Thalia didn’t like ruining people’s lives. It was simply her job, and somebody had to do it.
She put on her pencil skirt outfit, smart enough to get some modicum of respect but simple enough for people not to start hitting on her. Hair pulled up in a tight ponytail, any tighter and her migraines would come back again.
She filled up her briefcase with the necessary paperwork, her legal tablet, she checked to make sure she had the documents downloaded and ready to be signed cryptographically, and her water bottle. She never went anywhere without her water bottle. No, it did not contain water, rather it was full of vodka.
She got the usual disapproving glance from her assistant for it but she didn’t care. Instead of meeting at the office, she called her at home so she could drive her to Piraeus port.
“Goodmorning, Miss Thalia. Hope you’re feeling up to the trip?” Bekka said from the driver’s seat.
Thalia placed her stuff at the back seat and sat there, like one does when getting a taxi. “Yes, I’m fine, thank you, Bekka. It’s rather late for a goodmorning anyway.” She straightened her shirt. “And yes, I’m feeling fine. It’s not like I’ll be staying there for too long, it’s just a couple of hours.”
“Of course.” Bekka drove, taking them into the street and headed towards Piraeus. “Your coffee is in the cup holder.”
Thalia hadn’t noticed. She took a sip of her coffee from the takeaway cup. Lovely. “Did you check the weather? It is February, you know. Last week it was windy.”
“Yes, I checked, it’s nice and breezy. Might get a bit chilly but that’s all. To be expected in Serifos, it’s all rather exposed there. I made sure to check because we went there with my boyfriend last Spring and we happened to have such a bad weather, wind was blasting for three days. We had to hunker down and wait inside the hotel until it stopped.” She bit her lip, glancing back at Thalia from the rearview mirror, “Not that he complained or anything.”
Thalia shut her eyes in annoyance. She wasn’t jealous that her younger, prettier, livelier assistant was having a better love life than she did. No sir. Anyone could claim to a better love live than Thalia, since hers was practically nonexistent.
“He still has that friend of his I told you about, by the way?” Bekka glanced back as she drove on the National road heading south. “You remember, right? He’s thirty, your age, and he’s quite eligible if you ask me…”
Thalia shut her eyes tight. She was beginning to get a migraine again. She took another sip of her coffee, some caffeine helped sometimes but only slightly. “Bekka,” she said calmly. “I told you, I don’t need you to set me up with a boyfriend.”
“I said I don’t want it!” Thalia snapped at her.
Bekka didn’t speak but the drive was too long for her to manage to finish it in silence. At some point after about five minutes she started talking again as if picking up the conversation from the last sentence. “It’s just that Valentine’s Day is today, Miss.”
“It’s the day for everyone to be in love?” She said it sweetly, and of course she did. The little fox was in love after all.
“Love isn’t for everyone, Bekka.”
“That’s such a sad thing to say, Miss. Of course love is for everyone. And you’re still able to find it.”
“Allow me to rephrase that, then,” Thalia said with annoyance. “I’m not looking for love. Not today, not in the immediate future, so please stop trying to set me up with your boyfriend’s gym buddies.”
Bekka bit her lip and glanced back. “You should see his abs.”
“Then you take him then!” Thalia said, exasperated.
“I already got my own and I’m very happy indeed. Tonight, we’ve got this entire thing planned for Valentine’s. We’re going to this hotel called Say, it’s very chic, quite expensive but it’s only for one night so what the hell, right? And Michael is picking me up in the afternoon, we’re going to go on a picnic together. He’ll give me flowers and chocolate. And then we’ll go back to the hotel, it has a jacuzzi in the suite. We’ll get all hot and bothered inside the jacuzzi, but not any oral action or anything yet, so we can pat each other with soft fluffy towels and then we’ll go to the bed…”
“No more details, please!”
“Oh, boo! We’re both adults here.”
“Yes, but we’re working.”
Bekka shrugged. “Yeah, but as soon as you come back and I come pick you up from the ferry, I’m clocking out. No more work calls, no emails, no texts. Just me and Michael, getting it on. Oh yeah…”
Thalia shut her eyes and covered her face. Okay, she couldn’t blame her. Bekka was young, excitable, and in love. She should be bothered by listening to what sexy lovers night she had planned with her boyfriend. Who, by the way, she had met once and yes, he was fit and muscular and Thalia understood how Bekka wanted to climb that hunk and never get off.
For a second, she started imagining how his gym buddy might have looked like. More of the same, right? Would he have a six pack? Thalia loved a six pack. Of course it had been years since she had any sex whatsoever, especially with work being so demanding all this time…
What was she thinking?
Thalia finished her coffee, she actually wanted to take a sip of her water bottle but she knew Bekka would notice so she didn’t, and looked outside the window. There wasn’t much to see on the drive, but once they got near the sea the view was much better. Then it became a mess again deeper inside Piraeus. It was just a busy port, full of cars and dirty buildings, really. The good parts were further on. Oh, how she could remember the giddiness of taking a ferry for a Greek island when she was younger. It was always exciting, both the trip and the destination. She had friends, and yes, boyfriends too. They took the ferry to some island and had so much fun, partying and drinking and eating lovely seafood and staying up all night long.
Right now the mere thought of staying up late gave her a hangover. The thirties came hard and fast at you before you realised what was happening.
Bekka drove her to the right pier. “There it is, the Adamantios Korais. Make sure you grab everything you need and call me tonight to come pick you up.”
“Oh no. You have a date all set up. Just enjoy it, I’ll take a taxi.”
“Are you sure?” Bekka said, way to excited to get the hell out of there.
“Yes! I have the app on my phone, remember? Now go. Have fun with your boyfriend, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind seeing you a few more hours today.”
Bekka sniffled. “You’re the best, you know that?”
Thalia shook her head. “Goodbye.”
She grabbed her briefcase and her ticket. It felt weird not having luggage and getting onto a ferry, but she wasn’t going to stay in Serifos tonight. She was coming back straight away as soon as she delivered some papers.
The smell hit her like a truck. The port didn’t smell nice, exactly. It was full of that marine, fishy smell that sticks on the ropes they toss over the ships. It smelled like diesel, and people. Of which not many were around, since this was basically still winter. In the summer this place would be insane, people stepping over you to get through. Now it was busy, but spacious. The cars drove inside the belly of the ferryboat and Thalia walked on the ramp along with the other passengers. She felt weird once again not dragging a travel bag behind her but she didn’t really need anything more than her luggage and her phone.
The smells brought it all back. The summer trips they couldn’t afford, the friends, the smiles, under the sun and the sea. So nice. It was crazy to think that it was only ten years ago, even shorter than that.
Back then she couldn’t imagine being shortlisted for becoming a department head at the Insolvency Service.
She got on board, overwhelmed with memories and emotion, and embarked towards Serifos island.
To be continued.
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