Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 5)

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 03/07/2022

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

Melbourne – Australia, November – December 2019

Five months have passed since the death of Zena’s father. Her life had changed drastically since then. Her acquaintance with Alexis and the lessons of Greek had added another dimension to her world. This had brought diversity to her daily life and made her realize that there are unexplored worlds waiting to be discovered.

Since she had stopped traveling abroad, she had time to study the Greek language. Beginning in this not-so-conventional way, the study of a difficult poem, she had a challenge that suited her temperament. It was much more interesting to approach the language like this, compared to the method they used in the Greek school, when she was a child.

She used to read the words loudly and tried first to pronounce them correctly and then to enjoy their sound. At first it was very difficult, but little by little she began to enjoy it. Then she translated each word to understand the meaning – that’s where Alexis helped her in – and in the end she felt that she possessed the message that the poem or text wanted to express. The most difficult thing of all was to try to speak in Greek herself. She did not dare to do that.

The method she followed, and the research she did for every word, introduced her, in addition to understanding the language, into the world of history and Greek culture. The whole process was an additional challenge, which did not leave her indifferent. She studied with interest and passion the subject she had a complete denial of, a few months ago.

Alexis had played an important role in the whole effort. After class they often went out to dinner or even to gatherings of the Greeks in Melbourne, where they listened to Greek music, poetry, and even lectures. In a city where more than 110,000 Greek-speaking people live, which according to some is after Thessaloniki the city with the largest number of Greek inhabitants, Zena met her father’s compatriots. She found this meeting interesting and with the encouragement of Alexis began to make friends.

She often took the letters that were in the box left to her by her father and tried to read them. She still found it difficult. She did not want to give them to Alexis. She wanted to do it by herself. Apart from her initial impression that the letters were only between her grandfather Evangelos and her great-grandmother Zenovia, she had realized that there was also a letter to her, written by her father. She would definitely read this first once she would be able to do so.

In the months that passed she was exclusively engaged in the study of the Greek language, her outings with Alexis and some contacts with her lawyer on the issue of the sale of her father’s company. For the first time she stayed so long away from her job. But she felt that from this change she would come out stronger and with wider horizons.

What troubled her was Alexis’ attitude towards her. He was friendly and discreet. Even though she saw in some moments something erotic in his gaze, he never made a more daring move. She, who was used to ephemeral relationships, which began easily and ended painlessly, felt uncertain about this attitude.

Once, when she asked him about his love life, about his relationships, he replied generally and vaguely, clarifying, however, that he was not interested in ephemeral love affairs. As strange as this may seem to her, somewhere inside she felt respect for this man, who cared more about her spirit, rather than her body. It was a noticeable change in her life.

But nothing stands still. The winds, which begin to blow from other dimensions, intruding into the material world and dragging in their path the order and harmony that we think we have built around us, turned life in Australia upside down and shook Zena’s pleasant living.

The seasonal fires that burn in Australia every year, this year took on uncontrollable proportions and proceeded, destroying everything in their path. The fire brigade forces could not intercept them, and the ecological disaster was enormous. Forests, dwellings, fauna, and flora were lost at breakneck speed, while the sky was filled with toxic gases.

In the face of such an event Zena could not remain indifferent. She left the study of the Greek language and her relaxed daily life and left for the places where the battles with the fires were taking place. She initially joined forces with the volunteers who were fighting to save the animals, especially the koalas, and fought with them. But she soon realized that her own role could have been more meaningful and interventional.

She began writing articles and sending them to various newspapers, magazines and websites in Australia, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and wherever the readership was English-speaking. Through an extremely vivid writing, she presented to the reader the battles that were taking place with the flames, the agonizing effort of the volunteers to save wildlife, but above all their self-sacrifice.

She gave to the word “heroism” another dimension and separated the role of volunteers from the term as it is commonly used: “heroes, she wrote, are not the ones who are mandated to kill or be killed for a controversial idea. Heroes are those who voluntarily abandon their daily lives and fight to save life and nature, anonymous, without any benefit, for a universal cause. That’s what heroism means.”

Her articles awakened in the readers feelings of solidarity and brought to the surface the sleeping instincts of generosity that every person possesses. Many donations arrived in Australia from all over the world, thanks to Zena’s writings. Some people also came as volunteers.

Zena had been carried away by the fever of this need and this purpose and had almost forgotten about Alexis. They only exchanged some scattered messages. But she herself was identified with the work she was doing. Growing up in a multicultural society, her ideals were universal and the love for our planet and nature was the driving force for her actions.

However, in mid-December she was forced to return to Melbourne because her lawyer had reached an agreement to sell her father’s company to his associates Nick Georgiou and Jacob Papadopoulos. The deal was not exactly what her lawyer would have wanted, but Zena was completely satisfied. The company would stay with people who cared about it and that was what mattered to her. She was sure that her father would be happy.

On December 19, 2019, at 11 a.m., everyone met at her lawyer’s office in central Melbourne. Messrs. Nick Georgiou and Jacob Papadopoulos, dressed in their suits and with their faces all a smile, could not hide their joy at the deal. They both embraced Zena with fervor and did not know how to thank her. They knew very well that the company could be sold much more expensively on the free market, and they recognized the generosity of the daughter of their former boss.

-Don’t think that I don’t recognize the power that money has, Zena told them. It may not bring happiness, but it can bear some of the burdens of misery. However, my father and I have always believed in the success that the creative power of people, who care about a business, can bring. This company encompasses all the work of my father, since he arrived in this country. And you both helped him with that. It is worth the company to become yours. I hope you continue to love it and work together in the future for the good of the company and for a rich future for your children.

On behalf of both, Nick Georgiou spoke:

-We really thank you for this attitude and we assure you that we will continue with the company as we worked when your father had been alive and even with more enthusiasm, since it will be ours! As you probably know, our parents came to Australia, refugees from Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974. They started working in your father’s business as simple builders and later we were employed here. So, we care about this business because it supported our parents in a foreign country and contributed to our own education. Be sure that your father’s name will be preserved as long as this business is in our hands.

-It is with this conviction that I hand over to you the work of my father and I am sure that you will be able to take the company even further. You don’t have to thank me. I am simply responding to my father’s wish, but also to my own view of life.

Jacob Papadopoulos looked at her smiling, took her hand in his hands and without further ado invited her:

-Our dear Zena it would be a great pleasure for both of us, but also for our families, if you come to our house at Christmas to celebrate together. We will all meet in my own house, and we will have a Cypriot feast.

Zena’s first reaction was to find an excuse to refuse. She had never agreed to attend such gatherings, but something told her that it would be very rude. So, she replied:

-Thank you very much for the invitation. I’ll try to be there. Could I bring a friend with me?

-Bring as many friends as you like. Everyone is welcome. I will send you the address by message.

After leaving, Zena felt light and happy. Much happier than she would have expected herself to be. It was not just this job had ended. It was a job that had ended well. So well that it would make her father happy.

She was surprised at this metaphysical disposition she acquired after the death of her father. She was talking to him, she felt like he was alive, and she was trying to please him.

-These are not for me, she whispered to herself. What has happened to me lately, I do not understand!

Then she remembered the Christmas party. She should not have accepted, but how could she tell them? Luckily she thought about asking to bring a friend. She would talk to Alexis.

-And I hope Alexis doesn’t have other plans, she said loudly.

In the evening she called Alexis. He was very happy to hear her after so long. They talked about the work she had done for the fires, about some downturn they got lately after some heavy rains, and in the end Zena told him about the invitation.

At first it seemed that he had arranged something else, but he was willing to change his plans to be with her. Zena felt very flattered. He would take her in his car, around 12 noon on Christmas Day.

Fortunately, she thought about it and texted Mr. Jacob Papadopoulos to let her know how many children both families had together. In fact, how many grandchildren, because the children of the new owners of the company had grown up. So, she bought gifts for everyone, wore a very elegant blue dress, and waited for Alexis.

When he arrived, Zena appeared with a bunch of packages, which took them some time to sort out. As soon as they were finished Alexis took her in his arms and Zena expected them to give the kiss of Christmas wishes. But he gave her a passionate love kiss and said to her:

-You can’t imagine how much I have missed you!

Zena, although waiting for this kiss for months now, was so surprised that she could not speak.

-Why now, she whispered at some point. For so many months you have been aloof and indifferent. A completely different person from the men I had met in my life.

-Because of that, he replied. I’ll tell you a few things about me so you can understand. But this time I have missed you so much, that I couldn’t hold back myself any longer.

-My parents are from Cyprus. Specifically, from a village of Messaoria called Marathovounos. In August 1974 the Turkish troops occupied my village and my parents left only with the clothes they were wearing. I was only a few months old at the time. You can’t imagine how difficult it was for a young couple to be with nothing, with a baby in their arms. After staying some time in a tent, in a camp in the free part of Cyprus, they decided to leave for Australia.

-They stayed in Melbourne until 1989. I was then 15 years old then. I had grown up here, I considered Australia my homeland, but they wanted to go back. At first things were very difficult. We all had to adapt again to the new homeland: Cyprus. For them it was easier. Hard for me. At school I almost didn’t understand anything. But I was lucky enough to have an excellent Greek language teacher who helped me a lot. She made me love the Greek language. Because of her, I studied at the Department of Classical Studies and Philosophy of the newly established University of Cyprus. As soon as I finished I wanted to come back.

-You see, when I was at school I had met an Australian, Helen, was her name, and I wanted to find her again. We were constantly writing, but my desire was to see her. At the begging, we stayed together, and everything was fine. But then she left. She wanted to get to know the world, she told me. I suffered a lot. You see it was my first love. Then I was very wary of women and especially those I really liked. I also lived in ephemeral relationships, so much so as not to commit myself and not suffer.

-At the University of Melbourne I had, in the meantime, studied in a field on how to teach a foreign language to adults and so I began to teach the Greek language as you have met me.

-I had noticed you from the first moment I saw you in the gym. But you didn’t even look at me. You were the successful, independent Australian, without inhibitions and commitments. I wasn’t looking for that. When you spoke to me, I must admit it, I did my best to keep you close to me and get to know you. That’s why I asked you to come to my class. And luckily you came!

-You scared me that day. But you magnetized me at the same time. You have a charm Alexis; I must acknowledge that. And I did not regret it. I have been waiting for this kiss for a long time, she said with a laugh. And much more… But you? A rock!

-Zena, I have fallen in love with you! I wouldn’t want to start a relationship with an expiration date.

-I’ve never committed myself. But you are different. All my relationships were ephemeral. I wouldn’t want one similar, either. All this has left me a void. And since my father has died, everything around me has acquired another substance. I’m ready to start something serious if you’re ready for it too.

-I have fallen for you!

In the meantime, they had arrived in the area, Balwyn North, outside Melbourne which was the address given to them by Jacob Papadopoulos. Following the instructions of the GPS, they arrived outside the house. Before they came out of the car, they squeezed each other’s hand and looked into each other’s the eyes. In this way, they made a deep promise.

They took all the gifts and got out of the car. Both families were waiting for them cheerfully and excitedly. They were in the garden, baking barbeque. A Cypriot Christmas custom! The children were diving in the pool and Greek music was heard.

-Welcome to our home, my daughter, an old lady told her and kissed her. God bless you.

And for the first time in her life, Zena shuddered with emotion and happiness.

-Father, she thought. Thank you!



Australia bush fires


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