Another week zoomed past, and what a strange week. After May’s sales - which were phenomenal for a first month following the release of The Assassins’ Village – everything went quiet. I put it down to a couple of things; public holidays in the UK and US, and Amazon, who brought out a seasonal offer on assorted Kindle books published from a few mid to small pub houses. Anyway, after two slow days, things picked up and we’re back on track with our sales. The Assassins’ Village has been awarded two cracking new reviews this week - thank you readers! – And I mustn’t neglect The Crossing which has been blessed with a sudden rise in popularity producing a rush of new sales.
This Sunday’s blog is Chapter 5 from The Assassins’ Village as it’s been some time since I added an excerpt on here. Following the read I’ve added a curry that I made up myself. Easy and quick to make and simply delicious! Enjoy!
Chapter 5. Sunday 29th.
Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day.
Macbeth. Act 1 Scene 3
Leaning against the old china sink, Sonja drank her second glass of ice-cold water. She normally walked her dogs in the cool of the early morning, but today she somehow could not get herself together. She had not slept well during the hot and airless night, and just as the first grey light had spread over the hillside opposite, she had fallen into a deep troubled slumber. When Leslie woke her a little later, asking when she might or might not be preparing breakfast, he had found that she was annoyed, as she’d overslept for the first time in years.
‘You might have woken me before now,’ she grumbled, tossing the crumpled and damp bed sheet to one side. ‘Now I’m all behind, and the dogs haven’t had their early walk,’ she paused at the end of their bed in an accusatory stance.
Leslie eyed her with a rather baleful expression that could have meant anything. He twitched the sheet to recover his legs and picked up the book he had been reading. He had been in the mood for sex earlier, but he knew what the answer would have been if he had suggested it. Her and her annoying, damn dogs. These days she had little time to spare for him. Apart from the animals, she spent hours working in the garden and the rest in the kitchen. Her passion was making the most lavish of iced cakes, which she sold to a baker’s shop in Episkopi.
Sonja gave an exasperated sigh, before flouncing off towards the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Leslie gave a little spiteful smile. He was out of sorts himself for these past few days. It was time for someone else to feel irritated with life.
Glancing out of the nearby window Leslie saw that the sun had climbed halfway up into the sky. Already, he could feel the promise of another scorching day. Another ten minutes and it would be too hot to lie in bed. The sound of the telephone brought him out of his reverie; it was early for friends to call despite a Cypriot day starting at first light. Slightly puzzled, Leslie lifted the receiver and listened.
Sonja hadn’t noticed it was yet another beautiful and sunny day. Leslie’s sudden announcement that the police were planning on paying them – no him, let us get that straight, a visit later that morning had placed her mind in a whirl. She could not begin to imagine what they could possibly want with Leslie. He had done nothing wrong that she knew of, except been extremely late in taxing the car again. As usual he had misplaced the renewal paperwork, and being a complete computer dinosaur, he hadn’t yet mastered the art of doing it over the Internet despite everyone saying how convenient and simple it was.
Leslie said that the policeman was adamant. He wanted to speak to Leslie, and would around eleven o’clock be convenient? On a Sunday as well!
Shortly after eleven, the doorbell to the courtyard rang and Sonja opened it to face two men dressed in suits. One was short and swarthy with a badly pitted olive complexion. His mother had obviously never heard of acne treatment when he had been in his teens. He was about forty-ish, had a receding hairline, and looked grumpy. The younger man was tall and rangy; his dark brown eyes were alert, probably never missing a thing. Sonja felt him staring deeply as the older man addressed her, and despite the sun, could not help suppressing a shiver.
‘Kuria Flowers? I am Inspector Andreas Christopopodolou and this is my colleague Sergeant Yiannis Loukiades. I believe your husband is expecting us, yes?’
Sonja took the dry outstretched hand in front of her. Later, she wished she had never been there to receive them. That she had never met the two policemen who were so polite to her. But above all, she wished she had never learnt the reason why they had cause to visit her husband in the first place.
How could he, the stupid fool? For years, she had known about his past affairs with other, prettier women. But to have the police involved in something that was so scandalous, and sordid. At first she refused to understand what they were saying. When they interviewed Leslie she couldn’t believe her ears. It must be all a ghastly mistake? The woman must be partly to blame evidently. Those who wore short skirts and low-necked blouses were nothing short of being common surely? Her mind whirled with all sorts of questions as she listened to what they had to say.
As soon as the supercilious Inspector and his observant Sergeant had left their house and were out of earshot Sonja turned to Leslie in a rage.
‘How dare you! It’s bad enough that I have had to put up with your affairs over the years, but now this. They accused you of pestering her! Do you know how serious that is? And what if our so-called friends and neighbours get to find out, eh? Can you imagine the mileage they’ll get out of it?’ she hissed at him. ‘What were you thinking of? You’re nothing but an aging Lothario and a bloody stupid one at that.’
Sonja’s voice took on an edge that was bordering on the hysterical. She persisted in shouting at him. Her body shook with anger. Her usually pale eyes darkened as she worked herself up into a fury; her face suffused a mottled red. As much as Leslie was used to her often-short outbursts of temper, he appeared taken aback by the hate and venom that showed in the stiff rigid lines of her body and face. Never, had he seen her so angry. In order to diffuse the situation he attempted to make light of the matter.
‘Sonja, Sonja calm down. I tell you it’s all a little misunderstanding. I haven’t been near her at all. Okay, I admit I was attracted to her, once upon a time, but that’s all it was, just a slight attraction to a pretty woman. We enjoyed a mutual flirtation. That is all. Believe me. Nothing happened. Honestly.’
‘Do you really expect me to believe all that, that bullshit? I heard what the police said. They wouldn’t have come here if she hadn’t made some sort of complaint about you. I know she is the last of your tarts in a long line of your; “little lapses in marital harmony”. As if that is not enough! You are a bloody liar! You couldn’t leave her alone, like all the others, another one your “horizontals”. Except this time, you couldn’t take the hint when she told you to leave her alone. That it was all off. Oh no, not you.’
‘I’ve told you the police have it all wrong,’ he whined in a conciliatory tone as if he was just realising she was going to make this difficult for him. ‘It’s all been blown out of proportion, believe me.’
‘That’s half the trouble. I don’t bloody believe you. Leslie, why would they have bothered to come all this way? It’s a good half an hour from Limassol. No. You’re lying again, only this time you’ve gone too far. You’ve probably terrified the little harlot and a good thing too, she should have known better. She should have kept her hands off someone else’s husband. God knows there are enough single men on this island for her to pick and choose from.’
‘She’s not a harlot,’ Leslie said quietly. ‘You’ve always liked Tilly before.’
Sonja could not stop herself. Before she knew what she was doing she had hit Leslie hard across the mouth. ‘Don’t you dare mention that woman’s name to me,’ she screeched, her Scottish accent becoming more pronounced. ‘Get out. Get out before I throw you out. I’ve a good mind to anyway. I’ve had enough. This is the final straw.’
Leslie reeled back from the force of her hand. An angry red mark was livid across his left cheek and his lower lip was bleeding from where Sonja’s ring had torn his unprotected skin. He looked astounded at her violence; a cold nasty glint appeared in his eyes. He drew himself up, a threatening look upon his face. ‘I doubt that. I doubt that very much. You’re forgetting My Lady, that I own this house. It’s in my name only. Likewise, the same will apply when we eventually move to our new one next month. So don’t you ever forget it,’ he withdrew a cotton handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his split lip before continuing. ‘No, my dear. Remember, I call the final tune,’ his rejoinder was accompanied with a spiteful malicious smile.
‘You’re a total bastard! I hate you!’ she spat at him.
‘Maybe, but while I’m alive, I’m the one that calls the tune. As I’ve said before you’ve nothing without my say so. And you know what they say about hate being akin to love.’
‘You’re nothing but a-a, fucking power freak,’ she replied shakily.
‘Oh, you can talk,’ he said, putting his handkerchief away. ‘I’m going out now for a walk. It’ll give you time to think about your position and let you calm down. Go and try to repair your face. Crying doesn’t make you in the slightest bit attractive.’
Sonja could not believe he could be so horrible, so completely thoughtless and cold. She watched him as he cockily crossed the tiled floor of the dining room. He picked up a straw hat and placed it jauntily on his head. Without bothering to give her another look he flung open the door to the outside. The blazing sunshine streamed into the room, dust motes whirling in the draught. Seemingly, without a care in the world, he sauntered down onto the cobbled lane that led to their usual walk along the lower track.
Still standing where he had left her, Sonja began to shake uncontrollably. She knew not why, but found she couldn’t stop. She shook with anger and shock. Her legs felt wobbly and she could not move. She was annoyed with herself for letting it come to this. Furious with him for the distress it caused her. Most of all, she was livid because he did in fact hold all the cards. He was right; he did own the house. She possessed very little money of her own, a small pension and a few savings. He had not wanted her to have a career. Leslie preferred her to stay at home and provide all the comforts he desired. All their time together she had been forced to accept his domination over her. She hadn’t noticed it at first, during their early and happier years. Later she began to resent his control. Once he died – and he was nearly twenty years older than she – then his will stated that the house would become hers. There was not a lot to look forward to until then.
Not until she was free of him.
Sonja finally realised. It had taken something like this for the reality to sink in. A tear escaped her eye and then another. Damn him! Damn him to hell. She traced Leslie’s footsteps over to the outer door and took hold of it to close it. Before she could do so however, a shadow fell across her and she looked up to see Alicia standing there.
‘There! You have the whole sordid story,’ Sonja sniffed, after blowing into her already soggy tissue. Minutes earlier, a spellbound Alicia had listened as Sonja retold the morning’s events and what led up to them. Alicia said very little, but appeared to eagerly and almost ghoulishly absorb Sonja’s sordid tale, word for word. Finally, Sonja stopped talking and sat looking miserable and lost in the faded armchair in her living room.
‘How long has this been happening? Leslie’s affairs,’ she now asked Sonja with a hint of a gleam in her eyes.
Sonja failed to notice as she reached over to attack the tissue box once again.
‘Oh, for years and years. He’s always had a mistress or girlfriend in tow it seems. Almost from the time we first married. He could never say no. Not all of them were anything special either. He just can’t resist shagging anything in a skirt,’ she replied bitterly. ‘He can’t keep his sodding willy in his trousers.’
She sniffed again and looked down at the wet tissue in her hand.
‘So he wasn’t choosy?’
‘No, not especially. Why?’
‘He never turned anyone down?’
‘Oh I don’t know. Why should I. Look, what does it matter anyway? It’s his current affair that’s the problem. Hopefully, the police have given him a good fright. I would hate to have them in the house again,’ she gave a little shiver.
‘Where did you say he had gone?’
Sonja flashed Alicia a look of irritation. ‘I don’t know. Out somewhere for a walk he said. I hope he gets himself well and truly lost. It would serve him damn well right. He said I had to calm down! Bloody cheek! He’s probably gone along our usual track. You know, the lower one before it eventually forks down to the river. I doubt if he’d go any further in this heat, it’s too hot to make the climb back up.’
‘Are you okay now?’ Alicia asked Sonja whilst surreptitiously glancing at her wristwatch.
‘Yes. I am. Alicia, I’m sorry to have burdened you with all this. You just came along at the wrong moment.’
‘Don’t worry; it’s not a burden,’ Alicia smiled at her. ‘Try and take your mind off it. What about a nice soothing camomile tea? I find it really helps.’
‘Maybe. I ought to sort something out for lunch, not that I want anything, but he will. Perhaps I’ll let him get his own while I take the dogs out again. I could go somewhere different for a change, maybe up at Platres. It’s cooler there,’ she was half talking to herself.
Alicia stood up, taking another casual glance at her watch. ‘Well Sonja, I really must run. I have something to do that I keep putting off. Look, I’ll pop in again later if you like, after lunch maybe. Or would you like to come over to me?’
‘I don’t know. I’m fine now really. I just feel bloody stupid. I’ll maybe give you a ring a bit later on this afternoon.’ Feeling more herself, Sonja was beginning to realise that she had told Alicia far more than she would have in normal circumstances. Despite Alicia being a sort of friend, Sonja was well aware Alicia harboured certain feelings towards her husband, and had done so for a long time, for years and years. She knew that they had been lovers. She had never condoned the fact.
‘Okay. I’ll see you later then. Don’t sit around and brood. Go for that walk. It’ll do you good. Or plan a shopping trip to Nicosia for next week. You could treat yourself to something nice.’
‘You know I hate shopping,’ Sonja grimaced at the thought.
‘Yes, you do. Well I’ll be off then.’
Alicia walked through to the dining room and Sonja let her out. The intense heat from the sun bounced off the thick stonewalls surrounding them. Alicia turned and made her way carefully down the hill. Sonja watched her go. She cut a strange figure. Tall and thin, she almost always dressed in a white shirt and outlandish rust coloured knickerbockers that contrasted wildly with her vivid red hair. An ancient, tattered leather bag she used for gathering herbs hung from her shoulder.
Sonja turned away, relieved to be alone once more. As she crossed back into the dim recess of the house, she fleetingly wondered why Alicia had appeared at her house that morning. She had been so completely upset over the morning's events; she had forgotten to ask her.
Not that she had stayed very long.
Faith’s Pineapple and Minced Pork Curry.
A small pineapple (or a tin)
1 lb minced pork
1 small onion
3 hot green chillies
1 ½ tsps. curry powder
¼ tsps. Turmeric
1 tsps. Fish sauce
½ tsps. Mustard seeds
6 curry leaves (opt)
4 garlic cloves – crushed
½ inch fresh ginger, grated
¼ cup coconut milk
2/3 tbls oil
Heat oil and fry onions, pork and chillies until soft. Add all ingredients except coconut milk and sugar. Stir, to coat pineapple with ingredients. Add rest of ingredients and cook slowly for about 20 minutes. Serve with rice and naan bread. Scrummy!