©2019 by Daniel Alexander

Medea

A Short Story by Daniel Alexander

The Strange Mundane - Part 2

            Nora sat on the sofa and quietly reflected on why she was still in Medea’s house. We’re not particularly close, she thought. Pity, then? No, no one in their right mind would dare pity her. Sympathy, perhaps. She supposed that was as good a reason as any other. Nora didn’t fully understand what Medea was going through, but she knew enough to form a decent picture of the situation. Apparently, she’d abandoned a life of luxury somewhere out east and followed Jason to their tiny town of Corinth out of a powerful love. The way people whispered about it, the story seemed almost historic. Others didn’t fully trust Medea – some even spread rumors that she’d had to come to Corinth with Jason, that she’d done something terrible back home and so her new husband was her only recourse. Nora herself had known the woman for nearly a decade, and still she didn’t fully understand her.

            There was a knock at the door and Nora jumped. After a glance to the stairwell confirmed that Medea wasn’t coming down to answer it, she stood and walked over to the door, picking her way through broken tables and chairs that Medea had thrown about earlier before retreating to her above.

            The door opened to reveal a thin man in a tweed jacket. “Nora,” he said with a mixture of surprise and relief. “You’re here?”

            “Where else should I be, Thomas?” she asked, standing aside to let him in. He moved hesitantly, glancing at the ruined living room and towards the stairs. “Sitting alone, at home, doing nothing?”

            “Are you really needed here, though?” Thomas asked. His gaze darted about, never settling on any one thing for very long. “From the looks of it, you’re just idling about. You don’t need to stay, you know.”

            “I know. But I’ve known Medea and her kids for years – you have too, as a matter of fact. You taught them in second grade, didn’t you?”

            Thomas nodded. “Where are they, by the way?”

            “I told them to go to the backyard for a while, to keep them out of the way for a little bit. I know Medea loves them, but . . . I’ve never seen her this angry.”

            Thomas grimaced. “Then my news probably won’t help,” he said.

            Nora frowned. “Let’s sit,” she said. She walked back to the sofa and Thomas righted a chair that had been knocked over. “Now then,” she said, “what is this news?”

            “It’s just something I overheard at the grocery store,” Thomas said. “It could be nothing. It’s probably nothing, really. In fact—”

            “Spit it out, Thomas.”

            “Right. They’re saying that Mayor Creon intends to drive Medea out of Corinth – her sons, too.”

            “Are you sure?”

            “I just overheard—”

            “And Jason is alright with this? I’d understand if it was just Medea, after what she said, but his own children?”

            Thomas shrugged. “I suppose,” he said. “If it’s true, that is. He did just remarry, so it’s not impossible to imagine he’d want to cut all previous bonds.”

            “Tsk. Is nothing sacred to that man? Really, I can’t say I’d blame Medea if she wanted him dead.”

            “That seems a tad extreme,” Thomas said. “It’s Jason, after all – besides, people divorce and remarry all the time. Are you suggesting they should have stayed in a loveless marriage?”

            Nora was about to answer when they were interrupted by the sound of something shattering above. “Dammit,” she muttered, flicking her eyes up to the ceiling, and then back to Thomas. “Listen,” she said. “Go out back and stay with the kids. Make sure they don’t come inside until this is all dealt with.”

            Thomas frowned. “You don’t actually think she’d . . . do something to them?”

            “I don’t know what she’d do, but I do know that it won’t hurt to have someone keeping an eye on them. Go!” Thomas nodded and hurried out the back door.

            Something else broke above and Nora heard a desperate scream. “Wonderful,” she said to herself. “And she doesn’t even know about the exile yet. Is it even possible for her to get angrier than she is now?” I certainly didn’t rage like this when Hubert left. If only she weren’t as short-tempered, if only she were a little more like me – more like anyone, honestly.

            “Hello?” came a voice from the door and Nora realized she hadn’t shut it from letting Thomas in. “Medea?”

            “She’s upstairs,” Nora called. “But you really don’t want to disturb her right now.”

            A face poked around the corner and Nora recognized Coral – a rather plain woman, whose most distinctive feature was that she had the sort of face one could mistake for almost anyone else. Nora had lost track of how many times she’d almost called the woman the wrong name after running into her in the street or the at the grocery store or even during a few local get-togethers where she’d known specifically that Coral would be there.

            “Nora,” Coral said, striding into the living room, ignoring the mess that surrounded them. “I didn’t expect anyone else to be here – I was just passing and I thought I heard Medea . . . well, I heard her screaming. Is there anything I can do to help?”

            Nora snorted. “Not likely,” she said. “If only it were as easy as wanting to help.”

            “What do you mean?”

            Nora shook her head. “Try to understand it from her perspective,” she said. “Here we are, all wanting to help her, to rebuild her life for her, just never mind that the man who ruined it lives only three doors down.”

            There came another clatter from above and Coral craned her head to look up the stairs. “What’s she saying?” she asked. “Is she talking to someone? I can hear bits and pieces, but not much.”

            “Who knows. She’s angry and desperate and – well, and she’s got power of some kind. She could be up to anything.”

            Coral nodded and then frowned with concentration. “I think I can hear it,” she said. “Listen.”

            The pair went silent and strained their ears, trying to decipher what Medea was saying. It seemed all just a chorus of murmurings punctuated by sharp screams, but then it evened into something that they could understand.

            ‘Fore my father dead and brother cold,

            Out into the sea, by fish to be eaten

            Oaths he swore, to love and to hold

            Despite my shame, despite my treason

            O gods above and below this land,

            ‘Twas only the oaths that kept him bound –

            Force Jason now to keep my hand

            Or if no, then burn him to the ground.

            The sound faded and then the house went silent. “See?” Nora said, looking to Coral. “It’s exactly what I was afraid of – she’s going to take revenge on everyone who’s wronged her.”

            “Then that’s all the more reason for us to be here,” Coral said. “We need to let her know that she’s not alone. If she sees that we’re going to support her, then she’ll calm down.”

            Nora rolled her eyes. “Well, if you really mean to try to talk her down, I suppose I’d better let her know you’re here,” she said, standing and making her way to the stairs. She paused, foot on the first step, and turned to Coral. “It won’t work, you know,” she said. “This isn’t the sort of problem that gets solved with a conversation. It runs much, much deeper than a few words from friends can heal.”

            Coral did not reply, and Nora continued up, disappearing from view. Coral heard the sound of a door opening, a few muffled words, and then two pairs of steps walking back down.

            Medea entered the living room and Coral had to focus to keep her expression placid. The woman looked dreadful – her hair all twisted and tangled, her eyes sunken into dark hollows, her clothes hanging from her frame as if she were nothing but bones. She walked in slow, limping steps, and practically collapsed onto the sofa while Nora stood to the side, keeping quiet.

            “Well, here I am,” Medea said. Her voice, despite her appearance, was steady and driven. Coral got the sense that each word was being carefully evaluated and selected to achieve a desired effect.

            “You look . . .” Coral paused. She had about to say ‘well’ simply on reflex, but she stopped herself.

            “Terrible,” Medea finished. “What did you think? That I’d somehow remain polite and restrained? Sure, there may be people like that – people who, no matter what, always act distant, aloof, as if they for nothing, not for all the troubles in the world – but you ought to both know that I’ve never been able to act like that.” Nobody said anything for a moment, and then Medea started speaking again, her eyes focused somewhere beyond Coral and Nora. “I tried to be normal,” she said. “I tried. I did all the normal things a normal person would do and more. But Jason . . . he’s ruined it all. I didn’t realize it until he told me he was leaving, but my entire normal life was built around him.” Medea gave a wry smile to no one in particular. “But isn’t that just how it is, in a marriage?” she continued. “Your decisions are no longer your own. Your choices belong to another. At least I married someone I loved and who I thought loved me, and still – still – it crumbled around me. I’m sure anyone would tell me, ‘Oh, but really, marriage isn’t always that bad, it’s a good thing, a normal thing’ but that’s never the case. They think that the burdens of life can be easily divided, that they can truly have a happy, normal marriage, but it is always lopsided, in one way or another.” Her eyes refocused and she looked to Coral and Nora. “But then, I’ve been talking as if our situations are the same,” she said. “They’re not. You still have this town, these people – a place to call home. I left my home and burned the way back as I went. So now, all I really want is justice on those who have wronged me – nothing more than that.” Medea laughed bitterly. “Do you know,” she said, “I’ve never felt more unsafe than I do right now? And yet, never have I felt more unafraid.”

            Coral didn’t speak until she was certain that Medea was finished. “I think . . . I think I understand it a bit better now,” she said. “Why you want this justice. It’s more than just losing Jason – it’s losing everything.”

            Medea nodded and opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted by a harsh knocking. “Nora, would you mind getting that?” she asked. Nora nodded and hurried to the door. She returned moments later accompanied by a large man with graying hair wearing a dark suit.

            “Creon,” Medea said calmly. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

            Creon’s expression remained still as he spoke. “I see no point in beating around the bush,” he said. “You need to leave Corinth, Medea. Immediately.”

            Medea matched his tone. “So you, too, seek to ruin my life?” she said. “Or did Jason put you up to this? Did he tell you to ensure that I had no hope for recourse in this storm?”

            Creon shook his head. “It’s much simpler,” he explained. “Jason’s marrying my daughter, Glauce, and I will not take the risk of you hurting her. You’re clever, Medea – clever and vindictive and wrathful. I heard what you said in your argument with Jason. I heard how you threatened him, threatened my daughter – threatened me. Hell, you’d probably get even angrier if I let you stay – someone like you would probably take it as a sign of arrogance or weakness.”

            “Someone like me?” Medea’s voice was tight. “Someone like me? Do you mean someone clever enough to see when she’s being cast aside like yesterday’s dishwater? Someone who won’t quietly fit in and play dumb with all the others?” Medea sighed. “Creon, if I were half as clever as you seem to think I am, I wouldn’t have wound up in this situation. Besides, what reason have I got to hate you? I wish no ill on you, you simply care more about your daughter’s happiness than mine. I respect that. It’s Jason I hate, not you – in fact, I wish you and your family all the best. I can stay quiet about all this, if you wish. I can respect your judgment on the matter – just let me stay.”

            “No. If you stay, you will keep with your planning and your scheming, no matter what you claim otherwise. You will not trick me, Medea – I want you gone, now.”

            Medea was silent for a moment, and then stood, shakily. “Creon,” she said quietly. “I have never begged for anything in my life, but I beg you now – please don’t do this to me.”

            “You will not convince me.”

            “Please, you have to—”

            “All I have to do is protect my family. Go. The longer you stay here, the more pain and trouble you create.”

            “. . . Very well.”

            “You accept, then?”

            “I do. All I ask is for a day – one day to prepare. One day to plan for this exile, to plan for my children. Think of them – I can deal with this, but to leave the only home they know, it will crush them. Please, just one day to ready them.”

            Creon did not speak for a moment and then he closed his eyes. “Fine,” he said. “One day – you will be gone before sunrise tomorrow, though. If you aren’t . . . I will do what I have to.”

            Medea gave a small smile. “Thank you, Creon,” she said. “Thank you.”

            “You had better not make me regret this,” Creon said, and then, just as abruptly as he had entered, he left.

            Medea collapsed back onto the sofa and Coral leaned forward. “Medea, what are you going to do?” she asked worriedly. “If Creon really means to exile you from Corinth, where will you go? Who will help you?”

            “Oh, it’s a bad situation, certainly,” Medea said, stretching her arms. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to settle my score with the newlyweds. I knew Creon would exile me, no matter what I said or did. He’s stubborn that way. I wasn’t really begging for him to change his mind, no – I simply wanted a day. A day is all I need to see justice done on him, on his daughter, and on Jason.”

            Medea stood, her footing much more solid than it had seemed just moments before. “So then,” she said, “how shall I do it? Hard to say, hard to say – I could burn their little love nest with them inside. Or maybe go in the dead of night and end them while they sleep. But if I were caught – no, too risky. Too easy to be seen or caught.” She paused. “Poison, then,” she decided. “Quick, simple, direct – effective.” Medea wandered about the room, seemingly forgetting Coral and Nora. “But then what? I’ve nowhere to go, no one to turn to – the poison will be easy, but after? Ah, I’ll figure something out. Perhaps I will yet find someone to aid me, in which case I can continue on this course in silence. If not – well, I could simply attack them directly. Not the most subtle of plans, and like to get me killed, but if there’s no other choice . . .”

            Coral and Nora sat still while Medea spoke, neither daring to interrupt her. She continued to pace and mutter to herself, lost in thought, until there came yet another knocking at the door, shortly after which a man appeared without warning. He had golden hair and a jaw that seemed to be chiseled from marble, with eyes that conveyed a sense of pride in their gaze. Medea glanced at him and her lips curled slightly. “Jason,” she said.

            Jason did not respond immediately, instead surveying the room before him. “Ah, Medea,” he said. “I knew that anger and hatred were self-destructive things even before I met you, but you really just hammer it home, don’t you?”

            “Why are you here?”

            Jason shrugged. “To help, of course,” he said. “I know, you don’t believe me, but I am. I heard about Creon exiling you – and that’s all your fault, really. Being mad at me is one thing, but he wouldn’t exile you for just that. No, you just had to go after him and his family. That, and this banishment, is on you, and you alone. Still, I want to try to do the right thing here – for our children.”

            “Oh, the right thing?” Medea said, her voice darkening. Nora and Coral shrunk back, seeming to sink into their seats as Medea strode forward. “Yes, it’s so noble of you to come here and face the family you betrayed. But no, it’s good you’re here – I can list all of the great and noble things you’ve done for me.”

            “Medea . . .”

            “Remember Colchis?” Medea said. “Remember how noble you were when I saved your life? Or how noble you were when I ensured you didn’t have to return home empty-handed? And then I abandoned my home, so eager to travel with you – how nobly you bore that burden! And your uncle—”

            “Medea, I don’t think this is the place—”

            “You oh so nobly sat by while I took him out of the picture for you, and then set death and misery in his house for you. For you. I did everything for you, and in return you’ve given me contempt, betrayal, and now a replacement. How noble.” Medea paused and drew her breath, standing straight. “So come then,” she said. “Let’s hear what you have to say. Any advice for my exile? Where I should go? Who I should stay with? Maybe I ought to go home, to my cousins who still mourn my father. I’m sure they’d happily set me a place at their table! No, I betrayed them all for you. I destroyed any home of return for you. And now you cast me aside – what will people think, I wonder? Is this how the golden boy treats his wife and children? That their prodigal son is an honest and faithful husband? Perhaps at least your new wife will be happy to see us destroyed, at least.”

            “Are you done?” Jason asked. Medea said nothing. “I know what I ‘should’ do here,” Jason said. “I ‘should’ ride out all your complaints quietly, like a stone bearing the ocean’s brunt. But you are grossly exaggerating how much you’ve done for me, Medea. Saved my life? Ensured my prize? Perhaps you helped in some small way, but not nearly as much as you claim. And what about the things I’ve done for you? You hated living in Colchis – don’t deny it – and I took you away, showed you more of the world than you ever would have seen otherwise. And another thing – if you weren’t so blinded by rage, you’d see that my new marriage was part of a plan to support you and the children, not drive you away.”

            Medea was silent, but her expression betrayed her fury. Still, Jason continued. “Remember what it was like when we got here?” he asked. “We were penniless, we had nothing but each other. So, how better to reverse these fortunes than to marry the daughter of the one person in Corinth who could help us? What, did you think I’d grown bored of you? Or that I wanted children from someone else? Our sons are more than enough. I remarried so that we could all of us enjoy some measure of safety, of security in our lives here. If Glauce and I have kids, then I would want them to be friends with ours. If you hadn’t sabotaged yourself, I would’ve wanted you to stay as well. But no, you refuse to see that this was a good plan, a solid plan. You’re simply determined to think the worst, no matter what.”

            “Is that supposed to convince me?” Medea asked. “Are you trying to make your case to me, as if I can’t already see all the holes you’ve left? Fine – if this marriage was such a selfless act, then why hide it from me? Why not tell me earlier or ask me for help?”

            “Help? If I’d told you about this, what would your hateful, broken heart have made you do?”

            “Oh, perhaps the part that knows your shame of living with me outweighed your honor.”

            “Again – this wasn’t about shame or honor, Medea! It was strategy, to protect you and to protect our boys.”

            “Protection and fortune from heartbreak and torment? I think not. Your ‘protection’ is sending me to exile, while you remain here with your pretty little life.”

            “That was your choice.”

            “Oh, so I chose to abandon you now?”

            “No, you chose to go after Creon.”

            “Of course – the same as with you.”

            Jason shook his head. “You know what?” he said. “I’m done arguing with you. I’m still willing to help – money for you and the children, or friends elsewhere who will take you in. Just say the word and what’s mine is yours.”

            “I want nothing from you. Your gifts are just bribes, and anyone who would befriend you is an enemy to me.”

            “Fine! I’ve done all I can. Medea, I—”

            “Leave.”

            “Medea—”

            “Now.”

            Medea had not raised her voice, and yet Jason stepped back. He seemed about to attempt speaking once more, but thought better of it and departed.

            Medea sat back into the sofa, her presence diminishing as she did. Coral cleared her throat. “That was . . . intense,” she said. Medea simply grunted in acknowledgment, her eyes fluttering shut. “But I suppose that’s what happens when strong emotions clash – especially when those emotions have changed from love to hate.” Coral shivered involuntarily. It might be better to never love at all than to experience such anguish, she thought.

            Coral’s musings were interrupted as a man poked his head into the room. “Medea!” he declared loudly, a smile breaking across his face. “I thought I’d heard you were here in Corinth!”

            Medea’s eyes opened and she smiled. “Aegeus,” she said, sitting up. “Coral, Nora, this is Aegeus, an old friend of mine. What brings you here?”

            “Ah, just passing through,” Aegeus said, sitting on one of the chairs. “Chalciope and I have been trying to have kids, but haven’t had much luck. I just saw a few doctors over in Delphi who gave me a lot of very good advice I didn’t really understand.”

            “I’m sure they know what they’re talking about.”

            “Most probably. But Medea, you look like you’ve been through the ringer. What’s wrong?”

            “Ah, it’s my husband. He’s – well, he’s really quite monstrous.”

            “How? Tell me everything.”

            “Well, to begin with, he’s taken it upon himself find a new wife and throw me aside.”

            “What?! How could he do something so shameless?!”

            “All his promises, oaths, his love – they were all lies and deceptions.”

            “Perhaps he’s confused – brief passions often seem like genuine love at times.”

            “The only things Jason is passionate for are faithlessness and ambition. You see, he’s marrying the daughter of the mayor, Creon.”

            “I see. Then this is quite the predicament.”

            “And of course, Creon has decreed my exile – I’m to leave by tomorrow morning.”

            “Has Jason done nothing about this?”

            “Oh, he acts appalled, but he won’t lift a finger in my aid.” Medea leaned forward and stared intently at Aegeus. “You can see how I’ve been wronged here, can’t you?” she said. “Please. I need your help. Let me and my children come to Athens with you. Grant us refuge, and I can even help you in your quest for children.”

            Aegeus nodded. “Of course, Medea,” he said. “What else are friends for? Now, I do need to be leaving soon – there are things in Athens that require my attention – but if you can make there in one piece, neither hell nor high water will force me to give you up to your enemies.”

            “Swear it,” Medea said. “I need you to make me a promise, an oath, that you will not give me up.”

            Aegeus frowned. “Medea, is there something you’re not telling me?” he asked. “Do you not trust me?”

            “No, that’s not it. It’s just that I have a lot of enemies out there in this world, and I want you to be secure when they come demanding my head. A solemn vow, given truly, is something that they cannot easily demand you break.”

            Aegeus nodded. “Then of course,” he said. “I swear to protect you in Athens, to never relinquish you to your foes.”

            Medea smiled and her whole expression lifted. “Thank you, old friend,” she said. “I could not wish for any better ally than you. Now go – I will meet you soon in Athens.”

            “I look forward to seeing you there,” Aegeus said, standing. With a polite nod to Nora and Coral, he left and the women looked back to Medea.

            “He seemed nice,” Coral said. “And now you have somewhere to go in your exile, at least.”

            “Yes,” Medea said. “And it’s quite fortuitous that he appeared when he did. Now that I have safe harbor after the fact, I think it’s quite time set things into motion.” Medea stood and looked to Nora and Coral. Her face was still. “You aren’t going to like what I have to say next,” she said. “But know that you can’t stop it. It will happen.” The pair was silent. “I’ll need to get Jason to return,” Medea said, pacing back and forth. “Then I’ll tell him what he wants to hear – make him think I see the wisdom in his plan. And then, since this exile is because my words and deeds, I’ll suggest that the children remain here in Corinth with him. But that will be the trap, of course – as if I’d let my children stay in this viper’s nest, surrounded by enemies.” Medea paused and strode over to the closet, where rummaged about for a bit before emerging with two wrapped parcels. “No, I’ll send them to his new bride with gifts for her – a gown, perhaps, and a golden necklace. Then she need only touch these gifts and it will be done. Then . . . Then comes the truly horrific part. I need to ruin Jason’s house as he has ruined me. Only then can I go into exile. But to do this . . . I must kill my sons. And that guilt, that pain, I will carry for the rest of my life.” Medea chuckled grimly. “At least none will say I was weak or timid,” she said. “No, they will say that I am cold and heartless, a villain.”

            “Medea,” Coral said, her voice strained. “I understand you’re suffering, but please listen to me – don’t do this.”

            “My plan is set. Your advice lacks the experience of my grief, of my suffering.”

            “Is your suffering so great that you would truly be willing to kill your own children?”

            Medea looked Coral dead in the eye. “Yes,” she said. She turned to Nora. “Go and find Jason,” she instructed. “Bring him here. Tell him I’ve changed my mind. Oh, and Nora,” she continued as the woman stood. “You will tell him nothing of my plans. Do you understand?”

            Say something, Nora thought to herself. Something – anything, anything at all. But the look on Medea’s face brooked no argument, and so she simply nodded and left.

            “Medea, please,” Coral said. “You can’t want to do this. You can’t. They’re your children! You might think it’s the only way – you might think you’re actually capable of doing it – but what about when the moment comes? When you’re holding the knife and looking at them? Not even you could possibly do something like this.” But Medea did not give any indication that she had even heard Coral.

            Nora returned soon, Jason by her side. He looked to Medea, arching his brow. “Well?” he said. “Here I am. Are you just going to yell at me some more, or do you have some new demand to make of me?”

            “Neither,” Medea declared. “Jason, I beg your forgiveness. I was angry and full of rage such that I could not see reason. Why ought I be against your new union? You conspired, true, but you conspired for my safety, for our children’s safety. And besides, the boys and I are now exiled, and we cannot afford to pass on any offers of friendship. I am more than happy to be a partner in your plan, and I beg that you not treat me as I treated you before. I can now admit that I was wrong. I simply needed a clearer mind to see the value in your undertaking.” Medea smiled widely and called out “Mermerus! Pheres!” After a moment, the two boys came bounding in from the backyard and stood before their mother. “Boys, it’s alright now,” Medea said, kneeling. “Your father and I, we’ve worked things out.”

            “Good,” Jason said. “I’m glad to see that you’ve finally come to your senses, and I can forgive your tantrum earlier. I’m just glad you finally see reason again.” He looked to his sons and smiled. “I’m going to make sure we all have a better life, boys,” he said. “Someday, you might even have some new brothers or sisters, and it’s my hope that we can all live happily together.” Medea stood and turned away. Jason frowned. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

            “I’m fine,” Medea said. “It’s just . . . I’m concerned for the boys. You, talking about the future . . . well, all my doubts and fears rushed to the surface.

            “You don’t need to worry,” Jason said. “I’ll make certain that they’re safe.”

            Medea nodded. “I know,” she said. “I know. But still – I have resigned to my exile, but if you truly wish for your plan to help our sons, they must be allowed to stay here in Corinth. Please, you must ask Creon not to force them into exile with me.”

            “He’s stubborn, but I can try.”

            “Ask Glauce – she could convince her father that they don’t deserve to be banished.”

            “Yes, that could work.”

            “Oh! I know.” Medea held out the two parcels. “Send the children to her, with these gifts – a gown, seamless and beautiful, and a necklace of purest gold.” She handed the gifts to her sons. “Here, take these to her, and ask her to let you stay in Corinth.”

            Now, Coral thought. Tell him everything – the poison, the treachery, her plans. Tell him all, and stop this madness. Coral opened her mouth, but then Medea’s gaze drifted to meet her own. It was icy and unyielding and there was something in it that said if she spoke about Medea’s intentions, she would regret it to the last of her days. Coral sat still and did not speak as the children took the gifts from their mother.

            “Medea, you don’t need to give up such precious things,” Jason said. “Glauce has more than enough, and I don’t know that these will sway her.”

            “Of course they will,” Medea said with a laugh. “No one dislikes a gift, and I’d give up anything for my children’s freedom. Now boys, go with your father to Glauce and give her these treasures – and only to her, mind you.” The boys nodded, and then they departed with Jason.

            “So that’s it, then,” Coral said. Her voice felt hollow and empty. “Glauce will open the gifts and die – there’s nothing that can be done about it. And Jason, without even knowing, is a part of it all – and you, Medea.”

            Nora returned with the children. “Glauce took the gifts,” she said. “She . . . She said she would persuade her father to let your children stay in Corinth.”

            Medea nodded. “Boys,” she said, “go upstairs now. I’ll be up in a moment.” The children walked up and Medea sat. “So it’s done,” she said. “And now I am committed. I can’t just leave them here, to take the blame for what I’ve done – and to thrust them into exile with me? No. There is no choice.” She looked up to Coral and Nora. “We should hear news soon,” she said. “The poison acts quickly.”

            Almost immediately after Medea finished speaking, a breathless Thomas appeared in the doorway, leaning against the frame for support. “Medea,” he said. “You . . . Glauce . . .” He paused to catch his breath. “You need to leave,” he said. “Now.”

            “What happened?” Medea asked calmly.

            “It’s Glauce,” Thomas said. “And Creon. They’re . . . god, they’re both dead.”

            Medea smiled. “Wonderful news,” she said. “Thank you for telling us.”

            Thomas stared at Medea, wide-eyed. “Wonderful?” he asked. “Are you insane? How can this be wonderful?”

            “Tell us what happened,” Medea said. “I want to know exactly how it all unfolded.”

            “Well,” said Thomas, “Jason and the children and I, we went to Glauce to deliver your gifts. Everyone we passed on our way there was delighted that you and Jason had made amends. Then we reached Glauce. She . . . wasn’t happy to see the boys, but Jason, he told her that she ought to love them as he loves them. She saw the gifts they brought and was so amazed at how beautiful they were that she agreed immediately to let the children stay in Corinth. She put on the dress and the gold necklace and laughed with pleasure. She stood, spinning, admiring the fabric – but then . . .” Thomas took a deep breath. “She . . . Well, she collapsed. Her mouth was foaming, her skin was pale, and her eyes had rolled back into her head. And then the necklace it . . . I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it happen, but it burst into flames. Glauce was screaming and trying to take it off but she couldn’t and then . . . Medea, her face melted. Then Creon came and he saw his daughter, and he embraced her. But then, when he tried to let go, the dress clung to him and tore at his skin until he, too, was dead.” Thomas stopped and looked at Medea. “What have you done?” he asked.

            “Leave us, Thomas,” Medea said, and the teacher did so, looking over his shoulder as he went.

            “I suppose you could call that justice,” Coral said. “But Glauce . . . she simply married the wrong man. Did she really deserve to die, Medea?”

            “It does not matter now,” said Medea. “If I hesitate, in this moment, for but a second, I think I’d lose my stomach for what I need to do now.” She took a deep breath and stepped to the foot of the stairs where she began murmuring to herself. “Close your heart,” she said. “Close your love. Forget them. Forget your grief. Mourn tomorrow because you loved them, but today, do what you must do.” Without another word, Medea walked up the stairs.

            Coral shook her head. “What kind of world is this,” she said. “Where a parent will kill their children? Where rage clouds the minds of good people?”

            There were screams from above and Nora gripped the armrests of her chair tightly, her knuckles whitening. “We . . . We could still stop her now,” she said in almost a whisper. “We could at least try.” But neither Nora nor Coral moved from their seats and then the screaming stopped.

            The door flew open and Jason, his eyes frantic and searching. “You two,” he said quickly. “Is Medea here? Or has she already run away?” He did not pause for answer. “That murderer,” he spat. “Does she really think she’ll just skip town after what she’s done? But no, I’m not going to waste my breath on her. What of my sons? My boys? Medea may be punished, but I’ll be damned if I see them held accountable for her crimes.”

            Coral shifted uncomfortably. “Jason . . .” she said.

            “What? Does she plan to kill me, too? Is that it?”

            “Medea . . . she killed them. She killed your children.”

            Jason stood in shock for a moment. “What? No, how could she? How . . . Where is she?”

            “Upstairs.”

            Jason nodded. “You,” he said, pointing to Nora. “Call the police, get them here now. I’ll go up there and try to—”

            His words were cut off as the entire house groaned and then the ceiling itself flew away, ripping apart in a great vortex above the house. Medea stood in the air, blood on her hands and fire in her eyes. “You want me, Jason?” she said, her voice calm and focused despite the storm that raged around her. “Here I am.”

            “Monster!” Jason looked as if he were about to try to jump up to grapple with Medea, but then she twitched her finger and he was pressed down to the ground. “You!” he screamed. “You killed them! How can you act so calm?! I should have left you in Colchis to die!”

            Medea tilted her head to the side. “I don’t see any point in wasting my time with you,” she said. “Did you think that betraying me would mean a life of luxury? That you’d get to sit back and laugh at me with Creon and Glauce?”

            “You killed our sons!”

            “Our children died because of you, Jason.”

            “I didn’t even touch them!”

            “No matter. They are dead, and now you feel perhaps a tenth of the betrayal you visited upon me.”

            Jason screamed again, his cry turning into a sob partway through. “Please,” he said, his voice breaking. “Let me bury them. Just give me that.”

            “No. Go home and bury your new wife, Jason.”

            “I loved them.”

            “I loved them more.”

            “And so you killed them?”

            “Because of you. And now you will never see them again. So long, Jason.”

            Medea drifted up into the sky, vanishing, and then the vortex dissipated and all was still.