Chapter One: Ahlex
"You filthy vermin! Refuse to show up at my banquet, why don't you! You ruined my entire appearance by being an obstinate wife! Now everyone will think I don't know how to control my wife - if I can even call you that anymore!"
I'd never really known how to control my anger.
Ashley held her head high. "I know what you'd have wanted me to do if I'd have shown up," she said, voice strong and clear - unlike mine, which was still tainted by the effects of strong wine. "You would have wanted me to flirt and charm all the men in the room. That's always what you want me to do! Well, do you know what? I've had enough!"
"I never asked you to flirt with other men," I replied, irritated that Ashley was right.
Hands on her hips, Ashley rolled her eyes. "You've said yourself that an endearing - if not seductive - hostess makes politicians far more willing to negotiate with you."
"So you're using my own words against me? Is it too much to ask you to show up to eat a meal with - "
"To eat a meal, Ahlex? Is that really all you wanted me to do?"
Without taking a moment to condition my tone of voice, I yelled, "I will not have my pathetic excuse of a wife stand up to me! Everyone was there when your lady-in-waiting arrived to deliver the message that you'd not be coming for the banquet! Do you realize what kind of an impression that left on those around me?"
"I thought you'd be too drunk to care," Ashley shot back, and to my own chagrin, I was ashamed at her words. Was I really an animal in her eyes?
Shrugging away my guilt, I met Ashley's eyes. "I don't know what to do with you," I growled. "This isn't the first time you've defied me, and if I don't do something about it, I'm sure it won't be the last."
I realized that Ashley had begun to cry. She'd turned her back to me, and there she sat in front of the mini fireplace in our bedroom. Her back was rigid, and her hands were folded in her lap. I could hear her sniffles, and I felt a touch of guilt again. How long had it been since I'd done anything but harp at her about what she was doing wrong? How long had it been since I'd held her and promised her I loved her?
Come to think of it...had I ever told Ashley I'd loved her after we got married?
Ah, I'd had too much wine. Why else would I be harboring such guilt? There was nothing wrong with my actions; I was the Prime Minister, for crying out loud! The entire nation was at my fingertips!...or so to speak.
And yet, I couldn't even control my own wife?
I turned from the scene and stalked away. I'd talk to Haman. He was my most favored adviser; he'd know what to do about the situation with Ashley.