Louisa leaned into him, reaching to grab the lapels of his jacket - that same old, worn jacket - and pressed a kiss to his lips. It was chaste, aware of the people milling around them, although most were oblivious, enjoying their own reunions. Even so, a giggle cut it short and she felt Spiros' lips curl into a smile. They pulled apart and looked at the boy, whose dark eyes danced in happiness. Spiros used his free hand to pull the hat over Leo’s eyes for a moment, grabbing another quick kiss in the time it took the child to push the hat up. She laughed, feeling years of tension float away.
"Come," Spiro said. "Let's get you settled and then we can talk." He set Leo on his feet to free his hands for her luggage. He easily plucked their two suitcases from the ground, then looked around for the rest.
Louisa laid a hand on his arm. "That's all there is this time," she said, remembering the mountain of belongings they had dragged across the continent on their first trip here.
He frowned, glancing from the luggage to her. "You do not intend to stay…?" The question hung in the air.
Louisa smiled at him. "I packed light," she reassured him. "For expediency's sake. We’ll stay as long as you want us to."
Her words seemed to mollify him and he winked at Leo as he steered them toward his car. "She is an American motor car," he explained to the boy. "Still the only one like it on the island," he boasted, causing Louisa to smile.
The car, as with everything, showed its own battle scars. The paint wasn't as shiny as she remembered and interior stuffing poked out of a tear in the leather of the front seat. Spiro set the suitcases down beside it, pulling the door open with a creak. Louisa urged Leo onto the seat and settled beside him.
Once the luggage was secured Spiro lowered himself down onto the driver's seat. He turned to Louisa, "Do-"
"I-" she began at the same time. They laughed and he gestured for her to continue. "I was in such a hurry to get here that I didn't arrange lodging" she explained.
Spiro shook his head. "I believe there are still some empty houses around," he said with a wink as he started the car and put it in gear.
Louisa didn't know what to hope for. She had spent so many years dreaming of this moment, of simply being with him again, she hadn't considered the many minor details. Such as where she and Leo would live. Of course she wanted nothing more than to be with Spiro, but she understood it wasn't that simple. He had an adolescent son to think about, and Lord knows she had enough experience dealing with hormonal young people to know that was never an easy chore. And then there was Leo. He had only recently learned he had a father. How traumatic would the change be for him to have Spiros and his other son with them all the time?
These were questions that would be answered in time, she knew. She shook her head to clear the thoughts, turning her attention to Leo, who was taking in Corfu with wide eyes, bouncing on the seat in his excitement. He was so different from her other children, all happiness and barely reigned in energy, always ready for an adventure.
Her eyes scanned the town, noting with relief that most of it looked intact. They drove past the marketplace where tables were laden with an assortment of food and wares. Few people glanced their way as Spiros’ taxi was no longer the only vehicle traversing the roads. As they lumbered out of town, over the dirt road that felt so familiar, Louisa removed her hat and tilted her face to the sun, closing her eyes and reveling in its warmth. She felt Spiro’s gaze on her and turned toward him, meeting his eyes over Leo’s head, still covered with his father’s hat. She couldn’t stop the smile. “The villa?” she asked.
The word caught Leo's attention, having heard many stories about the place. "The house by the water?" he asked, pushing the hat up to peer at Louisa.
"Yes, Darling. I'll show you all the rooms your brothers and Margo had. And you'll love the sea," she added.
Spiro slowed the car to pull into the lane. It was overgrown but not as bad as she had feared. Someone had obviously kept the place up. Or it had been occupied over the years. The car stopped, and Spiro showed Leo how to press the horn. The abrupt sound caused birds in the nearby trees to squawk in annoyance.
Not waiting for Spiro, Louisa pushed the door open. Leo clambered off the seat after her, one hand lightly grasping her skirt. She felt Spiro beside her. "It is exactly how I remember it." She moved through the garden to the back patio, Spiro and Leo trailing behind her. At first glimpse of the wide expanse of blue Leo bolted towards the wall. "No climbing, Leo! You'll fall in," she called to the boy, who skidded to a halt.
Spiro moved past her. "Look around," he said. "Leo and I will be out here getting to know each other." He walked to the boy, stooped to his level, and pointed out something of interest in the distance.
Louisa hesitated a moment, caught between her desire to reclaim her house and wanting to not miss a moment between Spiro and Leo. In the end she understood Spiro needed some time alone to get acquainted with his son, so she pushed open the door. As her eyes took a moment to get used to the darkened interior, she took a deep breath. Past the slight musty smell of disuse was the scent of home. She smiled to herself, turning the corner into the kitchen, then stopping short at the sight before her. There, dominating the space, was the same scarred table that she and her children, and often Spiros, had eaten at countless times. She trailed her fingers along one particular gouge, remembering when Roger had jumped onto the table to chase a stray cat that had wandered in through the perpetually open door and threatened one of Gerry's smaller creatures. It couldn't be, though. That table had been sold long ago, she had seen the men load it onto the back of a wagon with her own two eyes. She looked around the room, noting a cabinet against the far wall looked suspiciously familiar as well. "How….?" she muttered as she rushed into the living room, where the same old sofa sat in the middle of the room. Racing up the stairs she paused a moment at the top, deciding which of the closed doors she would open first. Margo's old room was first. The door opened on creaky hinges, but the only objects to greet her were the dust bunnies congregating on the floor. The boys' rooms were in similar states. Her room was last and she pushed the door open slowly, breath catching at the sight of her brass bed standing in the same spot, impeccably made, floors gleaming from a fresh scrubbing.
The sound of laughter carried in through the open window. She peered outside, as she had so many times, the view of the sea feeling simultaneously familiar and wonderfully new. She couldn't see Leo and Spiro, but guessed they must be by the water. Letting the curtains fall back into place she wandered to the bed, where she sat down, perched on the edge. A breeze swept in through the window carrying the salty scent of the sea along with more laughter. Louisa felt a bubble of joy well up and flopped back onto the bed. She was truly here! It felt surreal - the sunshine, the heat, Spiros. Her fingers toyed with the eyelet edging of a pillowcase. She wondered if Spiros would stay the night. There was so much they had to work out still. Leo’s unmistakable squeal of delight urged her to rise and push away the thoughts. A glance out the window showed Spiro leading Leo back up the sea steps. Leo was talking animatedly, arms waving in his excitement, the oversized hat still on his head. Spiro glanced up, catching her watching them. She lifted her hand and he answered with a beaming smile. Leo, realizing Spiro’s attention was no longer centered on him, looked up and saw Louisa.
“Hi, Mummy!” he shouted, holding up his arm to show her a dark object he had clutched in his hand. “Look!” It’s a turtle!” he continued. “Can I keep it? For Gerry?”
Her gaze shifted to Spiro, beside him, who lifted his shoulders in a shrug. Louisa sighed, knowing just like with Gerry, she could never deny his request. "Here we go again," she muttered to herself, unable to keep the smile from her lips.