A Dinner Table at Night, 1884, John Singer Sargent
Persephone sets her glass down, and sighs. Her husband steals a quick glance at her, then hides behind his newspaper.
She sighs again, more loudly. "I need a change."
"You just returned from visiting your mother. You can't leave again so soon."
"No, of course not. I was thinking of redecorating."
"Hmm." Pluto tries to focus on the stock market reports. "Gold is down again."
"This red and black color scheme is so sinister. Appropriate for a bachelor pad, I suppose, but I'd like to lighten things up." She pulls out a catalog, and turns to a dog-eared page. "I was thinking of azure for the walls, or perhaps cerulean."
Pluto sets the newspaper in his lap. "What?"
"Men. You have no sense of color. See, they're right here." She points to two blocks of color on the page.
"Yes, either azure or cerulean. Royal would be a bit much, don't you think?" She shows him other pages, gathering momentum. "Then we'd need a new rug. Either amber or fescue would work. Let's replace the wall sconces and these dreary little lamps with a nice central ceiling fixture--maybe this one with the rounded alabaster cover. Something nice and bright, anyway. I'd like to have the hearth cleaned, and put an arrangement of silk flowers there. We really don't need a fire, you know. It makes this room hotter than, well, the rest of Hades."
"Ah." Pluto raises an eyebrow. "Sky blue. Amber waves of grain. You want this place to be more like--"
"--your mother's home. Well, you live in my home now, and I like it this way." He pages back through the catalog. "If it makes you feel any better, you may refer to the color scheme as, er, sable and," he winks, "pomegranate."
Persephone winces. She looks down at the table for a moment. Pluto picks up his paper and turns to the sports section.
"Oh, look. There's a new record in the discus throw," Pluto comments, relieved at her acquiescence.
His wife looks up again. "However, I absolutely insist on new window treatments."
She walks over to one of the covered windows. "These are so flat and common. When you open them, they fly up with such a vulgar snap." She shudders. "Draperies are much more fashionable, and everyone knows it."
He lowers the newspaper. "I had no idea--"
"Everyone else knows." She sits again, holding her face in her hands. "I've heard what the staff call me. And it is spreading. Everywhere I go in your realm, I hear the whispers, mocking me."
Pluto leans forward, takes one of her hands in his. "My dear, if my subjects are treating you with anything less than respect, I shall know what to do about it. But I have not heard any such rumors." His eyes drop to the catalog. "You say they are calling you--"
Persephone only sniffs again, watching as her husband's puzzled brow clears.
"Would you rather be called the Duchess of Draperies?" he asks, with half a smile.
She gives him a small nod.
"Or perhaps the Countess of Curtains? The Viscountess of Valances?" Pluto releases her hand, leans back in his chair, and laughs. It is Persephone's turn to be puzzled. She has never heard him laugh so heartily.
Finally his laughing subsides. He wipes tears from his eyes with a black handkerchief, then takes her hand again. "Do what you like with the windows, my love. But no matter how you cover them, it is your destiny to be the Queen of Shades."