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An Explanation

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I push the half-open door to the royal bedchamber. She lies on the bed, eyes shut, still in her traveling clothes. Her chest is rapidly rising and falling, as if she’s struggling to breathe.

“Mother?”

She turns to look at me and her eyes are red and swollen and… empty.

“Where is Orestes?”

Mother’s lip trembles. “In… the nursery…”

“How was the wedding?”

She pauses. “There was no wedding.”

“Then where’s Iphigeneia?”

She makes a choking sound and her face breaks. “Dead,” she blurts out, her eyes filling up with tears.

“What?”

“Your father… k-killed her,” she stutters, gasping for air between her sobs. “Sacrificed her to… Artemis… to t-turn the wind!”

A chill runs down my spine. “That’s not possible.”

“I watched him… drag her… to the altar,” mother continues, shaking. “She begged! But he… he wouldn’t spare her…”

I take a few steps forward, crossing my arms. “I don’t believe you. Father would never do that.”

Mother’s jaw hangs open, her face assumes a pained expression. “He slaughtered my child!”

“I want to hear it from his lips.”

“He’s… gone. Sailed off to Troy. It worked, the wind… turned,” her voice becomes a whisper. She falls back on the pillow, exhausted.

“I’m sure he has an explanation.”

“An explanation ?” she shouts. “He slit her throat with his own hands!”

“Mommy?”

Chrysothemis is standing at the door, her eyes filled with tears - she must have overheard everything. Hermione, as always, is behind her, peeking over her shoulder.

Mother turns to them and opens her arms. “My girls… Come, give me a hug.”

The little ones run up to her, climb on the sides of the bed and she wraps one arm around each of them, crying and kissing their foreheads.

“Auntie?” sniffles Hermione.

“Yes, darling?”

“Is this all happening because of my mommy?”

“Oh… I don’t know, sweetheart…” she whispers, stroking the little girl’s hair. “But she’s caused us a lot of pain, hasn’t she?”

Hermione nods - she’s spent many nights bawling, crying out for aunt Helen in her sleep, and mother has often woken up in the middle of the night to comfort her.

She must be lying, or leaving something out. There’s no way father would just… kill Iphigeneia. He loves her, he loves all of us. Perhaps the gods made him - Artemis, was it? Maybe she drove him to do it. Or maybe it’s not even true, a big misunderstanding. Mother can be too emotional sometimes.

“I’ll wait until father comes back.”

She looks up at me, puzzled.

“He’ll tell me what really happened,” I explain. “You must have misunderstood. Or you’re lying.”

She opens her mouth, shocked, but no words come out.

“I’m going to check on Orestes. He’s too young for you to leave him alone.”

“Electra, please,” she says but I’ve heard enough. I race outside, fall to my knees, hide my face in my hands as the tears I’ve been trying to hold back begin to flow.