“Eleni, my Eleni, my girl, my wild, crazy girl,” – his voice warm, so close to her face, his breath on her face so warm. She opens her eyes and sees his lips saying these words; his lips that speak her name, “Eleni” they say, “My Eleni”, the tone of the voice is so warm, she could melt in this heat, “my girl”, he says, “my wild, crazy girl“.
She opens her eyes in terror.
The room is silent; there is only a pale wind that softly moves the curtain.
Her heart is banging as if it’s ready to break.
She’s looking at the curtain that’s swelling with the breath of the wind. She recalls his lips, so close to hers – the way he was speaking her name.
She hides her head on the pillow.
“Eleni, my Eleni, my girl, my wild, crazy girl,” – his voice warm, so close to her face, his breath on her face so warm. She opens her eyes, and she’s looking at him, and he doesn’t stop saying her name and only her name, each time warmer and warmer – if only he could make her melt in this heat, a heat made only of her name, “Eleni” he says, “My Eleni” – “my girl”, he says, “my wild, crazy girl”.
He opens his eyes in terror.
The room is silent; there is only a pale wind that moves the curtain softly.
He rests his hand on his heart, to calm it down.
At that moment, his alarm clock rings.
He reaches out, still dazed, and he turns it off.
He recalls the way he was speaking her name – with such longing.
He gets out of bed.
The sound. The sound of her laughter is different. She laughs, and she thinks she hears someone else laughing. If she were not alone at that moment in the elevator, she would have sworn that this sound was not her laughter. She’s looking in the elevator mirror and sees another woman laughing. This other woman has her eyes. She also has a dimple on her right cheek. These characteristics reassure her; they are hers. Whether she expects from her hair or her smile is lost: they are unknown.
“That’s good,” she murmurs now, unlocking the apartment door. “Laughing alone.”
While entering the house, the bright daylight blinds her. The sun melts on the sea, and its light is reflected throughout the home, bathing the walls, sparkling upon objects. It eliminates matter and at the same time multiplies it, changing its form.
She takes off her shoes, leaves her keys, her bag, and goes out to the patio. The house is located in one of the oldest apartment buildings in the city and faces straight at sea. As she goes out, the wind lifts her long dress as if it wants to take it off, or tear it up. Eleni laughs in surprise. She stays for a moment at the edge of her patio, in front of the sea, bathing in the strong sunlight, in the strong wind.
She enters the house and picks up the phone. Forming the number, with the headset between her ear and her shoulder, she unbuttons her dress.
“I have stuffed peppers for lunch.”
“With minced meat?”
“With rice and cheese.”
“I’ll be there in about an hour.”
” I’ll be waiting.”
She leaves the phone, takes off her dress and throws it in an armchair. As she walks barefoot on the cool tiles, her hands move towards her hair with a spontaneous movement to fix them in a bun. Then she realizes that she has cut it, a few hours earlier; a gift to herself for her forty-fifth birthday that was three days ago. She smiles. She opens the bedroom door to pick up a clean dress from her closet. She finds strange the fact that, when opened, the room is dark, with lowered shutters. Then she sees Christos sitting at his desk, in front of his computer. The room is lit only by the screen light.
“What are you doing here with the blinds down?
“There is such a strong light outside. And I have work to do.”
“I invited Nikos for lunch. Did you have something to eat?”
“I am not hungry. Maybe later…”
Eleni tiptoes, barefoot; she takes a dress from her closet, leaves the room, –not a word about my hair, she reflects–, and closes the door behind her, silently.
“I’ll be there in about an hour”.
Nikos hangs up his cellphone and takes a few steps down the hall to the second floor, at the Courthouse. Then he stops; he has forgotten where he intended to go.
He stands there for a moment, in the middle of the long corridor – he stands still. He recalls the way he says her name, in his dream, earlier in the morning. The way he speaks her name while touching her face with his lips – so close, so warm.
Again, he reflects.
Once more –
The same, familiar heat rises on his cheeks, burning them.
“Now you have become even lighter.”
Nikos laughs. “Nothing …” he murmurs as he reaches out to fill their glasses with wine. They have just finished their meal. Nikos is thinking about his dream, once again – he reflects that there was a time, not long ago, he actually believed that he had got rid of such dreams of her.
Now he’s looking at her for a moment – fleetingly.
Eleni is looking at him for a moment – fleetingly. Their eyes meet for a few seconds. She turns hers away from his ocean blue color; she doesn’t want to remember the dream that upset her.
“What is Christos doing for so many hours in the bedroom?” Nikos asks.
“Well, you know him…”
“What is happening this time?”
In the sky, a cloud that looks like a bubble hides the sun for a while. “The usual,” says Eleni softly, but sad. “Some new female patient, maybe; perhaps some new conference as far away as possible…”
She raises her eyes to his.
They are looking at each other again; a long, silent look this time.
Nikos empties his glass and then leaves it on the table. He gets up. “I have to go; so much work to do in the office.”
Eleni gets up behind him. Nikos reaches out and gently messes her short hair. “I like it so much. Christos, I’m leaving,!” he shouts as he walks out the front door.
There is no reply from the bedroom.
He hugs her and kisses her on the cheek. “Thank you for the lunch,” he says, and Eleni is only looking at him. Eleni, my Eleni.
“Come if you want, after the office, at the evening…” she tells him as he goes down the stairs of the apartment building. His house is just one floor down.
Eleni closes the front door quietly. When she turns her head, she sees Christos in the hallway.
“Did he leave?” he asks her.
“Why didn’t you show up? He is your friend, after all”.
Christos turns his back and walks to the kitchen.
Eleni goes out on the balcony. The wind is getting stronger, and the sun, about to set, paints orange the patio corners.
She sits in the armchair where Nikos was sitting earlier. She’s looking at the empty plates, the glasses. Many years ago, all four of them were sitting at this table, all the time. Christos, Nikos, Katerina and she – so young, so full of dreams. Then the children came and, all of them, were pushed a little more at the same table; the twins, George and Sofia, for themselves, and Anastasia, for Christos and Katerina. Now, the children have left for studies, and only she and Nikos share this table across the sea. Katerina has been dead for a decade, and Christos is so busy with work that he is almost not at home.
But Nikos is always here. After Katerina’s death, he has become the permanent third member of the house.
Eleni is looking at the empty space around her. There is a slight trace of his smell left; she smells it. His eyes come to her mind. The way they were half-closed, annoyed by the sun, and then nailed to hers. Blue. “Blue”, she says out loud. His eyes have always been his strong point; she reflects.
She’s looking at the sea in front of her, playing with the remnants of the sun.
Eleni, my Eleni.
“I raise my hands unconsciously to my hair, to fix it in a bun. “I’m still not used to it,” says Eleni now, late at night, observing a part of the moon reflected in her wine.
She turns to Nikos sitting next to her. She’s looking at the cigarette in his fingers – at the quietness of his presence. What if I told him I saw him in my dream? If I said to him that his lips were so close to my face that –
“What are you thinking about?” Nikos asks her, taking a sip of his whiskey.
They sit the one next to the other, with the sea –big and quiet–, in front of them. The night is chilly. Nikos feels the chilliness touching Eleni’s bare shoulders and knees and feels jealous – for the unscrupulous way it touches her knees, for the overt way it touches her arms, wrists; her fingers as they hold the glass of wine.
My Eleni, he calls her in his dream, so close to her lips.
He puts out his cigarette.
“I’ll need Christos tomorrow,” he says. “A college at work suffers from panic attacks and needs help. Where will I find him?” he asks.
Eleni runs her hand through her hair and shakes her head negatively. “I have no idea. I think he will be at the clinic tomorrow morning”, she murmurs while she recalls Christos’ face earlier in the afternoon when Nikos had left.
Nikos looks at her profile, sullen but so clear as her short hair leaves her cheeks, forehead and neck bare.
“I don’t want to see sadness in your eyes, girl,” he tells her tenderly – for decades he uses this word for her, only he and no one else.
Eleni is looking at him thoughtfully. Eleni, my Eleni. She takes a long dive into his eyes, and for a small, tiny moment, she feels the beginning of vertigo – only the beginning. She holds tight the arm of her chair. “You know you’re the only one I have,” she says, looking at him. “I don’t risk losing you.” She wonders what makes her talk to him like that. She wonders what exactly the meaning of the words is.
“Because I am so patient with you, my girl”.
“Well, maybe you’re right”. There is a line between her eyebrows now.
Nikos reaches out and erases this line. He takes a deep breath. He pulls his hand away from her face with incredible difficulty. What if I told her about my dream? What if I whispered her name as I did in my dream?
Eleni empties her glass. His touch on her face causes her an unrepeatable upset, completely unacceptable.
“However, sometimes you are utterly insufferable,” she adds.
He looks at her straight in the eyes. “Do you believe that?”
She bows her head. “Oh, forgive me,” she murmurs regretfully. He is not to blame for my dream. “I’m not in a mood tonight.”
Because you were leaning over my face and you were whispering my name in such a scary way. Again and again. She’s thinking about it for a while; she doesn’t say a word, though. She shrugs – “the usual,” she murmurs. A lie is only the beginning; she notes.
Nikos looks at her wrists. They seem incredibly tender to him. He recalls the way he sees her in his dream. He smiles. A lie is only the beginning; he reflects.
“It’s time for me to go downstairs. None of us is in the mood tonight».
“Why do you say that? What’s happening to you?”
He looks her in the eyes. He hesitates to answer for only a few seconds. A professional liar, he reflects. “The usual,” he murmurs with the same smile. He wonders if his smile addresses to the woman of his dream or the one sitting next to him.
“I’d like to speak to Mr Argyriou, please…”
Eleni raises her eyes to the clock on the wall; it is almost three o’clock after midnight. The voice on the other end of the wire is youthful.
“What’s the number you called?”
The girl tells her their phone number.
“Wrong number,” says Eleni and hangs up. In the mirror, another woman with her face is looking at her smiling innocently.
She imagines the disappointed girl looking for Christos, asking for explanations. She goes out on the balcony. The night is moisty; it sticks to her arms. The sea in front of her is silent; the lights of the ships glide over it.
Since children have left home for studies, three years now, the absence becomes a sea that Christos swims blissfully in its waters. Eleni watches him disappearing, diving into hospital boards, into countless doctor appointments, into numerous conferences worldwide. She watches him change, mutate into an unknown Christos, who even uses new words, but never her name; he has abolished her name, completely forgotten it.
She touches fleetingly the line between her eyebrows that Nikos touched earlier.
Eleni, My Eleni.
Christos is looking at the moon, with the binoculars. It is late at night; all three are sitting around the big table on the patio. There is a thick candle in a glass upon the table; its flame plays with the night breeze.
“Was it a full moon yesterday?” he asks.
“Yesterday, yes.” Nikos lights a cigarette.
Eleni doesn’t speak. She’s looking at the blue light that the moon spreads upon the sea.
“You are so silent,” Nikos says to Eleni. “Why?” He’s glancing at her; the tips of her lips are so soft, he realizes he wants like crazy to bend down and kiss them – first the one, then the other.
“I’m not silent at all,” Eleni murmurs and turns to Christos who is continuously looking at the moon. “Will you need two blue shirts? You want me to put them in your suitcase?” she asks him.
“Yes, please, I will need them.”
Eleni gets up quietly and enters the house.
“Another conference?” Nikos asks Christos. “Tough times for you, neurologists, eh?”
“What is this question?”
They are looking at each other for a while, thoughtfully. Then Christos speaks. “It’s not your business,” he tells him firmly, sternly –”stay out of it”, he adds, almost angry.
Nikos looks at him for two moments, silent. Then he turns to the sea. He extinguishes his cigarette, furiously.
Nikos is still sitting on the patio. He finishes the wine left in the bottle. He smokes. He lights a new cigarette from the one that goes out. The night is humid, and the sea is quiet.
Christos is long gone.
“Will you sleep here? It’s three o’clock in the morning.” Eleni is sitting next to him – her scent, all the afternoon wraps him like a clean sheet.
“No. I think I’ll go downstairs. It’s not far away.”
She smiles at him. The tips of her lips are pulled and sweetened. Why can’t I kiss them? Again and again?
“You can’t even get up,” she tells him quietly. “Your eyes are red. Come on, I’ll get your bed ready in a minute”. She gets up – he grabs her hand by the wrist, forces her to sit next to him again.
“Please stay for a while”, he whispers. I want to smell you; I want to look at you until I can no longer see, I want to touch you, to breathe you – he reflects, he doesn’t say a word. “You are tired of preparing Christos’ bags. OK, you will make my bed,” he excuses himself, a liar. Only stay close to me.
Eleni looks into his eyes, then at the candle that goes out on the table, then at the moon, and into his eyes again. What if I touched his lips? What would happen?
“I’m tired,” she tells him quietly. “I want to sleep. “I want to make your bed and go to sleep – I can’t play with you both all night.”
She gets up and enters the house.
The red from the watermelon, the canary yellow, an orange cut in half, a sprig of basil, a blue sea and a blue scarf, the one she wore around her neck when he met her.
Eleni. Years and years and years.
She can reach out and bring the moon to your palm round and juicy, dripping on the floor. She can sit next to you, and her presence can wrap you like a spider’s web. “My future wife,” Christos tells him countless years ago, one afternoon, in Aristotelous square, in front of the sea; the two of them are twenty-five years old, and she has just turned eighteen. The sun plays with her long brown hair and brown eyes, and the sea stretches, blue, behind her back; it’s autumn. Nikos looks at them, both, first she and then the sea. He turns to her eyes again, and he laughs with a perverted bliss. Because in her eyes, he recognizes the woman who has been waiting for his whole life. Here she is, standing right in front of him. She smiles at him, and her heat enters his body and changes its shape, it transforms him – it never leaves.
He pretends, of course – for years; to Christos, to her, to Katerina, to acquaintances, to strangers, to friends. He pretends so well that in the end, he believes that the more he is a friend with Christos, the more he is with his wife. In the evenings he closes the doors of his house and opens those of hell. He undresses her secretly, over and over and over again, betraying everyone; he wraps her around him, and he sleeps with his head on the curve of her neck, gaining strength for the next hour, the next day, the rest of his life. And then, fortunately, the children come, and reality enters new, less painful paths. And when Katerina leaves forever, and then, one by one, the children spread their wings, when the three of them are all together again, the old nightmare comes to life, scarier than ever. Don’t these things disappear with age? he wonders many times, at night, and then he looks at his face in the mirror. And the answer is always there, in his eyes.
Now he’s looking at her as she sits on the bed next to him. “Is everything OK?” she asks him.
“Everything’s fine, thanks. Now, go to sleep…”
She’s looking at him. She extends her hand and caresses his face warmly. Nikos purses his lips, to hold back the trembling.
Nikos holds her hand in his palms. “What?” he whispers. Eleni, my Eleni – he only reflects it; he doesn’t say a word.
“If you need anything, I’ll be next door – you know.”
“Don’t you worry. Good night”.
His name; it’s his name –
She begs him, she whispers to him, she shouts at him. But he doesn’t stop; he runs along her body, he swims in her body with his fingers, with his palms, with his lips, with his breath; he drives her crazy, like a wave that comes and goes, like a wind that buzzes in her ears, like a light that blinds her –
“Nikos, Nikos!” she shouts and wakes up.
Nikos is sitting on her bed, next to her.
Eleni is looking around in panic. She feels her heart ready to break in the next moment.
“Calm down my girl, it was only a dream …” he murmurs hoarsely.
Eleni tries to calm her panting. A dull pink light comes from the window and rests on the edge of the bed.
Then she raises her eyes to him and –
she’s looking at him.
Eleni raises her eyes on him, and she’s looking at him, and Nikos feels dizzy by the heat of her gaze. He stretches out his hand and clings to the railings of her bed, to save himself: a rushing wave comes upon him, frightening him with its ruin and strength –that’s why he holds tight the edge of her bed. If he wouldn’t, the wave would sweep him away, swallow him; then, he would bend over her body and do to her everything he dreams of every night, and perhaps even all these things that no one of the two had ever dreamed.
“It was only a dream, my girl, it’s over now,” he whispers with a dry throat.
He smells her scent; on the sheets, on the pillow, on her sweaty nightgown.
“You were in my dream,” Eleni whispers. Again – she doesn’t say that.
They are looking at each other for a while.
Then Nikos gets up and leaves the room in a hurry. He leaves the house and bangs the front door behind him.
Vardaris wind is blowing.
The day is sunny and bright, like clear water in a glass. Eleni is sitting at her patio. In front of her, the sea is fierce; big waves crowned with foam. The wind drops down two pots with basil. She hears them breaking without moving from her seat.
His hands. His eyes. His lips. When they say, my girl. “It was only a dream,” they say. “It is over now”. He looks at her, and he holds the railings of her bed. His wrist touches the curve of her neck. In her dream, the same wrist slides on her breasts.
The crazy wind is blowing.
One moment. It only takes one moment, she reflects.
In her dream, his lips are everywhere on her body.
And the same lips were so close to her face, that morning she wakes up because of him – for years she has never noticed how are his lips, or his hands; or his outline.
Eleni looks straight at the sun. She is blinded. She closes her eyes.
Suddenly, she wants to scream.
Nikos is staring out of his office’s window at the leaves of a poplar tree that the wind is shaking madly.
He wakes up listening to his name. At first, as a whisper, then louder. He opens his eyes and tries to understand where he is. When he remembers, his first thought is that he dreams of Eleni shouting his name, as so many times. But then, actually, he listens to it; it comes from her bedroom. Nikos sits next to her at dawn, he sees her dreaming, he sees her begging him – he listens. And since he listens, he cannot pretend the opposite. Suddenly, at that moment, and then again, a little later, when her eyes raise that wave, he realizes that nothing will be the same anymore; an eternity has slipped between these two moments.
Now he’s taking a deep breath, still looking at the crazy wind. There is a knock on the door, and his secretary enters, hesitant. “Mr Dragonas, I know you told me not to disturb you, but Mr Dimitriou claims it is an emergency.”
Nikos turns to her, feeling his mouth bitter. “Of course,” he says softly. “Please, let him in.”
At the evening, there is still the same wind.
Eleni is sitting in the same seat, alone. She has not eaten anything; she has not talked to anyone. She has seen the sun plunge into the water at dusk, painting the sky scarlet. She has seen a big white ship leaving the port when the moon has begun to rise in the sky with its one side eaten.
He leans over her face at dawn; it is not a dream. His breath actually touches her face.
Empty. Full. Empty and full at the same time. There is nothing inside her but the thought of him; only the thought of him. Again. His hands. His fingers. His wrists and palms. Again. Who was this Nikos –for years– and who is he today?
“I can not wait,” he tells her the moment she opens the entrance door to him – “I can not wait anymore”, he says.
It’s almost midnight, and the crazy wind is still blowing all over the sea, the city – “No, I can not wait anymore”, he says; he grabs her head with both his hands and kisses her, stealing life from her, giving life to her, recreating the word life, for both of them.
Eleni is sleeping.
Nikos holds her in his arms – her eyes closed. It is a dream, he reflects, another dream. As soon as she opens her eyes, I will wake up.
She opens her eyes. “Am I in your arms or are you in my dream?” she asks him and “I do not know,” he answers. “Maybe you are in my dream…”
The sun bathes the room in bright light.
Eleni is looking at Nikos, and then she’s looking at him a little more. “What are we going to do?” she asks thoughtfully, and then, once more, with a kind of despair on the edge of the question –
“What are we going to do?”
Nikos doesn’t speak; he only holds her close. He gently touches her lips with his finger, making them stop talking. Not now, he reflects; Not now. Not yet. He softly touches her face; he bends over her.
“Eleni, Eleni, my Eleni…”
Maria Tsirona is a Greek author, storyteller, teacher of creative writing, and text editor. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as a lawyer for many years. She has published five novels, a novella, and several short stories, most of them awarded. Her stories have a touch of romance, bright sunlight and strong feelings. She lives in Thessaloniki, Greece, with her husband and their two kids. You can find more about her and her books at mariatsirona.com