The heat from the sun felt like a furnace upon his skin. He could feel the nausea bite
at his throat as he swallowed hard in an attempt to tame it. The smell of coconut oil
hovered in the air as he passed a huddle of tourists converging on a trinket shop, like
bees around a honey jar.
He entered the cool air conditioning atmosphere of a shop as the prospect of buying a
gift for his Mother’s birthday presented itself. It was a welcomed retrieve, like
opening a refrigerator door on a warm day, the air cooled the surface of his skin. The
shop was spacious, the white tiled floor giving off an aura of freshness and
cleanliness. Louis thought that the shop may have just opened recently, it had a scent
that reminded him of a garden in summer. In the middle of the floor space a young
woman sat behind a heavy desk. Its stone legs were curved, holding a marble slab,
where upon its surface, a lap top, a telephone and a fax machine sat.
Her hair was auburn in colour, short and spiky, like a hedgehog, Louis
thought. Only a certain face could still remain attractive with hair as short. His eyes
were pulled towards her lips, which were full and rounded, it was then that he noticed
her almond shaped eyes, deep, dark and mysterious. She had on a light blue top, cut
low, from where he stood he could see that she had on faded jeans and he noted
that her legs were long. Pushed back, high on her forehead sat expensive looking
Like a statue, her face exhibited a flawless complexion. To his surprise he imagined
feeling her skin with the tip of his fingers and wondered, if like marble, it would
exaggerate a velvety smoothness, delicate to the touch.
The constant clicking of her fingers against the keys of the computer abruptly stopped
as she broke her gaze from the screen and inquired, “Can I help you?” in an American
accent that threw Louis as he had imagined her to be local.
“ I’m just browsing”
“Ok but let me know if anything catches your eye” she replied, through a smile that
displayed teeth as white as milk.
Her eyes returned to the screen and like the sound of tap dancing, the rhythmic click
of the keys began again.
He returned his attention to the shop and in particular a display of sea blue coloured
vases and dishes that depicted scenes of ancient Greeks brandishing swords and
spears, some riding naked on horse back. Others had semi naked women carrying
vases, naked athletes throwing javelins, wrestling and boxing.
His eyes travelled the display and he became aware of the huddle of noisy tourists,
who had followed him into the shop, examining and scrutinising the price tags on
every saleable object, as if they were at a car boot sale.
He contemplated leaving when his eye was snagged to a corner of the shop that
displayed a small gallery. A juxtaposition of replica frescoes, portraits of Christ,
several of the Virgin Mary looked down upon him, creating the impression that he
had just entered a church. His eyes scanned the images in gold leaf frames and a
warm sensation radiated from his abdomen and swelled inside of him, perfect he
thought. He smiled and as he did so, such a simple act had a profound personal
significance for it was the first time in weeks that such an expression of contentment
had populated his face. He stood and bathed in its glow and then reached out and took
an image of Christ, his mother would like this one, he thought.
He handed the picture to the woman who once again smiled and proceeded to wrap it
in brown paper and string.
“I didn’t expect to hear an American accent in Olympia” Louis said as he reached for
“Not many people do”
“How long have you stayed here?”
She began to speak as she continued to work on the wrapping.
“My grand parents moved to the US in the forties, in search of a better quality of
life. My father was born and grew up there eventually he built up a small business,
specialising in Greek holidays. Anyway, the business prospered and as time passed
he wanted to return to where he belonged. Mygrand parents had already moved back
and I suppose the pull to reclaim his cultural heritage became to strong and he
uprooted us all. I was thirteen at the time and devastated but here I am oh and I got
over my devastation. The shop is the family business”
She had recited the same story a thousand times to customers, it came with the
territory, however, this time she did not tire in reciting the her story. There was
something about him, something different, he had an unmistakable air of sadness
about him when he entered the shop, unlike most of her customers.
Louis was surprised at the detail of her answer.
“It sounds like a movie” he said and in the saying of the words he realised they could
also apply to his story.
He counted the money and handed it to her. He noticed that her fingers were long.
“I have wire and hooks for hanging the picture” she said as she handed him the
“Its ok, its actually a present for my mum, its her birthday soon, that reminds me, how
long will it take to arrive in Scotland if I post it?”
She smiled, “It depends, remember this is Greece”
“I’ll post it today then” he said, holding the picture close to his chest.
After the morning of the phone call from Jez, Georgious persuaded Louis to stay a
few more days. Louis stayed in his room, like a hermit, spending most of the day
sitting on the balcony, staring at the sea. He ate his meals there, brought by
When Georgeous wasn’t working, he would visit Louis, and although
Louis only spoke about Emma, Georgious would listen and say very little, Louis
looked forward to these visits, it was a kind of therapy.
He felt as if he had fallen into a deep hole and he had neither the will nor strength to
claw his way back out. He was building a protective shell around himself, like an
oxygen tent that only he was allowed to inhabit. He would not let anyone penetrate its
protective core, not even Georgious, it was his construction, his alienation from the
A veil of thoughts that concerned only Emma, consumed every hour, from the
darkness of his dreams to the moment he opened his eyes to the light of the day.
She can’t be dead she was having a baby. People like her don’t get murdered. He
would panic and reach for his mobile, begin to punch in her number, before stopping,
his fingers would begin to tremble uncontrollably.
Emma loved the sea, she would have adored this view he reminded himself
constantly. On holidays she could spend their entire two weeks sitting on the beach,
staring out to sea, lying sunbathing and fall asleep to the backdrop of waves crawling
up the sands. If it wasn’t for Louis insistence that it was an incredible waste not to
explore an islands interior and countryside, she would be content to stay there
indefinitely, surrounded by sand and sea and the ubiquitous scent of sun tan oil.
He remembered the hours of video tape he would record, Emma chastising him
for recording to much, still sitting undisturbed in rows, like books on a shelf, in the
The thought occurred to him, like a light shinning through the fog, that he still had her
imprinted forever on tape, in some strange way she would always be alive. He could
still see her, watch her vivacious smile, hear her voice. His throat tightened at such a
prospect, it ached and it burned.
On the fourth day Georgious entered Louis’ room brandishing two bottles of wine, as
if he had won them in the village raffle. He persuaded Louis to accompany him to
what he described as his special place.
They had travelled for nearly fifteen minutes when Georgious announced that they
were nearly there. Louis wondered where being nearly there was. They were
surrounded by giant pine trees that straddled each side of the road, like green
walls, before moving onto a road that was nothing more than a dirt track as the car’s
tyres crushed dry earth and small stones in a storm of dust. They passed an old
woman, her black clothes encrusted and grey with fine dust, riding a donkey and
conversing at an exuberant volume down a mobile phone.
“The old and the new living side by side in perfect harmony” Georgious laughed,
thrusting his head back into the head rest. Spurred by the old woman’s animated
gestures Louis found himself laughing too and Georgious shook his head
They drank the wine sitting on a cluster of rocks, that acted as a natural veranda, over
looking setting of vertiginous cliffs that plunged into a sea of undulating emerald,
olive, apple green and brown.
“I come here to escape, to be alone and clear my head. I find the wide open space
helps me to think over my problems....work them out.” Georgious said.
The wine was warm as it wet his lips, yet, he drank it as if it were water. Some of the
wine trickled from the corner of his mouth, like blood. He wiped it
with the back of his hand and studied the scene set out before him, like an ocean.
He discovered that the colours of the landscape made shapes and if he looked
closely enough he could just about make out a face. He traced its long hair, he found
what looked like a beard, it reminded him of a painting he had once seen, but he
couldn’t remember where or when.
He smiled slightly and took another long drink from the warm bottle. The light was
translucent and dry, hovering over trees and hills like a halo. He suddenly became
aware of the silence, it seemed to hum in his ears and fill his head, he could feel it
press against his skin like a vice. And then, as if it had just started, he discerned the
trickling sound of water, a stream maybe, or even a river, he thought. How strange
that he hadn’t heard it before.
He bent forward and picked up a smooth stone. It reminded him of the pebbles he use
to collect, as a child, on family holidays in St. Andrews. A picture of his father
entered his head, unsuspectingly. He was over come by a pining, it moved in him,
like waves, he rubbed his eyes to suppress the tears that had begun to well up.
He had not cried over his father’s death since the funeral. He had been the only
person close to Louis that had died, until now.
He turned to face Georgeous, who was staring at the sky.
“Do you believe in life after death Georgeous ?”
Georgeous scratched his head.
“My friend and I would come in the summer, sometimes we would bring girlfriends
and sit on these rocks, bring some drink and soak up the view. Anyway, he died in a
car accident, a few years ago now, after that I would come here on my own” He shook
his head. “ There were times, I swear Louis, he was sitting right there where you are
now. Then the more I came the less I would see him”
He took a long gulp of wine, the bottle made a popping sound as it left his lips.
“If Emma was sitting here today she would tell you to look forward, not back, she
would urge you to reclaim your life and live it to the full”
Louis glanced at the view in front of him.
“Thank you Goergeous....thank you for bringing me here”