Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 27)

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 04/12/2022

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This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real.

Cyprus – Summer 2021 (Paphos)

The next morning, they decided to go first for breakfast and then start reading. They hoped that during this day they would finish the text because there were not many pages left. So, when they returned from the dining room they sat on the balcony gazing at the sea and Alexis started reading:

Arriving in Alexandria, in my new home, I was left with my mouth open with the luxury and beauty I saw. My new life was something so strange to me. I immediately realized that I had to struggle to reach the level of the society that surrounded me. I asked Demetrios to bring me teachers and began to learn to read, write and behave. I was learning fast, and my teachers were very happy with me.

On the other hand, according to the time Demetrios was absent from Alexandria and not knowing exactly when our marriage took place, no one could have thought that the child was not Demetrios’ own. So, there was never any risk of questioning your paternity.

I slowly began to love Demetrios, not for his youth and beauty but for the firmness of his character, his love, and his kindness. Near him I felt safe and happy. On the other hand, I tried in every way to thank him and share everything with him. We were a very happy couple. I’ve never regretted marrying him, even if my motivation was initially different. I think my love for Demetrios was the most complete relationship I had in my life.

But I had never forgot Vangelis. As soon as you were born and looked so much like him, every day I saw you, it was as if I was seeing him sitting on the white horse, proud, and riding in the plain of Messaoria. My concern that he might one day have come to ask me for marriage, and I may have already left, never abandoned me in my life. And I kept this thought hidden inside me. It was the only thing I had never shared with Demetrios.

If it were not for you, my son, I might have thought, as the years went by, that what I had lived in the small hut in the plain of Messaoria was a dream of my teenage years and that it never happened. That Vangelis was a prince who came out of the fairy tale to deceive me and then returned to the realm of nothingness, just to be accompanied by his memory and to confirm that the line between the real world and fantasy is imperceptible. But you were there, beautiful, and alive: Vangelis’ child.

For this reason, my child, I fully understood Penelope who loved two men. I understood the tearing of her soul and at the same time the power of love that could not abandon her and has accompanied her painfully in her life ever since. I was lucky enough not to love them at the same time. She was unluckier than I was.

But to return to our own story, I spent the following years in Alexandria on the side of Demetrios, as you know. You, in his face, found the best father in the world and I the best husband. I have no complaints about the course of my life as it followed.

But that thorn, that wonder why Vangelis did not come, never abandoned me. At some stage in my life, I believed that I would never know. But that was not the case.

When your father died and I returned to Cyprus to take care of my mother, I sometimes thought of asking her if Vangelis came, albeit late, to ask for me. But I knew she would not reply, so I did not dare. However, the information came from elsewhere.

After the death of my mother and her burial in her village of Statos, I stayed there for a few days and reunited with my old friend, Eurydice. When I saw the poverty and misery that plagued them, I gave to one of her daughters my mother’s house, as a dowry, so that she could marry. So, on one of our walks, in the pastures where we used to go as young girls, Eurydice confided to me the following story. I will try to narrate it to you, my child, as she recounted it to me, in her own words, as far as I can recall:

-I remember that one day you suddenly left the village with your mother, without telling anyone anything. When she returned, she told us that you had married Demetrios and went to Alexandria with him. I was very surprised then. I knew you loved the master, but I realized that he hadn’t come to ask for you, and because you were not a virgin anymore, your mother got you married as quickly as possible. I was sorry that I did not say goodbye to you and that I had lost my best friend, but there was nothing I could do.

The following year we went back to Marathovounos for the harvest, to the same master. I was anxiously waiting to see him, so that I might understand why he had not come to ask for you, but to my great surprise, he was not there. Instead, his sister came with her husband, and I noticed that she was dressed in black. I tried to approach her and chat with her. At first she was skeptical, and she didn’t want to talk about it. Then, little by little as the days went by, we started to become friends and she confided in me what had happened:

-After you left last year, she told me, Vangelis said to our father that he wanted to marry one a girl from your village, Zenovia was her name, if I’m not mistaken. To tell the truth, our mother was very angry that her beloved son wanted to marry a poor worker, but Vangelis was adamant. My father, who is more open-minded – and had a great weakness for his son – slowly softened and accepted. But my brother had a relationship with one of our village girls and had first, to end with her. To tell the truth, he had been trying to separate from her beforehand, but she wanted him so much that she wouldn’t accept. So, he told her that he could not continue with her any longer, because he loved another girl, and he would marry her. But she wasn’t a person who gave up easily. She asked him to go, for the last time, to see her.

-Meanwhile, she visited an old witch and asked her to give her something to tie him up so that he would stay forever hers. She paid her with a silver coin that she secretly took from her mother. The witch gave her a magic liquid and told her to put it in his drink, and when he drinks it, he would have no eyes for any other woman. So that’s how it happened. Vangelis went to see her for the last time, and she suggested that they drink their last wine together and then separate.

-I don’t know what magic liquid, the witch gave her, but from the next day my brother became seriously ill. He was never able to get out of bed again. In a few days he died. My mother and father grew old from their withering. It is a tragic story for all of us. He was the most handsome of our village and the whole area. It is as if God did not want him to live many years.

-What has happened to Zenovia? She didn’t come this year. The poor girl would have thought that my brother deceived her.

-I replied that Zenovia got married and left for Alexandria. She rejoiced because, as she said, “she wasn’t wasted at least, like my brother.”

I cannot describe to you, my son, how shocked I was hearing this story. I was trembling, I was crying, I could not stop myself. Vangelis’ love for me killed him. It took a long time before I could find my composure and return to the village. Eurydice had not spoken to anyone about the incident, in all these years and I begged her never to mention it again.

Despite the tragedy of the story and the unbearable pain I felt, there was a vindication in the background for the fact that Vangelis had not betrayed me. What I had seen in his eyes in the hut, in the plain of Messaoria, was true!

I cannot imagine, my son, what feelings this story evokes in your heart. I know how much you loved your father, Demetrios, but you owe your existence to Vangelis. I could never tell you the truth, it would be easier for me too, but I think you should know. Perhaps one day you will be able to visit the village of Marathovounos and light a candle in the tomb of your first father, who left in this tragic way. I did not dare to go. I could not stand the pain…

Sometimes, I am thinking that I have loved two men in my life. The first was the most handsome and the second the most kind-hearted, of all the people I have met. Both were tender, but the most important thing is that they both gave me the right to choose. This is rare. Usually, the fate of women is to obey the dictates of their family. They are never asked what they want. But they asked me. And I was a little girl only fifteen years old. I do not regret, son, my choices, no matter how much I may be criticized for this.

Your father, Demetrios, had always encouraged me to marry after his death. But that was something I did not want. I had met love, a great love, like that of Penelope’s, at the age of fifteen, in that hut. I enjoyed it for a month, only a month of my life, but this month made the ground shake and the sky open from its intensity.

After I loved Demetrios. This love was calm, full of security and fullness. It expanded my spirit, enabled me to discover the strength of my soul and become another person. A useful, creative person, it made me realize that my abilities are limitless, regardless that I am a woman. Maybe this, it is because I’m a woman.

In this respect, my son, I am not asking for anything else for life to offer me. It gave me everything and more than that. All I wish and pray for, is for you to let go of the fickle life, get married and start a family. In this way, you will perpetuate Vangelis’ genes and through your actions you will cultivate in your children the kindness of Demetrios. You have a lot to convey, my son, from the one who gave birth to you and from the one who raised you. Blessed be your life!

With all my love

Your mother


When Alexis finished reading and turned to Zena, he saw her crying again. He was not surprised because his eyes were buzzing too.

-Unexpected end, he told her.

-You know Alexis, I think it’s no coincidence that no one previously found the secret of Zenovia. I don’t think her son, and perhaps my father, could understand, especially in the society they grew up in, this double love of Zenovia. I, as I have already told you, have identified myself with her. I really admire her for her courage and the clarity of her mind. We must consider the environment in which she grew up, which not only did not understand such behaviors, classified them among deadly sins. She, however, had left the guilt on the side and gave the two men she loved the place they deserved in her life and heart.

-Yes, she must have been a very brave and intelligent woman. You look like her, even though you never had to overcome the obstacles she faced in her life. I am amazed at her decisions at the age of just fifteen. It’s not just that she chose to marry Demetrios, after all this choice was a one-way road, it’s the way she dealt with her life in Alexandria. This city was one of the most cosmopolitan in the world, at that time, and Zenovia, who immediately realized her weaknesses, managed to overcome them.

-Of course, she also had the support of Demetrios, who was as well a great personality. Somewhere we read, I think, that he was self-made himself. A child, orphaned, thrown out of life and society who managed to become one of the richest men of Alexandria, not losing at the same time the quality of his character and his kindness. This is not something out of the ordinary.

-On the other hand, is Vangelis. We don’t know much about his personality, but the way he reacted when he found Zenovia naked in his hut was impressive. A different master in his place, in the sense that the master had at that time, would rape the little worker who violated his space. But he took care of her and gave her the choice if she would like her to be with him or not. Very impressive!

-All this, Alexis, leads me to some existential questions. Is all this defined? Is it fatal which people will we meet in our lives and what role they will play? Is it a coincidence? What are our choices as humans? Do we have options?

-As you can imagine, I don’t know how to answer to you. These questions are universal and timeless. The various religions, philosophies, etc. have opinions on the subject. Recently I was also watching some scientific documentaries that tried to give answers, studying the concept of time and whether there is time or is a creation of us to determine our life, as I think Einstein says. I can’t tell you that I understood them, but for the “unfaithful” science to study the subject means that this question does not go unnoticed or is naïve.

-You know, it irritates me that I may not have options in my life. That everything is fixed. I find that unacceptable.

-I don’t think it’s exactly like that. Let’s take Zenovia and Vangelis. It may have been fatal for them to meet, the way they met. But their personal behaviors were their choice. That’s pretty much what the documentary I saw said. But let’s take the myth of the beautiful Eleni and Paris and then the Trojan War. Priam, the king of Troy and father of Paris, had received an oracle that his child, born to his wife Hecuba, would bring the destruction of Troy. So, to save his country, he gave him to a servant to kill him. The servant took pity on the child and left him in the forest. He was found by a shepherd and raised up. Then he returned to his father’s palace, went to Sparta, and stole the beautiful Eleni, the wife of Menelaus. It was because of this that the Trojan War was triggered, which destroyed Troy. These stories – and there are many others like them – teach us that the basic course of our lives is fatal.

-Unfortunately, I am not aware of these myths, and I am very sorry for that. I am so glad Alexis, that I will share my life with you. You have a lot to teach me. Is it accidental or fatal that I met you?

-Whether accidental or fatal, you got involved with me and I will never let you leave me, he told her tenderly and hugged her.

-How do you comment on the other thing? That Vangelis came from your parents’ village? Accidental or fatal?

-Who knows? Let’s go, we’ll solve our existential questions at another time. Now we must get ready to go back to Nicosia. We have learned the secret; we also have a wedding to organize.

-You’re right. Leave Zenovia to rest where she is and start organizing our own lives!


Photo: Beautiful Eleni

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