Nations to the four winds have talked about wanton Helen. My name has been a curse, a warning. What mother would praise me to their daughter, or pray enters their son's life?
Shame and woe is my lot.
It is said that there is no greater shame for a woman than to see her man flee from the field of battle. One would think I would be inured to any shame after I willingly abandoned my home, husband and issue, the action laying me open to accusations and wonderment by a million tongues.
But not so.
His shame, should he even feel it, reflects my own. It burns me now as it always has, and I doubt it will ever vanish.
My lover, the beautiful and reckless Paris, stood up against my spurned husband, Menelaus of Sparta. It was an uneven contest from the start as Menelaus, in armor and helm shining heroically in the Trojan sun, seemed like Zeus himself in his fierce magnificence. My heart, long in a struggle, leaned precariously close to he whom I fled. How I wanted such a fine warrior to be fighting for me gladly! What woman would not? The brilliance of his fine figure, announcing his prowess like the clearest of trumpets, would have cowed any lesser man.
So naturally Paris fled.
He had ventured forth with foolish courage to retain me as his own, but in front of the Achaean host and the thousands of Trojans amassed before and upon the city walls, he turned tail and ran like a cringing dog. He chose his life over me, a woman he had braved the wrath of three kings to possess.
He chose his life over his honor, and mine. His action robs me of my honor, for his flight and feeble parries have deemed me unworthy. Unworthiness incarnate.
I should hate him. I do.
Never before have the wretched turns of my life made themselves so apparently clear, their stinging blades of regret and recrimination wounding me so deeply. What havoc I have wrought. What other woman on this earth could boast such a miserable claim?
My disgust deepened when I saw a dark cloud envelope the base coward and sweep across the field. I recognized the handiwork of a god, for such strange occurrences had marked this war for years. Cherished champions and favorites of Zeus, Athena and Hera had been saved many a time. Swords and spears had been magically deflected when their aim was true. I had watched it happen from these walls for more years than I care to count.
For what else could I do? All these men, and all the blood within them, have been spent and spilt on my account. It was my punishment to watch it.
The cloudy mist headed straightway to the safety of Troy's walls, and I watched Menelaus gesture in frustrated disbelief. I shared his anger, for my hand itched to strike the fair Trojan myself. I am elder than he, and never had I felt it so intensely.
"Fight!" I wanted to scream. "Do not ruin what little you have to call your own!" But I did not speak, for what good are my words against the coddling of a goddess?
I know it is she who protected him, Aphrodite herself, for her heart is tender and weak with Paris. As mine should be. As most believe. It is difficult to maintain the pretense of the infatuation of old. Priam would still see his son happy and believes it to be so. In his eyes, if Paris is happy then so must I be.
Andromache is another tale. She sees through the shoddy veil of affection with which I surround us. She sees through it and finds it lacking. She knows honest passion from false; she has one, I the other. The flame does not burn brightly every day between she and Hector, but it endures - a flame that is more satisfying when it does flare than the constant inferno that engulfed Paris and I.
Andromache will never know the cold, but it is already seeping into my bones.
Bury me with my shame and the ruins of my pride.
The chill of the grave will be a mercy.