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Spring in Corfu

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

excerpt: Long Way Home, book 3

Chapter Two

Winter in Corfu, the Emerald Isle of Greece, the second largest Greek island next to Crete, is a cool, wet affair. A season made for brooding on the caprices of cruel fate, and Aldo felt in his bones, grief was taking the opportunity to overtake him.

He’d experienced loss and tragedy before in his personal life, witnessed it as a young boy growing-up in an Italy recovering from the horrors of the Second World War. But this grief was different. He came to understand that it was his duty, not to grieve the loss of his charming friend, Lola, but to mourn for the loss of her future as she would’ve, a kind of grief-by-proxy. He had to do it for her, what she couldn’t do for herself.

So, he withdrew, and contemplated, pondering and brooding on how he should honor his friend, sometimes taking long mountain walks in the spitting rain, at others, immersed in the dreariness of the cold, grey sea. As he walked, he talked to her, comforting her, feeling her just one light step, one cool breath, beside him. He didn’t want Lola to miss this world, it was a tragic comedy anyway. He wanted her to move on while ‘becoming’, was still asleep. He didn’t want her to see the sun, she’d be too sad, if she did.

But inevitably, spring did arrive with abundant sunlight, bursting all the rosy buds on the Judas trees, blanketing the mountainsides and meadows with a flush of showy, fragrant wildflowers, exciting the buzzing bees. Suddenly, his grief vanished, to where, he did not know. Perhaps it was carried away on the warm breezes, heavy with the herbaceous scent of the leafing olive, the spicy balm of cypress, and the sweetly fragrant kumquat.

The grieving time was over. All the splendor that slept in winter’s keep emerged, pushing back the dark and the cold, giving rise to illumination; it was spring in Corfu, and Aldo was inspired.

***

As Jesse approached the restaurant kitchen, she could hear her grandfather whistling as he worked, that was always a good sign, she and Voula were relieved now he seemed to be his old industrious self.

“You rang, master?” Jesse said, looking over Aldo’s shoulder.

He put down his mezzaluna and turned to face her, “Yes, pussycat, I have a job for you,” he said, smiling his best ‘salesman smile’.

“Oh no! It better not be to peel and chop that basket of shallots. Nonno, you know it makes my eyes swell-up just looking at them. Can’t I peel spuds, or carrots or something? Please, anything but those damn shallots!” she said, backing away.

“Relax, it’s not your knife skills I’m interested in, clumsy as they are. This is an artistic commission. Sit, and I’ll tell you about it,” he said, pushing a stool her way.

Jesse listened attentively as Aldo explained his plan, “I want to commemorate Lo, she loved Corfu and dreamed of buying a little stone cottage in the mountains, a kind of retreat for her and her friends to come and write and sing, and just hang-out. So, I wanted a memorial to her here. Also, this is where we first met.”

“And you thought what exactly? This is a restaurant, not a cenotaph, nonno.”

“I thought,” Aldo said, raising his hand against any further objections, “about the bar, I’m going to name it, The Lola Lounge, and I want a nice big picture of her above that bar…bold and colorful. And no offence, Jess, but no collage. I want a real painting, okay?”

“Yeah, I figured. I can do what you want in acrylic, how big is big?”

“Oh, I dunno,” Aldo squinted and opened his arms wide, “about this big.”

“I think I can order a pre-stretched canvas in town, maybe as big as four by six? I’d have to ask them though, but I’m pretty sure it’s doable. Any other details to share?”

“Yeah, I want her sat, like a queen, on a red velvet chaise, in a garden, outside a stone cottage, surrounded by flowers, with a King Charles Cavalier spaniel…white and tan, do you know that breed?”

“Yes, I do, and I can grab visual references from the internet. Do you have a specific picture of her you want me to use?”

Aldo reached for his phone and scrolled through a few images of Lola and the family from Thanksgiving, “Here, maybe this one?” he showed her a picture of a smiling Lola, with her arm around Aldo’s waist.

“No, I have much better ones, look…”

“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! That one right there,” he pointed to an image of Lola, in a three-quarter pose, lounging on a chair, in her kimono, the one embroidered with blue cranes and coral goldfish.

“Yes, I think this one’s got the right pose and attitude, she looks relaxed and regal,” Jesse agreed.

“Where’d you take that one?”

“In the art room. Lola agreed to come and model for my life drawing class one week. Which was about the only time they were ever on task,” Jesse laughed.

“Okay, so I’ll leave it in your capable hands now, if you need anything let me know, money for canvas, paints etc.”

“It’s okay, nonno, it’s on me, the least I can do. Any time lines?”

“It’d be great if we could hang it by Easter week, that’s when the season starts to pick-up and I’ll want to show her off,” Aldo said, smiling.

“That’s four weeks from now, I think that’s enough time, if I can get my canvas this week. I’ll do my best nonno,” Jesse said, kissing him on the cheek.

“I know you will, pussycat, and thanks. Now go, get that canvas, and leave the shallots to me.”

***

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