"My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!"
--From Romeo and Juliet (I, v, 140-141) By William Shakespeare
My father's insignificant pitiful love of us had always been exceeded by his immeasurable hatred for his twin brother, Aegyptus, and his hatred for his brother's 50 sons. Not only were they boys, and so infinitely more precious than daughters, as no matter how beautiful, graceful and smart my sisters and I are, as females we can never inherit his kingdom; but one of them was also the child of the woman he had loved, or held the illusion of love for. I rather think he was much more in love with himself, and besides, he is truly evil and has never loved us, his own flesh and blood, so how could he find it inside of him to love some one who was neither to him?
You see, my father, Danaus, fell in love with a beautiful woman, but she scorned his devotion and committed the unforgivable sin, she married his identical twin brother. As they were identical and you could not tell the difference between the two, he really could not see why she hadn't married him. He never realised that it could have been that he had never appreciated her as a person, for low behold, not even a month after the marriage, he was wed to my mother, in a desperate attempt to make her jealous. In fact, all it really did was make her wonder what she ever saw in him in the first place.
My poor mother, nothing she ever did was enough; she could never measure up to the woman who had betrayed him, while Aegyptus' wife produced an heir in less than a year of their marriage, my mother took two years to produce me, and as I am sure you will be able to tell after reading my story, I was very far from being satisfactory. Hours after giving birth to me she died, probably knowing that on Earth she was neither loved nor wanted. He never mourned her; I was the only one who shed tears for her, years after her death. Less than three months after my birth, my half sister was born, screaming and shrieking, she was to be the last child to be born singularly by her - my father's mistress and the bane of my life. My stepmother was then rapidly transformed from rags to riches after her hasty and often regretted marriage to my father soon after her daughter's birth.
Rather remarkably, every year from then for more than twelve years, the pitiable creature spewed out quadruplets in a vain hope that she might some day provide him with the male heir that he so desperately wanted. But alas, not one baby boy was ever born to my father, legitimate or otherwise, although; it was not for want of trying and certainly not for want of women willing and more than able to offer their bodies to him.
So, here I am, I was an incorrigible spinster and now I am a mother and a wife, I had 49 sisters, ranging in ages from a simple year younger than me, up until a full thirteen years younger, but then again, I did say that I had sisters, I no longer have them anymore. All of them were vain, foolish things with scarce a sensible thought in their heads except to their appearance, which, was always perfect and breathtaking. I imagined that they took after their mother. But they might have possibly took after my father, for you see, some where along my father's line, in a very distant connection we are connected to Io, the mortal pursued by Zeus, God Almighty. He turned her into a heifer to try and avoid detection from his wife, the Lady Hera who was not quite as foolish and dim as her husband was. She chased the poor mortal girl all the way from Greece to Egypt where Io laid down roots and lived for the rest of her life. If my sisters resemble Io in the slightest, I can almost see why Zeus lusted after her. Maybe that is the reason why I am often surrounded by immortals, I am related to Io after all, a mere mortal, loved by an exceptionally powerful immortal, maybe even though I inherited nothing of her looks, I inherited the charm that seduced the greatest immortal of all; then again, maybe I did not.
On the other hand, I sadly take after my father, I am grateful for the fact that he never acknowledges the resemblance between us. While my sisters were fair and beautiful and cared so much about their appearance and so little about who they are really underneath the image that they present to the world; I am dark and unfortunately tanned from spending so much time outside and to put it quite frankly I neither give a damn or care what people think about what I look like, merely staring viscously at people stops any questions or thoughts other than 'Zeus… is she going to kill me or eat me alive?'. The only difference between myself and that man are my eyes, my father's eyes are small, rather pig-like mud coloured eyes that my sisters sadly inherited, mine are a bright green that my step-mother could not bear to look at, after all, who wants to look into a child's eyes and see the ghost of your lover's first wife? Sadly I inherited nothing else from my mother who was reputed to be a great beauty in her day except for her eyes, when I was young I knew not whether I was like her character wise and while it had been a chance meeting in Death that told me I was a little like her, the fact that while my father told me nothing about her except for the fact that I was revoltingly ugly and she had been exquisitely beautiful, my uncle knew a great deal more about what she had been like and used to tell me all the time how much I was like her.
I suppose I am rather like Danaus character wise as well, but I like to think that I inherited all of his good points and skipped out on the bad points, although knowing my friends and my husband they would disagree if only for the fact that doing so would annoy me and annoying me and making me mad is the only reason Zeus put them on his sweet Earth.
My sisters took pleasure in learning how to sew, sing, play instruments and other boring, time wasting, tedious and often completely useless activities that girls are supposed to know. I on the other hand shocked my father, my many governesses and my stepmother, whom I sent into a dead faint that I rather hoped that she would not awake from, by learning to read. My beloved first nanny, who was dismissed for teaching me 'inappropriate subjects,' taught me to read, and to write a little, saying that every well-bred girl should be able to read and write, after all, was it not Cleopatra who spoke seven different languages and she was the greatest Queen of all time, and ruled without being dependant on a man, why could I not do the same? Girls may have the misfortune of being girls but that is not to say that we cannot be great you know. However in order to be great, first we must be educated and given as many opportunities as boys are and I was determined from a very tender young age that I would grasp as many of those opportunities along my life's path as I could and if only a few came my way then I would make opportunities for myself, and that was exactly what I was forced to do.
Under the illusion of learning pottery and painting I went to a tutor who taught me how to speak, read and write more than four different tongues, my father was amused in a rather cannot-be-bothered way when he heard this, and from then on often made humiliating and embarrassing jokes at my expense about the follies of teaching young girls to read and write, when lessons such as how to bear as many children as possible in the least amount of time possible then die quietly out of the way, therefore paving the way for another young girl who would do the exact same, would have been much more important. In his eyes we had no purpose except to produce heirs, and even then, like my mother and my stepmother, there was always some one else who could perform that duty so much better.
When my sisters went out calling on their numerous friends and flirted shamelessly with boys, I would disappear for days, wandering around outside, going to places where it did not matter who I was and whom my mother had been. More often than not, my stepmother would call me, quite viciously 'the odd little wild child.' I learnt early on that I was to avoid her as much as possible. She hated me because I was the eldest child; older than her daughter by a matter of months, and it would be my husband rather than her children's husbands who would inherit a kingdom that was rightfully mine. A kingdom that I did not even want, all I wanted was to be loved. But then again, we rarely ever get what we want. That was a hard lesson that my father had taught me with pleasure, which I learnt early on. To put it bluntly and simply, which I think is the best way to put things, in my childhood I laughed little, hurt a great deal inside, and due to my younger years and those lessons my father doled out to me, I was left scarred more in places people could not see than on the surface for the whole world to notice.
It was not only my physical appearance that set me at odds with my half-sisters, but also other things, for you see, I could see things that they could not. I could see the immortals, the Gods and Goddess, who flirted with the invisible borders between this world and their own. Indeed, I often saw Aphrodite, and although I am not vain enough to say that she liked me, she did show me a preference that was not shown to my sisters. Most possibly because they were beautiful and I was not, she probably felt for me an emotion that was suspiciously close to pity I should imagine.
I used to curse the differences between my sisters and I, they meant that I never really was one of them, and I was often left out and teased and bullied. Those difference were spotted early on by my father who used and exploited them and managed to make all of my family, all of my step-sisters hate and despise me. I learnt early on that to survive as an object of hatred in my family, no one would see me cry or see me show emotion for then they would have a hold over me. I learnt to put on a mask and to keep it on even though inside, my heart might be breaking ten-times over. I do not know whether all royally-born children learn to put on another face to hide the more fragile one within to protect themselves or whether only some learn to do so and it is they who survive. But now I bless the difference between them and me, for if they had not been there, separating us with a clear but invisible barrier that was unbreakable, I would have surely have shared in their cursed and ill chosen fate, I would have had a share in their curse, the curse of the Danaides.
My name is Hypermnestra, and this is my story, a story that spans a distance of two countries, and more than thirteen years and yet this love between myself and the man I have yet to describe, survived through all of that time and separation, but it also a tale of my love for my enemy… my love that was great enough to move me to defy my father… which saved me from my sisters fate… my love which shocked everyone, especially me. I had never known what love was until I met him and my heart was a frozen place where no man had ever been, but some how through those thirteen years, he managed to find a place in my heart and make it his own, so that now, I have no room there for myself, I gave it all to him, however unwillingly. For you see, never in all my few mortal years had I ever imagined such a love. I never thought that anyone would be fool enough to love me, being who I was, hard and rock solid as it is obviously all men are fools and only some are bigger fools than others. But I had never in all of my most wildest dreams, and as you will soon see that of those I have had many, had I ever imagined that I would be taught how to love… for you see, those who have never known love find it extremely hard to love some one else fully and by that I mean with all their heart, holding nothing back because that it the only way to love some one, and I had never known love before him.