Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 13)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 28/08/2022Back to Blog
This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real.
Melbourne – Australia, October – December 2020
After sending the e-mail to Eleni, everything had become clear in Zena’s mind. Her goal was to visit Cyprus and discover all that she could find out there. This strange situation of the pandemic and quarantine simply gave her time to read the letters that were in the box that her father had left her.
Nevertheless, this stagnation had begun to become irritating. When cases were reduced, some freedoms were given to trafficking, when a new mutation appeared and cases increased, immediately everyone was locked in their homes. For Zena this would be unbearable, without Alexis. If she had been completely alone all these months she would go crazy. Alexis’ presence colored her life and gave meaning to her dull days.
He did not stand idly by for a minute. In addition to the lectures, he did online, he was also involved in all the small tasks that Zena’s house needed. He repaired a few dripping taps, painted almost the entire apartment, and everything else he saw that could be improved. Zena was somewhat indifferent to all this. When her father was alive and saw that something was absolutely necessary to be repaired, she asked him and sent a technician. Since he died though, she has not bothered at all.
Now she saw everything in her apartment working perfectly and the place shining. She watched Alexis working and admired his shapely, strong body, which he did not have for show but used it practically. On the other hand, she was impressed with the perfection with which he completed any work he was starting. You could not find any flaw. She was pleasantly surprised every day. She even began to feel that as the days were passing, she was more attached to him. This had never happened to her before in her life. And the strange thing was that she liked it! This man, with his old-fashioned mentality and chivalrous principles, was incredibly charming!
At the same time, she continued reading the text that her grandfather wrote to her father. The life of her ancestors as it evolved through this text was extremely interesting and kept her in agony. Unfortunately for her she was progressing slowly, due to the difficulty in the language, but she insisted on reading it first on her own. She asked Alexis only about words and phrases that made it particularly difficult for her. She was absorbed in study for hours and when she finished she felt immersed in a magical world, which was the world of her family!
Thus, grandfather Evangelos wrote to her father:
My son, I have not been very consistent in my narrative. Many years have passed since I described my life to you until my attempt to revive the business I inherited from my father. You are now fifteen years old. I hope when this text comes into your possession, you will have the interest to read it.
I worked hard for the next ten years. It was not easy to set up our business, which I so frivolously allowed to destroy. If Mahmud wasn’t by my side, I certainly wouldn’t have made it. The producers did not trust me anymore and the factories abroad did not want to hear about me. I had to flush the stingray over me. Mahmud – let him be well where he is, because he has been dead for two years – stood by me as a father. I cannot express the gratitude I feel for this. After his death, I stood by his widow as much as I could and endowed his only daughter. It was the least I could do for him.
These ten years, in addition to working hard, I also had frequent correspondence with my mother. Inside the box along with my text you will find all the correspondence I had with her. I was keeping her letters and when she died and I went to Paphos, I found in her office all the letters that I was sending her. So, there’s everything. There is nothing missing. They will help you understand how great this woman was.
But let’s take things from the beginning. While I was struggling to set up the business, my mother was setting up another business in Paphos. In her effort to help the poor women of the countryside, she had begun the trade of Cypriot weavers with Alexandria. In other words, she was sending Cypriot weavings to traders here and almost all the profits went to the weavers. So many girls were helped, and my mother made use of that innate talent she had with business and commerce.
All these years, she wrote to me, asking me to go and visit her, but I was immersed in my attempt to revive the business. I couldn’t leave for a minute, or at least I thought so. Later, when I lost her, I realized that it was much more important it to go see her. But in those years, such a trip would last at least a month, and for me it was very difficult to be away for so long. I was trying to put everything in order and then leave.
At the same time, she had dedicated herself to her goal. She was troubled by the fact that she was not at all sure if the girls alone could keep the business. She tried to train them because she knew that she herself would not live forever, but the fact that as soon as they got married they ceased to participate, did not help at all. Very few saw a prospect in this employment, but the lack of education and cultivation made it difficult for them to progress. Thus, she had set her second goal to help educate some of them. She paid the school for two or three, which were good in studying, but she was gone before she could organize the administration sector.
My mother passed away in May, 1930. She was only 56 years old. She had begun to have a problem with her legs from a long time, maybe it was arthritis, I don’t know exactly. However, with the use of a stick, she used to go, every afternoon, for a long walk The route was bumpy and in some places had rocks. It seems that somewhere she stumbled and fell. Unfortunately, she was injured on the head and although she lived for a few days, she never recovered.
Someone telegraphed me and I immediately left for Cyprus. I caught up with her before she died. She opened her eyes and saw me when I was by her bedside, but she couldn’t talk to me. She smiled at me happily and in a few hours she let out her last breath in my arms. I don’t want it to sound melodramatic because it was a very tender moment. Perhaps the most tender moment between us, in my whole life. And I am grateful to God that I experienced it.
Your grandmother’s funeral was a unique experience. I was asked where I would like her to be buried, in the town or in her village. I chose the village, where her parents were buried. Of course, I did not know that the village was in the mountains, it was about 15 miles from Ktima and there were neither roads nor means of transport.
-I will send someone to inform them, the priest told me, and we will start around five o’clock in the morning, before the sun rises.
At five o’clock in the morning we were all ready. In front a carriage with the coffin and behind it a huge procession with black-dressed women, men, children, some with donkeys, some with mules and most of them on foot. I had never seen anything like this in my life. Dozens, if not hundreds followed the coffin. Most women were young, others held infants in their arms, there were even pregnant women.
I was given a horse. At first I did not want to ride it, watching all those women walking, but the priest said to me something very wise:
-My son, to which one of them, will you give this horse? There are dozens of them. They are used to walk all their lives; they do not get tired. You are not used to.
However, I shared it with pregnant women or those who held infants in their arms.
The sad procession continued slowly, with the priests behind the coffin, chanting, many women crying, and others lamenting. It looked like a dance (chorus) of ancient tragedy. Wherever we found a spring we would stop for drinking water. When we passed through villages the people were all outside and were waiting for us with flowers and perfume containers in their hands, with which they decorated the coffin and perfumed my mother’s dead body. Some of them joined the procession, which was getting bigger and bigger. It was as if it were Good Friday, and the Epitaph was passing by.
And while people mourned Zenovia’s death, nature raged with beauty and fragrances to welcome her in her arms. It was May. In my mind came Aphrodite with Adonis and the Virgin Mary with Christ. At this time of the year, they also mourned their loved ones. The only difference was that their own loved ones would soon be resurrected. My own mother, would not.
Aphrodite on this land, in which we would soon deposit my mother’s body, ran barefoot when she lost Adonis, and red poppies blossomed from the blood dripping from her bare feet. And now the poppies were bending their slim bodies to the wind and illuminating the fields with their brilliant color, like a last farewell to Zenovia, a daughter of the land of Paphos.
As we arrived at her village, Statos, all the inhabitants were waiting at the entrance of the village to accompany us to the church. The church devoted to the Saints Zenovios and Zenovia. I was amazed when I heard it. The funeral was held by many priests who gathered from the surrounding villages to honor my mother, leading the Bishop of Paphos. The crowd filled the small church as well as all the streets of the village.
At the end of the funeral the Bishop said a few words about my mother. I don’t remember many things because I was very emotional. What was nailed to my memory was a phrase of his:
-This sea of people who say goodbye to you, Zenobia, are here because you are the first person who for hundreds of years has cared about these oppressed. You cared about their poverty and showed them the way to claim their lives. Let the soil that will cover you be light! Eternal thy memory.
After the funeral I stayed a few days in the village. I was hosted by Euthymia, the daughter of Eurydice, a relative of my mother, to whom she gave her parents’ house for a dowry. So, I actually stayed at my grandmother’s and mother’s house. These people felt great gratitude for her. Their hospitality, in a house so humble, was royal to me.
But unfortunately, I had to leave. Alexandria and my job were waiting for me. I went back to the Ktima, settled the finances with the bank and collected all my mother’s books and writings, as well as some of her personal belongings. Furthermore, I left the house and the furniture to the girls who managed the business with the textiles to have it as a headquarters. I, also, told them they could use it as long as they wanted.
As I had told you before, my mother was constantly referring to some secret that she wanted to confide in me, and she had even written it. I believed that among all these documents that I collected, there would be something. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything, no matter how much I searched. Knowing my mother, I am sure that somewhere there will be this text. I can’t just imagine where.
Here Zena stopped reading. The emotional charge was great. She could not keep going.
-Grandma Zenovia was buried like a saint, she thought.
It was never cleared in her mind if there was life after death, since she was not religious at all, anyway. But reading all these stories and knowing the action of this excellent woman, she was now certain that her existence could not be lost in nothingness after her death. She felt the same for her father. In what way the spirit of people fleeing life survives, she did not know, nor could she conclude, but she was now certain that there is some kind of posthumous existence in a spiritual dimension.
-How much I wish I had met her! She said aloud.
-What did you say? Alexis asked her
-I said I would like to meet Grandma Zenovia, Zena replied. She was such a great woman!.
-Stand in front of the mirror, Alexis said to her with a laugh. You will see her opposite you. You carry your grandmother’s genes in your body but above all in your spirit! And don’t think that this whole story came into your hands, so by chance. It is an assignment to you to revive her life, but above all to find your roots.
Zena shuddered. All this so far was a game that intrigued her, but Alexis was right. Behind the interesting story, there were people, there was Grandma Zenovia, who left a legacy of a secret. And while almost a hundred years had passed and everything has been pulverized by merciless time, Zena will have to find the truth. Surreal? Certainly. But as Alexis said it is a task that has been assigned to her.
-What happened? Has Eleni replied? Alexis asked.
-Yes, she has confirmed that the assessment of the plot in Paphos by the law firm is realistic. It is a very large property in a touristic area, and many will be interested in buying and developing. What began to irritate me is the insistence of the law firm to entrust them with the sale of the land. We will lose the buyer, they say. And what about that? I’m not interested in selling!
-Be wary of this office. You never know what their intentions are. Don’t think that people in Cyprus are saints. Far from it. There is a lot of corruption and vested interests. Be careful with them.
-Don’t worry. I am a fox, and I don’t trust anyone easily. For now, I will wait. I can’t go to Cyprus unless the vaccines are released. Not less than six months’ time, I suppose. It will be summer there. And you know what? Although I have traveled to many countries of the world, I have never been to Europe, let alone to a country of the Mediterranean Sea. It will be an incredible experience for me.
-I think you’ll like it. It’s a shame that I won’t be able to travel with you at that time. I have the groups of the Greek language. Otherwise, I would come.
-Don’t worry, she told him with a laugh. It is an opportunity to test our relationship and see if it is the pandemic that keeps us together or we have found our partner.
-Let go of the cunning, Alexis told her, slightly annoyed. I have no fun for adventures.
-Okay tough, Mediterranean man! I will see whether I am a frivolous Australian or the genes of Zenovia will keep me eternally faithful to you!