I felt sorry for my brother Will. On his birthday, he was hoping to convince Bridgette Johnson that he was the man for her. Unfortunately, she didn’t come to the party. Instead her twin, Ariel was there. She broke the news to Will.
“Bridgette had to work, Will. I’m sorry. She made me promise to tell you happy birthday and give you a birthday hug from her.”
I knew that Will was devastated. And I could see in his face that this was the last straw. He gave up on Bridgette.
“Thanks for coming to the party, Ariel. I’m glad at least you could be here.”
“Wouldn’t miss it, Will. I like hanging out with you.”
After his party, Will retreated to the garage where he used his frustration about Bridgette to help chisel the table he was creating. I found him there and decided to join him.
“Sorry about Bridgette.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Will landed a savage blow with the hammer that shaved off nearly a foot of wood. “I heard Marcel was going to propose to her anyway.”
“I heard that, too. She’s not the one for you. I’m sure there’s someone better out there.” I made small taps in the clay I was working with. I had revealed the edge of an ear and the round pate of a head.
“When did you get so wise about love, Brat?” Will was making fun of me.
“I’m not wise,” I said. “I just want the best for you. I want you to be in love like I am with Shawn.”
“You think that’s true love? The kind that lasts? You’re just in high school Kara. How do you know if he’s the one.”
I stopped tapping. “I don’t. But I know it’s love, Will. I feel it in my heart. Did you feel that for Bridgette?”
“I never got the chance.” Another blow split the table he was making in two. It fell apart at Will’s feet. “Damn it!” He threw down his hammer and chisel and walked out of the garage.
After that, my brother who registered as a professional sculptor, chose to work in ice with a chainsaw. He said the noise and the massive destruction of the saw fit his mood. His work in ice was nothing short of genius. My personal favorite was the monster freezer bunny. It was spectacular.
You may wonder why I hardly ever mention my twin brother, Paul. It isn’t because we aren’t close and that I don’t love him. We are and I do. But we really don’t hang out that much. We’re very different even though we share an interest in art. You can tell our differences just looking at our rooms.
Paul’s is neat and always clean. He makes his bed every morning. He’s pretty obsessive about having everything in it’s perfect place. I, on the other hand, I don’t care about my room. We have a maid who makes our beds for us. I know it’s lazy to count on her, but to be honest I just don’t think about it. I also still have some of my old toys laying about and the pictures on my walls are pretty eclectic.
Paul doesn’t understand why I keep the picture he painted for me when we were little. It’s a stick drawing of the two of us. He’s embarrassed by it and has offered to paint me something better. I like the picture, not just because it is one of the two of us. No, I like it because it reminds me that even Paul used to paint stick people.
Another reason I don’t hang out with my twin all the time is that he prefers to do things outside, which I hate. Paul has switched focus from painting to music. He can often be found jamming with his guitar in the back yard. If he’s not there, he’s with our dad fishing in the neighborhood. Paul loves fishing almost as much as dad does.
Another reason I don’t hang with Paul much is that I spend a lot of time with Shawn. Paul doesn’t mind Shawn, but he hates being a third wheel on our dates. And Paul isn’t good friends with Shonna, so we can’t even go out as a foursome that often.
“All you and Shawn do is play darts and make out,” Paul complains whenever I ask him to go with us. Usually dad makes him go, though, because he wants me to have a chaperone or something.
As a graduation present for Will, and to get him out of his funk about Bridgette, my parents decided to take us on another family vacation. This time we were going to Egypt. Initially I was excited about the trip. And then we arrived at the base camp. I took one look at the outdoor kitchen and the primitive tents, and I immediately wanted to return home.
“Mom, you can’t be serious. Tents?!”
“Kara, this is the place where your father and I met.”
“But it’s tents! And we have to eat outside!” I whined.
“Awesome!” Paul enthused. “I like roughing it!”
“Tents aren’t so bad Kara, you’ll see,” Will added.
“What do you know? You’ve never slept in a tent in your life!”
“Kids!” My dad interrupted what would have turned into a real squabble between us. “I wanted you to see where your mom and I met. But now I have a surprise to show you.”
“Anything to get us away from here…” I muttered under my breath.
Dad drove us in our rental car out into town. He didn’t stop at the market, which is where I thought we were going. Instead he went into a more residential area. He parked the car in front of a fairly lavish house.
“Come on,” he said, getting out of the car. He beckoned us to follow him inside.
“What is this, Charlie?” My mom asked. She looked as surprised as the rest of us.
“Our home away from home,” he told her, causing her to smile like it was in an inside joke.
Once we got inside and I had a chance to look around, I was so happy. There was running water and a real bed to sleep on. It had everything that our home in Desert Shores had.
“Daddy! This is great!” I threw my arms around him and gave him a huge hug.
“This is nothing,” he said. “Follow me to the sitting room. I have another surprised.”
So we followed him through the kitchen and into the sitting room. Inside we found it decorated for the holidays. It had a tree, presents, stockings, everything.
“Merry Christmas!” Dad enthused.
“This is so cool, Dad,” Paul said. “I totally thought we wouldn’t have a tree this year since we are in Egypt.”
“It’s a fake tree, but I thought you’d still like it.”
“I love it,” Mom said. She gave dad a hug and a small kiss.
After sleeping in a soft bed, I was pretty excited to face my first day in Egypt. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, though. At breakfast, the subject of what to do seemed to be on everyone’s mind (well, except Paul, who never thinks about anything but food when he’s eating.)
“I have an idea, Dad,” Will said. “I want to see one of the tombs you and mom explored when you used to come here. Can we do that?”
“Sure, after we’re done eating,” Dad said.
“Do you know which one you want to see?” Mom asked. “The Great Pyramid? The Sphinx?”
“Not the Sphinx,” Dad said. I thought I saw him shudder, but I wasn’t sure. “How about my favorite pyramid? The Tomb of Water. Anyone else want to go?”
“Not me,” I said. “I’m going to the market and maybe paint or write. I want to meet some locals, too.”
“I want to go fishing,” Paul said around a bite of fruit parfait.
In the end, Mom took me and Paul to the market. Paul was immediately entranced by the snake charmers and insisted on trying to do it himself. Mom took me to the relic merchant, an old friend of hers, Mohammed Taymer. Mr. Taymer invited us over to his house to meet his sons, Zaki and Ali. I was surprised to find that both were about our age.
Dad and Will visited the Tomb of Water, which housed quite a few interesting sculptures according to Will. Dad led him through the tomb, but Will admitted that it was pretty scary. He’s not adventurous or brave like mom and dad.
“I bet you were scared like a little girl,” I teased Will. “Bet you ran from the tomb screaming.”
“I did not! And I don’t see you going inside a tomb! You’re the scardy cat, Kara!”
“Yep, I’m a scared little girl…just like you!” Paul, who witnessed the whole exchange, busted up laughing.
“What are you laughing at? I don’t see you going to a tomb either.”
“Dad’s taking me out tomorrow,” Paul said. “And I promise that I won’t run away like a little girl.”
“Bet you pee your pants, Paul-y. Bet you can’t even stay down in a tomb after you see your first trap.”
“Cool, there are traps?” I didn’t think Paul would have any problem with traps or anything else inside the tombs. I was surprised that Will had been frightened.
I spent a lot of time with the Taymer brothers while we were in Egypt. I liked them both. I was sort of embarrassed when I found out that Ali Taymer knew who I was even before I got to Egypt. Apparently he had read my book, Huggy Bunny Goes to China. I had no idea that it had been published internationally.
“Are you going to write a Huggy Bunny story for Egypt?” Ali asked eagerly. I hadn’t thought about it, but it wasn’t a bad idea. I’m always surprised by the royalties I still get for the first story. I wrote it when I was 9. And it wasn’t even that good.
In the end, I did write Huggy Bunny Goes to Egypt. I had it printed and bound at the local book store and gave it to Ali Taymer who was very excited. I was a little embarrassed that he was so enthusiastic. It was just a children’s book, after all. I hadn’t even illustrated it this time. I decided to wait until I got home to do that. I wasn’t sure if the book would ever really be published anyway.
At the house, I was working on a new painting, something darker than I usually do. I called it the “Dancing Ghost”. I’m not sure what my inspiration was, but I liked the image. And it inspired me to write another science fiction book. I gave it the same title. I didn’t care about Huggy Bunny, but I really wanted Dancing Ghost to be even better than Breeding Program, my first sci-fi.
Like me, Paul also used his time in Egypt to paint. However, he was painting a much different canvas than I was. He was doing a huge lighthouse scene from memory—the one in Desert Shores.
“I guess I miss home,” Paul said, when our mom asked about the picture. “I like it here. Fishing has been great and the tomb dad showed me was awesome, but I miss the Shores.”
I was missing the Shores, too. I called Shawn every day, but I missed seeing him in person. I told him about everything we did. I told him about Will running from the tomb, about Paul trying to charm a snake, and about the house, the Christmas tree, and everything.
“I love you and miss you,” I ended every conversation.
“I love you and miss you more,” he would reply.
When we got home, Shawn was waiting for us in front of our house. I leapt out of the car and ran to hug him. He grabbed me, swung me around and kissed me. He didn’t stop until Dad was right next to us clearing his throat.
“Um…hi Mr. Fields. Sorry.”
“Help us bring in the bags, Shawn. Might as well make yourself useful,” Dad grumbled. Shawn nodded and headed to the car to help us bring in our luggage. I thought that maybe Dad had softened toward my boyfriend. I know that Dad wanted the best for me. I wanted him and Shawn to be friends. Having him help us unload was a good start.
Unfortunately, our return home was not as perfect as I’d hoped it would be. That night we were woken up to the sound of our burglar alarm going off. People knew our house was filled with precious and valuable relics from around the world. I’m actually surprised we’d never been burgled before. Maybe this criminal thought we were still gone. I’m not sure.
We all woke up when the alarm went off, of course. Will, whose room is downstairs next to the garage, was the first on the scene. Mom was the second. I was surprised, but Dad was the last. I guess he’s getting old and didn’t hear the alarm at first.
Actually, the cops had arrived even before Dad came down to investigate. Mom, a black belt, was about to jump the burglar when the cop showed up. So, instead of fighting the woman, she let the cop take over. Big mistake.
In the confusion of my dad coming down and demanding to know what was going on, the cop showing up and trying to subdue the burglar, and mom, who had backed off, the burglar managed to get away. Seeing the criminal fleeing the scene, my dad went into action. He’s also a black belt.
Mom was yelling at the cop for letting the criminal slip from his fingers. Dad was tearing after the woman on foot. I screamed, “No Dad! She didn’t get anything. Stay here!”
But dad didn’t listen. He pursued the woman outside and down the street. I was worried for my dad. I looked at my brothers and said, “Go after him! She’s dangerous!” I was surprised when it was Paul instead of Will who followed dad outside.
I heard Dad scream, “She’s getting away! Get the car!” And then I heard Paul start the car and pick dad up. They sped down the street after the criminal’s car.
Later, Paul told me that he and Dad followed her all the way to an abandoned warehouse.
“We lost her there. Dad was running to get her, but I was too slow. I’m too fat to be a runner.” I could tell that Paul felt it was his fault that Dad hadn’t gotten the criminal.
Paul apologized for letting the criminal get away, but dad reassured him that it wasn’t his fault.
“It was a long shot that we’d catch her, son. Don’t worry. I heard your sister say that she hadn’t stolen anything before she fled.”
“I know Dad, but I did want you to catch her.”
“It’s ok, son. Let’s go home. We’ll see if that incompetent cop survived your mother’s tongue lashing.”
When the two of them got home, I was napping on the couch. I hadn’t been able to go back to bed once the cop left. I wanted to stay up until my dad and brother returned, but I hadn’t slept well the night before—jet-lag—so I fell asleep in the couch.
When I heard the door shut, I sat up and rubbed my eyes.
“Did you get her?”
“No,” Paul said. Dad was looking really pissed. His face was red still.
“Mom yelled at the cop,” I said, getting up from the couch. “I’m not sure where she is now, though.”
Just then, Mom came in from the office where she had been sending messages to our relatives about the burglary.
“She got away, didn’t she?” Mom demanded when she came into the room. “Stupid cop! And stupid you, Charlie! What do you mean going after a dangerous criminal by yourself!” Mom was about to chew Dad out for scaring her to death, when he gave a short cry and grabbed at his left arm.
“Charlie!” Mom rushed over to him when he collapsed on the floor.
“Dad!” Both Paul and I cried.
Dad was having a heart attack. Mom frantically tried doing CPR and I started dialing 911. But by the time the paramedics arrived at our house, we all knew it was too late. Our trip to Egypt, the exploring, and then the chase through town after a criminal, was all too much for Dad’s heart.
He was gone.