I love Egypt. I think my career as a fisherman will work out well. I’ve been catching small alligators in the fishing pond here, and I have hopes that they will sell very well at the market in Twinbrook.
I also ran into Dunya Barakat in the market. I was surprised to see that she had gotten older, but I shouldn’t have been. We were about the same age after all. She was still very pretty and I was excited to see her.
I gave her an enthusiastic hug. “Dunya! It’s good to see you!”
“Charlie! Welcome back to Egypt. Are you adventuring or working?”
“I’ve come to do both. I’ve taken up fishing. I plan to go out into your beautiful countryside and catch some alligators and other fish.”
“Ew, fish,” she shuddered. “Aren’t you afraid of the alligators?” I had forgotten what a scaredy-cat Dunya was.
“The alligators here are tiny. They’re harmless. You should come with me sometime.”
“I’ll pass,” Dunya said. Then she jumped at the sound of a flashbulb. The paparazzi had found me.
“My goodness, did he just take our picture?”
“Yeah. Beat it,” I ordered the annoying tabloid photographer.
“It’s a free country,” he snapped another picture.
The reporter scared Dunya off. She didn’t want to be followed around all the time. I couldn’t make the jerk go away, so I reluctantly said goodbye to her. I suppose it wasn’t meant to be anyway. She was too jumpy to really be fun to hang around with.
I also ran into Tahyia, Jack’s friend’s wife, whom I had met the last time in Egypt.
“Why look at you, Charlie, all grown up.”
“Hello Mrs. Sekemut. It’s good to see you again.”
“Did you come back with your father?”
“No. I came to take pictures, do a little fishing, and go on some adventures,” I told her.
“I hope you have fun. You should call me and we can get together sometime.”
I agreed that I would call her. It was nice to know some locals. I wouldn’t be lonely on my trip.
Tahyia ended up calling me the second night I was in Egypt. She asked me if I’d like to do a little night fishing at an oasis she knew about. I readily agreed. We had a great time and ended up making camp there. I started a fire in the fire pit and we roasted our catch.
At the end of the evening, I expected Tahyia to go home while I set up my tent in the clearing. But she had other plans.
“I find you very attractive Charlie,” she grabbed my hands. “I really like you.”
“Uh…Tahyia, I’m flattered,” I stammered. I didn’t know what to do. She was married, right? “but what about your husband?”
“My husband? That old fart? We’re separated. It isn’t working out. He has kids from a previous marriage and they don’t like me. He never supports me, so I’ve left him.”
“That’s terrible,” I consoled her.
“Do you find me attractive, Charlie?” She leaned into me, letting go of my hands and rubbing hers up my arms to my shoulders. Of course I found her attractive. She was beautiful!
I reached out and touched her face, “I think you’re stunning.”
And then I kissed her. I couldn’t seem to help myself. She was captivating. Mesmerizing. We kissed, and she deepened it until we were making out. Then she whispered in my ear, “Let’s go to your tent Charlie.”
You ever do something you know is wrong but you can’t stop yourself from doing it? That was how I felt as I unzipped the tent. I knew I was going to be sleeping with a still married woman…no matter what she said about her husband. I just couldn’t stop myself. She touched me and I lost all ability to think clearly.
It wasn’t until the next morning, when I woke up alone in the tent, that I started to regret my actions.
After I ate, I headed back to the base camp to shower and then I went back to the market in search of Tahyia. When I finally found her, my heart skipped a beat.
“Tahyia!” I called out to get her attention. “What happened to you?” I asked when she turned toward me.
“I had to go home, of course,” she shrugged. “My husband would have suspected.”
“Oh Charlie! You are much more innocent than your father.” She laughed.
“I don’t understand.”
“You’re a sweet boy. You are a lot like your father in looks, but he knew that it was just a fling. You’ll go back to your Twinbrook and I will stay here with my husband, the old fool. But it was fun, right?”
I couldn’t believe what she was saying. She and Jack…? “But you said you were leaving your husband!”
“And some day I might,” she laughed again. “But he’s rich and old. He might die first.”
“You are heartless!” I screamed. “How could you sleep with me like that…after you slept with Jack! And you lied about being separated!”
“Oh grow up, Charlie!”
She turned and stomped away from me leaving me stunned. I just wasn’t sure what hurt me more…the fact that she had lied to seduce me or that she had slept with both me and Jack.
I decided that I needed to get away from the market. I needed to clear my head. I set off at a jog, hoping that it would make me feel better. As I was running, I realized that I was more hurt about Jack. He was a womanizer, I knew that, but I had always thought that he was also a good man. But he slept with a married woman. And she had said that he knew about it. She hadn’t had to lie to him.
And what about Wu? the girl he met when we were together. He slept with her, too. He didn’t care at all what she was feeling, probably. She’d looked so dejected when she emerged from his tent.
The run did nothing to clear my head, but I was determined to just put Tahyia behind me and concentrate on my adventures. I needed to refocus on my purpose for being in Egypt: fishing and tomb hunting. I could worry about Jack when I got back to Twinbrook.
My adventures took me to the Tomb of the Ocean, a massive underground network of trap-filled rooms. It also had a nice fishing pond in front of it. Before I went, I made sure to stock up on the supplies I’d need for an extended stay—a portable tent and shower as well as some dried food morsels.
It was a good thing that I had packed my swim trunks. Most of the tomb was under water. I had to do a lot of swimming to get to doors and switches and secret rooms.
But the trip was worth it! The treasures I found there were exquisite. I would be going back to Twinbrook with a fortune. Who cared if I made money from fishing? Kindra couldn’t tell me that my ambitions to travel wouldn’t be financially viable. Between the relics, ancient coins, and gems I’d found, I could travel all over the world!
I spent two nights at the Tomb of the Ocean and I felt like I still hadn’t explored it all. I knew I would be leaving soon, but I couldn’t wait to come back. I also remembered that I hadn’t fully explored the Tomb of the Burning Sands. And I hadn’t even ventured inside the Great Pyramid itself. There was so much I needed and wanted to do.
Reluctantly I returned to base camp. I would need to go to the market for more supplies. When I got there, I discovered that I was not the only adventurer present. I met three sisters from China, Hui Young Kim, Sun Young Kim, and Xo Young Kim. They, too, were pyramid explorers.
“So you have just come from the Tomb of the Ocean,” Hui Young said while we were sitting around the fire pit. “We were exploring the Ruins of Kunark.”
“Did you find much treasure?”
“Relics, some coins and a few sigils,” she said. “You? Was the water tomb fruitful?”
“Relics, coins and sigils,” I said. I didn’t want to give anything away. I didn’t want her to know how much I had found or how much I had left unexplored. I didn’t care about the treasure so much as the exploration. I didn’t want to have someone discover the tomb’s secrets before I did.
“Are you going to search the Great Pyramid?” her sisters Sun Young and Xo Young asked me over breakfast the next morning.
“Not this trip. I have to get back to Twinbrook in a few days. I want to do a little more fishing and maybe go back to the Tomb of Burning Sands.”
“We aren’t going either. We must return to China,” Sun said a little wistfully. I could tell that she, like me, longed to stay and continue exploring.
“Maybe when I come to Egypt next, you and your sisters will be here and we can all explore the Great Pyramid together.” Both sisters nodded. I could tell that Sun Young was excited by the prospect of a joint expedition.
“But Hui probably wouldn’t want you along. She is the one who manages our treasure finding business.”
“You do this as a business?”
“A little. There isn’t much enterprise in our part of China. Shang Simla is mostly a tourist location.”
“I’ve been there,” I enthused. “I visited as a child with my parents.”
“Perhaps when you come back to China, you can look us up,” Xo said. She was the youngest of the sisters and a bit flirty. But I didn’t let myself respond. I was not going to get involved with any more women.
I did go back and explore more of the Tomb of the Ocean before I left, but I ran afoul of a nasty electricity trap that I couldn’t disarm. I realized that I would need to do get a little more handiness training if I wanted to return. So, the last day of my trip I spent fishing. I pulled in the largest Siamese Catfish I had ever caught.
It was strange coming back to Twinbrook after having been gone so long…over a month. At first I though the taxi was going the wrong way when instead of pulling off the main street through town to go to my parents’ old house, it continued through town and over the new bridge to my new house.
It would be strange to see Shelby and Emma again and stranger not to see Kindra, Caleb and the twins.
I almost knocked on our door before I remembered that it was my house and I had the key. I shouldered my bag and pushed the door open. I immediately saw Shelby checking out the fireplace. She’s a little neurotic, always worrying when the fire is going that we might burn the house down.
“Charlie!” she screeched when she saw me in the door. She threw herself into my arms. I just had time to drop my heavy rucksack before she tackled me.
“Shelby!” I hugged her tight and swung her around.
Upstairs I could hear music playing and the sound of Emma’s running feet. She must be on the treadmill. I put Shelby down and motioned for her to be quiet as I snuck up the stairs.
I found the remote for the stereo and switched it off, waiting for Emma’s explosion.
“What the hell! Shelby I was in the zone, dammit!”
She leapt off of the still moving treadmill like a pro and rounded on me, expecting to find her sister.
“Wha…Charlie!” This time I was prepared for it and I managed to steady myself as Emma threw her arms around me.
“Ew,” I wrinkled my nose. “You stink, Em.”
“Who cares! You’re finally home.”
It was nice being greeted so warmly by my cousins.
Over the next week I settled into a routine now that I was home again. I got up and made breakfast for my cousins. Usually Shelby was the only one who ate. Emma said she would grab breakfast at the office. Then, once I’d put away any leftovers and cleaned up whatever dishes there were left (if Shelby didn’t clean them all), I headed out behind the stadium to fish in the river. Finally, at the end of the day, I would take my catch down to the grocery store.
I got home around the same time as the girls most days. After we ate dinner, usually prepared by Shelby, Shelby and I would sit down and watch TV or play chess. Emma rarely joined us. I could tell something was up, but she was avoiding me. I knew she was upset, but neither her nor Shelby would say what was the matter.
“Don’t worry about it Charlie,” Shelby said after I got another “nothing” response when I asked Emma what was wrong.
“Is it a guy?” I asked. “If some bastard hurt Em, I’ll kill him.” Shelby wouldn’t meet my eyes. I knew that I’d guessed correctly.
“Tell me who, Shel. Who is the dirt bag that is making her cry every night? Every night, Shel! That’s not normal.”
“You don’t want to get involved, Charlie.”
“Yes I do!”
“Emma will tell you when she’s ready,” was all Shelby would say. She stubbornly refused to say anything more about it no matter how much I begged.
That night when I heard Emma sobbing uncontrollably from the vent in my room which was above hers, I swore that I would get to the bottom of things. No one made one of my cousins cry without answering to me!