I avoided Emma as long as I could after my run in with Jack at the Grind. I knew she was feeling awful about herself and the situation she was in, and I didn’t want to burden her with what happened during the fight.
But I couldn’t stay away from her forever. Eventually she saw me and noticed the bruises on my face…they were sort of hard to miss.
“Charlie! Ohmygod! What happened to your face?”
“You should see the other guy,” I quipped.
“Did you get into a fight?” Emma gasped. “You got into a fight with Jack!”
I tried to deny it, but really what could I say. I had gotten into a fight with Jack. I’d lost, too. I wish that I could tell her that I kicked his ass. I wish I could say that I’d hurt him in such a way that he could never do what he did to another woman. I couldn’t say any of that, though.
“Oh, Charlie. I’m so sorry that I put you in this situation. He’s your father. You shouldn’t be trying to beat up your own father.” Emma was so upset that she started to cry.
“It’s ok, Em.” I gathered her into my arms, comforting her even though it hurt the bruises that were on my chest. “He’s not my real father. Don’t worry. He deserved to get punched for what he did to you. I wish I could have killed him for what he did to Kindra.”
No matter what I said, Emma still felt that everything was her fault. She didn’t realize that we all shared in a little of the blame—me for not listening to everyone who told me that Jack was bad—Kindra for not insisting on explaining her situation, not that I blamed her for not wanting to tell me—Shelby for not telling anyone that Emma’s boyfriend was being abusive. But most of all, the person responsible and deserving of blame was Jack. He deserved everything he got. I hope his bruises throbbed extra hard and that he would never do what he did to Kindra and Emma to anyone else.
I was very happy when Kindra called me the following week to tell me that she had finally fired Jack from BBBC. From her tone of voice during the call that she insisted I put on speaker phone so that Emma could hear it, I could tell that Kindra had finally gotten some closer from her situation with Jack.
“I called him a llama’s ass and a piece of trash,” Kindra gleefully recounted. “Then I fired him.”
“I can’t imagine he took that well,” I said. Jack was at least as ambitious as Kindra, if not more so.
“He didn’t. He threatened to sue me and sue the company.”
“Could he sue?” Emma questioned, worriedly.
“No. I pointed out that his incident with Charlie at the Grind made all of the papers. He was publicly called out as a seducer. I’m sorry that all of your troubles have been in the tabloids, Emma, but in this case it worked toward my advantage. The company has a no fraternization policy. I pointed out that he slept with someone who was one of his employees, technically. Also, he brought bad publicity to the company. Both are grounds for termination.”
“Where do you think he’ll go?” Emma wondered. She was crying…again.
“I don’t care. I suggested he go to Sunset Valley and work for DooPeas…if they’ll hire him. I just told him to pack his office and fill out the paper work with HR for severance.”
“I wish you could have just tossed him out with no pay!” I said viciously. “He doesn’t deserve any compensation.”
“I would have liked that, too, Charlie. But he’s entitled to two weeks. That’s all he’s getting.”
I was happy that Kindra had finally come to some sort of peace with Jack, but I wished the same was true of Emma. Even though everyone supported her, she was still depressed.
Telling her parents about Jack was difficult especially since the tabloids had a field day with the story. My aunt Sam and uncle Edmund weren’t happy about what happened, but mostly they were just upset that she hadn’t told them about Jack sooner. But they loved Emma and wanted her to be happy. They were also excited about the new baby, even if its father was Jack Osborne.
I did whatever I could to support Emma. It was definitely my fault that everything she was going through was being broadcast in the tabloids. If I hadn’t gotten into a public brawl with Jack, no one would have been the wiser about the father of her baby.
“I wish there was more that I could do,” I consoled her once when she came in from a trip to the grocery store. Outside I caught the flash of a camera and saw the flap of a reporter’s jacket.
“Eventually they’ll find something else to write about.”
“No soon enough,” Emma pouted. “I don’t mind being famous, but I wish it was for my business acumen and not for this stupid baby!”
“Emma! The baby is not stupid! You love the baby. Right?”
“I don’t know Charlie. This is all so crazy. Don’t you sort of resent the baby? I mean, it’s your cousin and sort of like your brother or sister, too. Doesn’t that creep you out?”
“I don’t think of it that way, Em,” I said, though I had thought of it. The tabloids were making all kinds of jokes about it, so I couldn’t avoid thinking those thoughts. But I realized it didn’t matter. The baby was family.
“My mom, Mina, always told me that family was important. This baby is family. He or she is my family. Cousin, brother, sister, doesn’t matter.”
“You’re so good, Charlie,” Emma was crying again. “I just can’t take this anymore. They follow me everywhere! They make me think terrible things and feel awful all the time. I wish we could just move away…go somewhere where no one knows us.”
And so that’s what we did. It took awhile. We had to talk it over with our families. I went to Kindra and Caleb and Emma talked to Shelby and her parents. Eventually, everyone agreed that it was a good idea. In fact, Kindra and Caleb said they were planning to retire, so they’d consider moving with us. That prompted Sam and Edmund to tell us that they’d also move.
In the end, Kindra, Caleb and the twins as well as Samantha and Edmund and Shelby accompanied me and Emma to Desert Shores. It was a quaint little town, lots of sandy beaches and very little green. Even though it was near water, it was more desert than anything else.
My cousins and I continued to live together. After the sale of my house in Twinbrook, I was able to afford a pretty decent place in Desert Shores. Aunt Kindra helped Emma get a job in the local branch of the BBBC and Shelby transferred to the Sandy Shore Gazette.
Aunt Sam and Uncle Edmund decided to open their own vegan restaurant in town instead of retiring, but both Kindra and Caleb decided they wanted to spend their last years together just wallowing on the beach. I’m not sure how my cousins, Dillon and Leslie, took to the move. I think they were glad to be out of the public eye in Twinbrook, but even here everyone had heard of ARC, Caleb’s old band. I think Leslie liked having all the kids from the Shore knowing that her dad was once a famous musician.
The paparazzi didn’t completely abandon us after our move to the Shores. But the amount of them did dissipate. Only one was extremely persistent in her efforts. She was a local named Therese Krause. I think she was thrilled to have us in town. She arranged to write the story about Sam and Eddie’s new restaurant, which was good, but she also kept taking pictures of me and the twins and asking us about Caleb.
I suppose the only reason I didn’t ask her to leave us alone was that she seemed not to be interested in Emma and the baby. She never asked questions about Jack.
When I finally confronted her and asked about it, she got a sad look on her face. I wasn’t sure what caused it.
“Don’t you think she’s suffered enough?” she asked me.
“Yeah, but you tabloid jackals can’t seem to leave it alone.”
“It’s old news,” she finally said, losing the faraway look and getting back to business. “About Caleb and ARC, do you think they’ll ever do a reunion tour? Will Robert and Alana be coming to the Shores? And what about the rumors that their son Jett got arrested for fighting in school?”
Aside from annoying reporters, I found that I liked living in Desert Shores. I enjoyed running in the neighborhood and heading to the beaches to do my fishing. But I was getting anxious to be out traveling again. I wanted to go back to Egypt. All of this sand reminded me of my travels in Al Simhara, and I was eager to get back.
But I needed to be around for the birth of my niece, Anabeth.
Yes, Emma gave birth to a beautiful little girl. What a miracle. I only had Leslie and Dillon’s birth to compare it to, but I think Anabeth was special. She definitely brought joy back into Emma’s world.
With the birth of Anabeth, the last of Emma’s depression disappeared. She no longer thought about Jack. On Anabeth’s birth certificate, she wrote “none” where it said father.
“From now on,” Emma said to me, “I’m not going to think of him. He doesn’t deserve to get any credit for this beautiful baby. She has no father right now,” Emma stated.
I was happy for Emma. I fell instantly in love with Anabeth. But I also grew more and more restless. It was time for me to head out again. So it was with bittersweet feelings that I kissed my little cousin goodbye. I promised Emma and Shelby that I would call and write, and then I boarded another plane bound for Egypt.
This trip I was not going to get caught up in other people’s lives. I had come with one purpose only: to explore the Great Pyramid. Oh, I’d do some fishing, too. I needed at least make an effort to advance in my chosen career, but what I really planned to do was see every corner and secret chamber there was inside this huge monument to a forgotten time.
There were many dangers—traps of all sorts. I had to use all of my physical and mental strengths to survive. In the end I was rewarded in a way that I hadn’t suspected. I saw a real mummy! Not one laying on a slab, either. A walking, moving mummy!
At first I thought to myself that I had to be hallucinating. Mummies were just a process for burying the dead. Tales of mummies waking were just that…tales. They were the manifestation of people’s fears of the afterlife, nothing more. But I was wrong. The mummy was walking. It came towards me.
“You have disturbed my tomb!” it wailed through it’s wraps, but it was as if its words echoed all around me.
When I finally grasped that I wasn’t having a particularly vivid dream, I realized that I was in greater danger than I had ever been. No trap I had faced would be as dangerous as this living dead thing in front of me. But there was no where I could escape to. Nothing I could fight it with. I tried grabbing one of the ceramic jars and throwing it at the mummy, but that didn’t’ slow it at all.
Of course it attacked. And like the fight with Jack, I was thoroughly beaten. I must have been knocked unconscious, though, because when I came to, there was no mummy in sight. I looked around and wondered if I just had a bad dream. But I knew I hadn’t. I was bruised and covered with dust. Also, the ceramic jar lay on the floor where it had fallen after I’d tossed it at the creature.
Even with evidence that it had been real, I couldn’t believe what had happened to me. I had to consult with a local expert. I spoke to Dr. Izeez Amin. He was a professor of anthropology and an expert in mummification.
“You say you were attacked?” I nodded. “And the mummy left you for dead?” I nodded again. Dr. Amin looked serious, so I was getting nervous. Finally he asked, “Were you embraced?”
I thought it was an odd question. “Embraced? What do you mean? Like kissed?”
The doctor chuckled nervously, “Ah, yes and no. It’s more like hugged. The mummy grabs you and sort of breathes on you…or rather breathes into you. I suppose that is sort of like a kiss.”
“Like mouth to mouth resuscitation?” The doctor looked confused. “Never mind. What happens if I was ‘embraced’?”
“If the mummy embraced you, then you are now cursed. You will start to weaken. You will feel sick, achy, tired. It will be like a great pull to all of your energy. Eventually, you will die.”
“What! Die! Is it like a disease?”
“Yes. And no. It acts like a disease or cancer, only there is no apparent cause. The locals say that only the Sphinx’s grace can cure it. But we have not seen it.”
I snorted. “Sounds like a bunch of hogwash.”
“But you didn’t believe in mummies, either.” This was true. But I’d seen one. I still had the bruise on my shoulder where I must have hit the ground when it jumped me.
“So, what if I am infected. What should I do?”
“Well, you could put your affairs in order. Or you could go to the Sphinx.”