This is a story I went back to my roots on. I saw Aida in my junior year of high school on the trip for our music department. It was what introduced me to Broadway and what made me fall in love with musicals. To this day, it remains one of my favorite plays. I hope you enjoy!
The wind seems to mingle with Mereb's voice as he calls my name. It sweeps the sound over the desert sands, stretching the three syllables to an almost impossible length, the last echo lost in my swift retreat.
"Aida, wait! Please, listen to me!"
I keep running.
Stride by stride, my feet cover the distance from the prison to the slave camp where my people wait for news that I can not give them. Mereb's voice becomes lost in the vastness of the Egyptian sands and I do not even glance back to see if he still stands where I left him. He only sees to reason with me and although I know he means well, his council is not something I wish to seek at this moment. In his eyes, I am committing the same sin that my father has accused me of and he stands to advise me in taking corrective action. Perhaps in another time and place, I would listen. Perhaps somewhere else, his views would match mine and his usual logic would win out as it has so many times in the past.
But not now.
He doesn't understand. No one does.
To appease my father, I have agreed to put aside my own desires and place duty above pleasure. To do what is right by my people and for my country.
To do the impossible
As my legs carry me farther and farther from the prison, it is all I can do not to give into the tears that threaten to flow. To cry for me is a rarity; something only done in the hardest of circumstances.
The expression that passed over my father's face when I told him of Radames is something I will remember as long as I will live. The hand that had held mine in an affectionate gesture had dropped it as if it been a searing coal. Attempts to convince him of the captain's willingness to change had been lost in a shroud of long-held prejudices and anger. He had thrown the amulet from my grasp and very nearly accused me of being no better than a common whore, calling my feelings "witless" and chastising me for succumbing to such trickery. Seeing that nothing I could do or say would change his mind, I simply stood in silence with Mereb by my side as my father unleashed his fury for all those of Egyptian blood.
In his eyes, they are all to blame for our peoples' fate
In his eyes, there is not one alive who could possibly be different.
Upon learning of my association with Radames, he ordered me to forget. Forget anything and everything about him. Forget that I loathed him for the first two months of our relationship, days of sailing up the Nile and serving wine at the banquets. Forget the playful flirtation of attraction; when we noticed each other, yet never thought that we would ever be.
To forget what lengths he had gone to help my people. Never in my life did I think he would take my request to heart. There was so much else that he could have done, so much that would have required less of him. Instead, he chose to go above and beyond anything I could have ever asked of him or imagined that he would do. In that one act, my heart was stolen and, although I would not let him see it just then, I fell in love with the enemy.
Most of all, forget that exhilarating, breath-taking, and, dare I say, frightening moment when all I had ever known came crashing down around me. His embrace his not something I will easily dispel from my memory. Moments of quiet confession and whispers of secret dreams and desires. The way his arms held me tightly to him as his lips blazed over mine. Those same lips joining his hands as he explored my body, his touch searing every nerve as he kissed my cheek, lips, shoulder, lower. The quake of my own hands as I removed the shirt from his body, shaking from a combination of inexperience, fright, and excitement.
The words of reassurance he whispered and the depth of which we kissed as we became one. My hands gripped his shoulders in a desperate grasp as a deep moan broke forth my lips and I was powerless to do anything but close my eyes in quiet ecstasy. His own head was buried in my neck and he chocked out my name on a breathless whisper. Later, as we lay in the still silence, he whispered my name again, joined with a confession of love that I could not bring myself to return.
Until he was torn away from my arms by news of a prisoner.
A prisoner whose death would bring him the glory he sought and the heartache I dreaded.
If he only knew the truth.
The camp is near now and I find myself slowing to a walk. My legs feel as though they will give at any moment and I find myself praying to the gods for the strength to make it home. A hand goes to my head to wipe the sweat from my brow and my eyes slid shut as a cool breeze works its way in from the south, a welcome change to the oppressive heat.
My eyes snap open and Mereb stands before me, blocking my path. "There you are. I thought you had disappeared."
I am in no mood for his games. "Leave me, Mereb. I do not wish to speak to you."
"No, Mereb. Father has said all there is to say. I do not need you to clarify."
Hurt crosses his features, but he reaches out to me. "Aida, I mean you no harm. You know that. Do you think I like to hear the king talk about the captain that way? Radames is my friend as well. This is a very delicate situation. If you.."
"If I what, Mereb?" I turn on him. "This is the moment when I must assume my duty as future queen of Nubia. I have been ordered to forget anything that might have been. Did you hear what my father said to me?"
"Well, yes. Of course, I did. But maybe-"
"He ordered me to cut the man from my heart. Not simply forget, but to cut every inking of his existence from my being." A long sigh escaped and I shook my head. "My king has commanded and I must obey. What other choice do I have?"
My friend is silent for a long moment before he speaks. "You don't. Do as he commands. He may control your future, but he does not control your past. Keep whatever memories you need in your heart. Lock them away so that they will never be seen. Whatever those are, that will have to be enough."
"You make it sound as forgetting will be easy."
His gaze sears through me. "It must be. What you have must be enough"
He palces a comforting hand on my shoulder before turning away to report to his duties. I watch him go and then turn in the opposite direction to my home in the camp. My strides are slower now, pensive and thoughtful of the course ahead. Memories be enough? Memories of stolen kisses and brief interludes. Can it really suffice?
A sharp whistle catches my attention and my head wrenches up in surprise. Radames stands in the distance. He is with another man, likely one of his crew and they are intently studying a piece of paper. He gestures widely to the other man, arms flailing about until he lifts his head. When his eyes meet mine, his arms fall to his side and his mouth promptly closes before re-opening to the brilliant smile that I have come to love. Somehow I know that smile is mean for me and any doubts I may have had flee when a sly wink is added to the equation.
Despite my father's warning, I return the smile and take advantage of the desolate area to blow a kiss in his direction. The smile brightens and he lifts a hand in the air to catch it. The hand goes to his heart for a split second before he disguises the movement by allowing the hand to slide back down to his side, turning his attention back to the soldier.
I feel my heart swell and break at the same time. My chest tightens and I know I have no choice. Will these little moments of love and laughter, thing I have waited a lifetime to learn, really suffice my hunger?
Radames's eyes meet mine one more and his winks again before resuming his business with the soldier. I lower my eyes, shaking my head as I walk away.
The face of my beloved, lively and carefree, is replaced by the face of my father, regal and unyielding. Mereb's words come before them both.
I release a breath as I break into a jog.
In my heart, it is not.
In my life, it will have to be.