The breeze swayed the palm trees lightly, as if it didn't want to touch them, but couldn't help it, that it had to. The Nile swam lazily past the hotel, not a care for what the rest of world was doing. Cornelia, also known as Mrs Bessner, had missed they way it looked in the sunlight, the way it seemed to dazzle and amaze rather than flow.
Cornelia Robson had not seen the river in over ten years. Ten years since the awful incident Karnak, when Linnet Doyle was murdered...
Cornelia shivered whenever she thought about it. She had never liked blood and guts and all those questions being fired at her. And it was so sad about all those who were murdered. But still, some good had come from it. It was where she had met her future husband, Dr Bessner.
Though he was quite a bit older than her, she was interested in everything that he had told her about his work and his clinic. But he had died last year, and Cornelia couldn't bear to be around things that reminded her of him.
So instead, she had travelled the world, and her travels had ended up in Cairo. She had always loved Egypt the best. The heat never troubled her, and everyone she met was so friendly to her.
Cornelia sat in her chair and sipped her drink with a small smile on her face. Of all the places, this was where she had found the most peace. Not even her native New York could make her leave some of the memories she had of her husband.
Lord Dawlish, also known to some people as Mr Ferguson, stood on the terrace and looked out at all the people walking around out the front of the hotel. In his hand he held a whiskey and soda, even though it was a few hours more until evening.
Since the war, a lot had been taken out of him. His faced was scarred, and even though he still believed in communism, he didn't try and enforce it any more. He had become quieter than anyone on the Karnak had known him.
He was still unmarried, only proposing to anyone once. He sighed as he remembered the only woman with an original mind he had met. Why had she married that German idiot?
He had heard that her husband had died early last year, and since then she had apparently disappeared. Dawlish wondered where she was now.
He walked back into the hotel and up to his room. A letter from his parents was waiting on his bed. Ever since the incident with the awful Linnet Doyle, his parents had seen him in the paper in London. He had somehow managed to get in the background of a picture being taken of the bodies as they were leaving the boat. Damning press.
He opened the letter and looked at it briefly before he threw it aside. His parents always wrote the same things, asking him to come home and take responsibility for his title. He never took any notice.
Slowly, he got dressed for dinner.
Mrs Bessner sat at her table overlooking the balcony alone. The river looked even better in the moonlight. A man sat at the table next to her. He was also staring out into the river. He turned to Cornelia and chuckled.
"Don't you think it's overrated? All that water, just sitting there and no one realising all the potential it stores," he said. Cornelia looked over at him with surprise on her face. He looked back at her.
"Um, not to be rude, but what are you staring at?" Cornelia shook her head.
"I'm sorry, you just remind me of someone I met once," she said and turned away. This time it was the mans turn to stare.
"Excuse me if I'm mistaken, but … Cornelia Robson is that you?" The man got up from his table and walked over to Cornelia, who was staring at him. Her face lighted up with recognition.
"Oh, Mr Ferguson. I thought you looked familiar. How have you been? Why it must have been ten years since we last saw each other." The man laughed.
"You haven't changed much have you. And by the way, I don't use the name Ferguson any more. No it's- well, you can call me Charles." Charles pulled up a chair and sat next to her.
"Wow, so is that your real name, Charles?" Cornelia said. Charles shrugged.
"Yes, it is. What about you? Did you keep your Christian name? Or are you Mrs Bessner now?"
"Oh, yes. Definitely Mrs Bessner, my husband insisted on it – " Cornelia broke off and her eyes filled with tears momentarily, before she brushed them away with another shake of her head.
"Sorry, I'm still not fully over the death of my husband. He died of cancer last year," she explained. Charles nodded.
"I'm sorry for bringing him up. I didn't know that he had died," he lied.
"Oh, yes. It was quite sudden, but I knew he would be taken sooner or later," Cornelia said and sighed.
A waiter came and asked them if they were ready to order. Charles turned to Cornelia.
"Do you mind if I sit with you?" Cornelia smiled.
"No, of course you can."
They ordered and Charles took out a cigarette and lit before offering one to Cornelia, who politely declined, but looked at him curiously.
"You've changed, you know. If I had said I'd taken my husbands name when I knew you before, you would have jumped down my throat saying it was my privilege or something to keep my own name," she told him, and he laughed again.
"Yes, well, it was the war really. I saw a lot of things that made me... well, it changed me," Charles said, looking away into the river. Even though he was still smiling, it never reached his eyes.
Their food arrived and the rest of the meal was spent with just your average small talk. Neither mentioned what the other found hard to talk about, and so there were many silences.
When they were both finished and all the dishes were cleared away, they just sat there looking at the water flowing past. Charles cleared his throat.
"I was wondering, if you would like to join me in a walk or a cruise or anything you like really... If you like," Charles said hesitatingly. Cornelia was looking at him with an amused look, and it was quite disturbing and made him not quite reach her gaze.
"I'd love to," she replied so simply it made him look at her in surprise. She smiled at him kindly and he found himself smiling back.
The next day was like the last, bright sunny and full of anticipation. The sun shone rather than blazed and the dusty city shimmered with heat.
Cornelia stood on the front balcony in a light blue summer dress, waiting for Charles to show up. When he did, it was as if she had been taken back ten years. He was wearing a loose striped shirt with half buttons undone, cream khaki pants and a handkerchief was tied around his neck.
"You exactly like I remember you now," she said to him as they greeted each other.
"Yes, I usually dress up for dinner. Keeps the manager happy. But I prefer to wear something a little more casual when I go out to the city."
They walked down to the gates of the hotel, and out into the busy street waiting for them. Almost immediately, they were crowded upon by people, all asking for to buy this or that and all sorts of oddments were handed out to them.
They pushed through until another couple emerged from the hotel, and all the people ran over to them. Cornelia was laughing at all the folly, until she saw Charles' face. He wasn't laughing just staring seriously back at the crowd.
"Honestly, all you tourists. You think everything here is just for your enjoyment."
Cornelia stopped smiling and Charles turned to her. But she went on passed.
"Some things never change," she said, and walked on down the street, leaving Charles to his thoughts for a minute before he ran to catch up with her.
They made their way slowly to a little riverside cafe to have lunch. Cornelia started talking about something, but Charles wasn't really listening until she asked him a rather blunt question.
"Ferguson isn't your real name, is it?" she asked. He looked up at her in surprise but nodded in answer.
"No, in actual fact it's not."
"I thought so," was al she said. She didn't ask him what his real name was, which surprised him. Their lunch arrived and they ate in silence. The left the restaurant and walked slowly along the river.
"So, do you live in Egypt now?" asked Cornelia.
"Yes, I do. After the murder, I just couldn't keep away. I bought room at the hotel and stay there all year round, unless I'm needed somewhere else of course."
"But how do you pay the rent?" said a very confused Cornelia. Charles laughed and stared at her puzzled expression.
"My family. They send me cheques every now and then. Very wealthy they are. But it does feel good to squander their money over here."
They sat together for dinner again. Much to her surprise, Cornelia was enjoying the company of this man who the last time she had met was cynical, very anti-capitalist and quite insulting. He had changed so much, but he still kept some of his old self hidden within the new.
Charles could see that Cornelia, though she kept all her kindness had become more assertive and decisive. But in her heart she would always look for the goodness in people, whoever they were. That was what had attracted him to her in the first place. Her amazing goodness.
Cornelia was talking again at rapid speed, another thing that hadn't changed. She paused in mid sentence to take a breath and another bite of her meal. Charles took his chance to ask something that had been on his mind for the last ten years.
"Did you love your husband?" Cornelia looked up at him in surprise.
"Well, he was my husband," she said. Charles shook his head and chuckled.
"That doesn't answer my question."
Cornelia didn't answer right away, she just picked at her food for a few minutes.
"Well, I respected him... and … well, I … What sort of question is this? Why are you asking me?" she almost shouted at him.
"I just... want to know," was all he said, then he sighed. "Listen, if I asked you … again, would you marry me?"
Cornelia was about to laugh until she saw his face. He was so earnest and hopeful for her answer, it the most emotion she'd ever seen him hold.
"Have you been waiting 10 years to ask that?" she said quietly.
"Are you refusing me again?" he asked back. She smiled slightly before speaking again.
"Are you reliable now?" The question caught Charles off guard. He shifted in his seat and wouldn't meet her gaze.
"I hope I can be. Cornelia, you've been the only person who have meant anything to me, ever. Hardly a day has gone by when I haven't thought about you, and even though I may have acted like an ass when I last saw you, but ever since then I've.. I don't know! But … " he stopped talking and turned his head away from her.
Cornelia reached out and held his hand, which was left lying like a dead leaf on the table. Charles looked at her hand in his, then lifted his eyes to her face.
"Charles, I'm going to answer your first question. I thought I loved my husband, but when I married him, he was a lot different to what I imagined. Even though I may not have liked him that much in the end, I still believe I'll have to wait before I marry again. If you can wait, then yes, I will marry you."
As Cornelia said this, Charles' face lit up until a wide smile beamed right across his face. He leaned forward and kissed her lightly on her mouth. She didn't pull away.
When he reluctantly drew away, she simply looked up and smiled. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
So, yeah um.. Death on the Nile between Cornelia and Ferguson. This is set ten years after the book was written, which was written in 1937, and hence the references to WW2 and all that. I always they should get together in the book, and they do in the really old movie version with Peter Ustinov.