He contemplated the construction of her face and didn’t take his eyes from her.
He glided a finger upon the skin of her arm. He withdrew his hand, her face was
exquisite to him.
“Are you feeling ok? she asked.
“Yes, I’ve never felt better”
She stared at him, “Its just that you seem....How should I say this....over
indulged in your affection”
He placed his hand on hers and leaned towards her.
“I can’t help myself, tonight I am the luckiest man in the world and yes I know
that sounds corny but I don’t care, that’s how I feel”
She smiled displaying milk white teeth, enjoying Louis disclosure and then she
said, “I have thought of nothing else but tonight. I feel like I did when I was a
child on Christmas eve filled with excitement and expectation”
Maria had spent the day willing the hours to pass, a languorous waiting that felt
as if her watch had stopped and time refused to pass as the day stretched out
before her and the business of the day uncoiled itself in a slow lethargic motion.
“How is Michalis?” Louis asked.
“He is fine, no more seizure”
“I’m glad .....and your mother?”
“You must have made a good impression, she wants to know when you are
coming for lunch again.....a well mannered man she said and I was not to let
“It’s nice to know that I am welcome, you have a lovely family Maria”
“In fact she was asking about you today and wondering when I was seeing you
Louis watched Maria as she spoke. Her dark eyes sparkled, like the sun
skimming water, he thought. He felt a confident swell inside him, a feeling
that emerged with a fulfilled sense of acceptance. It encouraged him.
“You have a beautiful face”
She lowered her head shyly. He reached out with his hand and lifted her chin.
“I find it unbelievable that I am here with you on this island”
Maria wrapped her fingers around his hand, brought them to her lips and kissed
his skin softly.
“What did you do today?” Maria asked.
After such an intimate gesture her question was unexpected. Louis tried to
gather his thoughts. She replaced his hand with a glass of wine. He watched as
she brought the glass to her lips and for the first time in his life he found himself
envious of a drinking vessel.
“Well I had breakfast with Anna on her porch, eh, she has finally decided that
she is fed up waiting for her son to visit she has taken the matter into her own
hands and invited herself to his apartment in Athens.
“Really” Maria said, a small grin creasing her lips.
“Yes, in fact she is leaving tomorrow morning”
“Good for her” Maria empathised, a pleased disposition lasing her voice.
“She plans to be away for at least a week she said that she hasn’t been to Athens
since she was a young women, so she is going to take advantage of her free
lodgings. She has asked me to watch over her house for her.”
The possibility of an absent Anna motivated the thought and tempting
consequences of being alone, undisturbed with Maria.
Maria raised her eyebrows as she watched Louis’ face.
“Anna must think highly of you, entrusting you with her house”
“Yes, I suppose she must”
“In fact, Anna has told my mother that she has grown quite fond of you”
Louis smiled, “I think I fill a void in her life”
At that moment a waiter arrived with the food they had ordered, their
conversation disturbed as the plates were placed on their table, the silence
between them punctuated by the occasional courteous ‘efaresto’ as the waiter
arranged the table with a wide smile.
“Enjoy your meal” the waiter said, parting to attend to other diners.
The intoxicating aroma, forced them to indulge their taste buds. Louis ate
carefully, the prospect of splashing Bolognese sauce unceremoniously onto
his top was an indignation that he hoped to avoid. Maria had suggested the dish
and Louis did not want to be seen as impolite, however, the litres of Italian
blood that ran through his veins did not compensate for the red tide that
from childhood had consistently dyed his mouth, like misplaced lipstick. With
each attentive mouthful, he routinely wiped his mouth with a napkin disposing
of any ignominious mark.
It had began to get dark. Waiters progressed from table to table, lighting candles
whose flickering aluminous flames reminded Louis of the rows of wavering
fluorescent candles in the Church of St. Dionysos. It was at this time of the
evening that the imposing facades in the square were transformed by the
darkness into luminescent neon backdrops.
“Are you working tomorrow?” Louis asked.
Maria swallowed some food, before answering, “No it is my day off”
She drank some more. Louis watched the movement of her Adam’s apple.
“And have you any plans?” he enquired, an expression of expectance washed
his face. The ends of his fingers tingled as his breathing involuntarily
accelerated. Those around him conversed in fluttering waves, unaware that the
answer he eagerly anticipated hinged upon the spontaneous outpouring of joy or
the insufferable endurance of a sinking sadness that would be the source of an
intolerable burning in his chest.
“Actually I thought we might go to the beach”
“The beach” said Louis, “What a wonderful idea” Louis constructed a sudden
picture of a golden deserted beach uninhibited but for Maria and
“Ag. Nicolaos is very popular, I often go there with friends, the water is lovely
“Oh, I see,” Louis thought for a moment, “And how do we get to....Ag.
Nicolaos?” he smiled to palliate any sign of disappointment.
“We can take the bus”
“Perfect” said Louis, feeling the roots of rapture wrap around him once more,
dispelling his discomposure with the thought of spending another day with
Maria as an unintelligible excitement began to ferment inside him.
“The south of Zakynthos is beautiful it has long, white and
unspoilt beaches. The developments of the ‘get rich quick squads’ are
thankfully absent.” Maria continued, “There are some nice beaches worth
visiting, Porto Zoro, Banana Beach and Gerakas beach”
“We could see them all”
“There was a time when I would choose a different beach each weekend,
there was a crowd of us but then things happen and you drift apart. My best
friend loved all things Egyptian, she studied Egyptology and became a tour
guide at the pyramids. She loves it, very serious about her work. One day after
she had been all day with a certain group she asked them questions, like a quiz.
One of the questions was, who married Cleopatra? and someone replied
Richard Burton, well she was not impressed......I laughed when she told me but
she was not amused, she had a lack of ability for humour, but that was part of
her charm it was a standing joke”
“Does she still work in Egypt?” Louis grinned, appreciating the pun.
“No not anymore, she is dead.”
“Oh, I am sorry”
“She overdosed on heroine, seemingly she had an insatiable addiction, it was
terribly sad, in the end she lost her job but by this time she had fallen into a bad
crowd. The odd thing was they were all in well paid jobs not like the down and
outs that you normally associate with drug taking. Although she died over there
her body was brought back. She is buried here beside her mother”
Maria looked away her face immersed in a tangible sadness.
“I am sorry Maria,”
“It drained her, squeezed the life out of her. She came home just before she
died, she was a different person”
“I can sympathise with that. In Edinburgh amongst some of my friends, cocaine
was viewed as a fashion accessory, especially at dinner parties, it was the
dessert instead of pudding. It was wide spread. They would spend all day
working in the office and unwind with a line of coke sniffed through twenty
pound notes. Most of my friends started taken it during university, it was part of
the lifestyle, the social scene. I tried it once or twice, but never to the extent that
it became a problem. And then, when in your late twenties at weekends, at
friends houses it was handed out, like cups of coffee. There was such an
acceptance. Emma took it more than I did, as I said I tried it occasionally but
not to the extent of some where it was every weekend. A few were getting the
stuff delivered to their offices would you believe it, in envelopes, even couriers
would be used. After the weekend they’d be looking for their next hit by the
Wednesday. I decided then that I would stop. These people were feeding a
serious habit, they were addicted.”
Maria listened to Louis, her eyes transfixed, not leaving his face. Louis drew in
a deep breath, he felt compelled to tell her, he wanted her to know the truth in
all its naked ugliness.
“My only experience with drugs was some puffs on a.....what would you say”
“Spliff” Louis offered.
“Yes, it made me feel violently sick, so I never touched it again”
“As I said some people had a problem, I never let it get that far....I hate the
smell of cigarette smoke, My only indulgence is alcohol”
Maria raised her wine glass to her lips.
“Mine too” she said smiling.
“Although” said Louis, curling his lips, “I could easily find another indulgence”
“Oh you could, tell me what that would be?” she said, curiously watching him.
“Well” Louis stretched the word teasingly, “I could easily get addicted to your
“Louis” she laughed.
The distant sound of a horses hooves tugged his attention, filling him with
curiosity and as he turned his gaze found an open top carriage, pulled by a
magnificent black horse that snorted as it explored the ground with its twitching
nose. Its body shone in the glow of lights that illuminated the square and
Maria indicated towards the horse, “Venice has its gondolas but here in
Zakynthos we have our horse drawn carriages”
Louis turned to face her, “Why don’t we try one”
Maria nodded, running her fingers through her hair and pulling it back from her
“That sounds very romantic”
They spent the rest of the night moving from bar to bar and as they did they held
hands. At quarter passed midnight they strolled in the shadow of the church of
St. Dionysos. They sat on the steps that led to the church. Louis thought about
the priest who had spoken to him and he wondered what he would be doing
now. He fiercely regretted not telling Maria about the days experience, the
existence of such a conflict was raw and bare, encouraged by the alcohol that
permeated his blood stream.
For a moment a rush of panic interrogated him, pulling at his abdomen. Maria
was studying his face, her eyes searching his features, like a flash light in the
dark. He wondered if the expression on his face had betrayed him and exposed
his thoughts, he looked at her warily and sheepishly, until, she resumed her
“Lets get a taxi” she said
“I’d like to see the view from your balcony”