Spiro returned shortly before dusk. Louisa and Leo were finishing their dinner when he entered through the kitchen door. "Hello," he greeted them.
"Hi, Baba," Leo said, unusually subdued. Spiro rubbed the boy's head.
"Kalispera," Louisa responded, tilting her head to the side for him to kiss her cheek. He also reached over her to pluck a carrot from her plate, settling into the chair beside her with a satisfied sound.
"I can make you a plate," she offered.
Spiro shook his head. "I ate. You are just a much better cook."
She pushed her leftovers toward him. He shrugged, picked up her fork and polished off the remains of her dinner.
"How did it go?" she asked.
He set the fork on the empty plate. "Later," he said, standing to take the dishes to the sink then glanced out the window at his car. "Leo," he turned around. "I have a surprise for you."
Leo's head snapped up, fork in the air. "For me?"
"Yes," Spiro laughed. "Finish eating and I will show you."
Leo immediately began to shovel the food into his mouth. "Chew," Louisa chided.
"It will wait until you finish," Spiro returned to his seat and smiled looking, to Louisa, as suspiciously excited.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “What are you up to?” she asked
His smile turned sheepish.
“Done!” Leo announced, hurrying to drop his plate into the sink. “Can I see it now?” He tugged on Spiro’s arm.
He stood, following his exuberant son out the door. Louisa trailed behind them, watching as Spiro led him over to the side of the car. Leo looked into the back seat. His mouth dropped open. “What?” he cried. “For….for me?”
Spiro reached down, lifting a large box from the floorboards that he set on the ground. Leo danced beside him. “Is it mine? Really?” From the box he pulled a large, fluffy puppy, depositing the animal into Leo’s waiting arms.
“Mummy, look!” Leo pivoted, showing the dog to Louisa. She scratched the puppy under its chin. Leo struggled to hold the animal, his sturdy arms not quite long enough to cradle the animal.
“Really, Spiro?” she said with a hint of disapproval.
He shrugged. “A boy needs a dog.”
“I seem to remember you saying animals are only for the farmyard or the dinner table.”
“You’re going to eat him?” Leo turned on Spiro, horrified.
“No!” he insisted. “Of course not! It’s a pet.”
“Can I keep him, Mummy?” The puppy slid from his grasp, jumping up and nipping at Leo as soon as his four feet touched the ground. The boy giggled, running across the garden with his new friend right on his heels.
Louisa looked at Spiro. “You do know,” she told him. “You don’t need to bring him presents to win his affection.”
His eyebrows drew together, offense written across his face briefly. Then his expression softened. “I know, but...I thought...maybe with a distraction he won’t notice if I am not around as much?”
Louisa turned her attention to Leo. The puppy jumped on him from behind, knocking him over before licking his face. “I can’t argue with that logic,” she grudgingly conceded. “But did you need to find a dog that will grow to the size of a small horse?”
Spiro snaked an arm around her waist, pulling her body snug against his. “I ran into a friend today and he had this one left over from his last litter.” He kissed her neck and his breath tickled the fine hairs behind her ears. “He said his dogs are good for guarding goats.”
Louisa caught the teasing lilt of his voice. Leaning away, she saw his lips curving upward and smacked his arm, causing him to chuckle loudly. “I thought Leo would like him,” he drew her back into his arms. “And this house just wasn’t right without at least one animal.”
She considered his words. “You’re not wrong. We haven’t had a dog since Roger died.” She looked at him. “But no more strays, I have no wish to preside over another zoo. It is enough of a circus already.”
Spiro knew her threat was empty, that Louisa would readily accept anyone or anything that crossed her threshold in need of a home, but he promised her anyway. By this time the sun had slipped below the horizon and both Leo and the puppy were laying on the grass, tired from their play. “And another good thing,” he pointed out. “They will wear each other out.”
Louisa laughed at that, then called Leo to come inside. “Can my puppy come, too? He asked, hesitating.
“Of course,” Louisa relented, ushering dog and boy and man inside the house. While she oversaw Leo’s handwashing, Spiro rummaged through the cabinets until he found a bowl, filled it with water and set it on the floor for the dog.
“Baba, what is his name?” Leo asked.
“He doesn’t have one yet. You decide.”
Leo’s eyes grew wide. “I’ve never named anything before,” he said in wonder. “Is he a boy or a girl?”
Spiro shrugged. “Uh...boy? I think?”
Louisa hefted the dog into her arms and flipped it over. “You need a boy name, Leo.” She set the puppy back on the floor after petting his head. His tail thumped against the tiles.
Leo pursed his lips, thinking. “George?” The puppy looked unimpressed. “Joey?” He flopped on the floor, tail still. “I’ll have to think about it,” he decided.
Spiro scooped the dog up. “Come on, it is time for bed.” He headed for the stairs, Leo trailing behind him testing out more names.
Louisa took the time to put her kitchen in order and then followed them upstairs. She paused by Leo’s doorway, peeking inside to see Spiro sitting on the side of the bed, leaning over Leo who was tucked under blankets, the puppy curled up beside him with his head resting on Leo’s arm. Spiro kissed his forehead, ruffled the hair on the dog’s back and stood. Leo yawned and rolled onto his side around the puppy. “Kalinychta, Baba.”
Spiro smiled. “Kalinychta, gio mou.” He grabbed Louisa’s hand on his way out, leading her to her own room just across the hall. Once inside he gently closed the door, leaning his hand against the wood he seemed to deflate. Gone was the false bravado he wore earlier. He looked defeated.
Louisa sat down on the bed, allowing him to gather his thoughts.
He exhaled and turned around. "It is….difficult," he began slowly. "When Dimitra was alive, the children...they were happy. Even when we weren't, they were." He ran a hand through his hair. “I can’t do anything right. Not the way Dimitra did...the way Michalis wants.” He paced back and forth in the small confines of the room. “It has been over a year and I am drowning.” He stopped pacing and sat himself on the bed beside Louisa. “I do not know what to do to help him.”
Louisa sighed, wishing she had the words to reassure him everything would turn out alright. Spiro laid back on the blanket, one arm behind his head and stared forlornly at the ceiling. “You have always made this look so easy.”
That gave her pause. She considered his words. “What do I make look easy?”
“This,” he repeated, waving his arm. “Being the only parent and keeping your children happy.”
She fought the ridiculous bubble of laughter that threatened to erupt. “Easy?” she asked. “Spiro, you didn’t know my family a year out from when my husband died. We were a wreck. I was a wreck. I could barely function and relied far too heavily on gin to get me through the day.” She frowned. “You know we moved here because we were all so desperately unhappy in England.” He sat up again but avoided her gaze. “I doubt Lawrence would have fared nearly as well as you if I had died and left him with the children to raise alone.”
Spiro stared at his hands in his lap and shook his head.
“Don’t you remember when we first arrived?”
He nodded. “You needed some help - which I was happy to give you - but your children were happy.”
“Some help?” She blinked, mentally recounting the innumerable ways he was always there for her. “Spiro, none of my children were happy. That took time. Have you had to defend Michalis from armed robbery charges?” He shook his head. “Has he tried to throw himself at every member of the opposite sex he sees?” He again shook his head, a corner of his mouth twitching. “Have there been nights that you cooked literal weeds for dinner?”
“Okay, okay,” he relented. “Maybe it was not as easy as I remembered.”
“Give yourself some credit.”
His head nodded, but worry remained behind his eyes. “In any case,” she reminded him. “I am here now so you no longer have to do this alone.” His forehead smoothed at her words.
“I like that,” he said, then his gaze wandered from her eyes to her lips. He gently pressed his against her own.
“When must you go?” she whispered, one finger trailing across a suspender as he kissed his way over her jaw. She felt him smile against her neck and his fingers began to work the buttons of her shirt. With that answer she hooked a finger under his suspender and slid it off his shoulder, repeating the action on the other, then pulled his shirt free before moving to the buttons running up the front. She would never get tired of this, she thought, pushing the material away to expose his skin, removing her hands just long enough to shed her own garments. He nudged her down to the pillows, covering her body with his own, mouth trailing down her chest. Suddenly he stopped, head popping up to look at her.
“Did you really eat weeds?” he asked, lips curving into a grin.
“Uhm, well, yes. But it was a long time ago,” she stammered, distracted. “Is that really what you want to talk about now?”
He laughed until she reached for the buttons on his trousers, telling him exactly what she wanted at that moment.