“Do you see it?” Jabril’s father asked.
Five year old Jabril glanced up at his father, then in the same direction in which his father was looking. All he saw were mountains and…well, just mountains. Not wanting to disappoint his father, Jabril nodded sagely. “Yes father.”
Sheik Halar al Mustar looked at his son, then chuckled softly. “You don’t,” he replied, but lifted his son into his arms. “But you will.”
Jabril wrapped his arm around his father’s neck, trying harder to see “it”. Squinting his eyes, he tried to glare like his father did at his advisors. “When will I see ‘it’ father?” he whispered, leaning his head against his father’s broad shoulders. Jabril loved doing things with his father. Some day, Jabril vowed to be just as tall and strong and good as his father! Maybe if he saw “it”, then he’d become more like his father.
“That land, Jabril,” his father explained, pointing to the right and moving across the horizon to the left, “is our land. Some people call it Ditra now. But all of this land used to be a part of our country, Jabril. And some day, Piara will bring this land back under our country’s protection.”
Jabril looked up at his father, sort of understanding. “Why don’t we just tell them that they are part of our country?’ he asked.
Halar chuckled. “It isn’t that simple, my son,” he teased, giving Jabril a hug. “If it were, the whole world would be at peace.”
“But…” Jabril tilted his head. “If everyone wants peace, why doesn’t it happen?”
Halar sighed. “That’s a very good question, my son,” he replied and turned around. “Perhaps because each person in the world thinks peace should look differently.”
Jabril looked at his father. “I’ll make peace happen, Papa,” he said firmly. “Someday, I’ll be big and strong like you. And then there will be peace,” Jabril announced, although he wasn’t exactly sure what peace meant. He suspected that it meant a bunch of people stopped fighting, but that seemed simple enough, so maybe it was more complicated.
His father laughed. “I have faith that your dream will come true. Just remember, ‘Peace cannot be achieved through violence. It can only be obtained through understanding.’ A very important man by the name of Ralph Waldo Emmerson said that.”
Once again, Jabril didn’t understand. He knew who Waldo was. He and his mother loved finding Waldo in all of the books on his shelf. But the rest…he nodded as if he understood. Someday, he’d get it. Until then, he’d just pretend that he did so that he wouldn’t disappoint his father.
Ilara stared out at the horizon, a tear slipping from her eye. “Are you sure?” she whispered. “I could get educated…”
“You have to go, Ilara,” her father said softly but with a firm voice that wouldn’t allow any argument. “You must go abroad for your education. You must learn more than what our small country can teach you.”
Still, Ilara stared out at the beautiful view, thinking about all of her responsibilities, everything she wanted to accomplish for Ditra. “You’re right, I know. But still…I love it here.”
Her father, tall and handsome and oh-so-wise, looked down at her. “Ilara, you are next in line to rule this country and I need you to understand that. Ruling isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of skill and diplomacy. I’ve taught you all I can. Now it’s time for others to teach you. Stanford University is a wonderful school. Learn all you can, then come back and help me grow our country.”
She nodded, having heard this speech many times over the past few months. Ilara had argued with her father over and over again, not wanting to leave Ditra. But he was right. There was a lot she didn’t understand, a great deal of knowledge she needed to acquire in order to be a good ruler, someone strong enough to protect her people. “I’ll go,” she promised. “But I’ll be back.”
“Good! You’re going to be a wonderful ruler, some day,” he told her. Then he pulled her into his arms for a gentle hug. “I love you, Ilara. I’m so proud of you. Even when you snuck out of the palace, you were…”
She pulled back, an inelegant sound coming from her as she stared up at her father. “Snuck…? What do you mean?”
Her father laughed, shaking his head. “Honey, do you honestly think I don’t know how you snuck out over the years to go to that candy shop?”
Caught! “Yes! I thought I was very stealthy!” she laughed with him. “How did you know?”
He chuckled again, throwing an arm around her shoulders as he led her over to the private plane that would take her to California. “I came to your room one day to talk to you about something oh…aobut five years ago. But instead of working on conjugating your French verbs, as your governess thougth you were doing, I found you tip toeing down the hallway. I followed you and laughed when you discovered that old tunnel. I thought it had been boarded up, but you found it.”
“Uh! Don’t you dare board that tunnel up, Dad,” she told him sternly. “That tunnel is my escape route and I’ll be using it when I come home so that I can come and go whenever I want. No guards.”
He rolled his eyes. “Right. You keep on telling yourself that.”
“What do you mean?”
He laughed. “When you come back, you’re going to help me rule Ditra. You will take your rightful place. Stanford can only teach you the basics. When you return, you’ll learn the details, my dear.”
“Good to know,” she laughed, then stood on her tip toes and kissed his cheek. “I love you, Dad,” she told him with a strong hug. When she pulled out of his arms, she took a deep breath. “I’m going,” she promised, glancing to the right where the pilot and flight crew were standing by, waiting for her to board the jet. “I don’t want to leave, but I know that it’s the right thing to do.”
“It’s time. Your future awaits!”
With a burning sadness, Ilara turned towards the plane and, with as much dignity as she could muster while tears streamed down her cheeks, she boarded the plane and sat down in one of the leather seats.
The stream of tears continued as the plane taxied down the runway, and then, as the engines roared and the plane picked up speed, Ilara had the horrible sensation that she’d never see her precious Ditra again!