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The next morning Conolyn woke up at her old room in the second floor of the house. The room around her started to materialise slowly when she hessitantly opened her eyes. It took her a few minutes to realise where she was. Lost,she looked around the wooden walls , the old television (that wasn't working since the 90's) and the book shelfs with a series of weathered, Greek classics on them.
“Home sweet home” she thought and got out of the sheets.
She opened the windows .It was early in the morning and it was chilli outside. She grabbed her oversized jacket from the chair and went outside, with her legs exposed to the cold. She shivered a little and started pacing to warm up. April wasn't usually this cold in Greece. However it was only the beggining of the month, and Conolyn's bedroom was in the west side of the house. The sun had yet to warm over it. The scent of pine trees was flickering in the atmosphere and every surface was covered in dried, brown pine needles.
Conolyn rolled a cigarette and placed it between her lips. She smoked hastily as she looked down at the crowd. Everything was much clearer in the morning. Conolyn noticed that people were working on the trees and the land. Vegetables had been planted on the surface that used to be dry and abandoned. They looked more peaceful than they did while they slept the night before. The children were playing in a a slightly elevated surface that used to be a paddock for the horses. They were laughing and chasing eachother. It was a pleasant sound, even though Conolyn couldn't bare the company of children that early in the morning.
“So how is life?” a familiar voice said from the other side of the terrace. All rooms in this floor were connected to this long and narrow terrace. Conolyn turned around to look at her old friend.
“Foredoomed and decietful.” she said to him and smiled sarcastically. It was the happiest momment in months.
“Well said Con. Well said” he said and aproached her, happy to see that she was still around. He grabbed her waist and hugged her clumsily, messing with her hair. “What's with the rasta braids?” he said, trying to tease her as he looked at her long braided hair. Conolyn released herself from his grip almost breathless from laughter and ecxitement.
“You know the drill Nadim” she said in a teasing tone.
“Man I will never get used to that name am I?”
Conolyn laughed. “It gets better” she said and laughed.
“Couldn't you choose something better for me? Some kick ass name like Nacho or something?” he said and placed his arm around her shoulders as they looked forward at the view.
"Nacho?" she said and started laughing uncontrollably.“Oh don't you think it didn't cross my mind!" she said and patted his belly mockingly. "Yet Nadim was more suitable.” Conolyn added and grabbed the cup of coffee he had in his hand.
“Suitable? Look at me! Do I look like a Nadim? ”
Nadim streched his hands and posed in a sarcastic manner. Conolyn looked at him carefully, trying to keep a straight face. His blue eyes were all swallen from the late night and his lips too. Nadim always was really funny looking in the early morning.
“I know it doesn't sound like you, but trust me it is like you." Nadim droped his arms and shoulders in reliquinshment.
“How? How is it like me? It sounds stupid!” Conolyn couldn't stop laughing.
"It is! Believe me. It took me a long time to find it too.”
"Yeah I remember, till then people called me 281214"
“What can I say? We were always kind of bitter friends Nadim.” He winched in the sound of his name as Conolyn underlined it. “I just like to see you suffer” she said and poked his nose playfully before she drunk the last sip of coffee in his mug. Nadim rolled his eyes and smiled childishly.
“Come on drop this thing from your hand and let's go downstairs to smoke something real for a change” he said and nudged the cigarette off her hands. “And you are making the coffee!” he added,more irritated than Conolyn had expected. Amused she nodded and went back inside to get dressed.
Six months had passed since the last time she saw Nadim. They were six rough months on her and now that they were over, Conolyn felt like half her life was contained in there. She washed her face, wore some clean clothes and followed Nadim down on the old squicky staircase. Every time she climbed it, she felt like it was ready to collapse underneath her, Some parts of the wooden stairs were soft and rotten, with big holes near every step.
They reached the main floor without speaking, focused on their every move. “One at a time” Nadim advised her. Small leafy branches and moss were growing from the walls around them. There was a time that these walls were clean, decorated with beautiful paintings, illustrating nature and content people, with a better living than this one.
When they reached downstairs the main doors on each side of the house were wide open and people were going in and out of them.
Conolyn looked around the house, bathed in early sunlight. A strange nostalgia overtook her as she noticed the spacious hall coverred in mattresses and clothes, all around the enormous fireplace.
“What is going on Nadim? We have more people than we can afford to. We even have children around here!” Conolyn said as soon as they were alone in the small, private kichen.
“They came in boats” Nadim said and passed her the sugar and the coffe. Conolyn took a big coffeepot out of the damaged cabinet, under the small sink and turned on the gass.
“Where from?” Conolyn asked.
“Far” Nadim said and Conolyn instantly knew. They weren't allowed to mention countries or borders, but everyone knew where the boats came from. Once you join the peace force you have no country.
“It seems like they have done a good job with the land” Nadim nodded.
“Yeah at least we have food. They seem to enjoy it too. We are constantly complaining about the desperate situation, but to them, who arrived from the war it is like paradise here.” Conolyn nodded in understanding and sighed. They both looked down and didn't speak. “Wait till you hear the stories” he said in reply to her somber expression. War would get there too, sooner or later, it was hard to know and just wait for it. It was almost worse than not knowing at all.
“Sugar?” He asked him and he shook his head.
“What about Ekkon? Do you know him?” Conolyn said and gave him the coffee.
“Ekkon, here is a cool name!”
“Come on I am serious.” she said as she stirred her coffee.
“He is a good guy. He is been of much help around here lately. He was recently collected, almost six months, but he fit right in. We need him too, he is an engineer and he knows everything there is to know about guns. I ve never seen him holding one, but he does a hell of a job repairing and cleaning them.” Conolyn nodded.
“Where was he trained?” Nadim raised his shoulders.
“I don't know, we are not allowed to ask about one's past. Stupid rule if you ask me.” He took some weed out of his pocket, sat on the small plastic table in the corner and started rolling with devotion.
“It's not stupid. It is stratigically based. To succeed in this we can not afford to have a past or a country..” Conolyn started lecturing him and he rushed to stop her.
“Or a decent name in that matter.” She really couldn't keep a straight face around him.
“Will you ever let this go?”
“Nope” Nadim said before he leaked the rolling papper. He tossed the big cigarette to her and gave her a lighter. “Do you want to do the honors?” Conolyn bowed theatrically, lit the cigarette and took a long draw.
“God this smells like heaven” she said in a hoarse, relaxed voice. She took a few puffs and passed it.
They were smoking and drinking coffee when Ekon walked in.
“Hey Nadim” he said, standing on the doorstep. Nadim waved and passed the cigarette without speaking, trying to hold the smoke in his lungs. Ekon waved no “Too early for me” he said kindly and Nadim lifted his shoulders.
“More for me then.” he said and winked.
“Yeah you are on kitchen duty today so hurry up.” Nadim sighed.
“Again?” Ekon nodded and smiled in amusement as Nadin slammed his hand on the table.
“Conolyn can we talk for a minute?” he certainly looked calmer in the day light.
“Did you have any coffee yet?” she asked and grabbed a mug from the top shelf.
“No, not yet”
“Here” she placed the mag in his hand and poored some coffee in it. “do you want..”
He shook his head “Black is fine”
“Lets go then” she turned to look at Nadim “I will see you later, behave yourself!” she said pointing at him “I ll help you with the kichen and make you some decent breakfast.”
“Sweet” he replied creerfully.
The presence of autumn was profound outside. Tree branches were dancing on the smooth breeze, with deep green leafs. Only some pines trees were yellow, covered in pollen. The birds chattered on the tile roof and the treetops. The sky was clear and had a relaxing blue color. Under its hot rays, the people had started sweating. It was only a few minutes ago that Conolyn felt cold, but now it was like a distant memory. The sun was burning hot on her face, reminding her that in Greece, things change rapidly and beyond expectation. From the weather to finances, changes were more than frequent and always hard on the unsuspected crowds.
In a few more minutes the sky could grow dark from thick clouds that would poor rain. In a few hours it could go back to sunny and until midnight one could witness any weather phenomenon on earth. Greece was a shifty country. After the crisis hit people didn't know what they will wake up to the next morning, everywhere in the world there was agitation, but in Greece even more so.
The meditterenean grounds could bear more than seeds. They could bear change, and survive fires, and catclysms. The grounds were good and fertile. the people were the problem, their incapability to accept truth,blame , or criticism had destructive results. The Greeks had strange memories. They were forgetful regarding the present and the recent past, and had a very vivid (but often false) memory of the distant past that had little to do with them.
That is why no one bears change better than a Greek does. A Greek can take anything, as long as he is allowed to complain about it, and drink a lot of wine. Greeks are rebelious people. They just pretend to follow the rules, but never do. They never feel guilty about it either. They are open people, loyal to their morals and remarkable liars. Always in contradiction with their own qualities.
Conolyn always believed there to be a lot in common between the weather and the people. In Greece the people were fickle and appealing, unstable and yet charming. Just like the weather was.
Conolyn didn't have to be told someone was greek to know. In the peace force, they weren't supposed to have a country at all, but Conolyn could always tell a Greek when she saw one.
Ekkon and Conolyn sat on an elevated space that looked like a porch, made out of bricks and ciment. In front of them people were working on the land and the flourishing trees. Ekon was drinking his coffe with a straight face, looking forward.
People's voices sounded tired but calm. As they sat, many went by to greet them and say goodmorning. An old woman approached them and with gestures and a smile in her rinkled face she offered them two bright red apples. Maybe the brightest red Ekon and Conolyn had ever seen. They both thanked her warmheartidly, and smiling, she left.
“The comunication has been hard. Most of the new arrivals don't speak the language and don't know technology or how to fight. The good thing is that they know how to work the land and they have gentle attitudes. Do you see that tend over there?” he asked and pointed discreetly to the bigest tent of all under an old awning made of steel and covered in grape vines.
A young woman stood there silent looking at the leafs and touching them with the curiosity of a child. Conolyn could also discern a man and two other figures inside the tent. “They were too shocked to talk when they arrived and haven't entirely recovered. You see where they come from they were pure. They were educated and fairly well off. Most of them made their fortunes from their lands. When the war came they had nowhere to run but the sea.”
He paused and looked at Conolyn in surprise. “Imagine that! How desperate they had to be to run to the sea on nothing but little wooden boats stuffed with people. They grabbed nothing but their children and jumped in the water! With nowhere to go, with huge waves, with no supplies! They just jumped in.” Ekkon spoke slowly and the words that came out of his mouth, even with his thick accent, were euphonic and clear, like he was focusing on every word. His eyes looked like they were made out of glass while he spoke. All the images he described were reflected in them as if he too was there. It wasn't sadness or grief that he felt, it was shock.
“Obviously most of them found a tragic death.” he continued. “You will hear the stories. They are the kind of stories that keep you up at night, knowing what's comming.” Conolyn patted him on the back. “I am only here six months Conolyn. But I can see that people are growing more frightened every day. They are losing their minds. We need leadership and guidance. We need someone to keep it together.” Conolyn looked down. “You asked me not to be formal with you. We are the same age.” she nodded. “I see the kind of person you are. You are loyal to your people. You are a friend, you are even more than that. You are family. And you have a big open heart” Conolyn chocked a bitter laugh.
“Many would disagree if they knew the things I ve done” He looked at her seriously with a straight face.
“I think everyone here sees beyond that.” he said to her like her comment was unrelated. “We are all very young, and the old are spoiled. We know little of the world and we stand alone.They can not help us. The question is, can you?”
Conolyn was caught unprepared in the sound of his question. She simply turned and looked at this boy who spoke. She looked into his dark eyes and his dark skin, his black frizzy hair and the big meaty lips. Speechless, she admired the wisdom in this young man.
Ekkon looked at her too, her sharp cheekbones, her light skin and her brown thin braids that reached down to her waist. She had stong arms and strong brown eyes like his. As he looked at her, for the first time in his life he didn't feel so different. It was the first time in years, that he felt close to another human being. They weren't so different.
“Conolyn, I know we don't talk past here. But you know where I come from,..” Conolyn nodded. She knew from the first minute she saw his dark skin and heard his heavy accent. “You were on the ship. You know how things are.”
“I want to help Ekkon. I really do. But we know little and the press is corrupted and people are ignorant. I came here because I felt it was the right thing to do. But what if we too, made a mistake? What if in our own way we are as ignorant as the rest of them? What if we were wrong? We lead people into this. We collect people for this! I know the rules and I believe in the institution blindly. But sometimes I wonder, what if I am wrong? What if I am just young and stupid and simply raised like this. What if I am missing the big picture?” Conolyn took a deep breath, trying to keep it together. “I can help. But I can't lead alone. My morals wouldn't allow me to. I ll be the face if that's what you need.” Ekkon smiled.
“Don't be afraid. Maybe it is not the right thing to do. But it's the best thing we can do, the less wrong.” Ekkon said calmly with a trusting look on his face. “We ll be together.” Conolyn smiled in relief. “Eon will arrive for the collection week. ” Ekkon added and her face brightened up. “I hear you two are close.”
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