A Short Story

This is actually an assignment I had for my history, and I don’t have a title, so if you’ve got an idea, please share it! Thanks!

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The day Cora met Hypnos was the day she married him. She hadn’t had a say in the matter of who her father gave her to in marriage. But she’d always known the time would come when she’d be escorted to her wedding and given to a man she probably wouldn’t know, at least not very well.

That day was today. Cora was only fifteen, and her soon-to-be husband, Hypnos, was ten years her senior. She’d never seen him. Not once. All she knew about him was that he was supposedly handsome and his father was a statesman.

“Oh, you look beautiful!” Cora’s mother exclaimed, coming into her daughter’s elegant bedchamber. Cora’s family was wealthy, and they had a grand home.

“Thank you,” the young woman muttered, feeling the soft white fabric of her gown. She had already gone through the first stage of the wedding- the ceremonial bath.

Now, she had on the traditional dress: a floor-length, one-shoulder gown of beautiful off-white cloth. Her wavy dark hair flowed almost down to her waist and was adorned with flowers of a gorgeous sea blue.

“Is he here?” Cora asked, nervousness clear in her quiet tone.

“He should be any minute,” Odessa replied. “Are you nervous?”

“I’m terrified, mother.”

“Don’t be. Your father chose wisely.”

Cora managed a weak smile.

“Oh, cheer up! Hypnos is a good man, I’m certain of it. Your father would never give you to a cruel man who would hurt you. I’ll leave you now. Come downstairs in about ten minutes, all right?” She planted a kiss on her daughter’s forehead and then she left the room.

Cora turned slowly, examining the room where she’d spent all the nights of her life. Lovingly, she stroked the walls, remembering her childhood. She would never sleep here again. It was the last day she would spend in this house. She was leaving. Going to live with a man she’d never met. And what if he was cruel? What if he hated her? What if she couldn’t give him any children? What if he decided he didn’t want her and he divorced her?

She took a deep breath, trying to conceal her fear. And then she went downstairs to meet the man she would belong to for the rest of her life.

*

They would go together to the dining hall, where the wedding feast was ready. Cora tried to act calm and relaxed, but it was taking all of her to keep up the act.

Hypnos. He was indeed a handsome man: tall, muscular, dark. Olive skin, green eyes, black hair. And yet there was something in his aura that Cora didn’t exactly like. Something that made her not trust him. But she let him take her hand and take her to the feast.

*

She enjoyed herself immensely. The food was delicious- olives, warm, buttery pitas, and red wine were just some of what was offered. Afterwards, Hypnos led Cora to the home of his parents, where they would spend their first night as husband and wife.

“Welcome.” Persephone, Hypnos’s mother, greeted them at the door with her husband, Alexei, beside her. “Come in.”

Hypnos took Cora’s hand and she was certain that she blushed. They walked to the hearth and let themselves be showered with nuts and fruits, symbols of fertility. Silently, Cora prayed to Hera that she would give her husband children. If she didn’t, she would never be fully accepted in his family.

It was done. Cora was a married woman.

*

Hypnos was a kind husband. And over time, Cora found herself loving his company. Preferring night to day because it was then that she got to be with him. He would laugh at her stories and let her tell him everything. He listened. And that small act made her begin to fall in love with him.

He took her advice and he listened when she needed to share her secrets. And then he would always kiss her good night and hold her against him while she slept.

A year and a half after their marriage began, Cora told Hypnos that she loved him. And then her world fell apart.

*

He stopped sleeping with her. She hardly ever saw him; he was always gone. “Business”, he said when she asked him where he’d been. He was a merchant, but he’d never been gone so much before. And when he did come back for a month or so, he only spent one or two nights with her.

And then there was the pain of knowing that Hypnos’s family wouldn’t accept her because she hadn’t even conceived a child.

Cora was forced to fill the aching hole in her heart with other things. She found a friend in her maidservant, Ana, who would tell her all the gossip and news going around the city. She wove wonderful stories of love and magic, and told Cora about the plays she attended whenever she could. But she never mentioned anything about philosophy, knowing that it bored her mistress half to death.

Ana told her of the rise of Macedonia in the North of Greece and about the leader’s son, Alexander, who was said to be an extremely talented warrior. She told the tales of Medea and Antigone, of Jason and the Golden Fleece, and many other stories from the Greek religion.

Cora never stopped praying to Hera, begging for a child and that her husband would love her. Because as much as she tried to make herself hate Hypnos, her love for him would not leave her. Every time she saw him go into his room with one of the slave girls, part of her wanted to have an affair just so he’d know the pain she felt. But if she even dared to commit such a crime, he’d divorce her.

And so the years passed. It was a wonder Cora managed to stay relatively healthy. She couldn’t sleep and was always exhausted. But she had to keep going. It was her job, her duty as a wife. She made herself deal with the scorn of Hypnos’s family. Ana helped her with as much as possible and almost always managed to cheer her.

Two years went by this way.

*

“I’m leaving,” Hypnos said, coming into Cora’s room one afternoon.

She looked up from her sewing. “Where are you going?”

“Macedonia.”

“How long?”

“A few months.”

“Must you leave me again?”

He just stared at her. His eyes searched her face for something, but she didn’t know what he was looking for. “I don’t have to go,” he said, so quietly Cora had to strain to hear it.

“Then don’t.” She stood and looked straight into his vivid eyes.

“Why do you care, Cora? I haven’t been the best of husbands to you.”

“You could have been.” She didn’t know why she dared say it. What made her say things no decent wife would ever say to her husband. “I told you that I loved you, and then you scorned me. Threw me away and traded me for slave girls who would never truly love you. Not like I could. Why did you do this to me?” She whispered the question.

“Sit down, Cora,” he commanded, letting himself sit on her bed. She joined him, not daring to touch him, no matter how much she longed to do it.

Hypnos took in a deep breath. “The last time a woman told me that she loved me, I believed her and paid dearly for it. She was a beautiful thing, about fourteen. I was your age- eighteen. Young, lovesick, stupid. She knew it, too. So she told me that she loved me. The next time I saw her, she was kissing another man. I swore I’d never let it happen again. I’m scared, Cora, that if I love you, you’ll turn around and break my heart just like she did. So I wanted you to hate me, so I’d never have to worry about you trying to get close to me. It killed me to do it, Cora, I swear. I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“You did. And don’t think for a second that I don’t know what your parents say about me. I know they’ve asked you why you haven’t divorced me for not giving you a child. Sometimes I wondered the same thing, seeing as you never even let me in bed with you. Do you have any idea how much sleep I’ve lost? How many times I’ve died on the inside, seeing you take a slave girl into your room? Hypnos, there were times I wanted to run far away from here and never see you again. Honestly, I don’t know why I still love you.”

He reached out and cupped her face in his hands. “I don’t know why you do, either. I don’t deserve it.”

“Stay. Send one of your apprentices to Macedonia. Stay here with me.” She was practically begging.

“I will. And I won’t ask you to forgive me. I’ll never do anything to be worthy of you. You’ve been so brave, Cora. You could have run. Ana told me how much you’ve been through the past two years. She’s the reason I came to tell you I was leaving. I was just going to go, without a word. But she told me to tell you.”

“I forgave you as soon as you walked in this room.”

And then she wound her fingers into his thick head of hair and drew his face to hers, pressing her lips against his in a kiss that was filled with all the love she’d ever felt for him. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, his breath hot on her lips. “So sorry.”

“I know.”

“Cora?”

“Mm?”

“I think I’m in love with you.”

She laughed slightly. “I love you, too.”

*

Three months later, Cora found out she was pregnant. Hypnos’s family accepted her and grew to love her like a daughter. And they all lived happily ever after.

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