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PROMISE OF PassionA Greek Adventure
By BARBARA BRADLEY
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Barbara Bradley
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I love New York!" exclaimed Kristen Davies to her younger sister, Kari Peterson. "I've been away far too long. It's funny how distance and time can separate you from the people and the places you love," she added with a sigh. Bittersweet memories flooded Kristen's brain. In less than a second the wonderful and agonizing times spent here in New York surfaced into her consciousness. She understood quickly that the reason she had not returned for so many years to the city she loved was that it had been too painful. She had heard that time heals all wounds and supposed it was true, because she was finally able to enjoy the city without the constant reminder of him, the love of her life.
The two women were exhausted but exhilarated. It was October 26, 2001, six weeks after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, and thirty years since their big European adventure. It was the fifth day of their ten-day sightseeing and theater vacation to the Big Apple. They had considered canceling their trip after the terrorist attack and subsequent tragedy but decided to heed the call of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and others to come back to New York and support the theater industry, which had suffered a near fatal blow.
Tonight, after seeing The Producers, the two sisters were having a late after-theater supper at the Acropolis, a Greek restaurant Kristen remembered fondly. It was a Friday night, and in spite of the city's solemn atmosphere, the patrons were happily conversing, while the sounds of bouzouki music played in the background. The ambience was lighthearted and the restaurant crowded.
Sitting at a booth with her back to the entrance, Kristen had a bird's-eye view of the eatery. She examined the room, observing that it had not changed much over the years. The faded murals depicting a taverna on one wall and a ruined Acropolis on the other remained and for a brief moment took Kristen back to her first day in Athens.
Kristen and Kari sipped their wine while waiting for their dinners to be served. The bittersweet feeling swept over Kristen once again as she was reminded of the first time she had dined at the Acropolis.
Thirty years had passed since then, when she had spent wonderful evenings eating strange and delicious food, drinking dry red wine, dancing and laughing with Demetri Papas. Those had been giddy days for an unworldly college student—the best of her life.
Kristen's memories were interrupted when Kari asked, "So what did you think of the play?"
"I loved it. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. Nathan Lane's whacky interpretation of Max Bialystock was hysterical, and Matthew Broderick played the perfect straight man. And I think it's wonderful that the old adage 'the show must go on' prevails, in spite of everything that has happened here," Kristen replied. "There's nothing better than a great musical to lift your spirits. So what should we do tomorrow?" she asked, changing the subject.
"I don't care. You're the tour guide. I'll go wherever you think we'd both like."
Their meals were served by a thin, young waiter dressed in a white shirt, black slacks, and white apron. Very European, thought Kristen as she thanked him and let the flavors of the eggplant, the meat, and the spices of the moussaka envelop her senses.
Impressions of the sights they had seen and plans for the next day occupied them while they ate. As they finished their meal, Kristen suddenly felt as if she were being watched. It was nothing tangible, just a sixth sense she had always possessed. She dismissed it, knowing that neither she nor Kari knew anyone in New York. After a few minutes she once again had the same unusual feeling and turned to survey the restaurant. At first she did not notice anything out of the ordinary. Then, in the far reaches of the room, she spotted a dark, well-dressed, handsome, sixty-something man staring at her. Recognition came slowly but inexorably. Kristen could not believe what she saw.
It was Demetri. Kristen was so shocked she could barely breathe. Here, walking toward her, was the man who had been the only true passion of her life—the one who had taught her how to love and how to make love. Memories of their wonderful times together swept into her consciousness in an instant—memories she had tried to forget forever. Demetri had also been the one who had torn her life apart and broken her heart so thoroughly that it had taken her years to recover. Memories of the pain, the desperation, and the loss flooded back to her and made her wince from an unexpected tightening in her chest. They had lost each other many years ago, and here they were together in their restaurant.
As Demetri made his way through the restaurant, Kristen saw the stunned expression on his face and understood that he had recognized her.
Kristen noted that Demetri was as handsome as ever. He had always been inescapably attractive to her, and nothing had changed. He still walked with a confident gait; his hair was now a salt-and-pepper color instead of dark brown, but as full and thick as ever; he was slim but not gaunt as he had been in his youth; his face had deep creases from his years in the sun that made him look distinguished; and his eyes were as brown and as sensuous as ever.
She also observed his moods change from incredulity to great happiness to one of great sadness, and then back to happiness. Kristen's expression mirrored Demetri's. Once she realized it was truly him, her glow of happiness was tempered with an undercurrent of grief. Kari noticed her gamut of expressions and turned to see what had occurred. She recognized Demetri immediately, and her shock was only slightly less than Kristen's.
Kristen noticed the change in Kari's face and understood instantly how she must be feeling. Kari had shared those exhilarating days when Kristen and Demetri had first met, and he had become like a much beloved older brother to her. She had lost him too.
Kristen was unable to focus on anything except Demetri. As she looked deeply into his eyes, the years vanished. She was no longer the middle-aged, tired, responsible adult she had become. She was Kristen—young, very much in love, with all the adventures life had to offer ahead of her.
"I cannot believe it!" declared Demetri. "How can this be?" He held out his arms as Kristen slid from the booth to receive a tender embrace. Demetri, in European fashion, kissed her first on one check and then another. "You haven't changed much. You still have the qualities I always admired."
The sensation of Demetri's lips on her skin sent pulses of electricity through Kristen—a sensation that was all too familiar but one she had not felt in decades. It excited and worried her at the same time. She told herself that everything was all right. Demetri and she would catch up for a few minutes and then go their separate ways, just as most old friends would do.
Kristen was speechless, but Kari found the words: "It's my turn!" Demetri smiled brightly at Kari and held her shoulders in both of his hands as he kissed her on each cheek.
"Hey," exclaimed Kari, "that's not fair. I want a hug too." After a long, warm embrace, Kari pulled away and said, "This is unbelievable. We had no idea you were in the States. Don't you live in Greece now?"
"Yes, I just flew in from Athens this afternoon. I am in town for a few days to resolve a business matter and see old friends."
Kristen could not imagine what kind of business he would still have in New York. He had been away for a very long time, and last she had heard he had cut all ties with his New York business acquaintances. A wave of deep concern swept over her. She remembered the fear she had felt because of those people. It could not be good that Demetri was meeting with them again. What could they possibly want? she asked herself with a frown, but she was quickly distracted from her thoughts when she saw Demetri carefully examining her.
"You look just like I remember. Your skin, your eyes, your lips are the same as ever." His obvious admiration made Kristen self-conscious.
Kristen finally found her voice, but it was merely a squeak. "You look wonderful, Demetri. The years have been kind to you" was all she could say. The shock was still too much for her to pull herself together.
Kari took the lead. "If you're alone, would you join us?"
"Even if I wasn't alone, which I am, I would still join you. Nothing could keep me from it."
Demetri helped Kristen back into the booth and slid in next to her. He took her hand in his and whispered, "I have missed you. Words cannot describe how good it is to meet like this. The gods must be watching over us."
"Okay, stranger, what have you been up to for, say, the last fifteen or so years?" asked Kari, who was no longer the shy, introverted girl she once was.
"I still live in Athens part of the year and go to my village near the sea the other. I spend most of each summer on my boat, fishing and swimming. My mother is over eighty years old now, so I help her whenever possible. I still work at a university in Athens, where I am now an administrator most of the time. But I insist on teaching every semester; I still love to teach as much as ever."
"Are you married?" asked Kari bluntly.
"I was, but I am not now," he replied.
Kari gave Kristen a sideways smile and said, "Hmmmm."
Kristen was still in shock and could not respond.
"So what about you, Little One? Does that sound strange at our advanced ages?"
"No, not at all; I always liked it when you called me that, and I still do," said Kari. "To answer your first question, my daughters are now grown. One has graduated, and one is in college. I am married and am too busy with my job, as usual."
"And you?" his question was now directed at Kristen, as was his total attention. His eyes searched hers deeply.
"I can't even begin to explain" was all she managed to say.
"Then let me," Kari piped up. "She works too hard at her medical practice, has a husband who has been ill for a long time, and needs someone like you to cheer her up."
Kristen gave Kari a sharp look, but Demetri appreciated the candor.
"Is that true, Kristen?" he asked quietly.
"Yes," she managed to say. "It is complicated."
"But are you happy?" Demetri had a way of getting right to the core of things.
"Honestly?" Kristen asked, searching Demetri's expression carefully.
"Of course, you must tell me honestly! When have we ever been anything but totally honest with each other?" he exclaimed.
"There have been happier times in my life, I must admit," said Kristen quietly. Her answer clearly surprised Demetri. He turned to her, saw the sadness in her eyes, embraced her tightly, and did not let go. The communication of that embrace made Kristen uncomfortable; it felt too good, too needed, and very dangerous.
"Can we spend some time together?" whispered Demetri into her ear.
Kristen looked over at Kari for help and assurance. Kari had always been able to see things more rationally than Kristen when it came to Demetri. Kari nodded her head gently as a sign that Kristen should accept. Although Kristen knew the dangers of being with Demetri again, she told herself that she would be able to be sensible about him and that he posed no threat to her relatively stable life. She longed to know more about him. Although he had broken her heart, she had never stopped loving him or wondering whether he was happy and healthy and what had become of his life. Now he was there, next to her, and she knew he was alive and well, but nothing more. "Yes, of course. I would like nothing better," she said after a slight hesitation. "What is your schedule?"
"I have appointments tomorrow morning but am free in the afternoon," he said. "I fly back to Athens in two days. What are your plans?"
"I have nothing else planned tonight. Tomorrow, Kari and I were going to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then play things by ear."
"Good. We have some time to catch up" was all he needed to say. Kristen was aware of his nearness and felt conflicted. There was a time when she had wanted nothing more than to have Demetri next to her. Now, although the chemistry between them had not changed, Kristen's life had. She felt it was wrong for her to feel such a strong attraction. She was married, after all.
Demetri ordered a bottle of wine, which they all shared, along with light conversation. They talked of inconsequential things, as old friends do. Kari instinctively knew that Demetri and Kristen needed to be alone, so she made her excuses and let Kristen know everything was okay. "I've got a key. I won't wait up," she said as she kissed Demetri on one cheek. "I hope to see you tomorrow. I have missed you too!"
"Kalinihta, Little One. Thank you," he said sincerely.
After Kari disappeared out the restaurant entrance, Demetri turned to Kristen and kissed her lightly. The kiss said, "I am sorry, I have missed you, I worry about you, and I love you," all at once.
Kristen remembered his kisses. They were the best she had ever experienced and could never seem to get enough of them. She longed for more now but pulled away. She did not need to explain the reasons to Demetri. He understood.
"We have a lot of catching up to do. I still can't believe you are here!" she said quietly.
"We are both here, thanks to the gods," he looked up at the sky and pointed.
Kristen was able to examine Demetri closely now. He had aged well and appeared to have mellowed. She did not see the restlessness that had plagued him in his youth, but she still saw the same expression in his eye the one signaling secret mischief that she had loved so much. She knew that it was dangerous to be alone with him tonight. They had never been able to resist each other, and she knew tonight would be no different.
"Pame, let's go. We can walk or have coffee, and you can tell me everything," said Demetri as he pulled her up out of the booth. Kristen noticed that his English was as good as it had ever been, but she loved it when he spoke Greek to her.
They left the restaurant after paying the bill and headed in the direction of Times Square. "Where do you want to go?" Demetri asked.
"I don't care. We can just walk, if you'd like."
They walked in silence for a few minutes, both caught up in their thoughts. The street was unusually quiet, and they found themselves alone. They stopped walking and turned to each other. The lights from a marquee lit their faces. Kristen tilted her head up and looked through his eyes into his heart. Demetri recognized the gaze. No other woman had ever looked at him with such open, unconditional love. It surprised him that things had not changed after the passing of so much time. Kristen became aware of the look that gave her emotions away, but she could not stop herself. She could not change the fact that her face reflected her feelings.
"What brought you here, tonight of all nights?" asked Demetri.
"I guess fate brought me here," replied Kristen, "and a desire to drown myself in as much theater as possible. You see, I still love the theater."
His laugh told her he remembered how she had loved it when he took her to a live performance. It was déjà vu. Here he was, walking with her in the theater district late at night, as if no time had passed at all.
His voice was as she remembered, deep and gravelly, with a soft "t" that was the combination of a "d" and "th." Although his English was excellent, she had always thought that his strongly accented speech was very romantic and sexy. It had changed only in that his accent had become more pronounced. After all, he's been in Greece for nearly fifteen years. His accent would naturally be thicker, Kristen thought.
"So, now that we have found each other, what do we do about it?" asked Demetri, as bluntly as always. He had never been one to beat around the bush.
"We spend as much time as possible catching up," she said, with the hope that it would be possible.
"That sounds good to me. We have much to discuss," agreed Demetri. "Look, I believe we need more than just a day. What do you think if I call the airline and change my ticket? We could spend some time together—go out to Long Island and see the old neighborhood," he said spontaneously.
"I'd like that very much," she replied. She had been secretly hoping he was going to suggest something like that. "We need to be careful, Demetri," she added thoughtfully. "I am married. I need you to know that."
"I won't forget it. Nothing will happen unless you agree to it. That goes for words as well as actions."
"I seem to remember you saying something like that in Athens before we set off on our trip to Italy. Look at the trouble we got into there!" Kristen said with a big smile and a sudden knowing expression in her eyes.
"How could I ever forget? Trouble, yes, but such sweet trouble," he replied, with his own knowing expression.
They walked until they found a coffee shop that was still open, and they talked while sipping the drinks they had ordered. "Do you remember the first time we drank coffee together? It was in Athens while we were waiting for the bus to go to Patras."
Excerpted from PROMISE OF Passion by BARBARA BRADLEY Copyright © 2012 by Barbara Bradley. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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