Good stories are always worth repeating and so delighted to repeat this one by author Ali Isaac and her short story Aphrodite’s Rock that she wrote for Authors in the Sun in 2015. You can find out more about Ali and her books and blog at the end of the story. Enjoy the sunshine……
“It’s just as splendid as I remember,” she says with a sigh, a rare smile playing on her lips. “Thank you. I never thought I’d see it again.”
I gaze at the rock; although the sea is calm, water foams and gnaws at its base. Here, they say, Aphrodite, Goddess of Love was born, and the magic of the moment is so intense, I half believe it.
The evening sun bathes the scene in soft gold, and we hang there between sea and sky, crying gulls and the ocean’s soft murmur filling our ears as we rock in our cradle-like boat, and drift with our memories.
Her voice is little more than a whisper. “Do you remember the last time we were here?”
I nod, and think back to that day; we stood hand in hand on the headland, eyes fixed on the rock, mum with tears in hers, and acknowledged there was more to life than love.
“You’ll know love one day,” she had said to me.
“Not me,” I had declared emphatically. “Love is for wimps.”
Mum had turned her face away at that. “You’re too young to be so angry.”
“Anyway, I’ll be much too busy digging treasure out of the ground,” I had added. And that, at last, had made her smile.
“Just you and me from now on,” she’d said, turning her back on Aphrodite, and I had done the same. We had never gone back. Until now.
A male voice breaks into our reverie. “Is Aphrodite… she is Goddess of love. You swim all way round her rock, you blessed with beauty all your life.”
I frown at his intrusion, and look up into disconcertingly deep brown eyes. “We know the legends,” I say in perfect Greek.
His eyes widen in surprise.
“We lived here for many years,” mum explains.
“Ah… with British Air Force.”
“No,” I snap, feeling inexplicably annoyed. “Not with British Air Force.” I don’t elaborate, and ignore his enquiring glance at my mother.
She shrugs. “My husband and I… we were free spirits, in those days. We met in Paphos, we loved Cyprus, we stayed…”
“Ah, love…” He nods vigorously, looks at the rock, then says to me, “You very beautiful lady. You swim here before?”
Mum stifles a grin, and I shoot her a murderous glare.
“Take us back to Paphos,” I tell him. “The wind’s getting up. I don’t want this bucket to capsize.”
Without a word, he revs up the engine, and turns the boat for the harbour.
“Do you have to be so rude? He was only complimenting you,” says mum. “And he’s very handsome.”
“Please don’t start match-making again,” I groan. “Anyway, the good-looking ones are the worst. Look at Dad.”
Her face hardens. “Not all men are like your father.”
The little boat bounces over the top of the waves, and we cling on in silence. Our boatman expertly guides his little craft into its mooring, and helps us alight onto the jetty. He presses something into my hand. I hurriedly snatch it from his grasp.
“A boatman with a business card?” I say in surprise.
His eyes meet mine, and for a moment, I feel my knees turn to water. “My family own many business in Paphos. Boat, Taxi, hotel, taverna, whatever you want. You want go in boat tomorrow, I know nice beach, no one else there, I take you.”
“No thank you.” I laugh. “No more boat trips for us. Once in that thing was quite enough.”
Mum tucks her arm in mine, as we make our way down the jetty. She stops at the first taverna. It’s early, and there are lots of empty tables. “Let’s eat here. I’m too exhausted to cruise the promenade tonight.”
We sit at a tiny table by the water’s edge and order calamari, Greek salad, and two bottles of Mythos. The sun descends rapidly into the sea, a huge ball of red fire, leaving little transition between day and night. The notes of a bazouki trail through the air, and a cool breeze blows in off the sea.
Mum shivers, and sets down her beer. “I’m not going back.”
“It’s ok, Mum. We can stay as long as you like.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“I know what you mean.”
She sits back with a sigh. “Some of the happiest days of my life were lived here.”
“And some of the worst,” I remind her sourly, but she will not be goaded.
“I don’t have many left. I’m glad I could spend them here, with you.”
I force a smile. “Me too.”
She stares out to sea. I know she doesn’t see the empty darkness, for that belongs to me. She dusts off only the bright years of her life, those filled with youth, freedom, joy, before sorrow stole them from her.
“You know, you could look for your father after I’m gone… he might still be here.”
I snort laughter. “After all these years, he’s probably moved on to some other poor victim. Anyway, I don’t need him.”
Mum sighs. “Still so angry. You need to forgive, and enjoy your life. I just don’t want you being on your own when I’m gone.”
“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”
“You could stay here, there’s plenty of good archaeology.”
“Enough to occupy a lifetime,” I say, quite tempted. “But I don’t think so; too many sad memories.”
But mom isn’t listening; her attention is captivated by someone sitting at the bar. He waves at her and smiles. It is our boatman, cleaned up and wearing jeans and a white shirt. I look away crossly.
“He’s stalking us,” I mutter, but mum laughs.
The waiter brings us two more beers. “From Yanni,” he says, placing them on the table.
“My cousin, at the bar.”
Mum giggles. “His family really do own all the businesses in Paphos.”
I scowl at her.
“Come on, he’s nice. And you’re going to need a friend when I’m gone.”
“Stop talking like that. I don’t want to think about it.”
“Ok, let’s go back to our room. I’m tired, and I want to get lots of rest for tomorrow.”
“Why, what’s happening tomorrow?”
“Well, I’ve got quite a fancy for a nice little boat trip…”
©Ali Isaac Aphrodite’s Rock 2015
About Ali Isaac
Who is Ali? I’ll tell you who I’m not. I’m not an archaeologist, or a historian. I’m not a scientist, or a scholar. I’m not an expert in anything, and don’t claim to be. The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know.
I’m just me, and I’m inexplicably drawn to the places of the past, the really ancient places of Ireland, where the ghosts of those who lived there once still cling, their voices sighing on the breeze. They are legend. They are myth. They want their stories known. So that is what I do.
Who is Ali? I am a conduit between past and present, a writer, a storyteller. I am the Guardian of Irish Mythology.
Books by Ali Isaac
One of the reviews on Goodreads for The Four Treasures of Eirean
Do you remember, with nostalgia, reading adventure stories full of youthful courage, heroes and villains, humans and fantastical creatures? Did you enjoy Narnia? If so, this book will have you doing everything in your power to read it in one sitting.
It’s firmly grounded in well researched Irish folklore and history, a sophisticated fairy tale of epic proportions that will appeal to children and adults alike. Ali Isaac cleverly leads us between the present and events of 4,000 years ago. Fourteen year old Conor, confined in his wheelchair, is fated to be the saviour of his ancestors, the Sidhe, and is led back to his kin by the intermediary, Annalee, through the Cloak of Concealment. When he learns of their plight he agrees to seek their lost four treasures, stolen from them by a power hungry traitor. Naturally, the treasures have magical powers of which mere humans are unaware.
Annalee returns with Conor from Tir na Nog to the present to help in the quest. But is she all she seems? Many trials and dangers are overcome together. In the best traditions of fairy stories, in helping the Sidhe, Conor finds his own power, and the final battle is very satisfying.
Don’t be put off by the plethora of Irish names. There is a pronunciation guide if you want to enter the spirit of it. It’s too awkward to flick back and forth on a Kindle but a print of those few pages does the job nicely. Alternatively, you can invent your own pronunciations – say it as you see it. Personally, I think a bit of work at the beginning is well worth it.
I am so looking forward to books 2 and 3.
She has also co-written a book of love stories with author Jane Dougherty, called “Gra mo Chroí, Love of my Heart, Love Stories from Irish Myth”.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/Ali-Isaac/e/B008TV9ECW
Read more reviews and follow Ali on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6457645.Ali_Isaac
Ali regularly posts on topics of Irish interest on her blog: www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
Find out more about Ali’s fascinating interests.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/aliisaac_
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