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 life."

"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.

The end.