; being the cup bearer to the Olympians during their grand parties of luxury and grandeur, but being displaced and offered up to a hero according to the Gods as compensation for being replaced by a youthful prince of Troy hadn’t been a highlight.
Hebe strolled through her mother’s lush garden, grazing her fingers over the white lilies that grew to her hips and threading her hands in the occasional wandering peacock’s feathers as they roamed the larger, private land.
She sighed in frustration, coming to the white stone fountain bronzed by Apollo’s rays and sat down. Her reflection in the water was calm, still, pristine liquid untouched or tainted by mortals. She envied the undisturbed surface, feeling at odds with her own emotions.
Why couldn’t she simply accept she was being replaced with a young mortal boy whose beauty was the gossip of the human, and godly, realms? She was the Goddess of Youth! Yet Zeus had been determined to have the lad as the cup bearer and make him immortal for his darkest and most sensuous fantasies. And knowing her father’s unfaithful ways, her mother was, as expected, not happy in the least.
For two reasons actually, one, Zeus taking yet another lover to his chambers, and two, her most treasured daughter being prioritized as second best.
But it wasn’t only her losing her title that tugged at her thoughts, sending them into a flustered state that had her sighing in turn, but also this arranged marriage to the most recent hero of Olympus, Heracles. Marrying to one of her many half-brothers wasn’t uncommon, no, that wasn’t what was upsetting her, but rather, she had no say in the matter at all.
Believe it many didn’t when she had admitted to not wanting to marry the hero. His status and rugged looks had actually turned her off, causing her to shrivel her nose in disgust and cringe away from his touch and grand gestures.
When he had first been granted permission to Olympus, he had been covered in sweat and grime, parading through the gates he would soon govern as his own, with a cocky smirk that matched his father’s. Dying on a pyre, shedding his mortal body, he finally became immortal, a god, and was to be married to Hebe as his fourth and finally wife.
She didn’t want to marry the supposed hero who had murdered his first wife and children, rather, she wanted a say in the whole affair.
Hebe knew it was the honorable thing to do but she just couldn’t bring herself to fully accept this without a fight. Kicking off her leather sandals with ease, she eased her feet slowly into the cool water, watching as it rippled from where her body made contact with the easily displacing substance. Just like herself, she thought with a sigh, dipping her hands in as well and splashing some up onto her face.
The cool water did miracles on her nerves, drawing away the worry lines along her face and bringing her mind to a standstill. She simply let the wind brush her flawless skin, caressing her cheeks, playing with her golden curls that framed her face and cascaded down her back.
And for a while, she closed her eyes, letting the warm sun kiss her skin, relishing in this, fleeting, state of ease. Feeling the brush of something against her side, she opened her eyes to see a peacock prodding at her chiton. Anytime she visited her mother, she always allowed herself to where her short, sleeveless chiton that showed off her creamy, smooth legs, embracing her inner child as much as she dared. Her mother always smiled, humour twinkling in her eyes at her forever beautiful child embodying the very spirit of youth.
Tied around her waist hanging loosely on her hips was a thin braid of thread made of gold that wrapped around her slim waist several times before it was knotted and the strands hung at her side. She enjoyed these moments most, when she didn’t have to keep appearances for the sake of being a goddess.
Rubbing the azure bird’s head fondly, she smiled, letting the bird settle in her lap before she rubbed its feathers once more, letting the majestic bird rest. This was almost habit now, whenever her mind was troubled or she was simply feeling upset, coming to her mother’s grandiose garden that not even Zeus was allowed to enter, caressing the soft plumage of the equally royal birds of the deepest blues to the lightest of greens, she was at peace.
The soft rustle of the lily bushes had her eyes opening, that she hadn’t realised she had closed, and glanced around, noting how all the animals had disappeared and the sun had started its decent to the horizon. Pulling her feet over, she brushed herself off before easing her tingling legs out of the cool water, feeling pinpricks travel through her feet as they touched the stone path.
She slipped on her sandals with ease, patting herself down before starting her trek back to her mother’s home. The almost imperceptible footfalls stilled her completely. Hebe brow furrowed slightly. If her mother had entered the garden, her aura would have reached out to the young goddess, alerting her, letting her know. The very fact that no such presence filled her senses worried her a moment before she rolled back her shoulders and turned to the cluster of trees beside her.
There, hidden in the trees darkest shadows that twisted and writhed in the breeze, was a dark form, back against the tree. If someone had entered her mother’s sacred garden without permission, it was up to her to escort them out, with the right punishment.
“Show yourself.” She commanded, her voice soft, but holding every ounce of her godly powers behind it. The form shivered a moment before stepping out from behind the tree into the dwindling sunlight. Hebe’s eyes widened.
A young man, a boy just peeking out of his adolescence stood tall, the sun highlighting his golden hair as if from the inside out. A simple white tunic clothed his body, accentuating his slim waist and lean legs; the body of young prince. She knew immediately who this was.
To her sudden surprise, the young man knelt down, head bowed, his hair, loose from its band, shrouding his face in a golden halo. His next words had her eyes widening further.
“Pardon me, my lady, I meant no misapprehension.” His head remained bowed, his body still, waiting. Hebe could only look, taking in the broadening shoulders, the lightly muscled arms. He was, to no surprise, the very epitome of youth. But, so was she.
“And what,” she enunciated her next words with an almost plausible humour hiding the, dare she think, curiosity at the sudden appearance of what had been plaguing her thoughts mere hours ago. “Misapprehension would that be, Ganymede?”
At the mention of the young Trojan prince’s name, his head raised slowly, moss green eyes dancing with an emotion she couldn’t quite recognize, followed by a smooth, confident smile.
“It pleases me my lady knows who I am.” He responded without a single hitch in his voice, and, with slight aggravation, realised the boy was no means scared of her presence. Wary, was another thing entirely. She let out a derivative scoff, feeling like her mother for a startling moment.
“Of course I know who is taking my place in Olympus.” She replied with a chilly coolness to her tone. Snapping at the boy would do no means as to only reflect poorly on her behavior. She was the Goddess of Youth, not childlike behavior.
“And I have come to apologise in turn.” Ganymede’s head was bowed once more and Hebe had to stifle a sigh. It wasn’t this young boy’s fault for being whisked away by her father for his beauty and being given her title. Despite her displeasure at the circumstances, he was like her in a way; without a say in everything that involved them. In the end, she sighed in exasperation.
“You do not need to apologise. I won’t miss it, anyways.” The sun seemed suspended in this moment, as if Apollo had paused the sun’s decent for just a moment longer, waiting. “Rise, it truly isn’t becoming of a Prince of Troy bowing his head.”
As she stood, she caught the small smirk and felt herself shake her head. The cocky, young boy knew how to push the boundaries, that much was apparent. She gestured with a simple wave of her hand and he emerged onto the path. Hebe found herself taking a step back, the boy looking down on her with half a head taller.
“Former prince, my lady.” He said, giving her a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. She was not surprised, such an experience could be seen as traumatic, being plucked, literally off the face of the earth, never to see your home or family ever again. He composed himself well.
“Yet you will always be remembered as the youthful Trojan Prince and cupbearer to the Gods.” She teased lightly, starting at walking pace back through the garden. He followed closely, a shoulders length behind her, and she found herself smiling in amusement. He seemed too humble for his own good. He was the God King’s lover and soon to be immortal. He would learn though, Zeus would make sure of it.
“That is, I suppose, a grand way of being reminisced.” Ganymede, whether he realised or not – Hebe had a feeling it was the former – carried himself with an air of pride, while seeming humble in the presence of a god or goddess. He was, truly, a fine prince in the making. She almost found herself cursing Zeus and his thoughtless ways.
“Ganymede, why did you come here? Do you wish to invoke my mother’s wrath?” She found herself smiling, the humour flowing into her words. “More so than you already have?” She halted in her step, turning to see him a few feet away, frozen almost, frigid as the sun leaked away, framing his face before falling to his chest, outlining her shadow.
Being direct had stilled the youth’s mouth, his hesitation evident, in his faltering speech. The composed prince had all but disappeared, leaving behind a frightful young boy, defenseless and vulnerable to any who stumbled upon him. And it had been her.
“Speak,” his head shot up with alarming speed but her eyes remained steady, locked on his own. “What troubles you that you sought me out, going so far as trespass upon ground not even Zeus himself dares cross?” She kept her face neutral, but the uneasy look that crossed his face had her silently giggling.
“Speak,” she repeated, much gentler than before, stepping closer to the youth and cupping his cheek, a genteel smile gracing her face. “What you say here now, will never reach my father’s ears.” Hebe assured, and an overwhelming sense of achievement flowed through her when his face eased into one of belief. She had gained his trust and she would cherish it like a new shoot bursting through soil, breakable but full of potential. And she knew from that very moment, she would make deals with Hades to keep this trust.
Guiding him slowly back to the fountain, she patted next her. Hesitation flashed through his deep green eyes, before he joined her, sitting a moderate distance away. His mouth opened, before closing, a deep sigh flowing from his body. He looked so small at that moment, daunted by the world around him, an unknown world full of hidden and unforeseeable dangers and challenges.
“Are you not angered by Zeus’ choices?” Hebe felt the need to reassure him that whatever anger he felt was completely understandable. Her father was impulsive, a trait that carried into many of his illicit heroic children. He was, in many aspects, a child in a man’s body. She sighed, looking at him with a weary expression and a halfhearted smile.
“There really is point in fighting against his decisions, many of gods and goddesses know that quite well.” Too well, in some. She thought. Hebe was stunned when a frustrated sigh left the young prince’s lips.
“You are being married to Heracles, are you not? Yet word is, you’d rather marry Cerberus.” She silently took his hands in hers, rubbing her thumbs over the top, smiling rather to herself than to anyone.
“I wouldn’t go that far, and it’s really just my father trying to appease my mother and her rage.” Hebe paused, letting go of any rational thought, and pulled one of his hands up, kissing the palm softly. A sharp hiss left the boy’s mouth, and she smirked against his hand, casting him a half lidded glance.
“But now that you are here,” she left the sentence hang, letting the implication settle in. She placed his hand down into her lap, rubbing each finger gently, feeling the faint callouses along his palms, the roughness of each digit. So different to the smooth, unblemished skin of his face.
“So, you had no say?” His voice was but a quiet whisper, and she felt herself leaning in closer, her eyes transfixed on his thin lips. Hebe smiled then, her hands stilling completely as did the very breath of their surroundings.
“None.” She whispered back, and all went quiet. Seconds past but it felt like hours, until he shifted slightly and his body now faced hers. A look of apprehension marred his beautiful face, the need to return it to its cocky state almost worrying.
“Hebe,” He said, his voice calm, resolute, empowering, and the only reason her face remained unchanging was the surprise of him calling her directly be her name, and the seriousness to his voice, battling each other.
“May I ask one favour of your?” She blinked quickly, leaning in closer till their noses nearly brushed, her curiosity peaked to a point of no return.
“Anything.” She heard herself reply, and before she realised, his lips were on hers, molding together, his hands cupping her face. Hebe closed her eyes instantly, easing into the gesture. It was gentle, so gentle, hesitant even, as if fearful she would pull away. But how could she? Captivated by eyes, his lips, no, that hadn’t been what had drawn her in, but his confidence. He was so sure of himself, for someone so young, but he was prince, such mannerisms hammered into him from the moment he could sit up.
But, maybe it had been the chink in the armour, that vulnerability that made her want to comfort him in any way she could. Hebe very well knew he could be using her at this very moment, yet, she couldn’t’ bring herself to care. Just one slip of character, just one moment of her own actions being controlled by no one but herself.
Or, maybe it was much simpler than that. They were both in the same position, and they simply needed comfort. Comfort that only another like themselves could give.
The kiss ended in a heartbeat, but her lips tingled with the contact, and when his forehead rested on her hers for a second, she smiled in contentment.
“So that’s what it feels like.” He said, slightly breathy and she couldn’t help but laugh. They separated slowly, not once thinking of the consequences of ever being caught, never feeling, or revealing, any misunderstandings that could arise, for shining in their eyes, they knew what they had done, and it had been reciprocated eagerly.
Ganymede rose silently, and she giggled lightly as he bowed once more.
“Would I able to come to you again, my lady? To talk with you?” He added quickly and she smiled, standing too and raising his chin.
“It would be my pleasure, to talk with you again.” She teased, and a smile of his own, boyish and unrestrained broke loose upon his face, revealing not a prince, but a young boy, without a care in the world. Her smile fell into one of saddened understanding and she knew he had caught onto it by the slight faltering of his own bright expression.
“You truly are, the epitome of youth.” She commented forlornly, caressing his cheek before dropping her hand, looking up into his shining green eyes. The moonlight casted an otherworldly glow upon him, creating a halo of silver light upon his head, a crown made of stars plucked from the velvet blue sky.
Ganymede’s speech faltered before he inclined his head slightly and gave her a half smile.
“That is the most gracious compliment the Goddess of Youth could ever give me.” And with an unhidden smile of disappointment, bowed and took his leave, his lean back turned white by the moon as his tall form retreated down the path and into the shadows.
As his presence left the garden, her entire form slouched and she eased herself to the ground, looking up at the moon questioningly. Then, a smile broke onto her face. She didn’t wonder as to what she was truly getting herself into, never turning away the opportunity to defy her father, and mother in a way, but really as to why. Why she would allow such a thrilling thing to happen at the most dearest of costs.
Like the breaking of her own heart.
It's a really interesting take on their mythologies, and seeing how you extended your interpretations to the other gods/figures involved is fascinating too - like Hera, so often depicted as being this angry shrewish scorned woman, and neglecting how she is a queen and goddess of marriage and, of course, a mother. The Greek gods are so often exaggerated versions of humanity, and seeing these expressions of humanity in Hebe and her situation, and how some of the things presented in the myths as these great rewards or prizes actually affect some of the pawns involved, and how her relationship with Ganymede might be ... they really are somewhat mirrored characters. I liked seeing your imaginings and descriptions of their world too!
Sorry for rambling XD; Thank you for writing and sharing this~!
Haha, thanks for taking the time to actually read it. I felt I should at least let the person know that it was because of them and their work that got me writing this. After seeing your artwork, it got me surfing the net, trying to find something, anything on Hebe, but all that came was that she was the original cupbearer to the gods and then she was replaced and married off. And that annoyed me for reasons that I really can't explain. And then, this idea was born, I suppose.
I also read she was seen drawing baths for her brother Ares and I realised, oh great, I've accidentally planned more. Funnily enough, I really want to write about Ares now. Hmm, later I suppose.
Anyways, thanks for your kind words and for reading my short little story
And it goes both ways - I have to say, your comment and work inspired me to start working on another painting! Not these characters/figures but still a bit of a companion piece. Hopefully I can finish it before the end of the holidays XD;