Loula paced the landing, clacking her sandals with every step. She fastened the silk scarf tighter underneath her chin. The morning wind came swirling up from the harbor to her door blowing about Loula’s perfectly done hair.
“Hurry Tsoula!” Loula hated the idea of making Panos wait. She fixed the summer shawl around her fleshy shoulders and checked herself in the reflection of the window.
Tsoula finished throwing her thick black hair up and scurried to Loula. Her thin white blouse and navy slacks hung loose on her thin frame.
The metal door clanged against the house. Their mother yelled from the kitchen at the sound of the slam. Tsoula flew down the stairs to the street as Loula carefully followed behind her. The summer heat began to rise as the sun climbed above the mountains before them.
Loula’s floral summer dress billowed in the air as they silently rounded the corner past the old church. The morning bells were just beginning to ring.
“Can we stop at the bakery first?” Despite Tsoula’s tiny figure, she always had an insatiable hunger.
Loula clicked her tongue in disapproval. “It’s rude to keep him waiting.”
“Okay, so I’ll go get a pie for myself and you two can starve together,” Tsoula teased.
Loula looked away from her sister.
She never had to tell Tsoula how she felt about Panos. When they were just children playing together in the olive tree orchard behind their house Tsoula knew that Loula and Panos loved each other. Tsoula remembered how easy it was before and thought about how strange Loula acted now when they went out with Panos.
Plathea was still quiet. A morning hush controlled the streets. A woman was sweeping the entrance to her jewelry shop. Two tired fishermen smoked on the bench looking out to the water discussing trade and business. The large ferry boat that connected the island to the mainland waited with the impatient sound of the engine ready to set sail.
The bakery’s wafting scent of sweet bread and fresh cooking grew as they moved toward the open door.
Loula refused to enter as Tsoula ran in to get three pies and some drinks. She knew the heat from the ovens would make her start to sweat. She took another opportunity to check her appearance in the window. Loula could hear her sister chatting inside.
Tsoula flew out thanking the baker and tucking the bag underneath her arm. Loula slowly removed her scarf and forced it in to her purse.
“I don’t know why you bother with your hair. Two minutes out on the boat will ruin it anyway.” Tsoula twirled a finger around a piece of Loula’s perfect curl.
Loula pulled away and adjusted the lock of hair. “Leave it!”
She could see Panos waiting in the water. The small wooden row boat bobbed gently with the waves against the port. Loula smiled and pulled back her shoulders. Morning trips on Panos’ boat
Tsoula waved and sped up to the edge. She tossed the bag to Panos in the boat and climbed off the pier.
Loula approached the boat and assessed the descent. Panos balanced himself and held out a hand to help her. Loula lowered into the boat fixated on the his rough warm hand that enveloped hers.
Releasing Loula, Panos unraveled the rope and pushed off the dock. He pushed his linen sleeves above his elbows and began rowing against the current. A light sheen of sweat swept his brow after only a few minutes at sea. The late June sun radiated heat. The glittering ripples of water danced passed the oars. Once the boat traveled far enough from the shore, they rode the gentle water.
“Shall we?” Tsoula removed the warm baked pies from the parcel. “I have spanokopita, turopita, and kotopulapita.”
Panos grabbed one and immediately began to eat. Loula shook her head at the remaining pies.
“Oh! Loula mou! You have to eat or you can’t have any of this.” Tsoula revealed a wine bottle from the bag in true showmanship fashion.
“Tsoulaki! You’re a genius.” Loula frowned at Panos for praising her sister.
Tsoula saw Loula’s reaction, “I can’t take all the credit. It was Loula’s idea.”
Panos smiled and rested a warm gaze on Loula’s breathtaking face. Loula smiled back and pulled out a square yellow pack of cigarettes from under the scarf in her purse. She removed one for herself and offered one to Panos. He removed a book of matches from his front pocket. Careful not to rock the boat, Panos leaned in to light Loula’s cigarette. Loula was careful not to blow out the match with her rapid breath.
“That doesn’t look right for a girl, Lou. You look like papa when you smoke.” Tsoula swigged the bottle and set it on the floor of the boat. Tsoula openly disapproved of Loula’s new hobby. She reached to grab the cigarette from Loula’s lips, but the boat dipped toward the water at the movement. Panos moved to steady the boat and grabbed the wine before it tipped over.
“Tsoula! Are you crazy? I could have fallen in.” Loula stared at her sister angrily. Panos knew better than to get in between their fights. He took a swig from the wine to ease the tension.
“Oh no! And get your hair wet?” Tsoula giggled. Panos couldn’t help but laugh. He knew Loula could take herself too seriously at time.
Loula grew angrier watching them. She pursed her lips and clenched a fist against her thigh. Tsoula continued to mock her. Panos laughed deeper and deeper. Loula wanted to leave. She felt the heat rise through her as she felt completely ridiculed.
Loula couldn’t take their laughter anymore and stood up to yell, to be heard over their roaring taunts. Before she realized what she had done, Loula was going head first into the shimmering sea. Tsoula shrieked and as Panos and she splashed into the water. They tumbled under and around the capsized boat until three heads bobbed up to the surface gasping for air.
Loula’s anger washed away and she couldn’t help losing herself in the moment. She laughed with Tsoula and Panos as their half eaten pies and wine bottle danced around them in the water. Tsoula threw back her arms and floated in the water soaking in the moment.
The once pristine curls were drenched black waves spiraled around Loula’s face. Panos couldn’t stop staring at Loula glowing between the sun and the sea. She was completely free and could not have been more beautiful.