Chapter 9 - Broken
November 8, 2013
San Sebastian, Spain
They say people find peace in their sleep; that it is the time of day when everything else is quiet and both your mind and body rests.
But not for Nikos Demakis.
In sleep, he was haunted by his nightmares which all started after he was kidnapped more than two years ago. Sweat dotted in his entire body and the bed covers were fisted in his hand. He thrashed on the bed as he was deep in his nightmare.
The sound of gunfire and explosions echoed across the large highway, followed by panicked cries and moans of pain. Nikos was shoved downwards by his body guards but not before he felt a searing pain in his side.
“Antonio!” he shouted.
He saw his friend across the highway and sagged with relief when he was unharmed. He placed his hand on his side and he felt the sticky warmth of his blood. His side felt as though it was burning but he clenched his teeth to keep himself from shouting.
After a few minutes, he lost consciousness from severe blood loss and pain.
When he woke up, he was sitting beside Antonio and he was tied to a chair. His skin felt cold and he felt very weak. His throat was dry and his head throbbed. Someone yanked on his hair and he was forced to raise his head. Then, a newspaper was placed on his chest and there was a flash as his picture was taken.
He heard many voices and there was only one thing he heard clearly: they were asking for ransom money. Whoever they would be sending this video to would have a week to prepare what they asked for or he and Antonio would both be dead.
He drifted in and out of consciousness and his head rolled. He heard Antonio trying to wake him up but he was too weak.
So this was how it felt to die.
No memories of your life flashing before your eyes.
No grim reaper with a scythe waiting to escort you into the afterlife.
There was just pain and then the slow descent to unconsciousness. At that point, the women, the cars, the money didn’t even matter. Nothing did.
But there was one thing Nikos saw, though. It was something most unexpected for him. He saw his wife, Cassia, a wife he just saw a couple of times over the years. He could count on his fingers and toes the number of words he said to her over the years after their marriage.
He saw her standing in front of him in all her wedding finery. She was exquisite and she took his breath away. He saw her more clearly now than he did on their wedding. The disappointment in her eyes also tugged at something inside his chest.
That image would haunt him forever.
Next, he saw her underneath him. Her eyes were closed as he thrust over and over into her wet warmth. Then, her eyes flew open and she cried out his name as she splintered in his arms.
It was another image of her he’d gladly take to his grave.
The next time that he gained consciousness he smelled burning metal. Antonio was asleep on the floor beside him. He seemed unharmed and Nikos sighed with relief. He tried to look around his surroundings to gauge how much time has passed but he saw that they were inside a room with no windows and his wrist watch had been smashed. There was no way to tell the time.
Nikos tried to move and loosen the ropes binding his wrists but he just ended up chafing them raw. He heard the masked men laugh and then hold up the burned metal that was still glowing red.
They began to walk towards him.
He realized their intent and he started to panic. They wanted to cauterize his wound to prevent it from bleeding further and since there was no way for them to take him to a hospital, they were going to do it the primitive way.
“NO!!!” Nikos shouted through the gag in his mouth but it just came out as a muffled cry.
He found the strength to struggle but the men in black masks just laughed at him and shook their heads.
With every step they took, the fear inside him heightened until the point that he wished that his death would just come and claim him right now. But no. No matter how he wished, the Grim Reaper never came for him.
Someone yanked on his hair and then he felt his shirt being torn from his body. It was followed by sheer agony and the smell of his flesh burning. It was the kind of pain that was too much that one almost passed out from it; the one where all the nerve endings in your body felt as though they were being electrified. Nikos cried out and struggled but it was to no avail.
Nikos Demakis jerked awake.
He sat on the massive bed and noticed that the sheets were twisted around his legs. His throat also felt raw; he must’ve been shouting in his sleep again. He flung the covers away from him and crossed the room to drink some water. Once his thirst was satisfied, he held the cool pitcher against his cheek.
Just like the other nights before this.
When was it going to end? When would he be able to have one whole night that wasn’t plagued with visions of his haunted past?
There was a knock from the door and Antonio entered.
“I apologize if I disturbed your sleep,” Nikos said quickly.
His friend shook his head and sat down on the chair near Nikos’ bed. Nikos walked towards the window and moved the drapes to the side so he could gaze outside and see the beauty of the waves crashing against the shore.
“So, I guess the latest doctor also didn’t work out?” Antonio inquired.
Nikos shook his head.
Since the time he was kidnapped, he had been seeing several psychiatrists to help him with his nightmares. They all diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But he didn’t need their medical terms. He needed a cure for his nightmares. He wanted uninterrupted sleep.
So far, none helped.
His latest physician was one of the most expensive psychiatrists in the world yet he wasn’t able to do anything. No amount of medicine or counseling could help him sleep well at night.
“I hope I didn’t wake up Elise and Anton,” Nikos told his friend.
“No. They are still sleeping soundly,” Antonio replied with a huge grin at the mention of his wife and son.
If there was one positive thing that happened when they were kidnapped, it was that Antonio met Elise.
Before, he was almost married but it proved to be one hell of a failure. Antonio believed that his ex-fiancee, Mara, was different even if Nikos and all their other friends told him otherwise. They were right for she turned out to be nothing but a gold-digger who wanted to sink her claws in Antonio’s money.
Now, Antonio had Elise and she was truly different. She was the daughter of the man who organized their kidnapping. Even though she grew up in a world filled with greed and violence, she retained her pure heart. Elise pitied Nikos very much when she saw the condition he was in and the regular beatings he received. Because of that, she helped Antonio nurse him during their one-month captivity.
That was when the two fell in love.
When they escaped, Antonio took Elise with him and from that time on, he never let her go. They got married a few months later and after a year, they had little Anton who was his father’s pride and joy. Nikos was here in Spain now for Anton’s first birthday.
Right on cue, Anton started to cry and Antonio left the room to grab his son. A moment later, he returned and sat on the chair he previously vacated as he rocked his baby back to sleep.
“He’s adorable,” Nikos commented.
“He is,” his friend agreed.
“You know, you’re his godfather and you haven’t held him even once since he was born.”
Nikos laughed nervously. “He looked too fragile then. He still does now. I am afraid to drop him or squeeze too much.”
“You won’t. Come on, just give it a try.”
Before Nikos could reply or complain, he felt the weight of the baby in his arms and there was nothing he could do but to hold him securely so that he wouldn’t fall.
“Is this correct?” he asked nervously and Antonio laughed.
“A bit awkward but you’re fine.”
Nikos looked down and Anton’s eyes opened and gazed at him. The baby smiled and something twisted in his chest.
“It’s the best feeling in the world when I hold him in my arms. It’s like I am holding a miracle.”
“Yes,” Nikos gasped.
He didn’t know it but he was also smiling to the baby and swaying so he could be lulled to sleep.
“Even more if that is your own son you are holding,” Antonio pointed out.
Nikos’ heart gave another squeeze as the thought hit him hard. What would it feel like if he held his son in his arms for the first time? What would it feel like seeing him the moment he was born? What would it feel like when his daughter held his hand? What would she look like? Would she have brown hair and brown eyes as well?
Nikos’ thoughts drifted towards Cassia...
Wait...why was he even thinking about her? They were never going to have a family together. Their marriage was not that sort! It was nothing but a business arrangement.
Nikos sighed as he looked at Anton’s perfect features.
Truth be told, he was jealous of Antonio. The man had something he wanted most: a family.
Nikos laughed to ease the tension.
“I can’t have that.”
“Why not? You have a perfectly lovely wife. Have you seen Cassia lately? She’s changed so much! I could hardly recognize her.”
“I haven’t seen her for four years. Before, we always saw each other for our anniversary. Just for appearances’ sake. She stopped coming when Costas had his heart attack. She did not even come when we were kid—“
“She was not informed,” Antonio cut him off.
“She just doesn’t care. She vowed to make my life a living hell, remember?”
“With what? Shopping? Wasting my money? Then it’s no wonder she’s beautiful now. Maybe she spent it all on plastic surgery. I see the accounts that are being sent to me. How come she needs eight new fucking houses? And just where does she spend millions of dollars?” he snarled.
“It’s for chari—“
“Save it! I don’t want to hear where she spends the money. It’s hers to do with as she pleases,” he replied.
The baby stirred in his arms and reacted to the hostile environment. It looked up at him with fear and something twisted in his chest yet again.
Before he knew it, he was crooning to comfort the child.
“Here...let me get him. I think it’s time for him to go back to Elise. Then you and I will talk.”
“There’s nothing for us to talk about. Not Cassia.”
“Hold that thought,” Antonio told him.
He carefully retrieved his son and walked out of the room. Nikos sat and resumed staring at the window.
For the first time in a long time, he let his thoughts drift back to his arranged wife.
How was she doing now?
A long time ago - he couldn’t remember when - he heard something about her name being linked to fashion. He couldn’t remember the details also but he remembered distinctly that it was about fashion. So was she a style icon now? Is that where she spent all their money?
What was she doing with her life? How did she spend her time when she was not wasting money? Did she have a lover now?
He felt a surge of possessiveness go through him and he clenched his fists. He remembered their wedding night and the passionate way she responded to him. He remembered touching every inch of her and achieving her surrender. She was still his. No man should have touched her.
So she can’t have a lover, but you can?
He shook his head at his traitorous conscience. But it was right. He had no right for he didn’t honor his marriage vows either. He’d spent years dating several women and discarding them just like he did before he was married.
Yet there was one thing he couldn’t admit out loud.
It was that Cassia still haunted his thoughts whenever he was with them.
In bed, he remembered her. He remembered how she smelled, how soft her skin felt and the sound of her cries as he drove her higher and higher to her pleasure.
That night, ten years ago, he believed that they had a chance. But come morning, he was presented with more lies and deceit. So he cast her out and hurt her.
But his actions were justified, right?
Cassia was the reason why he has not found the girl he truly wanted to settle down with. Now, time was ticking for him. He was thirty-four years old and he still didn’t have a family.
Another pang of loneliness hit him in the chest and it was a heavy blow. He bowed his head and felt the cold touch of the glass on his forehead.
But then again, he did not deserve a family. How could he when he couldn’t even sleep at night? How could he sleep beside his wife without waking her up with his nightmares? How could he let his son sleep when he would be screaming through the night?
How could he find the right woman for him when he, himself, was a broken man?
Antonio arrived and sat.
“We have to talk.”
“You already said that earlier.”
“I always say that yet you never listen.”
Nikos sighed and then ran his hand through his hair in frustration. He sat on the chair opposite Antonio’s and placed his forearms on the table.
“What?” he hissed.
“I don’t like the way you’re living your life. It’s like you’re just being forced to exist.”
“I am. And how can you say that I’m not living my life? I have! Andrade-Demakis International is now the most successful company under my hands! I have worked hard for that and everyone can see the results. My hotel and restaurant business is also flourishing and I am spending my time trying to make it more successful! Now tell me again how I am not living.”
“That’s work. And you work very hard, Nikos. I know your work drives you. But I remember a certain man from the past. He had great visions and he always had enthusiasm and hope shining in his eyes as we planned for our future while we were still in the university. I don’t see that man now, Nikos. All I see is a robot programmed to work hard every day of his life with no emotion or enjoyment.”
“I am not a robot. I’m just a broken man. Nothing can fix me now and I will forever be haunted by what I suffered.”
“Then you’re an idiot. You have everything to live for, you just don’t see it. First of all, you have a marriage you should start now. You have a wife you think the worse of. But the truth is Cassia is one of the most kind-hearted people I know.”
Nikos scoffed. Now why did the conversation shift towards his wife once more?
“Kind-hearted spoiled brat?”
“That’s not true. You know if only you would look closer, you’d realize that all you believe about her is a lie. A lie you built so that you could distance yourself from her. You crave connection yet you shun everyone away, Nikos. And I am sick of it.”
“What do you want me to do?!” he snarled in agitation.
“For starters, you could go to Cassia. Apologize for the way you behaved. Ask her to for another chance for you and your marriage. This time, don’t mess it up. If you want a family of your own, do it now before it’s too late. Get to know her. Spend some time with her. And maybe you’ll find out she’s the one you’ve been looking for all along,” Antonio challenged
Nikos was silent for a moment and then he threw his head back and laughed.
“I doubt that. If there’s someone out there for me, I haven’t met her yet.”
Antonio shook his head sadly.
“Well then, if you do not like that approach...let me remind you of this. You have to have an heir. And if you do, your son or your daughter will inherit everything. Cassia is supposed to be the mother or else both corporations slip through your fingers. Let me tell you also that it has been ten years. Cassia is not getting any younger. She’s already twenty-nine and you are thirty-four. I really think it’s time for both of you to settle down.”
Nikos continued laughing.
“I don’t even see myself being with her. How can we start a family when we’re so hostile to each other? She hates my guts, Antonio. She would sooner stab me with a knife than go to bed with me.”
“Well, I can’t blame her. Did you ever give her a reason to like you? All you’ve been showing her is that asshole side of yours,” Antonio replied and Nikos glared at him.
“What do you want me to do?”
“I’ve been telling you that over and over but you don’t listen. My friend, what I want you to do is to start living your life again, and if you want what I have, better make up with your wife before it’s too late. As the saying goes: You never know what you have until it is gone.”
“Wise words as ever, Antonio. When I am talking to you it’s like I am talking to an old soul in the wrong generation. But no amount of wise words will make me change my mind about her. Not now, not ever.”
“An old soul in the wrong generation?” Antonio barked and then he laughed. “It’s just that I’ve been through so much in the past that it made me wiser.”
Nikos just sat back and nodded. He knew perfectly well what Antonio had been through. There was a time in Antonio’s life when he was in worse shape than him. But his friend had struggled through it and emerged a much better man.
Antonio stood up and then sighed. Slowly, he started to walk towards the door.
“Well, at least I tried,” he whispered under his breath.
“Stop matchmaking for the two of us Antonio. We’re like oil and water; we will never mix.”
“Is that really me you’re convincing, Nikos? Or is that yourself? What is it about Cassia that every time I mention her, you look as if you want to run far away yet your eyes light up with life at the same time?”
Nikos gritted his teeth and placed his head in his hands. Why did he get the feeling that something really terrible was about to happen? Why did he get this sudden premonition that something big was waiting for him in the future? And why did Antonio’s words feel like they were nothing but absolute truth?
“I’ll never be with her, Antonio. She’s not the one for me. Never have been, never will be.”