Two days before she was to leave and fly back to London, they woke up early and had breakfast brought to their room.
“I want to show you something very special today,” he smiled and Kendra smiled back. “Okay.”
They drove to the West Bank. The driver turned the corner and Kendra saw the most magnificent building built right into the side of a mountain. It had a wide staircase leading up to a building made of three tiers. It seemed to grow out of the mountain. The way the light hit it, it glowed pink. “What is that?” Kendra asked.
“It’s a testament to love,” Asra said.
The driver parked the car. They boarded an open trolley like vehicle that drove up to the foot of the staircase leading to the building at the top. It was cooler that day, the baking summer sun was giving way to inevitable winter.
Asra took her hand and they walked slowly up the staircase. “About 4000 years ago, there were two people, a young girl born into royalty, who grew to be an ambitious young woman, not willing to settle for the conventional roles she was given, knowing that she was destined to be a pharaoh. And a boy, a commoner, who fell in love with this girl, this ambitious woman. He grew to be a man who would do anything this woman asked of him, he would do the impossible if he needed to show her his love.”
Asra looked up at the temple at the top of the hill, at the back of the Valley of the Kings. “This is Djeser-Djeseru, the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, built by her architect and her lover, the commoner, Senemut. Look at it Kendra, is it not the most beautiful thing you have ever seen? And to think this was built almost 4000 years ago and yet it is timeless in its beauty and magnificence.” He turned to Kendra. “It was built out of love, anything built from true love is just as magnificent, just as beautiful.”
They climbed the stairs and Asra told her the story of Queen Hatshepsut, the longest reigning queen of Egypt. He explained how she fought to keep her crown, how her stepson attempted to have her legacy wiped away. He pointed out the defaced paintings, all with Hatshepsut’s identity scratched out by her stepson when he finally became pharaoh. The passion of the story rang through his words. Kendra could not get enough of it. He showed her the painting telling the story of how Senemut sailed to the Land of Punt, a place no one had been before, to bring back unknown plants to build a lush garden around Djeser-Djeseru for his queen, for his lover. Though they could never be openly together, with his actions he showed the world the love he had for her.
Kendra thought the story was magical. But more than that, she loved the passion Asra had for it. It was a story that had defined his own view of what love should be. Kendra hoped she could stand up to such grand ideas.
Instead of driving back to the hotel, they boarded a small boat and sailed up the Nile and back again. The cool breeze was welcome and Kendra sat back looking at Djesur-Djeseru as they sailed away from it toward their hotel. Asra took her hand in his and she turned to him. “Thank you for that, it was lovely.”
“I thought you’d like it. It’s one of my favourite places in the world. I wanted you to see it. I wanted you to understand the power of that kind of love. That’s what I’m looking for.”
Back at the hotel they had tea on the veranda, a breeze pushing the late afternoon heat away. “I leave the day after tomorrow,” she said.
“Yes, I know.” His eyes dark with the absence already.
“When will I see you again?” Kendra asked.
“Because I’ve been off, I have a tight schedule, for awhile. I think I’ll be in London in a couple weeks, maybe, but for a few days only.”
They sat quietly. Kendra looked out over the Nile. Egypt was a beautiful and complicated place, much like this Egyptian man next to her. He seemed to want to be with her, but then they never had sex. He talked passionately of love, but then spoke coolly about being apart, as if it had no affect on him. She knew he came from another culture, but she’d never thought that mattered before, but maybe she’d been wrong. She couldn’t understand why he was suddenly being so distant, almost cold to her.
Asra stood up. Kendra looked at him, confused. He put out his hand and she took it. He led her from the balcony, though the open door between their rooms to his bed. There was no talking. The silence seemed sacred, heavy with potential and no one dared disrupt it.
He unclipped the hairpin holding her hair up and it fell around her in dark waves. He ran his fingers though it, massaging her head. He took her face in his hands and stared into her eyes; he brought her lips to his and kissed her with restraint as if holding back everything, letting only drops out, enough to recognise the passion that roared behind the dam.
He kissed her neck as he unbuttoned her blouse. He pulled his shirt off and she ran her hands over his wide, muscular chest, down his abdomen. A thin line of hair ran down the middle of his rippled stomach heading downward. She ran her finger along the line and he moaned into her ear.
They stepped out of the rest of their clothes and he picked her up and carried her to the bed. She watched him roll a condom onto his erect penis and it turned her on even more. She needed to feel him. She pulled him down on top of her, every inch of his body pulsing against hers.
She could feel him inside, filling her, making her whole. He knew exactly how to take her to the top and set her free. As if her body was a land he was familiar with. They moved together, their breath quickening as one. Kendra grabbed at his back and held him to her, afraid she’d drift away in the moment. And then she was gone, the waves of pleasure moving through her, up and then slowly cascading down and then he’d move into her and she was up again and slowly floating down until he pushed into her one last time. He pulled her to him as they floated down together, slowly settling into each other’s arms, their eyes closed. When Kendra finally opened hers, she saw Asra gazing down at her, his face conflicted. What did she see there? Was it love? She wasn’t sure but whatever it was it unsettled him.