What is one thing you have learned from your past?
My mother loved the house of Atreus. That is to say, she loved their stories, as they were told in the plays of the ancient Greek masters: vengeful sons and murdering wives, children carved to bits by their own parents, flesh served up to appease or mock the gods. Pure tragedies, she called them --catharsis untainted by sentiment.
When my father first saw her, Mum was on Broadway, playing Klytemnestra to an admiring crowd. He used to tell this at parties, as though it were a joke. "I looked at the stage and there she was, with her husband's blood on her hands, and I knew -- that's the woman I have to marry."
Then Mum would kiss his cheek or straighten his tie and say, "We've been one happy family, ever since." The room would laugh, because everyone knew Olivia Reed was the perfect wife.
I wanted her to hate him. She could have been a great actress, but, after meeting my father -- then a powerful lawyer, soon a governor, soon after a Senator -- she left the stage for good and devoted herself to providing a model of domestic bliss. I was eleven when I first asked whether she had ever wanted more. "Being a Senator's wife is a full-time job, dear. I've known since I was even younger than you, that one day I would be married to a powerful man." As though this were an acceptable goal; as if she couldn't have been his superior in every way.
She never asked me to hate him. I learned to do that on my own. I discovered a mission, a purpose, a way to blend into my father's world only so that I could help destroy it.
Much later, when Julian devised a plan that would require the man's death, it seemed worthy of the Greeks -- pure tragedy, untainted by sentiment. Yet when the moment came, I turned out to be less Klytemnestra than Hamlet, the anxious prince whose fatal hesitation I had always mocked. I lost my nerve. When I raised my eyes to see my mother with the gun, I knew how she must have looked on stage, all those years ago.
She never asked me to hate him. She only mapped the course and laid the path to make me a weapon against her own enemies. My mother thought she was rescuing me, but even as the smoke cleared that day -- some time still before the man I had married locked on me and pulled the trigger -- I began to understand that I had not been saved but condemned, like the children of Atreus, to die at the altar of a parent's warlike faith.