Lesedi met Amenemhat on the stairs.
He beckoned her with an outstretched hand. “Stay with me tonight.” His eyes focused on the floor as he escorted her into the darkness of his bedchamber.
“Amen,” she said with a tug to his arm. “What have you done? Tell me what happened.”
Moonlight, the sole source of illumination in the room, streamed through windows cut high into the mud-brick walls. Amenemhat sank down onto the bed, holding his head like a child denied. Beneath him, the taut layer of reeds bound to a wooden frame held up by four elaborately carved posts sighed in response. Lesedi stood before him hoping that angry-Amenemhat had not returned from confronting the villagers. She hesitated, then sat beside him and stroked his shoulder.
Still hunched over, he lowered his folded hands. “They will not bother you again.”
“What did you do?”
“It has been resolved,” he said to the floor. “They, nor I, shall impede your departure tomorrow.”
“My departure?” She guided his face to her smile. “Then you do believe! Leave with me. With us.”
Amenemhat’s eyes traced her features as if memorizing their details. Then he shook his head. “I cannot.”
His words cut a frown across her face. “Even after everything that has happened, you hate me still?”
“It was never hate.”
Seldom-seen dimples appeared on his beautiful face, smooth and unblemished like a sunlit drop of honey. His thumb caressed her cheek. Amenemhat’s lips anointed Lesedi’s forehead, eyes, nose, and then lingered at her receptive mouth. Arrested desire emerged, intensifying with each pass of hand and tongue. But before they ventured to a place from which they could not return, he released her and collected himself.
“I do not want you to return to your people ashamed of anything you have done here.” He pointed near the entrance. “My weapons are there. You will need them more than I.” Before words could accompany her questioning look, Amenemhat continued: “Sleep, Princess. You have a great journey ahead of you.”
Like the interlocking strands of flax upon the loom, the two lay. Within moments, the rise and fall of his chest slowed to a steady rhythm. She joined him with the lullaby of his heart in her ear. Hours passed. Suddenly, Amenemhat sat up, knocking her away from him. His hands reached into the darkness, grasping at some phantom image only he could see. Then he settled back down on the cushioned headrest. His eyes remained wide and unblinking, searching whatever his mind perceived. Despite the moon’s dim rays, his pupils were reduced to pinpricks.
“Are you He?” Amenemhat asked the vision. Dimples reappeared. A hint of moisture formed at the edge of his eye. Then his body writhed as if to satisfy an itch on his back. He grimaced, panted three times, then fell silent.
“Amenemhat,” Lesedi whispered through the lump in her throat. She sat back for a moment, waiting for the convulsions to resume. As he lay perfectly still, she leaned over and peered into his open eyes. She shook him, called his name, slapped his cheek. Sniffing back heated anger rising to her face, her head descended upon his chest, listening for the lullaby. There was nothing.
Lesedi covered her mouth. Wailing came, though not from her.
Abel hurried down the dirt road, hands over his ears to drown out the crescendo of screams as he approached King Djedefre’s burial complex. He expected a sense of satisfaction once he left home. His entire life had been spent in captivity; the last two months in anticipation of this very moment. But he could not rejoice in this final blow to his captors. Not all Egyptians had been evil and cruel. Not all had rejected the warnings. As he entered the walled complex, screams laced with the names of the dead intensified. He expected to see one Egyptian, the one he loved like a brother, alive and well and ready to accompany him and Lesedi to freedom. That is, if the two hadn’t managed to kill each other in the interim.
He stopped at his destination, bewildered. He burst into the home, calling for its occupants, but instead found a blood-smeared robe on the floor next to the door.
What have they done to each other now?
Abel looked up to see Lesedi marching toward him. Amenemhat’s precious composite bow and leather pouch of quivers were in her hands. He approached her, but instead, a slap to his face greeted him.
“I believed in everything you said, everything I witnessed!” she raged. “You told me the blood would save Amenemhat and it did not!”
Abel caught her arm posed for another slap. “Because there’s no blood on the door!”
“Impossible! You were there. I did as you said.”
“There’s nothing there. Just a few streaks as if—” He held up the bloody garment. “What happened here last night?”
Lesedi snatched the ruined fabric from Abel and caressed it between her fingers. “This is…The villagers came…He went out to calm them…” She inhaled the scent on the garment. “Amenemhat. You did not have to do this.”
Abel touched her elbow and whispered, “It has begun. We must hurry!”
Lesedi trailed the long line of slaves escaping on dry land through parted waters. Fire by night, then a daily fog separated them from their Egyptian pursuers. She’d been here before, racing through a Nubian savanna and praying to her gods that she wouldn’t be captured. They hadn’t answered her. But this God, this strange invisible force that Abel embraced and Amenemhat seemed to grudgingly acknowledge was different. He was…here.
She stopped just short of the shoreline. Towering walls of foaming water flanked the carpet of moist earth that stretched as far as the eye could see. Lesedi extricated her hand from Abel’s. He opened his mouth to protest, but she stopped him with a raised palm. She strained to shout over the thundering water. “How are my people to understand what has happened if I am not there to explain it?”
Abel, the Hebrews, and the mixed multitude that went with them, were clear across the sea now, freed by waters rejoined. The once-stained robe, made clean from those miraculous walls of water, billowed about Lesedi’s shoulders. Amenemhat was on her mind. Egypt to her back. Visions of a new Nubia blazed before her eyes.
This story previously appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of The Copperfield Review. The above photo, Egypt Awaits You with a Smile by kairoinfo4you, is courtesy of Creative Commons.
Michelle McGill-Vargas says
Reblogged this on Michelle McGill-Vargas and commented:
Here’s Part II of yesterday’s story!
Helen M. Brandt says
You have been blessed with the talent of writing and drawing a reader into the story. Great job, Michelle. Keep on writing.
Michelle McGill-Vargas says