It's Greek for Love
Blurb: On a beach in Corfu, Helga meets Kit. She's preoccupied with her past and he's anxious about the future, but maybe for one night they can live in the present. One-shot.
She's been here before, but she swears the sand isn't as soft as it had been. She digs her toes in them, anyway, and pulls her leather jacket around her. The beach is deserted. The water is dark and flat. She can see soft ripples illuminated by the moon, and she thinks this is all a bad idea. She's been waiting for close to an hour, but she'll give him a few more minutes. It seems like a lifetime to have gotten to this point, and so a few measly minutes won't hurt.
There is a rustle near the beach's entrance and she turns with a grin on her face - at last! But her smile slowly fades when she realises it's a couple, giggling. The meander in their steps betray their inebriated state. She sighs and shakes her head. Fuck it. She can't believe she spent all this time (and money) to chase this. To chase him. He wouldn't leave his fiancée. He threw her a bone, and she loathed to admit that she took it without question.
She takes her packet of Lucky Strike out of her jacket. Her knuckles bump up against cool metal and she rolls the ring between her fingers in her pocket. She slips out a fag from the pack and eases it between her lips. She shakes her head. She is disappointed, more in herself than in him, because she should know better. She lights her fag and exhales the smoke through flared nostrils. But she knows it's a pipe dream, anyway, and always was. It was just things that someone said in a drunk haze of lust; of longing; of wanting so desperately for something to be true.
She takes a seat on one of the deck chairs and watches the water, leaning on her knees, smoking, hand still playing with the ring in her pocket. Her white cotton-jersey dress spills around her on the chair - the hem whispers on the sand. She finally takes the ring out of her pocket, watching the way the light of the moon bounces off the surface of the simple silver band. She puts the ring back in her pocket. The realisation winds her: he's not coming.
She swallows and takes another drag of her cigarette. She looks down at her watch. She exhales. She takes the ring out of her pocket again, and plays with it on her lap. She puts it on and admires the way it looks on her finger, complimenting her light olive skin. Her lips flatten in to a sad smile, before she drops her hand, using her thumb of the same hand to twist the ring on her finger absently. Another drag. She checks her watch again. She exhales and looks out to the ocean.
Maybe another five more minutes.
"Kind of beautiful isn't it?"
Her thoughts are interrupted by a voice coming towards her. She squints in the fading light and sees the form of a young man, her age, with a mop of dark hair and an open smile.
She nods and turns back to the sea, "Yeah, it is."
He's standing near her, now, and asks, "Can I keep you company?" He sees her hesitating and waves a bottle in his hand, "I've got vodka."
She grins, "Smart, approaching girls with the promise of alcohol. Take a seat." He sits in the sand next to her and drops an iPod and speaker dock at his feet. "Is that how you pick up girls wherever you're from?"
He shakes his head, unscrewing the lid on the bottle. "No, only in Greece." He takes a drink and winces. "Strong stuff - it's Absolut. I have no Coke so I hope it's okay we drink this straight." He hands the bottle to her.
"That's okay," and she takes a drink as well, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, and hands the bottle back to the stranger.
"By the way, I'm Kit." He gives her his hand to shake.
"Kit?" She takes his hand and shakes it.
He grins, "Christopher, actually, but people call me Kit."
"I'm Helga." Her hand drops.
"Well, Helga, do you like music?"
She nods, "I do indeed like music, Kit."
Kit hands her the bottle and sticks his iPod in the speaker dock. She takes a drink as familiar notes of a song floats through the quiet air. She swallows her mouthful of vodka and hands him back the bottle. "Is that Ella Fitzgerald?"
He nods, taking a drink. "I like jazz."
"Me too," she says this more excited than she intends. "It's hard to find people our age with the same appreciation for this kind of music."
"Jazz and blues?"
She nods, full lips stretched in a smile, "Do you have Taj Mahal there?"
"Do I ever," Kit tells her, his own mouth spreading upwards. "I've put it on shuffle, so it should come up."
They bask in a comfortable silence, passing the bottle of Absolut between them, watching the sea and listening to the music. The water doesn't crash on the surf. There are no waves. The water is dark and placid. He's looks at her profile in the moonlight wondering why she's out on the beach by herself so late in the evening.
He passes her the bottle and clears his throat. "So what brings you here?"
She turns to him, "Here to Greece or here on the -"
"The beach tonight."
"Oh," she takes another swig, before she passes it to him and looks back out to the ocean. She shrugs, "My mate is asleep."
"Yeah, my friend is asleep too." He gestures absently to the group of cabins and tents, 200 metres behind them. "We just got here, actually, and he's tired out of his mind."
She looks at him with an arch in her brow. "Late flight? Olympic Air don't have the greatest track record when it comes to punctuality."
He shakes his head, "Ferry." She groans in empathy, even worse. He nods and ingests another mouthful of vodka. "Oh, I know."
"And you're not tired?" She takes the bottle from him for another drink.
"I'm a bit of an insomniac."
She smiles wanly, "So am I." Pause. "American?"
"Canadian actually, so people automatically like me more." She laughs - a soft, melodic sound that tickles his ears. "And you?"
He nods, "Nice."
"Are you on holidays?" She shifts slightly to take out a packet of Lucky Strike out of her pocket.
She nods her head as she lights it, then she exhales. "Sort of."
He's curious now. "Sort of?"
She looks down on the sand then at him with a small, bittersweet smile. "It's a long story, and sort of cliché and pathetic."
She takes a drag before she answers, "Finished my undergrad, felt like visiting a few friends over here."
He shakes his head, taking a drink of vodka before handing the bottle to her. "Not cliché at all."
She takes the bottle from him and rests the opening on her lips, and looks over to him with a crooked smile, "And I'm broken hearted." She takes a drink.
"Ok," he concedes, "kind of really cliché." She grins and passes him the bottle. "So," he continues slowly, "what's the story there?"
"Do you really want to be bored with my tale of romantic woe?"
"Sure, why not."
She sighs and taps the butt of her cigarette, watching the ash fall on the sand. "His name's Steven, and I was the other woman."
She looks to him lips resigned into a defeated line. "Something like that."
He nods, seeming to understand. "He wouldn't leave her?"
She shakes her head, "No." She sighs, "And then I thought I just shouldn't deal with that bullshit, you know?" He nods. "Sorry," she's apologetic now, confusing his silence for boredom, "I have a problem with emotional diarrhoea."
"No, not at all," he tells her, "diarrhoea - good thing, especially if it's emotional." She laughs. "I speak in truth, cleanses the body and, in your case, here," he pats his chest. "Now who's being cliché?"
"I think it's one all."
They settle into a silence, continuing to listen to music and passing the vodka to each other.
"Well, I'd say he passed up on a catch."
She looks to him confused, stubbing her butt in the sand and placing it back in the half-empty Lucky Strike packet. She doesn't want to litter. "Sorry?"
"Steven, he passed up on a catch." He pauses then says, "Basically I think you're a catch."
She's flattered. "Thanks." But she looks at him through squinted eyes sceptically. "But you hardly know me. We just met."
He shrugs, casually leaning on his hands behind him. "Just a quick observation. I think I'm a good judge of character, and you're not physically deformed." He looks at her. "At least from what I can see in the dark." She sees him grin.
"Are you always this charming in first meetings?"
"To be honest, I'm not." He passes her the bottle and she takes another quaff. "You've lulled me into a sense of amiability that's quite foreign for me."
She shakes her head, "Doubtful - I think you're just a very friendly person."
"You're quite engaging yourself."
She catches his eye and they share an easy moment. She turns away with a small smile and as does he. Helga thinks he's cute. She noticed it when he first walked up to her. She wonders if she's attracted to him, or whether the tummy reaction to his presence is one spurred on by a heady combination of alcohol, lust, and hurt. She banishes thoughts of Steven away from her head. She's here to forget him, and maybe Kit is the person who will help her to.
"It's not every day you meet someone out of the blue and manage to settle into a comfortable conversation with them," she tells him. She draws her feet towards her and rests her temple on her knees as she looks at him.
He nods - Kit knows this is true. He thinks maybe it's fate that he finds her on the beach whilst everyone else is sleeping. He takes a drink. He doesn't expect to see her there, glowing like an apparition on the sand, calmly, watching the water. He's drawn to her and can't explain her pull. He thinks maybe it's weariness, or the vodka, or both. He shakes his head. He's never believed in fate, so why start now?
"How long have you been on the road for?"
"About three and a half weeks. I have another month to go," she smiles, "so I don't have to go back to reality any time too soon. How about you?" She takes the bottle he passes to her and takes a drink.
"Same, I have about a week, left, though. But that's what I noticed with you Australians, you guys stay here for a while."
She nods, "If you're going to pay as much as we do for a ticket here, and deal with a flight that takes a day, then you might as well make it worth it."
"I do like the logic there," he runs his hand through his hair. "Has it been worth it so far?"
She shrugs. "I guess, and I'm forgetting him a little," she looks up to him with a small smile, "I'm forgetting him a lot, actually, right now."
Something akin to flattery infuses him, spreading warmly through his body. "Touché." He shares her smile, a little embarrassed. "Where are you going next?"
"I take a ferry to Brindisi tomorrow."
She nods, "Yeah."
"I thought all the ferries went to Bari?"
"Brindisi is cheaper." She looks down and digs her toes deeper in the sand.
"I'll keep that in mind."
She looks up. "How about you?"
"Me? What I'm doing here or where I'm going?"
Her eyebrows raise in curiosity and she shrugs, "Both." She draws big, lazy circles on the sand with her finger as she studies him. He's definitely very cute.
"My reasons for being here are a little cliché as well. So I think the cliché score is in my favour now, 2 - 1."
A smile plays on her lips, "Indulge me."
He sits back up again and sighs. "I'm trying to find myself, I guess." He's waiting for a cringe inspired response but it doesn't come. He looks up to her and she smiles.
"Cliché, but understandable." She pauses. "Have you found what it is you're looking for?"
He shakes his head, "I don't think so."
"Do you have any idea?" She takes a drink of vodka.
He nods, "Kind of." She looks at him, pushing him gently with an encouraging smile to elaborate. "I just finished college as well. On the one hand my folks want me to go to grad school and do medicine, on the other I want to go to New York and chase my dream." He takes the bottle from her.
"What dream's that?"
"Don't worry," she shakes her head, "I won't; but I might snigger, or cringe, so be ready for that."
"Photographer," he tells her with a self-deprecating smile. "So here we both are broken hearted dreamers, sharing vodka on a beach in Corfu. There's something kind of poetic about that."
There's a pause and Helga adds with a grin, "And fucking cheesy too."
He laughs and takes a drink of the vodka before he hands the bottle to her and she laughs too, thinking their problems and anxieties aren't that important in the grand scheme of things, and how trite they sound when they say them out loud.
She raises the bottle, "To us, forget about the past, forget about the future, and instead enjoy the beautiful night."
She takes three giant gulps and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand before she passes the bottle to her companion. He responds in kind and splutters afterwards. She starts to laugh and so does he.
"For the record," she begins and he looks up at her, "you should go for it. Go to New York."
And in one moment of clarity, through her simple words he nods, because he will. "Okay."
He smiles, "Promise." He pauses. "And you should forget about him."
She nods and smiles. "Okay." She should and she will, because she's beginning to think she's slowly is.
"I promise Kit."
He looks down at the bottle of vodka, there is only a quarter of it left. "This will sound really seedy of me, but," he looks up to her, who's looking at him with an encouraging expression. "We should slam the rest of this down in one drink then go skinny dipping."
Helga covers her mouth with both her hands, because she knows her brain is telling her she should say, 'no,' and she nods.
He grins widely and continues, "Re-birth, renewal, cleansing, and all that other baptismal shit. You up for it?"
She's laughing and he loves it. "Yes," she tells him and swallows. "Definitely."
Kit looks down at the bottle, "Here we go." His heart is racing, threatening to bounce out of his chest. He can feel the blood pumping through his veins with an excitement he's not known before. He brings the bottle to his lips and rolls his head backwards to scull it halfway empty.
He brings his head forward again and shakes his head, closing his eyes. He's wincing but he's got a giant grin on his face. He passes it to Helga and she drinks it with no hesitation until there are no drops left in the bottle. Then she jumps up and begins running towards the surf. He grins and follows her.
She's peeling off her clothes, first her sweatshirt, then her shirt underneath, to be followed with her shorts. She looks behind her and he's following her with a giant grin on his face, shedding his clothes on the sand. When she reaches the edge she dives in and squeals when the cool ocean envelopes her skin.
There is a feeling of deafness under the dark water; a kind of calm that feels like you're completely alone; it is what she imagines sleep to be like. When she resurfaces she can hear the feint beats of Otis Redding floating through the air to her ears. She looks to the splash near her and sees Kit also resurface, running his hands through his hair to slick it back.
"This is, awesome," she tells him as the water seems to infiltrate every pore.
"Yeah," he's treading water, "but I think my dick's shrinking."
She laughs, and it bounces in the atmosphere and across the water. She looks up to the sky, the stars look clearer out in the water. She sees a shooting star. "Make a wish," she tells him.
"Yeah, I saw it too. There are a lot of shooting stars around this time here."
She looks over to him, "They're rare down under."
"You guys get the Southern Cross though."
They're swimming around absently, enjoying their time. "Yeah, but I don't know much about constellations."
"You know those stars over there?"
She looks up to where he's pointing. There are a cluster of stars arranged in a vague pattern. "Yeah."
She looks to him sceptically, "You're bullshitting me."
He shakes his head, "It's true, and the stars just above that is Draco, the dragon he killed."
"Impressive." She's treading water and still looking up at the sky. "It's kind of funny don't you think?" She begins, gesturing up to the evening sky.
"What is?" He is a few feet away from her swimming.
"That by the time we get the light from these stars, they might not even exist anymore." He's watching her. There is something quite profound in what she's saying. "I want to be that," she admits quietly.
"What? Even after you've burnt out your light is still around?"
She nods and grins, "No matter how cheesy that sounds."
"I think you've already created something like that." She arches her brow at him as he swims a little closer as he speaks. He nods and says, "Yeah - I have a feeling I won't ever forget you or tonight."
She doesn't know how answer, she wants to grin stupidly but she is too touched by his nice words, because she realises that the same thing applies to him. He swims towards her, and with one swift motion he takes her by her waist to pulls her against him and kiss her easily. Their chests smash against each other. Her knuckles curl up against his naked torso and move up to his neck. He kisses her deeply as they burn a thousand times over.
It is heat and friction; and slow and sweet; and languid and fierce. There is a sense of weightlessness in that ocean, like they are floating, as if they are in space. And it is just the two of them. His hands are in her hair and on her ribs, rubbing his thumb over the smooth skin there. The water caresses the other in their stead, and she sighs in his mouth, lightly scratching his arms.
When they finally part their eyes are dazed, trying to focus on the other as their noses touch. He kisses her again chastely, before she swallows and grins. And somewhere there in the middle of the Corfu Straits, the memory they've created is packed in a temporal box, to be shelved in their heads, and to be opened in times of loneliness some time in the future. A happy moment of two strangers sharing something that is as close to special as they can get.
"You taste like seawater," she tells him, voice raspy, lids still half closed.
"And you taste like cigarettes," he answers her, drawing his hand up and down her back slowly.
She snorts and buries her face in the crook of his neck. "Match made in heaven."
Her breath is a warm sensation that sends tingles through his body as it hits the chilly droplets of water on his skin.
They spend the rest of the night lying on the beach. She curls into his body using his arm as a pillow as he points out constellations. At one point she asks what the name of a particular star is, and he tells her it's a plane. They erupt into fits of laughter. The iPod loses batteries around the same time flecks of dark pink tinge the clouds. They fall asleep not long after dawn. It is the warm sun hitting his face that eventually rouses him awake, but there is no body next to his. He sits up and rubs his eyes looking around to see if she is near, but it is only an empty bottle of Absolut and his iPod and speaker dock that greets him. He remembers that she had a ferry to catch. He's probably missed her.