Preview from First Pages
Antony closed the door to Cleopatra’s living quarters. “Women!” he muttered. As he walked down the hall, he thought, Ever since we received word that Octavia was sailing to Athens, Cleopatra’s been driving me crazy! Every time I look at her, she’s wiping tears from her eyes. Then she hides her face and pretends that she doesn’t want me to see her crying, but that’s exactly what she wants me to see.
As he stepped out onto the stone porch, one of the servants called out to him, “Your friend Niger is here. He wishes to speak with you.”
“Tell him to come up and bring us some wine.”
After Niger sat down, Antony put up his hand and whispered, “Wait until the servant goes inside. I don’t want him to overhear us because, like everyone else around here, he’s a spy for Cleopatra.” Then he made conversation. “It’s beautiful out here. I love the view.”
After the servant brought the wine and went back in, Niger leaned forward and said in a low voice, “I met with Octavia. She’s in Athens with supplies, money, and two thousand handpicked soldiers. I’ll tell you, Marcus, Octavia’s a fine person. She talked to me about the children and how much they’d like to see you. She brought all of them with her.”
“I know she’s a good person,” said Antony. “I only married Octavia because it was good for the affairs of state at the time. Then I did come to love her, but her brother Octavian has been the biggest beneficiary of the marriage. As far as the children, I don’t know what to say.” He paused. “I’ll give you a message to take back to her and tell her to send the men and supplies to our camp north of here.”
“What about her?”
Antony had a pained look on his face. “If I go back to her, it’ll be as if Octavian is standing over my shoulder, watching my every move. On the other hand, Cleopatra is the queen of a powerful nation. I can’t afford to lose her support right now, and if I left her, I’d feel her vengeance sooner or later. It’d be the end of me.”
Niger said sadly, “I guess I have your answer.”
“You don’t need to say much, Niger. She’s smart.” Then he yelled to his servant, “Bring more wine and a cold cloth for my forehead.” He leaned back in his chair and said, “Stay and talk with me for a while so that Cleopatra doesn’t bother me.”
“Alright.” Niger smiled.
After the servant put the cold cloth across Antony’s forehead and went back inside, he said, “You won’t believe what I’ve had to put up with. Cleopatra went on a diet. She asks me several times a day if I can tell that she’s lost weight and if she looks better.”
Antony adjusted the cold cloth and put it over his eyes. “You know how that goes! Any answer I give isn’t the right one.”
Niger laughed again.