I limped down the path.
Athena! How my head swam. Too many blows. The bruise about my eye left throbbed. My body ached. How it ached! Especially there; down there, where he had
It was not supposed to be this way. He had come with a beautiful smile and easy tongue. He had chosen me over the other girls, saying I was the most beautiful. I could see the jealousy in the girls’ eyes as I threw my cloak on.
Our business is usually done in the house, but he had paid extra to take me somewhere private. A decrepit cottage out of town. Where no one can hear you scream.
My stomach turned. I left the path, and retched.
Standing up, I saw far below a boat – a trireme – sail into Piraeus’ harbour. I wished myself onto it, and to a new life; somewhere, anywhere away from men. The gods did not hear me.
I wiped my split lip. Blood mixed with the white lead that was my make up stroked my hand. I wondered what I had done wrong; how had I displeased him? Yes, he was my first client, but the girls had given me much good advice and I had lain with a slave to get practice. What had I done wrong? Confused, I cried. I cried, and did not stop crying until night fall.
Night. Stars glittered overhead but the world was bathed in darkness. I shivered in the cold. The rags that he had been kind enough to leave me were no protection were they in pristine condition, and he had forced me to leave without my cloak.
All was quiet as I stood up to resume my journey back to – what? I had broken a house rule by not returning this afternoon. I would certainly be fined, maybe expelled.
“But look at me, sir,” I murmured, “It was not my fault!”
I lifted myself up; faintness over came me, and I fell forward. I did not move.
“Hades take my future,” I said, “for this day he has stolen my past.”
“You don’t believe that,” a voice – female – replied, “if a bandit came and raped you or took a knife to you, you would fight back. Even if it was just a scratch for his stab, you would give him something to remember you by.”
I pushed myself up on my arms and looked round. A lady, flanked by two slaves, sat on a tree trunk a few feet away.
“Thaïs of Athens,” she said, “you have led me on a merry chase these last few weeks, but finally I have found you.”
“Who are you?” She smiled, smugly.
“Today I am Aphrodite taking pity on you; tomorrow maybe I shall be Hera commanding you, or Aspasia teaching you, or no one saying goodbye to you. I hope, however, that you will let me be Aspasia.”
She walked towards me, knelt down, and offered her hand. I took it, and she took me.