I was so excited to be in Egypt. I couldn’t wait to go exploring. The only downside to the trip was that Jack didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm as I did. He said he had to take care of the business he needed to do. Also, he had friends here that he planned to visit.
Still, I wasted no time hopping on a scooter and heading out to see what I could of the country.
The first place I explored was the market. I spent a pleasant few hours shopping at the local bookstore where I got a few cooking books and a photography manual. Then I went to the general store where I purchased a camera. I toyed with the idea of getting a snake charming basket, but then I rejected it. I don’t like snakes.
I did, however, pick up an incense holder for my cousins and a few souvenir relics for Dillon and Leslie.
A few discreet inquiries in the market directed me to the home of the Barkarat family. Apparently they needed an adventurer to find some missing document located in a nearby basement ruin. They had a daughter, Nunya Barkarat, who would accompany me and show me where to go.
I was surprised to find a teenager like myself to be my local guide. I can’t say that I was disappointed, though. She, however, didn’t seem too pleased to be going with me.
Nunya was a nice enough girl, though she was sort of shy. I asked a lot of questions about her country and she answered them with very short responses. At the site, I found out that she was afraid to go down the stairs into the ruin to look for the document.
“You go down,” she said to me, “I will wait here.”
“Don’t you want to see what’s down there? There could be all sorts of treasures,” I tried to coax her into joining my adventure. I thought she was pretty and I wanted a chance to prove how brave I was. Maybe if I saved her from a trap or found a secret passage, she’d be impressed.
“I don’t like basements,” Nunya said, looking down and away. “You go.”
And so I went. I found the missing document quite easily. It was in a chest in a locked room. There was a pressure pad that opened it which I figured out quite quickly. The neatest thing I discovered, though, was a secret doorway. It lead to another room with some ancient relics and coins in it. I even found a fragment of sarcophagus in one of the corners.
“I found it!” I waved the document around when I came back up from the basement. Nunya was right where I had left her.
“Great, Charlie. Let’s get out of here.”
“Don’t you want to hear about what I discovered?” I was disappointed that she wanted to leave so quickly.
“Tell me over falafel in the Market,” she said, turning to leave. “I’ll buy you a plate and you can tell me all about it. There weren’t spiders, were there?”
My date with Nunya went well. I hadn’t been sure about her while we were exploring, but she opened up at the Market and told me all about the history of the pyramids. She knew a lot, but it was quite clear that she had never explored the pyramids herself. She was afraid of everything: spiders, snakes, mummies.
Jack and I talked around the campfire that night. I asked him about his day and he asked me about mine. I told him about Nunya, and he was thrilled.
“Found a girlfriend already! Way to go!”
I laughed. “She’s not my girlfriend, but she is nice.”
“She was pretty, though, right?” Jack made suggestive motions with his eyebrows.
“Yeah, she was cute. She was afraid of everything, though.”
Jack told me that he had renewed his acquaintances here in Egypt. He said they’d been very happy to see him. One, he informed me, was the wife of a business associate. Jack was pleased with the meeting and hoped that it would improve his standing in the company.
I was happy for him. I wanted him to get ahead. I believed that with hard work, Kindra would have to promote him.
The next day, Jack put me in contact with his friend’s wife. He thought she might provide me with another adventure. He said she might want me to explore the Tomb of the Burning Sands.
“You must be Charlie,” she greeted me. “You look exactly like your father.”
I blushed. I wasn’t used to people openly calling Jack my father. I didn’t bother to correct her.
“I need flame fruit,” she told me. “I make the best flaming pies for the market. But lately I can’t find flame fruit. If you go to the Tomb of the Burning Sands, you might be able to find some for me.”
I knew I was going to have a great adventure as soon as I approached the pyramid. The door slid down when I activated a hidden switch. It revealed a room guarded by statues. There were two doors. One opened into a room with some sarcophagi in it. The other was looked, but I managed to trigger the mechanism that opened it. I decided to go through the locked door…I figured that the flame fruit would most likely be in that direction.
It took some work, but I did manage to find some of the fruit. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to explore the entire tomb. I had very little time to get the fruit back to Jack’s friend. It was getting late and I hadn’t brought a tent with me so that I could stay overnight anyway.
Also, I wasn’t sure if Jack would have let me stay in the tomb. I didn’t want anything bad to happen while I was here with Jack. Kindra and Caleb didn’t trust him to take care of me. They’d have never let me hang out with him if something had happened. It was best of me to just head back to the market. I could explore the rest of the tomb at a later time.
The next day I planned to just hang out with Jack. It was our last day in Egypt. We hadn’t really spent a lot of time together. But, when I asked Jack if he wanted to go fishing, he declined.
“I met a girl,” he confided in me. “She’s a tourist from China named Wu. That’s her over there.” He indicated a pretty girl waiting near one of the tents. She smiled at me nervously.
“You understand, don’t you Charlie? I may never see her again. I really like her.” Jack winked at me. “Can’t pass up this opportunity to practice the universal language,” he said suggestively.
Reluctantly, I told Jack I didn’t mind. I did understand that he wanted to spend time with the girl. Jack hadn’t ever married. I figured he was still looking for the right person. Maybe this girl was the one.
The next morning, I saw Wu coming out of Jack’s tent. I guess she had spent the night with him. But she didn’t look too happy about it. I asked Jack what had happened.
“Oh,” he said, “she’ll be alright. She’s just upset that we’re leaving. She must not have understood that we weren’t going to be in Egypt longer. She’s just disappointed.”
Back in Twinbrook I told everyone about my adventures. All of the tension and awkwardness between Kindra, Caleb and I had dissolved in my excitement over the trip.
“…and there were fire traps, but don’t worry. I managed to disarm or avoid them all!” I told Kindra about exploring the Tomb of the Burning Sands.
“Where was Jack the whole time you were exploring,” Kindra raised an eyebrow. I could tell that my adventures seemed a little dangerous to her. I quickly reassured her that Jack had been doing business and meeting with friends.
“It was one of his friends that sent me to the tomb,” I explained. “She wanted flame fruit. She makes pies or something, but I didn’t try any of them.”
“Flame fruit pie, huh?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t try any. I did try falafel. I brought home a recipe book. And I got a new camera and a book on photography, too!”
Kindra and Caleb got pretty sick of hearing about my trip. They didn’t comment much on it except to say that Jack should have been with me more.
Shelby and Emma were more enthusiastic. I invited them and a few of my other friends to my house for a backyard hot tub party so that I could show off the relics and gems I’d found.
But at the party, one of my other friends, Liam, brought a girl I’d never seen before. She was new in town. I saw them dancing together, but I couldn’t help but stare at her. She was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen!
Maybe it’s against the man code or something, but I had to meet her. I figured if she really liked Liam, she wouldn’t even give me the time of day. But I was the host of the party, so I had to be polite and introduce myself, right?
“Hi. You must be new here,” I said by way of introduction. “I’m Charlie Fields.”
“Charlie! You idiot. It’s me, Rochelle Prudence. We go to the same school. I’m a freshmen, but I’ve been a friend of Emma and Shelby’s like forever!”
Rochelle Prudence? I remembered a girl with ragged blond pigtails. She was younger than us, but not by much. Her mother, Pansy, had been a friend of my mother and aunt Sam.
“Rochelle?” I tried to recover from my embarrassing mistake of not recognizing her. “You must have changed your hair.” It was lame, but I hoped she would accept that excuse for not knowing her.
“It’s longer, but I haven’t done much with it,” she said. “Maybe it’s the bathing suit.” She was laughing at me with her eyes. I could tell that she found my discomfort to be hilarious. Great. She’d tell Em and Shel and I’d never live it down.
“Well it’s great to see you Rochelle. Maybe we can hang out sometime.”
“That’d be great, Charlie. I’d love to hear about your travels. Want to go to the Red Rooster tomorrow?”
Of course I agreed. What fool says no when I cute girl asks him out? But the date didn’t end up as romantic as I thought it would. Instead, it was more like hanging out with one of the guys.
We hung out at the Rooster, and she asked all sorts of questions about my trip. I happily told her of my adventures and I didn’t even embellish them that much. I found out that Rochelle was on the soccer team at school. She wanted to travel, too, but her parents wouldn’t let her.
Then, after we’d finished eating our plate of nachos and had played a few games of foosball (we played four games and decided to leave it as a tie), Rochelle sort of invited herself over to my house to play Gnubb. She was competitive, but not in a bad way. We tied in Gnubb as well.
“Too bad you don’t have darts. I’d kill you in darts.”
“In your dreams Rochelle! I’ve got great aim!”
“Let’s bounce on the tramp and see who can go the highest.”
Rochelle quickly became my best friend, but I secretly wanted more out of our relationship. I didn’t know how to change it from friendship to romance though.
So I took my problem to Jack. Jack was quite a ladies man. That’s probably why he hadn’t found the right girl to settle down with. I know he’d been interested in Wu back in Egypt, but he didn’t seem to be that interested in anything more than the one-night stand he’d had with her. I’d seen him flirting around town, too. He never seemed to be interested in a woman for very long.
Surely, with all of his girlfriends, though, he’d be able to give me some advice. I just didn’t realize that he’d invite me out to The Grind when I told him my problem.
“Come with me,” he invited. “I’ll show you how to flirt with girls. There’s always a lot at the Grind.”
“But I’m not 18 yet,” I reminded him. “I thought you had to be 18 to get in.”
“No problem. I’ll just slip the bouncer a 20 and he’ll let us both in. You’ll have to stick to fruity drinks, but we’ll say you’re the designated driver.”
“O-kay.” I was both nervous and excited about my first trip to a night club. It sounded like fun, but I knew that I was doing something that I could get into a lot of trouble for.
The club was pretty packed. My cousin Kenny was there with his new wife and do was my aunt Melinda and cousin Sophia and her husband. I was worried that they’d rat me out, but Jack said not to worry about it. Kenny and Sophia would be involved with their spouses and wouldn’t notice me. He’d talk to Melinda.
I had little choice but to go with it. I figured I’d probably get in trouble no matter what he said, but I didn’t really want to go home.
True to his word, Jack did talk to Melinda. He actually flirted with her half of the night. I actually thought I might get away with being at the club when I saw her falling for it. She seemed to be really into Jack.
While Jack was flirting with Melinda, I was having a great time dancing. Someone had ordered rounds of drinks for everyone and I’d taken the only one the bar tender said was non-alcoholic. “It’s an energy drink,” she’d said. “It will get your buzzing without the hangover.”
She was right. I found myself bouncing all over the place. I worked up quite a sweat, so I headed into the bathroom to cool off and take a piss. Jack followed me.
“Having a good time, kid?”
“Yeah! It’s a blast.”
“Great. Were you paying attention?”
“To you and aunt Melinda?”
“Yep. I used all my best moves. Hope you were keeping track. That’s how you get a girl to like you more than as a friend.”
“Awesome.” I hadn’t really been paying that much attention, but I didn’t want him to know that I’d had an energy drink and I was totally buzzing.
“Ready to go home? It’s past curfew, but if I get you back now at least Kindra won’t get pissed at me.” Jack zipped up and then washed his hands. I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I wanted to keep dancing.
“Can we stay for another hour?”
“Sure kid. Lots of ladies out there tonight. Melinda went home I think, but I saw one or two singles mingling with the rest.”
Of course all the fun was ruined when we came out of the bathroom. Just as we rounded the corner a flash went off. It was one of the damned paparazzi!
“Jack! She just took my picture. They’ll put it in the papers!” I said, dismayed. “I’ll be grounded forever!”
“Leave it to me.”
And Jack went right up to the woman and planted one on her. Just grabbed her and started making out with her. I ran by hoping that she wouldn’t notice, but then I saw my aunt Melinda who looked stunned that the man she’d been flirting with all night was kissing another woman.
But it was too late. I couldn’t do anything to make Melinda feel any better. I had to get out of there.
I’m not sure how I got home, but I did. However, when I snuck into my house, I realized that it was a lot later than I’d originally though. It was nearly 2 in the morning!
The energy drink that had given me such a buzz was out of my system and I could barely stand up straight. As soon as the door shut behind me, I crashed.
And that’s how I was found the next morning. Kindra was the first one up. She discovered me passed out in the foyer.
She woke me up and immediately started in on me. I didn’t defend myself. I knew I deserved to be in trouble. And besides, I was still so tired that I could barely focus on what she said.
“Get upstairs right now, Charlie Fields!” she screamed, causing my head to pound. “I don’t want the twins to see you like this! We’ll talk when I get back from work. You’re going to be grounded! I can’t believe you stayed out all night and then came home to pass out!”
Kindra continued to rant as I trudged up the stairs. She was mostly talking to herself as she got her things together to go to work. The last thing I heard was:
“If Mina were alive to see this, she’d be devastated. He’s out of control, and I’m the worst guardian ever.”