Δευτέρα, 1 Ιουλίου 2013

COUSIN ANTONIS AND AN INVITATION TO DINNER - A Short Story by Angeliki Bouliari

At 7.30 in the morning, a secret alarm sounded into my head. Time to wake up, get morning medicine and take care of Shera. With half-opened eyes I slowly stretched my tired members and, oh, I immediately remembered, the most important, prepare a festive, mostly Greek dinner for my beloved cousin, Antonis. He would visit us along with his three women, his wife, Soula, and his teenage daughters, Rania and Giota.


With Antonis we’ve always been very close, me treating him like the youngest brother, him treating me like his eldest sister. Nothing ever came in between to disturb the peaceful course of our relationship. Though it is generally said that women don’t get well with exponents of their own sex, even their kin, fifteen years of Antonis’ marriage changed almost nothing in our friendship, and the atmosphere between our families is steadily loving and joyful. Anyway, I know they like certain dishes of my kitchen, so I started organizing an interesting menu on my mind, noting down on a piece of paper the relevant shopping.

I opened the door and the glaring summer sunlight rushed into the hall. Shera was already waiting for me outside, at the top of the white marble stairs, perfectly clean and white herself, sitting elegantly on her back feet. Never grumbling or impatient and nervous, she was staring at me with her green eyes in the usual proud and dignified way. It was the same way she had looked at me the first time I met her, at exactly the same place, which said: “I need help, but I do not demand or beg. I just ask you politely. You can help me.” She had only meowed twice, her posture and gaze showing nobility and mildness. At once I forgot that not so long ago I had told my daughters and husband that I was sick and tired of adopting pets which either left us or even worse died, making the girls cry and me search for proper graves so that their souls rest in peace.  I lowered my body and gently stroked her smooth fur. So beautiful. I loved her immediately. She was pregnant.

In the afternoon, when cousins and nieces arrived, we sat at the spacious veranda to first have coffee or tea with home-made cake and biscuits. Everything presaged a perfect evening.

We talked and laughed and took pleasure in watching one of the most enchanting Greek landscapes and sunsets, that of Loutraki. There is an amazing view from the veranda. First comes the garden, my special pride - I have planted most of the tall trees with my own hands, and then eyes travel farther to olive-tree fields full of daisies, poppies and wild flowers and bushes, cross the main road leading to the city and finally reach the long coast line. The sea is there with its varying colour and changing temper, and the sun, a red and purple disc with yellow brushes, sinking slowly and splendidly into the deep dark blue waters in the opening between two capes facing each other. It is a most magnificent sunset. Only Santorini’s can be compared to it, but I doubt the winner.

We welcomed the night with perfumed candles, tasty ‘mezedes’, sea-food pasta and flavourful local wine, and among other things we talked about summer holidays. “Why don’t you come here to spend a week with us? You’ll be our guests and we can all have a very good time!” I invited cousin Antonis and his family. They accepted with great pleasure.

At this point, there was chaos in the company at the table. Soula and her daughters, Rania and Giota, suddenly jumped up, pushed roughly back their chairs which fell on the floor with noise, and started screaming and shouting and running round the table to avoid the invasion of some enemy we couldn’t see. Cousin Antonis watched them without saying anything and obviously at a loss, he didn’t know what to say and do. We also watched them puzzled. We guessed that some insect or other small creature had suddenly appeared and scared them, and we smiled in understanding. Oh, these extreme reactions of the city people who have been alienated even from simple species of nature…

Shera was the dangerous creature! No, they weren’t afraid of her, they said among shouts and cries, but they, all three of them, found cats disgusting, they shuddered at a cat’s plain sight! I had to take Shera on my lap and lead her outside in the garden. My husband tried to calm our guests, he said Shera was a very nice and quiet cat who had recently given birth to some very beautiful kittens, but in vain. This task seemed more difficult than he supposed. The frightened group was now watching out for Shera’s new appearance and hardly enjoyed the rest of the dinner.

They skipped the dessert and after a while they got ready to go. They thanked us for everything and invited us to their apartment in Athens. Of course, I repeated our honest invitation to spend some of their holidays with us, but they murmured they didn’t know where and for how long they would go this summer and hurried away.

I don’t think they will accept our invitation.


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