Hoary and scrawny like a baccalà, the toothless widowed neighbour Toula was peeping behind the grape vines, shaking her head in great disapproval and stringing expletives like a necklace of thunders and curses through her missing teeth “Strumpet!  Bloody Strumpet!  May you never see a clear day, you night harlot!”

Melina was not paying attention to the hissing cusses of her neighbour, nor she could hear her.  She was on the rooftop hanging her new filigree lingerie and the fresh octopodes on the washing line.  She got them as a present from Stavros, one of the fishermen at the sea dock who was visiting her every so often on his free nights.  He was a regular client, but she rarely charged him.  Sometimes she will see him gratis just for keeping her company and for sharing a meal.  Sometimes, when he'd pissed off to the nearest harbours, to the nearest towns’ pubs, and to the other women’s bosoms, she would just wish him dead.

Melina went inside the house and the sudden change from the bright morning sunlight to the darkness of the old place blinded her.  She walked few steps by memory, while her eyes were still trying to adjust.  This place used to be beautiful, stately and impressive.  Now it was giving in to the pressure of weather and age and every main bearing beam was bowing like an arthritic woman’s legs.  The glory of the big house was peeling off like the old wallpaper in the grand living room and if Melina didn't have the time or the money to notice it, it certainly was destined to crumble like a dying empire down on its knees…  She was comfortably blending with the dwelling's decay as she herself was turning into a has-been siren in this small seaside town.

The stone floor was keeping the heat at bay and Melina had it freshly mopped.  She slumped on it the grocery net bag full with lemons and a still alive blue swimmer with no care if they get squashed.  The crab started to crawl out of the bag but got tangled in the net.  Standing near it, she was sipping slowly her morning coffee and watched him struggle.  A tiny smile lurked on her face, as she was enjoying what she was seeing.  It reminded her of those men coming to her home at dusk, all entwined in the nets of her allure.  Ha!  Let them suffer!  She loved them, but she so much loathed their need to own her.

When she had enough with the blue swimmer, she picked it up and left it on the ancient marble plate – high and dry.  She really had a strange way of dealing with seafood and men…

The day was going to be searing hot and the temperatures crept up faster than the weak breeze could fight it back from the sea.  Hardly dressed, only in her negligee, Melina decided to get on with cooking before staying in the hot kitchen becomes unbearable.  She grabbed the colander with truss tomatoes and the old knife and sat down right on the cold kitchen floor.  Working fast and talking to herself, she flipped through her mind her last encounter with Stavros.  And as she was going over the recollections of nice or stormy parts of their conversation, her face started to change accordingly, mirroring her thoughts…

He probably was going to come over tonight.  Most probably!  She was quite certain he will.  Almost.

She wasn’t sure yet what she was going to cook for him tonight.  But she knew that tomato sauce would go with everything.  And a good bottle of wine.

Melina threw some sliced garlic in the heavy skillet with olive oil and let it infuse slowly on a low heat while she was grating the truss tomatoes.  When the smell of garlic filled the room, like a flamenco dancer, she flipped with her fingers a pinch of wood-smoked pimenton – a sailor from Spain brought it to her all the way from La Vera.  Just before the paprika started to sizzle, Melina splashed some wine, then poured in the grated tomatoes.

That was it!  Now, the slow cooking would do its magic.  Melina had enough time to get refreshed or go and cook some more.  But she always loved to prepare the meals for her visitors between their appointments.

That made things more personal.


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