"Fear Not for the Wind"
Curses I've come to realize don't mean what they used to. In the old days, when someone damned your soul, it stayed that way. There was no two thousands years of ignorant bliss then an Ooops' and some shrugging of the shoulders. Curses are suppose to last, that's the whole point of them, it's why the darkest magic is needed to cast them, it's why people fear them more than death. So, what? What could be more powerful than that? Love, it seems, does conquer all. Imhotep – He whose name I shall never mention again – believed that love was the most powerful thing of all things, of course his idea of love was kidnapping someone and damning them to spend eternity with him so I think that I shan't take to heart his definition. However, Nefertiri, my beautiful Nefertiri, also believed in love above all other things. Nefertiri, who gently holding my hand whispered to me that love, was the most powerful thing of all. Nefertiri, who despite it all, who in spite of it all, loved me until my dying day. Yes, Nefertiri also believed in the all-powerful properties of love and she was right. Her love was everything his was not, pure, selfless, soft, and beautiful and it was her love that conquered all, that freed my soul and damned it all over again.
I can see her pain every time I close my eyes. The suffering that I caused her making my heart bleed with every shuddering breath I take. Sometimes the images in my mind seem so clear, so real that I believe I can reach out and wipe her tears away, stroke away the devastation that I etched onto her beautiful face. The knowledge that she loved me still even as the thing I became stood over her basking in her pain tearing me apart inside. The idea that even after her father had taken me and made my body his temple, and He had taken my soul and so much more, the idea that after all of that she could still love me making me want to weep, to kill myself all over again for what I put her through.
When He awoke me in this modern world I was as pleased to see him as He had programmed me to be, and for him that had been enough. But the first time that I was actually glad to be back was I when I spotted her in the distance as we approached the temple. He had seen her too and I saw the smirk he had been wearing since we entered the jungle disappear. He told me to kill her, to make her blood run freely, that it would please him to finally see her die. I always did what pleased him, yet as I felt her blood coating my hands as I yanked the knife out of her gut, as her shocked eyes – different yet the same – looked up at me I felt no pleasure though I smiled for him. For even in that state, even under his curse there had been something between us, something so pure that even all of his evil could not mask it completely.
Later, when I heard the boy reading and I realized what he was up to I think that I felt a surge of excitement, the first true emotion I had felt since our match in Seti's court. My foil would return, and we would spare and trade insults as we had before in an age when things were golden. And to make sure that she would dance with me I was going to kill the fool in the white suit, for her anger pleased me.
I had been ready to stab the man, Jonathon, my sai raised already coated in blood when I felt a hand grasp my wrist and push me away.
"Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" Nefertiri, though I suppose I should be calling her Evelyn, asked as she grasped the sai's from a statutes hand and twirled them around in her own. A strange expression considering the fact that I was taller than she was, and therefore not her own size, but I paid little attention. It was time for us to dance.
"You have remembered the old ways Nefertiri?" I snarled at her as I pressed her against the cool surface of the cave wall, delighting in the fact that at the moment she seemed to be more Nefertiri than that sniveling librarian.
"I do," she responded her eyes meeting mine; her expression equal parts steely and sad. "And I shall say goodbye to you for her before I kill you," she continued, her voice deadly serious. I think I smiled at her when she said that, the deadpan arrogance of the statement calling to the darkness inside of me. I quickly stopped smiling however when she pressed her lips against mine, harshly at first then with a gentleness that I could only remember as a distant ache.
I recall her pulling back from me when she was done, the tenderness the kiss had produced on her face quickly disappearing as she shoved me off of her and I stumbled to the ground meters away from her.
I sat there where I had fallen staring up at her, confused and scared. My mind was in a state of chaos, images and feelings bombarding me ruthlessly, taking my breath away. I had always known of our past together, the curse He put me under not having taken away my memories, only my ability to feel for anyone other than him. Yet as I sat there on the cool, damp earth I felt for her. I felt so much for her I thought that I would cease to breathe from the intensity of it all. I stood up, backing away from her like a wounded animal as she slowly approached me. I didn't want this; I didn't like these feelings that were bubbling inside of me. I ran convinced that when I got back to him everything would return to normal, that everything would be as it should be.
I stood there pressed to a pillar as the room around us crumbled and the earth shook angrily. He and the man they called Rick were dangling on the edge of a pit that led straight to hell, fighting to hold on. Rick was yelling to Nefertiri, telling her to take their son and leave, to get out. She didn't mind him however, and I watched with a detached fascination as she precariously made her way to him, pulling him out of the pit. He watched this too, and then turned to me with fear in his eyes, calling to me, begging me to help. I stared back at him, the unthinking devotion I had had for him nowhere in sight. I had died for him once; I wasn't going to do it again. I turned and for the second time that day I ran from my past into an uncertain future.
I blinked as the harsh rays of the sun assaulted my eyes, turning my head away. I believe I had been trying to determine which way to go when I got down from the temple steps, if it even mattered which way I went when I felt it. A blinding pain exploding in my head. It felt like something had burst inside of my mind and I fell down onto the stone steps howling in pain as the light washed over me in wave after wave.
I could hear voices, but they seemed distant to me as I looked up at the sun, which was the only thing I still recognized. I felt hands on my shoulders, grasping them roughly and hauling me to my feet. But I was still dizzy, my body uncertain and I fell back down.
"I owe you suffering," I heard the voice say, and I looked up immediately.
"Nefertiri?" I asked in a choked voice, blinking up at her through the tears that stung my eyes and ran down my cheeks. "Nefertiri?" I asked again my heart beating wildly as I gazed at my love for the first time in what felt like centuries. I felt her pulling me to my feet again and this time I stayed up. I didn't understand why I was in the clothes I was in, or know where I was or why my head hurt so much and my heart ached, but I didn't need to know these things because Nefertiri was there, and she was drawing me into her body, holding me close to her. And soon, my head was nestled in that spot between her shoulder and her neck that I loved so much and I showered her with tears I did not understand the origin of but knew I had to shed.
The moment was soon interrupted by a horrible rumbling sound, and the events which followed are hazy in my mind, perhaps not even memories so much as delusions. I remember the temple, something was happening to the temple and we were running upwards, then some kind of mechanical sack picking us up and flying off with us into the clouds.
I must have fainted because I remember waking to see a little blond boy in strange clothes putting a damp towel on my head then jumping backwards looking fascinated and slightly scared as my eyes opened and I looked at him.
"She's awake," he yelled still staring at me. "And she looks kinda weird," he added leaning forward to get a better look at me, yet not far enough forward that I could've touched him if I'd had the energy.
"Okay, do you want to tell me why I just hauled this bitch's ass up five flights of stairs after she stabbed you?" It was the tall man who asked this, the one they called Rick. The words that were coming out of his mouth were strange to me, like the boys, but somehow I could understand what he was saying nonetheless. I did not know what he was talking about however for I did not remember stabbing anyone or being carried up anything. My head was aching terribly and I was barley able to hear what they were saying as images started to rush into my brain, distracting me from their conversation.
"It's not her, it's the real Anuk Su Namun."
"Yeah, Imhotep brought her back, she stabbed you, then you two bonded and I had to carry her up FIVE flights of stairs!"
"No, Imhotep cursed the real Anuk Su Namun, damned her to love him for eternity and that's the Anuk Su Namun he brought back. When he fell into the pit and died the curse must have been lifted and the real, pre-cursed Anuk Su Namun returned."
"So she was only evil because of the curse, and now the curse has been lifted so she's… what? Good now?"
"I'm going need a little more exposition Evie."
"Anuk Su Namun was Nefertiri's lov…uh, closest friend."
"And Nefertiri is the woman who's memories you've got?"
"Yes. And the real Anuk Su Namun was a good, gentle woman completely devoted to me… to Nefertiri, devoted to Nefertiri. But, then that bald headed freak became obsessed with her and cursed her, and that's…"
"When she became evil?"
"Well, how do we know she's really the good Anuk Su Namun and not the evil one trying really, really hard not get her ass kicked by me?"
"Because she is."
"Because she is."
"Back to the how do you know that?"
"Because I just do. Trust me."
"If this is a trick, she's…"
"It's not a trick. I know her; I can remember everything about her. It's her, Rick, I promise."
She was sitting by the side of the bed when I awoke again. The room was dimly lit and as I looked over at her I knew that she wasn't aware that I had awoken, her attention focused on something in the distance. I remembered it all now, everything that had happened between us in the past and in this future. I remembered what He had done to me, and what I had done to her, and looking at this woman who was so much like my love I felt like I was going to die.
"Do I look much like her?" she asked as I watched her. I blinked in surprise; I guess she had been aware of when I had awoken. I was surprised, yet pleased to hear her speak. She spoke in the old language unlike the other two which I preferred not having had time to acclimate myself to the language I had inherited from Meela. Hopefully the only thing I had inherited from Meela if my memories of her were at all correct.
"Exactly," I responded honestly, turning away from her and directing my eyes up wards towards the ceiling. It was strange being in her company, I found that I did not know what to say, it was almost like the first time we had met, the first time Nefertiri and I had met.
"I'm not her," she said softly. There was no malice in her voice; she was merely stating a fact.
"You are a little," I responded. And we both knew that it was true. After all, what are we but our memories, and flesh and bone? She may have been Evelyn wife to Rick and mother to Alex, but she was also Nefertiri, Princess of Egypt and lover to me.
"A little," she agreed, her eyes raking over me as she flexed her hands, a small little smile appearing on her face.
"Why don't you just say it?" she continued a moment later. She had said nothing more after she agreed with me, and had returned to her inspection of whatever it was beyond me that seemed to fascinate her so. And as she had done this, I had turned to look at her again. I considered her question and the appropriateness of telling her what I had been thinking, yet I could not decide so I remained silent. "Readily and freely," she murmured in a lower tone, when I continued to look at her silently. I smiled; apparently this situation was reminding her of the first time we had met as well.
"The way you kiss hasn't changed in two thousand years," I answered watching as her cheeks slowly coloured and she averted her eyes. I was slightly surprised to see her blush, for I had never seen Nefertiri do it, at least not in reference to anything like I had just said. No, this woman, this Evie wasn't Nefertiri; she was only enough like her to break my heart.
"Is that a good thing?" she asked finally turning back towards me yet not looking me in the eye. I wondered at the question, if she really desired to know the answer and I thought for a moment that I would not answer her. But I did, it seemed that there was enough of Nefertiri in her for her to weaken my resolve as she did in the past.
"I always thought so, I would go so far as to say inspired," was my sighed response.
"Why are you doing this?" I asked a moment later. My mood had turned brooding as I was flooded with memories from the past, memories of a time when she was mine and we were happy, memories that would not let me rest. I knew that it was as confusing for her having me here as it was for me to be here with her, and I couldn't understand why she would put herself through the torture, how she could stand the sight of me.
"What?" she asked looking down at me genuinely confused, looking at me with candid eyes.
"I tried to kill you," I said turning from her once more, unable to look at her as I detailed my sins. "I kidnapped your son, then threatened to put snakes in his bed. I helped revive an ancient warrior that wanted to take over the world, and I broke her heart. Why, with everything that I've done, are you helping me now?"
"Because she loved you," she responded without a moment's hesitation as she leaned forward so that our faces were only inches apart. "Because there's enough of her in me that I can't not care about you, and because it wasn't you at all who did those things," she continued in a soft voice. "Because you've suffered enough in this life or any other, and I couldn't bare to see you in anymore pain. But mostly," she said sighing, "because she loved you."
"It's hard for me to separate the two of you, to know where you begin and she ends," I said looking at her bowed head. "To stop myself from wanting you." She hadn't moved from the position she was in when she was speaking, and I could almost feel the intake of her breath as she gasped at my words.
"It's hard for me too," she responded, and I could see in her eyes the struggle that was going on within in whether to move closer towards me or to pull away from me. "While you were sleeping, I kept wanting to hold you. I actually nearly climbed in once…or twice."
"I often used to find you next to me when I awoke from afternoon naps," I told her. "I could never figure out how you did it without waking me," I continued as my mind drifted into the past.
It had been hot that day, hotter than usual and too make matters worse the market had been horribly crowded. It was a holiday the next day, for those privileged enough to take them and people were preparing to feast. Cyrene and I had been held up at least an hour longer than usual downtown, and as I entered my chamber and fell down onto my bed I fell into a peaceful slumber immediately.
I blinked, my eyes slowly adjusting to the sunlight shining in my eyes as I awoke from my slumber. Almost immediately I became aware of a slight weight over my waist that hadn't been there when I fell asleep and I was suddenly very awake, and smiling very wide. Carefully turning around, I positioned myself so that Nefertiri and I were now face to face, her arm still draped over my waist, and I watched her sleep. By the gods she was beautiful. I loved her so much that at times like that when I watched her, so peaceful, so serene I felt as if my heart would explode from being so full.
"I know you're awake, I can see you smiling," I told her when her lips curved into a smile but her eyes remained closed.
"That always gives me away," she responded opening her eyes and tilting her head up so that we were nose to nose.
"Hasn't anyone ever told you it's against the law to molest the unconscious?" I asked snuggling closer to her as her hand began to move along the side of my body.
"I'll have to look into changing that," she responded dipping her head down so that her lips were at my temple. "It's too much fun to be illegal," she continued before pressing her lips against my skin, smiling into me as I allowed my lips to start exploring her neck.
"Don't you have guests to prepare for?" I asked her as my hand slipped under her tunic nonetheless.
"I did, but Phaiki kicked me out. It seems that I was getting in the way," she replied sighing and shifting back, giving me more access to her body. "It's almost like I had someone better to be doing with my time," she continued as my hands drifted up her abdomen slowly.
"I caught that," I told her before placing my lips over hers and rolling her onto her back covering her body with my own as her hands trailing up my back to tangle in my hair. "You know," I commented as her lips found their way to my collarbone and began to move downwards, "I'm not sure which is better, waking up with you or going to sleep with you."
And that was the last either one of us was able to say for next little while.
"Your stomach." I looked up and over at her as her voice tore me from my thoughts. Gone was the brightly lit room of the place I had come to call home, I was now surrounded by the dark hues of a strange room, in a strange time, with a stranger who wasn't a stranger at all.
"Excuse me?" I asked blinking at her, trying to clear my mind of the images that had just filled it.
"That's how she used to slip into your bed without you knowing," Evie explained, a smile tugging at her lips. "She knew that rubbing your stomach used to send you to sleep, and one day when she came to visit you and found you asleep she decided that she wanted to lay with you, but didn't want to wake you. She tried to get in a couple of times, but you would moan and start to turn around, and then it struck her. You always used to sigh when she first touched you, but once she started to move her hand you calmed down and she was able to slip in beside you," she finished her eyes darting away from mine as they had so many times during her narrative.
When she finished speaking, I smiled and lay back resting my head on comfortably on the pillow. "I see," I responded. "How ingenious."
"I…I mean she certainly thought so," Evie responded resettling in her chair uncomfortably. "How are you feeling?" she asked a moment later, seemingly more comfortable now that she had changed the subject. "I don't like how pale you've gotten."
"I've gotten pale?" I asked looking down at my hands trying to see if I had gotten pale but unable to due to the lack of lighting.
"Yes, and you've fainted twice since we found you outside the temple," she told me leaning forward once more. "How are you feeling? And don't lie to me, I know you, I'll be able to tell."
"Weak," I told her, trying not show how much her previous statement amused me. "I do not have much energy."
"You always have energy," she said leaning back into her chair with a frown on her face. I said nothing however, because I did not have any energy now even though it was true I always had in the past. "When was the last time you ate?"
"I can't remember," I responded. "The," I paused, "on the train?" I said, my words coming out haltingly. There was no word in my language for the mode of transportation they'd used to shuttle us around so I spoke in English for the first time. "Is that what it's called?" I asked her having seen her smile as the word fell from my lips.
"Yes, that's what it's called. They're not bad huh, much faster than camels and I know that for a fact," she responded smiling, before pouting a bit when she mentioned the camels. I didn't know what she was talking about for neither Meela nor I had seen her near any camels, but I found her expression charming nonetheless.
"I'll go get you something to eat," she said standing up. "And tomorrow," she continued before pausing for a moment looking at me hesitantly, "the doctor will be by to take a look at you."
"I would prefer not to…" I started to say, but she interrupted me before I could go any further.
"I know you would prefer not to," she responded, "but you will. I think that you're sick and I can't mend it with some herbs and a bandage this time. I'll be in the room when he's here, I promise you'll be perfectly safe," she continued picking up my hand and holding it in hers, squeezing softly as she said the last part.
"If you think it best," I responded softly, my eyes focused on our clasped hands. She was stroking the skin on the back of my hand lightly with her thumb, something Nefertiri used to do when we sat quietly watching the stars or I was upset or not feeling well. And when I felt her lips gently press against the inside of my wrist, I bit my lip to stop myself from saying anything that could interrupt this sweet, precious moment.
"I do," she said finally her voice almost inaudible as she released my hand. She was silent for a moment after that, simply looking down at me. I could tell that she was a bit surprised by what she had just done, but she did not seem alarmed or disturbed by it. Then in a swift motion she leaned down and brushed her lips against my forehead before saying, "I'll be back." With that she straightened up and headed for the door.
"I don't think that I like this game very much," I said rather petulantly as I dropped the cards in my hand onto the table.
"Don't be a spoiled sport," Alex responded grinning widely. "Mum says nobody likes a sore loser," he continued picking up the cards I'd discarded and drawing them into his tiny hands to shuffle.
He had come into my room early that morning and stood in the doorway watching me. He thought that I had been asleep, but I'd been aware of him from the moment he had opened the door. After a few minutes of silence I had called out to him, telling him not to be afraid. He'd responded with, "that's easy for you to say, lady, I didn't threaten to put snakes in your bed," but he'd cautiously ventured over towards the side of the bed anyway. I apologized for that and told him that I hadn't been feeling quite like myself at the time. He seemed to find that amusing and made himself comfortable on the chair his mother had spent most of the previous evening – and into the early hours of the morning – occupying. He asked me what it was like to be dead almost immediately, leaning forward as if we were partners in crime, his earlier concerns about me apparently forgotten. I told him that I wasn't entirely sure I was dead, but whatever it had been was a lot like being asleep. It was waking up that was scary.
After that we became fast friends and he barely left my room for the rest of the afternoon.
One of the times he had left when was when his father brought in some lunch for me. He'd told the child to go get his uncle out of his mother's hair for a bit while the two of us chatted. Rick had then placed the food tray on the bedside table and drawn the chair up close to the side of my bed.
"Evie made it," he said gesturing to the tray. "I don't know what it is but she said that you'd like it."
"I'm sure I will," I said softly. I felt like squirming under his gaze, but I'd learned to tolerate examinations well in my last life and the lessons learned apparently had not deserted me with time for I moved not an inch despite my discomfort.
"She's concerned about you," he responded, leaning back in the chair, his arms folding across his chest. "Now that I've gotten a good look at you I think that she may be onto something. Your colour looked a lot healthier when you were stabbing her."
"That wasn't…" I started to say, hurt by but not surprised by the attack.
"That's right," he said cutting me off. "I forgot. You're different now," he said in a tone that clearly indicated he didn't believe a word of what was being said. "Truthfully, I think that your transformation is a crock of shit," he continued leaning forward, his eyes cold as he looked at me.
"Is it really so hard for you to believe?" I asked him. "After all that you've seen?"
"I don't know what I've seen," he replied. "But I have learned to have no expectations cause something new and creepier is always just around the corner," he continued, leaning back in the chair once more, his eyes still studying me. "So, maybe it's true. But maybe it's not. I just want you to know that I'm watching you, and if I think for a even a moment that you're a danger to my family what I'll do to you will make mummification rituals seem like a walk in a flowery park," he continued standing up so that he was looming over me. "Are we clear?"
"Perfectly," I responded watching as he picked up the tray and placed it on the bed beside me. "But," I continued reaching out and grasping his wrist, earning a sharp and rather hostile look from him. "I would never hurt her … or the child. She's very … dear to me," I went on looking him in the eye.
"We'll see," he said removing his hand from my grasp. "Just remember, I've got both eyes on you," he went on, though his voice was not as hostile as it had been moments before. And with that he'd left the room.
Alex had come back a few minutes after that and had been constantly beating me at every card game known to mankind ever since.
"Did mum tell you that nobody likes wise asses either?" I asked him picking up the cards he'd dropped in front of me, my gaze shifting between him and the cards in my hand shrewdly.
"How's everything going in here?" Evie asked breezing into the room seconds after I had spoken.
"Somebody's cranky," Alex said in a singsong voice while nodding his head in my direction. I glared at him and Evie smiled as she walked over to him and ruffled his hair playfully.
"You do have that effect on people don't you?" she asked looking down at him.
"Hardy har," the boy replied shaking her hand off of his head.
"Why don't you go help your dad, he's almost got that telescope Ardeth left finished," Evelyn suggested, her eyes drifting over to meet mine briefly before she returned her attention to her son.
"Brilliant," Alex responded jumping up immediately and heading for the door, pausing halfway there to turn back around and give his mother a kiss before then running out of the room yelling as he went down the hall.
"He hasn't been bothering you has he?" she asked taking the seat her son had vacated, her eyes drifting behind her to the closed bedroom door before returning to me.
"Not at all," I replied softly, a smile spreading across my face. "He's precious."
"A precious handful," she responded rolling her eyes though she too smiled nonetheless. "The doctor will be here shortly," she continued more seriously.
"Lovely," I replied trying not have the distaste I felt at the prospect of seeing a doctor show in my voice and failing miserably at it.
"He comes highly recommended," she said leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees as she peered at me keenly. "You've got nothing to worry about."
I smiled at that, a small sound escaping my throat as I allowed my eyes to drift up towards the ceiling. I had plenty of things to worry about it, of which the doctor did not even factor into the top ten. Despite Meela's memories, which were really more like vivid dreams, I had no knowledge of this world. I was not just a fish out of water, I was a fish stranded in the middle of the Sahara desert. I had no idea about anything, which meant that I had plenty to worry about.
"What's so funny?" she asked softly. She was leaning so close to me now that I could feel her breath tickling my skin. I closed my eyes and sighed.
"Life," I responded allowing my eyes to drift open once again as I turned to look at her. "I feel like a seed blowing in the wind, powerless against the forces acting on it and where it will end up," I confided softly, my hand coming to rest on top of the one she had rested on the bed as she leaned towards me. "You are the only thing that makes sense here," I continued softly, my eyes locked with hers in an intimate gaze, her thumb once again caressing my hand.
Her lips parted as we stared at each other, her eyes shimmering as she watched me without blinking. "Fear not for the wind," she said quietly, squeezing my hand, which was now firmly ensconced in hers. "Where ever you land, I'll be there to catch you," she continued her voice breathy, even softer than it had been before.
"I…" I started to say, but before I could say anymore I felt a pair of soft, wet lips pressing against mine swallowing my words. I felt my breath catch, and the tears that I had been struggling to contain since the moment I had woken up in this strange room the night before finally fell into our kiss.
There were no words to describe the wonder of kissing her as myself once again, except to say that it was worth every single year, every single month, every single second of the two thousand years that we had been separated. It was a revelation, a glorious revelation, and as I felt her hand come to rest on my cheek as she deepened the kiss and our tongues danced together, I felt peace for the first time since He had stopped me the hallway of the palace that night and asked to show me something special.
When the need for air finally became too great for us to ignore we pulled away from each other slightly. When we did I saw her look at me her expression surprised, and scared, and excited and so much more. She started to draw further back, her eyes clouding over in thought, I reached out and grasped her hand holding it lightly, but firmly.
"Please don't leave," I said softly. I couldn't bare it if she did.
"I won't," she said her voice somewhat distracted, "I wasn't," she continued her eyes slowly focusing on me once again. "I'm not going anywhere," she said finally composed once more. "You should rest before the doctor arrives, he may be here for a while," she continued a moment later as she settled herself better on the chair, still close, but not as close as before.
"Lay with me," I said already acutely feeling the loss of her warmth. "Keep me warm."
"We have fireplaces for that nowadays," she responded looking over at the fireplace on the far wall. "And lots of blankets. The snuggly kind."
"Nothing could possibly be better than you," I replied, my heart hammering in my chest. I had tried to be strong, to be brave, to be a good little soldier but I was losing the battle. I was tired, and scared, and all I wanted to do was crawl into the arms of the woman I loved more than life itself.
I needed her.
When people had looked at us in the past, they had always assumed that I was the strong one. That with her soft voice and gentle smile Nefertiri was the one who depended on me, but that had never been the truth. Emotionally, Nefertiri had always been far stronger than I, far stronger than I had ever even conceived of I came to realize. She had survived her father taking possession of my body, and of Him taking my soul. She had survived watching the murder of her father, my execution and fought for control of her kingdom.
I had always been the one that needed her, and I needed her still.
She looked at me for a long time after that, her eyes steady and unblinking, and then she slowly rose out of the chair and rested her left knee on the bed. I watched her intently as she then drew up her other knee and placed it on the other side of my body then shifted so that she was on the other side of the bed, kneeling above me. Then very carefully she lowered herself down until she was lying stretched out on her side facing me.
Once she stopped moving, I slowly shifted my body towards her until my head was level with her shoulder. I lowered my head onto her shoulder then and draped my arm around her waist drawing us together as I inhaled her scent.
"What a novel idea," she breathed out a moment later. "When you said rest it wasn't a euphemism for anything."
I smiled at that, my lips pressing against her collarbone as if to disprove her point, but I did no more than that. I could do no more than that though I wanted to, badly.
"I think you're right," I said softly, resting against her comfortably once more. "I think I am sick. I fully intended for it to be a euphemism for something," I continued honestly, feeling content but drained.
"That's my Su," she said softly as she pressed a soft kiss to my forehead. "It's alright, we'll have you feeling completely like your old self again soon enough."
"I hope so," I replied as my eyes began to flutter shut. I really was tired. I couldn't remember ever being so tired and so persistently. It was strange, but then again these were very strange times.
"I'll make sure of it," I heard her respond softly but with conviction. "I'm not going to lose you again," she went on her voice becoming increasingly distant as I drifted off to sleep. "I couldn't stand it."
The sun was shinning down on my face, pleasantly warming my skin as my eyes slowly opened. It was warm out and I could feel a fine sheen of sweat covering my skin making me tingle nicely as the breeze rushed over me. Then I felt something cool rubbing against my lips and automatically opened them. A small berry was inserted and then one of the fingers that had delivered it. I smiled and sat up easily.
"How long have you been awake?" I asked playfully as Nefertiri gazed at me.
"Awake?" she asked looking down at me, her expression thoughtful before breaking out into a wide grin. "I was never asleep."
"So the snoring was just an elaborate rouse?" I asked knowing that it would get her riled up. I loved to see her with fire in her eyes, her lips thin and determined, strength and determination radiating from every fiber of her being. She was beautiful when she was angry, she was beautiful when she was calm. She was the most exquisite creature to ever walk the earth.
"I do NOT snore," she replied firmly, her eyes trained on me, her expression leaving no room for argument.
"If you say so," I replied resting my hands behind my head and closing my eyes once again, a lazy, content grin spreading across my face.
"Are you humoring me?" she asked leaning down over me. "You're humoring me, aren't you?" she asked her hands trailing up my torso. She was smiling I could hear it in her voice. "Humor me will you," she continued to say, her fingers now dancing across my skin, tickling my sides.
"Hey," I said my eyes popping open and my hands coming from beneath my head to enter the fray. "Stop that," I continued laughing as I struggled with her trying to get her hands off of my abdomen. "Play fair," I went on rolling her onto her back. "Exploiting my weaknesses like that," I said laughing again as she rolled me over and I rolled her back over carrying us off of the blanket and onto the grass. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
"Of course you're right," she said stopping suddenly, looking down at me contritely from her position straddling my waist. "That was wrong of me. Even though you started it," she continued, her hands once again on my sides, but this time caressing them softly, sensuously. "Where are you hurt? Do you want me to kiss it better?" she asked, a truly delicious smile spreading across her lips before her tongue slipped out to lick them.
"Everywhere," I groaned, shutting my eyes to indicate great pain. "I think you better just kiss everything to make sure," I continued cracking one eye open and then the other to look at her.
"It is better to be safe than sorry," she agreed, her eyes raking over my body hungrily though her tone was almost scholarly. "Alright," she said with sigh a moment later. "It's settled then … I'll have you for lunch."
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a pleasurable haze. Most of the evening as well, and a good portion of the night truth be told.
After twirling the white stick around between my fingers for a few minutes I pulled the sticky half moon shaped candy out of my mouth and held it up to the light looking at it. A lollypop, grape flavored, it was quite good. The doctor had given it to me for being such a cooperative patient. I liked the doctors in this century much better than the ones from my time, back in the day the only treats that were given was news that you weren't dead or likely to be dying any time in the never future. Lollypops were much more satisfying.
"Do you like it?" Evie asked walking back into the room and shutting the door behind her. After the doctor had finished examining me he had asked to speak to her outside.
"It's quite good," I said sticking it back in my mouth and finishing it off. "He didn't give you one?" I asked with a touch of smugness as I rested the stick on the night side table. He liked me better.
"I've had enough suckers to last me a lifetime," she said softly coming to sit by the side of the bed. "I can't look at them without getting a stomach ache now. One of the drawbacks of knowing the owners of candy store as a child," she continued to say as she gazed at me.
She extended her hand a moment later so that it was hovering over my chest, right above my heart, her thumb stroking the air lightly as if she could feel something beneath it before she then retracted her hand letting it fall limply onto her lap, her head bowing.
"Bad news," I said watching carefully. Whatever the doctor had told her wasn't good.
She looked up at my words and nodded slightly before closing her eyes tightly. It was a valiant effort, but tears still slipped out from underneath her lowered lids a moment later, and she took a deep, shuddering breath before raising her hands to her face and harshly rubbing away her tears.
"He doesn't know," she started to say looking at me now though her eyes still shimmered. "He doesn't know what's wrong with you," she continued her head dropping down momentarily as she struggled to collect herself before looking back up at me. "But … he says your body is shutting down. He couldn't explain it, he just said that everything points to the lights being turned off."
I was silent after she stopped speaking, her words saddening me deeply but hardly surprising me. I had felt it almost from the moment I had woken up in their nicely furnished rented house. I had felt my energy waning more and more with each passing day until I had become convinced that very soon I would run out of energy to lose. I had felt myself fading away.
"Say something," she said softly a moment later, picking up my hand in hers holding it lightly as if she thought it might break.
"I know," I told her softly. "I could, I can feel it. It's like being very tired but trying not to go to sleep," I related. "Do you remember that night, a couple of days after I came to live at the palace? We had a competition to see who could stay awake the longest," I continued having seen her nod weakly. "It's like that. I can feel myself getting more tired with each passing day."
"But why?" she asked almost militantly. It was the first time I had seen her really loss control since waking up. "I checked up on Meela, she was twenty-nine and in perfect health, she'd never even had her tonsils taken out. There's no reason for you to be dying," she continued fiercely.
"The restoration spell," I said softly, "it must have done something to me."
"But I have Nefertiri's memories," Evie responded. "I have her soul, and I'm fine," she continued, her hand clutching mine more tightly now as if she were afraid I would fade away right in front of her.
"Those were a gift, from the gods," I replied softly, my hand coming to cover hers. "A divine treasure … just like you," I continued kissing her knuckles softly. "My soul was put into Meela using the darkest of magic and was sustained by his power. I've been dying since Anubis took them away from Him, since the temple," I related, finally realizing how I'd gotten the strength to turn away from him at the pit, to turn and run.
"Please," I said a second later focusing on Evie once again and seeing tears begin to fall from her eyes once more. "Don't cry," I continued raising my hand up to her face to catch her tears, wiping them away gently. "I … I don't belong in this world. It's time for me to finally rest in peace."
She sniffled as I finished speaking, her eyes searching out mine her jaw tightening defiantly as she gazed at me before loosening once more as she ran a troubled hand through her hair. "I know," she said softly, her hand coming to rest on my check, "that it's been so hard for you," she continued blinking. "You deserve peace," she said her eyes closing. "To be at rest, finally," she went on softly. "And this is going to sound selfish, but I don't want you to go. I want you to stay here, with me. I don't want to lose you again."
"That's Nefertiri talking," I said softly, my hand coming to cover hers as she stroked my cheek.
"I am Nefertiri," she replied looking at me crossly.
"I thought only just a little," I replied, recalling our conversation from the previous night.
"Don't be a smart-ass," was her frowned response. "You can beat this," she said. "You can stay. You just have to want it. You have to fight," she continued leaning forward, her words coming out in an intense whisper.
"And if I do live?" I asked her my voice soft though my eyes burned with intensity. "Then what? I move in with you and your husband and your son? We become one big, happy family?" I asked. "If Meela's memories are correct, it's still not legal for me to be your concubine," I continued stilling her thumb with my hand, though I kept her hand pressed against my face.
"There's a solution," she responded dropping down off of the chair to kneel by my bedside. "There's always a solution, it's simply a matter of finding it, of thinking outside of the box. If we…"
"Evelyn," I said, saying her name out loud for the first time since I awoke. "I'm dying. Your doctor said so, and I can feel it. There's no way to creatively think my way out of this, it's not a riddle," I told her finally removing her hand from my face and bringing it to my lips, placing a soft kiss on her palm. "It's the end. But it's not. Do you understand?"
"No," she said quietly. "Why does it feel like it?" she asked, her voice cracking.
"We'll be together again," I told her confidently, my voice the strongest it had been in centuries. "I promise," I continued, and I knew those words to be as true as any that had ever been spoken. "I promise."
"Do you remember this place?" she asked me softly as she draped a blanket over our bodies. "It's darker than the last time we were here," she continued wrapping her arms around my waist holding me securely against her.
I had gotten weaker, though I hadn't believed that it was possible, in the days after the doctors' visit. It was now an effort to make even the smallest of gestures, yet I was not afraid for I knew that she would take care of me.
The day after I had been given my diagnosis, Evie had come into my room with a chair on wheels and ordered Rick to sit me in it. That chair had been home away from home for the next few days as she took me on a tour of the new Cairo. "Before you leave this world you're damn well going to see some of it," she had said. And a sight to see it had been. I had memories of all the things she had shown me, from my time as Meela, but to see them with my own eyes, and touch them with my own hands had been an amazing experience. To see them, and experience the new world for the first with her by my side even better.
"I remember," I said softly. Everything I said was softly as of late.
I had told her of the dream I'd had the other night, of when we'd visited the valley and now she had brought me back there for one last memory, our last hurrah as flesh and blood.
"I wanted you to see something beautiful before you go," she said, her head tipped upwards towards the starry night sky, before lowering to take in the dark leafy vista in front of us.
"I've seen something beautiful everyday," I responded without hesitation. "Nature's most beautiful creation ever," I continued tilting my head back to look at her.
"It's so strange to be held," I said later in a moment of silence as we held hands under the blanket. "I should have let you do it more often, but I so enjoyed holding you in mine," I continued remembering a time when I had been young and strong like she was now. When she would lay, protected and loved more than anything in the world in my arms.
"And I enjoyed being held," she replied her voice soft and wistful. "So strong. My hero," she whispered, pressing her lips to my temple. "My love."
I could feel her hands squeezing mine tightly as tears sporadically rained down on my skin. I wanted to comfort her, to tell her not to cry and that everything would work out exactly as it should, but I no longer had the energy to speak.
My thoughts however remained clear with memories of things that I had loved in my life.
The feel of the wind rushing across my face as we raced horses through the desert. Her eyes. A deep breathe of crisp morning air. Her smile. The feel of barely stacks brushing against my legs and arms as we lay in the fields finding pictures in the clouds. Her hands. Jumping into a crystal clear pool of water on a scorching summer afternoon. Stars shooting across the nights' sky like balls of fire. Her ears. A flower slowly opening itself to the world, spreading its pedals for the world to enjoy. Her. And more, and so much more…
"Agh," I gasped, my chest rising one last time as my eyes fluttered closed.
I blinked, my eyes tightly shutting as I turned my head to the side to block out the light attacking my eyes. Raising my hand to my face and curving it over my brow I tentatively opened my eyes allowing them time to adjust to the light.
Pushing myself up so that my palms were resting on the mattress and my torso was upright I looked around the sunbathed room and smiled. Widely.
I flung my legs over the side of the bed, wiggling my toes as they touched the sun warmed tile of the floor. Then I rose to my feet, stretching out my body and bouncing on the balls of my toes before stopping to once again survey the room. It was a room I knew well, I room I had missed for over two thousand years.
Turning my head to the side I spotted the wall permanently stained with ink and stared at it for a moment before smiling once again. Then without a moments more hesitation I ran towards it, lifting my foot up to brace against it as I reached it and using my previous momentum to flip around up and around landing perfectly on my feet staring at the wall once more. My wall. My work of art, I thought tracing the dark stains splattered across it with my fingers.
Evie opened her eyes slowly, her right hand rising to her face so that she could use her thumb and index finger to pinch the bridge of her nose as she blinked rapidly in a futile attempt to stem the stream of tears running down her face.
"Evie," Rick said softly, his hands coming to rest comfortingly on his wife's shoulders as he watched her with a concerned expression. She had come out of Anuk Su Namun's room only moments before to tell them that the woman had passed away, then her eyes had rolled up into her head and she had dropped to the floor clutching at her heart.
"She's gone," Evie breathed out, her voice barely more than a whisper as she looked up at her son and her husband, tears still streaking down her face.
"We know," Rick said holding her around the shoulders gently and helping her into a standing position. "You came out and told us, then you collapsed. Are you okay?" he asked. From the moment Evelyn had hugged the other woman on the steps of the temple he had been confounded by their relationship, unable to grasp the bond that tied them together, but recognizing that their was an incredible connection between them nonetheless and that her passing had hurt Evie terribly.
"I'm … not hurt," Evie responded turning to face him. She was feeling an acute sense of loss however that would not allow her to say that she was fine. She wasn't fine, but she would be. They all would be. "I meant Nefertiri though," she said leaning into Rick as he wrapped his arms around her comfortingly. "She's left me," she continued softly, before turning around to face Rick and breaking out into a dazzling smile that surprised the man and small boy standing by her. "They're together now."
I felt her arms wrap around my waist and her lips brush against my neck as her body pressed up against my back.
I turned slowly, not wanting to break our embrace, until I finally saw her eyes shimmering in the sunlight.
Her hand came to rest against my cheek and she smiled, the most beautiful smile in all of the earth and all of the heavens.
Then her lips were against mine, kissing me softly, lovingly, before her lips curved up into a smile once again and she took my hand in hers.
"Come on," she said tugging my hand. "What? Did you buy sandals made of molasses?" she asked grinning at me as I stumbled along behind her awkwardly. "I've made some changes in the garden. You'll never guess what Phaiki managed to get me," she continued dragging me out of the bedroom. Our bedroom.
I was home at last.
Good? Okay? Don't let this woman near a computer or pen again? Please let me know what you think (jbstories@h...), and thanks for reading :)