The security officer looked at my passport and my ticket again - probably for the third time. Meanwhile, the line behind us was growing longer and more agitated. Cobalt, who stood behind me, shifted uncomfortably and stared at the floor. "Lazuli Dust - why do I know that name huh?" The officer scratched his chin and then pulled out his radio. My stomach plummeted to my feet then.
He motioned for Cobalt's passport and ticket as well and turned away from us to speak into the radio. Another officer stepped into his place and pointed us off to the side so he could move everyone else through airport security.
Thirty minutes later it had all been figured out - and not in a way that was good for us. The original officer had handed us off to a man in a disheveled looking suit. Mr. Plum he's said his name was. "You'll have to wait here while we make the necessary calls..." he motioned us into a sterile, white room. Everything except the old coffee maker was white it seemed.
"The calls?" I ventured, my stomach was in knots by now.
Mr. Plum merely nodded and closed the door. I heard the lock click but still tried the door handle. It was no good.
I heard one of the chairs squeal in protest as Cobalt dropped into it. "Oh well done Zuli."
"Huh?" I asked, spinning around to face him. "How is any of this my fault?"
"Seriously?" Cobalt's voice echoed off the walls making me cringe. "Don't you get it Zuli? They're calling Mom, probably think we're runaways or something."
I knew he was right. I'd known the gig was up the moment that security officer had looked twice at my papers. But it still made me nervous to hear the words out loud.
Cobalt shook his head and turned away from me. Without a word, I took one of the other chairs and mulled over everything. Silence is great for thinking - even if you don't want to think at all.
After what felt like hours, the door swung open. I looked up, expecting to see Mom in door frame - no doubt very pissed off. But, to my relief and disappointment, it was only Mr. Plum with a couple sodas and handful of vending machine snacks.
After he left, soft crunching and the occasional gulping noise was all that past between us for some time. Cobalt wouldn't even look my direction and I was too ashamed to look at him. "Hey Cobalt..." I finally said, staring at the back of my hand. "I'm sorry." It was barely more than a whisper but he soon turned toward me and offered a small smile.
"It's okay Zu..." I didn't believe it anymore than he did but it was a start.
We didn't say much after that - though we both agreed that the crackers we'd been offered were stale and the clock on the wall had a very loud tick.
We alternated pacing the small room and tinkering with the ancient coffee pot to pass the time. Our carry on bags offered very little relief to pass the time and I began to wonder if we'd die of boredom before anyone came for us again. "This is agony...no one needs this much time to mull over their impending doom..." I said, staring out the little window on the door.
"It's a long flight from Caramel Canyon Zu," Cobalt said as he played with his cell phone. He'd barely finished speaking when the door opened once more. This time it was Mom, though Mr. Plum was standing behind her ogling.
"Cobalt, go with Mr. Plum - Nepal is in the office." It was obvious Mom had had plenty of time to get past the relief that we were okay. She gave Cobalt the barest of smiles as he left and then turned her full attention on me.
Once the door shut, Mom took the seat across from me. "Lazuli..."
"I'm sorry," I said quickly. Tears stung my eyes and I turned away from her quickly - mostly out of habit. "It was stupid and I'm sorry." I couldn't meet her eyes anymore so I stared at the empty chair next to me and prayed she'd put me out of my misery sooner rather than later.
Then she did something I never would have expected. She laughed. It was soft and tinged with sadness but it was a laugh nonetheless. As suddenly as it had come, she stopped and grew serious once more, "I'm sorry too Zuli."
"For what?!" I stammered.
"For lying to you about your father," she must have sensed I was going to protest and stopped me, "lying by omission at any rate. Perhaps if I'd told you before you wouldn't have left the country to try to get to him."
"He was a berryhole," I said, feeling the rejection and pain all over again. The tears that had been threatening to spill finally broke free and I swiped at them viciously.
"Oh sweetie!" Mom jumped up and came around the table, putting her arms around me. I think it was the first time I'd truly taken comfort in her embrace.
"I'm grounded right?" I asked, after the waterworks finally stopped, though Mom's arms were still around my shoulders.
Mom nodded, "very much so." I couldn't really argue with that so I remained silent, "But, it won't start until we get home."
I furrowed my brow in confusion, so I wasn't grounded while I was on the plane? "Aren't we going home now?"
Apparently, while preparing to leave, they had decided to turn this into a small family vacation. With our little sister happily playing with Autumn's little girl for the week, the four of us checked into the hotel.
Mom and Nepal made sure to tell both of us that this trip was not a reward and the grounding would ensue as soon as we touched down back in Caramel Canyon. Neither was willing to give a specific length of time to the grounding either, I'm pretty sure they simply didn't know. I felt bad for Cobalt - seeing as this was all my doing but he took it all in stride and even refused when I offered to talk to Mom to get him a reprieve.
On our first day - well our first day all together - we went down to the market place to browse and experience a taste of the local people and food. Even here in Egypt, Mom's face turned heads as people recognized her. Several came up for autographs and pictures and, as always, Mom was always willing to stop and chat.
With both Mom and Nepal occupied - as Nepal never left her side when random strangers approached - I wandered around the market solo. I saw Cobalt in the book shop across the plaza and waved but didn't make my way over to him. I didn't want to look at books!
I poked around the general goods shop for a bit and fiddled with a camera that was sitting out on the counter. "That one is on sale Miss...." the shop keeper trailed off, clearly expecting me to offer up my name. Odd.
I glanced back toward where Mom and Nepal were just to reassure myself they were nearby. The shopkeeper followed my gaze and his eyes fell on Mom. "Is that Violet Dust?" I merely nodded, still looking at the camera and happy with his distraction. He got giddy then, hopping around and clapping, "I know you now - you're her daughter yes? Oh yes I saw your picture in the paper..."
I rolled my eyes and set the camera down. I did want it but the shopkeeper was starting to weird me out so I made my way to the doorway. Sensing that he was losing a sale, or perhaps and opportunity to ingratiate himself toward a celebrity, he grabbed the camera and handed it to me. "It is yours! Consider it a gift of Egypt!"
I looked down at the camera - a Hikon that was clearly made and produced in Japan - and then back at him. "You're giving it to me? For free?"
"Yes!" He said triumphantly. "Perhaps you will say good things about my little shop..."
"Right," I said, musing over the idea of telling people on the other side of the world about this little no name shop in Egypt. "Um...thanks?"
He was clearly overjoyed with the exchange as he kept grinning at me as he retrieved the box the camera went in and all the little accessories that came with it. He did get a small sale out of me though, as I needed a camera bag to stow it all in.
Next I went over to the bookstore in hopes of finding a photography book so I could figure out how to use the thing. Cobalt was talking about the Pyramids when I came in and barely noticed me. Unable to find what I was looking for or to pry the poor keeper from my brother's attention, I left and began wandering once more.
I spied the snake charming basket on my second pass and looked around for the charmer...surely they didn't leave a snake in a basket without some sort of handler. Curiosity got the better of me and I opened the basket to see if there was, in fact, a snake inside.
After the little devil sunk his fangs into my palm, I had my answer! Thankfully the snake in the basket was not venomous according to the handler - who finally showed up as my hand was being bandaged. He apologized repeatedly but I waved it off, "I should have left it alone really - curiosity killed the cat and all that."
"A cat was killed?!" He looked horrified and looked around for the cat. I shook my head and tried to explain the expression but bundled it over and over again. Finally my family just pulled me from the crowd and we left while the shop owners and the handler looked on with baffled expressions.
"Well that was...interesting," Nepal said, smirking as we returned to the hotel.
Later that night, I passed by the door to the common room when I heard the voices of Mom and Cobalt, "I know it wasn't your idea Cobalt..." She seemed to be expecting a reply but none was offered. Cobalt merely shrugged and continued to watch the TV.
The next day was dedicated to seeing the wonders of Egypt. Of course we could see most of them from the hotel - the Pyramids and the Sphinx were huge and hard to miss on the horizon. The locals recommended giving a full day over to the Sphinx so we began there. I'd brought along my new camera - hoping to get a few half decent pictures. I didn't actually know what I was doing and no one would stand still long enough for me to get a group shot so I turned my attention to the Sphinx itself.
A tour guide was standing on the scaffolding and beckoned us over after I took about a hundred pictures of the same thing. "You four here for the public view area?"
"Sure!" My mom chimed quickly. It hadn't actually been the plan but we joined the small crowd that was gathering around the guide and the scaffold.
"Now, much of the tombs within are closed off out of respect but we have a number of rooms we can explore today. You should know this tour usually takes about four hours and involves a number of stairs and plenty of walking." A couple people hung back and grumbled at this - no doubt that being the guide's goal.
The guide set a brisk pace but didn't bother to keep count of anyone so it was easy to get lost or fall back from the group. The whole public area was littered with signs pointing the way out so it's not as if we'd get lost if we fell behind. Mom and Nepal seemed particularly slow though - encouraging Cobalt and I to continue and they'd catch up.
The only supervising the tour guide did, in fact, was keeping us out of the other restricted areas. Somehow he always seemed to know if someone had strayed too close to some door or pathway and hurried them on their way. Shame really, I would have liked to have seen the rest.
I shared my feelings with the hotel staff that night and he pulled me aside in a conspiratorial whisper, "There's a secret entrance at the Great Pyramid." I can't imagine why he selected me for the knowledge - maybe he gave it everyone or maybe he was trying to trick a foolish tourist - but I memorized all his instructions for our next day's adventure.
"Zuli! Come on now! Surely if there was a secret entrance the authorities would at least know about it..." My family had been indulgent thus far but as I began to feel along the wall section, they began to look nervous - Nepal especially. Being a cop, I'm sure he was fighting his own nature by allowing me to even look.
When the rock wall began to slide into the ground, we all jumped back in surprise. The grinding of stone on stone seemed so loud to me but no one came running or even seemed to take notice of it. "Well I guess..."
"He was right!" I exclaimed. I ran into the new opening before anyone could stop me - thankfully no one actually tried. They followed, albeit a but slower.
I expected at every moment for Mom or Nepal to insist we leave - and I was even prepared to go with them - but neither said anything. Nepal seemed to have caught the curiosity bug and Mom wasn't too far behind. I suppose it was human nature.
I'd like to say the whole adventure went perfectly but that would be a lie. It's not like we entered the pyramid planning to go exploring. We had no supplies aside from the packed lunch we'd purchased from the hotel and none of us were Indigo Jaffa. At best we were wanna-bes and proved it that day!
"Bugs. Why'd it have to be bugs?" I shuttered and shook the bugs from my arm but still felt them crawling all over me for at least an hour afterwards. I wasn't inclined to stick my hand in any of the holes again, that's for sure!
There were several booby traps inside the pyramid too - though Mom seemed to be convinced the whole thing was staged. "Those fire traps look just like the pyrotechnics on a set!"
"Well there are only so many ways fire can look!" I exclaimed. I had more right than anyone to believe in their validity seeing as my scarf had caught fire! Thankfully there had been a pool of water near by but I was in such a rush to put it out that I tripped over the edge and ended up dunking my entire body instead of just the end of my scarf.
That was the breaking point for me - I was ready to get out the pyramid and hang up my adventuring hat, so to speak. We all stood together and looked around the cavernous room we were now in. There were four doors leading out of the room, each in a different direction. "Um, which one did we come through?"
"That one!" When we looked at each other, we realized we'd each chosen a different door.
"Uh oh." Yeah, that was an understatement!
Thus began the real adventure as we tried to find our way out of the pyramid, checking everything for some sort of exit!
I was certain I heard others around us. Or maybe I felt their eyes? Either way, I didn't see anyone else but the creepy feeling of being watched wouldn't leave me.
It took us hours to finally find our way out, by which time we were all hungry, exhausted and dirty from the grime of the tombs. The next day we were supposed to make one more trip but no one was willing to get out of bed come morning so we spent our final day in Egypt lounging at the hotel.
The trip home was more pleasant than our flight over at been - partially because flying with Mom meant we flew first class! Unlike the cramped business and economy sections of the plane, the first class compartment actually had leg room!
"Was he always like that?" Our flight was over the ocean by the time I asked. None of us had brought up Mirage during the vacation but as I said before, silence tends to give one time to think. And I couldn't stop thinking about my biological father.
Mom knew instantly what I was talking about and nodded. "He's got priorities that don't involve a family...I kept you from him because I didn't want you two to get hurt any more."
I nodded but said nothing, pulling my legs up onto the chair and curling into a tight ball.
When we finally got back to the house after landing in Caramel Canyon, there was an unfamiliar car in the driveway. "Oh! I forgot all about that!" Mom exclaimed.
"What? Who's here?" Nepal asked, examining the car.
"No one - I bought it for you for your birthday and...with everything that happened..." Here she turned to look at Cobalt and I for a moment before turning back to Nepal, "I forgot it was to be delivered. I guess Autumn signed for it..."
I'm sure if we hadn't just come off an international flight, Nepal would have insisted on taking the car for a drive or something. Instead we went inside after looking over the whole thing a couple times.
"Daddy!" Sapphy toddled over as fast as her little legs would carry her when she heard us come in the door.
Nepal scooped her up and kissed and hugged her. I felt a pang of jealousy as I watched and then felt ashamed of it. "I'm gonna go unpack..."
Mom nodded, "Remember, grounding starts now you two."
I didn't argue - not that I would have had an argument to offer. Despite my intention to unpack, all I wanted to do was collapse into bed - so that's what I did.
I slept straight through until morning. My stomach gave a loud grumble almost as soon as I opened my eyes so I fumbled my way downstairs for food. No one else was awake yet even though it was after nine in the morning. Everyone was probably as jet lagged as I was.
I'd barely put away the milk when there was a faint, almost timid, knock at the door. I peaked out the window - ever wary of paparazzi or crazy fans looking for my mom - but there was only a little girl standing on the porch. "Morning," I said as I pulled open the door.
"Do you want one?" she asked, holding up a box for me.
"One what?" I asked. Maybe she was selling scout cookies? I peaked into the box and saw a litter of furry kittens. They were mewing and protesting the jostling of the box with their tiny kitty voices. I scooped one out to take a closer look and grinned.
"Momma says we have to give them all away - we already have a two cats she says. So ya want one?" she asked again. She looked a little sad at the thought of giving them up.
"Um..." I glanced back into the silent house and shrugged. "Yeah sure, I like this one here." I held up the one I'd plucked from the box a moment ago.
"Kay..." she re-positioned the box and started down the stairs with the rest of the litter. The kitten in my hand looked up at me and meowed pathetically.
"Yeah, not really my best plan..." I said to it, stroking her fur absently. Just then I heard Sapphire stirring in her room and the new kitten and I went to rescue her from her crib.
Nepal came in just after I'd put the pair down to meet each other and looked from the cat to me. Somehow he knew exactly what had happened, "what were you thinking Zuli? Your mother doesn't like cats."
"But Sapphy wanted one…" I hadn't really thought about mom when I'd picked the kitten up out of the box. All I thought about was how delighted Sapphire would be when I showed her the little bundle of fur and relieving the little girl of some of her burden.
"Lola sweep wif me Daddy?" Sapphire asked, giggling as the kitten's tail brushed her cheek.
"Lola?" Nepal looked from me to his daughter and back again. He was defeated by Sapphire's wide, pleading eyes. "Fine - the kitten stays. I don't know how I’m going to explain this to Vi…" Then he looked at me, "but YOU are in charge of that furball. Feed it, clean it, change the litter…got it?"
I grinned and nodded, shooting a thumbs up at Sapphire. She didn't understand the meaning but she could tell Daddy had caved. She snuggled Lola closer. Though the kitten squirmed under her grasp, we could all hear her purring.
"Welcome to the family Lola."