Fire shapes the iron
and love shapes the man!
The bells would soon sound out Christ's resurrection. The whole family, dressed festively, was getting ready for church. Only Antonis was still locked up in his room and would not move. He had just one year left to finish high school and he had got a little bit bizarre. Something was troubling him. He flinched to reveal his thoughts because he did not know if they would understand him. It was as if he looked deeply inside himself, to see what had changed around him lately; this is why he wanted to be left alone. The youth raged within him like mayhem, and he could not bear it. He was locked in his shelter since that morning, with no food. Occasionally, however, they heard him humming. Once only he got down for orangeade, then again he was closed in, continuing to sing. Only his mother could understand him, so she was not much worried about him, rather she rejoiced in herself. Her lad seemed to grow up. His father, however, who did not know, was worried.
“Well, dear wife, is our child ill?”
What could she say? She had sworn to her son not to reveal the secret he had confided to her. Mothers know how to guard secrets! Her husband had more or less his own suspicions too, however, he was a father and he could not confess openly unless his son spoke to him first. So he had learned to do, poor guy. The mother whispered to herself:
“Yes, the child is ill, and he cannot be more so. He has the sorrow of love!”
First week of school holidays, and Antonis, with a painting notebook on his knees and two boxes of crayons, painted colourful pictures which had either a woman and a bike or a bike and a kite as their central idea. He wanted to achieve the image he was guarding in his mind and he painted furiously, locked in his room. His mother went up to fetch him some water. She was startled, however, by all those papers full of paintings scattered on the floor. No matter how much she knew, poor woman, she was scared with his antics. For his mother, he was still a child. Then again, who is familiar enough with the games of love?
“Come on, come and get ready, my lad. It is time for church. Marialena will be there too. She'll wait. Stay by her. In such moments of joy, she will be waiting for you anxiously, and you should not leave her alone! This is a double-edged sword!”
But he wanted to keep his secret only for himself, and he was afraid that the night of love would give him away.
It was the Palm Sunday when, after years, he had met Marialena again. That morning, Antonis had been awakened by the noise made by the heels of the shoes on the cobbled street. The mass had just finished and the public, with holy bread still in the mouths, they moved down to the port. He did not wish to go to church himself, even though his mother had been urging him strongly since the previous day. At that time, he had no metaphysical concerns. It was other subjects that interested him, the more so his heart which could not fit in his body. When he woke up in the morning, his veins banged as if possessed, as if they wanted to break. The house was too small for him and he did not know what to blame.
He took his bike and started for a walk. At the edge of the port, on the landing of her house, here was Marialena! Her house was only a few strides from the sea. Two classes his junior, he used to know her from the primary school. However, he hardly recognized her. She was full of zest, before her time. With a light pink patterned dress, Marialena was overlooking the sea as if she knew that this day would bring her something. Two thin straps, no more than a finger wide, started from her bare shoulders, bending down reverently on her unripe little breasts. Look at me, look at me, the straps would shout trying to restrain the untamed bust that overflew with Spring. It was one of those times when Spring turns into woman!
It was not possible just to pass by. He could not pass by without speaking to her. Did he really want just to talk to her or was there something that tormented him from within? She looked as if she had been waiting for him. This is how fate games are.
“Do you stroll the beach alone, Antonis?”
Antonis had prepared the answer.
“If you join me, I shall no longer be alone!”
As if this was what the girl waited for, she looked at the sea and immediately straddled her bike. Together they took the road leading out of the port. With Antonis and Marialena side by side, the bike was flying as if gifted with wings. A sea was storming in the bodies of the two youth, trying to tame its untamed waves which were looking for land. It did not take them long to reach the secluded beach with the tamarisks. They leaned the bike to a tree and, hand in hand, began to walk on the wet sand, which did not seem surprised at all by their presence. There were many footprints of love on her and, even if lost, she would remember them well. Neither was the herring gull surprised that some people fell in love in front of him. He knew love well.
The two young people looked as if they had known each other long. The pink patterned dress swelled from joy playing with the wind, as if it had been made for that day. The waves inside them calmed down. A calm sea mirrored the sun which bathed her in the light; Marialena, calm as well, mirrored love on her face. He clenched her in his arms. But the girl stormed, not expecting so quickly his embrace.
“No, this is not right”
she managed to say, without believing it, but she did not leave his arms. He leaned and kissed her on the lips; that kiss was so pure, like a promise before an icon. For Marialena, however, it was as if it sprung out of her girlish dreams. Her smile widened on her lips. She did not expect anything more than feel him close to her embracing her tenderly. This is how she imagined, more or less, her first kiss, those excruciating mornings when she could not fall asleep and she waited, even though her prince had not a white horse now. His living promise was enough.
The narrow pink straps filled with happiness when the dreamy prince took note of them. The sea calmed down, Marialena calmed down. Both young people in love calmed down! A kiss was enough to stop the storm inside them for a while. On such a day, when the wind turns to a breath of life and water to dew on thirsty lips of love, it is hearts that speak. Violets and roses come along with swallows before their time, and the Winter inopportunely turns into Spring. A touch can say a lot! A kiss can be the whole world! And then, who is in need of princes?
On the Resurrection evening, the courtyard of the church was flooded with people. There, in the very first row on the platform erected for the day, Marialena stood with her parents. She shone in her festive dress, now without flowers or shoulder straps. A few meters further back, Antonis stood with his own parents, who had overcome his fears that his secret could be revealed. Marialena, standing on tiptoe, was looking for him. She blushed as soon as she saw him, but her heart calmed. He was there ... and it was for her that he was there, and she knew it well. There was no doubt that she, too, had come to the Resurrection for Antonis. The love is another Resurrection of the soul, which gives life.
No sooner had the priest finished the Paschal hymn than Marialena ran first to light her candle. Then, she turned and ran back to give the light first to Antonis. The light was Paschal, like the kiss on the deserted beach. And the light became flame and took root in the hearts of the two young people. And this flame, they could not hide! Why, after all, hide it?
And in a while,
Christ is Risen!,
the bells sounded joyful, and their sound became love in people's hearts.
Marialena embraced Antonis discreetly and kissed him crosswise.
“Christ is Risen!, dear Antonis”,
the girl whispered from her heart.
“My soul has risen tonight, dear Marialena”,
he answered her like a genuine male, without any shyness, feeling happy about what he said, what he truly believed, and his face shone. He did not care anymore for anything, as long as Marialena was next to him. The face of the mother was also lit up with her boy, whom love that night had proclaimed a man. The kiss of love they had exchanged embraced in front of her testified it all, and that was what she wished too!
The telltale love of youth is so simple, but also so beautiful!
On Easter Sunday, the house was too small for Antonis. He descended to the garden of his house, cut a purple wild mallow flower and strolled straight to the port. He knew that Marialena would expect him, and he was not wrong. She, standing on the landing, looked eagerly toward the road this time, from where Antonis would come. He shook her hand.
“This wildflower is for you.”
“We can only go a stroll to the port. My parents do not allow me to go further”,
she told him with grievance, as if to apologize, and brought the flower to her lips.
“Thank you, dear Antonis!”
She did not expect anything more. Neither did Antonis want something more, this is why he had not taken the bike with him. Was a walk to the port with his Marialena a trifle? It was the walk that made the second Sunday of his holidays -Easter Sunday- blessed.
But Wednesday after Easter was also to be blessed, and so was Friday, and the Sunday of Thomas, with the two together again. How was it and all the days of that week were so beautiful? What magic wand had touched the world and it suddenly glowed?
And then everything changed at home. His heart stopped beating clumsily, his veins stopped swelling as if possessed, but now his mind was elsewhere. All around him turned around that moment, the first moment he had held Marialena in his arms. But now he was afraid of nothing, not even if his secret was made known. He could now sing for his own Sunday and he did not care if anyone heard him. His mother propped her ear to listen.
“O Blessed Sunday, you look like my heart,
which is always clear skies, O Christ and Virgin Mary”
The same song again and again, monotonously, and crayons filling papers with paintings.
“No more, my good boy. You have ruined Tsitsanis’ song. Have Mercy!”
The school holidays ended, and it was absolutely necessary for Antonis to complete his studies. Now, he had more reasons than previously to finish school. The summer was ahead and Marialena waited. Monday after holidays, however, was a difficult day and not at all blessed. The philologist asked them to write a composition about spring. For two hours in the classroom Antonis did not lift his head from the notebook. He wrote with an unusual dedication and obsession. The teacher called him the next day privately.
“I asked you to write a composition about spring and you handed me a drawing with a bicycle and a girl. A lovely scene, admittedly, but I cannot figure this out.”
“For me, Madam, the spring of this year was this image, which does not leave my mind a single moment. I could not write anything more beautiful! There is nothing more beautiful than to feel that you fly, that a kite full of colours holds you up, and you fly over the waves, over the blue sea, and not alone. Your soul fills with colours! This is how I saw spring!”
“You are right, Antonis. This is how I used to see the spring in the past, too. This is why I can now understand you!”
Giannis Haritantis is an author and academic of Pontic Greek descent from Drama in Greece. He studied Physics at the University of Thessaloniki and later majored in Electronics. For many years he was Professor of Electronics at the University of Patras. His first literary work was titled Οδός Ευξείνου Πόντου (2008) and since then he has made numerous contributions to our website. Some of his books can also be viewed at SmashWords.