Caterina tried twice to visit Constantine before the funeral, but he didn’t come to the door. She knew he was inside. She could smell tobacco smoke seeking to escape the morbidity of the house through any crack and crevice it could find.
‘Please, Con,’ she begged. ‘Open the door. We’re worried about you.’
There was no response, but the smell of tobacco convinced her that at least he was alive.
She tried her best to console Alcandor who blamed himself and who couldn’t find the courage to face his friend. If only he hadn’t wanted to go hunting that day. If only he had listened to Constantine’s objections and let him make up his own mind. If only they had come back earlier ... if only ... if only ... if only.
Caterina gently urged Alcandor to come with her to the funeral. Deep down he didn’t want to go, but he hadn’t seen Constantine since Helena was attacked, and he thought that going to the funeral might be a good thing. It meant that they would see each other. Maybe, in time, Constantine would want to speak to him again, but as he thought about this, Alcandor had no idea what to say to his friend when the time came.
He didn’t go with Caterina to view Helena’s body at the house, when Constantine was finally able to make the necessary arrangements. He couldn’t face going to Constantine’s house again. Every night when he closed his eyes, he saw the flimsy curtain fluttering from Helena’s window. He saw Constantine drop to his knees, his fists clenched and his agonised face turned skywards. He always woke retching with the memory of Helena lying under the window, her nightdress torn from her bloodied and beaten body. He remembered how white she was, with her life’s blood drained from her, and then he remembered the cry from Constantine’s lips. Every time he recalled that cry, his body broke out into a burning, drenching sweat.
He didn’t want to go to Constantine’s house to relive this horror. He didn’t want to hear the voices of the village women singing the ritual lamentations. He didn’t want to look upon the pale, white face in the casket. He didn’t want to kiss the cross around the pale white throat. He didn’t want to look into the eyes of his friend who, according to custom, would have sat up all night watching over the body of his beloved sister, doing what he should have done that final, dreadful day, rather than go hunting with Alcandor.
Alcandor knew that his friend blamed him for Helena’s death as much as he blamed himself. He was guilty. It was just as much his fault as it was that of the unknown assailant who had violated and slain her.