The rays of the sweltering Egyptian sun beat down on her. She licked her dry lips and wiped the beads of sweat on her face with the back of her hand. She readjusted her grip on the plough, and heaved once more towards her.
Dropping her plough to the side at the sound of her mother's voice, Amisi ran through the fields and slowed to a walk once she spotted her standing outside their home.
'Hurry with the ploughing, you must make the meal.' Her mother ordered, collecting the scarce amount of clothing the family possessed in a clumsily-made basket. Amisi recognized it as her work when she had been younger.
'Why must I make the meals? I've toiled away in those fields since dawn with nothing but a hand plough. It wouldn't kill Ahmes to do some cooking around here,' Amisi muttered, her expression sour. Ahmes, her older brother, was forever working in the fields. When he came home, he ate and slept. When Amisi came home, she cooked, cleaned, ate, and then slept. No matter how well-earned, her brazen complaining had earned her a slap on the face.
'For shame, Amisi; you expect a man to be doing women's work?' Mother scolded as Amisi rubbed her cheek gingerly. 'We're all doing our best around here, you ungrateful girl,'
'I know,' Amisi muttered, humiliated and growing angry at the same time. Oh, how well she knew. She knew that her mother had to sell their best gathering baskets for a new hand plough, and to feed their ox. If she ever forgot, she could look at the sad state of their home. The walls had begun to deteriorate. Anyone passing by could see inside their home through the holes in the walls that no one had time or energy to repair.
Amisi's father had passed away during early Akhet that same year. He was a loving man, particularly fond of his young daughter and always singing her praises. Amisi missed him dearly; especially when she realized that much like their home, the family was falling apart without him. It had been weeks since anyone had spoken of him in the household.
'I know,' she muttered again, and fidgeted with the hem of her tattered skirt. Her mother made a disapproving sound, and Amisi bit her tongue against reminding her mother that if she had the coins, she would've gone down to the market and bought new clothing.
'You don't know anything,' her mother said, and thrust the basket of dirty clothing into her daughter's hands. 'Be back before sundown,' were her mother's parting words before she went into the house and lay down on a reed mat.
Amisi walked quickly along the path; most women would be returning from doing the washing now, and she had no desire to be left in the company of an occasional crude fisherman. When she reached the shallow water, Amisi was nearly exhausted. She didn't bother setting down the basket before wading into the river.
Had she not been so rushed, the feeling of the water on her blistered feet would've felt beyond amazing. Instead, Amisi enjoyed the sensation for a few moments before kneeling and dousing one of her own garments in the water.
It took her longer than usual to wash the clothing, partly because the sweltering heat took so much of her energy. It wasn't until she saw a shadow behind her that she felt a twinge of panic run through her body. Amisi went on washing and pretended not to notice, but she began to sweat when she found the profile to be that of a heavy set man. Amisi gathered her washed clothing and attempted to walk past him.
He grabbed her forearm, she dropped her basket. He had no intention of letting her leave. 'Stay a while, dear.' Amisi cringed; she'd heard about women being attacked when alone, but she had never imagined it happening to her. Amisi looked into his blood-shot eyes, praying that her own eyes did not show a sliver of fear.
Everything was still; only the sound of her irregular breathing interrupted the scene. Her nerves were on end; her body so controlled not a single muscle twitched unless she willed it so. She stayed quiet, until his hand traveled to her behind, and promptly groped her rear end.
'Let me go,' she scowled, and jerked her hand free of his blistered fingers. 'Let me go now,' No sooner than the words were out of her mind, Amisi wished she had added quite a few swear words for his benefit.
Ugh, he was drunk out of his twisted mind. In the middle of the day too, Amisi could smell it on his putrid breath. He let out a wild howl, and yelled something about 'whore'. He grabbed Amisi by her long hair, and thrust her to the ground; dust flew around her on impact, and she let out a scream. Her eyes were beginning to water from the stinging pain of the scrapes on her arms.
There were only two choices, Amisi realized, as he began to saunter over. The obscene gestures made it clear what he wanted to do. It sickened her. She could just let this happen and minimize the violence brought down against her. She could tell her friends that she had spent a lovely time with the most romantic man by the river in the moonlit night. She could live with the lie, couldn't she?
The other option was... fighting back. Heaving herself off the ground, Amisi backed away and took a defensive stance, her feet wide apart and hands loose. He staggered so close he was merely two steps away from her. Swinging her arm toward his face, Amisi delivered a more than satisfactory blow to his jaw.
He staggered back, kicking up small pebbles with his clumsy steps. Amisi gathered the basket and tried to run, but he blocked her escape; she closed her eyes so she wouldn't see his hand coming to strike her. Instead of the slap she had been expecting, Amisi felt his coarse hands close around her throat. 'Touch me again, and I'll crush your throat,' he whispered, and Amisi was almost overpowered from the stench of him. She opened her eyes. Her gaze traveled to the sight of the dagger hanging from his belt, and she acted quickly.
It was barely three seconds in which Amisi took the dagger which hung from his kilt and held the sharp edge against his neck. 'Think you could do that before I slit yours?'
His eyes bulged, and his grip on her throat loosened. A gagging sound passed through his cracked lips, and he slid down to the ground. He would not utter another threat against her... he was forever silenced. Amisi stood where she was; clutching the rough handle of the dagger. The rough handle of a clean dagger.
After a few moments of silent shock, Amisi's gaze traveled from the lifeless body at her feet to the young stranger now cleaning his dagger in the shallow waters of the Nile. Rather than the outpour of gratitude she expected to feel, Amisi felt fury and a wounded pride. She felt belittled; the pleasure of slitting that animal's throat was robbed from her.
'I was doing fine, you know.' She said, poorly containing her indignation at being treated like a useless girl. 'You didn't have to go and do that,'
The young stranger turned around, and Amisi stopped breathing. She was a girl rarely impressed by beauty, but she had never seen a more handsome boy in all of her sixteen years—his strong jaw, soft lips, and burning eyes left her speechless. Amisi forgot about the fact that she had just seen a man die—somehow, the boy's beauty seemed to make the ugliest things in the world fade away.
'I could tell you were handling it from the way he was strangling you,' he replied harshly, his beautiful features contorting in anger. 'I shouldn't have even bothered; stupid peasant girl, who'd really miss you?'
Amisi did not say anything. In all honesty, she was too shocked to form a coherent sentence, let alone a biting remark. She stood there for a few moments contemplating the answer to his question, though no words lingered near her lips as they usually did; for once, Amisi had no answer.
'I don't know,' she whispered. Amisi knew he hadn't heard her, so she simply picked up her basket, and began to walk back to her home. As she took slow, tired steps, Amisi realized she was walking back to a sad life, back to slaving away under the desert sun... back to an existence with a bleak future.
As a warm breeze began to whisper against her face, Amisi looked over her shoulder at the boy with the beautiful eyes. He was looking at her as she walked away, angered and confused at the same time, though his face showed no trace of emotion. Amisi looked away sadly.
She would never see those beautiful eyes again.