My eyes smarted as dust kicked up from the worn tyres of the tour bus. The radiant heat joyfully penetrated my pores and made the discomfort of life subside. The dreamy villa stood tall and inviting beckoning me to drag my wheelie bag over the rough surface. More dust clung to my back as I wondered what I had actually packed into the overstretched suitcase. What did I actually need for a week of R and R? Amongst the rest and relaxation I also yearned for the H to happen too – the healing.
I dared to think that we could remember the happiness, how we used to laugh, maybe we could rediscover each other in every way. The security of Lucy and Richard being in the villa next door gave me the courage to think that a break from the banal routine was the solution to the unhappiness marriage had thrust on us during the last few months.
I plonked myself down heavily on the kitchen chair and marvelled at the scrubbed surfaces and tiny cracks in the tiles on the kitchen floor without so much as a speck of dirt lodged in them. The room felt homey, loved, cared for, treasured, not perfect or pristine but beautiful nonetheless. I fumbled with the slightly twisted key as I persuaded it to let me venture onto the balcony. I was bombarded with a host of welcomes; waves gently caressing the sand I could not see; the unknown, yet strangely reassuring scent of the lovingly grown flowers adorning the balcony; the cool stone soothed the anxiety from my feet whilst my fingers played with the ancient ironwork of the balcony. As I stood there in that moment, hope pushed despair from my mind, and it landed softly below in the shrubbery.
This was going to be the perfect week, my heart was set and I wanted to rediscover the part of me that had locked away the laughter and kept my lungs squeezed tight with fear. I would set the laughter free and remember happiness. And it worked. The first night in the taverna the retsina loosened the tension and the melting feta zinged on my tongue. My body started to waken from its numbness and the strange spices stimulated my senses. Conversation came easily to the four of us and my muzzy head confused me into realising that a holiday was all we needed. The crisp but strangely rough white sheets welcomed me to sleep, and the golden alarm clock finally roused me the next day with the help of a rumbling lorry. Lucy’s early morning discovery of the cheesy pastries and strong black coffee in the village bakery cemented the notion that my happiness had bubbled closer to the surface than I dared to believe.
That was a week ago. Each day had followed the same pattern of idle routine, long breakfasts, a slow walk to the beach, reading, swimming, sleeping, the odd chat and a refreshing Greek salad in the beachside shack that proudly pronounced its taverna status. Early evening saw us meander back to the villa I loved, before changing and strolling along to the friendly greeting of the Greek waiter.
But the fifth day was different. I suppose I knew it was just a brief reprise from the misery he doused me with. I wandered in still laughing from my banter with Lucy, to find blackness in the kitchen that hadn’t been there a few minutes earlier. I didn’t notice it at first as my eyes adjusted from the brightness outside. Then with the accusations and unreasonable jealousy came the realisation that my life with him could never be any different. Lucy excused herself quickly and disappeared into her safe haven next door.
And then it really started.
I could not hear waves or laughter now as the shaft of light tricked my eyes and I found it hard to focus on anything. I finally understood that the screaming and shouting would never stop unless I made it. Inside my head the grating and banging grew stronger as his words expanded the bitterness and hatred. My eyes wandered away from the epicentre of my fear and struggled to concentrate on the roses in the ceramic jug freshly picked from the garden below. My eyes strained to find anything that could help. The aroma of pastries still filled the room, the plates unmoved, coffee still warm waiting to be drunk. The curtains not drawn yet and now I wondered why as the beauty of the day outside was shielded from me. The lack of light hindered my eyes’ ability to help me. The shouting had subsided, now replaced by the low threatening voice that scared me more. The traffic trundled along outside and I heard the door creak open downstairs. Still I prayed for help. No-one could release me from this fear but me. His jealousy was insane and unfounded, but we were already past reason in this argument. 'No-one will ever want you' his pathetic voice repeated. In that moment I thought the bread knife on the table was my only escape. As I edged unassumingly away from the open window that must have spilled our secrets to the world, I barely heard what he was now screaming at me. It was then I saw the vision silhouetted behind him in the doorway.
How could so many lives all change in under a minute? He laughed hysterically his power finally cracking his mind, and with it his restraint. He grabbed my neck and started squeezing my frightened breath out of me.
When I awoke to the rapid babble of Greek all around me, I saw Lucy’s pleading eyes staring down. I could still feel the fingers pressing hard, even though they weren’t there. He was been tended to on the other side of the room blood dripping down into those tiny cracks in the tiles. I wondered who did all the scrubbing. I passed out again, and awoke to safety in a room where I could finally see those unbound waves play on the shoreline. Lucy was sitting staring at the beautiful scene too.
After the interviews with interpreters and consuls, policemen and lawyers, I understood how Lucy had saved me. She had smashed the ceramic jugs of roses down on his head to make him stop. As his fury turned to her, she had grabbed the beautiful blade from the table. His aggressive lunge at her ended only in his own brutal wound, as she held the knife to defend herself and his weight forced the blade to puncture his lung.
At least the screaming has stopped and the healing has started now. The healing I yearned for will come from time in this beautiful place after all.
Sarah Barry lives in Co. Kildare, Ireland where she recently completed a creative writing course with the inspirational author Niamh Boyce. Sarah has been focussing on writing Flash Fiction and Short Stories, as rapid bursts of writing have to fit around caring for her four children. Sarah’s first published work was a flash fiction included in the anthology Once Upon A Time: A Collection of Unexpected Fairytales (ed. SJI Holliday and Anna Meade) and another flash fiction was included in the “Flash Flood” that cascaded throughout the 12th October, 2012. Sarah’s blog can be found at www.relishingwriting.blogspot.ie or follow her on twitter @saraheebarry