Tira wanted three things in life and she had little chance of gaining any
of them. She wanted to be financially independent. She wanted to go to
The last desire brought memories of this morning’s quarrel. Luci had taken the money Tira had squirreled away to see them through the rest of the month. “Luci, why?”
“You don’t understand,” Luci screamed.
True. Tira didn’t understand why her sister needed to escape into a drugged stupor instead of studying and working to step onto the road leading from the slums. Tira’s hands stung with the memory of slapping her sister. And the words she’d shouted as she slammed out of the apartment echoed in her thoughts. “I hate you. I wish you were dead.” Tira shuddered. She hadn’t meant those words. As soon as she reached the apartment she would tell Luci.
With a sigh she turned back to the museum display. The Egyptian artifacts awed her. For a short time she allowed the beauty of the objects to carry her into dreams of pyramids and temples, of gods and pharaohs and of digging in the earth to uncover treasures of the past.
The dream hovered beyond her grasp. Her chances of gaining a position on
a dig in
A glance at her watch said dreamtime was over. She had to reach the apartment in time to change for her evening shift as a restaurant several blocks from the cramped fifth floor efficiency she shared with her older sister. Once again flash moments from the morning’s quarrel exploded in Tira’s thoughts. She’d been so upset she’d missed her morning martial arts session at the local center.
Tira cast her dream self aside and donned the role of practical sister. She hurried to the exit and stepped from the past into a steamy August day. Heat shimmered from the sidewalk. The air hung heavy and filled with the odors of the city and the noises of traffic. She strode along the crowded area taking advantage of every opening.
Ten days to dream. Ten days to walk the halls of the museum. Ten days to study the artifacts that had become her lodestones. She breathed the aromas of real time, spices of cooking foods, metallic scents of passing traffic and the odors of people, some pleasant and some not.
Several blocks from the apartment building the crowds thinned. In an alley she glimpsed furtive movements in the dark shadows. She hurried past. On the corner across the street a group of gang members gathered. She sucked in a breath and held her head high. For all her twenty three years she’d avoided the gangs. As she strode past she heard the usual crude remarks about her body and her attitude.
Get a life, she wanted to scream.
When she saw the ambulance and two cop cars in front of the building where she lived she halted so abruptly she stumbled. A hand caught her arm. Tira saw the gray-streaked beard of one of the winos who slept in the doorways or the alley. “Get your hands off me.”
“Don’t go home,” he whispered. “Lose yourself in the crowd and keep your head down.”
Tira saw a keen intelligence in the man’s dark eyes. Who was he? He wasn’t as old as she had imagined either. “Why?”
“Your sister’s dead. Cops’ll be looking for you. They heard about the fight.”
Tira’s stomach clenched. She blinked away a rush of tears. Though hearing about her sister’s death wasn’t unexpected another dream shattered. There would be no rehab for Luci. “Junkies O.D. every day,” she said.
“She was murdered.”
A chill slithered down Tira’s spine. A rush of acid burned her throat. What? Why? Who? Keeping her eyes on the ground she inched away from him.
“Murder. Murder.” The murmured word spread through the crowd gathered on the sidewalk and stung like attacking wasps.