* * * * *
I poked my head around the corner, wearily eying the bustling servants. None of them looked like they wanted anything to do with me, which was good because the feeling was mutual. The someone I was looking for was most definitely not a servant. And I think I'd recognize him. But all that lay in that particular hall was a long line of columns--that are perfect for hiding behind, now that I think about it. I'll be sure to remember that.--and more servants than before. Must all the hallways be so similar? This is a palace, not a maze.
Looking for something? Tankh's head appeared over my shoulder, attempting to follow my gaze.
Gods! Must you always sneak up on me? I shouted, turning my head so my voice aimed right in his ear. I screamed again to make sure he got the point.
Gods yourself, woman! Must you always yell? he shouted back, rubbing his ear.
I never yell!
You're yelling now!
Only because you are!
I'm king, I can yell whenever I want!
Well I'm not king and I'll still yell whenever I feel like it!
Tankh stopped and took a step back. Smirking, he crossed his arms and leaned his weight on his back foot. Are you done?
I blinked. If you are.
He scoffed. I don't throw tantrums. I opened my mouth to respond to such an absurd statement, but he cut me off. As for your marriage, well, you're divorced. And you now own half of his estates and treasury.
My eyes, I'm sure, were bulging. Half? That'd make me filthy rich!
Suddenly, I swayed. I prayed it wasn't a large spell--that would be hard to explain--and the gods must have listened this time because I only felt a slight dizziness before I felt her presence. Leigh was back. It had been awhile.
Salut, mon amie! Hehe, sorry, just collapsed in French class. Fun fun, right?
Sure. Now shut up, this is important.
So I can go home now? And Osahar won't, er, bother me anymore? I asked.
Tankh eyed me strangely, but apparently decided to ignore my dizziness. He didn't mention it, instead he shifted his weight to his left foot. About that. As of now you live in the palace.
I took a deep breath and counted, as Leigh had often instructed me to do. Then I exploded. What? I can't stay here! I really, really, can't! You don't understand, I have this health condition--
Whatever your reasons, you will stay here. You will have your own rooms, and whatever care or service you need. He narrowed his eyes, And what health condition? You look perfectly healthy!
You are perfectly healthy! Don't be stupid, a really hot guy is offering you a place to stay, which also happens to be a PALACE!
I know that. But if I stay here, he's bound to start thinking I'm insane.
Well duh. That's inevitable.
Thanks for your vote of confidence.
I sighed and shook my head. I just have these spells. Sometimes I get dizzy, like just now, and sometimes I faint for a few hours. Or so. It varies. And nothing stops it, either. I've tried everything.
He furrowed his brow. I've never heard of anything like that.
Well, I guess I'm unique.
Sort of. I added in my mind, so Leigh could hear.
She snorted. Got that right. I thought you'd forgotten me for a moment there.
He grinned. I suppose you are.
A small man interrupted our conversation by rudely stepping in front of me. Your Majesty, he sniveled, you will be late for the evening meal if you don't hurry. Your wife awaits you on the balcony.
Ay, Lady Tahirah will be joining us, please show her to her new rooms, and see to it that she is placed in Hasina's care. Tankh glared at the little man, and pushed him down the hall. Turning to me, and softening his gaze, thank the gods, he sent me after the Vizier--I never knew Lord Ay was so short!
Well, now that was interesting.
Not now Leigh.
* * * * *
Now? Leigh asked, as she had every few minutes.
You're not helping. I replied. You're supposed to be on my side!
The maid Tankh had assigned me couldn't have been younger then fifty. And for Egypt, that's old. She looked it too. Her skin was crinkled and riddled with age spots. But despite her age, she was obviously a servant who demanded respect from her masters. I wouldn't be surprised if she was one of the maids who helped raise the Pharaoh.
Immediately upon seeing me, Hasina ushered me over to a bench and forced me down. Without preamble, she twittered about me in circles, scrutinizing my hair, clothes, skin and every once and a while, muttering a word or two. Finally, she hurried off to another part of the room, and came back carrying an armful of linen.
Spreading them out on the bed, she motioned for me. Which would you prefer? You'll be dining with the royal family, so choose wisely.
I had three choices. One was a simple skirt of linen, sheer and easily seen through. It had a belt of gold, and lapis lazuli that wrapped around the waist with plenty left over to hang along the front of the skirt. A golden, beaded, necklace was the only semblance of a top, and as Leigh so eloquently commented, it didn't cover anything.
I like that one. she whispered, awed and begging to try it on.
I ignored her.
Both the second and third were linen, interwoven with strands of gold and silver--which was even rarer than gold. But the second skirt was short, and didn't reach the knees, with a simple cloth to drape over the shoulder as a covering.
The third choice was a kalasiris. The skirt fell about to the ankles, and the top was fitted rather tightly, but it allowed more modesty to the wearer than the other two. A simple belt of gold and amethyst held the folds of the cloth together. Accompanying the third outfit, were two large earrings, inlaid with amethyst and emerald.
I chose the third.
Aw, Tahi, I liked the first one!
I'm the one who has to wear it!
Before I could dress, Hasina led me into the bath, and took special care in washing my hair. I'd taken baths before, and a shower too with Leigh, but I'd never been bathed. Afterwards, I wouldn't let her dry me off, but she insisted on rubbing oils into my skin.
Hasina helped me dress, and piled on make up--Leigh called it war paint'--while I tried to get a better grip on reality. Just this morning, I woken up an average, more or less, girl from Waset who was getting married. Now I'd been married to my stalker--again, Leigh's terminology, not mine--divorced, and was ordered by the Pharaoh himself to move into the palace, and have dinner with his family.
It's like a fairy tale, or a romance novel or something. Leigh commented. As annoying as she can be, it was nice to have her with me. Not only did she keep me sane, but we had a special bond that I didn't even share with my sisters. Her parents were my parents, and mine hers. Her life and troubles were mine too, and visa versa. We knew each other better than anyone, obviously, as we were privy to each other's thoughts.
Aww, don't go all sappy on me, Tahi. I'll start crying.
I giggled, and bore the odd look Hasina gave me. Don't worry Leigh, I'm the one with kohl that would get messed up.
Oh of course, wouldn't wanna give you raccoon eyes for your date with the Pharaoh.
She said' that in English, though usually she spoke Egyptian when we were in Egypt. There were just some things you can't express with the proper American attitude in Egyptian.
It's amazing, when I actually get around to thinking about it, that I speak a language that doesn't exist yet. I'm the only one in the world who knows it, at this moment. And I spoke it as well as Leigh, a native speaker. As a child, when I'd have a spell, I couldn't fully comprehend where I was going, that it was the future. I learned English as Leigh did, took my first steps when Leigh did, was ill when Leigh was.
For a while, I even thought that everyone had the same condition as I did. It was only when I tried to talk to people about it, that I realized it was probably best if I just kept silent. Even in the past, people don't like hearing about things they don't understand. If it's different, it scares them.
You are ready, Lady Tahirah. Hasina's voice brought me back to the present. I looked up.
She held a mirror before me. In my reflection was a noble woman, dressed in the finest of kalasiris. Green eye shadow accented the dark lines of kohl around my eyes; red ochre was delicately laid on my cheeks. I didn't wear a wig--I'd firmly put my foot down as I remembered how silly they looked in Leigh's textbook--but Hasina had added highlights with henna in my black hair. For the first time in my life, I was able to wear a wesekh, the jeweled collars for which Egyptians are so famous for in the future. Gold bracelets, anklets, and armlets were adorned with carnelian and lapis lazuli, covering my arms and legs, and I feared for a moment I wouldn't be able to walk upright for the weight.
Jesus! Talk about fancy, wow, Tahi that's got to cost more than the entire United States!
I hoped she was kidding.
The old maid led me out the room and down the hall. We neared a small balcony that overlooked the garden. Outside was a small table and chairs, where Tankh and the Queen were already seated. Beside them were two children, I knew not their own for the royal couple had no children. They were the two princesses, Nefersit and Anippe, daughters of Meritaten, one of Tutankhamun's half sisters.
Talk about confusing. Geez, how do they keep track of how their related to who?
I disregarded Leigh.
Following Hasina's example, I bowed. She announced me, and pulled out a chair for me.
Ah, Taj, here you are. Tankh gazed at my new appearance. He nodded.
Um, does that mean he approves or--
Leigh's voice was cut off as I felt a rush of dizziness. Thank Isis I was already seated, and only needed to grasp the edge of the chair to keep my balance. The world felt thin, briefly, and not nearly as pinched as I'm sure it felt to Leigh. My head was stuff with cotton, and I couldn't even hide the effects from the others at the table. Then it was over as soon as it had come.
And I was alone again.
Are you all right? the little princess asked.
I'm fine. Just a minor dizzy spell, that's all. I reassured her.
Is this the health condition you mentioned? Tankh said quietly. He had half risen from his seat during the spell.
Yes. Sometimes I have major spells where I'll faint. That's why my brothers keep such a close eye on me. And why I'd be too much of a burden if I stayed here. I thought to add, but I didn't. It would be impolite, especially in front of the queen.
Ankhesenamun herself, however, hadn't moved from her spot. She remained staring blankly at the floor, and hadn't acknowledged anything going on around her. The princesses seem used to it.
Was the queen always like this?
Is there a reason, or do they just happen? Tankh asked, curious in a very detached way. I've never heard of such a thing. Have you always had them?
I'd heard all this a hundred times before. Yes, Your Highness. They're very random I can't control them or anything.
That's cool! the other princess, Anippe, shouted. She charged over to my side, and hopped unto my lap. So what's your name? Are you my new mommy? My real mommy died.
How in the name of Osiris do you reply to that?
My name is Tahirah. And I could be your mom if you wanted, but I don't think I'd make a very good one. I answered. It was the most neutral thing I could come up with.
Anippe, get back in your seat. It's time to eat. Tankh gestured her back. Tahirah--Taj--will be staying here for a while.
The two princesses smiled at me, and dug into their dinner; servants had brought it out to us during our conversation.
I reached for my chalice, and took a sip.
Ankhesenamun whispered, without looking up. Is she to be your wife?
Wife? Me? A queen?!
I don't think so.
the Pharaoh replied, coolly. He started eating calmly.
The queen went back to her dinner with a slight nod. She hadn't looked up the entire time.
Good! I like her! Anippe said after she swallowed.
I thought I was going to be sick. Or faint.
Me? The wife of a Pharaoh?
Then I remembered the book Leigh showed me. If I really was going to marry him, wouldn't I be mentioned somewhere in history? And wasn't Tankh going to die?
I breathed. That must mean I wouldn't marry him. After all, in the future it would have already happened, and it didn't.
So why didn't I feel any better?