by Angela Slatter
I don’t want to go in.
He’s there now, didn’t hesitate. It’s his home though he’s been away for long years. I warned him, or tried to but who listens to me?
I saw his wife in the shadows just before she stepped through the door, and in that moment she seemed a huge, swarming shape. Then she moved forward, into sunlight and she shone.
Not as beautiful as her sister, but no one is. Tall, broad-shouldered, jaw strong, forehead wide, cheekbones high. Clytemnestra is handsome rather than lovely. She moves with deceptive slowness, but there are muscles evident beneath her rich robes. She’s a warrior queen and has not let herself run to fat. Her hair, red-gold in the sun burns like liquid copper.
The smile she gives Agamemnon is frozen; she speaks soft words of welcome and he is deceived. When she looks at me she sees no Trojan princess, merely a slave, hair lank and oily, back and shoulders hunched as if deprived of wings and ashamed of their nakedness.
‘Don’t go inside,’ I whispered to my master, my owner, my thief. In spite of it all, I did not want him to walk all unawares into his fate, for his end means mine. But he gave me an annoyed glare, sick unto death of my constant warnings and plaints, of the sharp dreams that have broken my sleep (and thus his) these past months as we travelled to Argos. He has no patience. He is sick of my madness.
He took his wife’s welcome as his due and went in to the bath she had prepared for him. Clytemnestra watched me and nodded slowly before she turned and followed him. I waited, held my breath, counted the beats until I heard him scream, heard the wet sound of a great axe burying itself in muscle and flesh, releasing blood into the air. She waits inside now; another man by her side.
I have seen this for so many days. Fate cannot be avoided. I am a Trojan princess. I step down from the chariot, swallowing hard. I put my foot on the first step and mount the portico. My end lies here.