She handing me a one way ticket to Greece and said as I was leaving: Send me an invitation when you get married.
That was my Mum’s way of letting me know she knew I wasn’t coming back. It must have been strange for her to watch me leave. I didn’t stop to ask. I was going Home.
I flew from D.C. to New York to Frankfurt to Athens. Not a bit bothered by any of it.
Waiting for me at the gate was Teddy and his son Benjamin. Last I saw Ben he was a barely 3, now he was 9 and looked like his mother’s brothers. He was polite and happy to greet me. Teddy looked like the comic character Bluto, but smiling.
It was a warm afternoon as we collected my bags at customs and then onto the the hour long drive along the coast to the summer house Teddy owned for years and now he and Andrea made their new school campus. I remember that house, having stayed there a few times over weekends to swim in the sea down below. Along with the summer house there was now a school building, a pool and a playground.
When we arrived Ben’s sisters came out to greeting me. Enna, Isley and 5 year Fanny whom I had not yet met. Their oldest was in Florida, going to school I was told.
Andrea came out from the house and gave me a hug.
When we first me, she was a 24 year old American hired to be a live in nanny to Teddy’s three children. Teddy’s wife passed away during childbirth with Isley, leaving Teddy a single father with young daughters. He was an absent parent prior and a useless one after, and it showed in the youngest child’s lack of development … she was nearly two and didn’t speak yet. Teddy hired first Jenny, an British spaz who walked around in see-thru gowns. Very bizarre. She lasted maybe a year, long enough to get Isley talking at least.
Then Andrea came into their lives. She was what they needed. A gift from the Heavens really. She fell in love with the girls. She learnt to speak Greek fluently. She brought structure and routine. She helped Teddy clean his house of his dead’s wife’s things – not insensitive things, things like nail polish, lipstick, old shampoo bottles. Things he hadn’t the heart to throw out in the three years since she died.
Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, Andrea and Teddy began a relationship. She was a fresh faced just out of college well put together young lady, and he was a 45 year old Greek widower with three kids, two houses and a very extended belly. They married in an outdoor wedding. I was made attendant over the guest book.
Ben came along very soon about six months later (ohhhhh), taking the family from 5 to 6. Their main house was across from ours. I was over there all the time, hanging out. Letting Andrea cut my hair. And Andrea would come over to our house to enjoy many a glass of wine with my parents. There are plenty of pictures of her smiling at our kitchen table. I visited their summer home. I babysat every chance I could.
For me, she was a walk between a sister, a cousin and a teacher. And she knew it. She was smart, funny and wrong rarely. I idolised her at the same time she was intimidating. Upon reflection I also felt I had to like her.
She was extended family, like so many others in my world. In the end and unlike any others, she would be the first person with whom I call my biggest regret, and one of three people to this day I hate. When I say I wish I never met her. I mean it with all of heart.
This is not a story about anything physical, rather this is a story about walking in to a familiar world a wide-eyed youthful individual and leaving a broken mute who just wanted to get back to her mother.
If I never see that manipulative, homophobic, female suppression advocate, racist, anti-Semitic religious nutcase again, it will be none too soon. I know those traits to be toxic in and of themselves.
What I did not know is how toxic they are when exposed to them daily. This is not my culture, nor the way I was raised. And these were not the people I used to know.
We’re talking mental assaults on moral integrity, on my beliefs, on my language, my religion, my family and friends. I wouldn’t say I was in a cult. But I will say that I remained the odd man out with no way to get out, and Teddy and Andrea ruled the school, so to speak. It took everything I had maintain normal in this new situation, hold my ground and contend with this alternative lifestyle.
I was in a classic divide and conquer situation. Until I sat down in an empty airport terminal at 5 am waiting for a flight, safe on the other side of the gate.
End Act 2, Part 1.