The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by Fiona Ingram

“A little,” Adam confessed, looking pale. In fact, he was terrified. He’d never been on a plane before. He knelt down and hugged Velvet.

“Look after Velvet for me, Dad,” he said. Then he picked up his rucksack and thundered down the stairs, yelling, “Egypt, here we come!”

At the airport, the boys’ mothers fussed over last-minute details while their fathers checked tickets, passports, and luggage for the umpteenth time.

Adam’s mother reminded him about his journal. “Remember, Adam, it’s part of the agreement with the school because you’ll miss a few days. Miss Briggs wants a daily record of your activities, including some drawings of the monuments to show you learned something from this trip.”

“Sure thing, Mom,” he said. Adam enjoyed drawing and was good at it so that part of Miss Briggs’ instruction was easy.

Justin’s mother checked his medical kit. Frowning, she inspected each bottle. “Let me see. You’ve got headache pills, runny-tummy pills, motion sickness pills, Band-Aids, ointment, and mosquito repellent.”

She looked at Justin with an anxious expression. “Do you want to take the motion sickness tablets now, dear?”

“Mom, please don’t fuss,” Justin grumbled, embarrassed by the attention. “I’m not even on the plane yet. Don’t worry. I can take care of myself.”

The plan was for the boys to fly to Johannesburg, a bustling city about two hundred and fifty miles away, meet up with their aunt and grandmother, and then catch the evening plane to Cairo. After trying to dodge hugs and kisses from their parents, the boys were relieved when a smiling flight attendant took charge of them. Their mothers sniffed and wiped their eyes.

“I hate it when Mom gets all emotional,” Adam whispered to his cousin.

“Mine cried at the school concert,” Justin whispered back in disgust. “It was awful.”

They walked across the tarmac with the flight attendant, trying to appear relaxed. The plane looked enormous. It seemed very high off the ground as they climbed the stairs to the entrance. They were glad when the flight attendant finally checked their seat belts. Adam gritted his teeth and clutched the arms of his seat. His stomach churned with fear and excitement at the sound of the wheels rumbling and the engines screeching. When the plane began to move it felt as though a giant hand was pushing them back in their seats. At last, they were airborne and on their way.

“I wonder what Aunt Isabel is like now,” Justin said.

Adam was puzzled. “What do you mean? We talk on the phone to her all the time.”

“Yeah, but we haven’t actually seen her for ages. The last time was when we all got together for Gran’s birthday. That was about a year ago. Another thing, Aunt Isabel usually travels alone because she’s always researching some story. I wonder why she asked us to come this time.”

“Who cares?” replied his cousin. “I’m glad she did. I’ve never been away before, like on a major expedition.”

Their unconventional Aunt Isabel was a journalist who jetted all over the world researching incredible stories. She was famous for never remembering birthdays until at least six months later and then sending fantastic presents to make up for it. The boys were rather in awe of their green-eyed, auburn-haired, unusual aunt who—when she was home—lived in an amazing old house filled with antiques and lots of animals, namely, four cats, two dogs, and a rather fierce Mallard duck called Charlemagne.

“Do you think she’s changed?” Justin’s forehead crinkled in a slight frown.

“Adults don’t really change,” Adam said with a knowing look. “They just get older. But I think she’ll be exactly the same as always.” He pulled a face. “Strict!”

Their aunt had arranged for a cab to collect the boys from the airport and drop them off at her house. When they arrived, Isabel’s housekeeper let the boys in. Isabel was out with their grandmother because Gran had insisted on a hairdo before the trip, so the boys were on their own.

Their aunt’s home was the most fascinating place they’d ever seen with wooden floors, decorated ceilings, stained glass windows, and lots of antique furniture. Their careful footsteps echoed as they explored the rooms with Toby and Fergus, Isabel’s two scruffy terriers, pattering behind them.

Looking around in awe, Justin said, “This is amazing.” He stopped in front of another door. “What’s in here?”

They walked into a study with tall bookshelves covering the walls. Several volumes lay open on the desk. Their aunt seemed to be busy with some kind of research. Given her line of work, this was not surprising. Adam saw a small brown object holding down the pages of a book. He picked it up.

“Hey, look at this! It’s a carved scarab.”

Justin was already absorbed in an album of old photographs. He looked up, and then walked over to Adam and took the scarab from his hand. He stuck out his chest and posed with his hands on his hips.

“Now pay attention, boys. Let us examine the Egyptian scarab,” he said pompously, just like his history teacher Mr. Sanders. “Scarabaeus. The scarab beetle was sacred to the ancient Egyptians.”

“Goodness me,” came a familiar voice from the doorway. “That’s impressive. I’m glad you’re coming along. Justin, you can be our guide.”

Both boys yelled, “Aunt Isabel!” and flung themselves into her arms.

“Steady on!” Their aunt laughed as she staggered back under their combined weight. “You’ll knock Gran over. She’s right behind me.”

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Genre – Juvenile Fiction

Rating – G

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