She was annoyed with him, he had called into question her judgement of character.
How dare he, she thought accusingly, you have just met him, you do not know him
Peter had said. The first part was true but she felt as if she did know him. I know he
has loved and lost and suffered, I know where he is from, what has consumed the last
few months of his life...God I know him better than the people who have paid to
come on this trip so don’t question my judgment of character, she had said in a raised
voice. Peter had accepted her argument gracefully knowing that it would have been
futile to persist in his line of disapproval, he had placed his panama hat on his head
and said, “Then who am I to judge my dear, it seems to me that you have sorted it out
in your head already” Maria looked at him sternly, “I would say” he continued, “That
he is a very lucky young man” and with that parting shot he headed for the coach,
leaving Maria to stew.
She now massaged her temple, the beginnings of a headache tugged at her, like a
child seeking attention. May be Peter was right, she told herself. He had my interest at
heart, was it foolish to invite him on the coach? but what harm could it do.....I hope
the sisters are not to over powering....poor Louis she concluded.
Out of the window she saw a large tomato processing plant. During the picking season
Peter and the passengers would occupy themselves by counting the number of trucks
systematically lined up outside the plant. She remembered thatlast years count
came to over one hundred. A lot of tomatoes, she thought,
Nearing Kylini Maria saw, as she always did, the fortified walls of a castle that
audaciously and luminously imposed itself on the landscape. She rubbed her eyes,
reached into her bag and produced a pocket mirror. She looked at her eyes staring
back at her, as if they belonged to someone else. There was something about him, she
reminded herself, she felt it the very first time she laid eyes on him. It was a sensation
unlike any other, it made her happy, a warm tingling feeling spread and fanned out
from her stomach. She remembered the way the sun reflected off his hair, the rising
and falling of his Adam’s apple as he drank his wine at lunch, the pronounced curve
of his chin, chiseled and strong, like a statue. She had listened to him speak, finding
his Scottish accent pleasant and distinct and at times it sounded as if he was singing.
And she imagined his life, like watching a movie, images appeared, his words
influencing the story line and he was the main character, its focus and he held her
attention like all good movies do. She observed how he lowered his eyes when he
mentioned Emma’s name, circling the rim of his wine glass with his middle finger,
subdued by the memory.
The dull ache in her head began to subside, which was just as well, as she had nothing
to take to alleviate the pain, although she now considered, she was almost sure that
one of the sisters would have come to her aid and produced some form of medication.
She should have drank more water, her reflecting reminded her that she gave her
second and last bottle to Louis. May be it was the wine at lunchtime, she considered,
anyhow, it was subsiding, just in time for the ferry crossing which now seemed a
more inviting prospect. She would soon be comforted by the sight of the sea. She
lowered her sun glasses over her eyes and smoothed the light fabric of her dress, as
the coach snaked its way through narrow streets and finally it would rest to a stop.
An oil grey sea lapped at dark rocks, white foam ran through black clumps of sea
weed. A boy threw a fishing line into the water, clumsily and unskillfully, he saw
a man walk his dog, a Labrador, over the white sand, he caught sight of a jogger,
a woman sitting on a rock speaking into a mobile phone, a green bag at her feet.
Children explored a crop of rocks that harboured a small pool, that the incoming
tide would later claim. A tug sliced through the water and a sailing boat with a
white mast ominously disappeared behind the green headland, as if it had been
rubbed out. Fast moving clouds skirted a woodened hill, a white plane climbed
into the sky, emitting a sound like distant thunder. The rustic red of the Forth Rail
Bridge was illuminated from a setting sun as it Spanned the deep, dark and
mysterious undulating water as the rumbling of train, like a stick insect, crossed
the River Forth. A couple shared a cigarette whereabove them seagulls caught a
ride on pockets of air, like winged gliders and the skyline of Edinburgh became
sucked into a haunting and trailing mist.
He opened his eyes to a flurry of activity and a perpetual stream of traffic and people.
The coach was now motionless and parked. Peter was announcing that at this point it
was customary to place a Tip into his hat, like the collection ot a church service,
which would then be presented to the driver. Each passenger was to depart the coach
with an ‘efaresto’ for the driver’s benefit which would also be much appreciated.
Louis became alarmed to discover that Maria had already left the coach, but then the
rock in his chest dissolved as he over heard someone say that she had to go and
change the boarding passes as Peter had unwittingly issued them with the wrong ones.
He stepped onto the quayside and into a throng of humanity, like being thrown into a
herd of stampeding buffalo, he was jostle` and turned in ever direction. Eventually he
made his way to the ticket booth and stood in a line of people, like struggling
through quicksand and surrounded by a nest of hornets, he thought. Exasperated
he bought a ticket, his eyes stung from the brilliant sun and the scanning of so many
facer with no reward for his effort. He must have passed her without noticing, he
imagined that she would be handing out the boarding tickets. He studied the sea of
bobbing heads and the fleet of coaches in the fore ground, they all looked similar and
it was impossible to discern one from the other.
Ten minuteshad elapsed since he had left the coach and he was increasingly aware
of vehicles and people filing onto the Ferry, like a focused army of hyperactive ants.
The sparsely populated beach of that morning was now a pulsating and shimmering
tapestry of colour and exposed flesh. To dismiss as conclusive that the majority of
sunbathers were holiday makers would have been a premature assumption. Families,
predominantly natives of Greece, from grand parents to babies, the spectrum of a
generation basked in the natural resources of sun sea and sand. A varied assortment
of sizes, nationalities and gender that constitutes the human race contributed to the
assembly of passengers that came on board. Louis felt shipwrecked in an ocean of
unfamiliar faces looking for the only island that he desired to be rescued by. Parents
monitored exuberant children who had just discovered a new playground that had
become a source of exploration and adventure, couples entwined in affectionate
embraces. A group of young men flexed their masculinity in a drunken performance,
an old man and his unsteady wife welcomed the solace of a comfortable seat, as they
tended to aching muscles. A back packer studied a map in an intensive urgency that
seemed to betray the laid back almost vertical casual manner in which his partner
rearranged with meticulous tidiness the contents of their rucksacks.
He had sat on the upper deck with its row of wooden benches that smelt of fresh
paint and ammonia. He had become aware of the fatigue that seeped through his
body, like a poisonous snake, engaging each muscle with its paralysing venom. Even
the potent sun could not alleviate his lethargic state, its prescription failing to lift his
He had entertained the thought of making the effort to walk around the ferry in search
of Maria when he heard her, now, familiar and approaching voice.
“There you are, I was beginning to think you had change your mind”
Louis gazed over his shoulder.
“Maria, I lost everyone when I bought a ticket” the tangible evidence of relief
resonated from his voice.
“It is very busy, the weekend is always like this”
“For a minute there I thought I was back in Princess Street on a Saturday afternoon”
he said trying to make light of the moment.
She held in her hands two polystyrene cups of coffee.
“I bought one of these for Peter” she said, gesturing towards the cups with her head,
“He has had to attend to a woman who I think has sprained her ankle after falling” she
added as she sat next to him.
“Well then his misfortune is my gain” he tried unsuccessfully to suppress a smile.
She handed him the coffee. The need to touch her hand seeped from every pour as he
took the cup and raised it to his lips.
“To tell you the truth I was starting to get worried” he confessed.
“What” she turned to him smiling and teased, “Did you think you would never see
your luggage again?”
Again, for the second time, he tried to stop his lips from curling.
“Well I’ve got some expensive designer labels in there”
She laughed and threw her head back. A gust of warm air blew a few stray hairs over
“To be honest” he glanced at the cup “I felt guilty from talking about myself at
lunchtime, it occurred to me afterwards that I was slightly self indulgent.”
“Not at all.....it must have felt good for you to talk, I think you needed someone to
listen to you and I was glad to be that person”
He became aware of the sensation that the ferry was moving, in fact, he had not
noticed it depart its moorings as Kyllini diminished and the discernable focus of a
castle on a hill dwarfed the busy port. It held Louis’ attention and looked as if it had
been crafted from the very rock it sat upon.
He blew on his coffee cup as the sun lacquered her face in light. A plume of cigarette
smoke hung around them, an unwanted intrusion that impelled Louis to suggest that
they walk to the railings at the edge of the deck. A sudden realisation engulfed his
chest. He wanted to open her up and read her like a book and absorb every page that
was revealed to him. They dropped their cups in a waste bin.
“I live with my mother and brother just outside Zakynthos Town, the house has
beautiful views of the sea. My father built the house, when we were young, it is now
the artery of our family. I have an older brother who is married, he has two children
my mother adores them, family is very important. My father would always tell us that
there were only two things in life that mattered, God and family. He is dead now.”
She stopped talking and look at him, “I suppose we have something in common, we
both know what it feels like to loose someone special.”
His hand lay a few inches from hers, resting on the railings, in that moment, the desire
to hold it felt right, it demanded it.
“I’ve worked in the tour industry” she continued, “Well, since I was old enough to
work, I studied on the mainland, in Athens, received my diploma in tourism and then
came home......and I have been a tour guide ever since.”
The moment had past, it did not present itself in her words, it had slid from his grasp,
like an animal disappearing into a forest.
“Any one special in your life?” he found himself saying, abandoning all decorum.
“No....not for a long time” she said honestly.
“Is that good or bad?” he wondered.
She paused. “On what you want out of life”
“And what do you want?” he asked gently.
She gazed at the sea, white foamed waves rippled out from the ferry, like a tractor
ploughing through a field. Her fingers wrapped around the rail, she could feel the
spray of sea salt coating her skin, her face, shoulders and arms and for a moment she
“Oh just the simple things, love, companionship, maybe children and live in a house
that they will be able to call home. Is that to much to ask? what do you think Louis?”
Louis was surprised at the intimacy and honesty of her answer.
“Well....they are noble things to aspire to” he said finally. “I’d always wanted
children.....Emma wasn’t very maternal it knocked a hole in me when she became
pregnant....it hurt, like she betrayed me”
He mustered a smile, “Look there I go again talking about myself”
She watched large white birds glide above the water, like kites, surfing the invisible
currents of the air. Her breathing was deep and long.....contented.
She turned to face him, “Louis......”
He was studying her and for a moment her sentence trailed off, inside her head, like
evaporating steam, never to be spoken
She had removed the band that had held her hair from her face, but now, corn
coloured strands hung like sheets, and fell, like a vale, concealing her left eye, where
it descended and licked at the extravagant rounded curve of her upper lip. Louis
noticed the shinny texture of a subtle scar, just discernable, which created a small
indentation on her skin. He moved his hand and then hesitated, before tenderly
brushing a few stray hairs from her right eye. He cupped her hair in his hand and
inhaled its scent, as if smelling freshly washed sheets. Maria felt as if she had been
touched by an angel, the sentient effect was tranquillizing. He breathed deeply, as if
the essence of it was imperative, in order to nourish body and soul. He moved closer
and brushed her cheek with his lips, seeking her mouth. A small sigh escaped her,
encouraging him as their lips met for the first time.
Their kiss was long, tender and deep. She tasted of strawberries and he wanted to go
on exploring her mouth for ever. Her skin felt warm as it pressed against him and a
sensation in his body, like the effect of a roller coaster as it plunges the curve of the
track raced through him. The intensity was like an electric current crackling through
her. Eventually their lips reluctantly parted, they opened their eyes, holding their stare
in the new found knowledge that something sacred had passed through them and
galvanised them in the warmth it created. An invigorating pulse streamed through her
veins as she composed herself. She felt her cheeks flush as she comb her fingers
through her hair.
“ I was not expecting that” she said satisfied.
“It just happened..... I’m glad it did”
“Look” she said pointing with an out stretched finger, “Cephalonia”
The island hovered placidly, as her truculent mountains, dark and undulating were
silhouetted against a pastel and salmon sky.
“Captain Correlli will just have to wait” Louis smiled
They were soon upon Zakynthos as the capital became visible as if she had risen from
the sea like a submarine. Draped elegantly, the capital converged along and up a hill,
it was a landmark that would imprint itself upon Louis who remarked that the view
inherited the same characteristics as the Rock of Gibraltar.
“There she is....home, what do you think?”
“I thought it would be bigger, the town I mean”
“Size isn’t every thing Louis” she smiled.
They made their way to the bow and became part of the throng which had assembled
in an anticipating mass. The changing light of early evening made Maria’s shoulders
resonate a polished cooper glow. The intimacy of their kiss encouraged him to lightly
place his hand on her skin and he daringly kissed her shoulder in full view of the
vociferous antics and spluttered words of a group of unshaven and glazed eyed men
who had soaked their senses in an assortment of alcoholic beverage.
He bent to her ear.
“I know how they feel, I’m drunk with you”
During the crossing he had regarded her with a contemplative look and then asked
her to describe to him Zakynthos as she would to a group of tourists. She glanced at
him suspiciously as he leaned back in his seat, like a school teacher awaiting the
recital of a poem. “Zakynthos, is a member of the Ionian group of islands” she began,
“and is the most southerly, with a population of 35,000. Zakynthos Town, the capital,
is home to 9500 and easily the largest town on the island” He nodded his head,
impressed by Maria’s introduction and gestured, like a king, for her to continue. She
crossed her arms and glared at him through squinted eyes.
“You are enjoying this”
“Most definitely....carry on, good introduction by the way” he grinned.
She played along by composing herself.
“Its nearest neighbour is the island of Cephallonia, 8 miles to the north”
“Ah, my friend Captain Corelli” Louis interrupted, Maria’s eyes threw invisible
knifes and she continued, “Being a relatively small island,106km square, by car, the
island can be explored quite easily. Olives, cypress and citrus groves are typical and
familiar to the scenery of the island which also farms and yields crops such as the
current. These vineyards can be found on the fertile and flat plains, situated at the foot
of the Vrachonian mountains.
“Impressive” Louis injected, folding his arms behind his head.
She ignored him frowning and continued, now determined and fuelled by intent “The
darkest and most tragic period of the island’s history occurred on the 12th and 13th
August 1953. The earthquake that struck devastated and engulfed the entire region
and left only a few buildings untouched. As well as the tragic loss of life, the
architectural splendour and richness that decorated the island was lost to the
“You are beautiful” Louis interrupted bravely.
She looked at him and for a second time Maria could feel her cheeks flush.
“Shhhh” she remonstrated playfully, she paused breathed in deeply and continued,
“Although in time many buildings have been restored true to their original glory one
would have to visit the Solomos museum to become aware of and grasp the true
nature of the tragedy.
“The only tragedy I can see is that I’ve been in Greece all this time without you”
“Louis” she laughed.