Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 23)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 06/11/2022Back to Blog
This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real. Mustafa Akinci is a real person
Cyprus – Summer 2021 (Paphos)
Alexis woke up in the morning and saw that Zena was not sleeping next to him.
-She would have gone swimming, he thought.
Immediately the events of the previous day came to his mind. They had left Nicosia early in the morning. When Zena finished her interview with Mustafa Akinci, nothing kept her there anymore.
-I am very pleased with my meeting with Mr. Akinci, she told him. He was very generous to me. I got the information I wanted. Now we will have to go back to Paphos. The journalistic part is over, it’s time to focus again on the secret of Zenovia.
-What do you have in mind? He asked her.
-I don’t know. When I’m there, the energy around me acts differently. I know that somewhere there is the text written by Zenovia. And I’ll find it!
Her determination had impressed Alexis.
-That’s how Zenovia must have acted, he thought. She used to set goals and achieved them. She had faith, not inhibitions.
The problem between them arose in the car on the way to Paphos. He felt that it was time to have this discussion and so he found cause from the pleasant atmosphere that prevailed and the light-hearted mood of Zena.
-You know, he told her, I’ll have to leave in ten days. If you want I can try to postpone it for another fortnight. I will contact my colleague who is replacing me and ask him to take over my teams for a while longer.
-That would be a good thing if I have found the edge in a fortnight’s time. But no one knows how much it will take. I can continue by myself. You were with me in the difficult times, I think you can go back, it is not right to take advantage of your colleague.
-You know, I have something else in mind. Now that we’re here and my parents and family are nearby we could get married. We don’t have many years ahead of us to start a family. We are both over 40 years old. We don’t have to do much. A simple marriage, preferably civil, to apply in Australia as well. What do you think?
He immediately saw that she became upset. He knew that her perceptions of marriage were negative, but he himself would not give in. He was basically a traditional man and did not like modern families, without institutional bases. He wanted the children, whom he hoped to have, to bear his name and recognize their grandparents. She replied with a general comment:
-Now is not the time for such discussions, trying to stop it there.
But he continued:
-And yet, now is the time. We have been together for almost two years. I think we match and are happy with each other. We are in Cyprus, which is the only country in the world where we have some relatives, that we could share these moments with them. Marriage is basically a great promise of life together and a shared right to happiness. It is worth having our own people close to us, to be witnesses to this commitment.
-On the other hand, you know I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like loose families who now are together and tomorrow they tear everything apart. You must decide, Zena, if you want us to be together forever or now we’re having a good time and God knows what will happen in the future.
It was obvious that she was confused. He understood that her old principles, the ideas she had about marriage and commitment, were struggling within her, and this was a new perspective, which she herself once mocked. But he had no intension to back down. He would fight it up to the end.
-Do you remember, he told her, when we went to the Christmas party that Mr. Jacob Papadopoulos was having and you felt the sense of family for the first time, how much you like it? You then wanted to live such a life yourself. The only way to live it, Zena, you, and your children, is to start a family. And that’s what I’m trying to offer you now. You should not be frightened.
-I fully understand, Alexis. Don’t think I don’t appreciate what you’re telling me or that I don’t remember my feelings that day. But it seems in the DNA that I carry inside me there is something, let’s say gypsy, that makes me to want to run away. If we exclude Zenovia who got married at a very young age, all the others got married in mature age. My own parents didn’t even marry at all. My mother ran away in the face of the responsibility to raise a child.
-Wouldn’t you like to change that? A new perspective opens in front of you without many problems. Your grandfather and father had severe financial problems and were unable to start a family early. Of course, for us you don’t say it “early”. We are at the same age with them when they decided to have children. But I repeat: We have no obstacle to moving forward. We have no financial problems either. We have a great relationship and I think you care about me as much as I care about you. What scares you?
-I wish I knew. It just came to me very abruptly. And these typical ceremonies scare me. I transfer my mother’s gypsy to my genes, is the most likely explanation.
-I’m not talking to you about a typical ceremony with many guests and traditional bride and groom attire. In any case, the restrictions due to the pandemic do not allow an open marriage. I’m talking about a simple ceremony in a town hall with my parents and family members. Nothing more. As for your mother’s gypsy genes, you can ignore them. They don’t define you. Who knows how she grew up? But you grew up in generous love from your father. See yourself now! You dedicate so much time and energy to finding a family secret. Family matters a lot to you, no matter how much you don’t want to admit it.
-I don’t disagree with anything you say. I’m just not ready. You should give me some time.
-No time, Zena. I must leave in ten days. And if you agree for us to get married, I will ask to be delayed for another two weeks.
-All right. I’ll answer to you tomorrow.
The discussion ended there, but there had been a chill between them. He was annoyed with Zena’s insistence on refusing to commit for non-essential reasons, and Zena, who was not used to giving in to blackmail, was stubborn.
Today, however, with the room lit by the morning sun, made Alexis optimistic that everything would be fine. Zena would stop the stubbornness. She was not unreasonable! He was asking her to go beyond the beliefs of a lifetime and she wanted some time. Entering the bathroom to get ready he saw hanging in the shower the swimsuit that Zena wore the night before, when she went to swim.
-She has worn another one today, he thought.
When he finished and came out of the bathroom, he noticed that Zena had not yet returned. This surprised him. She usually returned from her swim at this time. Then he noticed that she had not taken her mobile phone with her, but this was normal. She didn’t need it on the beach. What surprised him was when he noticed that the car keys were missing. He looked out the window and found that the car was not parked where they had left it the night before.
-Perhaps she wanted to be left alone to think, he considered. But why didn’t she take her mobile phone? Did she not want any communication with me?
He had begun to worry and wonder if he had pushed her too much the day before. He knew that despite her dynamism, she was sensitive and fragile deep down. That’s why he loved her. While she could be a volcano emitting fire and lava, the caress of her soul was tender and soft as a rose petal. She would become an excellent mother. He smiled at the thought that she would not allow her children to exploit her as she had exploited her father!
-But where is she? He wondered again. She is very late!
He thought of going down on his own for breakfast, the dining room would close soon, but he decided to wait a little longer. He did not want to give the message that he was angry with her. On the contrary, he would like the situation to be normal again.
He looked at his watch and the time was 9.45 am. He was about to set off for the dining room when the door opened, and Zena appeared. She looked upset, her hair was messed up, and she was holding something in her hands. The phrase “Where have you been?” froze on his lips when he saw that her right leg was bleeding.
Terrified he ran to her.
-What has happened to you? He asked her anxiously. Come and sit down and let me see your leg. How have you been injured?
-Don’t worry, Alexis, she replied. It’s nothing. Look what I found!
And triumphantly she lifted the dusty box that she held in her hands.
-What it is? He asked her. Where did you find it?
-I found it in the house of Zenovia. The secret should be inside. But it’s locked and I can’t open it.
-What do you mean you found it in Zenovia’s house? There is nothing there. Only ruins.
Immediately Zena began to tell him what happened in the morning.
-I was upset by our conversation yesterday and I did not sleep all night. I got up very early in the morning, before it even dawned, and decided to go to Zenovia’s house to see the sunrise. I believed that this would help me clear my thoughts and understand what I want. I thought I would come back until you woke up, so I didn’t leave you a note.
-Wait! Alexis told her. We must first take care of your leg before it gets infected.
He immediately called the reception and asked to be brought breakfast, as well as bandages and antiseptic to treat a wound. By the time Zena went to the bathroom to clean herself and change her dusty clothes, everything Alexis ordered was in their room.
After cleaning her wound and considering that the injury near the ankle was not too serious, they sat on the balcony to have their breakfast.
-Now can you tell me what happened, he told her
-As I ‘ve told you I was very upset and wanted to be in Zenovia’s house. I felt like that place would help me. I know it seems silly, but in all these months that I have been dealing almost exclusively with this subject, I have begun to feel the presence of Zenovia next to me, as if she is alive.
-So, I got there just as it was dawning. You can’t see the sunrise as clearly as you see the sunset, so I thought I’d climb that low wall that remained there, maybe I could see better. You remember that near the wall, some of the old slabs that were covering the floor of the house, remain. So, I pushed hard my foot on a slab to climb the wall. I didn’t make it with the first time, and I tried again, hitting my foot harder this time.
-Then the slab collapsed, and my leg was found in a hole. I lost my balance and fell. That’s why the blood and dirt on my clothes. I immediately understood that there was a crypt there. A crypt, which for a mysterious reason was not revealed for a hundred years!
-I knelt and began to remove the pieces of the marble slab. I saw underneath that there was a gap and inside this box that I brought. You can’t imagine my emotions when I got my hands on it. My whole body was trembling. I didn’t even realize that I was bleeding. Only when I saw your fright I did notice the blood on my leg.
-Well, why didn’t you get your phone? You could call me, and I would have come right away.
-I forgot about it. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t remember my phone. Unfortunately, or fortunately the box is locked, and I could not open it.
-Because in this way it remained well sealed and I hope that its contents were not destroyed, so many years under the floor. You know, Alexis, this crypt was dusty, but lined with marble. Zenovia had taken care to keep her secret well.
-Everything now seems to have a reason. We were looking for Zenovia’s secret here and there, but we didn’t think that since she died by accident and suddenly, she wouldn’t have had time to give it to anyone. She should have it kept at home.
-How to imagine that inside those ruins a secret might have been hiding! You know, I remember a paragraph from the letter my father left me, and I read it after his death. It was prophetic. My father wrote:
You’re going to tell me it’s been almost 100 years since then and if your grandfather didn’t find it, how are you going to find it? I would have said the same if I were at your age. But the years that have passed and the experiences I lived, made me understand that the cycles of life do not usually close within the same generation, but can be kept unfinished for many generations. I believe, my Zena, that it is up to you to close the circle of Grandma Zenovia’s life. A woman with a strong personality and willpower. You are very similar to her!
-You’re right. It’s unbelievable! Now what do you want us to do? Should we open the box with some sharp object?
-No, I don’t want to break it. I searched inside the crypt but did not find the key. Maybe we should try again. In case we still not find it, we should go to a locksmith to open it for us. Once we finish our breakfast, let’s get started. I’m anxious to see what’s inside.
-I’m anxious too. But I would like to tell you one more thing. I would like to apologize to you for pushing you so hard yesterday to decide on marriage. You can have as much time as you want. We have both waited for so many years. Let’s still wait a while. Nothing will change.
-No, Alexis. I have made my decision. I want nothing more in the world than to marry you, now. And I mean it, now. Maybe it’s the effect of Zenovia, maybe because you’re absolutely right. It’s great for people to have a family. And I no longer have any family except you. And I’m very lucky about that.
-Darling, he cried excited and jumped over the table to kiss her.
-Slowly, Alexis! You’re going to turn the table upside down, she said laughing.
-We’ll have a lot of kids too, you’ll see!
-Doubtful at the age we are, but we will try. Zenovia’s genes must be preserved!
As soon as they got up from the table Zena wet a towel and cleaned the box. Then the beautiful waves of the wood appeared.
-It must be olive tree, Alexis told her. I’ve never seen a more beautiful box before. If I’m not mistaken the lock is silver. I’m not sure of course, but you see it hasn’t rusted. It has only blackened.
They took the box and set off to pass first through Zenovia’s house and then to the city of Paphos. They had been informed by the hotel for a locksmith to go to, in case they couldn’t find the key in the crypt.
-Before we go to the locksmith, we will go through the hospital to see your leg. I noticed that you are limping.
-No, no. I want to go to the locksmith first, if we do not find the key in the crypt.
-Forget it. We will go to the hospital first. You promised me that you would marry me, and you will not cheat me on the pretext that you hit your leg and you can’t stand!
-Well, well! That’s why I didn’t want to get married. So that I don’t have anyone else to decide for me!
Laughing both happily, they set off for Zenovia’s house first and then for the city of Paphos. A new chapter had opened in their lives.