Only a Woman This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 12, 2011
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“My Lady, Octavian is here.” Neferura, my only loyal servant was in a panic. “It will only be a matter of time before he finds you here.”

“I won’t hide any longer. Bring my paints, my best red sheath and my most expensive jewelry. I’ve charmed two Roman men; there’s no reason I can’t charm this one too.”

Neferura bowed, then ran out of the mausoleum I had been hiding in for the past few months. Had it really only been a couple of months since everything had gone wrong? Our fleet was destroyed at Actium, Mark Antony committed suicide and now the Emperor had arrived in Egypt. If I couldn’t charm Octavian like I charmed Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, then I would soon return to my mausoleum as a corpse.

Neferura soon returned with all the things I had requested. She helped me wriggle out of my plain white sheath and into my sumptuous red one that left little to imagination. Then she brushed my tangled black hair, pinned it up and slipped my wig of a hundred ringlets into place. I sat very still as she outlined my eyes in kohl, used henna to redden my lips and covered the dark circles under my eyes with powder. From the small selection of jewelry she brought, I chose a silver circlet with a huge red jasper stone that hung on my forehead, bracelets of electrum, a belt of moonstones and rings of lapis lazuli. I looked at myself in the small bronze mirror Neferura brought and smiled. I looked perfect, as usual. Now all I had to do was make Octavian agree.

“You manipulated a good Roman man into turning against his own country.”

“Me? I am just a woman. What influence could a woman have over a strong Roman man?”

Octavian spluttered at my words; he was not buying into my story. And he definitely wasn’t falling for my body like Julius and Mark had. My intelligence only threatened him, so that definitely wasn’t helping my case. Time for Plan B.

“You need a powerful ally in Egypt; I can maintain control over my people. Let me remain Pharaoh and Rome will reap the rewards.”

For the first time in our meeting, Octavian smiled. “Cleopatra, you are an intelligent woman. Tell me why would I need a powerful ally in the newest Roman province?”

“You’re annexing Egypt?” I gasped.

“Of course. I have no wish to quell the rebellion of yet another tempestuous Eastern Queen.” He snapped his fingers. “Take her away, but do not harm her. I wish to display her at my triumph when I return.”

The Roman guards marched me at sword point to a tiny room in the palace that had been a guest room. Before they locked me away for good, I turned to face them and suggestively lifted my sheath to reveal my right calf. One of the soldiers hesitated, but the other pushed me into my prison and slammed the door behind me. To my surprise, Neferura was there, setting up a simple cot by the door. Seeing me, she bowed before speaking.

“I convinced the guards to let me tend to you. My Queen, what are you going to do now?”

“I am going to deny Emperor Octavian his greatest prize.” I smiled reassuringly to hide the fact I was ready to break down and cry. “I don’t care how you do it, but bring me an asp. I’m going to die with the honour that befits the last Pharaoh of Egypt.”

Neferura nodded and I could see the tears in her deep brown eyes. I walked over to her and pulled her into a hug, a huge breech of station on my part. But I didn’t care; I was about to die and I needed to thank her for her complete loyalty to me. I felt the tears run down my face, but I let them flow. After all, if I had my way, I was not long for this world.

After Neferura retouched my makeup, I was ready. She had smuggled the asp past the guards by hiding it in a basket of figs. I reached in the figs and nearly smiled in triumph when my fingers closed around the asp’s cool, smooth body. It hissed as I pulled it out of the basket. Good, it was already annoyed at being kept under the heavy figs.

Its eyes stared coldly at me as I stroked its head, enticing it to bite me. Finally, it struck my wrist with lightning speed. I bit my tongue to keep from crying out in pain. When the snake let go, I quickly dumped it in the fig basket and put the lid on it. I didn’t want it to slither out and bite Neferura, my only friend left.

Within minutes, my breathing became laboured. I lay down on the bed and carefully composed myself. I was going to die with dignity, the way a Pharaoh should. My last breaths were steeped in agony, yet I was strangely happy. I had thwarted Octavian, denying him his greatest prize.

But my happiness didn’t last long. The gods in Judgment Hall were calling for me, Queen Cleopatra, the last and greatest Pharaoh.

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This article has 255 comments. Post your own now!

LaceeJade This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm
I Really Enjoyed This!  You did a fantastic job with the characters!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Oct. 3, 2011 at 3:01 pm
Thank you for commenting! :)
Steph0804 said...
Oct. 1, 2011 at 11:38 am
Oh... Cleopatra is portrayed so magnificently here, I almost cried! Powerful! Beautiful! This should definitely be published!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Oct. 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm
Thanks!  I'm glad you liked my story so much. :)
Little-Miss said...
Sept. 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm
Very well-written, and a good story. An interesting take on history... Definitely gets my brain juices flowing. Overall loved it!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm
Thank you! :)
JustAnotherOwl said...
Sept. 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm
This is incredible. I've actually already read this...But I don't think I commented! Anyway. You are a very talented writer, but I've told you that before! This is very descriptive and I love the way you....portray Cleopatra? Would that be the right choice of words? Anyway, this is wonderful and it deserves the Editor's Choice Award one-hundred percent!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm
Thanks for commenting!  I'm glad you liked it. :)
CarsonFaircloth said...
Sept. 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Truly, this was an amazing edition to "Desertion". It inspires me to write a book, actually; a historical one. And that, my friend, is not easy to do.


I think you portrayed Cleopatra very well, though I don't think a short story can quite get the full impact she had on people---this would make a much better book. Nevertheless, your grammar was perfect, and this final half of the story was written even more beautifully than the last. I am impressed.


I ... (more »)

CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm
Thank you!  That last sentence was always my favourite when I wrote it. :)
Love.Hate.Passion. said...
Sept. 17, 2011 at 1:01 am

Another great addition to your first Cleopatra story. I am really loving the way you take the time to develop Cleo's emotions and feelings , and you somehow make her a likeable character. I enjoyed your ending to this writing masterpiece. I  liked how you interpreted this in your own way , and managed to make it extremely realistic and even relatable. Amazing <3


5 stars!

CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm
Thank you! :)
julian This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 11, 2011 at 2:06 pm
Once again, this was a beautiful interpretation of history. I really like being inside the mind of Cleopatra and thinking how she would think. I would say that Cleopatra came alive in your writing, and was portrayed in a very accurate manner (not that I would know how accurate it is, but it seems to be very realistic). The only critique I have is that you should explain her feelings about being defeated in more depth. It seems like she gave up everything in a heartbeat, with no apparent regrets ... (more »)
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm
Thanks for the criticism! :)
JoPepper said...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 10:10 am
Awesome  I loved it!!!!!!!! :D
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm
Thank you! :)
JoPepper replied...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm

You're welcome!!! :D


CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 11, 2011 at 12:40 am
Sorry, I won't get to your feedback until Monday evening.  I'm in Edmonton for a concert tomorrow night.  But don't worry, I will give you feedback in return! :)
JoPepper replied...
Sept. 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm
okeydokey thats fine and thanks!!! :D
immortal1290 said...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 8:53 pm
This was extremely well-written. I don't know much about history, but i still really enjoyed your story :) Also, from what I do know, your portrayal of cleopatra was realistic. I always pictured her like that.
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