I still get so many people adding this to their favorites and reading it that I had to do this, just HAD to. Besides, 40 is a nice round number and 39 just never seemed right. Let me know what you think cause the title pretty much sums it up. Enjoy!
Chapter 40: Bittersweet Memories
The old woman paced through her room, admiring the life she had built for herself, the people she had filled it with, the ones she loved. She strolled awkwardly across the room, stopping in front of the bookcase that held the pictures of everything she had filled her life with. A smile crossed her withered face at all of the ones smiling back to her as she leaned on her cane.
There was one, displayed happily in the center, of a young woman in a white dress. Her hair was pulled back in an up-do, curls hanging down in sparse places, and bright green, happy eyes shining back. The man next to her was tall, much taller than she was, with the same bronzed skin and brown eyes. He looked familiar but not enough. They both seemed so happy, holding one another's hands under the ornate archway in their best formal wear, but the happiness in the young woman's eyes was false, never fooling the older woman who peered back.
Another was of the same woman, a few years older, holding a baby girl in her arms, wrapped tightly in a soft pink cocoon of a blanket in the hospital bed, the man from the previous picture holding her twin. Their first and last born. Each had their mother's bright eyes, her smile and her face, something their father always joked he was grateful for.
To the left was another picture, set years after the first, eighteen to be exact. The two young girls that were once so small, now stood beside their parents with a cap and gown, holding their diplomas high in the air. Again, the mother held a false sense of happiness in her eyes that fooled no one who knew her well enough.
Then there were the ones of the same women that donned the cap and gowns, holding children of their own. The old woman was in one, holding her two grandchildren, one a boy, the other a girl. She was happy in this one, but the old woman could see in herself, that there had always been a hole in her heart that nothing, despite their best efforts, would fill completely.
Slowly, she made her way to her empty bed, the place she had slept alone now for the past seven months after her husband died unexpectedly. There, on the nightstand beside her where it always stayed, was a picture of her at her dig in Cairo, the one where she had found numerous artifacts that had made her and her father so happy, solidifying her career in the process. The dig had been so fruitful, and yet it was the one that hurt the most and cost her everything. She had left the man she had truly loved to dig in the dirt. At the time she had thought she wanted it, and maybe she had. But looking back, she wasn't sure if it was the right thing for her to do. It's natural, perhaps, to question your decisions after making them, the classic 'the grass is always greener' proverb, but it was rare when it seemed so true.
Her life had been filled with laughter and joy, happiness at every turn and yet she couldn't help but imagine the place where everything seemed better. She never regretted her life, nor the children and grandchildren she had, she just felt they were with the wrong man. Joseph treated her well until the day he died, never fussing over her when she would wake in tears, never saying a cold word to her the entire time they were together. He was, to any woman who was lucky enough to have him, the perfect man. The problem was, he wasn't her perfect man.
She hadn't lied when she said she would never return to the museum, nor when she said she didn't belong. She knew in her head she didn't, no matter how her heart screamed against it. Sitting in the tomb, night after night as she aged and he remained the same wasn't the life she wanted. And she knew, it wasn't the life he wanted her to have either. Instead, she left and found the things he could never give her.
A few times, the museum had crossed her mind, more than a few actually. She dreamt about it almost every night, and when she did she awoke in the tears she could never explain to her husband. She refused to tell him, not for fear of sounding insane, but for fear of hurting him. He was a good man, and didn't deserve the burden of being compared to a dead man.
She had even tried, a few times, going back, but once she reached the front of the large building, she froze. She would stand there, looking like a statue she was sure, for what seemed like hours, debating whether or not she should even walk through the front door. She never did. She knew, if she walked through the front door, the next step would be the tomb, the tomb that held too many memories and emotions for her small body to handle. And they would never force her if they saw her, Rebecca and Larry, or Mr. and Mrs. Daley. She had attended the wedding, keeping in close contact with them, even now.
The old woman lay in bed, the picture in her hand as she remembered his face. His perfect face was etched into her mind forever and she wouldn't have it any other way. After a while, it had been easier for her to avoid the museum, to not have the urge to enter and see him, but he would always be there when she fell asleep. Every night he would awaken her and take her on another adventure, of they would sit and talk until the sun came up and he had to sleep. Every night was different, and every night was special.
She had kept the notes too, the ones that they had written one another when she was young and stupid. To her, they were the only proof she really had that he was real. She had something tangible, something she could cherish other than memories. Memories fade, or change slightly, and though she was certain the ones of him didn't, the notes made sure it would never truly happen.
She smiled to herself as the images of him filled her mind once more as she drifted to sleep, a tear forming in each eye as it tended to do whenever he entered her thoughts. But she still smiled. He wouldn't want her to be sad when she thought of him, but it was all she could do. He was bittersweet, in every meaning of the word. She didn't have a good thought of him, or dream, without feeling the inevitable coldness when she woke up to find him gone.
Her heart ached with the absence of him, but she pushed it aside. It was a familiar feeling, enough so she knew how to cope. Jasmine lay there, thinking of all she had accomplished, just by telling him goodbye. Her beautiful daughters were happy, smart, successful and had children of their own who were turning out just as brilliant. She had a husband that had adored her more than she deserved. She had everything. Everything, and nothing. That was the thought that always accompanied her to bed. It didn't matter as she fell asleep, once again, without him. But, he would be in her dreams, forever and always.
His eyes were heavy and Ahkmenrah, the Fourth King of the Four Kings, didn't want to emerge. He had trouble getting out of his coffin most of the time, willing someone to just turn the center piece so he may sleep and be with her for all eternity like he wanted. But it never happened. Almost sixty years now, and still, he would awaken.
Having his priestess by his side was nice, but it wasn't the same. He had tried to explain it to Larry when he was still the night guard, that despite them looking, and sounding the same, they weren't. Mayati wasn't Jasmine, nor would she ever be. He had hoped, for the first decade or longer, that she would return to him. But every night, it would be the same. She would never come. He had to rely on the word of a friend to let him know she was happy.
He still remembered it, hearing she was married. The sentence had been the most painful thing he had ever felt, including the blade that had ended his life. Nothing was more debilitating then those words he thought. He had been wrong. To hear she had not only one child, but two with the man that wasn't him was worse, and hearing she was happy was worse still. He had sunk into a perpetual darkness that no one could raise him from. He didn't deserve her anyway, not after what he had done to her. He knew he had only deluded himself into thinking she would come back, knowing in his heart that she would run and never return, if anything because she was scared. He had done unspeakable things to her without her permission, and one night of passion and him professing his love, would not make up for his complete disregard for her feelings and safety.
So there he was, for the thousandth time, rising from his coffin in the same museum he had been in all these years. Gods how he wished they would have moved him by now, but they never did. For some reason, the museum had leased his exhibit for another ten years after this before he would either get moved, or go into storage. He was hoping for storage. He would never tell the others, the few that remained behind after this long time, that he wished the tablet to be removed, or him even, just to keep from seeing the sadness in their faces, but it was the truth. How he prayed to be rid of the contraption and location that screamed Jasmine's name to him every night he awoke.
"Good evening my King." a soft voice said.
He turned, seeing Mayati bow to him with her impish smile as she did every night. He smiled in return. Oh how he wished even more that she wasn't here. At first it had been nice, that Jasmine had made her for him, but now it seems a cruel joke. He already breathed the woman he had lost but now he must look at her ageless face for all eternity and know in his heart it wasn't her. But still, he was a King, and Mayati had been the woman he loved so long ago, so he had to be polite to say the least.
"Good evening Mayati." he replied as he stepped out of the coffin and onto the marble floor.
He glared at his surroundings, at the soldiers that were mobilizing around him and his priestess, the room still in the same fashion Jasmine had left it. The Gods truly did hate him.
With her on his arm, and the sounds of the museum filling his ears, Ahkmenrah made his way to the lobby to watch over his kingdom. The night guard he had now, Jason, had taken a bit getting used to. He was a nice enough guy, but hadn't taken to this experience as well as Larry had, which is saying something.
But as he walked out to the perch he and his best friend of all those years shared, he noticed something. A man, with the whitest shade of hair, was standing with his back to him, speaking with Jason. He felt as though his heart would skip a beat at the thought of another person, elderly at that, in the museum after hours. But slowly the man turned, flashing an all but too familiar smile.
"Larry!" Ahk exclaimed as he walked to his friend, hugging him tightly. "You're beginning to stay away longer than usual."
"Sorry Ahk, but normal people tend to get old." he teased before his face turned slightly sad. "But… that's not why I'm here man."
"What is it?" Ahkmenrah asked almost scared of the answer.
His heart fell. What could happen now? Did she get married again? Did she tell Larry she didn't want to have anything to do with him or the museum anymore?
"Ahk she passed away today."
No. It was worse. She was gone, flushed from the mortal coil.
"Are… are they certain?" he asked with a sad face.
Larry nodded, his hand touching the stone faced Pharaoh's shoulder.
"I know you still loved her." he muttered under his breath. Of course he knew, everyone knew. After all this time, his undying love hadn't wavered for the young woman in her absence and never would even now.
"Yeah." Larry answered, knowing the man's question. Hell, he had spent the better part of a century with him, he knew the pharaoh like the back of his hand. "It was peaceful. And yeah, she was happy. She had the life you couldn't give her Ahk. You did the right thing letting her go."
He had been told that so many times over the years, that he had done the right thing. But there was a problem with that.
"It never felt like I did." he answered in a quiet voice.
"I never forgot you." a soft voice said. "Or my promise to you."
The two men turned with a questioning look to Mayati. Her face was down, her hands clamped into one another before she slowly looked up.
"Mayati?" Ahkmenrah asked in hesitation.
"Seriously?" she asked with an exaggerated breath. "We don't look that much alike."
"Jasmine!" Larry and Ahk exclaimed in unison.
The young woman smiled wide as Ahkmenrah charged her, grabbing her in his arms as he pulled her to him in a death grip. He knew, if she weren't wax, that he would squeeze the life from her, but he couldn't let go, he wouldn't let go. She was here, with him, forever.
He set her down on the ground, his forehead resting on hers as his hands came to her cheeks, holding her to him as he felt his body shake with pure joy and elation. He laughed nervously, something she did as well, before opening his eyes. It was still her, still the woman he had pledged his undying love for, held tightly in his hands.
"I've missed you so much." she whispered, barely able to get the words out of her mouth before she was silenced with his.
Ahkmenrah felt a euphoria take his body as he touched his lips to the only woman he had ever truly wanted, the only one he really loved. The room began to spin, but he held tight to her if only to steady himself. A throat clear ended their contact. The young woman laughed as she turned to a smiling Larry.
"You look good Jazz." he laughed as she came up and hugged him. "Too bad you can't do that for me."
"Are you forgetting our little friend?" she teased, pointing to his twin of a guard. The man nearly scowled at the figure who seemed oblivious to what was being said.
"I worked here twenty years and never got used to that thing." he laughed. "But I'm good. Becca would kill me!"
The two Egyptians laughed before the young woman felt arms around her waist pulling her back to the man she had longed for all her life.
"Promise you'll never leave." he whispered into her ear.
The young woman turned and placed her hands on his cheeks, smiling the smile that would bring a man to his knees before placing a loving kiss on his lips.
"Never again." she answered in a soft tone. "Never again."
Truly the end! yay! Closure! lol. Let me know please! I will beg for reviews :)