Welcome to my World: Chapter Thirteen
I did not just say what I think I just said. I'm actually going to Egypt.
It's time to grow up, realize and admit that I'm head over heels for Ra. First crushes are pretty cool. For now. I have to cherish it, roll in it, and remember every detail of this love before Bastet rips my soul out of my body when I set foot on Ancient Egyptian soil. I should probably spare Ra the heartbreak and leave him as soon as we get my brother back, but then what? He'll just walk back into Egypt and say, 'sup dudes, you're dead king is back.' Sure. As if.
The cabby pulls over to the curb, and knocks on the plastic divider.
"That'll be twenty-five fifty." He said with a thick British accent. I open the little plastic window, and slip him the fifty dollar bill.
"Keep the change." I smiled at the cabby's shocked expression, and we quickly exit the cab. He drives away, yelling a 'Thank-you!' out of his open window.
"I just made that guy's night." I stretched my back, partly expecting Ra to say something along the lines of 'that's what she said.' I really don't think he grasps the concept of crude humor.
Turning my attention to the very familiar Egyptology Research Center in front of us, I run onto the sidewalk, looking for the phone that my brother was using. It's laying right there, on the first step leading up to the large building. I pick it up. The screen is totally shattered and dead. "Where do you think Ankhe is?"
"She couldn't have gone very far."
"You think there's a chance that she transported Sasha back to Egypt?" I threw the phone into a nearby trash bin.
"Who knows. Ankhe came for me, so all we must do now is wait." He took a seat on one of the stairs leading up to the center. His face is non-expressive, and I guess he's totally deep in thought.
"How powerful is Ankhe, anyways?" Man, Ra must be getting sick of me questioning him.
"She can summon demons to do her bidding. The Gods do seem to favor her. She is the child of Anubis, after all." He rests his chin on his hand, in a pose reminiscent of The Thinker statue.
I looked up to the black sky. "Then that means Ankhe is a demigod. Half human, half divine."
"Ankhe walks a thin line between the worlds. I don't know what sorcery she used to get herself here. The way she spoke on the phone…she must have made a pact with Bastet."
I'm going to kick some major feline Goddess ass when I get back to Egypt. Preferably before she attempts to yank my vital soul.
"Bastet!" I scream up at the sky, "you're a cunning little-"
"Are you waiting for me, my love?" Both Ra and I snap our heads in the supposed direction of the voice, but it seems to be coming from everywhere, as if it were being broadcasted through an invisible speaker system.
"Ankhe! Show yourself!" Ra stands up quickly, eyes scanning the foreground for his ex.
Ow. Yay, now my stomach decides that it's funny to turn into a million flittering dragonflies.
"Why shoulddai?" Her voice drawls out in a lethargic moan. It sounds weirdly intimate.
Ra grits his teeth and wipes a hand down his face, careful to not smear his perfectly applied eyeliner. "You stole Vereo's brother."
"He is in safe hands, I assure you."
"Somehow, I don't believe that." Ra steps down from the stairs, and moves to stand next to me.
"He is back in our time, my king." She giggles. Her voice is echoing, making her laughter sound even more like a disembodied spirit seeking revenge.
"You…you sent my historically impaired brother to the past!? Sasha's going to collapse and die if he doesn't have access to Tumblr!" Right now, he's probably asking poor villagers where the nearest internet café is, frantically looking for a laptop to steal and hookup to a free Wi-Fi connection.
"He is safe." She repeats.
The Pharaoh places a protective arm around my shoulders. "What do you want, Ankhe? Tell me what it is."
"I want you." A movement catches our eye. Shiny, creeping black globs seep up slowly through the cracks on the Egyptology Center's steps. They congeal together, mass upon mass of gelatin liquid forming the shape of a person. White bones start to protrude from the writhing blobs, arranging themselves in proper anatomical order. With a sudden flash of blood red light, the odd display ceases.
Standing before us is a stunning woman, clothed in a simple white dress that hangs off the shoulder and shows the right amount of cleavage. Her boobs must be at least a size C. Her wide set hips allow the satin gown to frame her hourglass figure. Her skin is a perfect mocha tone, which further accentuates her bright green eyes and long, thin braided locks of jet black hair. Her lips are full and painted a matte pink, and her nose is one that plastic surgeons would photograph and put on a motivational poster.
"Woa." Don't be sarcastic, V. Just be honest, and maybe she'll bring your brother back. "No wonder Ra fell for you. You look like you just stepped off of a Victoria Secret runway."
Ra stares at me with incredulity.
"I'm probably going to need brain bleach after seeing those black blob things." Verbal diarrhea alert. "So this is strange."
"You're one to talk." She smiles innocently and moves towards us. Ra gently pulls me a step back.
"I beg your pardon?" I eek out. Woah. Everything about her just screams beauty. Real-life people can achieve the Photoshop look.
Ankhe ignores me, and locks eyes with Ra.
If movies are anything like reality, then I know that some serious shit is about to go down.
"Look at 'er, My King." The pretty woman points to me with a jewelry-clad hand. "A commoner! A simple minded little sheep that isn't even fit to scrub the palace floors."
Ouch. Now that kind of hurts. And here I thought that I left junior high a few years ago.
"Listen, Ankhe." I bud in, "I went to an all girl school for most of my life. I've been called every name in the book."
She giggles, setting a manicured fingertip onto her lips in a thoughtful pose.
"My sweet, chaste little girl. May I remind you that Ra, as you so affectionately call him, has bedded women whose bodies make yours look like nothing but a misshapen sack of lard?"
Sweet baby pumpkins, can she even be any more of a bitch? At this rate, I'll use up all of the vulgar comments I've been working on.
Ankhe tilts her head and lets her ebony braids sweep over her left shoulder.
"Oh, come on. I know I'm not exactly the hottest chicken in the barrel, but at least I have a fabulous sense of humor." I gave her the thumbs up. 'Cause I'm totally saving my favorite finger for Bastet.
A brief snap of fury passes her lovely face, but she quickly closes her eyes and lets out a rather erotic sigh.
"That's enough, Ankhe!" I turn to face Ra, and his expression is unreadable yet again. "I know you followed me here. You want to take my throne and rule my kingdom, don't you?"
Ankhe laughs a deep, throaty rumble.
"Your kingdom? Hm. Do you not remember who the one was that betrayed your kingdom?" Her lips spread into a wide, maleficent grin.
Ra looks as if someone just stabbed him in the chest. He steps away, his fists are balled and he's not blinking. She definitely struck a chord.
"Don't you dare say another word." I've never seen Ra look this pissed off. "Or else."
"Or else what? Your precious angel here will find out how you've been lying to her?" She twirls a braid around her slim finger and places her other hand on her shapely hip.
"What's she talking about?" I question. He remains silent, and casts his eyes downward.
"Let me educate you, little sheep." Ankhe sways forward a step. "Bastet told you only half of the reason why The King was cursed. Of course, the God's first priority was keeping the throne away from me." She gave a hearty sniff at her statement. "Have you ever wondered why the curse was placed on him for eternity?"
"I mean, yeah. If I hadn't dropped by, he'd probably still be stuck in that sarcophagus for who knows how long." I shrugged. "I just figured that the Gods had some sort of twisted idea of justice."
She flutters her lashes, and for a second, I swear I saw the whites of her eyes turn pitch black.
"He committed the greatest sin that a Pharaoh could ever commit!" It doesn't sound like she's lying.
I snap my fingers. "Did he sleep with too many women or something?"
"After what he's about to tell you, you'd wish that was the case." The woman points to Ra. "Tell her how you were the one that betrayed your people and your empire!"
Cue the jaw drop.
"Vereo, I…it's complicated, and…" Ra stutters, his voice cracking.
Ankhe is definitely playing with his emotions. Ra was fully in love with her before, so it must be a shock to see her now, especially since they didn't leave each other on a happy note.
"It's okay, Ra. We've all screwed up a few times in life." I back up, giving him some much needed breathing space. "I was never allowed enough freedom to screw up, but trust me, I will one day."
"I did a boatload of a lot more than just screw things up." He admits, his tone almost pleading.
Now I can't let my massive crush on him cloud my judgment. "Tell me, Ra."
His eyes are watery and he's hunched over a bit.
"I told you how I have fought and died in the Egypto-Libyan war. The Great War." He explains, dragging on every word as if to slow down the painful memory.
"Go on." I nod.
"I left the throne to go to battle. But I…" He takes in a breath to push back the waiting tears and glares up at the sky as if to say 'fuck you' to the Gods. "When I went to war, I didn't fight on behalf of Egypt."
Ankhe's grin turns into a devilish smirk, her pointed canine teeth gleaming with satisfaction.
Ra peers into my eyes with sorrow reflected in his hazel depths. "I went to war alongside Libya; fighting to the death against my own empire."
Holy Valhalla on a cracker.
"You-…you fought against Egypt?" I gasp. "What the…what the ever loving shit were you thinking!? And I swear if you say 'it's complicated' I'm going to injure you in a very sensitive spot on the male anatomy." Okay, now probably isn't the best time to crack jokes.
"It was a choice that I had to make. You…you couldn't imagine the chaos that was raging throughout the land. It was hell." He covers his mouth with his hand, and pauses. "Absolute hell."
"You went against the country that you ruled!" I burst, "a war! A fucking war was waged and you took the side of the invaders? How many innocent lives were taken? How many…how many people had to die because you betrayed the very country that you were supposed to protect?"
"I did it to save my country!" He's yelling now, a potent mix of sadness, anger and guilt. "All I've ever done, I did to protect Egypt."
"Then why did you side with Libya?" I bombarded him with questions. "It all makes sense now. Your brother didn't kill you out of hate, he did it for Egypt. And when you went down, one of your Libyan comrades took him out."
"That is my sin." He says softly. "I'm sorry, Vereo, I…I was going to tell you."
Huh. I'm sure he had a good reason for doing what he did. He looks so helplessly broken now. That softness and air of aristocracy from when I first met him is completely gone. He's a human man at this moment, stripped of any illusion of royalty that was left. This is the reason why he was buried in a plain stone coffin instead of a gold and jewel incrusted one. Ra was unfaithful to the crown.
He was unfaithful to Egypt.
In modern terms, it would probably be like the American president siding with Russia to take over the United States while inadvertently wiping out a quarter of the population.
Great, now he's looking at me with those puppy dog eyes.
"You committed treason." I rub the back of my neck, working out an imaginary knot.
"See? Look at how he has deceived you." Ankhe sashays towards me, and I cross my arms over my chest. "'E isn't as much of a hero as you perceived 'em to be."
I wonder if Ankhe actually thinks that Ra's admission of guilt will keep me from going back in time with him. Why would she even bring up this topic in the first place? To get back at Ra for leaving her cheating ass?
Or maybe she's scared. Scared that I might do something that'll get Ra back on the throne of Egypt. But why would I do that, after he flat out said that he went against his country?
I need another one of those painkillers. Ugh.
"I know now, that Ra isn't a hero." I purse my lips and glare at Ra. "He didn't tell me the full truth before, so I don't see any rational reason why I should travel back with him. Of course, you'd have to bring my brother back."
"Yes, yes, child!" She raises her arms up in the air and stretches, her expression absolutely gleeful. "You are a cunning little girl."
Ra collapses to the ground, kneeling on the hard pavement, his hand still clasped over his mouth.
"Cunning? Me? Thanks for stating the obvious." I'm either the stupidest person on Earth right now, or the most trusting. Or both. Definitely both.
I'm going to regret this. I'm definitely going to regret this. I know there must be even more to Ra's story, and I highly doubt that he would start raging through war on the side of an invading country for no reallygood reason.
I've trusted him this far.
Rationality is so overrated.
"Ra." I look down at him, and he keeps his eyes focused on the pavement. "Ra, please…look at me."
Oh, shit. He thinks I'm siding with Ankhe.
"Please, Ra. I'm not telling you, I'm asking you." He looks up at me, and damnit. His tears left black lines running down his face and his once vibrant eyes are now glazed over with self hatred.
"Listen, I…God, I'm such an idiot for saying this." I gulp down a lump of built up saliva. "I don't hate you. I know you probably feel that I hate you now, but I don't. I can't bring myself to. I said that everyone fucks up in life, and some people fuck up much more than others."
He tilts his head. Good. That means he's listening.
"The thing that my brother told me when we were growing up was…was that I should always separate a person's stupid act from the actual person. My brother is a felon. He broke into an art gallery to pay for his car. He's a total kleptomaniac. I also have this one cousin who was addicted to narcotics, but she was the kindest individual you'd ever meet." I walk up next to him and kneel down beside him.
Ankhe's mouth is open wide with shock. She's a demigoddess, so she might already know what I'm up to.
"You had your reasons for doing what you did. I want to know those reasons. I want you to show me why." He places his hands down, and his eyes are locked with mine. "Nobody is one and the same as their mistakes. Granted, some mistakes and acts are unforgivable. But those little mistakes and imperfections that we all have— that doesn't change the person. It doesn't change who and what they are deep on the inside."
He sniffles and wipes a tear away.
"You're the only Egyptian royal left. Even if…even if you don't take back your place as king or if this relationship thing doesn't work out-" I take his right hand, and place it under my left collar bone. I rest my hands on top of his, and he looks thoroughly confused. "You'll always be my Pharaoh. My brave, handsome knight in shining gold sandals." I chuckle.
"So you'll…sacrifice your soul to…to be with me?" His voice hitched.
"Nope. And here I thought you were the smart one." I roll my eyes, "I'm doing it for me, ya nub. I'm making that choice because I have the freedom to. For once in my life I have freedom, and not a single person or God or whatever can influence me on what I can or can't do with my own damn soul."
"You truly are an angel in human form." With his free hand, Ra takes something out of his pocket. It's the blue stone scarab we stole! The Set Lapis!
"NO!" Ankhe screeches, "You clumsy leech! You're supposed to hate him! You're supposed to walk away and never see his face again!"
I smile sadly at her. "If I left him here alone, I'd be just as bad as you." I stand, and offer Ra a hand up. "I've made it this far. I'm gonna keep pressing my luck till it runs out."
He takes it, stands, and doesn't let go. He's holding my hand so lightly and carefully, as if I were a glass doll.
"My precious Vereo." He whispers. "The only one who knows how to tend to a shattered spirit."
Ra pulls me close, and I can see Ankhe from my side vision, lurking further back into the shadow of the Egyptology Center as her supple body becomes a repugnant hoard of blackened blobs once more. She isn't done tormenting us yet, and I have a funny feeling that we'll be seeing her soon enough.
I smile. "A great person once said that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."
"If that is truly the case, then you are my future, Vereo." I love the way he says my name. My God, it's like he's saying it just as gently as he's holding my waist.
"Let's go into the past." I rest my head on his shoulder.
"As you wish." The world stops, and the lights from the street lamps are growing dimmer. The far off sounds of street cars and busses fade out into the encroaching blur, and the only thing that feels real now is Ra.
I'm travelling back in time with a Pharaoh who has a bucket full of explaining to do. I hope I'm making the right choice. Or, well, the rightest choice, anyways.
Because if Ra really did side with Libya to invade Egypt…
I'm scared that maybe; I'm not falling for a hero.
I just might be falling for a villain.