Merneptah could not keep the smile off his face as he walked hand in hand with Sekhet. Today was the last day of celebrations for the New Year and he could not have been happier with how these past two weeks had gone. Not once had he thought about all the training he was missing. That first night together after they had watched the lotus blossoms for a while he’d invited her to spend the night with him and he slept with her curled up in his arms. It was absolute bliss and the best night’s sleep he’d ever had.
Which was why he’d asked her to spend the night with him every night since. He absolutely loved the feel of her body pressed against his own. He loved how she seemed to fit perfectly against him. He loved how sweet, how beautiful she looked sleeping in his bed. He loved the way she smiled. Loved the sound of her laughter. Loved the way his name sounded when it rolled off her tongue.
Having met her Merneptah truly felt like he had finally found something that had been missing in his life. Something he didn’t even know he’d been missing until he found it. But, now that he had found her Merneptah had no intentions of ever letting her go.
“You seem like you have something on your mind Meri.” Sekhet said suddenly, drawing Merneptah from his musings.
Merneptah grinned as he tugged on their joined hands, pulling her body flush against his own, his other arm lazily wrapping around her waist. “Just thinking about you.” Merneptah whispered before he leaned down and pressed his lips against hers.
Sekhet kissed him back and Merneptah tightened his hold around her body. Clearly he had pleased Hathor by something he had done for her to have gifted him with this perfect woman. Someone that he could be just as devoted to as he was to his family and his training. Someone that he could come home to at night, who could rub his shoulders and listen to him after a long day of training. One more reason to be the best man that he could be. One more reason to defeat their enemies.
Sekhet was the one who broke the kiss she shook her head almost fondly before she once more began to tug him along the Nile.
“I must admit that I’m sort of surprised that you’ve been able to spend the entire past two weeks with me. I would have thought that you would have had other responsibilities that you needed to see to.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah chuckled, “Well, as luck would have it I actually had promised my father and my brother that I wouldn’t be doing any training for the entirety of the New Year. They were both worried that I might accidentally hurt myself because I train so hard.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet chuckled, “And there was nothing else that you needed to be doing? No other responsibilities?” Sekhet asked.
Merneptah shook his head, “No, not really. Starting tomorrow no doubt there will be lessons that I need to start attending again. But the main share of the tasks actually fall to my elder brother, since he’s the heir. My focus is on becoming a general one day so I put most of my energy towards that.” Merneptah said he paused briefly before adding, “But, don’t worry Sekhet, my beautiful lotus blossom, I’ll still make time to see you. That is a promise.” Merneptah said. And he meant it.
Sekhet chuckled, “Oh? You will, will you? And what makes you so confident that I’ll be able to make time for you?” Sekhet asked.
Merneptah grinned, “Why wouldn’t you make time for me Sekhet?” Merneptah asked pretending to pout.
Sekhet rolled her eyes, “I have a life too! I also have things that I need to be seeing to. I have to man my stall and when the stall is closed I need to work on making new wares.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah nodded, “I know that. But, just because we both have responsibilities doesn’t mean that we can’t still make time for each other.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet was quiet for a moment before she started to tug Merneptah back over to a group of musicians. “Come on, lets dance before the celebrations come to an end.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah sighed but nodded spinning her in his arms before pulling her close, “If that’s what you want beloved, then that is what we shall do.” Merneptah whispered. He just hoped that she didn’t want to dance for too long, because there was one more thing that he wanted to do before Ra made his journey into the underworld.
He twirled her around as the musicians played and they swirled to the beat. They danced to three different songs before he tugged her away from the musicians and into a practically abandoned spot overlooking the Nile.
Merneptah took a seat on the ground, tugging Sekhet down with him. Sekhet gave another beautiful smile and Merneptah could not help but notice that his palms were beginning to sweat as he fiddling awkwardly with a pouch that he had secured at his waist.
“What is it Meri?” Sekhet asked.
Merneptah sighed, “I want to, well, I want to ask you something.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet gave him a strange look, “Oh? And what might that be?” Sekhet asked.
Merneptah fiddled with the pouch once more before his hand slid inside and he fished out a beautiful bracelet. It was a thin golden band which flared out at the ends into the shapes of lotus blossoms, at the base of the blossoms were beautiful sapphires inlaid into the gold. He gently picked up Sekhet’s right hand and slipped the bracelet onto her wrist.
Sekhet gasped. “Meri?”
Merneptah smiled, “I wanted to give you this bracelet because looking at it made me think of you. And, with gifting you this bracelet I wanted to ask you. If...” He trailed off swallowing awkwardly before continuing, “if you would do me the great honor and allow me to court you?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet’s beautiful sapphire blue eyes widened in shock. Clearly she hadn’t been expecting him to ask this question. But, how couldn’t he ask? He already knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Courting was the next logical step for them to take.
“Meri, I...I don’t know what to say.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah chuckled, “Isn’t it obvious? You say yes.” Merneptah said and he felt some of the tension that had built up within him ease. He couldn’t wait to introduce her to his family. Sobeki already liked her and he knew the rest of his family would love her as well.
Sekhet was quiet for a moment as she nibbled on her lip before she slipped the bracelet off her wrist. She fiddled with it in her hand for a few moments before she handed the bracelet back to Merneptah. “I’m sorry Meri, but I can’t accept this gift. You’ll have to give it to someone whose more worthy then me. But, I can’t...I’m sorry Meri.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah frowned as it felt like his heart had just stopped. “But? I...you...I’m not imagining this connection between us. Its real. I can feel it and I know you feel it to.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet sighed, her eyes drifting down so they rested in her lap. “I’m sorry Meri.” She whispered.
Merneptah reached out and tilted her chin up so he was once more looking into her eyes. She had tears gathered in the corners of them that she seemed to be trying to hold back. He gently wiped away her tears with the pads of his thumb. “Tell me why Sekhet.” Merneptah whispered.
Sekhet stared into Merneptah’s eyes for a few seconds longer before she shakily got to her feet, “I’m sorry my prince. But, I just can’t.” Sekhet said before she turned and fled.
For a moment Merneptah was frozen in shock before he also got shakily to his feet and ran, “Sekhet! Sekhet, wait!” Merneptah shouted as he pushed his way through the crowd. But it was too late. He’d lost sight of her. Sekhet was gone.
Merneptah looked for her for hours, and was still looking for her long after Ra had completed his journey into the underworld. Long after the last of the celebrants had made their way back home and he was left just running through the practically empty city streets just shouting her name until his voice was hoarse.
It was a broken Khemetan prince that finally trudged back to the palace in the dead of the night. He still had no idea what had happened, what had gone so terribly wrong. Everything had been perfect and then she was, she was just gone.
He sluggishly made his way back to his room before he plopped face first down on his bed. Why did she say no?
He just didn’t understand.
There was a light knock on his chamber door, “What?” Merneptah grunted.
The door creaked open and in walked Amunher, pushing the door closed behind him. He paused briefly just inside the doorway, no doubt contemplating his words. “Wheres the girl?” Amunher finally asked.
Merneptah shrugged, “I don’t know. She’s...she’s just gone. I’ve been looking for her for hours and I couldn’t find her.” Merneptah said.
Amunher sighed before he slowly made his way over and sat down on the bed lightly beside his brother. “Do you want to tell me what happened?” Amunher asked.
Merneptah sighed, “I don’t know what happened. These past two weeks were, well they were magical. She was perfect Amunher.” Merneptah said.
Amunher snorted, “No woman is perfect.” Amunher said slowly.
Merneptah rolled his eyes, “I’m serious Amunher. She was amazing. So, after spending these past two weeks with her I, well, I asked her to allow me to court her. Officially.” Merneptah said.
Amunher rose a brow, “Did you at least ask father’s opinion on the matter before you asked her?” Amunher asked.
Merneptah shook his head, “No, I didn’t ask father. I haven’t even seen father since the opening of the festival.” Merneptah said.
Amunher rolled his eyes, “Yeah. We noticed. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve made it my habit these past two weeks to peek into your room and make sure you were still in one piece none of us would have known you were even still alive Meri.” Amunher said.
Merneptah just shook his head, he didn’t regret spending every moment he could with Sekhet the last two weeks and nothing his brother said could make him change his mind about that. “So, I asked her to allow me to court her and...and she said that she was sorry. That she couldn’t do this. She gave me back the bracelet and she ran off into the crowd. I lost sight of her. I couldn’t find her anywhere.” Merneptah said he paused briefly before adding, “I have no idea what went wrong.”
Amunher sighed, “Well, if you want my advice little brother...”
“I don’t remember asking for it.” Merneptah interjected.
Amunher rolled his eyes, “As I was saying if you WANTED my advice little brother, I would suggest that you forget all about this girl. Clearly she isn’t as infatuated with you as you were with her. The best thing to would be for you to forget about her and move on with your life.” Amunher said.
Merneptah groaned, “You don’t get it Amunher!”
Amunher rose a brow, “I get that this girl has made you absolutely miserable. There is nothing else that I need to understand. Forget her and move on with your life.” Amunher said before he rose to his feet. “Now, I’ll leave you to get some rest. Remember tomorrow you have lessons and you are allowed to resume your training. Focus on that and forget you ever met her.” Amunher said.
Merneptah tossed and turned a lot that night. But no matter what he did he wasn’t able to get himself comfortable. The one good thing was one of his pillows still smelled like Sekhet. Sekhet smelled to him like the lotus blossom he had placed in her hair that first night. It was part of the reason he’d started calling her his little lotus blossom. She’d always rolled her eyes when he did that but he’d seen the way her eyes lit up. She liked it.
Just like deep down Merneptah knew that she did like him. He could tell by the way she smiled. The way she laughed, the way she leaned in when he went to kiss her. The way she would just relax into his arms as they went to sleep at night. Growing up in the palace had taught him how to tell the fakes from those who actual were sincere. He’d had fake friends and many girls trying to force their attentions on him before, even though they honestly weren’t interested in him. They just wanted to be married to a prince.
He knew the connection he’d had with Sekhet was real. That he wasn’t just imaging things.
After hours of trying Merneptah finally managed to drift off to sleep, with his nose buried into the pillow that still carried her scent. It wasn’t much of a substitute for the real thing but at this moment it was all that he had.
And when he finally did sleep he dreamt of Sekhet. Dreamt that she was back in his arms where she belonged. That’s she’d never told him no. And that they were together once more.
And they were happy.