By: Tami Snow
Buried in my chest my heart clicks like Scarab wings.
I hear you, world. But I cannot speak.
I am locked up, bound in a prison of linen and resin, trapped for eternity.
Music caresses the air, but my limbs cannot be carried in dance.
The sweet smells of libations tickle my senses, but nay I cannot drink.
I track the star cycles in my heart, but in my eyes they glitter not.
The seed of the eternal was planted, passed to daughters through mothers.
They that reside, once again, in the heavens bestowed the elixir of the everlasting.
It was they who enabled the curse to be brought forth.
The comforting sound of wind spattering sand against the outer wall of the palace soothes me. Spread out on reed thrushes, I watch Ankhesenpaaten, my older sister. She pulls her ivory comb through dark locks. She is Queen now, tied in marriage to our younger brother the beloved pharaoh Tut.
The palace is empty of the laughter that once echoed through its limestone halls. Our belongings packed into trunks on a caravan moving toward Thebes. We will soon follow.
I roll onto my back and allow my eyes to trace the loops and curls that grow out from the blooms of blue lotus flowers above me. They cling to the ceiling in a profusion of gold painted tangles. Babi chitters at my feet and nibbles on a plump fig.
“Leave us,” she directs the handmaidens. We watch them move swiftly through the linen curtain that separates us from the outside world. “My dearest, Neferet,” she says, moving toward me. Her voice is sad. With gentle fingers she touches the top of my head.
I can’t help but smile, hearing the nickname bestowed upon me by our father, the beloved pharaoh Akhenaten. His enormous energy had brought me much happiness. Our lives have, so distinctly, been altered in the short years of his absence.
I meet her glittering eyes with mine. “Sister,” my words are meant to soothe, “You need not worry so. I shall be fine.”
She sighs. “You are old enough in years to take a husband.” She folds her arms across her chest; the bracelets that encircle them jingle a haphazard melody.
We have discussed this subject many times and my answer remains the same. “I do not wish to marry. I wish to travel and see the world,” I say haughtily.
“You live with your head in the clouds.” She sits down next to me, and sweeps a strand of hair away from my forehead. “Many an appropriate suitor has been brought before you. Why do you refuse?”
“Why would I accept? The Family lineage is secured by your marriage. Though I do not gather what satisfaction you shall reap, marrying a boy.” I press my lips together in a hard line, attempting to hold my laughter inside.
Her features remain soft. “The sanctity of marriage is not entered into simply for gratification of restless limbs.”
“I agree Sister, but some gratification is necessary, nay?” Heat rises to my cheeks, and hers turn red like the pyramid of Sneferu. Her skin, the color of Nile clay, is powdered with golden dust.
Her eyes narrow. I can see her love for me, swimming in their depths. “You forget yourself. We are daughters of the much beloved, Nefertiti. You, my sweet sister, with your bountiful beauty, may choose any man whom would bring lands or power to expand the reaches of our Great Kingdom.”
“I want not any man of power or privilege for the simple desire to accumulate goods or lands. I want he who is tender and worldly and brave. He, who through soothing and sensual words, will cause my heart to quicken and my loins to ache.” I flutter my eyelashes and purse my lips. Never has the thought of tying myself to anyone, except for reasons of love or making love, flitted through my mind.
Slowly, her head shakes. “Primal are your desires, Neferet. Trouble, I fear, is on your horizon.” She plucks a grape from a bowl sitting on the low lying table next to us and lobs it at my head. We laugh as it bounces off my shoulder, rolling toward the doorway of her sleeping quarters. Babi, my baby monkey, scampers to retrieve it.
I sit up and embrace her. “To Amun I have beseeched your eternal joy.”
“And to you, as well, dear Neferet. If only you might peel your gaze from the fair haired champions,”—she giggles—, “perhaps then you might make our mother smile.”
“Unlikely is she to be pleased beyond your accomplishments.” I look down into my lap to play with my henna stained fingers. My shoulders rise then fall under the weight of a disappointment I haven’t felt since Akhenaten, our father, was removed as pharaoh. Our mother, Nefertiti, under false name, ruled Egypt in his shadow until which time our blood line was prepared for the continuation of rule under Tutankhaten, our half brother. Things haven’t felt the same since.
She kisses my forehead. “You know not what you say. Who in this chamber has been blessed her namesake?”
I take a deep breath and allow myself a small smile. She smells of cinnamon and myrrh laced with lily.
Someone on the other side of the linen curtain clears his throat.
“You may enter,” Ankhesenpaaten says.
I marvel at her beauty, her regality. She looks so similar to our father with large eyes the color of aged resin.
He enters and kneels. “The Great Mother has summoned you both to her chambers,” he says, peeking up at my sister. His skin is pale and his hair is the color of burnished wheat. I guess him to be the same in years as I, fourteen.
I look at Ankhesenpaaten. A small grin pulls at her reddened lips and she raises her eyebrows, motioning slyly toward the kneeling boy. Indeed, she knows how I favor him.