The grey eyed Cinderella – Chapter 10
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 29/06/2023Back to Blog
Aunt Kalli closed her eyes for a few seconds. It was difficult for her to look back on that stage of her life that she had been trying to forget and put aside for years now. She never expected the present moment to come and if in the early years she had a secret hope that something magical would fix things, it had died over time.
She started speaking in English of course, so that everyone could understand and Kalliroi the youngest sat next to her mother to explain possible unknown words to her.
-To answer to you first, Demetra, Lady Raffiel, was an English aristocratic lady whom I met in London and who was a mother, a friend, and a teacher to me. For a few years, maybe three or four, in the mid-1960s, I accompanied her every week on an outing, to theatres, concerts, operas and luxury hotels in London, where I learned to live a lavish life like an aristocrat myself.
At that moment she was interrupted by Diego Gonzales, who was still holding her hand.
-I remember Lady Raffiel. I was staying at the Rosewood Hotel, and you used to come for tea. I had noticed you since then and had asked about you. Everyone knew the Lady, but you were a mystery to everyone. And even today you remain a mystery to me… But go on, I’d like to know the whole story too.
-Well, I don’t remember noticing you then. But not to enumerate, the Lady was old, and after an illness of a few months she died. My world was shattered by her death. I felt so alone and so abandoned in the vastness of London. I didn’t know how to make the most of my life. One day I decided to overcome my insecurities and continue to enjoy the endless opportunities this city could offer me.
-But I was used to living like an aristocrat. And I loved this image. I liked that Lady’s driver would stop outside the theaters and hotels and the porters would open the door for us to get off. I loved that everyone was looking at us and whispering admiringly. I didn’t want to be one of the crowds. Now I say, it was a foolish vanity of youth, but at the time that desire guided my decisions and actions.
-So, I thought of a theatrical way to continue this kind of living. I would book a seat at the theater and on the day of the performance I would dress in the wonderful models I had sewn for myself. I would take the London Underground from the station near my house and get off at the busier stations Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and others depending on where I was going. From there I would take a taxi and arrive at the theater or hotel like an aristocratic lady. In the same way I left the theater or the hotel where I went to have tea. At that time, however, the London Underground stopped operating at 12 midnight, so I would have to be at the station before 12 to catch the last train.
-Like Cinderella, Demetra said in surprise.
-Yes, like Cinderella. And the continuation of the story is so similar, but without the happy ending.
-And turning to Diego, she added:
-What, Diego, I never wanted you or anyone else to discover was that I was just a seamstress in a London factory. The only education I had was in primary school and I was the illegitimate child of a poor Cypriot woman and an English soldier. This was the legacy I brought with me and everything else that characterized me was acquired from my many personal efforts to gain knowledge and become better.
-Do you really think I would care about that? Oh my God, so much pain, so much disappointment, so many questions, because you were ashamed of who you were! I cannot believe it! Do you think I was a rich person? On the contrary! I was a poor kid from Spain who studied architecture with a thousand difficulties, but I managed to excel in my field by doing what you did: reading and learning from those who were better than me.
-At the time I was working for a large company in Madrid that had won a tender to build a skyscraper in London. I came often because I was supervising the project and the hotel I stayed in was paid for by the company I worked for. I fell in love with you from the first time I saw you. Then, when you were coming with the Lady, but I dared not speak to you. You see, I had my inhibitions too! If I had talked to you then, maybe the Lady wouldn’t have let you act so foolishly and disappear into the night, like Cinderella.
-Really, tell us exactly what had happened, asked Dimitra who was enchanted by the story.
-Aunt Kalli’s eyes were watery. It was difficult for her to manage the emotions flooding her and she asked for a glass of water. Kalliroi ran to bring it to her. She took a few sips and continued, still holding hands with Diego:
-When I started going out on my own, I found that I had a great success with men. Many approached me, asked to buy me a drink, others invited me to dinner, and to my great surprise, I flirted with them. I, who as Kalliroi Michael, was so shy that I did not dare to flirt with anyone, as Kalli Michele, I enjoyed this game, like any charming woman. But I always arrived by taxi and left by taxi before 12 midnight, even if my companion insisted I stay or had other appetites. I have always been very careful not to give false hopes or expectations to anyone. It was just a game I enjoyed.
-Of course, this didn’t happen every time I went out, but when I did accept an invitation I chose guests in London who stayed in expensive hotels and wouldn’t be interested in looking for me again. They had a beautiful escort to a restaurant, and I was having fun playing the role of an aristocratic English lady, with no strings attached. It was a dangerous game, I know, but it gave a spicy interest to my life.
-Until the day I met Diego. Do you remember Diego, that first day we talked?
-Of course, I remember. Only I had noticed you a lot before. You just noticed me that day too. My stay in London was not permanent. I came and went depending on the demands of the project I was attending. The last time I saw you, you were with Lady Raffiel, and as I have already told you, I did not have the courage to speak to you. That day I saw you enter the hotel alone, sit in the dining room and order afternoon tea, with scones. You were so elegant and imperious that I thought you must be some kind of countess or famous actress. You were the most impressive woman I had ever seen in my life.
-So, I approached you and said: My name is Diego Gonzales, and I am a Spanish architect. Would you mind if I sat with you?
Aunt Kalli looked into his eyes and smiled sweetly:
-I answered you too: My name is Kalli Michele. Please do sit down. And with the first words we exchanged, there was deep communication, an identification of opinions, an intimacy that one rarely encounters in one’s life.
-From the very first day I told you a lot about my life, about my work, about my origin. When I asked you about yourself, you simply replied that you are active in the field of fashion. Nothing more.
-I understood from the first moment how high you had placed me and unfortunately I did not want to get off that podium. I regretted it a thousand times later, but that image held me captive. I didn’t want you to know the truth at all. I had grown up in this village as the most despised child and this stigma had followed me almost all my life. It was only when I came back here and saw that because I was dressed in classy clothes that people changed their behavior towards me, I realized how wrong I was. But it was too late. I had lost you forever or so I thought.
-How did your relationship develop? Demetra asked. Was your meeting only once?
-It would be good, dear Demetra, if it was only once. That way he would be a passer-by like all the others whose names and faces I no longer remember. From the very first moment I felt that I was connected to this man by a cable that carried the energy of his soul and electrified my own soul, illuminating my existence and the whole world around me. I went the next day and the next and all the ones that followed. I couldn’t stop myself. And I knew that would lead me to disaster. Because there was absolutely no way I was going to tell him who I really was.
-I, said Diego, had a great desire to tell me about herself, but I was so in love that I did not press her. I was saying that time will come when she tells me, and I was patient.
-At some stage I understood, continued Aunt Kalli, that the danger involved in this game, was not the appetites of other men, but my own love for a man. And when that happened, I was a prisoner of my own tentacles.
-That coming and going and our meetings, which always ended before 12 midnight, lasted for a month, until it was time for Diego to return to his country. On the last day that I knew I was going to meet him, I dressed myself more carefully, put on those lace shoes, which were then fashionable, and went to meet him.
-Yes, I remember that day. I saw you get out of the taxi and proceed to the entrance of the hotel. You were so glamorous and imperious, walking lightly, like a cute gazelle, that my heart broke. I wanted so badly to make you mine!
-Yes, I remember seeing it in your eyes. And I was scared because I knew I would have to leave. You took me to an expensive restaurant and had the violins play a waltz for me. We danced in each other’s arms, and you whispered to me that you would like me to stay with you for the night. At that moment I panicked. My heart was in pieces. I wanted everything to be smooth and real so we could go down the path of love, but the scorned little girl in me wanted to run away. She was so ashamed of who I really was or thought I was. So, at the moment, when you went to freshen up, I asked them to call me a taxi to disappear.
-As soon as I got out and was told that you had left, I immediately ran and found another taxi and told him to follow you. I didn’t even pay for the restaurant at that time. Luckily people knew who I was.
-That night I was thinking of going all the way home by taxi, but when I realized you were following us, I told the driver to drop me off at Piccadilly Circus. I wanted to get lost in the crowd, I didn’t want you to find me. How many times have I regretted this decision? How many times have I cried…
-When I got off at the station, I took out a shawl from my bag and covered my head and shoulders. So, you wouldn’t be able to spot me from afar. Then I started running. It was then that my heel caught on the iron grating of a manhole and broke. I left it there, while at the same time I took out the other one and kept running. I pushed through the crowd, stood in front of a burly guy on the escalator, not looking behind me. When I got on the train and looked out the window, you were gone.
-I followed you to the station and saw you put the shawl on your head. I was able to be behind you until the moment you broke your heel. I then said to myself, “now I will reach her,” but when I bent down to pick up your shoe, you were lost in the crowd. And I never found you again.
-I returned home crying uncontrollably. People would see me on the street walking barefoot and crying. A lady asked me if I needed help. I thanked her for her interest and continued until I got home. My legs were bleeding, and my head was going to explode. I had already regretted my panic, my flight, my cowardice.
-But Aunt Kalli, asked Kalliroi why did you have the impression that you were just a seamstress in a factory? It wasn’t exactly like that. You had a responsible position and you also had shares in this factory. Why did you underestimate yourself so much?
-At that time, I was not yet a shareholder. But that wasn’t it. I was afraid of rejection. Those were different times then. Origin played a role, and I had nothing to be proud of. He was a successful architect who thought he had met and fallen in love with an illustrious lady. I was not who I appeared to be. And I was very ashamed of it and of all the deception…
-Even now I’m angry about the reason you left, said Diego suddenly. You could have told me the truth and let me decide if I wanted you or not. What you did was very hard on both of us. Do you know how much I suffered to lose you?
-Whatever you say, you’re right. I paid too dearly for my escape that night. You know, later I went back to the hotel to see if I could find you and at least apologize for my behavior, but you weren’t there.
-It took many years to get back to London. I thought you might be a married woman with an unhappy marriage. But even in this case I did not excuse you. If you would talk to me we could find a solution together. Especially since you left for such a trivial reason!
-I’m so sorry. I do not know what to say! Now that I see it from a distance it seems so silly. At that moment, however, it presented itself as an insurmountable obstacle. And you, my dear Kalliroi, how did you find him?
-I heard you that day when you were talking to Elpida, of course I didn’t understand the details you described today, just the name, the profession and Madrid. I put the information together and found him. There is an architectural office in Madrid named after him, which is now run by his son and grandson, Diego.
At that moment they all turned and looked at the young man who was sitting silently watching. His eyes were teary.
-I didn’t know, grandpa, that you had experienced such a great love in your youth. You and Grandma were always loved, but to keep Mrs. Kalli’s shoe for so many years means you loved her very much!
-Yes, I loved this crazy girl very much, said Diego with a small sob and tenderly caressed her hair. But I am very angry with her!
-Aunt Kallis’ eyes were watering non-stop. From joy, from sadness, from deep repentance for that day.
-You know, she said turning to Diego, later I traveled a lot and on one of my trips I visited Madrid. I thought about looking for you then, but logic stopped me. And for the best. You would be married, and my presence would only create problems.
-What do you think? Shall we all go for dinner together? Kalliroi suddenly asked.
-You go, said Aunt Kalli. I am very tired. I’ll stay here.
-I will stay with you too, said Diego. We have a lot to talk about. Fifty years have already passed since our last meeting.
The remaining three got up and walked towards the exit. The old couple was still sitting holding each other’s hand.
-We will pass later, said Kalliroi.
And she gently closed the door.