Up late again. At eleven. Nothing to tumble out of bed for early on a weekend getaway planned to escape grief, promising nothing but the comfort of unknown faces.
I took a shower, pulled on my bikini bottom, denim shorts over it, and a beach vest. I grabbed a towel. I walked down the cobbled alley to the breakfast room that stood perched atop the kitchen at the end of a flight of stone slabs. The room was being swept and the tables cleared. Breakfast time was over. I hurriedly filled a bowl with cereal and the little fruit left, and sat cross-legged at a table. The helper swept the floor around my legs, her broomstick striking the table legs noisily. She muttered a kalimera.
I drove out the hotel’s lane and turned left onto the National Road. The Arachova Mountains faded in the distance of my rear-view mirror. Livadi Bay was a twenty-minute drive away but in June its beaches are not deserted. I needed somewhere isolated, some nook off the road to Rethymnon where no locals congregated. Where the surroundings welcomed foreigners baring themselves. I drove on. I spotted an opening off the highway. A dirt track snaked its way down to a tiny beach. Antiforas Bay.
Just one hired car. And a man and a woman. She lay stretched out on her beach towel and he was seated on his, by her side but looking away out to sea. They weren’t exchanging a word.
Antiforas is a desolate place yet intimate, claustrophobically intimate if you looked up at the height I had driven down from. I picked a spot some distance from the couple and stretched out my towel too. I dropped the denim shorts and pulled off my vest, carefully folding the vest to a quarter of its size. I laid down on the towel, face up, placing the folded vest over my face to shield my eyes from the glare of the sun which occasionally receded behind low-lying clouds, only to reappear in full blaze.
The man stood up and paced past my prostrate body in the direction of a low-lying cave at the end of the beach. His eyes wandered from my breast to the line of untanned flesh under my navel that stretched from hipbone to hipbone, betraying evidence of more modest swimwear in summers past. He sat inside the cave, staring back at me. I lifted the vest off my eyes and glanced in his direction, feigning indifferent curiosity at his interest.
Time passes timelessly in desolate surroundings. It may have been an hour, or more. The woman got off her towel abruptly. She threw her beach robe around her shoulders. I recognised her. It was the couple two doors down the lane at the hotel. She shuffled off to their car and her man followed. Strange. They had been next to each other but looking in opposite directions. They drove off and I picked up my towel too, my lips parched from the salty taste of a breeze travelling past the Arachovas into the bay.
That evening, I waited behind my room’s louvered window. The disengaged couple exited their room and walked down the alley to the terrace restaurant. Not a word parted their lips.
I watched, wondering. I stepped out the door and followed them down to the restaurant. I took the table next to theirs. It was warming, seated in the immediate proximity of the man who, at Antiforas Bay, had seen how I look under my top.
The man signed the chit and the silent couple got out of their chairs.
“I’m staying in tomorrow, Dieter.”
“By the pool. You go to Antiforas, if you wish.”
Dieter nodded his assent. He offered me a kalinychta as he passed me.
“A goodnight to you too,” I squealed, flashing both a smile.
I returned to my room soon after, stealing a look at Dieter’s door as I turned the key in mine. The next morning I rose early. I was on my way to Antiforas Beach before the breakfast room was half full. In my beach vest and a large beach towel wrapped round my waist.