When I got back from China I made a point to get in touch with all of my family. I wasn’t sure what the Sphinx meant by finding my heart, but I figured family was a good place to start. My mother, Mina, had always stressed the importance of family, and it was something that I believed in very strongly.
Of course everyone, especially Leslie and Dillon, wanted to know about my travels. I told them about all of the relics and gems I’d discovered and the traps and puzzles that I faced, but I did not tell them about the mummy. I figured that I wouldn’t say anything unless it became very obvious that I was sick.
Unfortunately, people started to suspect that something was wrong right away. I think my cousins knew I was still not feeling well, but after the way I brushed them off before leaving on my last trip, I think they were still trying to give me space.
Actually, the first person to comment on my illness was a paparazzi, a young woman named Dominique. She cornered me at the fishing pond behind the Science facility.
“So, you look like you caught a bug on your travels. Do you have malaria or swine flu?”
I refused to comment, but I did ask her a question: “What happened to Therese?” I missed the girl who used to follow me around. I didn’t like this new one.
“Oh, I think she took a job for the real newspaper. She’s moving up,” Dominique said offhandedly.
I confirmed that Therese was indeed now working at the real newspaper. Shelby, who also worked there, told me that she was a paper girl. I suppose I was happy for her, but I missed seeing her.
And that’s when I got the idea…I missed Therese. Maybe she was my “heart”! I’d been thinking about the riddle and I figured that it meant that I was supposed to find love and start a family. Considering how I was feeling about Therese, perhaps I felt more for her than I originally thought.
So, I went to go see her.
“Charlie! You’re back in town,” she was surprised to see me on her doorstep, but she immediately invited me into her apartment.
“I got a new paparazzi and I thought you might have moved,” I explained why I was at her door. It was a stupid explanation and I mentally chastised myself for not having more of Jack’s charm.
“What I mean to say is, I missed you.” Smooth recovery!
“I missed you too, Charlie. I got a job at the paper. Did Shelby tell you? I was glad to give up the tabloids. I hated digging for dirt and sometimes having to make things up. It wasn’t true reporting.”
After I visited her at her house, I started going out with Therese. We went on walk at the beach, out to the bar to throw darts, and I invited her over to the house when Emma was throwing a party.
I really liked her. She was pretty, smart, and we had a good time together.
But I never heard the Sphinx in my head telling me that I had found my ‘heart’. I suppose I would have to propose before I would fulfill the riddle. But I couldn’t just do that without wooing Therese first.
And that was getting harder to do. I was so tired. I was getting sick a lot more, too. I feared that I was running out of time. And the worst part of it was that I couldn’t tell her why I was sick. I did my best not to let it show when I was around her.
Therese was no dummy, though, like I said. She finally confronted me about the dark circles I couldn’t hide and the fatigue I was constantly suffering.
“Don’t tell me you’re fine! I can tell that you’re not. Just tell me what’s wrong, Charlie. Did you catch malaria in Egypt? Can you catch malaria there?”
“No, I don’t have malaria,” I said. “I’ve been sick, but it’s not malaria.”
“Have you been to the doctor?”
“No. It’s just fatigue. What’s a doctor going to do?” I knew that a doctor could do nothing because they wouldn’t be able to tell what was wrong.
“Just go, Charlie. Promise me?”
“Alright,” I reluctantly agreed.
“I love you, Charlie. I don’t want you to be sick.”
I did go to the doctor. I knew that there wouldn’t be anything they could do, but I wanted to make Therese happy. She’d said she loved me and I was pretty sure I loved her, too. After I went to the doctor I planned to tell her that they found nothing and then I was going to propose to her.
As I was going in, I met my uncle Caleb coming out.
“Charlie, good to see you. Are you sick?”
“I caught something in China or Egypt, I think.”
“Kindra and I had wondered. You don’t look well, Charlie. I’m glad you’re getting a check up.”
“Thanks. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
Boy was I getting tired of lying to everyone.
Before I could propose, I figured I better tell Kindra about my plans. I hoped that if I had her approval, I would be one step closer to finding my ‘heart’ like the Sphinx had riddled.
“I’m going to ask Therese to marry me. I would like to have your blessing.” I wasted no time. I knew that I didn’t have much left. The doctors were as baffled as I knew they would be. They wanted me to come in for a ton of tests, they feared cancer, but said that they hadn’t found any sign of it.
“Are you sure, Charlie?” I was disappointed that Kindra didn’t meet my announcement with more enthusiasm. She just looked worried.
“Yeah. She loves me. I love her.”
“I’m happy for you if you’re happy. I want the best for you. I always have.”
“I know.” We hugged. For the first time, I thought of her as my mother instead of my aunt. I wished that my real mother was there to hug me, too, but Kindra’s hug made me feel like Mina was there.
I did it the very next day. Therese and I were watching TV on the couch. I didn’t have the energy to go out on the town. “I’ve got something to tell you,” I said. “Therese, I love you.” Then I got down on one knee, pulled out the ring and asked her to marry me.
She was so excited. And since we’re both a bit emotional, we both cried as she accepted the ring and allowed me to slip it on her right hand.
“Oh Charlie! I love you so much!” she threw her arms around me and hugged me tight.
I half expected to hear the voice of the Sphinx in that moment. But it didn’t come. I guessed that I actually had to be married to meet the condition of the riddle.
Therese and I set our wedding date for three months out. I told her I didn’t want to do anything elaborate and I didn’t want to wait. Luckily she agreed. To be honest, I didn’t think I had the time to wait and I wasn’t even sure I’d make it three months.
We sent wedding invitations out immediately so that people would have time to plan to be there. I especially wanted some of my foreign friends to come to the wedding. Of course I invited Sun Young Kim. She was the only person I had told about the mummy’s curse. I knew she had to be worried about me.
I was very shocked when she showed up on my doorstep a week after she must have received her invitation.
“Sunny! What are you doing here? It’s so good to see you!” I wrapped her up in a big hug.
Sunny explained that she came to see how I was doing. She was happy for me, but wondered if I had broken the curse yet. She also asked me to show her around Desert Shores.
“I’ve traveled in most countries,” she said. “But I’ve never been here. It is a lot like Egypt, no?”
“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to live here,” I explained.
At the local dive bar I taught Sunny how to shoot darts, and she grilled me about the wedding. I told her how I had reasoned that the Sphinx’s riddle must mean that I was supposed to find my soul mate and get married so that I could start a family.
“Do you think that Therese is your soul mate?”
“Yeah. I love her. I realized how much I missed her when I saw that she was no longer following me around.” I explained that Therese used to be a paparazzi.
“Did you tell her about the curse?” Sunny looked concerned. “She’ll need to know about it before you go to Egypt to face the Sphinx.”
I shook my head. “I haven’t told her or anyone. I don’t think she needs to know. It will worry her for nothing.”
“I hope you’re right, Charlie.” Sunny didn’t look convinced. She also didn’t look happy for me.
“You’ll love her, Sunny. I know it. You’ll have to come over and meet her Saturday. I’ll throw a party.”
But in the end, Sunny never met Therese. She came to my house the morning that I was going to introduce them and told me that she had to cut her trip short.
“I just can’t stay.”
“Tell me you’re coming back for the wedding at least.”
Sunny shook her head. “I don’t think I can, Charlie. I won’t be able to get back that soon.”
I was very disappointed. I didn’t understand why Sunny, my best friend, wouldn’t be at my wedding. Something didn’t feel right about her excuse. I got the impression that she didn’t want to be there.
“I hope you get better Charlie. I hope this cures the mummy’s curse.”
“I still have to face the Sphinx,” I said.
“I know you can do it.”
“Thanks Sunny. You’re a great friend. I’m going to miss you.” I took her hands in mine and gave them a squeeze. Then I pulled her in for a goodbye hug.
“Maybe Therese and I will see you in China. I want to take her there someday.”
“I hope so, Charlie. But you know how much I travel.” I did. We both traveled a lot.
“We always seem to run into each other, though,” I said. “I’m sure we’ll see each other again.”
After Sunny left, things weren’t quite the same. I didn’t look forward to the wedding as much as I had before. I kept having nightmares about it. I tried to be positive. Therese just thought I had the pre-wedding jitters. She was also worried because I was still sick.
But as the night of our wedding arrived, I knew I was making a huge mistake. We were supposed to be marrying under the stars in my back yard, but something just wasn’t right.
I knew I was the worst sort of person to be doing what I was doing, but as all the guests arrived, I just couldn’t go through with it. I couldn’t get married to Therese.
“I’ve got something I need to talk to you about,” I pulled her aside. My eyes were brimming with unshed tears. I was going to break her heart. It was going to be embarrassing and messy. I should have said something sooner, but I’d been hoping that I’d get over my feeling of panic.
“Therese, I don’t think…I mean…I love you, but…” The words were impossible to get out.
“What is this about Charlie? Everyone is here. The cake and food is all set up. We’re about to get married. It’s almost time.”
“I know. I know, and I’m feel so terrible. I just can’t…” I gulped. I was crying. “I can’t marry you.”
“What?! Charlie, you can’t be serious. Everything’s all set. You’re just nervous.”
“I can’t. I just can’t do it. I know everything is set. I promise I will talk to everyone.” I started to babble. Therese must have realized that I meant it because she was crying and shaking her head in denial.
“It’s all my fault,” I continued. “No one will blame you, Therese. They’ll all think I’m the jack ass that I really am. You don’t deserve this. I’m so sorry. Please. I hope you can forgive me some day. This just isn’t meant to be.”
Of course she’d never forgive me. It broke my heart to see her face filled with such pain and rage. “I hate you Charlie Fields! I hate you!”
Therese ran out of my house, crying. It startled everyone and I had a lot of explaining to do. Everyone was understandably upset. I had screwed up, and now my whole family was angry. Instead of getting closer to finding my heart, I feared that I was moving farther away.
The only thing I could do was meditate and hope that I came up with a solution. I knew that I was right about finding my soul mate and getting married to start a family. That had to be the answer to the riddle, but I wasn’t sure I would ever manage it. I had seriously screwed up thinking that Therese was it. I realized now that I had just wanted her to be it..
And then I had a very intense dream. I dreamt that I was running down the road and I knew that I was running toward my wife. I felt fear, panic, joy and love fill me. It was the most intense feeling I had ever had—much more intense than any feeling I ever had about Therese. I knew that as soon as I reached the girl at the end of the road, I would find my ‘heart.’
As soon as I woke up, I knew what I had to do. I had recognized the road. Without telling anyone where I was going, I bought a plane ticket and headed out of town. I knew what I needed to do to solve the Sphinx’s riddle.
“Charlie. What are you doing here?” Sunny asked me when I finally reached her door.
“I’m following my heart.”
Sunny was understandably confused at my sudden appearance. “But I thought…what about Therese?”
I reached out to stroke Sunny’s cheek. “I had to break it off with her. I made a huge mistake. She wasn’t my soul mate after all.”
“What do you mean?”
“I treated her terribly,” I said. “I feel awful about it, but she wasn’t my soul mate. I couldn’t marry her.”
“So you just left her at the alter. That’s horrible!”
I hung my head in shame. “I know. But what I realized was that I wasn’t happy when you left Desert Shores. It was like I was missing a limb or something. I know I’m not doing a very good job of explaining…” My voice trailed off in frustration as I tried to make her understand.
“It was you Sunny. Without you, my soul was empty. It was you.”
“Oh Charlie! Do you mean…”
“Yes. I love you. I thought what I felt for Therese was love, but it is nothing like what I feel for you. With you I am complete. You are my heart.”
Sunny pulled me into an embrace. “It’s about time you realized it, you stupid man. I was willing to let you go if you really were happier with her, but I’m so glad you’re here!”
It took me a minute to realize what she was saying. Then, when I got that she loved me, too, I swung her around excitedly. When I set her down, I quickly dropped to a knee.
“Sunny, you are my heart. I love you more than I can say. Will you marry me?”
“Yes I will. But if you break it off with me, I will go get Therese and we will both kill you slowly.”
“If I leave you, I will let you do whatever you want to me. I deserve it anyway. I hurt Therese really badly.”
“Yes. I won’t let her kill you, though. I’ll only let her beat you up a little.”
Sunny’s laughter filled my heart with sunshine. As I let it wash over me I heard inside my head and all around me, “You have found your heart. You may now journey to the heart of the Sphinx. You will need courage, tenacity, and strength of will and body to earn the Sphinx’s Grace.”