The grey eyed Cinderella – Chapter 6
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 01/06/2023Back to Blog
Aunt Kalli and Kalliroe the youngest sat at a small table in a beach restaurant. The tourists who were there as well as the locals turned to look at them. They presented an impressive sight. Aunt Kalli dressed as an English Lady and Kalliroe shining with youth, vitality, smiles, and eroticism. It was a rare image for the beach restaurant.
As soon as they sat down Aunt Kallie detected the smell of fish coming from the kitchen. She immediately remembered the flat she and Elpida had above a fish and chips restaurant in Camden Town in London. The difference was that there that smell was so bad that you wanted to get rid of it, while here, by the sea, it seems so perfect!
-You know my dear Kalliroe, my friend Elpida and I once lived in an apartment above a fish and chip shop and the biggest problem we had was the smell of the fried fish. Here the same smell whets your appetite. Even smells have their time and place. Like everything in life.
-Really, you’ve talked to me about this friend of yours many times. Have you kept in touch with her?
-Unfortunately, not. When Elpida got married and left for Manchester we corresponded for a while, but then she stopped. She had also had a daughter in the meantime and maybe she didn’t have time, I don’t know the real reason. When I left Camden Town, at a time when I was lonely and missed her a lot, I wrote to her again. But the letter came back marked “Unknown”. She probably changed address, who knows?
-Have you ever looked for her again?
-But how?I had no clue where she lived.
Would you like to see her again?
-Of course, I would. But I can’t imagine how I could find her.
-Aunt Kalli, we live in the digital age! Everything is possible! Give me some info and I’ll look for her.
-What can I tell you; I don’t know many things. Her name was Elpida, Elias I think was her last name, she came from Larnaca. Her husband’s name was, if I remember correctly, Yiannis and he came from Paphos. I don’t remember his last name, but neither the name of his village.
Kalliroe, meanwhile, was writing down, in the notebook of her mobile phone, the information that Kalli was giving her.
-When was she born? What was her daughter’s name? Do you remember her parents’ names?
-We must have been about the same age, that is, she must have been born around 1940. Ah! now I remember, I think her birthday was December 25, 1940, 1941 or 1939. Somewhere around there. She named her daughter Maria, as her mother was called, and her father must have been called Elias. I don’t remember anything else.
-When you say she came from Larnaca, do you mean the city or any village?
-Not from the city of Larnaca, Skala. But you don’t tell me, how are you going to find her? Are you going to put an ad in the newspaper?
-Of course not! Today there is Facebook! You can find everyone there.
-And do you think that Elpida has a Facebook?
-It doesn’t matter if Elpida has a Facebook, chances are her children or grandchildren do. Someone who knows her after all!
-I hope you find her, my child. I don’t know what to say.
At that moment the food they ordered was brought and Kalliroe, the aunt, smelled the fresh fish once more. How different it felt to her now from then in Mr. Christos’s fish and chips restaurant! They began to enjoy their food, continuing their conversation.
-Tell me Aunt Kalli, the day before yesterday at your house you started talking to me about your life when you got the new job in that factory and sewed a wedding dress and clothes for that aristocratic wedding. What happened next;
-Yes, then my life completely changed. My job was very interesting, and I loved it, but I was alone, I had no friends to match and the only person I trusted was Alison’s grandmother – the bride for whom we sewed the wedding dress for – Lady Raffiel.
-So, this woman helped me to organize my finances, she introduced me to her son who was a stockbroker and with his help I started to invest part of my money, earning a good income, in addition to my salary. Meanwhile my salary was increasing year by year because my bosses didn’t want to lose me at all. Around 1967-68, Mrs. Jones also retired and so I took her place.
-With the help and acquaintances of Lady Raffiel, I managed to buy a flat in a very good area of London, which today is worth a fortune. Back then of course it was much cheaper. At the same time, while I was sewing clothes for rich English women, I copied the models and sewing similar clothes for myself, with some changes so that they wouldn’t look the same and I would be accused of copying. But I had nowhere to wear them.
-Well aunty, didn’t you have any girlfriends? Weren’t you going out?
-No, my child. I was very alone, I worked, I read a lot, I went sometimes to the cinema, I walked in London parks, but I couldn’t wear those clothes there. My only friend at the time was Lady Raffiel, as strange as that may sound.
-We actually had something in common. She was also alone. Her husband had died a long time ago. Her children and grandchildren were so absorbed in their own pursuits and social lives that no one had time to deal with her. She herself was a very spiritual person and the social habits of her environment did not particularly interest her. To her I was an unformed dough that she could shape into a lady of the aristocracy. And this she did as best she could.
-On the other hand, I was thirsty for learning, thirsty for knowledge, almost begging for guidance. So, the two of us got along really well. The only thing we didn’t calculate, neither of us, was that no matter what, inside my own heart was the seed that had been planted in my childhood: that I was inferior to others. And I paid for that later in life. Very expensive indeed.
-But let’s put things in order. First our meetings took place whenever I was sent from my work to prepare some dress for the ladies of the family. Later the Lady would invite me every now and then to have tea together and chat. These visits pleased me very much. She was always willing to teach, and I was willing to learn.
-One day she suggested that we go to the theater together to watch a play. I was excited. I had never been to the theater! Of course, I immediately accepted. It would be a Shakespeare play. If I’m not mistaken it was “Romeo and Juliet”. She even gave me a text to read so I could follow it without difficulty.
-On the day we were going, I tried on all the clothes that I had sewn and had never worn, until I chose the right one, I put on make-up, as I saw the professionals put on the ladies of the aristocracy, and I became unrecognizable. I was even impressed by the result!
-When they came with her chauffeur to pick me up, they were both pleasantly surprised by my appearance. I looked like an English aristocrat. I saw in the Lady’s eyes the approval and I was very happy.
-My first impression of the theater was of the building itself. It was an old building, with velvet seats, balconies, galleries, wood-carved decoration, and generally a magnificence that I had never seen before. When we sat down and I found that there were little binoculars in the front seat so we could see the actors up close, I was excited like child. I got them and watched almost the entire show through them.
-The tragedy of the show’s story moved me, and I cried so much at the end that I almost ruined my make-up. This is how my journey into the world of entertainment and culture began. A journey that lasted many years.
-So, did you go to the theater with Lady again?
-Of course, we went. I had become her constant companion. We went everywhere together. At the theater, at the opera, at classical music concerts. At least once a week we attended performances of all kinds. It was a very happy period of my life.
-Well, didn’t you prefer going out with your peers, going to discos, clubs, etc.?
-I preferred going out with the Lady. On the one hand I liked those kinds of shows, but also the Lady’s presence provided me with a veil of safety from all dangers. I’ve never had anything like this in my life. The feeling that I was protected from the malice and criticism of society was unprecedented for me. I had grown up with a mother scorned and her lesson was always:
-Never show your feelings to others. Don’t give them such pleasure.
-Since then, my eyes had frozen, and behind their grey color they closed the door of my soul.
-With the Lady things were completely different. At first, by the way I dressed and behaved, no one could guess that I was just a seamstress in a factory. On the other hand, when we met Lady’s acquaintances, she would introduce me as Kalli Michele, making a vague reference to the fact that I was active in the field of fashion.
-Many times, we laughed later, when the various ladies, accustomed to pretending to remember whoever spoke to them, making vague references to past meetings, which never happened, did the same with me.
-Oh yes, they said, I remember you from such and such a fashion show. How are you? Are you well? The outfit you are wearing is wonderful. Where did you get it from?
-And I then answered full of mystery: it was custom made especially for me.
-But if we met a smarter lady, who would not be satisfied with such vague answers, the Lady would immediately find an excuse and we would leave. So, I felt safe with her. I knew I couldn’t be exposed.
-I was beginning to like this game of pretending to be an aristocrat. I realized then that all people are equally insecure and flawed. These do not change with social class, wealth, or education. The only difference is that the poor often have an inferiority complex and the rich often have a superiority complex. However, in both cases it is a complex.
Kalliroe the younger laughed at the older lady’s remark.
-You put it wisely, Aunt Kalli! The point is that one should not have a complex! Like your friend, the Lady. She must have been a great woman as you describe her to me.
-Yes, she was the most wonderful woman I met in my life. And I’m very lucky that she came on my way.
-Are you saying, aunt, that all this is by chance? In other words, do all the people we meet in our life who influence us come by chance or are we destined to meet them?
-I was never good at such answers, my dear Kalliroe. What I know for sure is that life took a lot from me in my childhood and maybe it owed me something later. On the other hand, it is also a matter of choice. When I met Lady Raffiel, I had also met the girls from the factory who frequented the pubs and discos. I – despite my young age – chose to hang out with the Lady. I could have chosen the opposite. What would be the result in this case, no one knows.
-You’re right. When we take a path in life, we never know where the one we didn’t take would lead us.
And she happily added:
-But you see aunt that I chose you too, instead of my noisy friends.
-You keep balance. You go out with your friends, but you also hang out with me. Maybe that’s for the best. I acted one-dimensionally.
-Really, in all these years that you are describing to me, have you ever visited Cyprus? You never mentioned anything like that to me.
-I always corresponded with your grandmother and learned the news of Cyprus. With the situation here, with the internal conflicts between the inhabitants – Makarians and Grivians – if you know whom I mean, I was not in any mood to come back. Besides, no one was waiting for me here. I didn’t even have a place to stay. The house where I lived with my mother, due to years of neglect, had become uninhabitable. I visited Cyprus for the first time in 1980.
-Many years since you left!
-Yes, more than twenty.
-And how did you decide that?
-A big milestone in my life was the coup and the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974. I can’t tell you how much these two events tore my heart apart. Suddenly I started to have other priorities. I went to Camden Town again, met people from the Cypriot community and became active in supporting the Cypriot refugees arriving in London every day. We collected clothes, food, tried to find them housing, jobs, helped them with the procedures of the British who didn’t want them to stay, organized concerts to collect money and everything you can imagine.
-During this turmoil, I had forgotten my problems and my insecurities.
-For some time, in fact, I hosted a young couple from Kyrenia in my home. The girl was pregnant and gave birth to her first child there. You cannot imagine my joy at the birth of this child. This couple often talked to me about the homeland, and I too began to feel that I was a stranger in the country where I lived. So, in 1980 I decided to go back for the first time.
-How I would like you to talk to me about all this! But we should have our coffee and leave. I have a job in the afternoon. If all goes well, I’ll have a surprise for you.
-What a surprise;
-If I tell you, it won’t be a surprise.
Thus, the two women, the old and the young, who were both called Kalliroe, finished their meal and rose to leave. The other diners looked at them. They could not decide which of the two was the more impressive. Both radiated light and power.