It was a still night with barely a breath of wind. Moonlight illuminated the garden. Exotic plants and insects revelled in the warm breeze, heavy with the scent of jasmine that floated into the open windows of the old stone house. A ceiling fan wafted the humid night air and cooled her where she lay.
The cat, who’d slept for the past four hours in the doorway leading from the bedroom to the courtyard, caught the scent of anticipation in the air. Sensing the change in atmosphere, he disappeared under a mulberry bush and hid in the shadows. Suddenly, the oppressive silence was rent by the terrifying screams of a woman in anguish. The sound reverberated across the stony olive groves and carried as far as the village square. Where, in the heat of the hot August night, families slept in their courtyards, under the stars. They have heard these screams many times before and are not afraid.
The cries come from the Templeman house where the English people live. Incomers who live on the edge the village where they keep themselves to themselves. She is a complicated woman to know, anxious with wary eyes and a quick temper. Apparently the opposite of her partner. The cries are hers, and not a single person who hears them can imagine the pain and anguish that caused them.
Jack loves the position of the house, just outside the village. The absence of light pollution made his favourite pastime so much more enjoyable. He was in the courtyard, lounging back on some soft cushions, observing the billions of stars in the Milky Way when he heard Ellie’s screams. Not again, not so soon he thought racing towards the bedroom, like a madman, scattering cushions and the stargazing book he’d been reading, in his wake.
“Oh my God, Ellie, Ellie…..”
He always reacted in the same way and was continually on high alert. They’d endured the same ritual for twelve years now, and had bought this house because of its secluded location. No one came here, not unless invited. Ellie preferred it that way, it helped her to cope, and she had been improving. Her Psychiatrist reduced her medication, and she’d taken some positive steps forward. Until recent weeks. Jack had no idea what had happened. All he knew, was that she was sliding back into oblivion, and he wouldn't let that happen. Not again.
Fumbling in the darkness for the light switch, he took a deep breath. He’d no idea what he’d find and knew to tread warily. Only two days ago, he’d found his wife a quivering wreck, hiding under the bed, clutching a kitchen knife. A stiff breeze picked up, out of the blue, and the sound of the patio door bang against its frame had him leaping backwards. He stood flat against the wall, defence reflexes quivering. He detected a strangled cry, coming from the bathroom. Where the hell was she this time, he thought? Her choice of imaginative hiding places belied the fact that she was sleepwalking. The cry came again, a little stronger, and he was tempted to rush into the bathroom. Something he knew would be a mistake. Any sudden movement could be a potential disaster. It was no ordinary woman in the bathroom and she was having no ordinary nightmare.
Eleanor Templeman was in an unusually buoyant mood, despite the sleepless night she had. The recurring dream was something of a conundrum. Jack always assumed the dreams were about her incarceration and torture, they were not but were equally as unsettling. Last night she’d had the usual dream. The worst one. The one that left her feeling bereft.
It was the same dream. The warm, sticky hand, clutching tightly hold of hers was not an adults hand. It was a child's. It felt the same size as hers. She gripped the hand as though her life depended on it and the warm, gentle touch of the hand made her feel safe. It was good to feel safe. Then she heard the water, rushing water, like a river. A big river. Suddenly she was falling. She screamed. The icy water takes her. She can’t breathe as the fast flowing water rushes away. Suddenly the hand is gone. She hears voices. People are shouting.
Ellie always woke at the same point in the dream. Was it a dream, or was it a memory? She had no idea. All she knew, was that after that dream her mental stability always took a downturn. She would be depressed for days. The feeling of loss inexplicable. This time she had to control it, she thought. It was bad enough that Jack had found her cowering under the cold shower. Soaking wet and still wearing her pyjamas.
Ellie looked at her reflection in the mirror and applied the finishing touches to her perfectly made-up face, noticing that the scars were barely visible now. A memory made her shiver, and she struggled to focus as she pushed a stray hair from her face. Determined to finish getting ready by herself, Ellie tied the clasp on the beautiful pearl necklace that Jack gave her for her last birthday. Once upon a time, it was something she thought she’d never have. The birthday, not the necklace. Looking steadily, with icy pale, blue eyes, at the result of her handiwork, Ellie was content, and it prompted her to do something unusual. She smiled, something she hadn’t done for a very long time.
Jack, her husband of twenty-eight years, whistled merrily, as he came up from the cellar with his arms full of dusty wine bottles. He caught the tail end of the smile and almost fell backwards, down the cellar steps. He loved Ellie, always had. The change in her personality wasn't her fault, and the mood swings and tantrums were understandable. Post Traumatic Stress was a terrible thing. She’d come back from the brink, and he was grateful, for every little breakthrough and chink, which appeared in her impenetrable armour. It was twelve years ago now, twelve long and traumatic years for them both. Surprised, at the strangeness of the situation, they laughed, and Ellie smiled a bit more. Happy, Jack disappeared into the house to finish his preparations for their visitors.
Ellie loved to cook but nowadays she rarely cooked at all. Odd that she should feel hungry, she rarely did. New feelings. Should she let them in or resist as she had so many times before?
The typically Cretan kitchen, with its stone worktops and open shelves, was rarely used. But today, she appreciated its simplicity and remembered that she used to enjoy food, cooking it and eating it. That was before. Before then. She pushed the memory away, concentrating hard on the task at hand. The smell of roast lamb with rosemary, roast vegetables, oregano, and thyme mingled provocatively and wafted out of the open doors, and windows, into the beautiful courtyard where hibiscus, jasmine, and oleander jostled for position. The high sandstone walls were covered with grapevines and offered respite from the heat, during the hot summer months. Now, the intense heat of the day had dispersed, and the sun had disappeared below the horizon, prompting the flowers to release their exotic perfume. Ellie loved the sounds and smell of the night when the grasshoppers took over from the noisy cicadas, and tiny geckos appeared, searching for insects. She loved the sanctuary of this house. It was essential to her wellbeing. But a change was coming. She could almost taste it.
The Templeman’s had lived in Crete for a little over ten years and had created an oasis of tranquility, after bringing the old farmhouse back to life. Ellie enjoyed the outdoors, and open spaces and so she and Jack often sat at the cypress table, under ancient grapevines, where a multitude of exotic plants and flowers dispensed their heady perfume. It was a beautiful place to entertain friends, some of whom would be arriving soon. It was a sanctuary Ellie would never give up, whatever the pressure.
The table, covered with a lovely white linen cloth, Ellie bought from a street market, complimented the roses, cut fresh from the garden and created a delightful ambience in the candlelight. Ellie was a perfectionist. That hadn't changed. In ten minutes her guests would arrive, and she was ready. So Ellie settled herself into a comfortable chair and admired her work. Sighing contentedly, she watched the pastel blues and pinks of the sky, surrender to a blanket of velvety darkness. Night time fell quickly in Crete, obscuring the view of the mountains that stretched up behind the house, like sentinels. Was it possible, she thought, that she was safe here?
A sudden commotion, at the gate, startled and alarmed her, shattering her shaky confidence. Ellie had insisted on the installation of the impressively large gates, as soon as the building work on the house was finished, to keep out the ‘unwelcome element’ of the village. Jack agreed with her, at the time, “If you insist Ellie but there isn't any need. There are unwelcome elements everywhere. Here is no exception.”
Consequently, to keep Ellie happy, the most enormous gates available, were installed, together with a high perimeter wall. Most houses in the village had something similar. The villagers to keep their goats in, Ellie’s to keep people out. And right now, there was an uninvited ‘unwelcome element’ rattling her gate. Her buoyant mood evaporated in an instant and she looked around, in panic, for Jack, who was nowhere to found.
“God, you can always count on a bloody man to disappear when you need him!” she snarled. It was unfair and she knew it. That fact together with her knowledge of the miscreant at the gate spurred her into action.
Ellie’s hands sought the thin scar that encircled her neck. It was rarely far from her mind. The pearl necklace disguised it but she would never forget the day it became a permanent feature of her life. The demands, from the interloper, at the gate, intensified and she began to shake, cursing Jack for his absence when she needed him.
“I must do this alone. I must do this alone,” Ellie repeated to herself, over and over. It was a mantra she’d used during her recovery, and she focussed hard on it, and it alone. The calming effect was almost immediate. It wasn’t Jack’s fault. It was hers. She should be able to cope with unplanned visitors after all this time, but she trusted no one. It was twelve years since her life had changed, beyond recognition and she’d left the job she loved.
The racket at the gate intensified. Massive meaty fists shook the heavy metal gates until they slammed hard against the surrounding wall. Ellie was sure the whole village must be able to hear his ranting and his dogs barking, why the hell couldn't Jack?
She knew him, the brute disturbing her peace. He’d be dead drunk as usual. Telling herself that he’d pay for destroying her peace, she got to her feet and edged towards the courtyard door. She leaned against it for a second, to compose herself before yanking it open.
Drunk as he was, he couldn't fail to notice her mood. He hadn't chosen a good time. If his appearance frightened her, she didn’t show it, as she looked him up and down with glacial contempt. Her air of authority floored him, causing him to stop his assault on the gates and his arms to flop by his sides. He couldn't look her in the eye and kicked his mangy, underfed, dog sending it scampering, to distract himself. This woman terrified him like no other human being ever had. He’d pushed his luck at their first meeting, and he remembered it well.
Their first exchange took place a few years ago, not long after she and her husband arrived from England. The land surrounding her house wasn't enclosed then, and so he had open access to it. It was early morning, and he sauntered onto her ground, like he always did, with his dogs in tow. His bullet belts strapped across his chest, crammed with shotgun cartridges, and his trusty old shotgun hanging carelessly across his shoulders gave him a rakish air, or so he thought. A fan of Mexican westerns, he loved to swagger around the village and watch the weaklings run for cover. He was going to shoot rabbits, in one of the few places there were any left to kill, like he had since he was a boy. He’d had a pounding headache, dry mouth, and lightheadedness, the result of his antics the night before when he noticed the woman walking purposefully towards him. For some strange reason, he felt fear. The hairs on the back of his head stood on end at the very sight of her. He was surprised because he was afraid of no one and she was just a woman. He strode towards her, attempting to mirror her confidence but the look of utter contempt on her face, froze him to the spot. Pretty much the same as it did now.
At the time, he’d been tempted to shoot her but quickly realised he wouldn't get away with it. Even in Crete. Instead, he’d clumsily grabbed the shaft of his gun and pointed it. Not actually at her. Past her body, to where he was heading. Still, she held him with that look, those icy blue eyes. His legs were shaking as he tried to tell her, with all the arrogance he could muster, that he was going to shoot rabbits. He’d expected her to capitulate, he was a physically imposing man, standing just under six feet tall. Big for a Cretan. His broad-shouldered, hairy body, suggested menace. Most women made themselves scarce when he put in an appearance. This one didn’t. No, her ice blue eyes held him with that look.
It was a look that registered, with disgust, his filthy open shirt and the huge belly that burst forth over the waistband of his trousers. The woman looked with revulsion, at the morsels of stew, that clung to the hairs on his chest and waistcoat, and demanded his name. He replied with a slight tremor in his voice.
“My name is Kostas, and as I told you already, you stupid woman, I am going to shoot rabbits.”
He moved to push past her but didn't get far because she barred his way with a large walking stick. He shivered, remembering the cold, blue, eyes whose gaze never wavered. He was surprised when she spoke that her Greek was excellent. But, what he recalled most clearly, was the look she gave him. It instilled in him a fear that he couldn’t explain. It was irrational. She was a slight woman, slender and athletic and yet she commanded respect. It was a new experience for him.
The bad feeling, she’d given him, followed him like a storm cloud for weeks afterward. The woman meant every word she said, and like an animal, that instinctively knows when it faces danger, he knew. Knew, he’d be leaving and that he wouldn’t be coming back. He could still vividly recall the shiver, which ran up and down his spine when she spoke. It reminded him of his father and the tone he adopted when another beating was imminent. It was a dreadful feeling, and it was stupid of him, to threaten her with his dog because she was afraid of nothing. She looked at the dog like a raptor might look at meat and took a step towards it. The dog turned on its heels and ran for its life, and Kostas quickly did the same. He’d avoided her since.
He’d been sent back to give the woman a message. His shredded nerves were not calmed by the fact that he was dead drunk. It was too late now, he told himself, as he heard her bang the courtyard door open. She came into view and he began to tremble, surely Mr. Kallergis would forgive him if he ran? Purposefully approaching the gates, she slowly removed a large rusty key from her apron pocket before fixing her eyes on Kostas’ face. He’d been dreading it. She bore down on him like a hunter bearing down on its prey and the false bravado he’d managed to muster evaporated. The trembling intensified. She noticed. He’d no choice but to be there. His boss would be angry if he didn’t complete his task. Spittle formed at the corners of his mouth, as he attempted a smile, displaying a mouthful of rotten teeth.
Ellie spoke to him in Greek, quickly, without a trace of welcome, “What do you want Kostas? My guests are about to arrive.”
Kostas pulled himself up to his full height, “You know Mrs. Ellie,” he slurred, staggering backwards away from the opening gate. “You know that Mr. Kallergis wants to speak to you about you doing a little job for him. Yes?”
Ellie looked at him haughtily. It was a look she’d perfected over the years. “No Kostas,” she said, looking impatiently along the lane.
Thankfully at that moment, her friends rounded the corner, they’d be at the house soon. Grateful for the respite, Ellie gestured towards them, looking at him meaningfully. Kostas realised that he’d picked the wrong time, he needed to apply pressure and he didn’t want witnesses. He’d have to come back later.
“Alright Mrs. Ellie, I’ll go,” he said, looking sadly at his feet. “But I’ll be back. The boss won’t take no for an answer,” he laughed, staggering off drunkenly into the night.
“Jesus, what did that reprobate want Ellie?” Beth asked, in her gentle Western Isles accent. Not caring that Kostas would hear what she said. She wrinkled her nose in disgust, as the stinking Cretan staggered past her. Breathless, from the short walk, she wearily trudged the last few steps into Ellie and Jack’s courtyard before she stopped to catch her breath. Beth was a tall skinny woman, and a heavy smoker and the exertion had taken its toll.
She loved the Templeman’s house and smiled, absorbing the atmosphere. The comfortable elegance of the old courtyard, filled with scent and colour, was precisely to her taste. She appreciated the beautiful ambience that Ellie managed to create. The table looked lovely, with twinkling candles warming the ancient, mellow sandstone. Yes, she loved this house. Realising that she’d forgotten her manners she quickly turned to Ellie. She’d noticed her discomfort, at having to deal with that reprobate from the village. A real piece of work, he was. She’d quickly pulled herself together, ever the perfect hostess, and welcomed her guests as if nothing had happened. She was good at putting on a brave face, Beth had noticed it before.
Ellie lied when she told Beth the stinking Cretan wanted to shoot rabbits on her land. It was a reasonable explanation, but Beth knew that she’d lied. She enveloped Ellie in a tight embrace and resolved to follow it up later. She wouldn’t get off with it that easily, there was more to this than met the eye. There had been a change, in Ellie, over the past few weeks, she was retreating again, and that couldn't be allowed to happen, not after all their hard work, encouraging her to be sociable and join in with events in the village. But now, others vied for her attention, so she’d have to leave it for now. Keeping a wary eye on her friend, Beth dragged her lanky frame towards Jack, who’d appeared in the kitchen doorway with an armful of wine bottles.
The courtyard hummed with the sound of the friends gossiping, and the prospect of sampling some of the best Cretan wines. Jack’s wine collection was spectacular, and he wasted no time in producing a full-bodied red and dispensed it with a flourish. The chatter intensified, and questions were tentatively asked about the altercation at the gate.
“That guy upset you, Ellie,” Nils said sadly, in his thick Swedish accent, as he kissed her on either cheek.
Ellie searched for a believable explanation, that was not the actual truth, and so didn't reply instantly. He took this as reluctance to discuss the matter. Ellie was sensitive. She had a past. Nils knew because, despite her attempts to cover them, he’d seen the scars. And he had seen her face clearly as he’d approached her talking to Kostas. He hated the guy and could see that he’d upset her.
Nils was a bear of a man. A massive muscular Swede, whose physique now showed the effects of too much good wine and a passion for food. He had an equally big heart and a soft spot for Ellie. He could always manage to make her smile. She was trying not to show that the nasty, unpleasant drunk had upset her. What was a thief, and villain, like him doing here, bothering Ellie? Nils was worried, “What did he want Ellie?” he asked again, in heavily accented English.
“Oh nothing much,” Ellie said, forcing a smile, attempting to appear cheerful. She didn’t quite pull it off.
Ellie quickly turned to her other guests, greeting them with over-enthusiastic kissing and hugging, grateful that she’d deflected Nils and Beth’s attention from their quest.
Adela, Nils’ wife, clamped Ellie, in a motherly embrace and presented her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, that she’d picked and arranged herself. Ellie smiled appreciatively, Adela was so good at that kind of thing, Ellie knew she’d never have been thoughtful enough to take the time to make one herself. It was a pity the vibrant colours, and the exuberant scent were overpowering. A bit like Adela, she thought and then mentally gave herself a telling off. The red flowers in the bouquet, clashed with the vibrant red of Adela’s hair, what was she thinking dyeing it that colour? Wasn't her hair blonde only two days before?
Still gawping, with a puzzled expression on her face, Ellie was brusquely embraced by Derek, Beth’s husband, who as usual cut to the point. “God I’m starving, the food smells wonderful Ellie. When are we eating?” he said, not waiting for a reply. He grabbed a glass of red wine from Jack and plonked himself at the table, without uttering a thank you and completely ignoring everyone else. He’d always thought that Ellie was high maintenance and couldn’t care a less if she was upset. What if one of the local ruffians had been at her gate? Bad things happen. Right. So now the reprobate had gone they could get on with their dinner. Beth cast him an irritated look, and he responded by downing the glass of red wine in one mouthful and held his glass in the air demanding another. Beth sat opposite Derek and fixed him with a no-nonsense glare. The threat was clear, mess this up, and you’ll be sorry. Ellie thought Derek didn’t look as if he could care a less.
Adela and Nils had been married for 15 years, since their late forties. Their relationship could also be a little uneasy, usually when Nils drank too much and resisted Adela’s attempts to make him behave. Ellie liked him. He was a gentle, easy going man and Adela was the opposite. She was a beautiful woman, with striking Scandinavian colouring. Why she’d dispensed with her natural blonde hair and gone for the eye-catching red colour was baffling to Ellie, who paid good money to keep her ‘natural” colour. When they also sat opposite each other, and Nils tucked into the red wine with gusto, Ellie feared the worst and disappeared into the kitchen, while her guests settled themselves down and discussed recent events in the village.
She hoped they wouldn't mention the recent visitor to the house as she reappeared with a tray of food. “Tuck in,” she told them cheerfully, throwing each of them a beautiful smile. Her eyes rested on Jack. Why was he watching her like that? And why was her radar registering a strange undercurrent? It was so unusual for him to make her feel uncomfortable. The reason wasn’t long in coming, and it was Beth who kicked it off.
“Ok, Ellie cut the bullshit. What did that cretin want earlier?” Beth said, scrutinising Ellie’s reaction to the question. She was a forthright Scotswoman, known for her brutal directness. She didn’t take any prisoners. When she wanted to extract information, she did, and to hell with the consequences.
Ellie flushed and was about to launch into her previous explanation, about Kostas wanting to shoot rabbits. When Jack, who’d been simmering away in the background, intervened.
“The guy who runs the local drug cartel, wants Ellie to do a little job for him.” He told them, absentmindedly, swirling the dark red liquid around in his glass and admiring it.
Jack put the glass down and turned his full attention to Ellie. The atmosphere was electric. The hum of chatter and clinking glasses evaporated and silence descended as five pairs of eyes turned in her direction. How the hell did he know about that? She hadn’t told him anything. Did he also know, about the harassment she’d endured over the past few weeks and how it had chipped away at her slowly growing confidence? Ellie hadn’t told him because she wanted to deal with it and didn't want him to think she was having another breakdown. And yet he knew. How?
Ellie stared at Jack and didn't say a word. How could he possibly know? Always the practical one, Beth came to the point, “What did you say to him? Tell us, Ellie. We’re all friends. Perhaps we can help?”
Ellie examined the pattern on the tablecloth as if finding any small flaw in it was her objective for the evening. The stalling tactic was a pathetic attempt to evade the question, and she knew it. She picked at a rose petal that had fallen onto her empty plate and took a sip of wine before composing herself.
“First of all,” she said, fixing them all with her sternest expression. “I told the stinking creep to go to hell and do his dirty work himself. What do you think I said?”
She was irritated, but she knew, all too well, that her friends were not the problem. “I’ve been harassed, several times, over the past few weeks. Usually, when I’ve gone to the village, or on my way back from helping at the school.”
She took another sip of wine and settled in to tell them all about it. No one was eating. Nils had stopped mid-fork. He looked almost comical with his mouth wide open and his deep blue eyes blinking in the information. Everyone was completely dumbfounded. Ellie had come to the attention of the local drug boss, and there was no doubt about it. It was seriously bad news.
Ellie noted their reaction and said, “You all know that Kallergis hates incomers to the village and that he’s recently taken over the drugs gangs in this area?”
“Beats me why the police don’t know,” Derek said scathingly, before swallowing another full glass of wine, earning him a reproachful look from Beth.
“We all know, about the corruption of the local police,” Ellie told them. “And as we also all know, there’s nothing we can do about it. Even the village elders won’t interfere. Kallergis is not a good man,” she said, swallowing hard and looking down at the tablecloth again.
“Bloody understatement,” Nils declared, banging his fist down hard on the table and finally finding his mouth, with the fork full of food he’d held on to for so long. He was upset that they’d targeted Ellie. She was such a lovely person. Why her? He thought.
“Anyway,” Ellie said, with a hint of tiredness in her voice. “Mr. Kallergis would like me to take some packages, to the mainland, for him. I have refused, twice already, and no doubt Kostas’ mission was to pressurise me into meeting the man,” she said dryly.
She decided it was time to change the subject. She would not allow the evening to be spoiled by a visit from Kostas. She was sure about that. And so, she got up from the table and passed around the food. “Let’s eat,” she said brightly, attempting to cheer up the unusually quiet visitors to her home. “Let’s not let him spoil the evening!” she said, the smile dying on her lips. The bloody man had already spoilt her evening. Sod him, she thought, raising her glass in a toast. “To our friends!”
The food disappeared fast, and the empty wine bottles began to accumulate. Conversation flowed freely, as everyone reflected on Ellie’s startling news. More than one of them was already considering how they might help with her problem.
Beth was first. “I think it’s his way of keeping us in our place,” she told them, “You’ve been helping in the village Ellie, at the school. He sees it as interference.”
Darkness enveloped the courtyard bringing with it a calmness that Ellie wasn't herself experiencing. She was fraught and every tiny noise, from the insects and animals, busy in the darkness, grated on her nerves. It was too quiet, too still. She’d experienced it before, the calm before the storm. Jack reached across the table and grasped her cold hands in his. The warmth of his touch made her smile, and the look he gave her told her that everything would be alright. She trusted Jack. If he said all was well, it was.
But Ellie was right. Something lurked in the darkness. Sitting on the stump of a tree in the pitch black, listening intently, was a dirty Cretan layabout. Bullet belts stretched across his enormous stomach as he listened. An ignorant farm hand he might be, but he could understand English, so he wasn't that stupid. Now he knew that Ellie had shared her problem with her friends and that wasn't a good thing for anyone. Kallergis hoped to isolate the woman, then get her to do his bidding, and it wouldn't help the situation if she thought she had support. Something had to be done. And then it was handed to him. On a plate. The news Jack had just shared with the little group would save him from the beating he’d surely otherwise get from Kallergis. He’d failed to get the English woman to agree to his plans, but he’d expected that. The news was an unexpected development and a good one, he thought, slithering away to tell his boss.
“Olivia is coming tomorrow,” Jack announced to the group of friends. He knew this was the reason for Ellie’s brighter mood earlier. Olivia was the ray of sunshine in Ellie’s life, and Jack knew that he came a poor second. He didn’t mind. Their bond was something special.
Adela had been unusually quiet during the meal and had said little about Ellie’s predicament because it wasn’t her problem and she preferred to keep out of things that didn't concern her. But she had an opinion, and she always loved to share her opinions. “Perhaps Olivia should cancel her visit, Ellie. It might not be safe here for her, don’t you think?” Adela said, her voice trailing off as she caught the full impact of Ellie’s hateful glare. She experienced Ellie’s anger before she even opened her mouth. The reaction to the innocent question was swift and decisive.
“No, I don’t bloody think,” Ellie spat, pushing herself up from the table, with such force, that she knocked over her chair. “I will not be intimidated by those bastards!”
And with that, she stomped off to the kitchen, on the pretext of bringing food and desperately wiped away the tears of anger that erupted and she couldn't contain. “I will not be told when I can see my child or anything else for that matter!” She shouted at the kitchen walls. She was angry, and for Ellie that wasn't a good emotion. Decisiveness had deserted her, in recent years, but she knew that if she gave in now, it would only be the start and what would be next?
Her guests were concerned about the outburst. Beth and Derek exchanged knowing glances. Ellie’s temper was frequently not under control, and Jack was a saint to put up with it. There was often little warning that the fuse was about to blow, and hell, it was a good idea to get out of the way when it did. Jack, as always, took her outburst calmly and jovially and calmly went around their guests, replenishing glasses and joking about temperamental chefs.
Derek couldn’t for the life of him see what the problem was as he rocked, back and forth, on the old chair he’d crashed in. Ignoring his fellow guests, he stared at the starlit sky and wondered why Olivia couldn’t just come another time? What was the big deal? He didn’t understand, and he couldn't care a less that Ellie had looked forward to Olivia’s visit for months. He was oblivious to everything, except the glass of wine in front of him.
Ellie busied herself with the food and thought about her daughter. Her reason for living. She was sure that if it hadn't been for the feel of Livy’s firm hands on her forehead and her gentle persuasion to get better, that she wouldn't have. Now, she was a busy young woman and couldn’t re-arrange time off work at short notice. She had a responsible job, and that was a fact. And she was coming, Ellie was sure of that, even if she had to collect her from England herself.
Decision made, Ellie fixed a smile on her face and theatrically carried the roast lamb out into the courtyard, to her waiting guests. The meal was a triumph, surrounded by roast potatoes, garlic, rosemary and roasted Mediterranean vegetables the massive chunk of meat looked and smelled sensational. For a few moments, the earlier topic of conversation seemed to be forgotten.
As they ate, Ellie relaxed, but Beth was distracted. She paused from eating, straining her ears hard to listen.
“Did you hear something, Beth?” Jack asked her.
“I thought I heard a movement of some sort,” Beth said but shrugged and played it down as she looked at Ellie, who seemed to be more relaxed. “We’re all getting paranoid, it was probably the sheep,” she said, continuing to eat. Beth lied, she was sure that she had heard something but who would be hanging about in the darkness?