She gritted her teeth and hauled herself up painfully. None of the others had dreamed of stopping for a rest, and she wasn’t going to admit that the climb was anything but easy. All the same, she wished she hadn’t become quite so engrossed in her latest project, because she was definitely out of condition now. Her clothes, few as they were, stuck to her, her hands were sore and her thighs were beginning to ache. Not to mention all the mosquito bites. Still, there couldn’t be far to go now and it would definitely be worth it once she’d reached the top.
“Come on, Mum, you’re nearly there.”
She squinted upwards, just able to make out the silhouette of Sphinx’s head against the blue glare of the sky.
“All right, stop fussing,” she said, and straightened herself to scramble up to the next step. A strong hand gripped each wrist and she found herself lifted from the crumbling rock to be dumped, a moment later, onto the small platform. Annoyed, she shook herself free of her husband and son.
“I could have managed perfectly well,” she said. “I sometimes wish you two would stop hauling me about as though I were a sack of potatoes.”
Her son chuckled unapologetically.
“Look around,” said her husband, taking her hand and turning her about. She drew in a little breath of awe. Cairo, oddly beautiful in the glow of the setting sun, sprawled before her. To the east, the Nile shone, and in the south stretched seemingly endless miles of sand, a sight that brought a leap of joy to all their hearts. There lay the treasures of ancient Egypt, most of them still undiscovered, sleeping in the evening warmth.
She turned to David, her mouth open to speak, but never had a chance to utter the words as he silenced her most effectively with his own mouth.
“Honestly, you two,” said thirteen year old Ricky in disgust. “Do you have to do that when there are other people around?”
“If you don’t like it, go somewhere else,” his father advised him and kissed Augusta again, very thoroughly. Ricky made a gagging noise and retreated to the other side of the small platform, where his siblings were gathered, not noticeably awed by the experience of climbing the Great Pyramid.
“So do you think we’re going anywhere else this year?” Miranda was saying as he came up. Lottie shrugged.
“I don’t know that I’ll come even if we do,” she said. “Jenny’s invited me to go on holiday with her and a couple of others, and I think I will. Anyway, I’m getting bored of all the Egyptology talk. I’m not sure I can cope with a whole summer of it.”
“And I can’t,” said her twin, John. “As I’m starting in the Hanford Rep next week.”
“I’d like to be an actor,” said Ricky enviously. “Only I want to be an archaeologist, too. D’you think I could be both?”
“Not professionally,” said John. “Not enough time. You’ll have to choose one day, my lad.”
“I don’t see why. Granddad did both.”
“Granddad was never an actor; he was just really good at disguising himself,” said Lottie. “Well, he still is, of course.”
“It’s in our blood,” said John sepulchrally.
“I just don’t understand you two,” said Constance Rose, raising deep blue eyes to the twins from her seat on the edge of the platform. “You don’t seem to feel the wonderful atmosphere of Egypt. The power and mystery she holds. Being here, atop the Great Pyramid, I can feel her calling me from all around. Like – a veil, waiting to be lifted.” She gave a long, trembling sigh and closed her eyes for a moment.
“Snap out of it, Connie,” said Lottie. The long, dark lashes flew apart and the azure eyes stared at her indignantly.
“It’s Constance Rose, not Connie,” she said. “How many times do I have to tell you? You just don’t understand the connection I have with the goddess.”
“Oh yes, the old bat,” said Lottie.
“The great wild cow,” said John soulfully.
“Talking about the love of Constance Rose’s life?” came Phoebe’s voice from behind them. “When are you going to get over this phase, darling?”
Constance Rose flushed.
“It isn’t a phase,” she snapped. “I’ve discovered truth and inner peace and maybe you’d do well to start looking for them too.” She got up and stalked away, not very far because the platform was only small, but far enough for the gesture to be quite clear.
“I can’t understand,” said Phoebe, taking Constance Rose’s place on the edge of the platform, “how with parents as intelligent as Mum and Dad, she still manages to be so remarkably stupid. It’s rather sweet, really.”
“It’s a damn silly nuisance,” said John. “She’s worse than the rest of you put together. Where’s Randa? Mum’ll throw a fit if we lose her again.”
“Talking to those tourists with Sphinx and Amy,” said Phoebe, sweeping her dark hair off her face. “The girl’s flirting with Sphinx, and Amy and Randa are mocking her. It’s all right,” she added as Lottie frowned and looked over towards the little group. “She hasn’t noticed. She thinks that Sphinx is a god and Randa’s a wee little cherub.”
A moment later she had leapt to her feet and was speeding across the platform as a wild yell rang out. The entire family arrived at the edge just in time to see David leaping from it and bounding down the tall steps at a speed which used by anyone else would probably have resulted in a broken neck.
Author's Chapter Notes: