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.
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.
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.