Pitch dark! That’s how the sky looked like that September night in 2002. There wasn’t a sign of the moon or the stars, not even a pale light, only the shadows of black clouds ready to erupt. My mind must’ve had similar, ludicrous colors because there was no other explanation on how I ended up walking alone, at 1 a.m., in the middle of nowhere, without a clue if I was going in the right direction. It took some time to convince myself that I could be included in the category of smart people.
I could’ve blame it all on him; Tassos Pappas- not that successful and smart, but handsome in a Greek way football player that I met few months earlier that year. I could’ve blame it all on him, but it wouldn’t have eased the pain in my bare feet, it wouldn’t have stopped the laughter of the silvery sandals in my hands. I remember thinking why did I wear high heels on the first place? And I remembered Tasso’s words that I needed to look more “lady like”, I had to appear astonishing in front of his friends, not embarrassing him. I skipped the remark despite the little urge to tell him all about embarrassment and respect and I accepted the shoes and the dress he bought for me that day.
It was my first year in Greece. I was not completely, legally residing in the country, I didn’t have many friends, apart from a few Bulgarians that I didn’t like spending time with. I barely knew the language and I didn’t have a very good job. Meeting Tasso was like a fresh breeze of air. Yes, a “fresh breeze of air” – an absolute cliche, but still a cliche that came with opportunities and attention that every girl needs. And when he asked me to go together on a holiday, I didn’t even wait for him to spell the whole question out and I had the “yes” dripping down on my lips. Of course my always-way-too-vivid imagination painted pictures of old fashioned romance on the beach and passion on the dancing floors in Halkidiki*. I had seen many photographs of the area and I knew it was a beautiful place for a vacation; the hotel was like a castle from a fairy tale adjusted to the tune of today’s luxury and charm and I felt like there was no reason that I shouldn’t be a princess for a week.
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”** The meaning of the quote hit me shortly after we arrived. The hotel was a perfect, five stars place. The sea and the sand were the finest someone could ever dream about or at least they looked that way to me, but I couldn’t say Tasso was my knight in shining armor, it appeared that he had arranged quite a few personal meetings in Thessaloniki***. I spent most days alone on the beach and in the evenings he was way too tired to stay late and have fun. On the fourth day of our stay he came back with the silver sandals and a white dress wrapped in fancy boxes. With a crooked smile he announced that on the next day he is taking me to a party that his friends from Thessaloniki are having in a club in the woods near Halkidiki and that I should make sure I looked more than great. I swallowed the loneliness of the first days and I concentrated on the word “party”, I even played few songs in my head and smiled in the dark while Tasso was snoring next to me.
I did look more than great. The white mousseline turned me into a happy star walking on admiration, even I approved my reflection in the mirror. His friends accepted me and made me part of their evening and whatever the reasons, I was having this tickling, joyous butterfly in my heart for satisfying Tasso’s desires, until his metallic, whiskey breath and his words proved me wrong. Enrique Iglesias was singing: ” If you feel like leaving, I’m not gonna beg you to stay …” and in between the rhythm of the song and the girls around me moving with the sounds, Tasso saying that he didn’t bring me to the party to flirt with his friends, that next time I’ll stay alone in the hotel, and there was a hate, a jealousy, an unexplained darkness in his eyes.
I tried to tell him that he was interpreting the fun we all had in the wrong way, but his hand squeezing my arm painfully didn’t seem to agree with me and like a sudden wake up call the words escaped my lips: ” Well, if you didn’t want your friends to flirt with me, next time you shouldn’t dress me like a whore and you should spend more time dancing with me instead of swallowing down a whiskey after whiskey!”. I turned around and I left the club without giving him the chance to answer back. I didn’t even care if he would come after me, I’ve had enough. I could’ve stayed there, I could’ve turned a blind eye to the accusations, but instead I decided to rebel out and because pride was something I thought we don’t spit at, there wasn’t a chance that I’d go back and I ended up walking alone with the darkness of the night.
Rain was about to pour down and I sure was lost. I could’ve blamed it all on Tasso, but that wouldn’t have showed me the road to the hotel. Young and restless, acting before thinking twice, I had done it again and the fact that I was completely aware about it didn’t make me feel better, payback time sparkled in the silent horizons. I kept walking, craving the lights of the hotel and when the refreshing drizzle turned into a heavy, wet torture I felt the dress glued unpleasantly to my skin and the waterproof mascara bitterly mixed with tears. I didn’t know if I was upset more because of the rain or because I felt so helpless, I didn’t have the time to decide. The sound of a motorcycle and the sight of its bright light made me stop. By the time I sigh in wonder the bike had stopped too. I couldn’t see who was on the bike, the projector light was blinding me, but I heard his voice and I couldn’t help it but think that I knew the voice.
‘Trouble in paradise? What are you doing walking alone in the rain that faraway from the hotel?’. The voice came nearer and stood in front of me, he took his helmet off and I recognized him. The barman with the annoying grin I’ve been seeing every day by the pool of the hotel. Uh, someone up there thought I wasn’t been punished hard enough for my stubbornness, to my misery had to be added an arrogant Mr. I Know Everything Better Than Everyone and of course a solid amount of irony to accompany his questions!
‘I don’t see a sign saying that the walking here is forbidden, so mind your own business! I love walking in the rain, it clears the mind, so I’m walking to the hotel and I love it! ‘, I would’ve died before I confess that I was lost and scared. It was embarrassing enough that he overheard some of my little fights with Tasso in the hotel, it wasn’t very difficult to spot the laughter in his eyes, I didn’t want to give him more reasons to gloat over my agony.
‘There’s one little problem sunshine, you’ve been honoring your love for walking in the wrong direction, the hotel is not that way. How about you let me drive you, I’m heading there too?’ Oh, crap, I knew it! Now, do I continue to play it strong and magnificent or I just give up and let the stranger help me? I wanted the rain to make a hole in the asphalt, huge enough so I can disappear. And before I came up with another bitter answer, he spoke again and I could feel his effort to keep the smile away from his face: ‘Don’t be stupid, it’s okay if you admit that you need help. I won’t triumph over one little moment of weakness.’ I said nothing and I got on the bike behind him, mostly relieved that the walking was over.
When we arrived at the resort I mumbled quietly thank you and rushed off to the reception desk. I didn’t care if I looked like a complete mess after the collusion with the rain, but just before I was about to reach out to the door, through the glass I saw Tasso sitting at the lobby bar, holding another drink and I froze. It was great that I spilled out all my anger and I told him off, but I was sure it wouldn’t be great, at all, to face him and explain my behavior, not with all the alcohol he had that night. I took few steps back only to end up in motorbike guy’s arms. ‘So there is a trouble in paradise after all. What did you do?’
‘Why do you think I am the one at fault? And why are you still here? Find somebody else to stalk, will you?’, this man, he had this magic touch bringing the worst out of me. Why couldn’t he leave me alone, I wondered.
‘Your shoes Cinderella, if you are going in there, at least do it with a style.’, he handed the sandals, dropped a smile that looked kind of sad and walked away. ‘What was wrong with me?’, all he did was to help and I happily attacked him. If it wasn’t for him, I’d still be walking … to Thessaloniki. ‘Hey, wait!’, I ran after him. He looked at me probably trying to figure out what the next poison out of my mouth would be and when I said ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude! Thank you, once again!’, the irony on his face faded away. ‘No problem sunshine! You should go inside and change, you’ll get a cold with this wet dress.’
‘Maybe later, I will stay here for a little while.’ He stopped locking his bike and concentrated on me, and I was sure that he knew what was inside my mind, inside my heart, for some reason I felt like an open book and whatever the language on the pages, he seemed to understand it all. ‘ Let’s make a deal, I won’t ask you why you don’t want to go inside the hotel, but you will not stay out here, it’s dreadful. You can come with me, I have a room in the staff’s building, I’ll give you to wear something dry and when you feel ready you can go to your boyfriend. How does that sound?’ I wanted to say yes right away, I was cold and exhausted, but I pretended that I was thinking through his offer very carefully and in a few moments, with a quiet voice, I accepted. His room was very small, a bed, a closet and a TV on the wall. The bathroom was even smaller, but once the hot water warmed my skin and bones I didn’t really care about anything. He gave me sweatpants and a t-shirt that felt really comfortable to wear.
He was lying on the bed, when I came out of the bathroom, watching TV. I was dying to have my body flat too, to close my eyes for a minute and like he was reading my mind, without even looking at me he said: ” Come on the bed, there is enough space for both of us, and honestly, you can stay here for the night.’ I didn’t wait for a second invite and I was next to him, feeling a little awkward, but the blanket he gave me and I placed between us made that feeling go away. ‘Thank you!’, not that a simple ‘thank you’ could’ve expressed my gratitude, but I said it anyway. ‘ I never asked for your name’, I must’ve lost all my manners that day. He sighed, teasing me: ‘ Yes, you were too busy being smart.’
‘I said I’m sorry, let’s not quarrel anymore. I’m really tired!’, and he came close to me, tucked the blanket nicely around me, left his hand on my shoulder and whispered: ‘ Alex, my name is Alex.’ I loved that name, it was all I could think at that moment, I’ve always wanted to know somebody called Alex.
‘ Hmmm, you don’t look like Alex. I’ll call you summer boy.” The sweetest laughter ever tickled my back and I was happy to hear him being amused. ‘ Why summer boy, it’s not even a real summer?’, his curiosity was even lovelier, or maybe I was extremely sleepy. ‘ It doesn’t matter, it feels like summer with you!’, and if he only knew how much I love summer.
‘So what is your name?’, his voice was calm and beautiful, but I was barely holding my eyes open. ‘ Ask me again tomorrow, will you?’, I pulled the pillow in a comfortable position under my head, glad that there wasn’t rain or cold to feel and the last thing that I heard before sunny dreams grabbed my full attention was his whisper, floating warmly into my heart: ‘ I will! Sleep tight summer girl!’
* * * * *
* Halkidiki, also Chalkidiki is a peninsula in northern Greece with several summer resorts on the beaches in the area.
** “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”- Benjamin Franklin.
*** Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia, 12 km away from Halkidiki.
TO BE CONTINUED …
© 2012 Broken Sparkles