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Look upon your children

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Orpheus and Eurydice were having a slow morning. They had just bathed Thaleia (who was now two weeks old) and were picking out which baby grow she would wear today. Orpheus had been given some time off work to help his wife while she was still recovering, he was immensely grateful for this as it meant that he got to fully witness the first few months of his daughter’s life. 

Their favourite family activity was to take Thaleia on short walks in the countryside near where they lived; they hoped that the warm summer sun and fresh air would be good for her. Sometimes, Eurydice would be wearing Thaleia in a baby carrier on her front, or sometimes Orpheus would simply carry her in his arms. When Thaleia started to get fussy, or Eurydice simply got tired, they would trek back home, where Orpheus would read out loud from a storybook (usually from one of his childhood favourites) until both of his girls fell asleep.

As the young couple were dressing their daughter, little did they know that their peaceful morning was about to be disrupted by a knock at the door from a very unexpected visitor.

“I’ll get it,” said Orpheus, as he moved to open the door on the other end of the cottage.

“Thank you, lover” replied Eurydice before returning her focus to the wriggling baby on the table in front of her. They had set up a small changing area for Thaleia in the bathroom.

Orpheus opened the door to find a woman standing nervously on the doorstep. She had long brown hair (a similar shade to his) and looked to be in her early 40s. There was something about her that seemed familiar but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it yet.

“Um, hello can I help you with something,” he asked, as friendly as always.

“Orpheus, Is that you?” she asked, her voice a mix of hope and unease.

“Yeah that’s me, I’m sorry; do we know each other?” he asked.

“You don’t remember me, well I suppose you wouldn’t; it’s been so long”

“I don’t understand

“Orpheus, my name is Calliope.”

There was an uncomfortable silence as Orpheus paused to fully process what she had said and what it meant. His blood ran cold.

“Mom?” he finally asked, quietly.

“Yeah, it’s me” she replied, she had tried to sound confident as she said it but the look in her eyes conveyed the shame she was feeling.

It was only now that he finally started to recognise her. Hermes had no photographs of her, so Orpheus had forgotten what she looked like, but her voice was still so familiar to him.

Calliope had been imagining this moment for years but she had never been able to fully picture what her son would look like as an adult. She studied his features, his tall, lanky body and strong jawline; her baby was a man now. The only similar features between them were their hair and eye colours.

“What are you doing here? How did you even find me? Why now, after all these years? Why did you even leave in the first place?” Orpheus had a million questions, and he wasn’t even sure which one he wanted answering first if any.

“Orpheus, I know you’re upset and you have every right to be. I promise I’ll answer all of your questions if you’ll allow me to.” Her eyes were pleading with him.

“Okay, well why are you back?” he asked, trying to keep his composure.

“I came to apologise”

“What?”

“When I had you, I was so young; my job required me to travel around a lot and I didn’t make much money from it anyway. I thought that by leaving you in the care of Mister Hermes I’d be giving you a better chance in life. Now I understand that leaving you like that probably seemed like I was abandoning you for no good reason, hell, maybe I didn’t have a good reason and I’m just making excuses, either way; I wanted to say that I’m sorry.”

Orpheus was stunned. He hadn’t expected to ever see his mother again, let alone hear her apologise for leaving.

“How did you even find where I live?” 

“I asked around town for you and everyone told me you worked at the bar. It seems you’re quite popular around these parts” she smiled in an attempt to lighten the mood. “When I got there, I found Hermes and after a lot of begging on my part, he told me where you lived”

At first, Orpheus felt slightly betrayed that Mister Hermes sent his mother over without warning him first, but he decided to trust Hermes judgement; whatever she had told him, he must have believed.

His gaze lingered on the bathroom door for a moment, before turning back to his mother. This was all getting too much for Orpheus to take in; he needed his wife to ground him in the way that only she was capable of.

As if she had heard his silent prayers, Eurydice emerged from the bathroom with her babe in arms.

“Orpheus my love, who was at the door?” she inquired cheerily as she walked over to him.

Due to the angle she was standing at, Calliope couldn’t see Eurydice yet, but hearing a female voice alone threw her for a loop. She had spent years imagining what her son would look and act like now that he was all grown up, but she hadn’t ever considered the possibility of him meeting someone and perhaps falling in love.

“Um, it’s complicated,” he replied, turning to face her. 

When Eurydice finally stepped into view of the doorway, Calliope was in for another shock; not at anything to do with her appearance per se, simply the fact that she was carrying a baby in her arms. Calliope felt a twinge of joy when she saw the way Orpheus’ face lit up when he saw the girl. He wrapped a protective arm around her waist an kissed her forehead before bending down slightly to speak to the baby.

“Hi sweetheart” he cooed, before standing back up to look at his mother again.

“Orpheus, what’s going on? Who is this?” the girl enquired. Calliope noticed that she was young (probably Orpheus’ age), but carried herself like someone much older, or at least someone with more experience. She was very beautiful, Calliope could see why Orpheus fell for her.

Orpheus took a deep breath before introducing them.

“Eurydice, this is Calliope” he paused, “my mother.”

Eurydice’s eyes widened.

“Mom, this is my wife, Eurydice,” he smiled as he said it; Orpheus never got bored of introducing her as his wife, not in a controlling way or because he was trying to claim ownership over her, simply because it still amazed him to this day that she had chosen him to be her husband.

Calliope was slightly taken aback by this, she had had little time to adjust to the idea of her son having met someone, she hadn’t even considered the possibility that he was married.

“Your wife?” she asked, not quite believing it; they were so young.

“Yes, my wife. We got married nearly three years ago.”

“My congratulations to you both.”

“And this is Thaleia, our daughter,” he said as Eurydice handed her over to him.

Eurydice had initially been cradling Thaleia to her chest, so when she passed her to Orpheus, Calliope caught her first glimpse of her grandchild. She noticed how similar the infant looked to both of her parents; she had Eurydice’s olive complexion but with Orpheus’ brown hair, and judging by the way Orpheus looked at her, she already had him wrapped around her little finger.

“My son has a daughter,” she mumbled, not to anyone in particular, “she’s beautiful, congratulations,” she was clearly in shock at the fact that she now had a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter.

Eurydice felt that same surge of pride she felt whenever someone complimented her precious baby, but she still couldn’t help but feel somewhat uneasy with the current situation; why was Orpheus’ mother here after all these years? Despite her cynicism, she decided to hold her tongue for Orpheus’ sake and let the woman explain herself.

“Um hi, Ms Calliope, would you like to come in so we can talk more? I’m sure we don’t all want to stand in the doorway all day,” she said, trying to make the situation less awkward.

“I’d really appreciate that, if it’s alright with the two of you of course”

“Yeah come on in”

It was only when they were sitting in the living room, Calliope on the sofa across from them, that Eurydice finally broke the silence.

“So… why are you here?” she asked cautiously.

For Eurydice’s sake, Calliope explained everything she had already said to Orpheus at the door, with a specific focus on the fact that she was sorry.

“Do you think you can ever forgive me?” she asked Orpheus, “I understand if you can’t, either way, I just needed you to know that I’m sorry.”

“I don’t know, I want to forgive you but it might take time,” he replied, sounding unsure of himself.

With the hand that wasn’t cradling the baby on her lap, Eurydice rubbed his arm comfortingly, she knew how hard this must be for him. With everyone else, Orpheus was usually a very forgiving person but his mother was a whole different story; he had far too many traumas and abandonment issues caused by her for this to be easy.

“I’m still struggling to understand how you could just leave like that; I’ve only had Thaleia for two weeks but already the thought of abandoning her is unimaginable to me. I love her so much. Did you ever love me?” he asked, a hint of resentment in his voice.

“Orpheus, I loved you so much. I left because I loved you. I thought I was giving you a better life. When I had you, I was even younger you are now. Plus, you two have each other; I didn’t have anyone,” Calliope said.

Orpheus didn’t know how to respond, he had spent so long obsessing over the idea of his mother cruelly abandoning him, that he had never considered the possibility that maybe she did love him and thought she was doing the right thing by leaving.

“I guess I never thought of it that way” he finally replied.

“I’m not expecting you to forgive me straight away or anything, that would be unreasonable of me given the circumstances. I just didn’t want you to spend the rest of your life wondering why I left.”

“No I want to, it just might take time,” he managed a small smile.

“So, are you back in town for long?” he asked somewhat hopefully.

“Not so much this time but I’m planning on cutting down the amount of travelling I do for work and maybe finally settling down somewhere. It means I could visit more often if you’ll let me.”

Orpheus looked to his wife who was also getting emotional. 

“I think we’d like that a lot,” he said, properly smiling this time.

Eurydice was so proud of Orpheus, she knew this was a big deal for him. Also knowing that he was probably feeling slightly overwhelmed right now, she decided to initiate the next part of the conversation.

“Ms Calliope-” she started.

“Please call me Cal, we’re family now after all”

“Cal, would you like to hold your granddaughter?” she grinned.

“I’d love to”

Eurydice carefully placed Thaleia in Calliope’s arms. Cal in return held her like a delicate piece of china; she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that her son was now a parent.

“Oh she’s so precious, she looks just as beautiful as her mommy” she cooed, causing Eurydice to blush slightly (she was glad to have won over the approval of her mother-in-law fairly quickly).

“Oh, I don’t know about that; I’d say she gets most of her looks from her father,” Eurydice said modestly.

Orpheus laughed and wrapped an arm around her.

“Nah, definitely from you; I’m lucky to have you” he teased.

Cal smiled at the cute display of affection between the young couple. She was glad that her son had found love. She could tell already that Eurydice was a sweet girl.

“How did you two meet then?” she asked.

The pair perked up immediately; they loved telling this story.

“Well, we met nearly four years now, when Eurydice moved into town and came into the bar I worked at. I thought she was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen,” Orpheus declared as he gazed lovingly at his wife.

Eurydice rolled her eyes playfully at his retelling of their first meeting.

“Did he make a move and talk to you?” Cal asked Eurydice.

“Even better than that; he basically proposed to me straight away”

Orpheus blushed as he always did when she told this part of the story.

“Oh my gosh really?”

“Yep, he opened with ‘come home with me’, and when I asked who he was, he said ‘the man that’s gonna marry you’”

“Well, it worked didn’t it?” He said, pulling her closer to him.

“Hmm, I guess it did” she teased, holding up her left hand to show off her wedding ring. 

Now that they had a steady source of money coming in from Hades, Orpheus had offered to buy her a fancier wedding band; but she refused, declaring that she loved her current one; it was a reminder of how they’d supported each other through hard times. However, Orpheus was still considering buying her a nice engagement ring instead since she had never actually had one (not that their engagement period was that long), he knew that Eurydice liked to be modest and practical but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t have nice things.

“What was your wedding like?” Cal asked

“It was simple and a bit rushed, but perfect” Eurydice said, smiling, “Orpheus, get the photos.”

Orpheus went to retrieve their two photo albums. Both were gifts from Persephone; one being the empty one which was slowly being filled with photos of Thaleia, and the other was a small wedding album.

Calliope passed Thaleia back to Eurydice so that she could flick through the photos. Their wedding day had been a modest affair; the pair didn’t want a big party or ceremony, they just wanted to be married. The ceremony was at the local courthouse, with Hermes officiating and Persephone acting as a witness, and was followed by a gathering at the bar afterwards with their friends. 

There were only a few photos from the ceremony: Eurydice walking down the makeshift aisle with her arm linked with Hermes (she looked more radiant than ever in her borrowed dress); Orpheus’ amazed expression when he saw her; the happy couple stood at the altar, hand in hand and grinning; the pair kissing ferociously. 

The rest of the photos were from the party afterwards; the newlyweds celebrating with their friends, their first dance, cutting the small cake.

Calliope stared at the photos in awe, feeling a mix of sadness and guilt that she had missed her only son’s wedding. The thing that stood out to her the most was how happy the pair were, they looked at each other as if they were the only two people on the planet.

“Eurydice dear, you look so beautiful in this one,” she said, pointing to the shot of her walking down the aisle.

“Thank you, I borrowed the dress off Persephone”

“Oh Orpheus, look at your face in this one” Cal laughed, pointing at his reaction to seeing his bride.

“What can I say? I was really happy” he said

“I’m glad.” 

“Did you say the wedding was over two years ago?” she asked, “that could only have been a year or so after you actually met.”

“Yeah well we wanted to get married as soon as possible after we got back fro-“ he stopped himself before he could finish his sentence, realising that they hadn’t actually explained the whole Hadestown situation to his mother.

“Got back from where?” she asked, worried by Orpheus’ sudden pause.

Orpheus and Eurydice looked at each other for a moment. Nearly three years on, their time underground was still difficult to talk about, especially with people who weren’t directly involved like Hermes or Persephone had been. Eurydice could easily figure out the silent question Orpheus was asking her; ‘should we tell her?’ In response, she gave a small nod; after all, she was Orpheus’ mother, she deserved to know.

“After we got back from Hadestown,” Orpheus finally answered.

“Wait, it was you two?” she asked, shocked.

“What do you mean?” Eurydice asked.

“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been hearing folk tales about a young couple who managed to walk out of the underworld together. Those stories, are they about you?”

“Yeah they are, I didn’t think the news would spread that fast” Orpheus chuckled.

“Wait so the stories are all true then, that you walked all the way to Hadestown; that you sang a song that moved King Hades; that you brought the seasons back into tune?” 

“Yes it’s all true, he walked all the way to hell just to bring me home,” Eurydice said.

Calliope was stunned, to say the least. But it did explain somethings, like their adorable affectionate behaviour and eagerness to settle down; no wonder they were in a rush to get married after everything they've been through together. 

“Wow, that’s incredible,” she said.

They filled her in on the rest of the story; the harsh winter that led Eurydice to board the train in the first place; Orpheus inspiring an uprising among the workers; his song that thawed the heart of a God; and the conditions of their exit from Hadestown.

Calliope ended up staying all day. Later in the evening, after they had swapped all their stories and looked through the other photo album together, Thaleia starting crying.

“Probably time for her feed,” said Eurydice.

“I best be off then,” Calliope said, getting up off the sofa.

“How long are you in town for?” Orpheus asked hopefully.

“Yeah, you must visit again before you leave” Eurydice added.

Calliope was touched that they were this eager to reconnect with her.

“Well, I'm definitely sticking around for a few days at least and I’ll make sure to say goodbye before I actually leave. Though I’ll definitely be coming back more often, if it’s alright with the two of you, I’d like to see my granddaughter more often.”

“We’d really like that, I’ll give you our phone number so you can let us know beforehand when you’re coming back,” Orpheus said, happy that his mother was back in his life.

As she stepped out of the door to leave, she turned back to her son and his wife one last time.

“Thank you again for giving me this chance, Orpheus I know I let you down before but I promise I won’t let you down again,” she said, her voice thick with emotion, “I’m so grateful that you’re willing to forgive me.”

“Thank you for coming back,” Orpheus replied, welling up.

Calliope hugged the pair and waved at Thaleia before leaving.

It was only a while later when Orpheus and Eurydice were sat on the bed feeding Thaleia, that they fully processed the day's events.

“Out of all the things that could have happened today, I certainly wasn’t expecting that,” said Eurydice.

“Yeah me neither, I can’t believe she came back after all these years”

“Eurydice,” Orpheus said quietly.

“Yes, babe?”

“Do you think she’s telling the truth? Do you think she’s really sorry?” he asked.

“She seemed pretty genuine to me.”

“Do you think I was right to forgive her?”

“Well, only time will tell. I kind of see where she was coming from in a way; we’ve all done things we’re not proud of in order to survive” she said.

“I guess you’re right, we should give her a chance. I just don’t want her to let me down again” Orpheus mumbled.

Eurydice cupped the side of his face with one hand.

“Think of it this way; if she does, it’ll be her loss because you have another family now.”

Orpheus smiled turned his head to kiss her palm.

“What would I do without my two favourite girls?”

Orpheus looked at his little family in front of him; regardless of what happens with his mother, the three of them were going to be alright.