The Archaeologist's Daughter

Chapter 1

Cleopatra Massri, daughter of a famous Archaeologist, sat on an ancient Egyptian chair, her hand busy with writing her latest History essay. The chair had been a birthday present as Cleo's tenth birthday and she had treasured it as much as her solid gold fountain pen. The seat was more than 50 years old, but it was constructed from a very sturdy and prehistoric oak and Cleo had loved it so, enjoying the small singsong squeak it emitted every time she took a seat. She cherished it very much as her father, who had been gone for three years, rarely gave out aged items, principally items that had once been whittled out from an ancient living thing. Cleo's hand trembled at the thought of her dear, beloved father. He had promised to come back home this evening, but as Cleo glanced at her digital clock that displayed the numbers 2.12, she felt her sprit dampen.

As if answering the thought, a gentle knocking came through the willow door of her room. Cleo dropped her fountain pen, and skimmed over the words. "Enter," she said, still scanning her thesis. A broad tall man crossed in to the room, and smiled when he saw his daughter completing her homework. Typical of her, thought the man amusingly, who was indeed Professor Philopator Massri, to be concluding homework when it's holiday, and the day smiles at her. Cleo, noting the sudden silence, looked up from her homework, and swiveled in her chair, facing the man. Her desponded face stretched to a wide smile, and embraced her father with tears of joy.

"Dad," Cleo sighed fondly. "I thought you would never come back."

The man hugged her tightly. "Nonsense," he replied, letting her go and crouching down to meet her eyes. Cleo's eyes were a dazzling hazel, exactly the opposite of her father's grey eyes which alarmed Cleo sometimes. "Why are my eyes hazel and yours are grey, Daddy?" she had said when she was four. "Honey, you still look beautiful to me. You have your mother's eyes. I'm pretty certain you wouldn't be very attractive with a dull coloured eyes." her father had said. "But you are not not attractive, Dad," she cried, nevertheless pleased with her father's compliment.

Now Cleo is fourteen. Three years since he left the house and flied to Africa for an important expedition. Three years since her own father left her in the shoulders of the housekeeper, Ms. Celia. "You know that I would never break my promise," he said, smiling at Cleo and wiping a tear escaping from one of her eyes. You look different, Cleo. More…mature, thought Professor Phil.

"Did you miss me?" Professor Philopator stated, kissing her forehead. Cleo stared at her father lovingly. "More than the grains of sand that can be found in the Sahara Desert." she replied dreamily.

Professor Phil chuckled softly, and stood up. "Well, you had better started counting it, because we will be going to Egypt together." Cleo's eyes widened disbelievingly. She clutched her father's black tuxedo that smelled strongly of sand and dust. "Really?" she breathed, holding her gaze.

"Why would I be lying, Cleo?" he verbalized, winking at her. "Start your packing. We'll be leaving at seven tomorrow morning."

"How about my school?" Cleo managed to say before he left her room.

"Oh, we won't be long, sweet. Just a couple of weeks. If we're lucky, we might get a month. I've sent an email with reasons attached to your headmaster. He won't be looking for you then."Professor Phil said, and strode out of the room. Cleo punched the air, jumping delightedly. Egypt, the country she had always dreamed of going there. I should start packing, she thought, as she ran to her wardrobe. She started flinging armfuls of clothes into her case, thinking how wonderful it would be seeing one of the world's oldest landmarks, fishing in the Nile and surveying the tombs although she was not entirely sure whether her father would allow her. Her father was the important man who alleged the announcement that he had found Cleopatra VII's tomb to the whole world. Apparently, she had developed his liking for history since she was five, and was always the top in her grade.

Cleo stopped suddenly. "Your mother's beauty was very breathtaking," her father had said when she had asked him a long time ago.

"Where is she now?" Cleo had asked. "Somewhere far…" he had replied.

"Somewhere really far?"

"Very far away, Cleo. Too far from us to meet her."

Cleo shut her case. Her mother had to go, and now she was left with her dear father. However, Cleo did not demur. She never even really felt that she missed her mother, and was often worried about that thought. "You were too small to remember, Cleo," her father had replied when she voiced out her fear. Cleo felt that she had lived with her father ever since she was born, and she loved him very much.

She took the case downstairs, and found Professor Phil muttering crossly in his room. Cleo smiled as she placed her case near the entrance. Professor Phil could hardly cope with himself without having Cleo repeatedly telling him where his things were. She crossed to his room.

"Dad, if you're looking for your encrypted diary that you never allow me to see, it's on the desk," Cleo said, almost tripping over a weighing scale. Phil's room was usually untidy. Magnifying glasses were strewn over the bed, old parchments scattered all over his desk and tools used to dig in the sand lied on the floor.

Phil was hidden amongst the clothes that speckled all over the room. He looked up and saw Cleo tripping on a rock that was shaped like Anubis. "Careful, Cleo. You might fall and hurt yourself, and that sculpture is very valuable," he murmured, and bent his head again to continue the packing. "And no, I am not looking for my encrypted diary, but my socks."

Cleo stopped halfway across the room, after stumbling various historic objects.

"Your socks are still in the laundry, Dad," she sighed, rubbing a lightly bruised foot produced by the sculpture. "You really need to buy another pair, that pair wore another hole."

"I would not spend money on a useless pair of socks," he remarked, his voice muffled by the mound of clothes. "Go and ask Ms. Celia for the socks, and if she starts complaining, tell her it's urgent."

Cleo turned and made her way out, muttering softly "If it's useless, why would it be urgent?" She walked to the laundry room, and found Ms. Celia looking up from the load of clothes that she was ironing. To Cleo's surprise, Ms. Celia jumped in fright, and fell on the floor. Cleo ran to her aid, and helped her to the wooden chair.

"Oh, my dear," she moaned. "I thought you were Mrs. Massri, you both look amazingly same." She kneaded her temples, and sighed heavily. "Well, what did your father sent you here to fetch?"

"His socks," Cleo said, her hands searching the mound of clothes for the socks. Ms. Celia slapped her hands lightly. "You'll topple the whole mound, my dear," she said, grabbing a pair of mauve linen socks from the hill.

"Thanks," Cleo muttered, taking the socks from her, but Ms. Celia refused to let it go.