It was 40 degrees and we were walking uphill. I complained. You said I always complained. After all, you were the one carrying the rucksack and it weighed a ton. There’s a breathtaking view at the top, you said. There’s always a breathtaking view at the top, I thought, my T-shirt soaked in sweat. Can we sit down, I said. In the shade of this tree? Can do, you said, but you didn’t really want to, I could tell. As soon as we sat down on a carpet of pine needles, you took out your map and started studying it. There was no signal for my phone, and I hated you.
It was an August day in the Mediterranean and the sea was just round the corner. The sea is about five minutes away, you said. A short walk, you said. My face was on fire. A mad dog, I wanted to say, are you a mad dog taking me on this infernal roundabout walk to the beach? We met a couple of goats, complete with dangling bells and all. Put me out of my misery. Let’s have slices of halloumi and ice-cold watermelon directly out of the fridge. Let’s sit on the sea-view balcony, become human again.
There’s a child in the story, who is missing from home, has run away, is lost. We don’t know for sure and we can’t speak her language. The child is a girl of about six – small, swarthy. She is standing by the olive tree and I say What’s this child doing here? You say Go and talk to her. Ask her if she’s lost. And I do, slowly, choosing my words carefully, and the child in the little white and pink gingham dress looks at me with burning coal eyes, but doesn’t speak.
She’s obviously from around here. Ask her who her father is.
We should call the police.
Ask her where she lives. Ask her what her name is.
There’s no phone signal.
We’ll get into trouble.
We can’t just leave her here.
The girl keeps looking and looking but not a sound comes out of her mouth. Then she turns the other way and starts running with the confidence of the local, sure-footedly heading back home through the sun-burnt field towards the white cliffs. Then we lose sight of her, and I think I can hear you sigh with relief.
We walk back to our rented apartment in silence, our steps dragged out, our throats parched of love. You slice the watermelon in half with the huge kitchen knife, the only one we could find in the cutlery drawer. The kitchen table wobbles. I’ll fix it, you say. Juice spills onto my dress as I taste the sweetness, and two black pips land on the floor. We talk about everything except the walk. We talk about everything except the pregnancy test. We never mention the child again.
Nora Nadjarian is a poet and writer from Cyprus. Her poetry and short fiction have been included in various international anthologies, among others Europa 28: Writing by Women on the Future of Europe (Comma Press, 2020) and the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology (UK). Her short fiction has also appeared in FRiGG, MoonPark Review, Lunate, The Cabinet of Heed and has been placed in the Reflex Fiction international flash fiction competition (2021).
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