He asked her once whether she would forget; what she would remember. And if he asked her now, she knew what she would say, her reply to him.
The pink, orange and blue hues of the evening sky was slowly morphing into a deep rich blue, the dry winds growing colder and swift as they breezed into through the room, swirling about the drapes and tapestry.
The only source of light was from a blazing fireplace in the middle of the large room, providing heat and physical comfort as well. Still the heat emitting from the strong flames only warmed the surrounding areas, leaving the rest of the stone floor and walls that lay further into the room increasingly cool. Down below, sounds of merry-making and lyrical music traveled up to create a faint stirring noise in the palace.
Andromache sat at the edge of a large bed, thick with soft bedding and rich sheets. Her back was tiring and aching from sitting so straight, but she could hardly bring herself to relax and release the tension in her muscles. Every inch of her was rigid and awaiting, apprehension along with another knot of emotions that she was in truth, afraid to assess, pooling at the pit of her stomach and spreading like a rippling ocean wave throughout her.
In the silence of the room except for the quiet roaring of the fire, the heavy pounding of her heart seemed to echo in her ears and her head ached. She longed desperately for something she could do to take her mind away from this night. But her eyes had wandered about their marital chambers enough to know there was no loom for her to weave.
Besides, she thought wryly, with the slightest urge to laugh despite everything, what would Hector say when he walked in to find her weaving of all things, especially on their wedding night?
The heavy burden of her heart seemed to lessen a little as a slight smile tugged at her lips. If she wasn't so nervous, she would have surely found her predicament amusing.
Distractedly, she played with the edge of her gown, hardly feeling the liquid smoothness of the gold thread embroidered on, thinking about tonight.
Their first night of marriage. She shivered involuntarily.
Inwardly if she could do away with it, she would. It seemed to her, like a blatant, almost cheap offering of herself to her husband, when she did not want to. She burned with the unfairness, helplessness and must of it all. And though she hated to admit it, she was scared, frightened. She had no desire at all to do what was required of her, and wished she could run away. But it is too late, and even the gods can't help me now.
She stared idly at the fire, though her eyes saw past and through it, the bright orange flames dancing like blinding spots in her eyes.
She did not hear the creak of the wooden door as it opened, nor the soft slap of leather sandals on the floor as her new husband arrived. Husband. How she hated the trappings of that word right now.
Right then, his eyes flickered around the room, quickly adjusting to the soft dark shadows before his gaze faltered and landed on the woman clad in golden silks and ornate jewels. She was only nineteen, hardly a woman, but so different from others he had met her age. And he was only twenty-five. Strong, lean and tall, he'd felt clumsy and awkward for the most part of his life. Hardly a man either.
His eyes lingered over her form. She was tall, elegant and slender with beautiful sharp features. Those high cheekbones and heady brown eyes that could look so fierce in one moment and lost and vulnerable the next. He had seen it one morning as she talked to Briseis on the veranda, miserable and bitter. It had been the only time he had seen her bear her soul; façade, pretences, pride and dignity aside.
Hector exhaled slowly and walked towards her. Her long curly hair was laden with a decadent headdress, thick vines of gold and precious stones wound around her wrists and neck, clusters of pearls and tiny gems hung from her ears and the soft sheer silks and fine cotton of her peplos swathed her body perfectly, fitted at the waist with a woven belt of gold.
He knew the strong need to protect her, the surge in his heart, the smile that danced in his eyes when he saw her, wasn't just affection. He loved her now, how he came to that realization he would never understand, regardless of how often she seemed to distance herself away from him, but inwardly he was afraid.
Did she love him? It was one question of which he was afraid of the answer.
Her head whipped towards his approaching footsteps sharply, her jewelry tinkling softly. For a split second her kohl-lined eyes widened; there was fear, then it was gone as she broke their gaze, standing up slowly.
Taking a deep breath, she pressed her lips together, drawing herself up. Their eyes locked for a moment; this was it then. The consummation of their marriage. No one would expect otherwise on their wedding night.
She averted her eyes from his after a long time, before she reached up, almost painfully stiffly, to the clips of laurel leaves that held her peplos together. In a moment the heavy gold clips slid out silently from the folds of her gown as she removed her hands and the soft silken material that protected her modestly slid down silently till it hung at her hips from the gold cord.
All at once she could not bring herself to look at him any longer. The burning red color that was rising through her cheeks seemed to scorch her skin and her blood flowed furiously with embarrassment, foolishness and even shame.
She was angry at feeling so; she shouldn't be ashamed of her body, ashamed of baring herself when he was now her husband. She was his to do as he pleased, and perhaps that stung the most of all.
If she loved him, now that would be a different matter, but then she did not know. Did she? There were feelings no doubt, but love? She did not know what it felt like.
She stood there, her hands clenching tightly, releasing then clenching again, awaiting his touch upon hers. The cold night breeze danced across her bare skin, and she shivered slightly, feeling sick with all the knots of anxiety and churning in her. Her veil long removed, loose strands of her dark auburn hair swirled around her shoulders and neck.
Then, slowly his hand reached forward and slid across her stomach. The muscles tensed so tightly she felt a prickle of pain but she ignored it, wanting to cry. So this was how it would begin then...a choking noise caught at her throat. She could not bear to look up, her eyes lingered on his hand. She was certain her tears would fall and then she would be begging him to stop.
Ever so slowly, he stroked her skin softly with his thumb as his hand remained on her stomach, warm and slightly calloused. Andromache bit her lip but she could not stop herself as a glistening tear landed on his hand. She looked up then, pleading. No more pride. No more, not tonight.
"Not tonight…" he said softly, and his eyes were understanding, nervous and somewhat tender as he slid his hand away to feel for hers, removing the fibulae in her closed palm. She was not ready to bear a child, and neither was he to do this.
Her gaze followed his hands as they reached down for her gown and drew it up her body, before he proceeded to secure the clips on again. Her eyes searched his for answers, confused yet relieved. But he did not meet her gaze, only concentrated on her gown. When the last clip had been fitted through, his hand lingered on her shoulder for a moment, then he looked up to see her.
His facial expression was one that she could not discern. He wore something remotely resembling a smile, his eyes holding the same comforting yet nervous emotion. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, shifting slightly, before tentatively, he lifted one hand and sifted it through her hair, so softly it was like a feather's touch. Uncertainly he moved his finger down, running over her cheek lightly.
A noise came from her throat; with each movement he was making, her throat constricted as an unidentifiable sensation swelled in her heart. At the sound, he jerked his hand back, and Andromache was almost sorry for the loss of his touch.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably, color rising to his ears. They stood in awkward silence for a while, neither one looking at each other, though Andromache found herself wishing desperately she could articulate her feelings to him. She wanted him to understand, to know.
"I-"he stopped, closing his mouth abruptly. Then he seemed to think again. "You're beautiful Andromache…"
His words broke through the thick quietness, lingering as it died down, his voice hesitating but sincere. Slowly she looked up again. His words were unexpected; all the more because she knew it was harder for say such things when he was nervous.
A strong and sudden desire to kiss him surged through her, as did a wave of warmth and surrender, but again somehow her body felt rooted to its spot. Inwardly she was frustrated, for she did not want him to think her too proud. She appreciated his words; they meant more than it said, she knew. She could feel the emotions behind them, and in a strange twist of events, she suddenly felt such a burning, even painful feeling for him that it overwhelmed her, more so than the heated feeling that had pooled in her stomach earlier.
Tearing her gaze away as more color rose through her cheeks, another tight noise escaped through her throat as she strode away from him to changing screen.
She couldn't bear to look at him any longer. A few moments ago she would have given anything to forgo this night, but now, she wasn't sure of what she wanted anymore.
Hey. Thanks so much to all who reviewed this. I have changed some parts because I didn't quite like it. Well, comments are greatly appreciated. I'm so sorry for not updating with the other chapters as this is supposed to be a three/four part thing 'documenting' the different significant nights they spend together. I'm trying to get them together. Anyways, please review!