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Dougie McHale

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The Flight of the Dragonfly

The sun trickles through the shutters as Grace rises towards the surface of sleep, and just for a moment, she is in her bedroom in Edinburgh. Her heart pounds in her chest and she turns to see if he is really there, lying beside her. She can feel the cold dampness of sweat run in the dip between her breasts.

She remembers his eyes, piercing her resolve and staring down at her. He holds a knife in his hand. She tries to scream, but he has silenced her voice. He grabs a handful of her hair and hacks at it, viciously.

She closes her eyes. It was a dream, just a dream. The terror does not leave her. It fills the room. She does not want the memory of it to stain this new day, this new beginning, this new place.

 

After a shower, Grace makes a breakfast of toast and black coffee and sits outside on the balcony, just big enough for a chair and table. She watches, as small groups of children, with sports bags strapped to their backs make their way to the local primary school. It is a building she came across the other day. At the time, she wondered how many classes it had, as like most of the buildings, it was small and only two storeys. At the rear was a basketball court which surprised her, and she remembers thinking if basketball was popular in Greece.

The children smile and laugh, they are always talking amongst each other, it is uplifting to see children this happy, such innocence stirs fond images of her own childhood and a convivial warmth spread through her.

A father, she assumes, passes below her, with a girl sitting on his shoulders. She has long dark hair that bobs with each step. Unlike the others, the girls face is set, almost determined, Grace thinks. Her face has the look of natural beauty, like the young girls often portrayed in television adverts and magazines. The father looks up, more by chance than any interest in Grace and to her surprise smiles a reserved, hello. Grace returns the gesture. She resists an urge to raise her hand, her modesty restricts this, and she straightens up and pulls the soft collar of her dressing gown around her neck.

She presses her back against the chair and watches as they continue down the street. Grace releases her hold on the dressing gown and absently fiddles with the cord tied around her waist, as the man and child turn down a small lane that Grace knows will take them to the school gates.

It is already warm, and she can feel her shins tingle from the sun’s glare. This morning, they look a bright red, burnt from yesterdays over exposure. She won’t forget to cover them in sun crème today.

It has always been one of surprise and wonderment when, every morning, Grace gazes over the terracotta roofs towards a sensuous sea, cerulean blue, constantly amending and sprinkling diamonds like shattered glass. Her heart is embellished by the dazzling brightness and decorated surfaces of colour that adorns each archway, house and structure in luminous blue, alluring mauve, and brilliant white.

The baker’s shop is only a few feet away and she smells the sweet aroma of freshly baked bread, pastries and cakes that transform the air into a riotous bouquet that the ovens have fired. Each morning, her senses are illuminated with smells, tastes, sights and sounds that are becoming familiar, but always experienced new and unique to this space and time.

She decides that this morning, she will buy a loaf of freshly baked bread and then some jam from Sofia’s Delicatessen.

 

She steps from the shade of the doorway and immediately feels the heat of the morning sun upon her shoulders. She crosses the street where it is sheltered, checks her bag for her purse and then ambles at a slow pace. She turns a corner that takes her down a steep hill where in front of her she can see tall masts and a myriad of boats, all shapes and sizes, hugging the harbour wall. She has forgotten the surreality of her dream and its residual impact, and now, amongst the sea air, she feels revitalised. Amongst the palm trees, traffic and pedestrians the sun gleams off the pavements. She puts on her sun glasses and pulls her bag further up her shoulder. In places, weeds appear between the paving slabs, and skeletal cats lounge in the shade of doorways and under tables, where people sip coffee, and tea, and eat English breakfasts with chips, a peculiarity she can’t get her head around.

She smooths her hair and readjusts the clasp that keeps it in place. She enters the delicatessen and slips her sunglasses onto her head. She takes a moment to adjust her eyes. Sofia is a slim woman, with dark wavy hair. She wears her make up discreetly and it compliments her features. Grace would place her in her forties. She knows she has a daughter, Grace has seen them together.

Sofia is reaching into her display and rearranging pastries and cakes when she looks up and smiles. ‘Good morning.’

‘Kalimera,’ Grace replies.

Sofia’s smile widens. ‘You’re learning Greek?’

‘I’m trying. I can only say a few words.’

‘It takes time and practise. I admire that, learning to speak the language.’

‘Your English is excellent. Where did you learn?’

‘I went to university in London in my twenties. I was able to improve my English every day, just like you will.’

‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to speak Greek like you speak English.’

‘I thought that too. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll learn. You’ll pick up new words every day.’

‘I hope so.’

‘What can I get you?’

‘I was hoping you had jam.’

‘I do. My friend makes it. She has her own business.’

Sofia points to a shelf full of jars, each with the same logo emblazoned on the front. ‘It’s just over there. You’ll find quite a variety.’

‘Oh, I’m not that adventurous. I’m looking for raspberry.’

Grace picks up a jar. ‘The jars are quaint all by themselves. It would be a shame to throw them out. I think I’ll take two.’

‘You haven’t tried it, yet.’

‘I don’t need to, it’s worth it just for the jars.’

Sofia takes the jars from Grace with a confident half smile. ‘I’m sure you’ll like the jam. I love it myself.’

‘Well, that’s all I need to know,’ Grace says, unzipping her bag and taking out her purse.

‘That’s six euros. Do you want a bag?’

‘Yes, please. I’m going to the bakers I’ll use it for that also.’

‘Very environmentally friendly.’

‘It was my job.’

‘Really, what did you do?’

‘I was a sustainability researcher at Edinburgh University.’

‘Wow! How interesting.’

‘Really? I don’t normally get that kind of reaction.’

‘It’s a passion of mine. In fact, if you’re interested, there’s a group of us who clean the beach of plastics and rubbish every week. You’re welcome to come along, if you want?’

Grace’s eyes light up. ‘I’d love too. When it is?’

‘Tomorrow, in fact. We meet at the beach in the morning, around nine.’

‘Perfect. I’ll be there.’

Sofia hands Grace the plastic bag. ‘This will be one of the last plastic bags I give out.’

‘Oh! Why is that?’

‘I’m changing to paper and encouraging customers to bring their own bag.’

Grace nods in approval. ‘That’s a great idea. The supermarkets back home have been doing it for some time now. If you want a bag you must pay for one. It encourages people to use the same bag each time.’

‘That’s what I’m hoping to achieve.’

‘Well, good luck. And I’ll see you tomorrow.’

‘Until tomorrow. Enjoy the jam.’

‘Oh, I’m sure I will.’

When Grace leaves the shop, she feels uplifted. She thinks she will like living in Molyvos. She attributes this to having a purpose again, she is not just going to be engaged in the small things in life, she has found something of worth, something she believes in.   

 

 

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