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Author's Note: I found this movie in the $5 bin at Walmart and I had to have it. This movie just about breaks my heart every time.
Do you think love just goes away? Pops out of existence when it becomes too painful or inconvenient, as if you never felt it? If only it did. If only it could be turned off. It's not a faucet. Love's a bloody river with level five rapids. Only a catastrophic act of nature or a dam has any chance of stopping it-and then usually only succeeds in diverting it. Both measures are extreme and change the terrain so much that you end up wondering why you bothered to gauge your position when it's done. Only way to surivive is to devise new ways to map out life.You loved her yesterday, you love her today. And she did something that devastates you. You'll love her tomorrow."
-Jericho Barrons (Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning)
He never wanted this. Never wanted to sit in Miriam and Aaron's home and keep his head buried in Tzipporah's hair, listening to the whisper of the plague and the wails—sometimes moments later, sometimes hours—of mothers and fathers and siblings who woke in the night to find their firstborns dead.
Tzipporah knew, somehow. Knew his fear and felt her hand grip his tightly. (She has such strong hands, calloused and dry and how has she not dried up from grief and pain and fear like he feels he has? Women, he thinks, handle those things differently. They do not dry up. They become hollow and somewhere inside them, they find strength to refill that hollow place) She did not question, as Miriam and Aaron did, where he was going when he stood up, unable to sit there and keep listening.
(He loves them, as instinctively as he can, but he does not know how to love them. Miriam is so wise and Aaron so bitter and they are both so different than he is—than even Tzipporah is—that he can't entirely relate. And—some small, terrible part of him whispers—they are not Rameses, with the wry smile and the loud laughter, with his larger than life presence and he misses the Rameses he knew)
He tried to block the sounds out. Tried to block out the accusing and hateful glares, the tear-stained cheeks, the limp bodies. He did not consciously go anywhere—he just knew he had to go, to move and he hadn't felt like this since he was last here, in Egypt, with Rameses' voice calling after him. (I just killed a man…)—but his feet led him up alabaster steps, the great pillars cracked and ashy.
The corridors were empty and eerily silent. (He cannot remember them this silent. He remembers running through them, Rameses on his heels, remembers their shouts and teasing echoing off of the walls) He walked them until he found Rameses, standing before a pedestal, his son's corpse (Your nephew, Moses' mind whispers) upon it.
The boy had been handsome. Had looked so much like his father. But there was his mother in the shape of his eyes and the point of his chin. And he would never grow. Would never fall in love, would never marry, would never bounce a babe on his knee. Would never be crowned Pharaoh, would never come into his birthright.
Rameses spoke before Moses could even manage to open his mouth. "You…and your people," The word wasn't spat, as it had been before. The energy was drained from his brother, a man so close to broken. "Have my permission to go."
But Moses didn't come as a leader. He hadn't come as God's messenger. He'd come out of fear. Fear that the plague against the firstborns would extend to Rameses, that he would come and find both father and son dead. And now that he was here, he couldn't leave without trying. Because Rameses was—had always been—his brother first. His hand reached out and he opened his mouth, but the sound wouldn't come. His voice was trapped.
Rameses flinched away, transforming the movement into a jerk because Pharaoh, the Morning and the Evening Star, did not flinch away from anything. (But Rameses the man does. Moses remembers this. Remembers his brother's hands wincing into fists at their father's scolding and lectures, remembers the set of his shoulders and the stubborn clench of his jaw and this man is not so different…) "Leave me!"
Every step echoed as he walked away and with every echo, the faces of the dead children pulsed in his mind. With every echo, the wails of the mothers and the silent sobs of the fathers engraved themselves, never to be washed away. And the most prominent was the sob that never came, Rameses' terrible silence and the little boy who wore his face.
He barely managed to leave the palace and once he did, he couldn't keep his feet. All the children…he curled on himself, the tears bursting from him and he wanted this to end. Wanted to throw the staff and his leadership away and for the world to forget him. Let him stay here, curled by dusty alabaster still a little warm from the day's relentless sun. (His father's voice—for all that Seti had been, he had still been a father—trickles up from his memories. "For the greater good…" Is he so bad as Seti? Had he not done the same thing?) Moses expected to see red on his hands, from the children's blood. The same blood that had filled the river. The same blood that he had judged Seti with.
(It hits him then, with a terrible finality. His family is gone. The family of his childhood is gone. There had been some hope, even yesterday, that he and Rameses could be as they were once. But this…this is beyond all forgiveness…)
He was grateful for Tzipporah in ways he hadn't known he could be. She was stable, somehow. Trembling, but still a touchstone of strength. And she did not ask where he went, did not frown upon him for going. Because as much as she might hate the Pharaoh, she understood what he and Rameses had been.
Moses wanted the look in Miriam's eyes to be enough. Wanted her gentleness, her hope, to make all this worth it. But he remembered the tense muscles of Rameses' back, his hoarse voice, and the echoes of the dead and she wasn't enough.
He was afraid nothing would ever be enough.
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