My gaze wanders up to our villa. I close my eyes, imagine that she is standing up there again, looking at me and smiling. That smile takes me back to the day I met her. Without knowing what’s in store for me.
“Remember this! The day after tomorrow our new guests will arrive! We still have to prepare everything”, my mother calls after me. I leave the villa, stroll along the white wall that separates the sea from us. With a smile on my lips I listen to the sound of the waves, when they crash against the rocks I feel the cool wetness on my warm skin. Dreamily I walk on, walking through the small alleys, greeting the shopkeepers. I know almost every one of them. Here, on Skopelos I grew up. Summer, sun, sea. This is my life. Freedom, heat and happiness. A strange woman running against me tears me from my thoughts. My gaze straightens. I look into ice blue eyes that sparkle with her smile. “Λυπάμαι! ( Sorry )” One word is enough to show me she’s not from here. Her pronunciation, she’s trying too hard. “It’s okay!” Surprised, the woman looks at me. “You speak English?” I nod. She smiles again. “From where? Curiosity. “From my mother. “She taught me early,” I tell her. “Anyway, never mind, have a nice day.” I want to walk past her, but she stops me, puts her hand around my wrist. Her skin feels soft and smooth. I don’t mind her touching me, it’s okay. I look at her smiling. “I’m new here, maybe you can show me a nice place where I can do my work.” Why do I get the feeling she just made up that excuse? “If you like to let go of me.” Embarrassed, she smiles, follows my lead. “I’m Shirley, by the way.” I smile back at her. “Nice to meet you. I’m Juliet. Come, I’ll show you the most beautiful place I know.” Even though I don’t have the slightest idea why I enjoy her presence, I don’t rack my brain, just let it come to me.
We walk along a small path, past the many trees that hide the place well. Shirley told me that she’s from England and will be staying here for a few weeks. “If you want to be alone, now you know where you can go,” I say, step out onto the rock. Smiling, I look at her, can see the speechlessness on her face. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” I sit down, look out at the blue water, feel the soft breeze on my face. “Breathtaking,” breathes Shirley, sits down beside me. I look at her, look at her from the side. Beautiful. A wave of emotion comes over me. It’s funny. I don’t know her, but I feel like I know exactly how she thinks and what she feels. Thirty minutes ago she came into my life, turned it upside down. Only with her manner. She’s just like me. No one I’ve brought here has ever appreciated and admired this view as much as I do. Only with her, it’s different. She seems overwhelmed. “Do you like it?” Shirley looks at me. In her eyes, I seem to be drowning, how funny. The blue, it reminds me of the sea, it’s clear and transparent, like the water. “Like it? That’s putting it too small! It’s indescribable! I don’t know how I could describe this place to anyone else. I smile. “You can’t. You must see it.” “Exactly.” We look at each other, silently, listen to the sound of the sea, the birds chirping, the bees buzzing. The sun shines down on us. I feel different under her gaze. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, but I feel like it’s fitting in between us. Is there such a thing? Familiar at first sight? A deep connection right from the start? I don’t know her, but I like her. I like her smile that just falls on her lips as I look at her. I like her apricot-scented, sweet, unassuming, mature scent. “I don’t know you Juliet, but you seem likeable,” she jokes. Are you thinking the same thing as me? Do you also wonder if we know each other, have seen each other before? “Thanks, I can only return this!” I poke her with my shoulder. We smile at each other with embarrassment. Suddenly, Shirley gets up. “I’d say we’re going swimming, or do you have plans?” I look at her in amazement. With a broad grin on her lips, she runs down the path to the sea, of course I follow her. Together we jump into the water. Without thinking, with all our clothes on. It is liberating to be here with her, to feel the cool wetness on the hot skin. Her manner seems so positive and blossoming that she’s crazy about me. Shirley drives herself through her wet brown hair, swimming around me. “What are you doing here? How do you spend your spare time?” She’s interested in me. “Well, I’m a photographer and a writer. So I write mostly. Or I walk through the alleys, taking pictures. In the evening, I usually help out at my parents’ restaurant.” I explain to her, watching her. Shirley comes closer to me, but stays a little bit away from me. “Sounds good,” she whispers. Again we look at each other. That look from her, it drives me crazy, because it triggers something in me that I do not know, do not know exactly what it should mean. All I know is that her eyes shine under the sun, they shine, shine, as if they were not real. I take the small piece of courage that is still inside me, swim around her, approach her from behind and put my arms around her body. I am close to her, very close, can smell her, feel her skin, this smooth, seemingly untouched skin. Maybe I don’t want to admit it to myself because I find it strange, no crazy. But in the end I realize that my body is haunting hers, even though I don’t know anything about her. Just her name, a few facts and her smell. “What are you doing?” she asks quietly, turning her head towards me. Close, damn close. I’d only have to move a little bit forward and I could kiss her, find out what those pink, full lips are hiding. She looks at me, says nothing. We feel each other’s desire. Like crazy. The look she gives me, I can’t forget it. No, if I were to forget it, I would forget this feeling too. And I don’t want to. The experience of meeting a stranger and being able to do anything without worrying about it. I realize she’s gonna leave. And before she does, I give her a feathery kiss on the tip of her nose. Shirley smiles inside, moves away from me. Her hand slips away from mine. She stands on the beach, looking at me. “Will I see you again?” I ask. “Maybe, who knows! Fate decides, not me”, I hear her say before I throw myself into the cold water and enjoy the moment I had with her. Maybe she did not feel it, but that does not buzz around in my head, no, it is just about what I feel, and that is freedom. When I show up again, she’s gone. It’s fate that decides, not me.
“And you met this person just like that?” my best friend asks me. I nod, smile. “She must have been great to see you smile like that!” I look at her and laugh. “No, it wasn’t the person that was so great, it was this feeling that was there. I’ve never felt anything like it before,” I explain. “You better not tell Dias that!” Slowly the liberating feeling fades away, it disappears, just in one sentence. But she’s right. I shouldn’t tell him, perhaps I’ll keep it to myself, dream of the strange woman who smells of apricots and has the most beautiful smile on her lips. Yes, I’ll keep it in my memory, for me alone. I may never see her again, but this day will stay. “Juliet, are you coming?” cries my father. I apologize to my friend and run away. He greets me with a smile. “Very well, then the shift can begin!” He’s right. In front of our restaurant again a lot of people are sitting and waiting to get their food. So I get to work like I do every night. Only this night is different. After an hour, when it’s already dawning, the candles on the blue tables start to work, I find them. Shirley. She’s sitting at a table, just not alone. I don’t know if it bothers me, I don’t know. Her line comes to mind. Fate decides, not me. So it’s fate that she’s sitting here? I straighten my braid and my shirt and I go to her table. The black-haired man smiles at me nicely. A nice gesture, which I return. I like him, I don’t mind him sitting with her. “What can I get you?” No sooner do I speak than her eyes lift off the menu. My green eyes meet her blue. Her smile appears, makes her face sparkle. Shirley is wearing the same clothes as she did at lunch today, only with a black fabric jacket over her top. Her hair is a little wavy, probably from the water. I smile dreamily. “We’d like some good wine. And number 28 with it,” the man says, giving me the menus of the two. “All right.” For a moment I look at Shirley, catch her eyes. From one moment to the next, I’m in a good mood. I give the order to my colleague, before I can go outside again, I bump into my father. He looks at me, a smile appears on his lips. “You are very happy today.” I shrug my shoulders. “Maybe.” I mumble. My smile does not disappear. It just widens as I spot Shirley walking toward the bathroom and giving me a hand signal. She wants me to follow her. “Oh, yeah? You sure there’s no reason?” My father knows me, very well, he probably knows that my good mood is because of one person. But I know it’s because of how I feel about her, it’s just different. And I don’t want that to be taken away from me. “Excuse me, but I have to go to the bathroom,” I say, wink at him and run down the stairs. But not to the toilets, Shirley is at our exit, which leads out to the sea. No sooner has she spotted me than she pulls me by the hand through the long old stone corridor. We stand in front of each other, look at each other. Shirley leans against the wall, smiles, puts her arms around my neck. I swallow. It’s different now, this feeling that’s inside me. She’s close, just about to kiss me. But I don’t know if I want to, really. Who is this man she’s sitting at the table with? Does he know what she’s doing here? Probably not, right? I want to listen to my mind, but my body is louder. My hands want to go over her hips, explore her body, touch her flawless skin, kiss her, breathe her natural scent. “What a coincidence seeing you again,” breathes Shirley. I smile. “Fate decides, not you.” Her face is radiant again. And I’m blown away. It’s fascinating. “Shirley?” cries a man. In an instant, we drift apart. I laugh. So does she. It’s inspiring. “So long,” she whispers and leaves me. I have no choice but to smile and dream again.