On the very day Loukas celebrated his eighteenth birthday, his mother and father announced that Thera, a young and beautiful seamstress, had gladly accepted Loukas’s offer to marry him.
Thera had a thick thatch of wavy blond hair and lightly lashed bright blue eyes. “Thera’s eyes,” Loukas told his friends, “are as blue as the sea.”
Thera often pulled her hair back from her face. She kept it in place behind her ears with a silver barrette inlaid with amber gemstones. The barrette was a gift from her grandmother.
Like her father, Thera was tall and slim. Like her mother, she had a pale complexion and long, thin fingers ideal for a seamstress’s work. From her mother, she had a nose with a straight bridge and narrow nostrils.
Islanders were drawn to Thera’s shop. They said she always treated her customers with respect, took special care in making and mending their clothes, and was known for putting a fair price on their finished pieces.
Thera loved music. Islanders passed by her shop, often stopping to listen to her singing songs that told of love and loss and forgiveness.
As it happened, Thera’s sister brought to Loukas’s family her mother and father’s approval of Thera’s marriage to Loukas. Her sister announced that the families would soon meet to issue a formal agreement as to the suitability of the couple’s union. They would discuss the terms and duration of the courtship. Thera’s dowry would be decided. The family the married couple would live with would be debated, and the village priest would be called upon to bless the union.
Dare I ask Lambros if someday soon I might invite Thera to the seawall and introduce her to my faithful friend? Loukas gave thought to what he might say the next time he came to the seawall to charm the snake.
When Loukas returned to the seawall a few days later, Lambros rose up slowly to meet Loukas’s eyes. As though reading Loukas’s thoughts, Lambros whispered: “Surely, my man, it would greatly please me to make the acquaintance of the young woman who has chosen you above all others to be her husband.” His gritty voice was so quiet Loukas struggled to catch hold of each word.
“And when she accompanies you to this place, ask each of your parents to join the two of you,” wheezed Lambros.
Some days passed before Loukas could lead Thera and their parents to the seawall where they waited at Loukas’s watch for the snake to appear. Once they settled in, Loukas played the seafaring ballad that over time had become one of Lambros’s favorite songs.
But this time, something was different.
Loukas hastened the tempo, but even then, Lambros did not emerge from his shelter.
Seconds later, Loukas and the others started searching the seawall for the snake’s whereabouts. Coming to a gap, they struggled to set aside a pile of rocks that blocked all but a small section of the opening.
Loukas and Thera used their hands to scoop away a mound of loose dirt from the opening. Once they pushed the dirt aside, they discovered a large pit. Peering into the pit, they saw Lambros’s coiled body lying lifeless on a stretch of rocky ground.
When their calls to the snake failed to rouse him, they knew he was dead.
“Even in death, this snake is a beautiful creation,” said Loukas’s mother when Loukas and Thera laid Lambros’s body on a grassy clearing near the seawall.
“A blessing from nature,” Thera’s father said as he passed over Lambros with the sign of the cross.
“To our family, a savior,” Loukas’s father said, nearly in tears.
That evening as daylight ebbed into dusk, Loukas gathered with Thera and the couple’s parents to bury Lambros. With hearts heavy with grief, Loukas and Thera dug a grave close to the towering chestnut tree that grew a short distance from their cottage. The grave faced the sea, as Lambros had wished.
Loukas honored Lambros’s other request by shrouding the snake’s body in fine white linen. He lowered Lambros into the grave and cast several sprigs of sage over the body.
“May this offering of sage protect our snake on his journey into the spirit
world,” Loukas said.
After the grave was filled, Loukas, Thera, and the others raised their hands toward the heavens and sent Lambros’s spirit off. They felt a deep sense of gratitude toward the snake for having freed them from a life of hardship.
Beginning that day, Loukas and Thera lived a charmed life. In time, the couple brought into the world two children, first a girl they named Sophie, and a year later, a boy they named Petros.
By the time Sophie celebrated her tenth birthday, she had wavy blond hair like her mother and dark green eyes like her father. Her warm, welcoming smile was comforting to folks, both young and old alike.
“Like a dancer she moves,” villagers commented when they watched Sophie running through the village square with her school friends.
At nine years old, Petros was beginning to favor his father’s solid square build and thick, dark eyebrows. His curly hair was as black and wild as his father’s, and his blue eyes were as bright as his mother’s.
Like his father, Petros learned to master the flute. Ever since he could hold the instrument, his mother’s guidance had given him confidence and his father’s lessons had shown him how to play the instrument with great skill.
From their parents, Sophie and Petros had learned to speak kindly of people.
“Better to say nothing at all about someone than speak ill of that person with cruel words,” their mother often reminded them.
“Cruel words make people suffer,” their father would say. “Remember to hold your tongue and walk away from nasty gossip.”
As fate would have it one stormy spring day, Loukas met up with his friends for a game of cards at a local seaside cafe.
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