The smell of hot bread rose to Lomea’s nostrils as she removed a freshly baked loaf from the small fire. She handed it to her younger sister, Hemufe, who in turn gave it to the last worker waiting for his lunch.
She fell back onto her mat with a sigh. The desert heat that the twelve-year-old had ignored while serving lunch slowly crept up. Her hand searched for the water skin, but to her dismay she found it empty. She grabbed the skin and ran to the well in the middle of the makeshift village.
She looked to her left and saw the thousands of men finishing their lunches ready to continue work on what the great pharaoh Cheops claimed would be the largest pyramid in Egypt. She filled the skin and took a long drink. She made her way back to her house to help with the cleaning. When she reached the house, she found the cleaning almost done and her other, older (by four years, but certainly not wiser) sister, Noch, looking very annoyed.
“Where have you been, Lomea?” she half-yelled in Lomea’s face. “Our parents left me in charge while they travel so I make the rules! Moreover, do you know what those rules include? You not wandering off like some nomad, that’s what those rules include!” She stopped for a long breath. “And what’s more…”
Lomea interrupted, having heard this speech before. “I know, I know, and you would sell me to the next camel merchant that came within twenty miles if Mother and Father would allow.”
Lomea had no tolerance for her sister at that moment, for she had just gained the courage to get a closer look at the pyramid as soon as lunch was over. Unfortunately, her sister was even less tolerant than she was. Noch had her finish the cleaning, do the laundry, make lunch, and go to town to buy something for dinner.
Lomea ran out the door as soon as she was done with her chores. She raced across the hot, gritty sand just as the sun began to set. As she ran she looked up, and what she saw brought her to an immediate standstill and robbed her of every ounce of her breath. It was the pyramid, majestically rising, half-finished, out of the sand against the setting sun.
She rubbed dust out of her eyes. She paused to take in the new and exciting sights and smells. She saw the rock ramps set against the pyramids for the transportation of the stone blocks. Lomea was startled, but awed and inspired, by the caw of the lone vulture circling above her head. Suddenly, she heard the sound of small feet fast approaching. She turned around and saw her younger sister, Hemufe, coming towards her with open arms.
“Lomea! Lomea!” the four-year-old squealed excitedly. “I just fell down a dune but I got up, and I didn’t cry!” the little girl yelled triumphantly.
“Good, good,” Lomea said distractedly, thinking of how it wasn’t fair that girls couldn’t take part in building such a marvelous wonder. She felt sweat trickling down her forehead and her lips cracking in the heat. She heard the grinding of the stone blocks against the ramps.
Lomea knew that building the pyramid, listening to the overseer yelling every day, and experiencing the aching hands from pulling the stones up the pyramids with ropes would be extremely tiring and difficult. She also believed it would be worth it. It would be amazing if you could look at the beautiful wonder, what would surely be the pride of all of Egypt, and know that you had taken part in making it a reality!
Lomea picked up her little sister and showed her the beauty of it all. “See,” Lomea sighed dreamily “this is where the pharaoh will be buried when he passes on to the afterlife. See how it rises up, out of the desolate desert to rule the sands, just as Pharaoh rules the people? Even though the tomb of the pharaoh is not yet completed, is the structure not the most wonderful thing you have ever seen? Is it not amazing how something in the middle of the desert, made out of common stone, can be more majestic than the graceful lioness? Even more remarkable is that I had never seen the beauty in it before. Father had always…”
The mention of her father, a farmer who had been called to Thebes, the capital of Egypt, to help harvest crops, made her stop in mid-sentence and gave her a lump in her throat. Her mother had gone as well, leaving her and her sisters home alone. Lomea’s father had not wanted this. He believed they were not old enough to take care of themselves, but Noch had insisted that she was almost an adult and could take care of the household. They had been gone for three months now and Lomea wished they had never left. She set her sister down and felt tears gently falling down her face. She suddenly felt strong, sturdy arms around her waist.
“Why do you cry, little one?” She heard a deep, gentle voice coming from behind her. She quickly turned around and her eyes met a sight grander than the pyramid itself. Her mother and father, home at last!