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Hermione’s Farewell

by Angela Slatter

We buried her with a mirror pressed tight against her face, wrapped in place by a scarf.

She had been a queen of two empires. She deserved respect. I painted her face: white lead mixed with gold dust so she would forever be golden. I rimmed her eyes with kohl, then drew the red suns upon her cheeks and chin, so the gods would recognise her when she came before them and know she was one of their own.

Long ago, when she returned to us, she was still beautiful. I knew her by sight, but my own mother had to ask my father who I was. Menelaus himself barely knew. All his attention had been spent chasing her, intent upon dragging her back.

When I was young enough to want her love she was an indifferent mother. Later, she was merely dismissive, assured that I was not as beautiful as she was, that no man would launch a war in pursuit of my hand.

Thus I stayed in the shadows, walking quietly so my footfalls did not disturb the gods. My life was overshadowed not just by her loveliness but by its very legend. I hated her, quietly as I did everything, but hated nonetheless.

At last she became ill, felled perhaps by an ill-chosen dish. I sat by her bedside, dutiful and silent, watching for any sign she might recover. My cousin Orestes had arrived. We had been friends from childhood, and in truth I’d held him in my heart for a long time. But even he watched her, aunt though she was, and she glowed under his attention.

She was glorious still, though weak; inside she was old. A cushion over her face was all it took.

I tended her body, pressing the mirror to her face so she would see only herself. So she would not try to leave her body and walk the world once more. So she would not feel alone. Part witch, part goddess – what ordinary grave could hold her? Who thought bright Helen would ever be left in darkness.

As I prepare, now, for my wedding to Orestes, I’m tormented by one thought: no matter that she is gone, she is still in memory. Will always be in memory, mine, Orestes’, the world's.


That's just beautiful. Just what I needed to read...

Posted by: Tehani Wessely | April 12, 2009 4:47 AM

Zanks! :-)

Posted by: Angela Slatter | April 13, 2009 12:03 AM

Love it.

Posted by: dAn | April 13, 2009 3:45 PM

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