Read YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1) Online

Authors: Beryl Darby

Tags: #Fiction

YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1) (6 page)

BOOK: YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1)
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When he left the classroom, Yannis was surprised to find a strong wind blowing and clutched his books tightly. As the children left the shelter of the buildings the full force hit them and they bent their heads as sand and dust swirled around, stinging their faces and making their eyes water.

‘I hope Pappa isn’t out in this,’ observed Annita.

The wind, coming across from Africa, was the dread of both fishermen and farmers. Boats would be overturned in the harbour, nets torn to shreds, or crops of olives and grapes shaken from their precarious hold on the branches and complete harvests ruined. When they reached the quay they could see that Yiorgo’s boat, along with the others was moored, the fishermen talking disconsolately in groups, looking at the horizon, trying to calculate the severity of the storm.

‘It will blow itself out by morning,’ declared Yiorgo. ‘I might as well come home with you children. There’s nothing I can do here.’

The wind howled around the little house, rattling the shutters and sending debris along the street. Tired as he was, Yannis found it difficult to ignore the sound of the waves crashing against the rocky shore and he shivered involuntarily at the thought of being at sea. He fell into a deep sleep shortly before dawn and the next thing he knew Andreas was shaking him vigorously.

‘Come on, lazy. Pappa wants us to help him with the nets.’

Yannis rubbed his eyes. Was it really morning? He pulled on a shirt and trousers and hurried downstairs after Andreas. The sea was unbelievably calm and it was strangely quiet now the wind was no longer blowing. The little harbour was almost empty as the fishermen tried to make up for the lost fishing hours.

Yannis and Andreas worked hard all morning, taking it in turns to hold the nets whilst the other mended. Yiorgo washed the deck, greased the rowlocks and checked the ropes to the sails, finally declaring himself satisfied. Annita arrived, waving to her father and sitting down on a coil of rope.

‘I’ve been talking to Mr Pavlakis,’ she announced, looking at Yannis.

‘Where did you see him?’

‘In the square. He said he was on his way to work, but there’s no school today.’

Yannis smiled. ‘He works in a taverna in his spare time, then saves the money so he can travel abroad during the school holidays.’

Annita sniffed. ‘Fancy working in a taverna when you’re a teacher.’

‘What does it matter where you work if you make enough money to do something you want? He probably enjoys it anyway.’

Annita began to giggle. ‘I wonder if he tells his customers not to talk?’

Andreas and Yannis laughed with her, and Andreas began to walk between them, pretending to carry a tray.

‘Yes, sir,’ he mimicked. ‘What can I get for you? A coffee? Thank you, sir. Anything to eat, sir? Baklava? Certainly, sir. Now don’t talk and I’ll go and fetch it.’ Andreas flicked back an imaginary piece of hair from his forehead and wiped his hand down his trousers. The two children watching him laughed uproariously and Yiorgo turned round.

‘What’s so funny?’

Yannis wiped his eyes. ‘It was Andreas, pretending to be Mr Pavlakis.’

Yiorgo smiled. He doubted if he would understand. It was probably some school joke. He had met Mr Pavlakis once and thought him an annoying young man with his habit of pushing back his hair.

Yannis turned to Annita. ‘He told me he was going to Rome in the summer holidays.’

‘Rome?’ Her eyes widened. ‘What for?’

‘To see the buildings and art they have there. He’s been to Athens and Egypt. I’m going too.’

‘Oh? When?’

‘When I’m older and have saved some money,’ said Yannis confidently.

Yiorgo stepped ashore. ‘Until you two boys have finished mending that net you haven’t even earned your lunch.’ He started to stroll back up the road with Annita dancing along beside him.

‘What are you going to do this afternoon?’ asked Andreas.

‘Read, I expect.’

‘You’re always reading.’

‘I enjoy reading. I want to know all about the different places ready for when I visit them.’

Andreas looked at his cousin in concern. ‘Don’t you like Crete?’

Yannis smiled. ‘I love it, but I want to see other countries. I want to see where the Venetians came from before they came here and built forts. The Romans came here, the Arabs, the Turks. I want to see why Crete was so much better than their own country.’

Andreas did not understand. If you loved Crete why bother to go elsewhere? It must be all the reading that made Yannis odd.

The walk to Elounda, where he would meet Yiorgo, was cold. Maria had accompanied him part of the way, but now he bent his head against the wind as he trudged along the country road alone. It had been good to spend a week with his family. He had been surprised and delighted when Yiorgo had given him a whole drachma to spend before leaving Aghios Nikolaos. He had spent a long time looking in the shops deciding what he should buy as presents. Finally, with Annita’s help, he had chosen hair ribbons for his sisters, coloured marbles for his brothers; a skein of embroidery silk for his mother and a small packet of tobacco for his father. He had been quite unprepared for their joy over the insignificant little gifts and glowed with pleasure at their thanks.

He was almost as excited to be returning to Aghios Nikolaos as he had been on his first visit and once he was aboard the boat he felt as if he had never been away. Throughout January and February the weather continued to be wet and windy, Yiorgo continually coming home soaked to the skin, began to cough and sneeze. One by one the children caught his cold, staying home from school until the worst was over.

The term passed uneventfully for Yannis. He had sought out Mr Pavlakis and asked if there was a certain date when applications had to be made to a High School, but Mr Pavlakis had seemed vague and disinterested. Yannis was miserable and when he went to church he prayed long and fervently for a solution to his problem. He could hardly believe his eyes the day he returned from school and saw his father sitting at the table with Yiorgo.

‘Pappa! What are you doing here? Is Mamma all right?’

Yannis senior hugged his son closely to him. ‘Everyone is fine. How you’ve grown since Christmas!’

Yannis sat down beside his father. ‘Why are you here, Pappa?’

‘I was sent for. I had a letter from your teacher asking me to come to Aghios Nikolaos as soon as I could, so here I am.’

‘From Mr Pavlakis? What have I done?’

‘That I hope to find out when I meet him. I hear you know where to find him in the evening so you’d better lead the way.’ Yannis rose from the table and placed an arm around his son’s shoulders. ‘I don’t think you need to worry too much, though.’

Yannis led his father through the maze of side streets until he found the shabby taverna. As they entered Mr Pavlakis was in the act of pouring himself a glass of wine.

‘Good evening – why, Yannis. What brings you here?’

‘This is my father, Mr Pavlakis.’ Yannis felt very nervous.

Mr Pavlakis held out his hand. ‘I’m pleased to meet you. Won’t you sit down and have a glass of wine with me?’

‘Thank you.’ Mr Christoforakis was also feeling nervous. ‘You sent a message to me asking me to come to Aghios Nikolaos to see you about Yannis. Something to do with the High School in Heraklion.’

Mr Pavlakis nodded. ‘I’ve found out details for you about a scholarship, if you’re willing for Yannis to continue with his education. You may have other plans for him.’

Yannis’s father drew on his cigarette. ‘How do you feel, Yannis? Do you want to go to High School?’

‘Oh, yes, Pappa. I want that more than anything.’

Yannis senior shrugged. ‘You’ll have to explain to me. I’m a farmer. What does he have to do to go to a High School, and more important, what does he do when he’s finished there?’

Mr Pavlakis smiled. ‘It’s quite simple. He has to complete some examination papers. If he reaches a high enough standard he will be given a scholarship. That means you will only have to pay for his lodgings and books. What he does afterwards,’ he spread his hands eloquently, ‘that will be up to him. He has a brain, Mr Christoforakis, a good brain, that should be trained and used.’

‘If he completes the papers, but doesn’t get a scholarship, what happens then?’

‘If he doesn’t gain a scholarship he could still be offered a place, but then you would be asked to pay his fees. You don’t have to accept a place. It would cost a good deal of money. Would you like me to find out the cost involved before you commit yourself to anything?’

Yannis was sitting on the edge of his chair, willing his father to agree to him taking the examination. His father appeared to be considering as he sipped his glass of wine.

‘If he went to Heraklion where would he live?’

‘That would be up to you to arrange. Do you have any relatives there?’

Yannis senior shook his head.

‘I could make some enquiries when I next visit the town,’ offered Mr Pavlakis. ‘Let’s see how he gets on before you worry about where he is to live.’

‘You’re quite sure, Yannis, that this is what you want?’

‘I’m quite sure, Pappa. I want to go on to University as well.’

Mr Pavlakis smiled. ‘One step at a time, young man.’ He refilled their glasses and handed one to Yannis. ‘To your success with the examination.’

The glasses clinked and each took a long draught. Yannis felt his head swimming, not from the wine, he was used to drinking wine with his meals, but the thought that he was going to High School. He was convinced that he would pass the examination. He could hardly wait to tell Annita. He excused himself from the men as the taverna began to fill up with its regular customers and ran back across the town to his uncle’s house.

‘Annita, Annita,’ he called. ‘I’m going, I’m really going.’

‘Where?’ Annita raised her head from her embroidery.

‘I’m going to the High School in Heraklion. ‘I have to take an examination first, then I might get a scholarship.’

‘Suppose you don’t get one?’

‘Pappa can pay for me to go.’

‘I thought your Pappa was a poor farmer. Where’s he going to find enough money to send you to High School?’

Yannis sat down. His world had suddenly begun to crumble around him. ‘Pappa seemed to think he would be able to.’

Annita snorted. ‘He probably doesn’t know how much it will cost yet.’

‘I thought you’d be pleased, Annita. Why are you being horrid?’

She folded her embroidery together. ‘I’m not being horrid. I just face facts.’ She flounced from the room, leaving Yannis feeling hurt and puzzled.

Annita walked down to the harbour, hoping Yannis would follow her. She sat on the wall gazing out to sea and tried to think rationally. She had overheard her parents discussing her future with Yannis and since that day she had looked at him in a different light, no longer as her cousin, but as her prospective husband. She had thought Yannis would stay and work in Aghios Nikolaos and in a couple of years they would be married, now he was planning to leave and would probably not want to return and settle down. She sighed deeply. A voice in her ear nearly made her fall off the wall.

A bearded man was eyeing her. ‘I don’t like to see a beautiful young lady by herself and looking sad. Won’t you join me for a drink?’

Annita jumped to her feet and ran. Her mother had warned her about such strangers. Her heart was pounding as she reached her home and tumbled inside, slamming the door shut and leaning against it to regain her breath.

‘Annita – what’s wrong?’

‘A man!’ gasped Annita. ‘He wanted to take me for a drink.’

‘What!’ Yannis was horrified. ‘Where is he?’ The boy clenched his fists menacingly.

‘I don’t think he followed me. He only asked me to go for a drink. I was only frightened because I didn’t know him. There’s no need to go looking for him.’

Yannis scrutinized his cousin gravely. ‘He didn’t touch you? He only spoke to you?’

Annita nodded, she was feeling distinctly braver now she was safely indoors with Yannis. ‘Let’s forget it.’ She smiled a little shakily.

To her surprise Yannis put his arms round her and held her tightly to him. ‘I couldn’t bear anything to happen to you, Annita.’

Annita felt a thrill go through her. ‘Do you mean that, Yannis?’

‘Of course. You’re as precious to me as one of my sisters. You mustn’t go anywhere on your own in the evening again.’

‘I’m sorry you thought I was being nasty to you earlier,’ she apologised humbly.

‘You were being nasty,’ retorted Yannis.

‘I was just surprised. We’ve talked about it for so long, and now it seems to be happening.’

‘I have to get the scholarship first. You’re right, Pappa probably has no idea how much the fees would be. I expect he’ll want me to go back to Plaka to help on the farm during the summer. Maybe I’ll change my mind and become a farmer after all.’ Yannis smiled, knowing that nothing would make him change his mind.

‘I wouldn’t mind being a farmer’s wife.’ Annita could have bitten her tongue for the indiscreet remark.

Yannis appeared not to notice. ‘You’ve never been on a farm. You don’t know how hard the work is, much harder than fishing. You don’t ever have a day off because the weather’s bad. Maybe you and Andreas could come and visit us during the holidays.’

Annita smiled. ‘I’d like that.’

‘Let’s go and find Pappa now and ask him about the holidays.’ Yannis took Annita by the hand.

Annita agreed readily and they toiled up the hill and down the far side, Yannis avoiding the back streets, which were a short cut. Annita had not been to the taverna before and wrinkled her nose in disgust as they entered, the smell of wine, smoke and stale food assaulting her nostrils. Yannis was sitting where his son had left him and Mr Pavlakis was working behind the bar where a young girl sat at the end looking thoroughly bored. Every so often she would be handed some coins, which she placed in a pot and gave the correct change.

Yannis approached his father. ‘Are you ready to go home, Pappa? I thought you might not know your way, so Annita and I came to meet you.’

‘That was thoughtful of you, but this is no place for Annita. Go and wait for me outside, both of you. I’ll just say goodbye to Mr Pavlakis.’

BOOK: YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1)
7.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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