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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Alexi

It was about this time that mysterious postcards in rather poor Greek began to arrive from all over the world. From Santa Fe came one that said, ‘You would like it here. All the houses are made of mud.’ From London: ‘Mad people: terrible fog.’ From Madrid: ‘Too hot. Everyone asleep.’

Although Pelagia’s first thought was that her father’s ghost was visiting his favourite countries and was sending her communications from beyond the grave, her second thought was that they might be from Antonio. But he too was dead. Perhaps, she thought, these unsigned cards were from someone with whom she had exchanged letters during the writing of the History. Puzzled but pleased, she tied her collections of cards together and put them in a box.

‘You’ve got a secret boyfriend,’ suggested Antonia, who was pleased to discuss the matter since it drew attention away from her own romantic affairs, which both Pelagia and Drosoula were attempting to discourage.

They had met while Antonia was earning a little money by serving coffee in a cafe on the plaza of Argostoli. There had been a noisy band playing in the square, and the gentleman who had had to rise and shout his order in the young girl’s ear had at the same moment realized what a deliciously attractive ear it was. Antonia had also realized that here was a man whose eyes expressed exactly the correct mixture of strength and gentleness, calmness and humour.

Alexi waited at the cafe day after day, choosing the same table whenever he could, his heart bursting with his desire to see the tall young woman with her perfect teeth and long fingers. She brought him his coffee eagerly, forbidding the other girls, the waiters, and even the owner himself to serve him. One day he took her hand while she was putting down a cup, looked passionately up at her and said, ‘Marry me.’

Alexi was a lawyer whose skilful speeches could make a judge weep, but while Pelagia recognized his excellence in this area, she could not stand the thought of him marrying Antonia. She was very tall, he was short. She was only seventeen, and he was thirty-two. She was tall and graceful, he was overweight and had a habit of tripping over things. Pelagia remembered her passion for Mandras at the same age and forbade the marriage, certain that this was the right thing to do.

The wedding day was nevertheless delightful. Antonia, beaming with happiness, kissed even the strangers who had come to stare, and Alexi, sweating with alcohol and joy, made a long and extremely poetic speech, much of it very wisely in praise of his mother-in-law. She would always remember the exact moment during the celebrations when she had seen what it was about him that had awakened Antonia’s heart. It was when he put his arm around her, kissed her on the cheek and said, ‘We are going to buy a house in your village, with your permission.’ The humble tone of his voice and his implied doubt that she might not want him near her was enough to cause her to become extremely fond of him.

While Pelagia waited impatiently for a grandchild, Drosoula became deeply involved in work. In the empty space by the harbour that had once been her own house, she put up a wooden roof and some romantic lamps. She borrowed some ancient tables and chairs, bought a cheap oven and grandly started the taverna that she would run eccentrically but with great success until the day of her death in 1972.

It was the 1960s, and tourists were just beginning to arrive in Cephallonia. Wealthy boat owners passed on information to their friends about the most unusual places to eat. German soldiers who had turned into gentle citizens with vast families brought their sons and daughters and told them, ‘This is where Daddy was in the war. Isn’t it beautiful?’ Italians arrived by ferry, bringing their pretty white dogs. Consequently, as the owner of the only taverna in the little port, Drosoula earned enough in the summer to do nothing at all in the winter.

Lemoni, who was now married, immensely fat and the mother of three children, helped with the serving, and Pelagia came down, taking the opportunity to practise her Italian. The service was not fast; to tell the truth, it was extremely slow. The guests were treated unapologetically as members of Drosoula’s patient family, and quite often there was no service at all if Drosoula happened to like a particular customer with whom she was deep in conversation. The foreigners, who loved and feared her, never complained about her forgetfulness and her indefinite delays, and would say, ‘She’s so nice, poor old thing, it seems a shame to hurry her.’

Meanwhile, year after year, Pelagia waited for a grandchild that never came. ‘It’s my body,’ declared Antonia, ‘and I have the right to choose. Anyway, the world’s population is already too large. Alexi agrees with me, so don’t think you can go and shout at him.’

‘I’m getting old,’ Pelagia would say, ‘that’s all.’

Time passed. It was Drosoula who died first, perfectly upright in her rocking chair, so quietly that it seemed she was apologizing for having lived at all. She was a courageous woman who had lived a few short years of happiness with a husband that she had loved, a woman who had rejected her son as a matter of principle and lived the rest of her days in willing service to her adopted family.

After Drosoula was buried near the doctor, Pelagia realized that she was now truly alone. She had no idea any more how to run a life, and it was with fear and hopelessness in her heart that she took over Drosoula’s taverna and attempted to make a living.

Alexi, who by his early thirties had lost all his hair, achieved success as a lawyer, as Pelagia had known he would, and acquired, among other things, a big Citroen car. When at last, in 1979, Antonia gave in to the demands of nature and became pregnant, she and Alexi started to hold hands again in public, stared dreamily at babies and made long lists of possible names.

‘It’s going to be a girl,’ said Pelagia. ‘Really, you must call her Drosoula.’

‘But Drosoula was so big and…’

‘Ugly? It doesn’t matter. We loved her anyway. Her name should live.’

‘Oh, I don’t know, Mama…’

‘I am an old woman,’ declared Pelagia, who gained great satisfaction from repeating this statement. ‘It might be my last wish.’

‘You’re sixty. These days that isn’t old.’

‘Well, I feel old.’

‘You don’t look it.’

‘I didn’t bring you up to be a liar,’ said Pelagia, terribly pleased, nevertheless.

‘I’m thirty-four,’ said Antonia. ‘That’s old.’

When the little boy appeared, Pelagia began to refer to the child as Iannis, and she did this so frequently that it soon seemed obvious to its parents that it could not be called by any other name. If you called it Iannis, it smiled and blew bubbles, so Iannis it was.

Alexi, now realizing that a man must pass something on to his son, began to look around for good investments. He built a small block of holiday apartments and installed a modern kitchen and toilets in the taverna. He persuaded Pelagia to allow him to hire a proper cook, leaving her as the manager, and they split the profits fifty-fifty. On the white walls Pelagia stuck all the postcards that continued to arrive from the four corners of the world.

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