I think from the beginning, I was an object.
Of affection first, when I was but a babe, with tufts of golden curls atop my head and bright green eyes that gazed with a newborn fascination. Since the moment my tiny lungs took in their first breath, I was the center of everyone’s attention. Even my lovely twin, Clytemnestra, had the spotlight cast off of her in favor of me when I emerged from the womb. They say it’s because I had the mark of beauty from birth, some specialness radiating from me that my poor sister lacked.
It’s kind of ridiculous, really. In my eyes, she always was the prettier one.
Of talent next, as I excelled throughout my childhood years. I was good at everything that I tried, and I don’t just mean the women’s duties. Even though they were well older than me, I could best my twin brothers Castor and Pollux with a bow and arrow any day.
Since they were the ones who had taught it to me in the first place, this was a rather sore spot for them.
After Father found out, however, he never let me go near any other type of weaponry. Said something about how I was too young, but even at ten years old, I knew better. My brothers had been given quite dangerous items to play with since they were five, while Nestra and I were set down in front of spools of thread. This was fine for my sister, as she had no interest in the boys’ rough play anyways, but I felt like I was being barred from a whole other world of fun. Nestra knew this and, being the good twin she was, would barrage our seamstress every afternoon with ridiculous questions that she already knew the answers to so I could sneak over to a window and peer down at the field, where Castor and Pollux would be dueling. I would mimic their movements with my hands, or sometimes with a stick I’d picked up from the ground earlier, and that is how I learned to fight.
Father has never known this because he is never around, but the rest of my home’s inhabitants do. And although they have never expressed approval of my actions, they have also never stopped me. And it did not take long for me to become truly unstoppable.
Of desire after that, because I had come of age and all of sudden everyone wanted to marry me. I can’t blame them, I guess. I have been quite beautiful my whole life, and my thirteenth year was no exception.
I had hundreds of suitors, and Nestra barely had any. I wish to this day that these roles were reversed because all of them repulsed me anyways. Most of them were older than Father, and whenever they would come to visit, their greedy eyes would roam up and down my form in a way that made bile rise at the back of my throat, but no, Helene, you must be courteous and smile, so I did. Nestra would’ve eaten up the attention; I could see it on her face every time a new suitor of mine was invited into our home for dinner. She would come running to stand next to me, brown curls pinned back, eyelashes fluttering- but the vulture would always have his eyes on me.
The men swarmed in endlessly, each more wrinkly than the last until finally, one that Father approved came knocking: Menelaus. He was in his forties, I was told at the time, but he was rather dashing for someone that was Father’s senior by six years.
He came in for dinner. Sat right across from me. Smiled as he looked me up and down -just like the others- and I turned to Nestra as I always would in situations that made me uncomfortable. But she did not look in my direction, simply stared into her soup bowl. She no longer spoke to me those days, jealousy over the favoritism I received finally having drowned out the sisterly love she once harbored for me. I missed my twin dearly, missed the girl who would protect me from the slightest criticisms and help me sneak off to places unknown in our youth.
But she was gone.
Menelaus had money. Loads of it. And so, much to the chagrin of the other haggard old men that were in love with me, I married him the next day.
And finally, of conflict. I was stolen from Menelaus at the ripe age of fifteen to be the wife of Paris, a scrawny brown-haired Trojan that I could probably have taken down in minutes. I didn’t, because if I had, I would 1) be exposed for possessing skills that no woman was meant to have. And 2) have to stay in the home of my wretched husband. I did not love Menelaus. He claimed to love me, but there was no way. He did not know anything about who I truly was. He only ever wanted me for my body anyways.
So I allowed the spindly Paris to take me away from that gods-forsaken place and all the way to Troy, where he brought me into his palatial home. Paris proclaimed his love for me, as they all do, and showed me to a bedroom. I prepared myself to fight him off of me because, unlike with Menelaus, I would not at all be hurting my family’s reputation by destroying someone who had no legal right to me. If he thought I would let him be the second man to lay his filthy hands on me, he was sorely mistaken.
But he didn’t. He simply smiled shyly at me and slipped out the door, calling for a maidservant to assist me with changing out of my Grecian robes and into Trojan ones.
So I was left alone for some time, to my delight. I hadn’t been afforded any privacy in a long while.
The minute my life changed was when the maidservant entered the room. She was carrying a set of red Trojan robes in her arms, but that was not what had caught my attention.
She was exquisite. Ink black hair that fell in graceful waves, beautiful brown skin, chocolate eyes, plump pink lips. She seemed about my age, but she carried herself with a youthful kind of grace. Eudora was her name, and she told me so while flashing me a radiant smile that brought a bright blush to my cheeks and sent my heart racing.
I adored Eudora.
The moment I met her, I realized why no man had ever been enough for me. And throughout the ten-year Trojan war, while Menelaus and Paris fought over who deserved to hold me in their arms, I took Eudora into mine.
She was the only one who did not see me as an object. To her, I was a person, flesh and blood, with dreams and ambitions of my own. I would say that Nestra saw me the same way, but I had not seen Nestra in so long that I was no longer sure of who my twin was. How was I to know what she had become, if her jealousy over me had successfully poisoned her or if her affection for me still held as strong as mine did for her?
So all I had was Eudora, and she meant everything to me.
And then she was taken from me.
Right in front of my eyes -when one day Paris caught the two of us in our nighttime embrace- he dragged her to the floor and slashed her clean across the chest with his sword. All right in front of my eyes. And then he grabbed my arm and pulled my half-dressed form out of there, promising me that no one would take advantage of me like that again.
While I stared back in shock at the love of my life as she bled out onto cold marble.
I do not remember much of the rest of the war. I lived out my days in a haze, mourning my darling Eudora while the two men I hated more than anything fought over me like a prize to be claimed along with victory. The object that I guess I’ve always been.
Eventually, Menelaus won, and he stole me back from the Trojans and carted me off to Greece. Everyone cheered him on when we returned, showered him with praise at having won back the famously beautiful Helene, fair and square.
Except it wasn’t fair at all.
Not for me.
I locked eyes with Nestra in the crowd, standing with her husband Agamemnon, and I knew she was the only one who could see how empty I was. How broken. And even though she did not know, she somehow understood. And she was the only one who grieved with me.
But it didn’t matter. I was still lost without my Eudora.
I lived out the rest of Menelaus’s days with him as a shell of my former self, his personal object. Bore him two children and raised them with a small piece of me that could, somehow, still love. They eventually left to start their own lives, and then I was alone with my husband once more.
Years later, he became a corpse in the ground. I remember that day clearly. I had spit on his grave and then walked out of his prison without looking back once. I left everything and everyone behind, not bothering to say goodbye. I knew my sister and my children would understand.
I lived out the rest of my days far, far away.
Now, I am dead.
And I am on a mission.
I wade through the throng of ghosts, the stench of the Underworld suffocating me even though I no longer have working lungs. The place is rancid, the acidic air stinging my dead eyes and burning my decayed flesh. But I push forward, unrelenting.
I have no concept of time down here. I cannot say if it has been days or months, decades or centuries, but finally, finally, I see her.
Her hair is limp and oily, her complexion sallow. Her skin clings to her emaciated form, and I can see bone protruding out of her body. Her clothing is tattered and dirty, and she looks utterly repulsive, but she turns and sees me with her golden brown eyes and smiles her pretty smile, and I know it’s her. And she is beautiful.
I can barely run to her in my deteriorating state, but I do, and she runs to me as well.
And finally, I am whole again.