It is a dark overcast night. The wind blows on the cliffs. Thirty mile an hour gusts that whip down the cobblestone passageway sending the lamps clinking back and forth. Casting dark shadows against the white walls. I am holding tightly onto Claire as we are heading down the passageway to a restaurant in town. We round a corner and below one of the lights we see a man lifting a sack over the wall. It is oblong. About the length of a body. He lets the sack go. It tumbles down the hill. Off the cliff. Swallowed up by the darkness. We don’t hear the splash when it hits the water because the wind is howling like a mad woman. We turn around and rush back to the hotel before the man can see us though I know exactly who he is.
I lock the door behind us. Clair sits down on the bed. The shutters rattle. The wind whistles through the cracks in the window and door. “What do you think that is all about?” she asks me.
“I think that was a body he was tossing over the wall.”
“Oh, come on, Ralph, you’re crazy,” says Claire who never believes me no matter what I say. “It was trash or an old rug.”
We decide to go out to dinner but in the other direction uphill where the wall is higher. Protects us from the wind. To Pegasus. A taverna with a modest fare. It seems that everyone else in the hotels on the cliff have the same idea so we have to sit outside on the patio and though we are protected from the wind, it is still cold. A French couple sits next to us arguing. Finally the woman turns to us and says, “This really stinks.”
The waiter comes up. “We have a table open inside. The four of you will have to sit together. I hope you don’t mind.”
We head inside. Sit down. The French couple tell us that they own an art gallery in Fira. Not a tourist gallery. Not beach art. The real stuff. They talk like Americans. Unlike the French in Paris. The man’s name is Jacque, the woman, Greta. I’m from Alsace, she says.
I tell them about the man who threw the body over the cliff. Identify him.
“You mean the same Nikos Pappas who owns the Gold Exchange on Decigala Street.”
“Yes, the same one.”
Clair wears the gold leaf necklace and earring set we purchased from Nikos and his wife, Micky.
“That is a beautiful piece,” says Greta.
“I think so,” says Clair. “It’s a copy of an original necklace found at an archeological dig in Turkey. Reputed to be worn by Helen of Troy.”
“If there ever was a Helen of Troy,” says Jacque, laughing.
“If there was, she must’ve looked like Micky Pappas,” I say.
Clair shoots a dirty glance at me since the moment I laid eyes on that woman I have been extolling her beauty. Classic Greek looks. Olive complexion. Dark, mysterious eyes. An enigmatic smile playing on her lips. A classic figure. Narrow waist. Pear-shaped breasts. Long, tapering legs. The thought of her wrapped up in a sack and thrown off the cliff like a piece of garbage is too much for me. I express this feeling to Jacque and Greta.
“Stop being such an idiot,” intones Clair. “That was not Micky Pappas. That was garbage. An old rug. An old lamp. The world is not that dramatic.”
“Still, you should report it to the police,” says Jacque. “At the very least, you could get old Nikos for littering.”
The wind is still blowing when we get back to the hotel. It rattles everything as if we are a few feet away from a railroad track and a freight train is rumbling through. I want to make love to Claire but she refuses. She is angry at me. First for suggesting that poor Nikos murdered his wife. Then for extolling Micky.
“You think she is prettier than I,” she says, sitting down on the bed. She unbuttons her blouse. Unsnaps her bra. Her breasts fall out. They are small, delicate like the rest of her. A beauty mark below her left nipple. I think she looks perfect. A woman in her late forties. Perfect body. Wavy brunette hair, a few streaks of gray that give her a distinguished look. She’s been through a lot. We were poor for awhile. Lived in an apartment above a restaurant that smelled of Chinese food. Then we did well. We started a family. Two girls. One is in college. The other died of SIDS. She blames herself. She blames me. She’s unhappy. Things didn’t work out the way she expected and I don’t know what to do. I look at her now. To me, the knowledge of where she is coming from, the physical beauty like a leaf turning brilliantly red before it falls, makes her a hundred times more desirable than Micky Pappas.
I tell Claire this. I sit down beside her and cup her breast. “You’re so full of crap,” she says, pushing my hand away. She takes off the rest of her clothes and climbs in her pajamas. Loose fitting pants and shirt. Polka-dot pattern. That makes her look like a man.
“All you are is horny,” she says, climbing in bed. “You don’t care who you sleep with. I’m just a body to you.”
She turns her back to the wall.
“That’s not true. You know that I love you.”
“Oh, and how do you prove it?” I know what is really bothering her. Not only the loss of Sarah, but after watching her grieve for two years, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had an affair. She found out. She told me to stop. I did. She didn’t leave me because damned if she was going to raise Ellen alone. But she wasn’t exactly the most friendly person in the world after this, even though it’s been more than 17 years and I haven’t strayed since that time. But I know what she’s thinking with Micky.
“I don’t know what you mean. Prove it? How can I prove it?”
She doesn’t answer me. So I reach over and touch her shoulder. She turns around slowly. She’s crying. I brush the tears away. I kiss her. She returns my kisses. I unbutton her man’s pajama top. Knead her small, perfect breasts gently. She kisses me more passionately. I pull down the pajama bottom. And after awhile I’m inside her moving in and out slowly. She wraps her legs around my back. I push in as far as I can go. I know this is not what she means when she asked me to prove it but it’s the closest I can get.
When we finish making love the first time, we try again. This time I come in from behind and I can tell Claire enjoys it by the way she thrashes around. I thrash around. We are like two fish out of water. The wind howls and whooshes. Rattles the window. Blows through the cracks under the door. Then it stops about the same time we stop. We look out the window. The moon is floating along a bank of silver-lined clouds. The light from the moon reflects against the sea. Silver light that sparkles like diamonds. Underneath that water, I think, Micky Pappas is floating, her arms and legs outspread. Maybe she’s in a gossamer gown that floats behind her body as she sinks deeper in the darkness.
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