Kate

“I want you to see something.” I followed behind, Daniel’s long legs forcing me into keep-up mode. It was something I hated but was used to; short people are always working harder to stay in the race.

I’d been happy to see him in the morning. He’d greeted Min as though the night before hadn’t happened. “What’s happening ladies?”

“Are you okay?” Min cut a slice of melon and held it out to him.

“It’s a beautiful morning and the sun isn’t too high yet. And I believe Miss Kate has promised to promenade with me.”

“Somebody didn’t get enough sleep,” I said peering at him over my coffee cup.

“Plenty of sleep ma’am. Now get on some good shoes, the rocks are rocky out there.”

So I did as he asked and followed Daniel upward, high toward the top of the island.

Daniel stepped onto the rocks easily; his climb effortless while I labored for balance and for reach. “Need a hand there short stuff?”

“You should be nicer to your elders,” I huffed, but I also took his proffered hand. My hand fit inside like a child’s hand in her father’s. He grasped firmly and pulled me up.

“You’re not that old,” he said as I leveled next to him.

“At least ten years older than you.”

“What do you think I am? Twelve?” He yanked on my hand and I stumbled a step closer to him.

“More like fifteen, you are in your teens aren’t you?”

“Made it all the way past puberty.” His smile burned out and his face transformed to sudden seriousness. “I’m twenty-nine Kate, I’m not a kid.”

“Neither am I and I’m thirty six. So almost ten years older.”

“Seven years might have meant something when I was fifteen but not now. And right now I want to kiss you.”

“That’s nice.” I felt tongue tied which was new for me.

“Nice?” His eyebrow went up. “Nice isn’t what I was expecting.”

“If I tried somersaults of joy I’d probably fall off this rock.”

“You know you like me Kate.”

“Now you sound fourteen.”

“So can I kiss you?”

“Is that why you brought me up here?”

His smile flashed like sudden sunshine. “No, I wanted to show you that.” His hand swept out and I took a step forward. We were high above the harbor where a fishing boat was bobbing on the calm water, the ferry was far in the distance and a sailboat was tied far at the end.

“I’ve seen the harbor before.”

“The sailboat, that’s mine.”

I squinted in the sun. “From up here it looks like a toy.”

“A thirty-six foot toy. I can sleep six in it and it sailed here all the way from California.”

“Should I ask how a Montana boy sails a California boat to a Greek island?”

“You answer my question first.”

It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. “I didn’t come here for more complications Dan. I came here to live simpler.”

“Good. Then we’ll make it a simple kiss.”

I opened my mouth to protest but then I didn’t. He kept his word and it was a simple kiss, a brush of his generous lips against mine. A touch of pressure and then release. A promise that there was more if I wanted it.

Daniel dropped down from the rock back to the path and extended his hand to help me down.

Damn him completely, I followed his smile all the way back down to the village.

~~

Of course he made me think about him.

I came home in the afternoon and Min was gone. I wasn’t surprised, with the night she’d had I expected her to be cooing at doves or maybe even throwing rocks at males passers-by. I wasn’t concerned; I think Min was proving to herself that she could take care of herself. She didn’t need me to be her Mama.

I went to bed. The house was stuffy in the afternoons and oftentimes we lay outside on an old mattress and talked and snoozed through the heat. This day I undressed and lay on my bed, my eyes closed and my body still remembering a simple kiss.

I wasn’t young anymore with tight skin or erect breasts. There was sag everywhere and I could poke myself with my finger and feel the sponginess of my skin.

Daniel was still young and tight. He could laugh at our age difference but would he laugh when he saw the cottage cheese thighs or droopy breasts? What would he say when I lay on my back and my breasts fall into my armpits?

I closed my eyes and thought of how long it had been since I’d moved against a man. How long since someone had looked at me with want and made me burn with the same.

I touched myself more intimately and when I orgasmed, it was Daniel’s name silent on my lips.

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Min

Did I surprise you, Lynda? Finally you get your wish. How is it you’re so much smarter than me? I’m the eldest, I’m supposed to know everything!

I surprised me. I lost my temper and I haven’t done that in years. And the thing is, once I got over the shock of seeing him, in a place he didn’t belong and never would belong, I felt strong and in control. No amount of sweet talk, no amount of bullying, would make me change my mind. And he could hardly use strong arm tactics in a room full of witnesses.

I did stay and served food and cleaned tables and kept a smile on my face. People were anxious to show their approval, nodding their heads at me, patting my hand. I knew I’d done the right thing, but still, my emotions were all churned up and my thoughts went round in circles, like that hamster you used to have running in his wheel and getting nowhere.

Maybe I’d been too hard on Patton; after all he’d traveled more than half way round the world to come get me. Surely some love or affection was involved. Oh, I can hear you now: wasn’t no love or affection to it, it was pure possessiveness and meanness. You always did say Patton had a stick up his ass and it soured him.

That’s about what Kate said when we talked later that night. Maybe that’s why I love Kate so – she reminds me of you.

I wasn’t sorry to see Patton go, but it did leave me unsettled and feeling slightly guilty. I could have left a note, I could have called and told him I was done with him. Then I remembered the letter I’d written; I guess you could say it was my own fault he’d found me – well, mine and Brad Timmons, damn his soul.

Kate hissed at me to get that look off my face. “I’m not living with a fucking martyr,” were her exact words.

So I pasted a smile on my face and pretended I understood what people were saying to me and nodded back at them. I just wanted the night to be over and to curl up in my bed … no, I wanted to climb the crumbling stairs to the roof. I wanted to sit and watch the stars and find my center and everything to be all right again. But I worked, I interacted, I tried to act normal.

And always I was conscious of Nick.

He didn’t try to sweet talk me, he didn’t say much at all. But he was there. He sat at ‘his’ table, all tucked away in a corner, sipping wine and watching me and every time I looked over at him I felt safe. He was there, that’s all, he was just there. He reminded me of one of your wolves, alert and watchful and wanting to protect.

I believe you’d like Nick, Lynda, there’s nothing artificial about him, even if he is rich enough to own an island. He’s honest in his emotions and he loves the land he chose to be his own. Just like you. Isn’t it funny how I see you in the people closest to me? Quit laughing, little sister, I’m being profound here!

Sleep well, darlin’, I’m thinking of you. Always.

~~~~~

Sleeping on the roof eased something in me that had been tightened up for years; I just hadn’t been aware of it til now. The stars whirled above me giving me that falling feeling, but they were beautiful, so beautiful. I felt wrapped in the immensity of God’s love and at the same time the warmth of Kate’s body next to me reminded of the comfort of human love and caring.

And Nick was out there. Was he still out there? I peered into the darkness but couldn’t tell. He was a strange one and my feelings for him were all unsettled. I was attracted, I was definitely attracted, but what did I know about him? He owned an island, for God’s sake! He was a very successful businessman from a very successful family and he was kind and he had helped me without taking away the chance to help myself. He could have started a brawl with Patton, but he didn’t. He’d just backed me up in a very supportive way.

And he’d stood guard – against what I wasn’t sure, didn’t he trust his friend Daniel?

I tried not to feel guilty. It was his decision, I told my self firmly. I never asked him to do such a thing. But lord, that he had! Then I began to fret whether he’d ever say something. I wasn’t even sure I wanted him to, but it seemed to me Nick kept his own council too well; he was always around but never had too much to say. They do say actions speak louder than words, but a woman likes to hear just a few words every now and then!

Kate snorted and turned on her side. I smiled and finally my mind quieted enough to let me drift on off to sleep.

~~~~

I decided breakfast was as good a time as any to tackle Kate about my tentative plan – get her while she was feeling all emotional about me.

“So I have an idea I want to pass by you,” I said, grunting a bit as I cut a melon in half.

Kate took a desperate slug of coffee and started breathing quickly through her open mouth. “Hot!” she managed to get out, waving her hand in a fanning motion.

“Greedy,” I teased.

“Bitch,” she said mildly and sat down at our rickety table. “So what’s the idea?”

I placed her half of the melon in front of her.

“I want to be a farmer.”

“What?! Are you serious?”

“As a heart attack. I’ve got a good start already. I think I could do it, Kate, in a small way of course. I want to contribute.”

“You do contribute, you’re at the taverna every damn night!”

“Don’t get all upset, but … it’s just not my thing. I don’t like the crowds …” Kate snorted at that and she was right, by no stretch of the imagination could the clientele of the taverna be called a crowd. “Oh, you know what I mean! I’m not all social, like you are. Cooking is your thing. I want to grow things.”

“This wouldn’t have anything to do with Lynda, would it?” she asked shrewdly.

I could feel my cheeks heating up. “Maybe. But not really. I got no desire to live communally – two don’t make a commune, do they? And I for sure don’t want to make my own soap and weave cloth to make clothes.

“But I guess I’m more like Lynda than I realized. I want to be outside getting my hands dirty.”

“And everything else,” Kate said dryly.

“Probably. But I got a start. Tino brought down the little tractor they use in the olive grove and plowed me a good sized plot for the onions and garlic. I got Oscar and I want more of her relatives to come live here. And Henry needs company, I want lots of Henrys and then I want to learn to make cheese.”

“To make …” Kate looked at me in astonishment. “Min, are you crazy?”

“Probably,” I said again. “But if I can pull it off, if I can grow things and make cheese, it’ll save a lot of money, we won’t have to buy everything, we’ll make it.”

Kate sat back in her chair. “You’ve never farmed in your life and you can’t google this, there’s no internet here.”

“I grew up in farming country, might be I know more than you think.”

“Okay, okay, don’t get all southern on me again.”

“I need to know what we can spare for stock, money wise, that is.”

“Your tampax money all gone?”

“No, there’s still a bit.”

“See what you can get with that. The taverna’s just about supporting itself; who knows, maybe one day it’ll support us too.” She laughed.

“Being our own suppliers just makes sense then,” I said earnestly. “And if I have to I can get a job on another island, just for awhile.”

“It won’t come to that,” Kate said with confidence. “I was exaggerating just a bit, we’re not doing so bad. Should we ask Nick in for breakfast?”

“He’s long gone.”

“I guess you’d know.”

“Don’t start with me!”

She buried her face in her coffee cup to hide her smirk.

~~~~~~~~

I didn’t go to market with Kate. Neither did Kate; Daniel dragged her off rock climbing. I told her that I planned a longer trip to Tinos or Mykonos later in the week and if she were good she could go with me as long as she didn’t mind traveling with chickens or goats on the return trip. I also wanted to see if I could find some lemon trees and maybe orange trees too; I could envision our own fruit orchard and lemonade made from our own lemons.

With that in mind, I dragged the potted lemon tree through the tunnel and came back for the shovel Tino had left behind. One lemon tree did not an orchard make, but I would make a start and this young tree would be the symbol of my commitment.

Digging a hole doesn’t require much concentration and my thoughts began to wander. Lord, it was hot! I’d worn long sleeves and a wide straw hat to protect me from the sun; it was still early morning and already I was sweaty but I stubbornly set the tip of the shovel to the ground and my foot against the top of the blade. A quick downward pressure was supposed to bury the blade in the soil, but the grasses were thick and tough and tangled together and as far as I could tell nothing happened.

I could feel frustration rising up in me. I set my jaw and somehow balanced myself with both feet on the edge of the blade and cautiously jumped up and down. The tip sank into the earth maybe two inches.

Oh, this was the outside of enough! Had I thought the land welcomed us? Not this piece of it! I managed to wiggle the tip under the grass roots and strained to shift them. After maybe ten minutes, I had a small area cleared that wasn’t big enough to spit in. I made a noise that sounded almost like a growl, wiped the beads of sweat from my upper lip, and set to.

It was Patton that got that hole dug for me. In my haze of heat and fury, I told him everything I’d never said to him and should have. I called him names – bully, bonehead, bastard were the least of them. I’d prove he hadn’t ruined me, I’d show him I was capable of doing for myself. I didn’t need him, I didn’t need any man. I could stand on my own two feet – I’d stood up to him, hadn’t I? I didn’t need his money, I didn’t want his cock and he was good riddance to bad rubbish!

He was controlling, always thinking he knew best, shooting down any ideas I might have had.

Whap!

He was a miser unless it was something that benefited him; his clothes were brand name, mine were Wal-Mart, and there was nothing I could do, or so I thought at the time, because he controlled the purse strings.

Whack!

He was a selfish lover, and I’d gone from an eager virgin to a disillusioned wife who had periods twice a month and headaches even more often. When that didn’t work, I covered the bruises with long sleeves and high necklines and tried not to hate him.

Because I would never have the comfort of a child to make it all worthwhile. I knew this for a fact. Ellen Kynard not only worked for the local urologist but also attended our church. She’d made it a point to make sure I knew about Patton’s vasectomy, and she did so hope we hadn’t made the wrong decision.

Gossip in small towns – it’s like a virus and spreads just as swiftly. Patton could have gone off somewhere else to have his clipping, but he didn’t, he stayed in town and I think he knew it would get back to me. I think he knew. But I never let on. I never asked him why, and now I didn’t care.

I threw a shovelful of dirt behind me with a vicious swing. The exclamation of surprise was timed exactly with the shovel handle appearing to be stuck in midair. It was impossible to pull it back in front of me. I spit out a word that Mama would have washed my mouth out with soap for saying, and turned to find Nick with clumps of dirt stuck to his shirt and one of his hands wrapped around the handle near where it joined with the blade. I glared at him from under my hat brim.

“That’s a big hole you’re digging, “he said mildly.

“It suits my purpose,” I said shortly, trying to pull myself together. I have never, in all my memory, lost my composure the way I did when I was digging that damn hole.

“You planning to plant a redwood in it?”

I looked at my hole. It seemed once I got going, I got a little carried away. It was wide and went all the way down to the bedrock, which isn’t as awesome as it might sound, the island was nothing but rock with a thin sheet of dirt over it. The rock was what I’d been beating the shovel – or Patton – against; my hands were still feeling numb and tingly from the energy transferred up the handle.

“I’m planning on planting a lemon tree,” I said defiantly. “One day I’ll have a whole orchard of them here.”

“Like that one there?” He pointed to the pot.

“Exactly like that one there.”

“Araminta, that’s a Dwarf Lemon, it’ll be a funny looking orchard. What you want is the kind that grows tall, they can get to twenty feet or so.”

I must have looked dumbfounded; I was certainly feeling that way. Why on earth had I assumed …

“Oh lord …” I wiped my face with a shirt sleeve. “Well, at least I’ll have the hole ready when I get the tree.”

“Here …” He took the shovel from me. “You look like you’ve worked off some of what was bothering you – is it safe to ask for a glass of lemonade?”

I gave him a sharp look; his eyes were steady, his lips smiling; he didn’t sound like he was making fun of me. He balanced the shovel over a shoulder and held out his hand.

“Let’s go cool off and I’ll offer you a deal on some olives. Looks like you’re going into business after all, and I am a businessman.”

I wiped my hand on my jeans and took him up on his offer. I’d sneak the lemon tree back to the courtyard before Kate got home.

Kate

I could say that I don’t know how we did it but that would be disingenuous. We did it because we’re women and women know how to hide their tears, hide their fear and just keep going on.

Min had her moments; you could see it on her face. Clearing a plate and suddenly her facade would change, her cheeks would begin to sag and her eyes blink wildly. Our customers were patting her hand and offering encouragement (I think) but I didn’t see that kindness was helping her.

“Snap out of it,” I hissed at one point, “I need a worker, not a battered wife.”

Min’s face was shattered but for a moment her eyes flashed anger. I turned my back on her; I didn’t want her to see how shattered I was also. But she straightened her spine and kept going.

Usually our customers closed us down as the island fell asleep but this night they wandered out earlier, small hugs and jovial words we didn’t understand following behind them.

“Go home,” I said to Min, “I’ll do as much as I can and then finish tomorrow.”

“Nick is still here.” Min wasn’t looking at me. “He stayed. And so did you.”

“I’m sorry for what I said. Oh Min…”

Finally her face crumbled. “Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare apologize. I was brave damn you. I was brave.”

I held her as she cried. And all I could say, my voice breathing into her hair, “You were so brave. I’m so proud of you Min.”

 ~~

Nick followed us home. We closed the taverna and there he was, leaning casually over by the general store. I opened my mouth to say something but didn’t have anything to say. I know Min saw him but she was silent.

We walked through the small square and to the path that would wind us along to home. I wasn’t used to this kind of distance between us; physically we were apart and emotionally I doubt we could even bridge the differences.

“I used to envy you, ya know.” Min looked at me in surprise. “You were married.” I gave a harsh laugh. “I know logically that Patton was horrible but illogically I still think well at least you had a husband.”

“Why would you envy me Patton?”

“Not Patton: marriage.” I didn’t usually grasp for words but this was hard. I didn’t know if Nick was listening, he was far enough behind that I didn’t think he heard our voices.

“Look around and all you see is couples. Everywhere. Hell, even Shoosh has a Mr. Shoosh. But nobody ever asked me to be his wife. And I hate that. I hate being that woman.”

“You’ve had relationships, you told me so.”

“And not one of them ever got serious enough to want to take that step. Either they weren’t serious about me or I was using them. I just wanted to be able to say that someone liked me enough to want to marry me.”

“And I wish I was brave enough to have walked out before I wasn’t me anymore and became nothin’ but Pat’s wife. Do you know how much I started hatin’ sex with him? It was always done to hurt just a bit. If we went out, he waited till we were where we were goin’ and then he’d say ‘oh honey, wish you’d worn the black dress, your ass doesn’t look quite so big in that one.’ And there I’d be all night worryin’ that people were lookin’ at my ass or thinkin’ that I was ugly.”

“You’re a fucking mess.”

Min stopped and for a moment I thought she was going to cry. Then she gave that marvelous throaty Min laugh. “Well you’re a fucking mess too, darlin’.”

“You’re going Southern on me woman.”

“Shit.” Min started walking again. “Patton spends ten minutes in my life and I’m a good Southern woman again. Fuck that. I like who I am when I’m here. I like who I am when I’m with you Kate.”

“Well you’re the closest thing I got to a spouse so you better like it.”

She moved closer to me and I felt her hand soft against my back. “I always liked to think that you chose to be single. I thought you were the bravest person I knew.”

“Oh hell. Min, I know I’d make a lousy wife. I’m stubborn and mean and I like having my own way too much.”

“You’re just what Patton needed.”

“Hush yo’ mouth woman!” We both snickered. “Seriously, I never wanted to be married. I wanted to have been married.”

“A fine distinction.” Min was silent a moment. “You know, I am married. I really look forward to being unmarried.”

We walked the rest of the way in silence. But it was the most comfortable, companionable silence I’d ever experienced.

~~

We slept on the roof that night. We dragged a mattress up the slick steps and wrapped ourselves in blankets. The stars were each distinct in the sky and we barely spoke, we lay quietly and felt the darkness settle around us.

“Nick’s out there,” Min said in a hushed voice.

“You mean out there in the night?”

“No, by the dovecote. Look.”

I looked and was going to tell Min she was crazy till I saw the green flash of a lit watch. He was out there. I lay back down, drawing the blanket up to my chin. “Are you scared?”

She knew what I meant and she didn’t pretend. “A little. I know he’s not like Patton but he has his own control. The man owns the island we live on. That seems a little scary.”

“He’s protective in a good way. I’m almost jealous.”

“Really? Seems someone else might be in your thoughts.”

I closed my eyes. “I doubt he can’t handle himself with your ex but I’ll feel better when I see him tomorrow.”

“Think you’ll be hearing wedding bells soon?”

“Yeah right.” I opened my eyes and felt almost dizzy from having the sky pressing down on me. “Marriage isn’t gonna happen. But he’s living in my head right now and it’s been a hell of a long time since someone did that.”

“I wonder what would have happened,” Min said fighting a yawn, “if you’d been obsessed about Italy instead.”

Min

“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.

Kate

The world likes to run on a routine. Waking early and lying alone in the slow silence of dawn; never before has the world been so peaceful.

Our water is cold and I learned to shower fast. I missed the luxury of long, hot showers but replaced it with the pleasure of lingering breakfasts on the hill. Min would be asleep and in a straw basket I’d pack a slice of bread, cheese and fruit. Sometimes Henry would meander behind me and I would feed him crusts and rinds.

That’s where Daniel found me, his long legs carrying him up the hill. I sat with my back against a tree; I was eating slices of melon, the sweet juice dripping all over my hands and coloring my lips.

Daniel looked darker, bronzed almost golden by the sun. His smile was wider and it kicked me in the stomach suddenly how much I’d been missing him.

“Hale hearty stranger,” I called, “where you been?”

“Stuck on the mainland. Give me.” He folded himself on the ground next to me and took a slice of melon.

“We missed you.”

“Did you?” He emphasized the word ‘you’ and I felt myself blush.

“You should come to Aristotle’s,” I said avoiding his question. “We’re actually doing a little business. Not a lot yet but its building. Slowly.”

“I’ll be there tonight.”

Well then. I fooled around with the bread I brought and ended up watching Daniel eat it and the cheese. He told me about sailing around the islands. He told me funny stories about people he’d met and mistakes he’d made.

I didn’t remember a word he said.

 

~~

 

Shoosh was disgusted with me and left the kitchen through the back door. She left the door open, probably hoping I’d attract flies. I couldn’t explain it to myself but I was in a frenzy trying to make perfect food.

Min had shown me how to make a spicy barbeque sauce and I was sautéing peppers and garlic. We had chicken pieces spread across the grill; Shoosh had put pieces of olive tree bark over the coal for added fragrance.

A shout from outside caught my attention. There wasn’t often much noise outside during the day, not until the sun was on its way down and the air was rent with a cooling breeze did the world of Dyvos come to life. Otherwise those of us in the square did our business in the morning, closed for the early and hot afternoons and then returned to finish our days.

I left my peppers to cook without me and wandered to the open door. Christos was at his door, his face red with fury. We still had little conversation between us but as the butcher he received enough of my business that we were gaining a slight understanding.

“Pedi?” I asked, assuming perhaps a child was aggravating him. “Or myos?” I was proud to have learned the word for mouse but not how I had learned it which involved me standing on a table screaming while Tino laughed and Min chased the damned thing with a broom.

“Katta!” Christos was a thin man but his voice boomed. He continued to speak but I understood maybe one word in fifteen and that word was katta, or cat.

“What happened, you allergic?” I knew he didn’t understand me but that was okay. To have such a strong reaction to a cat offended me. I missed having cats, I had grown up surrounded by them and after my mother died I had kept her cat until it passed away from old age.

“Good luck with the mouser,” I said saucily, throwing a wave at him. I ducked back into the kitchen and to my peppers which I took off the heat. I fished out a small plate and from the small refrigerator took out our paltry bit of cow’s milk. With only one cow on the island (which had arrived on the same day as Min and I and had been much more welcomed) the milk was a precious commodity. I knew I could have used the goat’s milk which was plentiful but this was more than just cats and Kates.

I returned to my peppers and garlic and added the vinegar and ground mustard seed. As that sautéed I brushed the chicken with honey.

I knew Shoosh would return in time to make the lamb and rice she made daily. Min had been by earlier and we had sat and chopped the slaw as we talked about nonsense. We were both lost in unshared thoughts, despite everything I didn’t know how to tell her what I was feeling. I didn’t completely understand it myself.

But Min had said nothing when I added the pomegranate seeds to the slaw and I didn’t try to keep her when she left earlier than usual. “I’ve got some garlic to plant,” she murmured.

“Near the dovecote?”

She ignored me, as I deserved to be ignored, and she slipped out the door moments later.

Were we both finding ourselves in this lost world of ours?

I added the sugar and water to the sauce I was making and the cooked down tomato. Then that was brushed over the chicken as well. I would continue to brush the honey and then the sauce over the chicken as it cooked.

I needed to choose a salad for the night but I was tired of the onions and cabbage, the olives and cheese that made our diets. I thought of Daniel’s lips glistening with the juice of a melon slice and decided on fruit. Melon balls, cucumbers slivered delicately and curling around the plate. Apples and honey to dip them into.

I almost didn’t see him as I was so lost in my own thoughts. “Well well,” I said aloud, “looks like we have our first customer of the day.”

The scrawny katta didn’t even look up from the milk he was lapping. I smiled and got the melons out.

 

~~

 

 

I wonder if anyone else felt it. The air cooled and the taverna doors and windows opened. Shoosh had made her pot of rice and she sniffed unhappily at the fruit salads I placed in front of our customers. I heard her whispered complaint to Elena even though I didn’t understand it.

“The chicken is amazing,” Min whispered to me.

“Why are you whispering?”

She flushed and it wasn’t the heat of the kitchen. Elena and her husband Stavros were there as they were every night, tonight Christos and his wife and son were customers. We had a small group of the younger set taking a table near a window; they were crazy about the barbeque and demanded ‘more America food’. People would wander in throughout the evening and most would stay put, ordering retsina and lemon cake.

Daniel had come in early, his large body taking up a small table to the side and stealing much of the air from my lungs. His hair was still wet from a shower; small curls clung to his neck. His white shirt was unbuttoned enough to show sun darkened skin. His eyes sought me out immediately and spoke eloquently without words. My stomach was jittering in response.

“Do you want me to serve him?” Min asked. There was laughter in her words and I ignored her. I took a plate of salad and went to his table.

“Nice to see you.”

“Kate.” He sat up straighter and reached out. I flushed; I hadn’t expected that he would take my hand in front of everyone. I reached out to take his hand and almost groaned as he took the plate from me instead. “Are you okay? You’re red.”

“Cooking.” I waved a hand in front of my face. “Cooking makes me hot.”

“Will you cook for me then?”

“Daniel. Kate.” Nick had entered and I hadn’t noticed.

“Landlord Nick.” I loved to tease the man; I don’t think many people ever did. “Did you find out anything about getting us beer?”

“Beer?” Daniel grinned. “I love beer.”

“Of course you do,” I said dismissively as Nick made a similar comment. “Nick, sit?” I moved away from the other chair at Daniel’s table but Nick was scouring the taverna.

“No,” he murmured, “I think I’ll say hello to Alex.” He wandered away from us but seemed to be zeroed in on Min whose face was turning the color of her hair.

“Somehow I think Alex might feel ignored.” I turned back to Daniel who was watching Nick.

Daniel’s eyes lifted from Nick and he looked at me in the way that made my stomach dance again. “Will you meet me tomorrow again? I’d like to show you something.”

“Is this a pick up line?”

“If I said yes would I have a better chance of you showing up?”

“I don’t know what to do with you,” I said quietly.

“I have ideas…”

It was exciting and uncomfortable, truly it was wonderful and terrible all together and I wanted to run away as well as sit and never move. However a new customer in the doorway provided me the escape I needed. He was most definitely not Greek and not from the island as his trousers and loafers, and wrinkled white shirt with long sleeves could attest. He looked like a tourist who missed his boat and I inwardly winced for him.

“Hi there, welcome to Aristotle’s,” I said chirpily, “can I help you?”

“Yes,” he said in a slow drawl, “have you seen my wife?”

I was ready to reply to the negative when a crash of dishes answered for me. I turned to see Min at the door to the kitchen, the tray she had been carrying on the ground and broken pottery and spilled food a mosaic at her feet.

“Patton,” she said in the sudden silence and I wanted to cry.

Min

I stood relaxed between the open French doors, sipping a cup of bitter coffee and watching the sun rise. Slowly color seeped into the courtyard as the light brightened. It was going to be another beautiful day.

The courtyard didn’t look much different, but still I felt a sense of accomplishment. It was clean and weed free and we’d started to add plants. It was all very hit and miss. Both Kate and I worked on it when we could, but the bulk of the work had been done by Tino, who seemed to have taken up residence with us. He’d arrived with a hoe and a rake and a lemon tree in a pot. He’d managed to make us understand that it was another housewarming gift, both he and the lemon tree.

Kate was delighted to find someone with even a few words of English.

“For fuck’s sake, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!” she’d hissed.

“But Kate, he’s done so much already,” I protested.

“He hasn’t even started.”

“I meant his employer, I don’t like to be beholden.”

“You need to learn to accept gifts graciously.”

“Yes ma’am,” I said meekly and tried to remember the last time I’d had a gift.

But Tino was the best gift we could have been given. Everyday he came down the hill and when he left something else would have been fixed, or improved. He’d done something to the roof when we showed him the leak and voila – no more leak; he’d put a new latch on the French doors and we no longer shared our house with livestock. Henry had learned to work the broken latch like a pro and we’d even found Oscar in the kitchen once, looking like she had every intention of nesting in the big earthenware bowl Kate used for kneading her bread. I thought Kate would stroke out.

We’d been accepted by the people, and I think by the land too. Still, sometimes I felt like a large white egret set down amongst a flock of pigeons. Daniel was the only person I’d met here who was taller than me.

“A stranger in a strange land,” I said softly.

“Talking to yourself again?”

I turned and smiled. “It’s only dangerous if you turn it into a real conversation, that’s why I have you, you keep me sane.”

“Thank you very much … you think old Aristotle is turning in his grave?”

I needed no explanation of what she meant. “The real Aristotle? I don’t think he’d care much what kind of food is served at his namesake, he had other things on his mind. Things more important than barbequed lamb.”

Kate gestured with her chin. “It’s coming along nicely, isn’t it?”

“That it is. C’mon, let’s stroll the property.”

“Oh, la-de-da! Stroll the property.”

“Well, it is property. And we will stroll.” I grinned at her. “You’re too damn short to link arms with … try to keep up, okay?”

She stuck out her tongue at me but went willingly enough. I headed toward the little patio, where Tino had planted bougainvillea. Soon the ratty lattice would be covered with it. I nodded in approval.

“Those stairs need a railing,” Kate said critically.

I looked at her in horror. “You Philistine, you! Surely you jest!”

“I never jest about breaking my neck. Damn it Min, those things are an accident just waiting to happen.”

“Don’t climb them then. What would you be doing on the roof anyway? C’mon, let’s check the dovecote.”

She sighed. “You and your damn dovecote. It’ll look exactly as it did yesterday, but let’s go.”

Tino had planted some lavender and rosemary along the wall on either side of the passage opening and they were just starting to bloom. We both sniffed in appreciation.

“Shoosh’s looking forward to fresh rosemary, she wants us to plant onions. And garlic.”

“And you know this how? You can suddenly speak Greek?”

“Fuck no! Daniel came by … he translated.”

“Oh, Daniel …”

“Shut up!”

“Yes ma’am.”

By this time we were in the tunnel. Kate grabbed my arm and brought us both to a halt. Behind us, weak sunlight slanted into the dimness and the smell of lavender surrounded us.

“Min,” Kate said, “what are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking of where to plant garlic. I don’t want it in the courtyard.”

“Damn it, I’m being serious here. We did something spur of the moment, it could be something stupid or something really, really great. Which is it? If Patton showed up, would you go back with him?”

I leaned back against the wall. The stone felt rough through my thin top. “Patton isn’t going to show up, how could he? He doesn’t know where I am.”

“Your lawyer does. Who is your lawyer anyway?”

“I wrote to Brad Timmons, Leeann’s husband. He’s a lawyer and she’s my friend.”

“But is he Patton’s friend? I wish you hadn’t done that, Min. I’ve read all about the ‘old boy’ network in the south.”

“Hey, it’s not just the south! And he’ll be bound by client confidentiality.” But I didn’t sound very certain.

“If he takes you on as a client. Otherwise … I wish we’d talked it over first.”

“That’s what I get for trying to be independent,” I said lightly. “Please don’t worry, not over this. Pat won’t want me back. Not the woman who made him look bad in front of the whole town.

She gave me a strange look. “I’m beginning to wonder just how well you knew Patton.”

“Probably not as well as I know you. So … you gonna get it on with the sailor?”

“How crude!” Obligingly she accepted my change of subject. “’Get it on’, you make it sound so … basic. There’s more to him than just sex.”

“Fuck is basic, ‘get it on’ sounds like fun. And if you’re thinking of more than sex, it must be serious.”

“He’s like a fucking dragonfly, flitting here, there, everywhere. I don’t want to flit. Whatever happens, it won’t be serious.”

“Famous last words.”

“Pot and kettle. What about you and Nick?”

I could feel my face getting hot. I pushed off from the wall and continued along the tunnel, not limiting my stride. Kate trotted along beside me. “Well?”

“Good Lord, Kate, I can count the number of times I’ve seen him on one hand with fingers left over. He’s a busy man and I’m fixing to set up in the garlic business. I got no time for males, I want nothing to do with males. I just got shed of one, I got no desire to take on another, even casually. Nick’s been very kind, but then I imagine he sees himself as lord of the island and everyone here under his care. That’s all it is.”

“Uh huh. Well, I can understand, I suppose. Just remember, not all males are like Patton. Couldn’t hurt to give him a chance.”

“He’s only here for a short time,” I said, exasperated. “He’s based in Athens. Just leave it, Kate.”

“I will if you will.”

“Deal.”

We stepped out into the bright sun and immediately groped for our sunglasses. The short, tough grasses stroked my ankles as we moved toward the dovecote.

“Over there.” I pointed to the right. “I thought over there would be good for the garlic.”

“Ask Tino.” Kate seemed uninterested in garlic. “Well, well, look who’s at the dovecote.”

My head whipped around. Nick was just emerging through the newly hung door. He stopped and looked up. My gaze followed his.

I heard their coos before I actually picked out a dove perched in one of the round openings. With a whir of wings, another took flight.

“Min,” Kate whispered. “I think he’s courting you.”

And oh lord, I think she was right.

Kate

“Are you sure you’re ready?”

Min and I stood in the butcher’s shop; the sight of the hanging goat’s head had put her off. “He might be one of Henry’s relatives” she hissed at me, but she followed anyway as I walked in.

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” I answered honestly, “I don’t even know what some of this shit is.”

“I think I recognize the chickens.” Min stepped forward and as she did, a tall thin man unfolded from his chair in the back, both the man and the chair previously hidden from our sight. He began to speak to us and we looked at him in complete incomprehension.

“I really wish some of these Greeks would speak English. It’s really hard to not understand them.”

Min cocked an eyebrow at me. “You don’t think that maybe we should learn their language? I mean, they didn’t move to the US, we did move to Greece.”

“Well if we have the most nukes, they should speak our language.”

“You know that makes no sense.”

“I never considered sense important in life. Should we try for some of Oscar’s relatives since we can’t identify these other things?”

“Who’s Oscar?”

“If the goat is named Henry, the chicken is named Oscar.”

Min sighed and turned away from me. I stepped closer to the display and pointed at the chickens. Then I held up my hands, seven fingers up.

“Hokay laydee.”

“So you do speak English!” I said delighted.

“Hokay laydee.” He bobbed his head in pleasure.

Min’s arm thumped around my shoulders. “He sure does laydee. See if he has any nukes stashed back there as well.”

The market was small and Daniel had told us to get there early in the day. The stalls reminded me of farmer’s markets I had gone to all through northern California. Exactly the same but completely different.

“Look at the color of this.” Min held up a handful of leaves.

“Nice. Um … what is it?”

“Spinach.” Kate held out the leaves to the man whose stall it was. “So Kate, do you even know what you’re cooking now that you’re a restaurateur?”

“I have a feeling you’re mocking me nature girl.”

“Mild natured fun.” She pulled on my sleeve. “Look at that cabbage. That’s some brilliant cabbage.”

“I thought you hated cooking.”

“Not really. But a little.” Her head was bent over the pile of cabbages. Red hair, light green vegetable. She was the crayon box with all the basics. “I hated cooking for Patton. He was so damned regimented. If I tried to make something different he’d refuse to eat it and insist we go to the steak house for dinner. I just got plain wore out trying to do what I wanted and I stopped.”

“You should have stopped cooking for him. Or even better, cooked only things he didn’t want till he was broke from going out.”

“Damn it Kate.” Min stood tall and glared down at me. “Why weren’t you there to suggest it when I needed it?”

We both started laughing together, the tension thankfully absent from Min’s shoulders. I’d been getting used to seeing her with her shoulders up near her ears. “Well you know I love to cook,” I said picking up a tomato, “but I don’t know shit about it.”

“Like moving to Greece?”

“Oh you’re wounding me.”

“You do seem to jump into things with both feet.”

“I thought that was one of the things you liked about me.”

I was stung. It was silly but the sudden criticism from Min struck me deeply.

“Oh Kate.” Min took the tomato from my hands and handed it to the stall owner. “I followed you to Greece without even having thought about it for five minutes. What does that say about me?”

“That you really wanted to cook with feta cheese?”

“That I really wanted to cook with feta cheese is exactly it.”

Shoosh hadn’t arrived at the taverna so we were free to unpack the food we had bought and then sit at the table and stare at it. ‘I think we’re supposed to cook lamb, we’re Greek now.”
“I don’t know how to cook lamb.” I picked up a pomegranate. “I don’t know what to do with this either. Any suggestions?”
“Shit if I know.” Min picked up one of the cabbages. “If I were home Patton would want the chicken grilled with a side of slaw and some roasted taters.”

“Well even I could cook that. Hell Min, that sounds pretty damned good right about now.”

“Getting tired of our dining experiences already?”

I slumped. “I miss McDonalds so much that it’s making me sick.”

“I miss peanut butter.”

“If I start listing all the things I’m homesick for, I’ll never survive.”

“Well I know one thing I’m not homesick for.” Min dropped the cabbage to the table, “I am not homesick for cooking for Patton.”

I climbed to my feet and got what I needed to start cutting chickens up. “Do you miss him at all?”

“Pass me that long knife there? Thanks. Yeah, I miss him. I was married to him too long not to miss him. But you know how that worked out.”

“You ended up in Greece with your internet girlfriend.” I gave Min an exaggerated wink and she snickered.

“You know, Patton’s convinced you’re gay.”

My knife clattered on the counter. “He is not! Why?”

Her knife was making short work of the cabbage. “Well you’ve never been married which is highly suspicious to a southern mind. And y’all are a damned Northerner which is a mark against ya.”

“You sound like Minnie Pearl. Yee-haw lil’ doggie.”

“That’s get along lil’ doggie you ignorant Yankee.”

“Well at least I’m a business owner you damned parasite.”

Min snickered and so did I. I felt lighter than I had in ages, and it felt so right to be in that place at that minute with that woman. “I did have some thoughts about that ya know.”

“Well spill. Although if you’re going to turn our home into a brothel, I don’t do anyone named Stavros.”

“There goes half our damned clients. Seriously though Kate, how would you feel about a few more goats? I was thinking…”

“That since you got rid of a jack-ass you’d start collecting goats?”

“You don’t like?”

“We can talk. But you know that damned Henry ate my lipstick. And where the fuck am I supposed to find a tube of Revlon’s Ravenous Red on this island?”

“We’ll talk,” Min said trying to hide her smile. “So look at me here. I just sliced and diced this cabbage for slaw. Think Patton might be coming for dinner?”

“Bite your tongue woman! Anyway, I doubt anyone will be coming for dinner. And once they taste my cooking I doubt they’ll come again.”

“Well then let me show you a better way to cut that chicken and we can make a good down home barbecue sauce to go on it.”

“Down home Greek style.” I had to laugh. “Only us Min, only us.”

Aristotle’s Taverna reopened with very little fanfare. Shoosh was moderately appalled to find the crazy American women actually in the kitchen. I think she expected that we’d sit up in our house avoiding the actual work.

We were far from ready to be anything but what we were: a small tavern with limited fare. Shoosh had gestured long and hard, finally going to the butcher and returning with a wrapped brown package containing lamb. She ignored us as she seasoned it, her displeasure with us clear in her set shoulders and stiff back.

“She’s your employee,” Min hissed at me, “make her happy.”

“Why are you whispering? She doesn’t speak English.”

“It just seems rude to talk so openly.”

“Now you’re making me feel guilty.” I made a face at Min who made a face back.

Shoosh stiffened even more when I came to stand by her. “I’m sorry. I know this has been your kitchen for awhile now but I want to cook. I can’t explain it but I need to cook. And I’m hoping you’ll help me be a good enough cook to take care of the people on this island.”

I knew she didn’t understand me. My heart felt painfully small in my chest. Then Shoosh handed me a knife and began to show me how to cut the lamb.