Off The Cretan Track chapter 23

Off The Cretan Track chapter 23

A Chapter by Repgreece

An embarrassing conversation


Sal couldn’t be more relieved and delighted by Nick’s words if she’d tried. He didn’t think she was a crazy, stalker woman after all, in fact, he’d said that he cared about her; he’d never said that before. She was quite touched. She must have made it obvious that she was upset, which was not her intention, but unlike she’d imagined, he hadn’t teased her. He’d actually seemed genuinely concerned for her. He could be really quite sweet sometimes. Not at all like the impression he gave to every one in Agios; he was quite a sensitive soul.


Sal was over the moon that everything was okay between them now and ashamedly pleased that she was suddenly getting all this attention from him. He seemed quite happy to stay there with one arm loosely, but nonetheless almost a little possessively, around Sal’s middle. Okay, she knew it was under the pretence of them being engaged, but if there was one thing she’d found out about Nick, it was that he was useless at pretending to be content with doing something if he really wasn’t. He was sitting on the sand with his leg hitched up, his arm resting on his knee, a bottle of beer in his hand, which he was lazily taking swigs from, and Sal found herself sitting cocooned against him. She leant back into the warm, protective confines of his body and enjoyed the moment while Nick chatted to the group. She could feel his warmth on her back through his t shirt and hear the vibrations of his chest as his low, gravelly voice told the group about their quest.


“So, what do you plan to do here to find this axe of yours?” Mike, the guy who appeared to have gate crashed the party but who seemed nice enough anyway, asked. He reached out in front of him to the middle of the circle they had formed on the sand and picked up a handful of nuts from one of the bowls in the middle.


Mike had stood out from the crowd as being a little bit different from the rest, dressed in casual beige trousers and a linen shirt, rather than shorts and t-shirts which the other party goers were wearing. Appearing at some point during the football game, with two bottles of a good quality sparkling wine and food in hand, nobody had felt inclined to question who he was or why he was there.


“Well, take a look around the cemetery for a start,” Nick replied, realising that he was a little vague on what else they could do in Matala. What he really should have done was conduct more research, but once he’d got his mind set on taking the trip to Matala with Sal, he’d been more focused on getting there in time to enjoy the evening with her.


“The cemetery?” Mike questioned.


“Yes, the Roman cemetery,” Nick said, glancing behind him at the floodlit caves.


“You didn’t know about the famous caves of Matala?” Phil said with surprise. “I thought that was why most tourists come here.”


“Ah, yes, I saw the caves, but coming here was an impromptu decision on my part, and I’m afraid I didn’t do my research beforehand; I didn’t know that it was a Roman cemetery. How interesting though,” Mike said in a deep and somehow appealingly soft voice. Just from the small snippets of conversations he’d had with different members of the party, it was clear to everyone that he was a well spoken, educated man. With interest, Mike turned to gaze at the rows of openings in the cliffside, which were lit from below and looming mysteriously behind them. As he turned, the lights from the caves highlighted the streaks of sliver in his otherwise dark hair. He must have been in his early fifties, but he didn’t look it.


“They got taken over by the hippies in the sixties,” Kate interjected. “They made the caves their homes but you can imagine how the locals felt about that, especially in the sixties; most of them wouldn’t have ever seen foreigners before.”


“Yeah, the hippies were all into ‘free love’ and ‘flower power’,” Sandra said, glancing at Bob, who had laid back on the sand and appeared to have fallen asleep with his ukulele on his chest.


“That’s right so anyway, in the end a local bishop forced them out of the caves and eventually off the island completely,” Kate explained.


“Well, maybe not completely. I think they left Bob behind,” Phil joked.


On hearing his name, Bob stirred. He must have been following some of the conversation at least, as he responded by holding up two fingers and mumbling,


“Peace and love.”


The group laughed.


“So, what will you be looking for in the caves then?” Mike asked Nick.


“I’ve read that there are some wall markings in there. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at them,” Nick said, looking down at Sal. She moved her head backwards and glanced up at him, smiling, but wondering if anything at all was going to be revealed about the axe whilst they were in Matala. After all, they didn’t even know for sure that there would be any clues there; it was just a hunch.


“How well do you know the island? You’ll be at a far greater advantage if you know it in detail,” Mike pointed out.


“I’ve been here now for a couple of years and I’ve explored a fair bit of it on my bike, but we really should do a bit more research. I might find an internet café and do more tomorrow after we’ve been to the caves,” Nick said.


“I’ve been travelling around the island now for over a month. I know it pretty well. How about we put our heads together and increase the chances of finding this axe?” Mike suggested.


Hmm, Nick wasn’t so sure about that. Who was this guy anyway? Maybe he could be of some help, but then again, maybe Nick didn’t want anyone else muscling in on his and Sal’s quest. He’d reserve judgement for now.


“Sure,” Nick shrugged. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”


Mike smiled politely and took a swig of his beer. There followed a small, tense silence, which was eventually filled by Kate.


“How did you two meet by the way?” she asked out of the blue. Kate never failed to ask awkward questions at the wrong time. She was a nice enough person, and Sal knew that she was just filling in an awkward gap in the conversation, but she cringed inwardly, hoping that Nick and her could get away with not revealing their true relationship. To Sal’s surprise though, Nick was more than happy to speak up.


“Sal literally burst into my life, didn’t you?” he said, placing an affectionate hand on top of her head and glancing down at her. Sal smiled at the group but suddenly found that she didn’t have a clue where Nick was going with this. How had she ‘burst’ into his life? She took a sip of her drink and waited for clarification from Nick.


“I was looking for a job,” he went on to explain, “and my gi…” Nick’s heart lurched when he realised what he was going to say, “…friend,” he emphasised, “had recommended me to Adam, who had just set up a tour company in Agios. I was in his office, discussing the details of the job, when Sal burst through the doors.”


Sal looked up at Nick. “I did?” she said, without thinking.


He frowned slightly. Why had she said that? “Yes,” he answered, as though stating the obvious. “She had been to the beach and got sunburnt,” he said to the group, glancing down at Sal for a moment to check her reaction. Sal was also frowning slightly, as though she were thinking back but finding it difficult. Nick was on the verge of feeling insulted. He pressed on anyway, the alcohol making him bold and the pretence of their engagement being something that could fall back on later as a reason for the things he was saying. He had never verbalised what had happened that day and he was suddenly desperate for Sal to remember it. “Her cheeks were all red and glowing. She gets sunburnt really easily,” he said, using that as an excuse to catch her under the chin and turn her head to him. He couldn’t believe that she didn’t remember! “You don’t remember do you?” he whispered, his eyes burning intently into hers through the darkness.


Err, what could she say to that? She bit her lip and quickly turned her head back to the group.


“I recall those few minutes in the office when she’d entered as being brief but very enjoyable,” he grinned. She was in big trouble now for not remembering!


“Enjoyable?” Kate questioned.


“Yes, Sal insisted that I rub lotion all over her, right there in the office in front of her boss,” he said, watching Sal’s expression on her face change. Her eyes widened and she turned to him in shock, as if he’d gone crazy in what he was saying. She did remember that now, but it wasn’t anything like how he’d made it seem.


She laughed and swung her head to Kate. “He put a little lotion on my shoulders, that was all, not all over my body,” she emphasised, glaring back at Nick.

He looked amused and shrugged. “Well, I guess that was just what I’d imagined happening. Still, I was the one she handed the lotion to, so I guess she must have fancied me right from the start,” he teased.


“No I did not!” she answered instinctively, blushing furiously.


“You didn’t?” Kate asked with surprise.


Sal turned to Nick again for help, but it was a mistake.


“Looking a little rosy there Sal, what’s got you all embarrassed?” he said under his breath.


 “What are you doing?” she whispered to him, mortified by the fact that she could feel herself blushing even more fiercely.


“Getting you back for not remembering the first time we met,” he whispered back.


She looked slightly sheepish. “I did remember it… kind of.”


Nick narrowed his eyes at her. “Hmm, not good enough. Anyway, come on Sal, tell the nice people about how you couldn’t keep your hands off me.”


What was he saying? Just the words made Sal want the earth to swallow her up.


“… and remember we’re engaged,” he added.


She was trapped. But there was no way she could respond to Kate’s question. She couldn’t even bear to form a reply in her head, let alone say it aloud, if it involved admitting anything like that she ‘couldn’t keep her hands off’ Nick.


Then out of nowhere a half truth, or maybe more than a half truth, came into her head.


“Well, to be honest, I didn’t really think of Nick like that on the first day we met. But afterwards, when we worked together on my first transfer, we had a lot of fun and… well…I knew we would be good friends after that,” she finally plumped for.


“Only good friends?” Kate questioned.


Oh God Kate, shut up!


Sal gave a nervous laugh. “And the other thing,” she said with a dismissive gesture.


“What other thing darling?” she heard Nick say from behind her.


Damn it!


“You know darling,” she said turning to him with a warning expression.


A smile played at his mouth. “No, what other thing?”

She growled and, turning back to the group, she muttered quickly, “And lovers.”


Damn it, the inferno was relighting her face again with renewed force. She could just picture the self satisfaction on Nick’s face and sure enough, it was clearly evident in the words he whispered into her ear,


“There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it Sal?”


© 2011 Repgreece

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Added on August 22, 2011
Last Updated on August 22, 2011

Off The Cretan Track