I found Ida in her room, a huge suitcase on her bed. Her door was open, so I walked in. I noticed immediately a rawness in her movements, a harrowed desperation orchestrating each of her gestures. A thousand warning bells went off in my head.
“Going on a trip?” I asked, trying to keep my voice light and friendly.
She didn’t answer, throwing a blouse into the suitcase instead. She didn’t even bother folding it. She ripped another blouse off a hanger in her wardrobe and threw it into her suitcase, too.
“I’m guessing you don’t want to go,” I said.
“I do not,” she said through clenched teeth. She threw another blouse into the suitcase, then stopped and she stared at the half-filled luggage. Her shoulders fell and she let out a loud exhalation.
“Are you okay?” I asked, taking a step closer to her. She shook her head woefully. I took another step towards her and put a hand on her shoulder.
“My father is sending me away,” she said emotionlessly. “He’s making me go to Argos with Orestes. And I’m not allowed to come back.”
“Why? And you mean Orestes, like the Orestes? The one whose mother killed his father and then his sister killed their mother?”
“Yes, that Orestes. He came here for political asylum a while back. He’s been my suitor for the past year. Needless to say, I despise him.” She sneered at the thought, but then her face relaxed again into sorrow and she said, “As for my father, I have no idea why he’s sending me away. I begged for an explanation but he only said that he couldn’t tell me and that this was my fate. He won’t budge. I have to leave.”
This was far worse than I had expected. A pang of negativity pierced my chest, my stomach slowly knotting itself into something irreparable. I suddenly wanted nothing more than to throw my arms around Ida and hold her close. I wanted to keep her here, with me. It hurt me so much to see her so upset. And what was I going to do without her? I felt a hole starting in my heart and I knew that it would only open wider with time spent away from her.
“There’s no way to avoid this?” I asked softly. She pressed her fingers against her eyes as though to hold in tears.
“No,” she said. I heard the choke in her voice, the barely contained emotions. “I have to do as he says. I really have no choice in the matter. Besides, he’s my father and I have to trust him. He’s the only family I have. I just can’t believe that I have to lose it all. That I have to leave everyone I care for.”
Now she looked at me, her dark eyes glistening with tears. The heartfelt emotion in her gaze went straight to my heart, making the clench there increase even more. Her sadness awoke an instinct in me and I found my hand reaching out to cup the side of her face. I ran my thumb across the skin just under her eye and found it surprisingly soft.
She leaned into my touch, her eyes closing.
My throat closed slightly from the emotions and I knew that I had tears in my eyes, too. Unable to drag any words from my disobedient throat, I stood on tiptoe instead and placed a gentle kiss on Ida’s cheek. I lingered there a moment, so close to her, and took in her scent. She smelled sweetly of the summer wind and cinnamon. I thought I could drown in it, feel safe in it, for the rest of my life.
I reluctantly pulled away, but Ida stayed exactly where she was, as though stunned. Her breaths came shallowly, as though it was physically painful to take a full breath. I took another step away, watching her carefully and unsure what to do. She remained that way for another long minute before she broke out of it, rushing over to the wardrobe and pulling out a bunch of hanging clothes. She carried the bundle over to the bed and unceremoniously dumped it into the suitcase, hangers and all.
“I have to finish packing,” she said. It sounded like a dismissal, so I gave her a nod of understanding and left her.
The wind whipped across the pier, pushing my hair into my eyes. It annoyed me to no end.
“We have perfect conditions,” the ship’s captain had said moments ago.
“Only calm seas,” another crewman had noted.
I started wishing for a storm.
Orestes stood next to me on the pier, chattering on inanely. His voice was white noise. Lily stood on the other side of me, her face sorrowful. I wanted to take her hand, but I crossed my arms across my chest instead, digging my fingernails into my biceps to keep from screaming. Our luggage was onboard and the ship was ready to leave. We were only waiting on my father.
“Where’s Idomeneo? Why isn’t he here yet?” Orestes asked, his words finally breaking through to my conscious thought. Of course he’d want my father to hurry up and get here. I gave Orestes a dirty look.
“He does everything in his own time,” I said. Honestly, I’d expected him to be here early, all but physically pushing me onto the boat.
“There he is,” Orestes said, pointing to a figure in the distance.
“Well, I guess it’s time,” I said. “You might as well get aboard.”
“Ladies first,” he said. I didn’t move. I wasn’t stepping off the pier until my father was here to watch me do it. And even then, I would wait until the last possible moment.
We stood in silence until my father was on the pier with us. He looked straight at me, his eyes conveying a strong, weighty emotion that I couldn’t quite identify. We’d been separated too long. That subtle emotional communication that happens between family members and lovers – we didn’t have it. I thought that maybe we would have created it over time, but that dream was shattered now.
Father shook Orestes’ hand and then moved to me, putting his hands on my shoulders.
“May the gods protect you,” he said. “I will miss you, my daughter.”
“Father, don’t make me do this.”
“Give this up,” he replied. “The die is cast. Your lot is decided.”
I looked away from him, anger and sorrow mingling within me. I spoke, evenly yet with sincerity,
“I go, but my heart remains here.”
Orestes looked at me, then at Lily, a smug expression sliding across his face. He gave one more huff of satisfaction, then left to board the ship. I looked once again at my father and said,
“Let me embrace you one more time before I go.”
He hesitated, then nodded, pulling me to him. This felt different from all those other embraces that we’d shared in my childhood, but I couldn’t tell if it was a physical difference or an emotional one. I figured that it was more likely that it was physical because I had changed so much since I’d last hugged him. I’d grown up, become someone while he was away.
I hugged him as tight as I could, but he pulled away. He left me without another word, walking farther down the pier. Now only Lily stood by my side.
She started it. She threw her arms around me, pressing her entire body against me. I reciprocated, my arms around her and my nose buried in her hair. I kissed the top of her head, whispering,
“My Lily, my love, I will miss you deeply.”
“I’ll miss you, too,” she said into my shirt. Her fingers tightened at my sides and my emotions threatened to overwhelm me. I pulled away slightly, letting her keep her hands on my waist and looking down into her eyes.
“I don’t want to leave you,” I told her. “I know my father will take care of you. Promise me you’ll do everything you can to have a safe, happy life.”
“I promise,” she said.
I stepped out of her grasp, knowing that if I stayed any longer, I’d never have the strength to leave. I touched her hair once more and then briskly walked off, boarding the ship.
The moment I took my first step onto the ship, the wind whipped up, pushing my hair into my eyes. I looked up and dark clouds, moving fast, congregated overhead. I heard a crack of thunder in the distance.
“What’s happening?” I yelled over the suddenly strong wind to the ship’s captain.
“Storm,” he answered. “Came out of nowhere.”
I spotted my father racing toward the ship.
“We can’t leave now,” the captain shouted. “We’ll have to wait this out.”
My father stood right beside the ship on the pier. His hands were shaking. He kept looking around him, as though expecting to be attacked. Something was very wrong.
Then there was a high-pitched scream. I turned to see that it had come from Lily. She was standing on the pier, eyes wide and her hand outstretched, pointing at something in the sea beyond the boat. I rushed off the boat to her side.
“What is it?” I asked, putting an arm around her shoulders protectively.
“I saw something in the water. Something big. There’s something in the water!”
“What do you mean? What sort of thing?”
“I’m not sure,” she answered, her voice a bit uneven. “But it was big and not like anything I’ve ever seen. I just saw the end of its tail and a spike of some sort. I didn’t get a good look.”
“Let’s get out of here,” I decided. I started off, walking back to shore, but my father stopped me.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I’m going home,” I shouted out of anger and out of necessity. “We can’t leave now. We have to wait out the storm. Besides, Lily saw some large beast in the water. I don’t want her anywhere near the sea when there’s a storm and a creature lurking.”
Father opened his mouth, as though to fight me on it, but then he closed his mouth and nodded. Taking Lily’s hand, I took off for the parking lot, thinking only of getting home.