smile in place, she moved forward with Fofoula into the village square.
A stout, graying matron pushed closer to Ariadne, smoothing her crucifix and necklaces of seed pods. “Well, well, you’re going to join in the fun? About time, Ariadne. We’ll have some dancing, maybe find you a husband.”
“Juliana, please don’t—”
“Hah!” A scowling matron rose from her folding chair. “The Demodakis doesn’t need a husband, when she can steal another woman’s as she pleases. Magdalena!” She spat and stalked off.
Ariadne went stiff. Biting back an angry retort, she raised her chin, daring the rest to accuse her.
“Tell that lazy Manolis of yours to eat a dish of bull’s balls!” Yiorgos shouted after the departing matron. “Then you won’t have such a sour face!”
Laughter broke out among the men, the women hiding smiles behind their hands. Ariadne let out a breath, envying Yiorgos his easy ways.
He was striding forward now, raising his arms, bellowing, “Where in Hades are you hiding the ouzo, Niko? You penny-pinching old fart! You think that name-saint of yours will bless you for another year if you keep us all thirsty?”
A roar of laughter, the men hustling Nikos into the shop. They emerged clutching bottles, grinning. Someone was pressing a paper napkin into Ariadne’s hands, with a powdered-sugar kourambeade.
The special cookie her American mother had learned to bake for celebrations, always letting little Ariadne help. She tried to remember her face so beautiful then, before the cancer ravaged it and then stole her away. Blinking quickly, Ariadne bit into the cookie, barely tasting its sweetness.
“Despoina?” A teenaged girl in the traditional head-scarf, lips bold with orange lipstick but trembling on a shy smile, was standing before her, holding a half-grown puppy. “Will you take him? He won’t eat, he needs your holy water.”
Ariadne—bemused in the uproar of music, laughter, shrilling voices, gesturing hands, darting children—found herself with an armful of wriggling fur, a pink tongue licking her hand.
A louder roar rolled over the crowd. A motor launch, speeding to the cove’s quay. A shout. Heads turned. Commotion at the cove end of the square, and a line of soldiers in blue strode into the open space, pushing through the villagers.
“Despoina Demodaki!” One of her father’s lieutenants stopped stiffly before her, the men falling into a row behind him. Sunlight glinted off the geometric white insignia on their shirts.
Voices died. Someone cut the music, echoes fading off the walls.
“A message came from the Tyrannos. You’re needed at the house immediately.” The lieutenant, expressionless, stared past Ariadne’s shoulder.
Vague muttering behind her. She pulled back her shoulders, chin lifting. Of course she was needed for her father’s schemes, not wasting time with her healing experiments. The soldiers avoided her eyes, stirring uneasily, and one of them furtively touched the holy medallion at his throat.
“Here.” Ariadne stepped past the lieutenant, thrusting the puppy into the nearest soldier’s arms.
The young man startled, stared down at the puppy, looked at Ariadne and broke into a grin. Stifled laughter from another one. The soldier with his armful shot a look at his superior’s livid face and sobered.
Ariadne turned back to the lieutenant. “I’m not done here.” She turned to the watching villagers and gestured at Nikos. “Music! Let’s dance.”
Someone snapped in another antique cassette, mandolin crying over the square, an old tune.
More strings, crescendoing. Ariadne lifted her chin, raising her arms and turning her head to one side. A man stepped up beside her, then two young girls. More of the villagers. A long straggling circle, arms out, linked.
Slowly, deliberately, they raised their right feet, crossed over, dipped. Rose and cross-stepped again. Swaying now, the music picking up tempo, momentum, knees bending, rising and swinging, hands gripping arms as they danced faster. Feet pounding up dust to glimmer in the sunlight.
The music swelled, ringing celebration from the house walls, lapping like the sea on the stony beach. The dancing circle ebbed and flowed to the surge.
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