Read YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1) Online

Authors: Beryl Darby

Tags: #Fiction

YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1) (4 page)

BOOK: YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1)
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Please advise us of your decision.”

Maria clasped her hands together. ‘That’s wonderful.’ She held out her arms to Yannis and hugged the trembling boy to her, trying hard to hold back her tears.

The two men raised their glasses. ‘To Yannis,’ said Yiorgo, and drained his glass, holding it out to be refilled.

‘Now,’ Yannis leaned forward, ‘We must talk about expenses.’

Yiorgo grinned. ‘That should be no problem, but that kind of business is better man to man.’

Maria kissed her cousin. ‘Thank you, Yiorgo, and thank Elena for me. I know you’ll look after Yannis. I must go back to the garden. Yannis, go and look after the children.’ Covered with both elation and confusion she shepherded her son before her as she left the room, making sure the door was firmly closed behind her. If the men wanted to talk business they needed privacy.

The rest of the summer passed like a dream for Yannis. His mother mended shirts and darned socks, packing them away in a clean sack as she finished them, alternately telling him to behave whilst he was away from home and how much she would miss him.

The day Yannis was due to leave he examined his neck carefully. The small white lump was still there, as big as his thumbnail, he decided. He pressed it, but it did not hurt, he tried to squeeze it, but no pus came. The doctor was right. It was nothing.

He felt both excited and apprehensive as he kissed his family goodbye. His mother was fighting hard to suppress her tears and the other children seemed tongue-tied. Yannis senior was fidgeting to leave. He would walk to Elounda with Yannis and Yiorgo would meet them there and take Yannis on to Aghios Nikolaos. As Yannis turned back and waved to the little group he felt a lump rise in his throat and tears pricked at the back of his eyelids. He was determined not to cry.

His family disappeared as he and his father rounded the corner. The sun warmed their backs and they walked briskly, quickly covering the few kilometres between the two villages. A boat could be seen slowly tacking towards the quay and they went into the waterfront taverna to await Yiorgo’s arrival. They drank coffee, Yannis being allowed a cup of the hot, sweet, sticky liquid as a sign that he was being treated as an adult. In due course Yiorgo appeared and more coffee was ordered. Yannis began to feel slightly sick and sipped at his glass of water to cleanse his mouth of the cloying effect of the coffee.

At last the men made a move. Yannis kissed his son affectionately on both cheeks and held him tightly for a moment.

‘Do as your mother has told you. Help Yiorgo all you can and look after your cousins. Mind you work hard at school; it’s not many boys who have your opportunity. We’re proud of you, Yannis.’

Yannis was relieved when they reached the port of Aghios Nikolaos. He was not sure if the strange feeling in the pit of his stomach was due to the motion of the boat, nervousness or the two cups of coffee. As they walked along the waterfront men called out a greeting to Yiorgo and stared curiously at Yannis.

‘Makkis called,’ Elena said to Yiorgo after greeting Yannis. ‘Asked if you were planning a fishing trip tonight.’

Yiorgo nodded. ‘It will make up for lost time today.’

Yannis felt guilty. Because of him his uncle had lost a day’s work and had to go out at night. ‘I’m sorry,’ he mumbled.

Yiorgo laughed. ‘What are you sorry for? I often go out at night. The fishing can be better then. When you’ve got your sea-legs I’ll take you with me, it’s very different from the day.’

Annita and Andreas came tumbling through the door and stopped when they saw Yannis.

‘Oh!’ exclaimed Annita. ‘I didn’t think you’d be here yet.’

They sat down beside Yannis at the table and helped themselves to the bread, cheese and olives. Yannis ate steadily, racking his brains for something to say. At last he had an idea.

‘After we’ve eaten would you show me the school again, please, Annita?’

‘If you like,’ she replied. ‘You’ll soon see more than enough of it.’

‘I’d like you to show me round the town again as well. I don’t want to get lost.’

Having helped her mother clear the table she called to Yannis. ‘Come on, then, if you want me to show you round.’

Yannis rose quickly and opened the door for her. Annita looked surprised and went through without a word. She led the way down to the harbour, then up a steep hill and veered to the left. ‘Here we are,’ she announced.

Yannis gazed at the building. ‘It’s so big.’ He was admiring, but his heart was fluttering. On Monday he would have to walk through the doors amongst children he did not know. Would he find the work too difficult and be laughed at, called the village dunce and mocked until his life was a misery?

‘Come on,’ said Annita. She saw no point in looking at the closed door. ‘We have four classes,’ she informed him and added with pride, ‘I’m in the top class because I’m clever.’

Yannis did not comment and Annita led him to the centre of the town, waiting impatiently as Yannis looked into every shop. Never had he seen such an array of goods.

‘Who buys all these things?’ he asked.

‘We’re beginning to have tourists here in the summer. They buy things to take home. Mamma does embroidery for that shop.’

‘My Mamma does embroidery also, but I don’t know which shop it goes to.’

‘They’re all much the same.’ Annita dismissed the subject and waved frantically to a girl standing in a shop doorway. ‘Come and meet my friend Thalia.’

Yannis was duly introduced to the girl and spent a self-conscious ten minutes whilst Thalia was told his history, which obviously did not impress her. Leaving Thalia with a promise to see her the following day, Annita led Yannis round the corner to the lake. They scrambled up a steep hill until the panorama of Aghios Nikolaos was spread before them.

‘It’s a wonderful view. I didn’t realise there were two harbours.’

‘That one is where the ferries dock, the ones that bring the tourists,’ explained Annita.

Yannis looked at the ships. ‘I shall go on those when I’m older,’ he said, confidently.

‘Where to?’

Yannis shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Athens, maybe.’

‘I’d like to go to Athens. Maybe we could go together. Come on, race you.’

Annita took to her heels and went flying down the hill, Yannis following more carefully. He did not want to fall and ruin his new trousers. By the time they returned to the cottage Yiorgo had left to make ready for the night’s fishing. A salad, bread and brawn were sitting in the kitchen and Annita helped herself and Yannis, leaving plenty for Andreas who returned home just as they were finishing their meal.

Whilst Elena chatted to Yannis, Annita spent the evening sitting in a corner, her head bent over her embroidery. Surreptitiously she studied her cousin. He was not as good looking as Dimitrakis, and he did not spend his time making silly jokes like Nicolas who made her laugh, but she liked him, she decided. She hoped he would not be a dunce at school. He was, after all, her cousin and if he were stupid people might thinks she was stupid also. She sighed heavily.

‘Time for bed all of you. You must be tired, Yannis, you’ve had a long day.’ Elena was fussing over him, as she never did her own children.

Obediently Annita folded her embroidery and led the way up the stairs. The room she shared with her brother had been partitioned by a flimsy piece of wood a few years earlier to give her a certain amount of privacy now she was older. Yannis fell asleep immediately, but Annita lay awake, listening to the regular breathing of her cousin and brother. She wanted Yannis to like her, but she also wanted to impress him and have him admire and respect her. When she woke the sun was up and she could hear her mother in the kitchen. The boys were probably already up she realised and dragged on her clothes hurriedly. As she entered the kitchen Yannis stood up and offered her his chair. She looked at him, nodded and sat down without a word.

‘Your father is going to take me out fishing today. Are you coming?’

Annita hesitated, she was a good sailor and she doubted if the same was true of her cousin. ‘May I go, Mamma?’

‘I didn’t think you were very fond of the sea.’

Annita wrinkled her nose. ‘I like the sea, it’s just the smell of fish.’

Elena wagged a finger at her daughter. ‘You should be used to it by now.’

Yiorgo was already on his boat and he held out his hand to help them jump aboard. Yannis carried out Yiorgo’s instructions with the ropes to cast off and stood with his face held up to the breeze. Annita smiled to herself. Wait until they turned the headland, then her landlubber cousin would know what sailing was all about. Annita went and stood by his side. He smiled at her shyly.

‘Do you often come out with your father?’

‘I’m not very interested in fishing.’

As they rounded the headland the boat pitched and tossed violently for a few moments. Yannis slid into a sitting position, his face white. Annita laughed at his discomfort. She was still standing, moving with the motion of the boat.

‘This is nothing,’ she said. ‘Today it’s calm, you should be out here in a storm.’

The colour returned to Yannis’s face as the boat ceased its erratic movement and continued to glide smoothly through the water. ‘I’ll get used to it,’ he said, confidently. ‘I’m going to help your father at the weekends.’

Yiorgo showed Yannis how to drop and secure the net, and they trawled gently for an hour. Yannis was enjoying himself. If this was fishing it was not as bad as he had thought. True, there was nothing to do whilst waiting to haul in the net, but the sun was pleasant and he could always bring a book with him and read.

At a signal from Yiorgo the children began to heave the net up. The boat rocked violently as the catch came aboard. Once again Yannis turned white and clutched at a rope to steady himself. His fear was overcome by his fascination with the gleaming, silver fish, wriggling and gasping as they struggled in the mesh. The children turned their attention to sorting them into boxes, keeping two large lobsters to one side as Yiorgo directed.

They rounded the headland again, but this time Yannis was prepared for the motion.

‘Move with it,’ Annita advised him. ‘Don’t try to sit still.’

He tried to carry out her instructions and found it helped. His stomach did not jump up to the back of his throat each time the boat pitched.

‘Haul in the sail, Yannis,’ directed Yiorgo.

Yannis loosened the ropes and before he realised what was happening he was completely covered in the coarse cloth. Annita and Andreas were helpless with laughter as he fought his way out and their father was grinning.

‘You’ll have to do better than that. Suppose we hit a squall one day and you ended up in a heap on the deck? That wouldn’t be much help to me. Let me show you the right way to do it.’ Deftly Yiorgo raised the sail again, and then showed the boy which ropes to slacken off first. Yannis tried again and was more successful on his second attempt.

‘I’m better at harnessing a donkey,’ he declared ruefully.

Yiorgo ruffled his hair. ‘You’ll soon learn. Help me pull on this rope; then I’ll pass the boxes out to you. Come on; get those lobsters to your mother, Annita. We’ll come back later and see to the nets.’

Elena had spent the morning sitting at her embroidery which she packed away carefully as they arrived, then took the lobsters into the kitchen. The children soon heard them squealing as their shells shrunk and they sniffed the air hungrily.

‘They won’t be ready until supper,’ announced Elena. ‘Have your lunch now and think of the treat in store for you later.’

Yannis yawned hugely. ‘It must be the sea air,’ he apologised.

‘You could sleep for a while this afternoon, Yannis.’

‘No he can’t.’ Yiorgo contradicted his wife. ‘The nets have to be hung out to dry and I expect they’ll need mending. He can sleep tonight.’ Yiorgo sounded quite grim as he spoke. ‘Fishermen don’t rest until everything is in readiness for the next trip. If you leave it you’ll forget it, and that can be dangerous if you get caught out at sea in bad weather.’

Yannis could see the sense of Yiorgo’s argument and forced thoughts of sleep from his mind. The afternoon passed in the sunshine, Yannis holding the net up a few feet from the hole Yiorgo was mending. ‘Try your hand now.’ Yiorgo handed the shuttle to Yannis. Under Yiorgo’s direction he threaded the slim piece of wood in and out, knotting the thread as Yiorgo had done.

‘Not bad,’ Yiorgo eyed his handiwork critically. To Yannis it looked very clumsy and had taken him twice as long as any of the larger holes that Yiorgo had mended. ‘Have another try.’ This time Yiorgo gave no instructions and Yannis struggled and fumbled until Yiorgo finally took the shuttle from him and untangled the mass of knotted thread. Yannis flushed with embarrassment.

‘It takes a lot of practice to mend a net. You’ll learn.’

Patiently Yiorgo directed the boy’s efforts a second time. Yannis continued to mend nets until late in the afternoon and he was able to repair a hole without tangling the thread, although he was still slow and clumsy.

Yiorgo clapped him on the back. ‘You’ve certainly got tenacity. Many others would have given up long ago and sneaked away with some excuse. Leave it now. We’ll go and have supper. Next weekend will be the test – to see if you can remember the knack.’

Yannis smiled. He felt so tired. He would be quite happy to have his supper and go to bed. On their way home they met Makkis slouching along by the harbour.

‘Fishing tonight?’ he asked.

‘No,’ said Yiorgo decisively. ‘I was out last night, besides it’s Elena’s birthday.’

Makkis shrugged. ‘Another time.’

‘Does he sail with you?’ Yannis was curious; the man had not accompanied them that morning.

‘Sometimes. He works for anyone who will hire him. He wants the money, he’s saving for a boat of his own.’

The smell of lobster and newly baked bread met them as they opened the door. Annita wrinkled her nose as they entered and she smelled their clothes. She took her place at the table, not even the odour of stale fish could detract from the succulent smell of the lobsters and ruin her appetite. Yannis found the lobster unexpectedly delicious.

BOOK: YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1)
11.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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