For the last half an hour or so, a baby had been crying compulsively. The mother – a woman in her twenties – was trying to comfort and put the child to sleep. All her efforts were in vain. The sharp, whining sound would not stop. It was echoing all throughout the departures hall of the small airport, at times reaching peaks one would not think possible for such a small creature.
Anastasia had been reading the same paragraph over and over again, before deciding to put the book aside. She looked at her phone: ten minutes past midnight. The air was heavy and hard to breathe, making her clothes stick to her skin. No sign of air conditioned, just an old ceiling fan slowly rotating above the tired heads of the waiting passengers, blending, with its sticky pallets, strata of moist and dust.
On a seat next to her, Ivan was listening to music, a big pair of headphones connected to his iPad. From time to time, he would nod his head, a movement sometimes accompanied by a shaking of his feet, placed one on top of the other, and a smile, when his thin lips would rise, creating small folds in the flesh of his cheeks. The wavy hair, almond-shaped eyes covered by thick eyebrows, aquiline nose and square jaw, made Ivan`s face resemble that of a Renaissance sculpture. By comparison with the device they were holding, his strong hands, covered in a network of well-defined veins, looked even bigger. He leaned over the chair, and grabbed an apple from his backpack, then he started to devour it with his strong, white teeth.
A blast of thunder shook the frail windows. The storm was approaching. Lightings flashed on the night sky, outlining, for their short duration, the trees that were bending sideways, to the point of breaking. Three hours since they had been waiting for the delayed flight. Some people were sleeping on the floor, clothes rolled beneath their heads, hands stretched over their belongings.
“I don`t think we`re leaving the island tonight,” Ivan said smiling, without removing his headphones. Behind him, huge, heavy raindrops were smashing against the windows.
Anastasia looked at him briefly, enough to catch his smile, then turned away and continued to stare outside, into what seemed to be an endless darkness. Who was this man talking to her and what was it that he wanted? “Friends go on holiday together,” he had told her, trying to convince her not to cancel the week in Crete, in spite of everything that was happening between them. Friends… She hated this word. Since when were they friends anyway? How about the rose petals on the bed and all throughout the floor, in that loft in Paris, when they travelled there together? That`s less than two years ago. Did he forget how he used to fly to her hometown, Moskow, every month, just to see her? Or when he used to write songs for her? She believed in all these things he was doing for her, happy and overwhelmed by his attention. When she eventually moved to London to be with him, she believed in the nights spent painting at candlelight, on the rooftop of their small studio in Shoreditch, drinking champagne and watching the stars, until falling asleep into each other`s arms.
Tears were falling down on Anastasia`s face, leaving black trails under her eyes, which she was trying to cover with her blonde, curly hair.
“Are you OK?” Ivan said, hearing her sobbing.
“I`m fine,” she said, avoiding his look. “Bit tired.” Her voice was trembling.
When they had booked this holiday, three months ago, they were still happy. At least she was. Until one day, when he wanted no more. The determination and courage she had always admired at him ended up playing against her. He was determined to leave her, and definitely had the courage to do that. “You may keep the table and the chairs”, he said the day he moved out of the studio. “I found new ones.” The prospect of her returning to an empty home in London filled her heart with infinite sadness.
“We shouldn`t have come to Greece”, Ivan said, getting up from his seat and kneeling in front of her. He gave her a tissue. “We should have cancelled it, like you said.” Then, caressing her hair: “I am so sorry…”
“It`s OK”, she said, blowing her nose. “I want to be your friend.”