Giorgos is apparently the most common male name in Crete, with 40 percent of men having that name. This is according to the jeweller whose shop we ended up in yesterday evening, who is called, wait for it, Giorgos. A handsome man with silver hair, he’d been to the shop next door as I was withdrawing cash from the ATM in between the two shops and said he hoped I’d be spending the money in his shop, which, by the way, had a sign outside proclaiming “No Cheap Husbands.’
We saw some silver rings with beautiful Cretan Blue stones, so we went in, and he said he had another 400 rings in that style. And we looked, and although I’d only intended to buy a ring for M, there was one ring, a very simple ring, my eyes were drawn to, and I picked it up, and it fitted perfectly onto the little finger on my right hand (not onto the misshapen fragile little finger on my left hand which has been dislocated on every knuckle in the past, one put back my me on my own, and the other on the cricket pitch by a man I had a love/hate relationship with and who lives in the US now), so I decided we would have matching rings (in colour and materials anyway). M’s is a lovely design of flowers which so suits her long elegant fingers.
We spoke for a long time with this Giorgos, about his history, about this his first season away from the hotel he’d had a shop in for 23 years, about his battles with the mayor about making the street he’s on (which stretcjes along the coast) more attratctive for everyone, about how all he wants to do is to keep his wife happy, and more. And he was the first here to notice that my Greek comes out in a German accent because of my history, the history that made me a linguist and man of the Humanities rather than a scientist. All too long to recount, so perhaps I’ll include it in my short story about this place. If I remember any of it when the time comes.
And I know there’s a cost of living crisis, and I know that we’ve spent what many people would consider a fortune on this package holiday, and I know our children are struggling, too; and that 50 Euros for two rings (after a 40% discount) is a lot of money, but… What I said to someone this morning is that even in the 32nd year of our marriage, a new yes is a new yes forever.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 135
Half an hour later, they’re done. They’ve shovelled bacon, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, hash browns, and toast into their mouths as quickly as Callum could cook it, Morag bring it, and the girls watch them.
Lilibet belches. Aggie laughs. The girls gasp. Callum puts his hand on Lilibet’s shoulder. ‘That’s my girl.’
Lilibet puts on a serious face, one that Aggie can’t help but admire the beauty and courage of, one that makes her ask herself that had she ever had that child she was robbed of, even if it was a child borne of coercion and the pretence of love, if she would have had the courage to leave its side for even one second.
‘Girls,’ Lilbet says. ‘I need you to listen very carefully for just a few minutes, and not to interrupt or run off.’
The girls sit up straight, arms on the table, pictures of neatness.
‘Aggie and I need to go and do something important, to find out why the bad men took me away. We may only be gone for a few hours, but it could be for longer, so Nan and Granda have said they’ll look after you for a little while longer. Do you understand?’
The girls nod vigorously, desperate to get away from the table.
Lilibet reaches for their hands. ‘Wait.’ And her voice is soft and firm at once. ‘Be good girls. Don’t make Nan chase round after you.’
‘Not Granda either. Just be calm and nice. And don’t fight with each other.’
‘Cos fighting’s bad.’ They look at each other as they say the same thing at the same time, and giggle.
‘Yes,’ Lilbet says. ‘Because any kind of fighting is very bad.’
Aggie says nothing, despite the irony of Lilibet’s having served in the Army, and can imagine why she did it in the first place. How else would she have earned a living in a Scotland deprived of jobs by the strategies of English politicians?
Lilibet gets up, kisses the girls’ heads. ‘I love you both lots. I’ll be back soon.’ She looks at Aggie, who nods. ‘We’ll be back soon.’
Aggie smiles at the girls. ‘We will look after eachother. I promise.’
The girls smile but say nothing.
Lilibet hugs her mother and father without saying much. Aggie sees the strength of the embraces, wishes she had some people qho meant the same to her, but her history is blank however hard she looks inside herself.
Back outside, Aggie takes Lilibet’s hand. ‘Betty?’ she says, grinning.
Lilibet laughs. ‘She’s always called me that. Because she knows it annoys me.’
‘Perhaps because she loves you so much.’
‘Stop. You’ll make me cry all over again.’
‘Sorry. I’m just envious.’
‘They’ll love you, too, soon.’
‘If Valentine doesn’t get me first.’
‘He won’t. I’ll make sure of that.’ Lilibet pulls Aggie towards her. ‘Come on. We can walk it. And then we can do some breaking and entering.’
‘My favourite part.’
None of the few pedestrians out at this time, nor the car or bus drivers, pay any attention to the two women skipping along the pavements hand in hand. Aggiecs heart beats quickly in this new freedom, this happiness that has come her way so unexpectedly, so clearly, so suddenly, and she tries not to analyse it, not to think it into complications and complexities, tries hard just to accept it, however temporary the rational part of her tells her it will be.
When they get to the air museum’s site, the metal fence topped by barbed wire makes Aggie catch her breath. The same fence Anna made her escape through.