That Old Blank Magic

Helen, too, recognised the very face and form of Odysseus in Telemakhe. Why they hadn't seen it before was a surprise. "You must be Telemakhe, the daughter of our best loved friend, Odysseus," said Helen in wonder. Telemakhe could only nod.

Menelaus joined in Telemakhe's tears and soon, Peisistratos in attempting to console Telemakhe spoke of the death of his brother, Antilokhos, and was also overcome.

Helen could sense the salty waters filling her eyes, but stayed their flow. She felt the same sorrow they all shared, however this was a wedding party. In her rooms she had stored some potent herbs and spices from her travels, each with their own peculiar qualities which she learned of from a mystical Egyptian chef. One particular powder she kept could stem the tide of weeping, even if a loved one had recently died.

Helen fetched the small glass vial and poured some of this spice into their wine, giving it a rich piquant flavour. She then served it mulled to their young guests and her husband.

A peaceful calm settled over them, the sort of calm a person feels spending the evening by a warming fire after the last notes have drifted from a singers lips. Now was a good time to reminisce about what loveliness Odysseus brought into their lives.

Helen began, recalling that time when Odysseus stole into the city of Troy disguised as a beggar in order to speak with her. "I had been so homesick for so long, that despite the rags, I recognised Odysseus immediately. She was with Diomedes on her way to steal the image of Athena's friend and Triton's child, Pallas. I believe she correctly surmised that the priestesses of that icon would help her to speak with me, so long as nothing was said or done which could endanger their city. Nevertheless, I was already kneeling before the Palladium and pouring out my heart's wishes when she entered its temple.

"Odysseus' divine inner strength glowed through the tatters and I drew her aside, so as to converse with her. At first she tried to put me off, afraid I might reveal her to the Trojans, but I was able to assure her that I was sincere in my friendship. It was she that gave me a choice in my marriage. And again she gave me a choice, asking if I really wished to remain with Paris.

"I could lay blame on Aphrodite for heightening my attraction to that man, but I know how I felt before and at the time. Even though I chose my groom, being forced into marriage so young kept me from appreciating the good husband I had in Menelaus. My time with Paris caused me to realise the distinction between romantic love and committed love. The first is very exciting and can even be mixed with the other. It is not a love that alone can reach to the very depths of your being and last a lifetime.

"Paris treated me with awe at first, then eventually became bored with me. His interest was not in who I am, but what I could give him. What Menelaus and I had foremost was the love of a good friendship. It's not glamorous, but it's always there when you need it." Helen squeezed her husband's hand.

"I told Odysseus that more than anything in the world I wanted to be with Menelaus again," said Helen, "if he would still have me. I wept at my own stupidity. Odysseus told me not to think about it anymore. She would return me to my husband and soon end this insane war. She also told me something of her plans for my rescue. This would have to be carried out later for she could not guarantee her success if she spirited me away that very moment. I felt like Odysseus had given me back my life in that hour."

Menelaus put an arm around Helen. "And I remember, dear, how I could hear you crying outside the wooden horse in which we were smuggled into the city. I would have called out to you. In fact I had opened my mouth to do so, but Odysseus put her hand over my lips. She knew how I still loved you and kept me from losing that crucial moment in our errand. Though it seemed forever, Athena finally led you back to me that very day. I cannot tell enough of what a fine person Odysseus is."

Truth or Dare.

Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps