Rescue at the Symphony
Finding the Matriarch
Batresh and David stood against the wall of her dorm room at Fontainebleau College. Two tall nuns wearing modern habits stood on the other side of the bed. Although it was mid-morning, the southern sky was dark and cloudy. Yellow lamp light cast eerie shadows onto the elderly sisters.
“Are they Sisters of St. Hypatia?” David whispered, referring to the habits the women wore. Batresh sent him a telepathic command, telling him to be silent.
Both women held small, rectangular boxes, with screens on the side turned towards their faces. David looked at Batresh questioningly but remained silent.
One of the women looked at Batresh, then at David. “This is the human who is helping you?”
Batresh sighed knowing this information would make David nervous. She looked at him, “Yes,” she said aloud. David’s eyes widened.
“She was here,” the other woman stated. “We will alert the sisters.”
“Will she resume her duties as Matriarch?” Batresh asked. She glanced at David, and noticed that even though the room was cool, he was beginning to perspire.
“We will make that decision,” the other woman responded. She walked over to Batresh and placed her aged hand over hers comfortingly, “She’ll need to be retrained; which could take,” she broke off, sighing, then continued, “…a long time.” She nodded, and looked down at the device in her hands, “We will transmit these readings. They’ll bring equipment.”
Both women looked at David and Batresh, “Of course, she will be taken to Mussara,” the woman to David’s left responded. They both walked towards David, who moved against the wall in fear. They held their devices up to his face. “Hmph!” the one to his right exclaimed. Then, they both turned and left the room.
The door to the room, closed behind them. David turned to Batresh, “I am the human who is to help you?” he asked, his eyes growing wider.
Batresh walked in front of him and took his right hand in hers. “I’m sorry about that. I had meant to prepare you more.”
He looked towards the mirror at the end of the room and saw the frightened expression on his own face. Then, he looked back at Batresh, “You had better start explaining. I’m having a meltdown.”
She took his hand and they sat down on the bed.
“Who were those women?” David asked.
Batresh looked at him and seemed to be embarrassed. “They are my people,” she looked at him seriously. “I am the same as them.”
“But, they are nuns,” he responded.
“Are you familiar with the order of nuns who formed this college?” she asked.
“Do you know the history of the Sisters of St. Hypatia?” she continued.
David shook his head negatively.
“Do you know who Hypatia was?”
David looked up at the ceiling, “Wasn’t she the Ancient Greek scholar who taught at Alexandria?”
Batresh nodded. “Do you think it’s odd that Hypatia, who was murdered by a mob of Christians for being pagan, is a saint in a Catholic order?”
David looked into her face. “I didn’t know.”
Batresh looked down at the floor, “Have you seen ancient statues of the Egyptian Goddess Auset?”
David looked at her with confusion, “Where are you going with all this?”
“David,” Batresh sighed, “I wish you could remember.” She stood and walked over to the window.
David looked at her with more confusion and fear.
“Our ancient religion was suppressed,” she explained, looking up at the sun attempting to peer through thick clouds. “But, we were successful in keeping, or inserting, some elements into Christianity.” She turned and looked at him.
Standing there, with her image in shadow against the large window, he saw the sun shining dimly through the clouds just behind her head, creating a kind of a halo.
“St. Hypatia was called St. Ekaterine of Alexandria, the Ever Pure, by the early church. But, in 1969, the Vatican came to the conclusion that she never existed,” She walked over to the large double doors of a closet on the opposite wall. “But, by then it was too late. The order of the Sisters of St. Hypatia was already flourishing.”
“What does this…” he began.
She interrupted him, “David, St. Hypatia, Hypatia herself was one of us. She was Tayamni.” She paused and walked closer to him. “The sisters of this order, all of them. They are all Tayamni.”
David’s eyes grew wide.
“There are several religious orders formed by Tayamni, and whose members are all Tayamni,” she continued. “We are trying to help humanity evolve.” She sat down on the bed next to him. “But, it is a battle. There are others, aliens, hostile aliens who have also formed orders. One of them will soon become Pope.” As she made this statement, she had a strange feeling, a kind of queasiness in the pit of her stomach. She could see, not so much with images, as with understanding, a world in which there were no religious orders filled with Potacas. She saw both, the world she inhabited and another world; another timeline. She wondered what caused this feeling. How could she see both? Was she sensing another timeline?
David’s face was perspiring. He swallowed hard.
She pushed her feelings aside and sat down again beside him. “We are fighting for the future of humanity,” She took his hands in hers. “This is enough for now.” She smiled trying to dismiss the fear he felt, and her own uncertainty. “Let’s go look for a car for me,” she said, standing again.
David was silent as they descended two wide flights of stairs to the ground floor. There were no students here. The semester would begin in two weeks.
When they stepped outside onto the side walk, David turned to her, “I’m thinking you can get a Toyota Celica, a used one,” he smiled. Batresh looked at the almost empty parking lot, feeling optimistic.
“You have always performed your work admirably,” she offered.
He looked back at her, drawing his eyebrows together with concern. “You are going to have to stop that or explain what you are talking about.”
Reaching his car, he opened the passenger door for her. When he got into the driver’s seat, he looked at her as if to command her to explain. “David,” she said, taking his hand again, “Have you ever seen something, an image, or a person; something that seems familiar, as if you have seen it before, but you don’t know from where?”
David looked at her, remembering having that sensation with her at Herbie’s. He responded, “Hasn’t everybody?”
She shook her head negatively. “No, David, everybody hasn’t.” She paused, “I have never had that experience.” She thought to herself, until now.
He looked at her with confusion, as he pulled out onto the street, headed south. She looked back at him, “I have not lived a previous life. This is my first life,” she said, trying to dismiss the feelings she had earlier.
They stopped at an intersection, and David continued south. She looked at a supermarket on the left. “But, I have known you,” she paused. “I knew you, many, many years ago.”
David pressed his lips together and rolled his eyes. “OK, I am having a hard time believing you.”
“It’s OK.” She responded.
He looked at her, then back at road ahead of them. He looked at her again, as if he expected her to say something else he couldn’t believe.
“Those two women, those nuns, arrived here, just this morning, from a base that is not on Earth,” She offered.
He pressed his lips together, and she saw beads of perspiration appear again, above his lip. She continued, “They came here to investigate a report I made.” She looked to her right, as they passed over Highway 40. She saw cars passing beneath them as they drove across the overpass. “We are led by a Matriarch.”
He looked ahead, concentrating on the street.
Batresh continued, “The Matriarch disappeared in the early 1960s. But, I have seen her in my dorm room for the last few nights.” She looked ahead again and sighed. She could feel his discomfort, the conflict that he felt. She knew that he believed her on some level. Now, she sent him an image of himself from his previous life as Vizier at Sekhem.
He gasped and swerved, almost hitting the curb of the sidewalk to their right. He turned back sharply, and braked. The driver in the car to his left blew the horn in anger as it passed him. He turned quickly in the other direction, straightening the car in the lane. He looked at Batresh with exasperation. “Don’t do that while I am driving!” he said strongly.
She looked to her right, as they ascended a hill, passing empty shops and warehouses. David slowed, and pulled into a parking lot on their right. This had once been a hardware store. He looked at her with tears welling up in his eyes. He tried to speak, “I,” then, he began sobbing. He continued looking at her, speaking through his tears, “I am David Lumpkin.” He brought his right hand to his forehead. His face was turning red, “I am David Lumpkin. I went to Parkway West High School.” He tried to wipe tears away from his face. “I have a master’s degree in piano from Northwestern University in Illinois. And,” He reached for the keys, calming down some. “And, I am a homosexual.” He looked at Batresh and tried to smile, “A trendy homosexual, but a homosexual nonetheless.”
Batresh couldn’t help but laugh. She looked at David. Now, he began to laugh too. He was wiping tears away from his face, laughing. He pulled back onto the street.
They continued driving south. He took a big breath, and continued, “Apparently, I am also Rekhmire, Vizier to the Royal Family at Ancient Egypt.” Tears appeared in his eyes again.
She reached over and took his hand. “You may begin to have more memories now,” she offered.
They turned left on Chippewa Street, and drove east. “By the way,” she said looking at him. “Can you sing?”
He looked confused again, then back at her, “You are not going to hit me with something else now, are you?”
She chuckled and shook her head negatively.
“I’m not a soloist, but I can sing.”
“Perfect,” she responded. “I need for you to be in the St. Louis Symphony Chorus.”
He looked at her, “Why?”
“I want you to help me protect, Denny.”
“Who is that?” he asked, dreading her answer.
“He is the young man I am here to protect.”
They stopped at a signal light. He looked over to her and raised his eyebrows, “Why are we protecting him?”
“He is my mother,” she responded, “…the previous Matriarch,” She looked out the window at a large woman walking down the side walk, “…your former Queen.”
David had a vague memory of a woman wearing purple. “She is working to spread the sacred force.” Batresh added.
Turning right onto Gravois Avenue, David looked at her. “Is that why I am here?”
She smiled, “I am not really sure, but I think so.” She looked ahead of her at a young couple crossing the street. “I think you are here to help me protect him.”
“There it is,” he said, pointing ahead of them on the left. “We will get your car over there.”
Adagio for Strings
Batresh wore a black dress; tight around her hips and cut to just below her knee. A silver broach, clustered with cut glass stones, held the left shoulder strap to a piece onto which a shoulder pad was attached. She thought it odd that women wanted to have wide shoulders. She liked the black, velvet strap heels that went with the dress, and the white faux fur draped around her shoulders. She had pulled her hair back into a retro style from an earlier decade.
The phone rang, “Yes,” she responded, smiling, her cheeks flushed. “I’ll be right down.” She walked to the closet and removed a long, black satin winter coat. She checked herself in the mirror again and smiled at her reflection.
She walked downstairs, and noticed a young man wearing a casual jacket and dress trousers. He saw her, stood and began walking towards her. He took her hands into his and pulled her close to him. “You look ravishing tonight,” he said, smiling. Seth wondered if he should be so bold as to kiss her. She seemed so open, so glad to see him, even a little shy. He pulled her even closer and detected the scent of peaches. Then, he kissed her on the lips. She turned her head after short time and laughed.
“Shall we go to dinner?” he asked.
He extended his arm to her, and they walked out of the hotel onto the street. Small snowflakes were beginning to fall. She looked into the dark sky, and saw flakes, like ashes falling from a volcanic eruption. “We may get some accumulation tonight,” he said. He extended his arm around her waist, pulling her close to him. “Are you warm enough?”
She couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed. He looked into her face intensely. She thought he looked at her hungrily, as if he could have eaten her for dinner. They walked to a shiny black car, with a cream-colored interior. He opened the door for her, and watched her, as she lowered herself onto the seat. Her skirt was tighter at the knees, so she swung her legs around, into the car carefully.
They drove eastwards on Lindell Boulevard. “I made reservations at City Cousin,” he said. She remembered a story from her downloads.
She turned to him, “As in Country Cousin Visits City Cousin?”
Seth laughed, “Yes, that is exactly right.” He turned to the left, into a small parking lot adjacent to a Victorian Gingerbread house. The snow turned the parking lot and other surfaces white. The streets were still shiny and wet. Normally a busy restaurant on Friday nights, there weren’t many people there, about five other vehicles. They walked up a few steps to the front porch of the house and went in to the foyer. They were met at the door, by a tall, handsome woman, wearing a black pants-suit.
“Hi Seth,” she said, looking at Batresh, up and down. Batresh blushed at the woman’s open examination of her body.
“Lynn, this is Miriam, she just moved here from Mississippi,” Seth offered, noticing the woman’s attentions.
The tall woman extended her hand. “Welcome to our winter wonderland,” she laughed. “I have a table for you upstairs…You’re going to the symphony tonight?”
“We are,” Seth responded.
“We’ll get you in and out,” Lynn answered. She began walking towards the stairway leading to the second floor. She gave Batresh another look and turned to face the stairs. Batresh noticed that the wall paper and drapes were all of similar colors and design, oval shapes in striped patterns. They passed a dining room on the right, where a fireplace cast a warm light onto the patrons having dinner, and onto the polished wood floor. To their left was another dining room, with two draped, shaded windows. She ascended the stairs with Seth behind her. The stairway curved to the right. Lynn sat them at a table a few feet from the stairs, next to small, more private dining room. Batresh thought to herself that she had never been to such a beautiful restaurant.
Lynn pulled out the chair for her. As she sat down, she looked into Lynn’s face, openly. She saw Lynn blush realizing that Batresh knew she was attracted to her. Lynn had short blonde hair and wore no make-up.
“Tom will be with you shortly,” Lynn nodded formally, turned, and walked back downstairs.
“Lynn and her partner own this restaurant,” Seth explained. “Her partner is the chef.”
Batresh smiled, as she took the linen napkin from the table and placed it in her lap. “This is such a beautiful restaurant,” Batresh said, looking into Seth’s face.
“You will see a lot of these same people at the Symphony a little later,” Seth offered.
Batresh looked around to her left, to another dining room, in which only one of three tables was taken. She was surprised to see Denny sitting there. Looking at the man sitting across from him, she expected to see Bob. She drew a deep breath and looked at the couple with concern. Seth looked around to see what it was that surprised her. He saw Denny sitting with another man from the chorus. Batresh looked at the other man. He was large and muscular. Denny was having dinner with the Tlaloc.
Seth was talking to her, but she wasn’t listening. She was focused on Denny and the Tlaloc. The larger man noticed that she was staring, so he looked at her. Then, Denny turned around. Batresh saw that his eyes were reddened. He looked as though he had been crying. Denny smiled weakly and turned back around, facing the larger man.
“Excuse me,” she said, placing her napkin on the table. She stood and walked over to Denny’s table.
“Hi,” she offered, looking into Denny’s face. She was trying to discern his feelings. Then, she looked at the Tlaloc. She met his eyes with determination. She wanted to convey a warning to him. She extended her right hand. “I think I have seen you in the Chorus, I am Miriam Kaplan.”
He took her hand roughly, interpreting accurately, her warning. “Charles Moorehead.” He stood, showing her that he was at least a foot and a half taller than she was. He squeezed her hand hard, causing her to wince. “I’m sorry,” he responded. “Sometimes, I don’t know my own strength,” he added sarcastically.
Now, she noticed Seth had risen from their table and was standing next to her. “I am sure you know Seth,” she offered.
Charles took Seth’s hand more politely. “Are you going to the Symphony tonight?” Seth asked.
Denny started to speak, and Charles interrupted him, casting a demeaning look at him, “Yes, I wouldn’t miss Semkov’s Beethoven.” He looked at Denny with disapproval. Batresh noticed Denny looked down at the food in front of him.
Seth took Batresh’s hand, “It looks like our waiter has arrived.”
Batresh gave Charles, the Tlaloc, another threatening look. “Please excuse us,” she responded, turning back to the table.
Seth pulled Batresh’s chair out for her. Their waiter, Tom, a young man with almost exaggerated Italian features; dark skin, bushy black hair, and a handsome Roman nose, described the specials for them. He wore a white shirt and black apron. Batresh noticed a darkened wine stain on his collar. “You look like one of the cooks,” she smiled.
Tom nodded, “We are short staffed because of the snow,” he responded. “I am the sous chef.” He looked at Seth, “So you’re are going to the Symphony.” Charles raised his voice in the other room, the waiter looked in that direction, then back at Seth. “I wouldn’t advise going out in this weather,” he tried to laugh. “Would you like to order now?”
Looking at Batresh, Seth asked, “Are you kosher?”
Batresh shook her head negatively, grateful that her downloads had included an understanding of this term.
“I recommend the scallops,” he said, reaching across the table, taking her hand in his.
“Thank you,” Batresh responded, looking up at the waiter, “I’ll take his recommendation.” Although she knew what the term kosher meant, she did not know what scallops were. She looked at Seth trustingly.
The waiter took their order and turned back to the kitchen.
Seth looked over at Denny and the Tlaloc, then back at Batresh. “What was all that about?”
She sighed and brought her right hand up to the silverware to the right of her place setting. She straightened the knife. “I thought Denny was crying,” she whispered. “I wanted to make sure he was OK.”
“I saw you shooting daggers at Charles,” Seth responded.
She tried to smile. “I think Denny has had a hard life, I just hope Charles is not hurting him.”
Seth leaned forward towards her, “I thought he and Bob were dating,” he whispered.
“So did I,” she responded, finally looking into his face.
“Do you like Beethoven?” he asked, wanting to move her attention away from Denny and Charles.
She smiled weakly, “I do,” she whispered.
“Semkov has put a lot of Beethoven in the program.” Tom brought a silver wine bucket with ice to the table, showing the bottle to Seth. He nodded, and Tom began opening the wine.
“Tonight, we will hear the Seventh Symphony,” Seth tasted the small amount of wine Tom poured into his glass and nodded affirmatively. Batresh noted the small, formal dining rituals, happy to see the dining formality brought by her people to the ancient inhabitants of Kemet still remained after 5,000 years. But, she was nervous. She looked down at her purse and wondered if she should call David and ask him to help. She decided it would be awkward, during her first date with Seth, to leave the table a second time.
She looked up and saw that Seth was holding his glass towards her, above the table. She was confused for a moment, but then remembered that clinking filled wine glasses together was a way of honoring a particular event. So, she took hers in her right hand and lifted it towards him. Seth brought his glass forward to touch hers. The two glasses made a musical sound when they touched together. “Ah, the sound of lead crystal,” Seth smiled. “To our first date.”
“Yes,” she nodded, trying to focus on Seth rather than on Denny, “To our first date.” They both heard the sound of a glass being brought down on a wooden surface roughly and looked around. Denny was seated with his back to them; but they saw Charles, who faced them, clearly. His face was contorted with anger.
“I will ask Tom to move us,” Seth brought his napkin up to the table from his lap, “This is too distracting.” He stood to go find the waiter.
Batresh opened her purse and slid her hand inside. Finding the disc shaped weapon, she moved it to her palm, where it activated. It was improved to function as various weapons and it read her thoughts. She concentrated on the cold blasting weapon, while keeping her hand closed. Then, the temperature in the room lowered. The fire in the fireplace close to Denny and Charles flickered, while the drapes moved in the breeze generated by the lowering temperature. Charles looked at Batresh, knowing that she had activated the miti. He looked worried. She released the disc, hoping she had delivered a convincing warning to him. She saw that he suddenly looked tired. Charles smiled at Denny, reaching across the table taking his small hand in his own. Batresh took a sip from her wine. Soon, Tom had arrived back at the table with Seth, ready to move them to the first floor.
As they descended the stairs, Batresh looked behind her and saw a small hallway with a public phone and two restrooms.
“Please excuse me, Seth,” He looked back at her with curiosity. She pointed towards the restrooms, “I’ll be right back.”
He moved towards her and kissed her gently on the lips. “Don’t be long,” he smiled.
She walked back towards the Ladies’ Room and opened her purse. Withdrawing two quarters set aside for the purpose, she dialed David’s phone number, hoping he was home.
“Hello?” he responded.
“David,” she whispered, “This is Miriam.”
“I know who it is,” he answered roughly.
“Do you have plans tonight?” she asked.
“I do, but somehow I expect they are going to change,” he sighed.
“Please accept my apologies,” she responded.
“What do you wish, your Majesty,” he offered, not joking.
She sighed, “Thank you.” She was silent for a moment, “I want to ask you to come to the Symphony tonight.”
“May I ask why?”
“Denny is in danger,” she paused, realizing she had not explained enough to him. “I am so sorry to keep throwing you in the middle of these situations you know nothing about.”
“Can you explain more?”
“There is a large man with him, who is abusive.” She looked forward and saw their waiter delivering bowls of soup.
“The large man is an enemy of our people, he will attempt to hurt the Matriarch, I mean, Denny. I would ask you to insert yourself into their time together tonight, flirt with Denny, anything, try to distract him.”
“Understood. I will do as you ask.” He paused, “Will you be there?”
“Yes, I am on a date with the manager of the chorus.” A man walked into the hallway, and turned to her right, entering the men’s room. “I will introduce you to him. Thank you, my dear friend,” she responded, hanging up the phone. She went into the Ladies room. She turned, facing a mirror over the sink. Looking at her reflection, she freshened her lipstick, and reminded herself to focus on Seth. She sighed looking down at her shoes. She had not asked for these missions. She would have been happier to have been human, living at ancient Sekhem, not worrying about the fate of the entire human race. She remembered the humans she knew and loved at Sekhem. They had been dead now, for 5,000 years. She looked up again at her reflection. She hoped David would be able to deflect the Tlaloc. She turned, and exited the room, walking back to the dining room.
Tom saw her. “Miriam,” he offered, nodding formally, “Let me show you where I have moved you and Seth.”
She followed him into a large dining room to her left, then, turning to the right, to a small room with three tables. Seth sat at the only occupied table. Two bowls of steaming soup had been brought to them. Tom pulled her chair out for her. “You may wish you were wearing boots before the evening is done,” he offered. “They are expecting at least a foot of snow.”
“Oh no!” she smiled, looking at Seth.
“I may have to carry you,” he responded laughing.
She sat down, less worried now. Looking at Seth, she couldn’t help but smile. He reached his hand towards her, taking hers into his own. “Now, this is better,” he offered. “We don’t have to witness the romantic errors of another couple.”
“Thank the Gods,” she responded. She looked into his face as he talked. He explained the upcoming season; the concerts the chorus would perform. She saw his dark, dark brown eyes, almost black, reflecting the firelight from the adjoining dining room. She saw simple directness, truthfulness and commitment to honor in his face. He smiled broadly, revealing dimples on each cheek. His hair was curly and jet black, with almost blue highlights. Again, she looked at the hair on his chest, above his open shirt, thinking to herself how it would feel to stroke the skin there with her fingers. She sighed with relief, reflecting on the fact that she had help now. She made a mental note to begin planning how to enlist Bob to help her and David.
“Are you familiar with Samuel Barber?” Seth asked.
She shook her head. “I have heard his name, but…” Tom pushed a cart to their table.
“The soup was wonderful,” Seth offered as Tom removed the bowls.
“I think you will like the scallops,” he responded as he served shallow, oval bowls of white disks in milky butter sauce.
Batresh looked at the dish in front of her, wondering what scallops were. She imaged a long, serpent-like beast, cut into disks. She watched Seth, to make sure she consumed them properly.
She placed a buttery disk in her mouth. It was soft, but firm. She enjoyed the buttery taste, and a taste of, what was it? It reminded her of the fragrance of the Great River at sunset. She smiled, enjoying the memory.
Tom came by again, “I am sorry, I don’t mean to rush you, but if you want to make it to the Symphony, you had better get going.”
“Barber’s Adagio for Strings is opening the concert. We don’t want to miss that,” Seth offered.
When they exited the restaurant, the snow in the parking lot was about a half inch deep. They saw lightening in the distance. “That’s not a good sign,” Seth said, as he opened the car door for Batresh.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
Then, they heard a low rumble of thunder, “Lightening during a snow storm means lots of snow,” he laughed.
Seth drove slowly and carefully northwards on Lindell. The street still seemed to be wet for the most part, but with patches of white. “We are lucky I live so close to Powell Hall, otherwise, we would probably cancel tonight.”
Batresh looked at him with wonder. “Why would we cancel?” she asked.
“I guess it doesn’t snow much in Mississippi,” Seth laughed.
Batresh shook her head negatively.
“The roads can become covered with ice; driving can be hazardous,” he continued. He stopped the car slowly at Grand Avenue, turning left. There were few cars on the street. “At least we will be able to get good parking.” He looked at Batresh with a smirk.
As Seth predicted, the parking lot just south of Powell Hall was sparsely filled. Normally, this was the lot that filled first, being closest to the entrance. “Are you going to be OK walking in your heels?” he asked, looking at her with concern. “You know, I will drive by the entrance, and you can get out. Then I will come back and park.”
“Thank you, Seth,” she responded.
He pulled up in front of the building. The side walk was sprinkled with salt. The snow and ice there melted.
She opened the door to the Hall and waited at the ticket counter for Seth to join her. Looking to her left, she saw the lobby was not so sparsely populated as she thought it might be. She looked for David, Denny, or Charles on the ground level, but did not find them.
Shortly, Seth arrived with their tickets. She walked into the lobby of Powell Hall as if for the first time. The space was beautiful, with marble floors, 19th century, cream-colored balusters and railings, crystal chandeliers, small shaded sconces, and now, elegantly dressed concert-goers. Seth extended his arm to her and they walked towards the curving stairway. On the way there, Batresh looked to her left and saw the exterior walls, with tall, arched windows, covered with velvet drapery, and sheer curtains. The curved bar to her right, which had been empty at rehearsal, was now crowded and serviced with three bartenders. The doors to the orchestra level, behind the bar, had been propped open. Looking inside, she saw people crowded in the aisles, holding programs, looking for their seats. Seth stopped to talk with a couple, he introduced Batresh to them and explained that she was an Egyptologist. The woman, with curly red hair asked her whether she was going to Chicago to see the Tutankhamun exhibit. Batresh smiled. Thankfully, her downloads had included a brief amount of information on this Egyptian boy-Pharaoh who had lived over 2,000 years later than her childhood at Sekhem.
“I am not sure,” Batresh responded. “My area is the cultural transformations that occurred around 3800 BCE in what later was known as the Upper Kingdom.”
“Who was Pharaoh then?” the woman asked.
Batresh looked into Seth’s face for help. But, he only smiled. “The period I study is before the Pharaonic era.”
“Really?” the woman asked. “Did they have an organized government?”
“What would you like to drink?” Seth asked Batresh.
“A glass of wine,” she responded. Seth looked at her inquisitively. “Oh,” she began, “champagne?” remembering the delicious drink she shared with David at Herbie’s. Seth turned away and headed towards the bar. Batresh was afraid she wouldn’t be able to keep her cover intact. She looked at Seth walk away from her, with panic.
The woman with red hair continued, “Did they have a ruler of some kind?”
Batresh tried to appear confident. “We believe that the first governments there may have been informally organized in a matriarchal structure,” she ventured, relying on what she knew from experience rather than any historical information.
“Really,” the woman looked at her with suspicion. “I have never heard that.”
Batresh saw Seth talking with another man at the bar. “There is recent archeological evidence we are trying to piece together, before publishing our theories,” she responded, growing nervous.
“What evidence is there for a matriarchal government?” she asked Batresh, her eyes narrowing.
“Near the Karnak temple complex,” Batresh began. “Or, where it sits now, there was an earlier settlement called Sekhem.”
The woman shifted her position, pushing her hips to the left, and took a sip from the wine glass she was holding. “Named after Sekhmet?” she asked.
“We believe so,” Batresh responded. “The hieroglyphs have not been completely translated,” she looked at the bar, and saw Seth paying the bartender. “They are an earlier version of hieroglyphs, appearing to have a relationship to cuneiform,” she responded, again speaking from memories rather than actual archeological information. She looked towards the stairway, wishing she and Seth were walking upstairs.
The woman reached towards Batresh, touching her arm, “Are you saying that the Sumerians and the Egyptians from 3800 BCE had trade with each other?”
Batresh sighed, but then noticed that Seth was returning from the bar. “I believe that is inconclusive,” she responded, as Seth reached them. He extended the wine glass towards her.
“The champagne they had was awful, so I got you a Chablis,” Seth offered.
“Thank you,” Batresh responded, taking the glass from his hands. At that moment, she felt someone tap her shoulder from behind. She turned around and saw David standing there, beaming.
“Look who I found,” he offered. There, standing a little behind him and to his left, was Denny. Batresh looked into his face and saw a mixture of pain and relief. David leaned closer to Batresh and whispered, “He got into an argument with his date, so I brought him down here.”
Batresh could not restrain herself. She took Denny’s hands in hers. “I am sure you will enjoy the program tonight,” she offered, unable to think of what else to say. Then, she saw Denny look to his left, to the stairway. There, standing midway, looking down at their small group, was the Tlaloc, just standing, looking unhappy.
“I am so lucky!” David continued, “I got a seat right next to Denny!”
Batresh’s smile grew wider. She sent a telepathic message to David, “Thank you, thank you, my beloved Rekhmire.”
Just then, small bells sounded. Batresh looked around but couldn’t find its source.
“We had better get to our seats,” Seth offered, taking Batresh’s hand, and pointing himself towards the stairway. “We’ll see you at intermission,” he nodded towards David and Denny. Batresh turned and saw the woman who had been questioning her, heading up the stairs ahead of them. When they reached the stairway, Seth turned to her, “Did you have a nice conversation with Suzanne?”
“Yes, I did,” she responded, not wanting him to know of her discomfort.
Once upstairs, they walked to a section where ushers were holding doors open, “We’re in the Dress Circle,” Seth offered. Batresh knew from the way he told her, he was proud to have gotten these seats. She followed him through a doorway that opened into the large, open, multi-layered balcony. They turned to the right, passing through an opening in short walls, to a kind of box, containing several seats, but separated from other compartments. They sat in the very front row. Since no one sat in front of them, they had a clear view of the stage and orchestra members. The elevated balcony, hanging in the air gave her the feeling of flying in a space ship. She looked up and saw orchestra members arranging papers, taking their places, and tuning instruments.
She looked to her right, at Seth sitting next to her. He seemed happy to have brought her here. He leaned over to her and kissed her right cheek. She looked into his open, honest face. She thought him to be a beautiful man, kind, attentive. She reflected to herself that the woman who marries him will be fortunate. The orchestra stopped turning when the conductor walked onto the stage. The audience began to applaud, and she thought of her beloved Amun. However lucky the woman who married Seth would be, she would not be half as fortunate as Batresh, herself who was mated to the most honest, to the most honorable, loving and attentive man she had ever known and would ever know. The conductor bowed and gestured to his right. The first violinist nodded to him and to the audience. Seth leaned over to her and said, “The first piece is Barber’s Adagio for Strings.” The applause began to diminish, and the conductor turned around, facing his orchestra.
He raised his baton and moved his hands slowly forward. The first sounds of the violins began a sustained, gentle chord. Then, other chords sounded, moving downwards and upwards, meandering through the key, slowly, caressing the air with vibrations from strings and bows. Faint, gentle sounds growing, and diminishing; so, tender, so loving. She closed her eyes. The sounds were Amun’s hands on her body. She could feel his touch, his fingers sliding down her legs, encircling her ankles, his hands on her shoulders. She could feel his lips on her neck. She could feel his physical presence here, next to her. She felt the scent of his body. Tears gathered at the corners of her eyes and spilled down her face. This sound, the sound of violins, blending together as one instrument, playing a melody that caressed her body, that made love to her, touching her intimately, invading the protected parts of her heart, her mind, and her spirit. She was vulnerable to these vibrations, these textures, this music that made love to her. The pitches rose, the vibrations grew louder, climbing chord over chord, gently whispering, then, touching her with more strength, pushing against her. She could feel the music on her skin, bringing her closer to the point at which she felt she would lose control. Then, as gently as it brought her to this point, the pitches began to lower, the sounds grew softer, the sounds that had previously pushed against her, now began a gentle caress, to lower her again, to a point at which she could open her eyes. Seth was looking at her, with his mouth slightly agape. She had been weeping.
Batresh simply looked ahead, focusing on the cream and gold colored wall behind the orchestra. She had not expected to be overtaken by vibrations through the air, vibrations she could actually feel on her skin; vibrations that transported her to an ancient place; that transported her home.
She was ravished; ravished by the richness and beauty of the universe; removed from present circumstances and worries; transported to the overwhelming love she felt for Amun; the beauty of those feelings. For a time, she could not see anything around her. She only saw her husband’s face; her beloved Amun.
The audience applauded. During the noise of people clapping, Seth touched her hand, and she looked down. He was giving her a tissue. She realized she must look frightful, with eyeliner running down her face. She opened her pocket book and withdrew a compact to look at her reflection. She didn’t look as bad as she was afraid she might. She dabbed at the eyeliner on her face. She looked at Seth, who was gazing at her as if he was enraptured to be with a woman so moved by music. She looked back at her reflection in the compact and noticed, behind them, in the balcony a few rows behind her, David, Denny, and the Tlaloc, all sitting together. Denny sat in the center. David was leaning closely to him, while the Tlaloc leaned away. She was happy to see David was having success at interrupting their date. She closed the compact and looked at Seth.
“Wasn’t that beautiful?” Seth offered.
Batresh thought the word beautiful ill equipped to express what the music caused her to feel. “I don’t think I can thank you enough for bringing me here tonight,” she responded. She realized she must be looking at him sorrowfully, considering the longing she felt for Amun. She attempted to smile.
Seth took her hand, “It’s OK, music can have that effect on me as well.” He brought her hand up and kissed it, gently, looking into her eyes with a similar feeling of longing.
She felt even more regret now, knowing that she would hurt him, just as she had hurt Jerry. But, she squeezed his hand in return. More orchestra members came onto the stage to set up for the next piece. Batresh turned to look behind her. Now, she saw David and Denny sitting together, but the Tlaloc was gone. She looked back around to the orchestra.
The next piece was Beethoven, the Seventh Symphony. This time, there were no applause before the piece began. The conductor raised his baton again. Batresh decided to open her program and find information about the piece. Before she found the correct page, the conductor moved his hands down sharply, and a short, staccato chord sounded, startling her. Then a silence, and another short chord. This piece was different. She sat forward, excited by the short, loud chords, and then, a marching upwards in pitch. She breathed in deeply. Looking around, she saw she was making a spectacle of herself. She did not see others reacting this way. She must not allow herself to become so distracted. She must regain control and allow the music to move over her without becoming so excited. She thought of the times she had heard music from this period. But, she had never heard a full orchestra, live. She had heard individual players but never a group of instrumentalists together. She looked around at the facial expressions and body movements of people in the audience. They seemed relaxed, some were focused. She even saw a rather large man sleeping. She looked at Seth, who was reading the program. She didn’t understand how the audience could be so unmoved by these sounds. She must conform. She would not allow herself to become a spectacle.
Then, the first movement ended, Seth looked at her and pointed at the open program in his hand, smiling. “This is my favorite movement,” he said. She saw the page read, Allegretto. The conductor moved his hands forward again; horns and woodwinds sounded, and chords, repeating in different rhythmic patterns, began to sound, in shorter patterns then, longer ones. The music was softer; lofty, blending mathematics with emotion. Then, chords that felt like emotional pain and loss. She was struck by feelings of longing. She felt emptiness, sorrowfulness. She was standing again at the bed of her mother, watching her life slip away; speeding to the Lunar base, with her dying sister in the seat beside her; she was saying goodbye to Amun.
She must find a way to shut down this experience. She was being taken away, distracted; moved out of herself. She should concentrate on other matters. Opening her program, she began to read. She sighed, feeling more in control. She sat there for a moment, feeling safer. She looked at Seth who was now focused on the string section. She would attempt to listen and keep control of her emotions.
The music changed again, repeated chords, the same longing. She felt in danger of being overwhelmed and looked down at the program to concentrate on reading. Then, silence. The movement had ended. She sighed with relief. Perhaps the programs were there to allow the listeners to find a way to regain control of their emotions; perhaps that was their purpose.
She relaxed against the back of her chair and lay the program in her lap.
Batresh awakened, feeling an arm wrapped around her waist. Her head was pounding; her mouth was dry. She turned around on her back and became aware of a man, softly snoring, lying against her. They were lying on a soft pallet of blankets on the floor of a living room. Shades were drawn, and drapes closed. The room was dark; the stuffed leather sofa in front of her was enormous, like a giant beast, sitting there, waiting for the right time. She saw dim, white light coming from an open archway to her left. She didn’t know whether it was night or day. She remembered having three glasses of dry, bitter wine at the symphony.
Afterwards, with Seth, Denny, and David at Herbie’s, Seth brought glasses of wine to her. Each time a waiter walked by, Seth ordered another. They taught her how to do a dance called the bump. They went up and down the stairs to the small dancefloor a hundred times. Victor introduced a modification to the dance and called it the double bump. The music was loud; they could hardly hear each other talk. They yelled to hear above the music. She heard Denny refer to it as Disco. They laughed and laughed; they shrieked with laughter. She lost the broach that held the strap of her dress to the shoulder pad. She kept having to pull up the top of the dress to cover her left breast. She fell down a short stairway, breaking the heel off one of one shoe.
She remembered sitting on the stairway with Denny. Dancers going up and down to the dance floor, walking around them. A drag queen walked past and kicked her. Looking down, giggling, the drag queen yelled, “Get off the stairway, bitches!” Denny was drunk and cried most of the night. He cried about his mother not returning his calls. He cried about his father hating him. He cried about Charles, the Tlaloc who took him to dinner; about always being an outsider. He cried most of the night. She forgot he was her Matriarch reincarnated, and saw him as an unhappy, sweet, innocent boy, from an abusive childhood. He seemed to be a babe lost in the woods, suddenly thrown into a world of adults.
She had no idea how much wine she drank. She remembered Victor giving her a powder-pink Cartier cigarette in a long cigarette holder. She enjoyed holding it aloft and laughing. She imitated his walk causing hilarity among his friends. She had a fit of coughing after trying to inhale. Victor’s gay male friends playfully grabbed her exposed left breast and giggled. She remembered Seth telling her not to let them do that, but she couldn’t bear to tell them to stop. She blushed remembering that she had fallen in the snow and thrown up on the pristine, white powder. She didn’t remember much after that.
Now, she was lying in a strange bed, next to a strange man, wearing nothing but panties. Her throat was dry; she began to cough, waking him.
“Let me get you a glass of water,” Seth offered. He faced her and kissed her on the lips. As he walked away, she noted his back, his full buttocks, the patterns of curly hair growing down his arms and his legs. She stared at him openly, as he walked back to the bed with three aspirin and a glass of tomato juice. He placed the aspirin and juice on the floor beside them and leaned over her.
She felt as if she must have him. She didn’t want to play the cultural game of discovering each other’s bodies or personalities. She wanted him now. And, she wanted him to do as she commanded. She had not felt these feelings before, but that did not cause her to hesitate. It was simply as it was. She would have him, and they would ravage each other, without niceties, without holding back. He sensed how strongly and wantonly she wanted him. He kissed her deeply, closing his eyes, pushing his tongue into her mouth. He wanted to devour her. He pulled his head away from her and smiled. “Are you going to command me to make love to you again?”
“What?” she said, her voice raised.
“Are you going to command me, like you did last night?”
She drew breath in deeply and turned her head. “What do you mean?”
He chuckled, “That was my first time, being ordered to make love to a woman.” He laughed again.
“We had sex last night?” she asked incredulously.
He shook his head negatively, “Oh no. You were drunk. I knew that.” He paused, “You were funny.”
She sighed, thinking it had not been wise to go to Herbie’s.
He continued, “I don’t think you are accustomed to drinking that much.” He laughed again.
She was embarrassed, and not in the mood for a man to have the upper hand. She sighed, looking back at him. Her brows were drawn. She wondered if he would make love to her now, or what? She was feeling annoyed. She looked down at his penis and saw that he was excited. She sat back, feeling as if she had more power over him. She reached over and took a sip of tomato juice. Suddenly, she was ravenous, hungry, thirsty. She completed the whole glass of juice in three gulps. “Please get me another,” she said, holding the glass out to him, and raising her left eyebrow imperiously.
Taking it from her, he chucked again, “Yes, your majesty.” He stood and walked again to the kitchen. Now, she could see sunlight through the curtains.
“What did you call me?” she asked.
He walked back with a filled glass, and a carton of tomato juice. Sitting down in front of her, on the pallet of blankets, he continued, “You really don’t remember?”
She pressed her lips together, and lowered her eyelids halfway, assuming, still she had the upper hand.
He pointed to his clothing from the night before, in a pile, crumpled on the sofa. “You don’t remember stripping my clothes off me?”
She felt embarrassed again and took another drink of tomato juice. Finishing it, she handed it back to him.
“Another one, ummm,” he paused, smiling, looking at her mischievously. “Patesh?” He looked at her and laughed.
“Yes, please,” she responded coolly.
He reached down and put on his glasses. Apparently, he had no plans to make love with her this morning.
She sighed with disappointment and took the filled glass of juice from him.
“Are you feeling better now?”
She nodded. “Batresh,” she corrected him.
“Princess Batresh?” he asked, trying to stifle a laugh.
She suddenly felt exhausted, no longer filled with lust. No longer eager to hang out with her new friends, but only to sleep. She lay back on the blankets. “You are a gentleman,” she sighed, looking at the ceiling fan above them. “Thank you for that.”
He reached down again and kissed her gently.
She felt grateful he had not complied with what she thought she wanted earlier.
“If we are going to make love, I want to make sure you remember it. I couldn’t take advantage of you like that,” he continued, taking her tomato juice from her and finishing it himself. He lay down beside her, looking up at the ceiling fan himself. “…gotta dust that thing one day,” he laughed.
“By the way,” he continued, “Something has been blinking inside your purse all morning.”
She sat up quickly. She looked to her right but didn’t see her purse. Then, to the left of their make-shift bed. “Where is it?” she asked.
He reached behind him to a reclining chair and took her purse from the seat.
She took it from him worriedly. “Where is your bathroom, Seth?”
“Is everything OK?” he asked.
“Just fine,” she said with her eyes closed, not wanting to show the fear she felt.
He turned his upper body and pointed at the hallway. He looked at her concerned, “Just go left in the hallway. The bathroom is on the right,” he responded.
She stood quickly, too quickly, losing her balance. She began to lean towards the sofa.
Seth stood quickly, grabbing her arm, before she fell. “Be careful,” he cautioned. “I know you have not been drunk like that. Liquor can have unexpected consequences.”
She looked at him with wide eyes. “What?” she asked fearfully.
He chuckled again, “Just take it easy today. Let me get you some crackers,” he said, walking towards the kitchen again.
She bit her lip and walked quickly to the bathroom. Opening the door, she saw a fuzzy white rug, lying between the toilet and the basin. There was a small window over the bathtub. A blue and red stripped, plastic shower curtain hung from a chromed bar. Opening her purse quickly, she removed her wristband. She saw a red light was blinking. Something was wrong. She pressed a metallic square and waited.
Within a minute, Sister Ahatu answered. “Where are you? We are worried sick.” She blurted out.
Batresh smiled and sighed with relief. “So, nothing is wrong?” she asked. “The red light was blinking, I thought…”
Before she could finish, Sister Ahatu responded sharply, “What do you mean? Yes, of course, something is terribly wrong,” she paused, exasperated. “Horribly wrong!” She paused to take a deep breath. “A member of the Royal Family was missing!” she said emphatically. “We didn’t know if you were lying dead somewhere in a snow drift.” She gasped to breathe. “We have just lost two Matriarchs,” she panted as if she were running, “I was afraid we had lost the heir as well.”
Batresh smiled at the old woman’s intensity, “Sister, I am so sorry, I just went out…”
Before she could finish, Sister Ahata blurted, “I don’t want to know, I don’t need to know.”
Batresh heard another voice in the background, “Did you find her?”
Sister Ahatu must have nodded, because she didn’t answer.
“I really must go,” Batresh answered, growing impatient.
“In future,” the Sister began.
Batresh interrupted, “Let’s address this later,” and she clicked off.
She saw her reflection on Seth’s medicine cabinet mirror. Her hair had completely come undone and was sticking out in places. Her eyeliner was smeared, causing areas under her eyes to look unnaturally dark. Her lipstick was gone. She sighed, promising herself never to drink so much again. She could not afford to lose control.
She heard Seth’s voice, “Are you OK in there?” he called.
“Yes, be right out,” she answered. She sat down on the toilet and held her head in her hands. She tried to analyze the feelings she had. Her throat was dry again. Her head was pounding. She was both fearful that Seth and Sister Ahatu would hate her and annoyed with them for being too concerned at the same time.
She opened the door and went back out to the living room. She sat back down on the blankets with Seth. “Why didn’t we sleep in your bed?” she asked.
“Well,” he paused, “I was afraid you might throw up again.”
She sighed with embarrassment and lay back down. “Do you have any more tomato juice?”
He shook his head and laughed. “Sorry,” he looked at his wristwatch. “I am going to have to do something with your clothes,” he added.
She looked at him puzzled.
“You threw up several times,” he paused, “all over your beautiful dress, your shoes, and your coat.”
“Oh no,” she said, looking at her hands with embarrassment.
“Who were you talking to?” he asked.
“Just Sister Ahatu from the college,” she responded nonchalantly. “She wanted to know where I was.”
“How did you do that?” he asked.
“How did I do what?”
“There’s no phone in the bathroom. There is one in the bedroom and one in the kitchen,” he looked at her with confusion.
She realized it was 1977. There were no mobile phones. Her thinking was muddled. She felt panicked, afraid she was giving herself away. She had to think quickly. She shook her head, “Sorry, I was practicing what I would say when I see her today,” she invented.
He looked at her suspiciously.
“You are going to have to wear my clothes until I get you home,” he added.
“You are kind to me,” she sighed, looking away from him.
“Whatever you say, your majesty,” he stood, not laughing this time.
He turned to go back to the bedroom, still talking to her as he walked, “I heard them plowing the streets this morning, so I should be able to get you to Fontainebleau,” he continued.
She stood and looked around the room. She could hear drawers opening and closing from the bedroom. Her clothes were nowhere to be found. She walked to the kitchen. It was a sunny day. She hoped the snow would melt.
He joined her holding a shirt, some jeans, and a coat, “These were from my skinnier youth,” he laughed at himself. “They might fit you,” he continued. “Let me get you something for your feet.
She slid on the jeans. They were too large everywhere, but her hips, where they were too tight. The shirt slid over her frame easily and looked more like a cloth bag than a garment.
He returned wearing a robe himself, holding a pair of canvas shoes. “I know these will be too big, but at least you can walk from the building to the car.”
She looked up at him seriously, “I am sorry about last night and this morning,” she offered. “You are right, I had never been drunk before. I should have stopped halfway.”
“You were cute,” he said taking her hands in his, he reached up to kiss her, when there was a knock at the door. He drew his eyebrows together, wondering who it could be on such a snowy day.
He walked into the living room. She heard the door open, then a voice, “Miriam?” Sister Ahatu shouted. “You must be Seth,” she said accusingly.
Batresh sighed with embarrassment.