Aabbacba stared into the face of the woman who claimed to be his sister.
It had been years since he'd seen her- nearly a decade since he'd come to
accept that she was dead. And yet, before him stood a prostitute- the most
shameful of women. She had his sister's face, her eyes, even her voice,
but there were so many reasons Aabbacba couldn't believe what should have
been quite clear. And yet, he believed her.
He glanced over his shoulder, and saw Qerbata walking away, to her house.
She held her veil tightly over her face and did not look back when she
pulled her door open and walked inside. While before Aabbacba had felt
guilty for the ways he'd hurt his fiancée- or ex-fiancée, as the case may
have been, now he only sighed in disappointment. If Qerbata chose not to
trust him, perhaps it was better if she did walk away now, before they
committed themselves to anything rash.
Again, he focused his attention on the prostitute who may or may not have
been his sister. When he looked into her eyes, he saw a familiar glint of
the happy, playful girl he'd once known. There was something else there,
too. Beaba met his eyes with a weary, worn look.
So long ago, she'd left early in the morning to make an offering in the
temple, and had never come back. For months, the family had searched in
vain for the vanished young girl, but no evidence remained that she'd ever
lived outside of an abandoned, tidy bedroom, and an eleven year old younger
brother who'd cried because Beaba no longer told him stories each night
before he fell asleep. Aabbacba remember how much he'd suffered from the
loss and supposed death of his sister, but when he looked into this woman's
eyes, he saw more pain than he might ever have imagined before. He was
certain that this was Beaba.
He breathed her name, one that he'd learned to forget as the years had
passed. At the word, Beaba looked down shamefully. Aabbacba wondered what
he was supposed to do, how to express to her his wonder at her sudden
appearance. He remembered Qerbata's anger at his inability to express
himself, but he also knew that his sister would understand his silence,
even after their years of separation. Instead of comforting words, he
asked, "Where have you been? Why didn't you tell us you were alive?"
Still looking down, Beaba said, "I don't want to talk about it. Not now."
"Of course," Aabbacba said quickly. Placing one hand gently on the small
of her back, he led her into the warm interior of the house, and pulled the
door closed behind him. This was her home; it was where she belonged,
although she almost seemed a misfit in her gaudy clothing. What could have
driven his once sweet, innocent sister to sell herself? It must have taken
a great amount of courage to return home.
"Come on, we'll find you some clothes," he said. Her room was the same as
it had always been. True, the servants had removed some of Qerbata's less
fashionable and more personal items, but it remained furnished for guests.
She could return to it, and maybe begin her life again just where it had
left off ten years ago.
He led her through the house. He dreaded meeting anyone, knowing he would
need to make uncomfortable and untimely explanations, but he also longed
for the sudden appearance of his parents so that they could make sense out
of the strange events that had happened that day. They met no one, and
reached Beaba's old room without incident.
When he opened the door, Beaba gave a sharp gasp of alarm. "I'm sorry," he
said, crossing the room and opening her wardrobe. "Your jewels and scents
and other things were stowed away once we realized he weren't coming back,
but I can have them brought back if you want."
He glanced back, and saw Beaba standing in the doorway. Her eyes were
opened wide in shock and what almost looked like fear. "I don't want you
to do that," she said. "I don't want you to do anything with this room, or
anything that once belonged to me. I don't want to associate with my old
"All right," Aabbacba said, seizing the first dress he saw. Even he could
tell it was terribly outdated, but Beaba's actions and words filled him
with a sudden urgency to leave the room. He left the door to the wardrobe
ajar in his rush to be far from the room.
Placing a comforting arm around his sister while they walked, Abbacba
promised her, "There are other rooms, you can stay in one of them." She
still seemed troubled. "You don't need to worry. If you want to keep your
past to yourself, we won't pressure you to tell us, and we won't make you
stay in your old room. There are others- you can go there, and buy new
things. We can start over."
"I'd like that," Beaba said. "I want to start over."
Aabbacba nodded once grimly then again wondered what had hurt her so badly.
Maybe someday, she would tell him. Until then, he'd wait.