Andromache awoke to the birds singing and the sun shining. A gentle breeze blew the curtains and she rolled over, awaking to the familiar site of an empty bed beside her.
Happy anniversary, Hector, she thought, smiling sadly. She tried to picture him in his armor, fighting on the fields near Thebe, but then realized she'd never seen him fight. Shrugging, she arose quickly and put on a simple dress, opting to leave her hair loose. No reason to look beautiful today, she thought as she looked at herself in the mirror. Splashing some water on her face, she methodically started straightening the room and overseeing the servants.
A few of the girls cast sad glances at her, but she didn't notice. She went through her now-familiar routine, listless and uninterested. After lunch, she went to visit with Briseis and Cassandra.
"Happy anniversary," Briseis said when she saw her.
"Not quite as happy as I'd like it," Andromache smiled.
"Cheer up," Cassandra told her. "We expect the messenger ship any day now, and perhaps when Hector returns he'll bring news from your family."
Andromache brightened perceptively at this. "That would be wonderful," she said happily. "I wonder if he's seen them."
"Oh, without a doubt," Cassandra said. "Since Thebe and Troy's armies are combining, he'll have had much contact with your family."
"It would've been wonderful if I could've gone to see them," Andromache said wistfully.
"War's no place for women," Briseis said, shuddering. "It's no place for any person, for that matter."
"Besides that, Thebe's fate was uncertain," Cassandra said. "And I don't mean to discourage you, Andromache, but we still have received no word of how the battle went. It could be going badly for all we know."
Andromache shook her head. "I have a promise, Thebe will stand," she said firmly. "And when your brother gives his word, he keeps it; I learned that early in our marriage." She smiled.
A sudden clang made her start and she looked at her friend's who'd jumped up excitedly.
"What in the world-" she began, confused.
"It's the sighting bell!" Briseis said excitedly. "The messenger ship has been sighted!" She pulled Andromache up and the three girls took off excitedly.
As they ran through the halls, Andromache felt her stomach growing sick with apprehension. What if it shows black sails? she wondered, her stomach doing a flip.
"Don't worry," Cassandra saw the nervousness on her face. "Hector gave his word." And it was as simple as that.
"We always greet the messenger on the beach," Briseis informed her as they hurried. They met with Priam and Hecuba who were already issuing orders for horses to be brought. The summons was quickly obeyed and the party quickly mounted and hurried towards the beach.
When the arrived the crowd let out a cheer and they all joined in as the ship hurried closer, carrying white sails. Andromache smiled; her home was safe. Hector had kept his promise. And he would be home in just a few weeks. Smiling happily, she accepted a hug from Briseis who congratulated her and Cassandra quickly followed.
"Hector always keeps his word," Cassandra said, smiling.
Andromache nodded. "I should have learned that by now. He'll be home within a month, he promised that too." She smiled excitedly as the ship pulled into the shore and dropped its docking boards. The messenger would no doubt bring news of Hector, considering he was the leader of the army. Perhaps he'll even bring news of my family, she thought, sure she'd never been happier.
The messenger appeared and the crowd let up a cheer as he quickly came down. People surged forward, eager to hear of how the battle went and Andromache laughed at the look on his face. The poor man looked overwhelmed. As anyone would if a hundred people were crowding them, Andromache thought wryly.
Briseis made a sarcastic comment and the two girls laughed as Priam called out for the crowd to make room so the soldier could speak.
"Friends!" he called out. "I bring good tidings. The battle is won and Thebe is safe!"
A deafening cheer went up and the news was quickly passed along, reaching those who were still inside the walls of Troy.
"I also bring an anniversary gift for the Princess Andromache!" he announced, and Andromache blushed as she felt the crowd turn their attention to her. The soldier gestured towards the boat and everyone turned to look at it, a hush coming over the crowd as they saw what the gift was.
Andromache felt her heart stop and she didn't even realize that she was forgetting to breath. Smiling down at her from atop the boat was Prince Hector of Troy, her very own husband.
"Our great general and prince, who led us to a great victory!" the soldier cried out, and a deafening roar was let loose.
Andromache held his gaze as he came down the ramp and walked slowly towards her. The crowd still cheered loudly, but that had faded into the distance. Briseis was clapping and cheering beside her, and Cassandra was smiling as she watched them, but neither Hector nor Andromache noticed. She felt paralyzed as he came towards her, his pace even and sure.
He came up and stopped a foot away from her, grinning from ear to ear. "Happy anniversary, Andromache."
She let out a shriek and threw herself into his arms. Wrapping her hands around his neck, she allowed him to envelope her in a tight hug. She could barely breathe, but she didn't care at all.
She was laughing and crying at the same time and Hector couldn't stop smiling. He made a mental note to promote Artrides for his suggestion and pulled back from his wife to look into her eyes.
"Surprised?" he asked, a teasing look on his face.
She could only shake her head ruefully. "I look terrible!" she wailed. "I didn't even do anything with my hair!"
"I wouldn't have it any other way," he whispered in her ear, and kissed her firmly on the mouth. Priam and Hecuba watched them indulgently as they prepared to return to the palace. Hector led Andromache over to her horse and lifted her up, gently jumping up behind her. As he led them through the city of Troy, the people came out and cheered them.
"Much better than the last time we did this," Andromache informed him.
"I should hope so," Hector retorted, smiling at her. "You were ready to kill me last time this happened."
"Do you bring word from my family?" Andromache asked excitedly.
"What, am I not enough for you?" Hector teased gently. He nodded. "I have their greetings with me and their letters are with my things, they'll be unloaded shortly."
"They are well?"
"They are. Your brother had a girl and I was charged to inform you that his wife insisted on naming her Andromache. He wisely capitulated. According to him she's a very stubborn woman."
"Beautiful baby," Hector continued. "However, she's no competition to the original."
Andromache blushed but smiled. "And my mother?"
"She is well," Hector informed her. "Very happy to hear about you."
"What did you tell her?"
"That you seem to be doing well," he replied. "To which she replied something like 'she kept her promise' or some such thing. What did she mean by that?"
"I'll tell you later," Andromache promised him as they reached the palace. Hector led her to their quarters as they caught up on each other's happenings.
"How's Elpis?" he asked her suddenly.
"She's well," Andromache replied. "I've been working with her. I think you'll be pleased, she's slowly letting more people handle her. As long as I'm around others can touch her."
"Excellent," he murmured. "I was hoping she'd progress while I was gone."
Hector greeted the servants as he passed them and they went into their bedchamber. He happily walked around, pleased to see his familiar things again. She watched him as he inspected the room, feeling at home again. The room no longer seemed so cold and distant.
"It's good to be home," he said, as she joined him on the balcony. "You never realize what you grow accustomed to until you lose it."
Andromache smiled and Hector noticed.
"I said the same thing to Maira," she replied.
"About what?" he said mischievously as he came close to her.
"Oh, nothing important," she said airily and he arched an eyebrow.
"No?" he asked, kissing her.
"No," she replied, smiling back at him. "You know, I was going to dress myself up for your return."
"Well, then I'm glad I surprised you," he replied, kissing her again. "I like you better like this. No fancy pins or clips." His hand encircled her waist as he gently moved them inside.
She kissed him back and followed his lead, but a knock on the door sounded.
"Prince Hector?" a voice called out.
Hector groaned and pulled away from her. "Yes?" he asked, irritated. Andromache smiled.
"King Priam wishes to speak with you, he wants details of the battle," the servant informed him.
"Tell him I'll be right there," Hector replied. Andromache laughed and he turned to her. "I'll be back soon," he warned her, grinning.
"I'll be waiting," she replied teasingly, sitting herself down on a nearby chair.
Hector sighed and strode out and Andromache smiled, relaxing into the chair. She was satisfied as she looked around the room. It felt like home once again.
That night they lay in bed together and Andromache closed her eyes as the cool breeze played across her forehead. She turned to look at Hector, who was sleeping peacefully beside her. The moonlight played across his face and she smiled, enjoying his presence.
"Happy anniversary, Hector," she whispered softly as she thought of their first year of marriage. Exactly one year ago she'd pledged herself to him, selling herself into slavery by the words she'd spoken. She was his to do with as he pleased, and she couldn't be happier about it.
"Freedom is not everything," Maira had said.
"You were right," Andromache whispered softly, tenderly touching Hector's face. It seemed like a lifetime ago that she and Maira had spoken those words and yet it was only a little more than a year ago. I was so foolish, Andromache thought, smiling. Maira, you were right. In just one short year she'd kept her promise to her mother and made Troy her home. She'd made new friends, married a wonderful man, and learned to love him. She smiled as she remembered the way she'd felt when she'd seen him appear on the ship. The way her heart had stopped and time had seemed to freeze in place. Suddenly, she realized what had happened. By the gods, I've fallen in love, she slowly realized. I, who swore to never let a man own me, have fallen in love.
She remembered the look on Maira's face in the marketplace and realized she'd had the exact same look when Hector appeared on the ship. She remembered the smile on Briseis's face and the knowing look Cassandra had cast at her. They all knew it, she realized, inwardly laughing. I'm more of a fool than I thought.
Andromache gazed at her husband and, as if sensing her scrutiny, he gently stirred and opened his eyes.
"Not tired?" he murmured sleepily, pulling her close.
"Just thinking," she replied softly.
"Us," she answered honestly. There was a pause. "Hector?"
"I've fallen in love," she said honestly.
"With who?" he teased her.
She gently shoved him. "You know who."
"Good," he murmured, closing his eyes again. "I was hoping you would. It's very disagreeable to have a one-sided relationship."
"What?!" she exclaimed, causing his eyes to open.
"You remember the night I caught you swimming in the ocean?" he asked softly. She nodded. "You were sopping wet, your lips were blue, and you were shivering." She nodded again. "Fatal combination, I realized how much I'd fallen for you that night," he informed her.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
He shrugged. "I didn't want to pressure you. I knew how much you feared slavery and I didn't want to make you feel as if I was trapping you."
"Do you know," she said, snuggling against him. "I don't fear slavery quite so much anymore."
"I'm glad," he murmured, closing his eyes. She closed her and gently drifted off to sleep.
"Goodnight, Hector. I love you," she said softly.
"I love you too, Andromache," he murmured back. "Sweet dreams."
Yes, I'm a slave, she decided. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Hope you all enjoyed it, I've had a great time writing it. Sequel will be started soon, I still have to think about it a bit. I've enjoyed reading your reviews, you guys are great encouragers and critics. Your suggestions have really helped me improve my writing, it's been a pleasure writing for all of you.