Read The Divided Child Online

Authors: Ekaterine Nikas

The Divided Child (2 page)

seemed to accept the suggestion.
motioned for him to take the lead, and as we abandoned our balcony of rock for
the more solid ground of the tunnel I felt a strong sense of relief.
Trotting along in an attempt to keep up
with his boyish pace, I also realized that my black mood had vanished.
Perhaps I wasn't the one doing the good
deed after all.

started at the bottom of the citadel, at the bridge called the Contrafossa, and
worked our way up along the northern side of the castle.
Michael knew the place inside out.
Every wall, every parapet, every
crumbling piece of stone seemed familiar to him.
He showed me the lighthouse, the clock tower, the cannons,
the turrets.
I felt myself
slipping back in time, imagining soldiers in colorful uniforms shouting away in
Greek and Italian.

you sure you don't do this for a living?" I teased him, as we stopped on
the south side of the fortress, at a building which looked like a classical
temple, but which, Michael informed me, had actually been the Anglican Chapel
of St. George.
We crossed to a
bench behind the now abandoned church and sat down.

but I wish I did," Michael replied, his tone suddenly tense.
"Then I'd have some money of my
own to spend."

looked at his clothes, his shoes, the cut of his hair; all bespoke wealth.
"If I may say so, you don't
exactly look hard up.
What do you
need money for?"

regarded me for a long moment, then turned away and muttered in a fierce young
"For a

was such a surprising answer, I almost laughed.
But one look at his face warned me not to.
I sat in silence, and tried to marshal
the seriousness to speak.
I didn't
want to hurt his feelings.
I told him, "It's almost ten."

head snapped up in surprise, and he lifted his arm to check the boyish but
obviously expensive watch strapped around his thin wrist.

I stay here a few minutes by myself,” he asked, “if I promise to go home
directly afterwards?"

felt surprisingly hurt by the dismissal, but hid my feelings.
"Giving me my walking papers?
Well, that's fair.
If you promise to head home, I'll leave
you in peace.
Thanks for the tour,
Michael; I enjoyed it."

began to say something in reply, but I never got to hear it.

this day, I'm not sure what made me look up.
Perhaps there was some sound, though I don't remember
There was a flicker of
shadow, but it only registered afterwards, after I gazed skyward and saw part
of the grey stone wall some hundred feet above us begin to sway -- and then

lunged at Michael, dragging him off the bench.
We hit the ground rolling, and almost at the same time there
was a horrible, heart-stopping crash.

I finally remembered to breathe again, I almost choked on grit and dust.
Then I opened my eyes.
The bench we'd been sitting on a moment
earlier was now a splintered wreck, wood and broken stone forming a jagged
I rolled onto my side,
releasing Michael who was pinned under me.

you all right?" I gasped.

nodded, wide-eyed.

checked him all over.
His lip was
bleeding, one arm was scraped, but nothing seemed broken.
I lightly touched his chest and
stomach, but nothing seemed seriously amiss.
I struggled shakily to my feet, beginning to become aware of
some damage to my own anatomy.
"Can you get up?" I asked.

think so," he said.

reached down to help him.
winced when I took his left hand.
"Let me see that.
you move your fingers properly?"
I felt along the wrist, but nothing felt broken.
With luck it was only a sprain.

looked up at me, his face white, his hand trembling in mine. I put my arms
around him.
"It's all right,”
I assured him.
“There's no danger
We're safe."

shook his head and reached up to lightly touch my right cheek.
My own hand went up, and I felt
something warm and sticky on my fingers.
When I looked down at them, they were covered with blood.




didn't occur to me until much later to wonder what the taxi driver must have
thought of his two passengers during that twelve-mile ride to Michael's
We were dirty, bloodstained,
scraped and scratched.
My blouse
was torn, Michael's lip was swollen, and the long cut on my cheek still bled

scenery on the drive north was lovely, but I couldn’t enjoy it.
I kept a watchful eye on Michael,
anxious to make sure he was all right.
I wasn't looking forward to handing him back to his parents looking as
if he'd just lost a prizefight.

is why I felt a mixture of relief and trepidation when Michael pointed to a
large stone gate bearing the legend "Villa
", and the
taxi turned down a gravel driveway lined with cypress trees.
At first, all I could see was a large
grove of pines.
Then the driveway
veered to the left, bringing the house into view.
The elegant mansion that loomed ahead was not quite what I'd
envisioned when Michael had casually mentioned his family's summer house.

car came to a scrunching halt on the gravel.
"This is the place you wish?" the driver asked in
Even in another language
his skepticism was evident.

Michael replied, answering for both of us.
I fumbled in my purse for money to pay the fare.
My fingers felt clumsy as I counted out
ten euro notes and handed the bills to the driver.
I climbed creakily out of the car, and Michael reached out
to steady me.

I said, as we stood there watching the taxi disappear back up the drive.
Strangely, Michael seemed as reluctant
to enter the house as I did.

wrong?" I asked.

didn't tell them where I was going.
And I rode into town with the gardener.
I don't want to get him into

All your family's going to
care about is getting you back in one piece."
I held out my hand and he took it.
We approached the massive front door together.

knocked, but for what seemed an eternity nothing happened.
Unsteadily, I knocked again.
I was beginning to feel an almost
desperate need to sit down.
Finally, the door opened.
man stood framed in the doorway.
For a moment his dark brown eyes widened in surprise, then his
expression became coldly neutral.

you have returned," he said, addressing Michael in English that bore only
the lightest traces of a Greek accent.
"What have you been doing?
You do not look in the best of shape."
His gaze shifted to me.
"And who is this?"

a subdued voice, Michael said, “Miss Stewart, this is my Uncle Spiro.
Uncle Spiro, this is --”

Stewart," I snapped.
"And in case you haven't noticed, we've had an accident.
I don't think Michael’s badly hurt, but
he's had a nasty scare, and I suspect his wrist is sprained.
The sooner a doctor looks at him, the

Come in."
He motioned for us to enter.
"Perhaps you are in need of a
doctor as well?" he asked as I brushed past him into the hallway.

can wait."

gazed at me skeptically, and then turned to lead the way.
"My sister will be relieved to
hear of the boy's return.
She has
been worrying since he disappeared this morning."
There was a questioning note in his
voice which I purposely ignored.
"Indeed, I have just returned from searching for him in town."

who is it?"

voice was sharp and spoke in Greek.
Before he could answer, a woman emerged from a room at the end of the
She was petite in stature,
but moved with commanding grace, and the elegant black dress she wore was
stylish and expensive.
She had
large, dark, almond-shaped eyes and shiny black hair drawn back in a chignon.
Her mouth was small and delicately
At sight of Michael, it
opened and then snapped shut.

brother said quickly, “There has been an accident, Demetra.
Michael does not appear badly
He added with an odd
emphasis, “I do not know about the young lady."

told you,” I said weakly, “I'm fine."

ignored me.
Instead, he called to
a middle-aged woman who had slipped into the room.
"Maria, telephone Dr. Aristides and tell him we have
two patients for him."

sister's attention was on me now.
"Who is she, Spiro?
How is she involved in all this?"

name is Christine Stewart, she is here because she brought the boy back to us,
and as to how she comes to be with him in the first place . . . well, I suggest
we wait to consider such questions until after the doctor has seen them

stood silently between them.
tried to smile encouragement at him, but my lips felt heavy and difficult to
The room was hot, the air
I tried to shift my gaze
from Michael to his mother and uncle, but though I could make out their faces,
I couldn't bring them into focus.
They swayed and shimmered, as did the furniture, the walls, the
Suddenly my head seemed
far away and my body unable to keep its balance.

heard someone swear, saw a dark flash of motion, and through a fog realized I
was falling.




she be all right?"

think so.
The cut's not too
She's lost some blood and
may have a slight concussion, but there's no obvious fracture to the

voices, speaking rapidly in Greek, seemed quite close, but it was too much
effort to open my eyes.
I listened

she be moved to the hospital?"

don't think it will be necessary.
I suspect all she needs is rest, but I'll check back later to see how
she is doing."

you, Doctor.
We appreciate your
coming at such short notice."

What am I, a banker?"


heard receding footsteps and a door open and close.
I still couldn't seem to open my eyes and drifted back to
I woke sometime later, and
found myself lying in a large mahogany bed between cool linen sheets.
A scarlet and gold coverlet was pulled
up under my arms, and I was wearing a satin negligee in a beautiful shade of
My cheek ached
I touched it and
realized it was bandaged.

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