Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 18)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 02/10/2022Back to Blog
This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real.
Cyprus – Summer 2021
Mr. Ioannides was looking at the impressive woman sitting opposite him and while he knew very well that there was no way to help her, he tried to engineer something to keep her even longer in his office. She was not what we call: “beautiful as a movie star,” but she had something on her, that captivated you.
Her brown blond, long, natural hair and dark eyes were an unusual combination that immediately attracted attention. What enchanted her interlocutor, however, was the personality and the glow of her face, which betrayed a deeply intense psychic world.
-You say that your great-grandmother had left a text for her son that was never found. Your question is, if there was any chance that she had left it in the possession of the bank, for safekeeping. At the time you refer, that is, in 1922, the banking system in Cyprus was in its very early stages and functioned more like a savings bank. I do not believe that at that time, it was possible to provide this type of service. I could of course, ask for a check to be done, but it is like looking for a needle in the haystacks. Almost impossible.
-Thank you, Mr. Ioannides. I don’t want to waste your time anymore. I just wanted to see you and to rule out this case and look for something else.
-If your great-grandmother had a lawyer she would probably leave it in his custody. But then again… After a hundred years, I see it unlikely that you will find something.
-Thank you again for your time. I’ll see how I can move on. Have a nice day, Mr. Ioannides.
-Good day, Mrs. Vassilopoulos. If you find an additional piece of information that can help us, I am at your disposal.
Leaving his office, Zena did not feel so disappointed. She just knew that this possibility had been ruled out. Discussing the matter with Alexis, the day before, they had concluded that their next move would be to visit the village of Statos in Paphos and look for the descendants of the persons mentioned by Zenovia in her letters, namely Eurydice and her daughter Euthymia. Maybe she had left something to them.
The next meeting, they had to have, while they were in Nicosia, was with the Senior Policeman, Mr. Georgiou, a friend of Alexis’ father. He had made an appointment for them for the next day, at 10.00 in the morning. To this meeting she would go with Alexis, after all, he had arranged it.
The next day, at exactly 10.00 p.m., they were in Mr. Georgiou’s office, who greeted them very cordially. He offered them Cypriot coffee and listened carefully to what they told him about Mr. Nicolaou, but also about Zena’s lawyer, Mr. Neophytou.
-Do you want to file a complaint? He asked them. In the courts of Cyprus, it will take years to be examined and in fact, apart from verbal references, you have nothing tangible.
-No, Zena told him. I do not want to file a complaint. I just want to see how Mr. Nicolaou could come before his actions, stop behaving in this way and bother us.
-One minute to call the Paphos Chief of the Police, to see if he knows Mr. Nicolaou and what character he is. You know in Cyprus and especially in Paphos, almost everyone knows each other.
Mr. Georgiou immediately called the Paphos Chief of the Police and briefly reported the facts to him. Zena and Alexis waited a long time for the phone call to end. It was obvious that the Paphos Chief of the Police knew Mr. Nicolaou and the way he behaved.
-You are right, he told them. The guy is known to the police. With such frauds he has bought a lot of land in Paphos, from ignorant owners, has built many villas and sold them to foreigners, gaining a lot of money. He behaves like a charmer and considers that all women bend in the face of his charm. Note that he is also married, with two children. Your lawyer, Mr. Neophytou, is a good person, but to have messed up with Nicolaou, he will probably have lent him money and is obliged to him. Their relationship is not justified otherwise.
-My colleague has informed me that he will look further into the matter and call me back for anything new. He will also call Mr. Nicolaou himself to make him understand that the matter has come before us and sit quietly. Such types are bragging cowards, they do not bite. Do not be afraid.
Zena and Alexis thanked Mr. Georgiou and left. They were both very satisfied with the development of the case. Moreover, they did not want to deal with Mr. Nicolaou and his unacceptable behavior anymore.
In the evening they had dinner with Eleni in a traditional restaurant, in a courtyard in fact, under lemon and olive trees. Two young men with their guitars entertained the clients with old Greek songs. Zena was delighted with the picturesqueness of Nicosia. Eleni, who was their constant tour guide, took them every time to traditional restaurants, in the wider area of Nicosia and very often in the old part of the city. The atmosphere of these spaces was for Zena a connection with the past and a taste of the life of her great-grandmother, Zenovia.
As they were eating and relaxing, they planned their following moves. The next day they would all leave for Paphos. Eleni would go in her own car so she could come back at night. They finally had to visit the estate left by Zenovia and form an image of the house and the surrounding area.
Zena did not sleep well that night. This adventure, which had begun with the death of her father, had ceased to be a treasure hunt. She had begun to feel, that with her investigations she was shaking the spirits of her ancestors, who for a hundred years had been in lethargy, and called on them to reveal their secrets. Did they want to? She did not know. But the march had begun and was now going into the deep end.
The next day, on the trip to Paphos, they stopped at Choirokoitia. This Neolithic settlement, which, from the evidence that exists, seems to have begun to be inhabited from the 9th millennium BC, although the archaeological findings date back to around the seventh millennium BC, was a revelation for Zena. The Department of Antiquities of Cyprus has reconstructed five of the circular residences that existed there and has equipped them with copies of objects of that time, thus giving the visitor the opportunity to understand how the people of the Neolithic era had lived.
-You know, Eleni told her, basically your great-grandmother’s house was built in a similar way. That is, the base made of stone and the rest with plinths. Of course, Zenovia’s house was much more modern and larger, but the original technique was the same. Think, for ten thousand years, the people in this place, built their houses in the same way! It also seems, from the way they buried their dead, on the floor of their residence, they had religious beliefs, a kind of culture. There is also evidence that inside the houses there were frescoes. Due to their very poor condition, they could not be restored, but art is also a sign of culture.
-I don’t know what to say! Zena replied. From the moment I set foot in this place, one surprise follows another. Do you, the inhabitants of this island, have a sense of where you live and how heavy legacy you carry?
-Certainly not! Eleni told her with a laugh. The environment and the history of our country is something given, of no importance to most of us. We live, like everyone else in the world perhaps, in the fog of our daily problems. A look around, however, could make us try harder for the future of our country.
At noon they arrived in Paphos.
-Would you like us to go somewhere to eat? asked Eleni, or directly to the estate of Zenovia?
-I’m hungry like a wolf, Alexis replied. Let’s go to the port of Kato Paphos to have lunch and in the afternoon, when the sun falls a pit, we go to the estate of Zenovia. It will be more pleasant like that.
The two ladies agreed with Alexis and so they went to a restaurant at the port to have lunch. In the harbor, a few boats and small yachts were rocking. Tourists went back and forth to the dock and walked to the castle located at the edge of the harbor.
-How big is the estate of Zenovia? Alexis asked Eleni.
-Quite large. I am counting on the two hectares. That is why Mr. Nicolaou fervently wanted it. It would bring him great profits since it has unobstructed views of the sea.
-I think it would be good to have a land surveyor count it and define the border, because there is a great chance that the neighbors have violated it, Alexis suggested.
-I agree, Zena replied. Perhaps we should fence it, too
-The land surveyor is a very good idea, but the fencing will be very expensive, Eleni replied. This is a very large area.
-Yes, maybe you’re right. Let’s define the borders first and then we see.
-Are you planning to keep it all? Alexis asked.
-I don’t know. I need to see it first. However, my first wish is to rebuild the house of Zenovia.
-You could keep the house and an area around the house and sell the rest. It is a very large space to maintain it. With today’s demands it would be an exaggeration. Besides, are you counting on living in Cyprus, or will you come sparsely?
-I don’t know. I haven’t had any such thoughts yet. Maybe you’re right, but I’ll have to see at it first. Anxiety has consumed me. Let’s take our coffee and finally go!.
By the time they had their coffee and walked to the castle, it was five in the afternoon. Zena was not holding on any longer. With Eleni driving forward and directing them, they reached the “house” of Zenovia.
Zena immediately realized that its position was panoramic. It looked towards the sea and the view was unobstructed. The estate was located on a hillside and ended up on a small cliff, thus protecting it from future constructions that would cut off its visibility towards the sea. To the right and left were villas built. Zena noticed a sign that read: “Villas for sale” and underneath was signed by Mr. Nicolaou’s company.
-That is why Mr. Nicolaou had the demand to acquire this estate as well! She exclaimed.
-The best thing we did was that we went to the police. Such guys can become too dangerous for profit. They have no barriers, Alexis said.
-I will immediately arrange for land surveyors to come here, Eleni promised. I will let you know the date so that you can inform the police. It is good to bear this in mind, that Mr. Nicolaou has already intervened in this piece and perhaps try to prevent them.
-Ugly tangle! Zena Now let’s go see great-grandma’s house and let’s leave that for later.
They proceeded towards the ruins, where the house once stood, in which Zenovia had dreamed and fought to save the women of Paphos from misery and illiteracy. Only a few stones stood, marking where the rooms once were. You could also distinguish the locations of windows and doors. Nothing more. There was no roof. The floor, once covered with slabs of Cypriot marble, was now plain soil. Only at the edges of the rooms, near the walls remained some rows of slabs.
-These stones are the basis of the house, something similar that we saw in Choirokoitia and from above the walls were made with plinths, Eleni informed them. Exactly the same thing happened here. The plinth walls, however, have been destroyed. Inside and outside the house was covered with plaster. You can see at this point where there are some remains. The roof was made with wood, dirt and tiles. Come and I’ll show you the well.
They proceeded towards the well. At that time, Alexis noticed someone watching them from the nearby villas. As soon as he realized that he was seen, he hid himself. He did not say anything but decided the next day to call the Police officer.
After Eleni showed them the well, which was destroyed and full of stones, she announced to them that she herself should return to Nicosia.
-I have a long way to go and tomorrow’s hard day. I’ll have to leave you now. You can stay if you want. My first job will be to find land surveyors to demarcate the estate. I will let you know.
They said goodbye to Eleni and thanked her for her valuable help. Zena would like to stay a little longer to see the sunset. They proceeded again towards the house and Alexis saw, with the end of his eye, a car leaving the adjacent villas.
-Our friend is leaving, he thought. He will inform his boss about our visit unless he is the boss.
He preferred not to say anything to Zena. There was no need to upset her. It was obvious that the story with Mr. Nicolaou would not end so easily.
Zena stood in front of a spot that would once have been a window facing the sea. With the thought that Zenovia would also have stood there and plan her next steps to help the women of Paphos, she shuddered. Such women, unknown, anonymous who began such a great work, without awareness of the dangers, but only with the power of their soul, were her heroines. And one of them was her great-grandmother!
That moment she felt that, regardless of whether she would be able to find the secret of Zenovia, she would have to do something to preserve her memory and project her work. He rgreat- grandmother’s name should remain in the collective memory of the women of this place for many years to come! What began as an adventure, during the confinement, brought about by the quarantine, had begun to become a life’s work for her with completely unpredictable developments.
Alexis remained silent respecting Zena’s reflecting. Besides, he had his own thoughts that concerned him. He felt that his role was to protect her from Mr. Nicolaou and guys like Mr. Nicholas. His decision to come to Cyprus and be by her side was very correct. Zena was a very strong woman, but she was sensitive and acted in a clean way, without ulterior motives. But deceit requires different handling.
At that time the sun had begun to set. They saw it disappearing on the horizon and painting the sky and the sea with its colors. A sacred silence had spread everywhere. Peace.
They remained there, motionless, looking, absorbing the energy of the hour, while an uplift filled their souls.
When darkness began to fall, Alexis took Zena’s hand and said to her tenderly:
-Come on, it’s time to leave. We will come back and relive this beauty.
So, holding hands, they reached the car and set off for the hotel.