The grey eyed Cinderella – Chapter 7

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 10/06/2023

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A few days had passed since the two women named Kalliroe had their meal at the beach restaurant, and Kalliroe the younger had not communicated with the older one at all. Aunt Kallie was sitting in the garden, holding a book in her hands, and thinking about her young friend. She understood that it would not be possible for the girl to deal with her all the time. But inside she felt a dependence on the energy she emitted. Now, at eighty-three years old, her own strength had weakened, and she needed young people around her. She also took something of the vitality of their souls.

She sighed and turned back to the pages of her book, though she was abstract enough to concentrate on reading. She began to reminisce about the first time she had returned to Cyprus in 1980, after an absence of about twenty-two years. She had booked a room in a hotel in Limassol since she had nowhere to stay in the village. Either out of vanity, or out of a thirst for justice, she had brought with her all the wonderful models she had sewn for herself and worn them on all her visits to the village.

Initially, she only visited her friend Eleni, with whom she corresponded during all the years she was away. So soon after the 1974 Turkish invasion, most people in Cyprus were poor and thousands were refugees, living in camps. So, she herself, so well dressed and chic, made a great impression. Sometimes she felt uncomfortable, as if she wanted to provoke, but the result surprised even her. Her fellow villagers welcomed her and spoke to her very friendly when they saw her on the street, even though she was the same person they so openly despised in the old days.

But her biggest surprise was that some of her cousins, who had never spoken to her when they were little, now welcomed her warmly and invited her to their house for lunch. In fact, they insisted so much that she was forced to go. The truth is that inside she felt a triumph over all of this, even if she knew that the only thing that had changed about her was the clothes she was wearing. She had once again confirmed that what wins people over is the image and not the real person. Ironic, but a reality.

The culmination of all the change that took place was when they began to matchmaking her. Her cousins, when they invited her for a meal, supposedly randomly invited a man they knew, who was either a widower or had not get married, like her, trying to match them. This made Kalliroe sometimes to laugh, sometimes to get angry.

-Maybe they think I’m rich, she had concluded.

And she remembered her grandmother’s words on the last day she left the village:

Since you have decided to leave my daughter, I wish you the best. Here in our village no one is going to marry you. There, that nobody knows, you might find someone to have you.

-And yet now, she thought, many from this village would like to have me.

But she herself was not interested in those match makings. They were mostly bothering her. She was happy with her life in London. She was well established in her field, had a good salary, and was making some money from the investments she had made in the past – blessed be the Lady Raffiel who had guided her. Recently, in fact, the owners of the company where she was working had proposed to give her 10% of the shares, so that they were sure that she would not leave their side. Thus, she was in no mood to be locked into a conventional marriage.

That first trip to Cyprus was what made her decide to build her own house in the village so she would have somewhere to live when she came here. The truth was that she had not been seduced by the friendly attitudes of her fellow villagers. Apart from the satisfaction she felt, which admittedly had an element of triumph, they meant nothing to her. There were other reasons that made her want to come to Cyprus.

Despite her professional successes in London, she had no person of her own there. All her acquaintances, even her outings, had to do with her work. She had also lost all contact with Elpida, who was the only real friend she had, so she had only her friend Eleni and her family left in the world. She wanted to bond more with them, so she could feel that she too belonged somewhere.

On the other hand, she was missing the landscape of her village, the view of the sea, the sun that can burn your face, but at the same time warm your heart. She wanted to be a part of this world, which she wanted to call homeland. That couple from Kyrenia who she had hosted in 1974, taught her that it is important for a person to have a homeland and to love it.

So, she commissioned Eleni’s husband, who was a mason, to build a house where the house she had lived with her mother was. He found the architect, he got the permits, he built it. Kalliroe simply sent him money whenever he asked. This poor man, barely making ends meet in those hard times, kept all the evidence of what he paid, lest Kalliroe think he was trying to take advantage of her.

-The poor have more sense of dignity, she thought. It’s the rich or rather the would-be rich who are trying to take advantage of you.

At that moment, the phone rang and brought her out of the stream of her memories. When she answered it, she heard the happy voice of Kalliroe:

-Aunt Kalli, will you be home this afternoon? Can I drop by to see you? I have a surprise for you.

-Of course, I’ll be at home. I look forward to the surprise!

In the afternoon Kalliroi came, holding her laptop.

-Let’s sit here in the living room, she said to Aunt Kalli. I want you to see something.

The old lady followed her and Kalliroe placed the laptop on a small table and two chairs opposite. In one she told Aunt Kallis to sit and in the other she sat down herself.

Aunt Kallie obeyed, anxiously waiting to see where this whole process would lead. She herself had never dealt with this modern way of communication and information. On the one hand she admired it and on the other she feared it. She could see that there was unlimited potential but on the other hand it transcended man and the world that for centuries defined the space in which he could move. It seemed as if it had invaded in a spiritual dimension and brought before you all the knowledge collected, but it acted promiscuously, without inhibitions. It was, in her opinion, a dangerous game.

Kalliroe the younger. was moving her fingers deftly on the keyboard and the computer screen was rapidly changing images. In a little while Aunt Kallie heard a noise like a bell ringing. Immediately a girl appeared in front of them and greeted Kalliroe in English:

-Hello Kalliroe! Glad to see you again!

Kalliroe the younger greeted her just as friendly and asked her:

-Is your grandmother there?

-Say hello grandmother.

An old lady appeared on the screen looking as surprised as Aunt Kalli at the faces she saw in front of her. It was obvious that she had no idea what was going on either. Suddenly Kalliroe, the aunt, recognized behind the wrinkled eyes and aged face her friend, Elpida.

-My God, how old she looks! She thought. Am I better? Almost sixty years have passed since then!

But loudly she exclaimed:

-Elpida, you are Elpida, aren’t you? My dear Elpida, my heart will break with the joy of seeing you!

But Elpida could not speak. Tears flowed from her eyes non-stop and with her hands she tried to touch the screen of the computer, thinking she could hug her friend. Kalliroe was equally excited, but she was trying to contain herself. She wanted so much to talk to Elpida, to shorten the sixty years that separated them.

She turned anxiously and asked Kalliroe the younger:

-For how long can we talk?

-As long as you want. I’ll go to the kitchen to make tea and you may talk. We’ll call her again, don’t worry. As many times as needed.

When the two old friends began to talk, a flood of words and information was exchanged between them that was difficult to digest. But what was impressive was that the distance of sixty years had been annihilated, as well as the kilometers that separated them. The same love and understanding connected them again through the computer screen.

Kalliroe the youngest brought tea to her aunt and let her talk to her friend for at least an hour. It was obvious that by the end they were both exhausted. With the promise that they would resume communication next week, the two friends agreed to say goodbye.

Aunt Kalli did not know how to thank Kalliroe for this communication.

-It’s the best gift I have ever been given in my life! Thank you very much! How did you find her?

-With the information you gave me I found her granddaughter and we agreed to organize this communication. Do you see where technology is useful?

-First time I realized how very useful it is! God bless you my daughter! Thank you a thousand times.

-Next week we will call her again. Do not worry. Now that you’ve found her, you won’t lose her.

As soon as Kalliroe the younger left, the old lady let her tears flow unmolested. She cried silently for a long time and thought about what Elpida had told her.

At first they talked about the precious memories they both had of living above the Fish and Chips restaurant in Camden Town. You remember this, you remember that they said to each other and laughed happily. It had been a long time since Kalliroe had laughed so much.

But then they inevitably talked about their lives when they parted ways. Elpida admitted that she had stopped their correspondence then, not because she did not have time, but because she was so unhappy that she did not want to talk to anyone. Especially to Kalliroe who had somehow warned her about her decision to marry an almost stranger.

-Those years we lived together, she had told her, made me understand the power I had as a woman and my ability to manage my life. My husband was not a bad person, but this is how he was taught in his parents’ house: the man is the master of the house, and the woman is somehow an obedient servant. At this point we had terrible fights. Many times, I wonder if I did well to live independently and experience freedom. Maybe if I hadn’t had these experiences I would have accepted my husband as he was. Who knows?

-On the other hand, those years we lived together were the happiest years of my life. I never regret them. How much power we had! How much we dared! Do you remember when we said: Strength in unity?

-If I remember? answered Kalliroe. They were also the happiest years of my life. But tell me what happened to your marriage? Did you break up?

-Yes, after five years of marriage and two children, two beautiful girls, we decided to divorce. He went his way, and I went mine. I don’t know about him, but my own path was full of difficulties and problems. After the breakup he disappeared from our lives. It seemed very strange to me at first, because he loved our children. No one knew what had happened to him. Many years had passed before we heard from him, when the girls grew up and sought him out. His life had been ruined after our breakup, and I am truly very sorry for that.

-My own life, until I raised my daughters, was hard. I worked sixteen hours a day on the machine to make a good living that they would not lack for anything. My legs and arms became stiff from long hours of the same position, for years. Today I can hardly walk. But I raised them, educated them, got them married, they gave me grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The girl you saw today is my youngest granddaughter. Her name is Elpida, after me. What did you do with your life after we separated?

-I must admit that first your absence cost me a lot. But soon I looked for a new job, creative, interesting, as I had always wanted. Luckily I found one in a factory in south London. We were making clothes for rich ladies, and I was working in the department of tailored clothes, as a rehearsal manager. At first I was an assistant but in the end I became a manager and now I have shares in this business. In this environment I met very interesting people. I’ve never married, but I feel like I’ve lived a full life. But if I knew what you were going through, I wouldn’t leave you alone. I would bring you with me, I would give you a more interesting job, you would be paid better, we would raise your daughters together. Oh, my God, if I only knew!

-I once tried to find you. I called Mr. Christos at the Fish and Chips restaurant but they told me that you were gone and that they had lost track of you.

-I once wrote to you too, but the letter came back marked “Unknown”.

-Yes, we changed house when I divorced. Perhaps we were not destined to meet then. Perhaps each of us should walk our own path and bear our own sufferings. But now that we have met, as long as we live, we will keep in touch.

-Yes, dear Elpida, as long as we live, we must keep in touch.

Tears still flowed from Kalliroe’s eyes as she remembered her conversation with Elpida. As she grew older she became more and more emotional. The tears she held back in her youth found an outlet now in her old age. She felt very exhausted. The alternation of emotions of the past day had absorbed all her energy. With difficulty she was able to prepare a cup of tea and go to bed.

As sleep weighed down her eyelids, she made a promise to herself:

-I will bring Elpida to Cyprus, to my home. She can stay as long as she wishes but I will bring her. We shall live once more together, as we did then.


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