The Fall of Helen
“Helen, I know you don’t want any of these but you have to marry Menelaus.”
It felt like my whole world collapsed. I knew all of these from the start yet hearing all these being verbalized just made everything felt surreal. Since I was a child I have been told how in the right time, I would have to marry him. We tried being friends but how can you be friends with the person that you’re destined to marry? With someone whom you do not have choice but to marry?
I silently nodded my head and then stood up. “I’ll be going first,” I said to excuse myself. I went to my room and wept for my freedom.
Why was she bothering asking me all these when things have already been planned? Everything was ready before us, I just had to appear on the wedding day and say my vows… Heck, even my vows were prepared for me.
I wasn’t the kind of girl who dreams of a fairytale like wedding but I just wanted something more intimate… More personal…
I wanted my own wedding, not some ceremony strangers planned for me.
Just when I thought I had finally escape all these maddening talk about marriage, Mama followed me to my room. When will this madness end?
“Helen…” she said as she sat up on my bed.
I looked at her with disdain. It was her fault. If she could just stand up for me, none of this would have happened. I wouldn’t be sold to someone whom I don’t even love.
“Helen, I’m sorry,” she continued, her voice breaking.
But I can’t watch her hurting; she’s my mother. I can’t just dump my emotional baggage on her. It was a destiny I can never escape. Being a part of the few Greek lineages, I shall continue the tradition. I shouldn’t break it. I must marry Menelaus.
My smile came off as a bit rehearsed but I smiled still. “It’s alright, Mama,” I answered.
That night, I slept early. The wedding ceremony will happen at dawn and we shall consummate the marriage as early as possible. My dad, Tyndareus, wouldn’t hear any of it. He wants me to be an official part of Menelaus’ family by being pregnant of his child.
So I will be Helen of the Spartan and Mycenaean Empire, 17 and pregnant. It must not have sounded so bad for some but it was worse for me. I had so many plans for myself and then this happened.
Maybe the reason why he’s so keen on marrying me off was because he never treated me as his child… For him, I would always be the thing he could sell off to get more wealth. This was what’s unfair of being a female in the world dominated by males. I had no choice. The only answer I should know is a yes. Yes to this, yes to that. Sometimes I think I was no more than a filthy servant.
“Princess Helen, it’s time to go,” one of my attendant gently said.
I woke up with a heavy heart and looked at the clock on the bedside table. It read 3 a.m.
Without so much as a preamble, I got up and let the maids do the work for me. I didn’t even try to speak for myself because why would I? It would be futile. My father has eyes everywhere. There’s no place on earth where he couldn’t find me… well, except for the territory of the Troy that is. That place was the sole place on earth where my father’s power seemed to be useless.
I had no idea what transpired between him and the leader of the Trojan empire and I had no intention of knowing any of it. I had no desire to know what happened between him and Zeus. My life was complicated as it was; I didn’t need some more complications to top it all.
I was bathed and cleaned up. They made me wear the white dress that I have always enjoyed wearing but for some familiar reason, I hated this right now.
I looked at the mirror and I hated what I saw. I saw an unhappy bride. This wasn’t who I wanted to become. This shouldn’t have been me.
But I smiled… if I can’t break it, I should at least enjoy it.
“Are you done, Miss Helen?” the attendant asked me.
“I’m good,” I replied.
I took few deep breaths before I went out the door. The path towards the place where the ceremony will be held was painfully near. Every step that I took felt scorching. The end was near.
Inside, I saw my family. They were happily selling me off. What kind of luck did I get? I got the short side of the stick.
“You look pretty,” Mama told me.
My sister did not look at me even. I had this haunting feeling that she’d rather be the one married to Menelaus… But I didn’t want this for myself. Poly could marry him for all she wanted. It wasn’t my fault that Menelaus chose me. I didn’t choose him. Heck I didn’t have the luxury of having a choice even.
I can’t even find it within me to answer. I opted for a smile instead. I was told that I have a pretty smile, that I have a face that could possibly launch a thousand ships… But right now I hated it.
When you’re the object of beauty, people will treat you as nothing but that. Sometimes, I’d rather be ugly… At least with that, you would be certain that if someone loves you, there would be no ulterior motive. Being loved for physical appearance is a huge slap on the face. When beauty fades, where does it get you?
“Are you ready, Helen?” The stern voice of my father had woken me up from my reverie.
I fixed a smile and nodded at him. With him, the only acceptable answer would be a yes. “Yes, papa,” I replied.
As I waited outside, I looked at the sea behind me and waited for the sunrise. I used to think that it was pretty but now, the memory of it will be tainted with the bitterness this marriage will bring upon me.
The coldness of the wind brushed up against my skin and I hugged myself.
‘After this, no one will hug me. I will be alone. I should be strong,’ I said to myself.
I heard the soft chimes of the bell that signaled the start of the ceremony. I began walking and my heart started beating erratically. The last time I saw Menelaus was when he came for a visit in our palace and that was ten years ago. From what I have heard, he went to Greece to study and that’s the extent of my knowledge about him. I really didn’t want to know him. I have a lifetime of doing it so why bother to waste the remnants of my freedom?
My mother was smiling at me and my father was standing still like his daughter wasn’t getting married at all. He looked like he was doing a business deal. Well, this was a business deal between the Spartan Empire and the Mycenaean Empire. After this, he will be not only richer by ten times fold but powerful in all possible means.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I replied.
Who thought that surprising one another on the wedding day’s a good idea? It was like I was seeing a complete stranger.
He reached for my hand and we walked towards the makeshift altar. I was nervous. I was marrying this stranger… but was he a stranger? He didn’t seem too surprised to see me. It was as if he knew me all his life.
As we reached our destination, he looked at me and spared me a smile.
“Are you ready, Helen?” he asked me.
With an unsteady heart, I nodded my head.
The ceremony went as smoothly as my father could have asked. In less than an hour, we were married. I was future Queen of the Mycenaean Empire.
I felt the lips of Menelaus touching mine and I reciprocated it in the way I knew. I remember as a child, instead of being taught about academics, I was taught about how to be the best wife. I was taught the rules of being the Queen and the rules of the royal household. I was raised to be the Queen.
Menelaus broke the kiss and then whispered, “Our forever starts now, Helen.”
The celebration followed shortly after. I saw my cousins and some people whom I remember as the family of Menelaus. It all felt so sudden. A few minutes ago, I was single, and now, I was married. And my husband was right beside me holding me at the small of my back.
“Are you alright?” he asked me.
I gave him a small smile.
The event lasted for an hour before some of my family member decided to go back to their sleep. Who in their right mind thought of holding a wedding ceremony right at dawn? Sometimes, the peculiarity of our tradition baffles me.
My mama kissed me on the cheek before she retreated back to her room. My father, meanwhile, eyed me as if reminding me of my impending responsibility.
“Let’s go?” I asked him shyly.
He nodded at me and excused us from some of the guests. They didn’t mind us, probably because they have an idea of what we will do.
Upon reaching our room, I went straight to the bathroom and stared at the mirror. This morning, I would lose my virginity… I would lose it to this stranger that I was instructed to call my husband.
Slowly, I removed every piece of clothing and then breathed deeply.
‘It’s alright, Helen,’ I reminded myself.
I went out and saw Menelaus sitting on the edge of our bed. He was removing his shoe when he looked up and saw me. His lips parted from the sight of me for I was wearing nothing but this flimsy clothe.
“Helen,” his voice managed to produce.
My feet were shaking but I managed to reach his side. Maybe he saw the hesitation in my eyes that’s why he stopped me before I completely got myself naked.
“How old are you again?” he asked.
I wanted to laugh at the irony of our situation. He’s my husband yet he didn’t even know how old I was. How awful did my life turn out to be?
But I couldn’t even show him mockery. He’s my husband and that made him the subject of a hundred percent of my respect.
“17,” I answered meekly.
He just nodded and then tapped the space beside him. I sat there. All the tensions I felt were gone. Right now, I just hated how crappy the situation was.
“You’re still too young,” he said.
But I couldn’t blame him completely. Even I had no idea how old he was, or just anything remotely personal about him. I just knew his name and not his story. Maybe we’re on an even page.
I wanted to ask him how old he was but I can’t. It was annoying being the wife. It was annoying being a woman. I lived in the modern era yet the culture I was under was still as stinky as the years before us.
And so I sat there waiting for him to do his thing. My body turned cold as I waited for him to claim me. I was rightfully his… But he will never be mine. It wasn’t the case.
“Do you want the lights off?” he asked me as he began removing his clothes. I gulped my fears away and then nodded.
As he reached for the switch of the lamp, I closed my eyes and readied myself to lose myself to this stranger whom I now call my husband.