Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The Blue Lotus by Marisa Chenery
Title: The Blue Lotus
Author Name: Marisa Chenery
Wiping the sweat-dampened hair from her eyes Kendra Miller cursed the rush hour traffic on busy Beale Street. Being stuck in traffic, in a car with no air conditioning during a hot Memphis summer day, was far from being pleasurable. Having just left the art gallery on Beale where she worked as a receptionist, Kendra now headed for home after a long day.
Finally breaking free of the heavy traffic, she felt some of the tension leave her body. Though she did this drive day after day, she still hated having to drive at a snail's pace in the busy downtown.
Pulling into the drive of her modest two-story house, Kendra parked her car then made her way to the front door. Before she unlocked the door she flipped open the lid of her mailbox. Grabbing the collection of envelopes, with a mix of junk mail, she let herself into the house.
With a shove on the door, Kendra closed it behind her, kicked off her high-heeled shoes and began going through her mail. There were the usual bills, but one heavier envelope stood out from among the rest. Throwing the others on the small side table in the entrance hallway, Kendra wondered who had sent her this one. Spying the return address, a smile spread across her lips. What could her brother be sending her this time?
Markus was two years her senior, twenty-six to her twenty-four, and was the world traveler of the family. Somehow, he managed to make a career out of it. At each of his destinations, he would search out items of interest and buy them. When he returned home to Memphis, he would sell them to shops that dealt in such things. Sometimes Markus would send her a present if he were going to be away for an extended period, which was the case this time. He was away on his annual trip to Egypt.
Deciding to change into more comfortable clothes before she opened what Markus had sent her, Kendra went up to her bedroom. She shared this house with her brother when he was home between trips. Since she would be the one primarily staying in the house, she had claimed the master bedroom as her own.
Once free of her restricting dress clothes, Kendra slipped into a more comfortable tank top and shorts. Moving to the bathroom attached to her bedroom, she released her long, light brown hair from the tight bun she had confined it to. Pulling out the pins one by one, she let her hair fall to its full length, reaching the middle of her back.
Catching a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror, Kendra stuck out her tongue. She was not the type of woman to stare at herself for any great length in a mirror. She knew her looks were far from spectacular. The best way she could describe herself was average. Her most distinctive feature was her eyes. They were a startling light green in colour. At the sound of the phone ringing in the background, she quickly gathered her hair up and into a ponytail.
Going to the cordless phone sitting on the nightstand beside her bed, Kendra picked up the handset. “Hello?”
“About time you got home,” said the woman on the other end of the line.
Kendra smiled at the sound of her best friend's voice. “What do you mean, Tory? You know this is the time I come home from work.”
“Never mind. Now get dressed for a night on the town. I am taking you out.”
“Not tonight. All I want to do is sip on some wine and watch a bit of television.”
Tory groaned. “It's a Friday night. I refuse to let you sit at home alone feeling sorry for yourself.”
“I will not be doing anything of the sort like that. I just do not feel like going out, is all.”
“He is not worth it, Kendra. It has been a month. Time to move on.”
Kendra knew Tory meant well, but moving on for her was easier said than done. Being dumped by her fiancé two days before they were to get married had wounded her deeply.
“It has nothing to do with Greg, Tory. Just let it be.”
“All right, all right. You win. I won't push you anymore. I worry about you is all. That jerk needs a butt kicking for what he did to you.”
“And you are just the woman to do it, Tory.”
Her friend laughingly replied, “Damn right I am.” She let her laughter end and Tory then grew serious. “Promise me you won't let him win. Don't close yourself away because of what he did to you.”
“I promise. Now go and have your fun and I will call you later.” Having said that, Kendra bade Tory good-bye and then hung up the phone.
Reclaiming the thick envelope from the bed, Kendra returned to the lower level. Her stomach rumbled, giving her a good reminder that food should be the first order of business. The mysterious gift would have to wait the few minutes it took her to heat up a frozen dinner in the microwave.
Listlessly picking at her food, she shook her head. How low she had sunk. She used to be a good cook. One who enjoyed cooking a good meal, even if she was the only one who would be eating the food, but that was no longer the case. She only cooked when her brother was home now.
Gathering up the remnants of her dinner, Kendra poured herself a glass of white wine and with the envelope in hand, went to the living room. She switched on the television, then ripped open the padded envelope. Tipping it, she let the contents spill out into her hand.
At first glance, it didn't look like much, but once she spread it out Kendra could see why Markus had chosen this piece. She just didn't understand why he had decided to give it to her rather than sell it to one of his buyers. Hooking her finger through the chain, she let the pendant hang from its length. Though a bit on the grimy side, the necklace and pendant had the potential to be a beautiful piece of jewelry after a little cleaning.
Peering closely at the palm-sized pendant, she could vaguely make out Egyptian hieroglyphs etched across the whole surface of it. Some kind of black gunk seemed to have adhered itself to the finish of both the necklace and the pendant. With not much else planned for the evening, Kendra decided there was no time like the present to give the whole thing a polish.
Heading up the stairs once more, Kendra returned to her room where she kept her jewelry cleaner. Knowing this piece was more than likely an antiquity, she would have to be careful not to damage it.
Surprisingly, the black stuff came off more easily than she had thought. And what was revealed beneath the grime took her breath away. This was not some cheap piece of costume jewelry. What was slowly being revealed was pure gold. Not the gold plated junk either, but the real thing.
The thick rope styled chain would in itself be worth a fortune, but the pendant was that and much more. Kendra lightly traced the hieroglyphs with her finger. Any Egyptologist would die to get their hands on it, to decipher the glyphs and learn what they had to say, which sparked an idea inside her head. She could try to decipher them herself. Libraries were a wealth of information and there was always the Internet.
The more Kendra thought about it, the better the idea seemed. For the first time since the Greg incident she felt some of the lethargy, which had claimed her, dissipate. Tomorrow she would make a start. It would give her a reason to get up in the morning.
* * * *
Waking from a refreshed sleep, Kendra felt more like herself. She had a purpose now. After eating a quick breakfast of toast, she decided to try the library first, and the Memphis-Shelby County Public Library and Information Centre on Poplar Avenue was where she needed to go.
The library was just about deserted on this Saturday morning, so she had the pick of the tables. Pulling out a pad of paper and a pen from her bag, Kendra set them on a table. One of the library's computers was conveniently located on the counter directly across from her. Pulling the library catalogue up on the screen, Kendra did a search for books on Egyptian hieroglyphs. Making a mental note of where the books were to be found, she quickly grabbed three likely prospects and returned to her table.
She had thought it would be a no great feat to decipher the hieroglyphs, but she had been mistaken. There was a standard alphabet that translated each picture, giving it a corresponding letter, but some could be used as a phrase not just as a single letter.
After an hour of going through the books, Kendra decided to sign them out and work at home with them. She had not brought the pendant with her and she needed to compare the hieroglyphs directly if she was going to work out what they meant.
It was close to noon by the time she arrived home. Much to her surprise, she had a visitor waiting for her return. Stepping out of her car, Kendra went to greet the woman standing by her front door.
“What are you doing here, Tory? I thought after a night on the town you would still be sleeping.”
Tory Connor rolled her eyes at Kendra's comment. “It was hardly a night out on the town once you bailed on me. Thanks to you I had to stay in.”
“Well come inside and we can have some lunch.” Opening the door, Kendra motioned for Tory to go ahead of her.
Meeting Tory had been one of the best things to ever happen to her. At the time, Kendra had been a very introverted teen starting mid-year at the high school. After losing both their parents in a car crash, both Markus and she had gone to live with their maternal grandparents. Kendra had been sixteen. Losing her parents, and then facing a new school, had taken its toll on her. But there had been one bright light in her darkest time, and it went by the name of Tory Connor. A girl who refused to let Kendra lose herself to her grief. And for that, Kendra would love Tory always.
Following her friend inside, Kendra sighed with envy. Tory had a killer body that attracted men by the droves. Curves in all the right places, long golden hair, sparkling blue eyes, and a face a super model would die to have, summed Tory up. Unlike herself, Kendra had more of an athletic build and not much in the curve department. The only thing she had the same as Tory, was height. They both stood equally at five feet eight inches.
Today Tory had decided to go with a cutesy look that not many women their age could pull off. But Tory could and did. Wearing a soft pale pink baby-t and matching coloured short shorts, she could lure any man within fifty feet of her to her side with a glance. If Kendra donned that same outfit, she would look just plain ridiculous.
Noticing the stack of books Kendra was carrying, Tory asked, “What are those for?”
Plunking the said books down onto the coffee table, Kendra moved to the kitchen and opened the fridge. She began to pull out the makings for a salad. “Markus sent me a little something from Egypt.” She could hear Tory shuffling through the stack of books.
“You know, instead of getting these you should have called me. I know something a whole lot better than these books for translating hieroglyphs. This could take you all day using these.”
“And what is better than the books I got from the library?”
Giving Kendra a knowing look, Tory smiled. “It just so happens I know someone who works at the museum. He specializes in ancient Egypt. I could give him a call and see if he would be willing to help you out.”
Kendra hesitated in answering. She really didn't want an expert to see the pendant. She wanted to keep it for herself. “I don't know if that is such a great idea. Thanks anyway.”
“Okay, out with it. This something your brother sent you must be really special.” Tory had left the living room and now started to help Kendra make their lunch.
“You are right. It is something special. If Markus actually knew what he sent me, he would have thought twice before putting it in the mail.”
“Now you have me intrigued. Let me see it already, why don't you.”
Kendra laughed and then went to her room to get the pendant. When she returned, Tory had finished making their salads. With a flourish, she spread the pendant and necklace out on the kitchen table.
Tory let out a low whistle of appreciation. Picking up the pendant, she examined it closely. “Old Markus must be losing it. This must be worth a fortune.”
“Well it didn't look like this when it arrived. It was covered in some kind of black stuff. I had no idea what it was. When I cleaned it, this is what I found beneath the dirt.”
“I can see why you are leery about someone at a museum getting a hold of this.” Turning the pendant over, Tory admired the blue enameled lotus flower on the back. “This is magnificent.”
“The flower is beautiful, but what the hieroglyphs have to say draws me more.”
Returning the pendant to the table, Tory picked up her fork. “I still think Scott can help you. He knows just about all there is to know about ancient Egypt.” When Kendra opened her mouth to refuse again, Tory interrupted her. “I know, I know you don't want him to see it. But I think we can get around that. After we finish eating, I will call him and get him to translate this over the phone. I will tell him it is something I found in a magazine.”
“Won't he wonder at your sudden interest in hieroglyphs?”
Tory shook her head and chuckled. “No. He will think I am using it as an excuse to call him. I will have to go out with him on a date in return.”
Kendra raised one of her brows and gave Tory a questioning look. “Knowing you, he is already wrapped around your little finger. And he must be tall, dark, and handsome. Just how you like your men.”
“You got that right.” Tory laughed. “Scott is delicious. It will be no hardship for me to spend some time with him. So once we are done eating I will give him a call.”
True to her word, Tory called Scott a short while later. He was more than happy to translate the hieroglyphs for her. In no time at all he had completed the task and was dictating to Tory what the hieroglyphs meant. After writing it all down, she set up a dinner date with him for that evening.
Tory handed Kendra the piece of paper. “Scott said the first part is from the Book of the Dead. A spell for resurrection, the Lotus Spell. The rest, he had no idea what it was for.”
“It would have taken me days to figure this out on my own.”
“Think nothing of it. Now I had better go home and start getting ready for my hot date tonight.”
Shaking her head, Kendra walked Tory to the door. Scott was going to be well reimbursed for his time. With one last wave as her friend backed out of her drive, she shut the door. All she had to look forward to was a long boring evening plunked down on her couch watching television.
My Website: http://www.marisachenery.com
To Buy: http://www.liquidsilverbooks.com/books/thebluelotus.htm