the girl of games © Snicker N. Wraith

the girl of games
Ancient Egypt

Azeneth sighed as her brother, Babafemi, scowled at the wooden board, a hand cupping his chin as he muttered to himself and pondered his next move. She plucked a fig from the clay bowl they had been sharing and popped it in her mouth, resigning herself to a long wait. He wasn't like her; he didn't do snap-decisions-deal-with-the-consequences. Babafemi plotted things out slowly and carefully, weighing the benefits against the detriments and thinking about everyone else involved. Azeneth thought this extremely dull. Where was the fun if there was no risk?

Her wild way of behaving was something her mother had always tut-tutted at.

Babafemi on the other hand seemed to find it highly entertaining, til he had to clean up after her cart-wreck. He always was good at that, her older brother. He always watched over her.

Azeneth found herself thinking, as the balmy afternoon breeze ruffled her sharp, symmetrical, heavy, dark hair from where she and her brother were lounging on the sun-baked mud-brick roof, that if her husband was like him, she'd be content. She might even be happy.

Azeneth would be meeting her future spouse tomorrow, after all. A momentous occasion in every pre-teen Egyptian girl's life, to be married off. Azeneth hoped he liked board games too. She and Babafemi had spent half their lives up on their sprawling villa roof, absorbing themselves in strategy and luck. They would be fondly remembered memories, collected like precious scarab amulets and tucked lovingly away in a jar in the corner of her mind to gather dust—occasionally prized open and cherished for a good laugh or cry.

Azeneth found herself proud that she didn't resent her brother, despite the fact that he was living the life she wanted. To be so spiteful and bear grudges was against the Egyptian belief of Ma'at—of justice and kindness and honesty. It was the principles that had been drummed into her that made her lack hate, but it was strength that kept her together. In any case, Babafemi hadn't chosen to be male, it was pointless and petty to dislike her own blood for something he had no control over.

Azeneth brushed fingers over her dress, a closefitting sheath embroidered with feathers and beads and patterns, dusting off some stray dirt. It was her favourite, a hand-me-down from her mother and perfect for the light weather they were having. The golden bangles around her wrists tinkled like raindrops, and she felt her smile tighten the kohl outlining her eyes. Azeneth lifted her hand, idly examining the brightly coloured ring on it, a matching pair with her brother's beaded necklace. All these treasured material things, these suggestions of memories and building blocks of who she was, things she would take with her to her new home.

Azeneth would miss her life here, even if, in a way, leaving was a guilty relief. It was hard for her to see her brother take after her father's line of employment and enter scribe school. It was difficult to watch him gain freedom and independence when they had once been so equal as children, no lines drawn and their future fuzzy with innocence. Azeneth knew her world was open too, but there were edges—sharp drops and cut-offs—that he would never experience. It was like the scales had begun to tip, and Babafemi was rising away from her.

She didn't want to be a housewife; she wanted to be a scribe. She wanted to marry for love; she didn't want to be trapped on a straining leash. She didn't want to live in fear that her first born would be female and her husband would take other women to gain a son. She didn't want to know she was smarter, brighter, with a knack and hunger for knowledge, things her brother didn't have that she would never have any use for.

Azeneth didn't want to be so selfish, wishing for more when she had so much. She didn't want to gaze longingly after pipe dreams as her life was mapped out before her in hieroglyphs, reluctant obedience, and the faint taste of repressed regret.

That was the problem; she wanted to forge her own path, she didn't want a map.

Azeneth watched her brother as he finally clacked the piece he'd been fiddling with into place, she watched the young man with all the things she craved and pined after, ate another fig, and smiled.

Maybe a map was off the agenda, but a board game could be interesting. Keep her husband on his toes, keep his mistresses on guard, keep her children in line and learning, keep her mind humming and dusting away the clinging cobwebs of disappointment in her throat, strung with words unsaid.

She didn't need freedom, despite how much she wanted it. It wasn't vital. But strategies to keep her occupied, amusements to muffle her defiance, playful manipulations to tide her over, they were essential if she wanted to get through this life and hope for a better one beyond.

Azeneth made her own move, the sharp sound of wood sliding on wood like the end of a grand speech, and won the game.

AZENETH [ syll. a-ze-net(h), az-ene-th ] Egyptian name meaning, she belongs to her father.
BABAFEMI [ 4 syll. bah-BAH-feh-me ] Egyptian name meaning, loved by his father.

AN: First post. Kinda nervous. Just a little something I had to write for school. Not even sure if it's entirely acurate.