He was a menacing figure on the pavement that leered at them, unscrupulously,
He periodically pressed a crumpled bag to his face, inhaling an intoxicating
substance whilst peering at them with intimidating and glassed demonic eyes.
He volleyed words in their direction, spat through a row of yellow coated
stalagmite teeth. They were unable to hear their meaning, however, his defiant
demeanour and threatening posture enabled them to appreciate that they were
not conducive to pleasantries, but rather delivered with a provocative sting.
Louis and Maria decided that the most effective form of protection was to
ignore him by refraining to acknowledge his presence.
Louis considered what he would do if the dishevelled figure entered the
restaurant and continued his hostility towards them. A torrent of adrenaline
rushed through him as an image formed of the two of them rolling between the
tables and chairs and a depiction of American wrestlers presented itself. This
comic illustration was replaced by an uneasy anxiety, laced with an urgent
protectiveness towards Maria.
Either bored or craving other forms of stimulant the unsavoury character
moved on, monitored by the curious glances of a few waiters. Louis watched
him through the reflection of the windows on the opposite side of the street and
he shared Maria’s relief when he past the entrance to the restaurant, eradicating
the prospect of an un welcomed confrontation.
“Has he gone?” consternation blossomed in her voice.
“Yes, I watched his reflection in those windows across the road” he said,
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, of course I am, don’t worry”
As they were eating, Louis noted a small golden cross that hung from a fine
and delicate chain around Maria’s neck.
“I’ve not seen you ware that necklace before”
“It was a gift from my mother for a birthday. I’ve had it for years, I use to
ware it all the time but now the chain is so fragile I now only put it on for
special occasions....like tonight”
She fingered the cross and glided it through the chain several times. A distant
glaze shadowed Louis. Maria looked into his face.
“Is there something wrong?”
“No, I was thinking about a conversation I had with Jez, he phoned just after
we got back from our walk”
“You have been in a strange mood, you are distant Louis”
“I’m sorry ” he said gently. Louis face was transparent with
contemplation. He noticed a skinny cat stretch luxuriously under a table, it’s
anonymity evident amongst the diners. Maria’s necklace flickered, catching
the night time lights of the restaurant.
“Actually your necklace reminded me of Carris, do you remember her, she is
the lady that Jez is looking after”
“Of course, how could I forget” she said sympathetically.
“Well, it seems that before her baby was taken from her, she had given it a
necklace carved with the virgin Mary on the pendent, on the back of this was
the inscription of it’s name and date of birth. She begged those that took her
baby to keep it on her so that she would always know her real name and the
date of her birth, Seemingly she was given a promise that her wishes would
be carried out. Now that she is dying these recollections are obviously important
to her and in her more lucid moments she is talking about these things regarding
“It must have been dreadful, living a life time without knowing what your child
grew up to look like or be. She could be a grandmother by now”
Maria ran her fingers through a curtain of hair.
“And now it seems that she will never know, Jez said that they do not think
she will see the end of the month”
“Why that is only two weeks away”
“Yes, I know” Louis shifted in his chair, Maria thought that he looked
thoughtful, Louis felt nervous.
“There is one more thing Maria” he hesitated.
“Jez ask me if I would consider returning to Scotland in order to help him
through this time...just for a short while”
Maria sat still as a rush of panic ran through her.
“And what did you say?” She looked at Louis and swallowed anxiously. She sat
up straight in her chair, poised for his answer.
“At first I didn’t say anything and then I said I would think about it. He is a dear
friend, I have known Jez a long time, he is like a brother to me. I feel as if I
have abandoned him”
“Have you thought about me...did you tell Jez you would talk to me about this
and consider how I would feel”
“You know I love you Maria it does not mean that I wont be coming back”
Maria saw within Louis’ face the agony of a decision he had still to make and
the expression on his face ignited a feeling of sympathy for him that for a
moment calmed the storm that was her own emotions.
She reached out and held his hand, Louis was aware that she was trembling.
“Then you must go” she said, quite matter of fact, and once she had spoken the
words, she fought to control the conflicting emotions that clawed at her.
She averted her eyes from him and stared at the food on the table that now
seemed insignificant and unappealing. In that instance Louis was so surprised at
the delivery of her words, he could not speak.
Finally he said, as if to answer his own indecision, “It would only be for a
couple of weeks at the most”
“When would you go?” her throat burned, as if a hot poker had been thrust
“Within the next few days I suppose. I would have to book a flight to Athens
and then to Edinburgh or Glasgow”
The mentioning of the cities seemed to emphasise the distance that would be
He lifted her chin and stroked her face.
“I will only go if I know you want me to” he said soothingly.
Although she tried not to, her eyes sparkled with tears. She looked at him and
bit her lip.
“You will be going back to your other life and I will be here waiting for you
not knowing what you are doing. You might even meet someone you find
attractive” she said numbly.
“I will think about you ever second of every day and I will phone you every
day in the morning, afternoon and at night and there is no girl in Scotland that
could ever come close to how you make me feel.”
His heart was racing. He gulped the sultry air, flavoured in cooked food and
animated conversations that rose and fell to the low murmur of voices. His
sanctuary had been invaded, fragments of another life had cascaded over it’s
walls. He contemplated saying that he would not go but knew that would now
only make matters worse. He felt as if someone had punched him in the
stomach but most of all he felt that he was betraying her.
He waited until their eyes met.
“The last thing I want to do is to hurt you Maria, I could not bare it if I thought
that my absence would cause you so much distress. You must believe me when
I tell you that I love you more than anything in this world and if you want me to
stay I will phone Jez and tell him that I cannot leave you” he paused to let the
inference of his words sink in.
Maria composed herself, she hesitated. “I am being silly and selfish, your friend
needs you at this time, how can I stop you from going, I will be with tourists
who will find there way home and just like them I know you will come back”
“My life is here Maria, every thing that I want is here in you”
His thoughts somersaulted and cart wheeled inside his head. He could not
bare the thought of leaving Maria behind and the possibility of not seeing her
face for several weeks left him feeling hollow. He could not have gone
without her approval, he was sure of that, even though it felt as if she had no
choice. Did she feel duty bond? the thought alarmed him, it engulfed him and
flooded him, like torrential rain. She could be concealing her true feelings. He
needed the assurance of knowing that she was genuinely insistent that he should
“Come with me” he heard himself saying, as if someone else had spoken the
words. “Yes that is it Maria we will both go”
The idea of Maria accompanying him to Scotland made him instantly
undisturbed. His face lit up. Why hadn’t he thought of this? it seemed so simple.
“Jez would love to meet you” he said convinced. Maria felt an uneasiness stab
“I’m not sure Louis, may be under different circumstances.”
“No its perfect Maria, can’t you see. I wouldn’t be expected to be with Jez all
of the time. I could take you to visit my mother, you could see Edinburgh and
we could stay at my place. There is no one staying in the flat at the moment the
arrangement I had with John from work has now expired. He has his own place
now. What do you think” he looked at her intently.
“Oh Louis, I’m not so sure. This is all so sudden. One minute we are having a
meal then you tell me that you are going away to Scotland and now you want
me to come with you” She said exasperated. “What am I to do” The thought
of being in the same rooms that Louis shared with Emma, the place that they
called home, ate in and made love in, unsettled her.
“Its perfect Maria” he touched her face as if to strengthen his argument.
“You would have to ask Jez. I would not want to intrude upon some one
else’s grief. And then there is my work and the money involved. I don’t even
know if my passport is still in date”
He took her hand and kissed it. “Then we will find out and if need be we will
get you a new one. I want you to come with me.....I’m not going without you”
She smiled “You are so persuasive, but I have already had a week off work, I
don’t think I could get more time off at such short notice”
“Then tell them you are sick or that you have to visit a dying relative” Louis
insisted. He could feel his elation begin to evaporate as he felt the wash of
concern manifest over him.
Maria was tempted to agree, yet, the logistics, left her uncertain. She sighed
frustrated at not being able to commit herself to an answer. She lifted a glass
of wine to her lips for fortification. Louis watched as a wet circular mark
stained the table cloth.
In reflection he found himself wishing that Jez had not asked him to return and
with the benefit of hindsight he sensed an insurgence of regret that he had even
mentioned it to Maria. He should have told Jez at the time that he could not
come. He knew that Jez must be distressed in the face of such adversity, he was
obviously unable to cope on his own with the gravity of the situation, otherwise
Louis knew he would not have suggested such a request. And now these
thoughts and his reluctance to support his friend without Maria accompanying
him, consumed Louis in a guilt that scarred him with a chalice of betrayal.
He swallowed the remainder of wine that lurked in his glass, under the
circumstances getting drunk seemed an appealing prospect.
Long silences punctuated the remaining fragments of their conversation and a
sullen air hung over them to the detriment of their meal, which they both left
uneaten. Anna would now be back from Athens, Louis thought, her plane
arriving that evening. Their week alone, in the intimate space that was Louis
room had come to an end, Like the inevitability of a sun set. It’s culmination
now seemed flat, subdued by the act of answering a telephone call that left
questions unanswered. How tonight could have been different, he told himself,
frowning at the unwelcome predicament they were both faced with.
After their meal they drank in a few bars and it was not long before their
appetite for alcohol deserted them. Eventually, Louis walked Maria home,
stopping a short distance from the house. They both hesitated and when their
eyes finally met, Louis leaned towards her and kissed her gently, tasting the
scent of wine on her breath.
“This doesn’t change anything” he sighed.
“It already has Louis” she paused, as a heaviness filled her chest, like the
turning on of a tap. Louis sensed a tightening in her voice. “But we are strong
enough to work through this….I’d better go now”
She freed herself from his embrace and turned to walk away. Desperately, Louis
reached out and grasped her arm. She turned her head towards him.
“This is where I belong Maria, I’ve never been so sure or felt so strongly about
my feelings. I want to be with you and share my life with you” His voice
strained, aching with tiredness.
“You are needed by your friend, we cannot change that”
She released her arm from his touch and walked towards the house, her head
bent forwards. Louis sensed that she was crying and a sick sensation knotted in
his stomach. His eyes would not detach themselves from the figure of Maria and
even as she entered the house without turning to face him, he stared at the
closed door. The temptation to run towards the door intensified as each anxious
moment slipped passed. This is not right, an angry voice, laced with frustration,
reverberated in his head. He knew that she would not emerge from the door and
it’s stubborn stillness portrayed an air of finality around it’s frame.
Reluctantly he took a taxi to Argassi. Under normal circumstances, the sight of
a full moon, hanging in a black satin sky, like an aluminous bulb, cascading
silver light onto a contented sea would have been a spectacle that he would have
found irresistible to wonder at. However, on this occasion, Louis hardly noticed
the triangle of shimmering light that soaked the water. Instead he recycled the
turmoil of recent events and uneasily pondered with anxiety the uncertainty that
lay before him.
Argassi greeted him with the bombastic ambience of a resort in the full flow of
the tourist season. He stumbled into a bar and jostled for space, ordering a drink
above the crashing sound of a pulsating bass drum. When his drink arrived, he
swallowed the contents of the bottle, as if curing a ravishing thirst. He moved
from bar to bar in similar fashion, not stopping long enough to warm a seat but
draining the beer from each bottle with long siphoning swallows.
Gusts of anxiety blew through him incessantly. Eventually he staggered out onto
the dusty street. The lights of resteraunts and bars seemed to posses a life of
their own, as they danced erratically before his bleary eyes.
The inextricable dulling of his senses was at an advanced stage as he passed the
pregnant street vender, who had sold him the band. She looked up at
him from her stool. A bulb from a solitary lamp splayed a soft light over her
goods which lay in uncluttered rows on a small wooden table that would be
folded in half at the end of the night. She smiled as Louis passed and then her
eyes clouded with concern at his intemperate appearance. She continued to
watch his progress, as he inevitably stumbled into a group of boisterous and
inebriated young women. She impulsively raised a hand to her mouth, and
inside her, the movement of her unborn child, protected in it’s safe environment
caused a surge of panic for the safety of the pleasant mannered man who had
once bought a bracelet from her stall.
As Louis finally approached the track that led to Anna’s house, he found that he
had to increasingly rely on the light of the moon. A thin covering of cloud,
periodically smudged the moonlight and with the absence of electric light he
was forced to negotiate his way through a wall of thick blackness with the
assiduous pulse of a cricket as his only companion.
The house was devoid of light, shrouded in a slumbering darkness. Anna would
be asleep, he told himself. He walked towards the whitewashed block of small
apartments that he now called home recalling the night with Maria, and their
unsuccessful attempt to evade the attentions of Anna and with this recollection
he encountered a profound ache that bored into him with all the force of a
powerful pneumatic drill.
He could hear the wind rise, like an approaching train. The trees rustled in whispers
moving majestically as he watched the leaves dance against the black vale of the night
sky. Dark stains coated the ground, slowly at first, forming patches that appeared
more frequently, indiscriminately and without prejudice upon where they landed. The
rain came in heavy sheets, falling at an angle, it created its own rhythm, the sound
rising in the air, until it crashed all around, vibrating , like a waterfall.
It was the first time it had rained since he had arrived in Greece. He stood at the edge
of the balcony. Resting his hands on the peeling white paint he raised his head. The
droplets of moisture fell onto his face, feeling cool across his skin. Rivulets of rain
trickled down his forehead spreading across his cheeks, small rivers traversing their
path along his skin, like roads on an atlas. The water tickled his scalp, he opened his
mouth, allowing the droplets to stroke his tongue, refreshing him, like the soothing
touch of a masseurs hand. He felt as if the rain had baptised him in a new faith, as a
renewed source of optimism wrapped it’s arms around him. It felt rejuvenating and he
was inspired with this new found strength of confidence for he told himself that he
would persuade Maria to accompany him to Scotland. She will come with me he