“Patton,” I said through stiff lips. I clasped my cold hands at my waist and tried to ignore the hot stickiness of barbeque sauce on my sandaled feet. “What a surprise.”
“I’ve come to take you home, Min,” he said calmly.
“But I am home.” My voice was reasonable; surely he could see that this was where I belonged.
He slowly walked toward me. From the corner of my eye I could see Kate take a jerky step, but Daniel’s arm snaked around her waist and held her firmly. She looked at him in indignation; he shook his head and said something and she subsided, but I could almost see the tension rolling off her.
“I don’t want to discuss this in front of a bunch of strangers,” Patton said. “Come outside with me.”
“But they’re not strangers.” My voice was still reasonable, it wasn’t his fault he was so ignorant. “They’re our friends and they care for us. Besides,” I was beginning to feel more alert, the horrible shock fading away. Time to dig in the feet and fight. “They don’t speak English. We are in Greece, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” he said bitterly. “I lost count of the time zones I flew through. You couldn’t run to another state could you.” He paused and closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath. “You shouldn’t have gone anywhere Min, that’s the point and I’ve come to take you back. You’re my wife, we can work this out.”
“No, we can’t. What you mean is you’ll work it out. I honestly don’t see how you could control me any tighter, unless you locked me in a basement – which you don’t have unless you get another house – but my bet is you have it all planned out. Bankers must be precise, mustn’t they, Pat, no mistakes allowed. It’s all pride with you and I’m tired of living that way.”
“You just walked out!” His voice rose, his hands clenched into fists. “No hints, no explanations, you were just gone.”
“I believe I mentioned it, I believe you thought you’d stopped my ‘foolishness’. I don’t take kindly to being raped. It made me desperate, it made me leave as soon as I got the chance.”
Everyone had stopped eating, every face was turned toward us although most couldn’t understand a word we were saying. They understood the emotions though, Pat with the band of steel in his voice and his threatening body stance; me speaking with defiance and a look of being backed in a corner. At my last statement, Nick tensed and took a step toward me, before he caught himself and settled back against the wall he’d been holding up. He folded his arms over his chest and watched Patton from under lowered brows.
Patton gave a baffled laugh. “For God’s sake, Min, I didn’t rape you, I’m your husband.”
I was beginning to feel more confident. I wasn’t alone with him in an empty house. A house empty in so very many ways. Empty of love, empty of understanding … empty of children. I’d found more love and understanding here in this strange country, on this little island, than I’d ever found in my marriage. Leeann used to tease me, she’d say my character didn’t match my hair, I was too quiet and I never lost my temper. For the first time in a long time, I lived up to my hair.
I took a step toward him, a foot almost sliding out from under me on a piece of chicken. I felt overheated and for the first time I let out the rage at what he’d done to me.
“You raped me! Being married doesn’t make it prettier! You wanted to punish me for daring to think for myself, you wanted to show me who had the power, who was the boss. You wanted to humiliate me! I won’t be your doormat anymore, Pat. I want a divorce and I want you gone from my life.”
“There ain’t a lawyer in town who’ll take you,” he sneered, finally losing his control.
“Then I’ll find one somewhere else,” I replied, my voice trembling.
“You can have the use of one of mine,” Nick said casually.
“Thank you, I accept.”
“You stay outta this, you wop!”
Nick straightened out of his slouch. “Wrong nationality, redneck. The lady doesn’t seem to want your company, I’d suggest you leave.”
Patton looked at him with contempt. “I’ll leave when I’m ready and she’ll be coming with me. You got no call to interfere between a man and his wife. You said no one spoke English!” he said furiously to me.
“My mistake,” I shrugged. “I’m not going, Patton, and you’ll have a hard time getting an unwilling woman all the way back to America without someone noticing.”
“Cut your losses, loser,” Kate called over. Her face was tight with anger. “And get out of my taverna.”
“You bitch! This is all your doing …” He fell silent as Daniel rose to his feet, his arm still around Kate.
“You’re not welcome here,” Daniel said quietly. “The Greeks gave up slavery centuries ago.”
“Dan, will you run him back to the mainland?” Nick asked without taking his eyes off Patton.
“Sure, shouldn’t take long.”
“Take Tino with you, he’s good with a knife.”
“Sure you don’t want to come? Think what you’ll be missing.”
“I am. It would be too tempting.”
“You always did have willpower. Let’s go guy.”
If looks could kill I’d be stone dead from Patton’s glare of hate. Of course, he thought his humiliation was all my fault. Once he would have had me convinced of it too. Something in this quiet, peaceful life I’d been living had strengthened my backbone along with my character. Perhaps it was the example of the people who surrounded me. Perhaps it was Kate, who’d had a dream and the courage to go after it.
I looked in Patton’s eyes and regretted nothing. I felt only relief as he turned away and headed to the door, petulantly sending a chair skidding out of his way. He paused as Nick spoke again.
“Be careful with your revenge, redneck. Don’t try to go for the kill. Your town might not think too highly of rapist being added to your name. Araminta’s lawyer will be in touch. My advice is to act civilized, or I’ll cut your balls off.”
Patton’s shoulders stiffened but he made no reply. Daniel gave us a small wave as he followed him out the door.
I stood, my feet coated with sauce, my cheeks flushed with emotion. Now that it was over, I wished the floor would open and cover me up. Lord, I hated washing dirty linen in public and I hated Nick knowing, I hated all of them knowing what had happened to me. Even Kate. Kate would never have allowed it to happen to her.
Before I could become too maudlin, Kate was beside me, tsking at the mess at my feet and then hugging me hard.
“Look,” she said, gesturing behind me.
I turned. Shoosh stood there, legs braced apart, arms folded under her bosom, a meat cleaver clutched in one hand. She nodded at me and nonchalantly embedded the head of the cleaver in the wooden counter. Greek poured from her lips and our customers hastily turned back to their neglected food.
When Nick came over I was beginning to regain my composure. “I’m sorry,” I told him, “and I thank you. I hate you’ve been dragged into this.”
He put an arm around my shoulders. “We’ll talk later. You should go home, you’ve had quite an upset.”
“No, I need to be doing and I don’t want to be alone.”
I let myself lean against him. Just for a minute. Because now I was a woman who could stand on her own two feet.