"Turncoat"

Clytemnestra lay in wait, her loose babydoll flapping in the light breeze. Her hair was long and adored with flowers and strips of gold string. The chamber was open to the night air and overlooked the shore. The angry waves belied her calm and sensual pose.

She smiled widely and seductively, like a lioness, when her king stepped into the open chamber. He returned the smile and removed his crown, placing it on a violet pillow over the mantelpiece. Then he slowly undid the laces of his robe. “You’re beautiful.”

“For you, my King,” she said.

Marlena had heard the story growing up. She felt inspiration from it now, lying in the dimly lit bedroom, her dark skin bathed by flickering candlelight that hid the worry on her brow. She had a dozen explanations for what she and Oren were planning. It was for the insurance–it was for the children–it was because one quick strike would hurt him less than a slow and torturous betrayal. And it was because he wasn’t supposed to be back anyway. Her husband Richard had been dead, or so the sergeant had told her when he’d knocked on her door seven months before. He wasn’t supposed to come back.

Oren and she were happy. Oren loved the kids more than Richard ever had. He was more involved, more romantic, more delicate, and knew her better than Richard ever had. Oren was patient, and beautiful, and could care for her when her temper rose and she shattered plates to feel better. She and Richard hadn’t gotten along well, even before he had gone off to war. They had terrible fights. She knew, deep inside, that neither had wanted to marry the other. They only did it for the children they hadn’t wanted.

But it would all be over soon. Oren lay in wait, in the closet. She was going to share a drink with him, and his would be drugged. Then, Oren would come out of the closet and finish what should’ve been over and done with overseas. Then bury him under the floorboards in the basement. It would be easy, clean, and finished. Then she and Oren could be happy. She deserved happiness.

When Richard walked into the room in his blue, checkered boxers, she smiled at him and lifted two glasses of champagne. One for him and one for her. Richard sat on the bed next to her, and they kissed. Then she passed him his glass, the glass that Oren had drugged. “To us. I’m glad you’re back, baby.” She smiled and kissed him, then they drank. Then they wrapped in each other’s limbs. She writhed appropriately and made all the requisite sounds to ensure that he felt pleasure. It would be his last, she thought, and she wanted it to be right.

Marlena felt surprise when her head began to swim. Had she screwed up the glasses? She felt her limbs slowly growing numb, and she lay on her back, with Richard on top of her. Then he stopped, sighed, and stood up. He hadn’t finished. He only watched her from the foot of the bed with a solemn sadness spreading over his face. He looked in the direction of the closet.

“Oren,” Marlena whispered. He knew. She knew that he knew, and Oren had to get out of there. She had no idea what the extent of his rage would be.

Oren stepped out  of the closet, also with grief on his face. He stood next to Richard, then their hands touched and their fingers entangled, and they looked at each other with a sorry affection that Marlena believed belonged only to her. She whimpered.

Oren looked down at her, holding the hunting knife they’d prepared in both of his hands. “I’m sorry. It’s for the best.”