Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 26)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 27/11/2022Back to Blog
This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real.
Cyprus – Summer 2021 (Paphos)
At noon Zena and Alexis went to lunch at the seaside restaurant, where Mr. Neophytou had taken her the first day she came and had that traumatic meeting with Mr. Nikolaou. Zena hoped they would not meet either of them. Alexis on the other hand was ready to start a fight with Mr. Nicholas if they saw him in front of them. Luckily they did not see anyone.
The food was excellent and at the same time the view of the sea and the carefreeness of the tourists who ate at the nearby tables, somehow relaxed them from reading the secret of Zenovia.
-You know, deep down this secret carries with it a weight of emotions and one must leave some space and some time to cope with it.
-You’re right, Alexis replied. We will continue reading in the afternoon. I think now we know the main body of the secret. It remains to be learned how Zenovia ended up marrying Demetrios.
-What has happened with Mr. Nicolaou and the compensation he will pay for the encroachment he made?
-The lawyer we assigned it to is a tough negotiator. It seems that he has savagely cornered him and will force him to pay a rather large sum. I have told him that his fee will be 10% of the money that Mr. Nicolaou will pay, and he has taken it very warmly. At the same time, I am thinking of leaving a power of attorney to your father to undertake the sale of the part of the estate that I will not use, because with this money I will pay for the rebuilding of the house of Zenovia.
-Very good idea! My father will take it over as if it were his own. With the connections he has he will find the most suitable buyer.
-As long as it’s not Mr. Nicolaou!
-Definitely not! He has got enough by himself!
-What about the wedding? Did you take any action?
-Yes, I have asked my father to contact Nicosia Municipality to find out the procedural part. We will of course have to contact the Australian Embassy in Nicosia to secure the necessary documents and once we return to proceed with the marriage application.
-It seems like a fairy tale to me! Me getting married!
-Don’t get caught up in doubts again!
-No, no, don’t worry. Now that I’ve accepted it, I’m increasingly liking the idea. Now I am concentrated in the house that I commissioned Eleni to design. As far as I know it is in the final stage and when we go to Nicosia we will give our concluding remarks.
-It seems that everything has begun to fall in its place, and now it remains to decide where we are going to live. In Cyprus or in Australia?
-I have something on mind on this subject but let it for now. We will study it later, when all the previous issues are cleared up. Where do you prefer?
-I think I prefer to live here. But you’re right. Better to wait for a while. We still haven’t completed the secret of Zenovia! How unique this trip has been for us! It seems that it will be an important turning point in our lives, in which all previous decisions are overturned, and new perspectives are opened that we have never considered before.
-You’re right. My own previous beliefs have been shattered and for the first time I have found that there are no fixed opinions. Everything changes depending on the data presented.
-The ancient pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus said about this: “everything flows, and nothing remains.” That is, everything moves and changes. He is also the one who said, “no one can enter the same river twice”, that is, the water in the river is never the same because it is constantly fed by a new flow. Life works the same way.
-Very interesting all this and at some point I will study it. But now let’s go back because I want to read the sequel to the secret.
-You’re right. Let me pay and we leave.
When they returned to their hotel, they sat comfortably in the armchairs of their balcony, and Alexis began to read the sequel to Zenovia’s secret:
When the last day came, it all seemed like a celebration. We, the workers, were happy because our work was over and we would be paid, the masters were satisfied that at last their fields were harvested again this year and they would have enough to be supported all year round. The last act of the harvest included the following event:
The reapers left the last piece in the center of the field unscathed, and after lifting the master in their arms, they had him sit at this point, telling him various songs until he promised them a lavish dinner, something like a farewell meal. The master promised it of course since this was the established tradition.
So, in the evening we all went to the master’s house and ate with his family. The meal was lavish, with boiled hens, baked meat in the oven and everything one can imagine. They also brought a violinist who played music, and everyone danced. The master danced the dance of the sickle.. He held a scythe in his hand and imitated the movements of reaping, while at the same time twirling it over his head to the beat of the music. He was so bright and so handsome. I admired him in silence, proud of the man I loved. Women were looking at him with desire. But he was mine, this god Apollo, who has visited the earth.
Late at night we returned to the olive field, and I slipped again secretly into the small hut that had become the nest of our love for a month. He also came later. All night we did not sleep. We were talking about our future and looking into his eyes, I could see his sincerity and love for me. There was no doubt that he would come and ask my mother to marry me. I felt safe and secure that night.
The next day, before we set off for the return, the master came and paid us. Women got half of what men got. But for the first time I had so much money! I was proud of myself. With the feeling of euphoria that filled my heart the night before, I felt light and happy. Eurydice looked at me in bewilderment.
-I can’t understand, she told me, how all of us smell like manure and you have a clean shining face!
-I washed myself often, I answered her vaguely. And as I’m wrapped in black I don’t get caught up in the sun to tan.
When we arrived in Chora we passed again by the shoemaker to put soles on our boots so that they could withstand the long route back to the village. I also gave back to Mr. Kostas the dues he had paid for me.
Then we visited the bazaar, and I bought a shawl, the same as Eurydice’s.
-When I get engaged and go to my in-laws, I thought, to have something to wear, not to look like an old woman.
Now the road back seemed long to me, and I was looking forward to returning to my village and waiting for the master to come and ask for me. As we walked one day with Eurydice and chatted, I don’t know how, I confided to her what had happened with the master.
Her eyes filled with terror.
-What did you do you stupid! She told me, trying not to speak loud for others to hear. Of course, he won’t come to ask for you. He has already forgotten you. Your mother will kill you and kill us who didn’t pay attention to you.
-No, no he will come. Master truly loves me. Believe me Eurydice, near him I met love, tenderness, and affection. All this was not a lie. It was true!
But Eurydice was not convinced and where everything inside me was dreamy and the world around me seemed angelically created, cracks slowly began to form, and my happiness withered and decayed. I saw for the first time in my life how fragile the world of joy is and how easily it is to change a person’s feelings, when a vicious phrase rings in ones ears and shakes the harmony of one’s soul. It was a hard lesson for me that its aftermath has accompanied me throughout my life.
So little by little I lost my momentum and was filled with doubts whether my mother would accept the love story I would tell her. By the time we reached the village the joy had vanished from my face, and I only reflected melancholy and worry.
Upon arrival at home, I gave my mother all the money I had earned. I also showed her the handkerchief I had bought and received the remark that I spent my money recklessly.
One night when we were both sitting alone, I took the liberty of talking to her about the fact that the master loved me, and he would come to ask for me in marriage. I did not go into any detail because woe betide me. Her reaction was full of disbelief and disdain. But she did not say much.
I waited anxiously. Two weeks had already passed since our return, and the master was not seen. Could it be that he lost the way, I was thinking, did he get sick? It never crossed my mind that he abandoned me, regardless of the comments of those around me. I had seen the truth in his eyes. The others did not know.
It was not enough that the situation was quite complicated already, I understood that I was pregnant. My mother also understood it from the dizziness and vomiting I made. For an incomprehensible reason to me, she did not say much once again. She only got up in the morning and told me to wear the dress that Aunt Elpiniki had sewn for me and the shawl I had bought from Chora. We would go to Ktima.
On the way she made clear to me that I would marry Uncle Onoufrios’ friend, Demetrios, and if he would not take me we would find an old woman who knew how, and she would abort the child out of me. Clean talk. I could not give birth to any bastard.
From that moment I began to cry and could not stop. I assured her that the master would come, that he was not a liar, and that I would rather be killed than do what she had decided. But she grabbed me by the hair and pulled me to move on. I felt doomed to death. I cannot describe to you the pain of my heart!
When we arrived at Uncle Onoufrios’ house, luckily for me, Aunt Elpiniki was away in her village. I could not stand any more humiliation! They left me alone for a while and the two of them talked. When they were finished, Uncle Onoufrios announced to me:
-Luckily for you, Demetrios is still in Paphos. I’ll talk to him tonight and tell him that you decided to marry him. If he still wants you, that is. And you shouldn’t tell him you’re pregnant. No way. With a quick marriage we can fool him.
I began to cry with tantrums. I could not even talk. But no one paid attention to me.
Uncle left and an hour later he returned with Demetrios this time. Despite his upright body and his European clothes, nothing about him could compare to the man I loved. As soon as he saw me, however, I noticed in his eyes that he understood that something was wrong. My eyes were red from crying, and I’m sure despair was shown on my face. Demetrios then asked to be left alone with me. My mother did not agree, but Demetrios was adamant and so Uncle Onoufrios took her out of the room.
-Tell me please, why are you crying? I won’t take you by force, he told me. Only by your own will you ‘ll become my wife.
I did not answer, and I continue to cry. But his voice was calm and that made me feel some security. He then took my hand to his and asked me again:
-Tell me what’s happening to you. Don’t be afraid. I’ll help you do whatever you want.
Then between crying and trembling I told him the whole story with the master, as well as the fact that I was pregnant. Deep down I was hoping that he would not want him to marry me if he knew.
-Do you think he will come to ask you to marry him? He asked me.
-Yes, since he loves me, I answered him. I know he loves me.
-I believe you; he told me. But he may not have come for a thousand other reasons that you will never know. As you tell me, they want to make you abort the child. How are you going to deal with that? I don’t mind you’re pregnant. I would always like to have a child and I don’t know at my age if I will be able to have one. I have a huge fortune and I want to have an offspring to leave it. If we shall have children together, my fortune is enough for everyone.
I stopped crying and stayed looking at him. I did not expect that. Demetrios continued:
-Trust me. I don’t want you to forcibly marry me. If I knew that your beloved would come I would protect you until that moment. But how long has it been since you last saw him?
-It’s been a month since, I replied. We did almost a week to come on foot and it has been almost three weeks that we are in Paphos.
-It’s been a long time, my dear Zenovia. With his horse he could come in three days at most. But even if you don’t marry me, and even if he comes, you will have lost the child. They won’t let you keep it. And this will be very bad for you and your health. You may die!
-I don’t care if I die, I replied stubbornly.
-If you die, you won’t see him again. But what you may have never thought about is that the only living proof of the love you experienced is this child. Why not give him a chance to live?
Here I was completely confused. I had never thought of it that way. Demetrios was giving me a way out of my problem. But this way out was conditional on me renouncing my love.
-What is master’s name? He asked me.
-His name is Vangelis I replied.
-Then this child you have in your womb we will call him Evangelos if he is a boy and Evangelia if she is a girl. Of course, if you want to marry me.
-And if he comes? I asked him. Will I not be the one who renounced him?
He continued to speak to me tenderly, holding my hand, and with arguments, he opened a window for me to face the harsh reality. Until that moment I only knew what I wanted, I had not calculated at all the horrible data of my fate. In the end he said to me:
-I’ll leave you until tomorrow to decide. If you will marry me I want it to be of your own free will. Unfortunately, I can’t wait any longer because I’m long overdue and must go back to Alexandria. Besides, your belly will soon be visible. We must not give society a chance to shed its medicine. You are too innocent to allow them to poison you.
On leaving he said to my mother and uncle:
-She will decide for herself if she wants to marry me. Please do not force her. She should not cry in her condition.
As soon as he left my mother looked at me wildly and asked me:
-Did you tell him you are pregnant?
-Yes, I told him, and he doesn’t mind. He just wants me to decide what I want to do.
-If he wants you the way you are, you’ll get him! She told me urgently.
I did not speak anymore. I sat in a corner alone and all night I was thinking. I could not decide. The dilemma I had in front of me was tearing my heart in two. I did not want to renounce Vangelis at all, but on the other hand Demetrios was giving me a way out. And he looked like a very good man. Every now and then I would touch my belly. I knew that no matter what would happen, the child I had inside me was the proof of the great love I had experienced. And the only way for the child to live, was to marry Demetrios.
The next day I answered “yes” to Demetrios and in a couple of days we got married in Ktima. We immediately left for Alexandria. And I was crying incessantly. Of the thousand reasons I had to cry, one was the most important: if I was the one who finally betrayed our love. If Vangelis would have come in the end and I would have left.
You know the rest, my son. The only thing you do not know is that this story did not end here.
At this point Alexis stopped reading and turned to look at Zena. Tears were coming out from her eyes incessantly.
-Are you well? He asked her.
-How to be well Alexis? This fate of women paying such a horrible price for love, while men remain immune, drives me crazy. And especially at that time, Zenovia’s dilemma was a double condemnation. Whatever she decided, he had to sacrifice herself. Regardless of whether Demetrios was a very good man and lived happily with him. He wasn’t her true choice. It was the least harsh condemnation she had before her.
-Deep down, this is how people’s lives are. Regardless of whether in this case and especially at that time, fate victimized women more. But we all too often must choose between two unwanted options and choose the least painful one. Isn’t that so?
-Let it be. Let’s stop here for today. Zenovia can continue her narrative tomorrow. I can’t stand any more pain. You cannot imagine how much I’ve identified myself with her! And remember: She was only fifteen years old!
-Yes, she was a little girl who had to choose the course of her whole life overnight and under unbearable pressure. But let’s wait and see what happened next. Fate plays strange games.