Two red, two white

This is part three in a series of stories – you can see them all (to read in order) here. You can also sign up to the mailing list at the bottom to be notified when new stories are published. Please note that the stories do sometimes get quite dark and may include mentions of addiction and physical/mental abuse.

Things seemed to change very suddenly from that day. I’m not sure if it changed as fast as I remember it, but one minute I was spending my weekends on the beach and the next I was living in a one-bedroom flat in the city of Athens. My dad’s business had turned sour back in England and we needed to give up the Spetses house. My mum wasn’t ready to give up Greece, however. Thanks to the lack of email and Skype, my dad spent a lot of his time flying back and forth between Athens and England. He needed to try and get the business back on track, which meant leaving my mum, my two siblings, and me in the flat in Athens more often than not. My mum employed a housekeeper who would come in for a couple of hours each day to keep the place clean, cook, and make sure the kids weren’t setting the place on fire. The rest of the time, I was the one in charge. My mum spent a lot of time in bed back then. I guessed it was something to do with her being unwell. Despite being sick, she hadn’t given up her partying ways, and as I got older I started to notice that something wasn’t quite right.

Most nights, she’d call up the local restaurant which was about five minutes down the huge hill from our pokey little flat. In almost fluent Greek (the woman had a knack for languages), she’d place her order and let them know that her daughter was coming down to get it. I’d put on my coat and shoes as soon as I heard her pick up the phone. 

“Rebecca darling, could you pop to…” she’d call out, but I was already making my way out of the flat and down the hill. 

I’d push open the restaurant door and the staff would always be smiling and joking. I was never sure if they were laughing at me or if they’d employed some kind of stand-up comedian as a waiter, but they’d always be doubled up. I’d pick up the bag, hand over the money, and carry the heavy goods back up the hill.

Custom illustration by Veronika P

I always wished we’d lived downhill and not uphill at this point. However, one of the perks of living where we did was the Greek Orthodox Church on the way down to the restaurant. As long as I was super quick, I could pop my head in and have a look at how beautiful it was inside, on my way down to pick up mum’s order. If I hung around for too long, I’d end up with a red hand mark on my face when I got back. 

“What took you so long?” she’d scream at me from her propped up position in the bed. 

She’d snatch the bag from my hand to look at her wares – two bottles of red wine, two bottles of white wine – and wave me out, back into the living room to keep Corrina and George quiet. It still astounds me to this day that they were two of the quietest toddlers known to man. Not so much now, as grown-ups, however.

Other than the daily trips down the hill, there is one more thing that stands out in my mind about living in that tiny flat in Athens. Christmas. We only had one Christmas Day there, but it was one of the most bizarre Christmases I had ever had, in the fact that it was just like any other day. The only difference was that there was a tiny plastic tree on the coffee table. Considering my mum had always been Christmas crazy, it seemed strange that this day passed by without so much as a bauble or a sliver of tinsel. Perhaps she was annoyed that the restaurant was closed for Christmas. Not long after that, my Dad came and rescued us. We were going back to England. Well, some of us were.

Read part 4: The powder blue suit

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