Dotted Line Dotted Line

Fiction Summer 2017    poetry    all issues


Cover Marija Zaric

Mary Lucille Hays
Tribute in Black, White, and Gray

Anne McMillan

Faith Shearin

James Hanna
Tower Duty

Nektaria Petrou
Black Lace

Rebecca May Hope
Coyotes from Kazakhstan

John Maki
There Are No Angels Singing

Lisa Michelle
A Happy Birthday

Alison Turner
Actresses Auditioning

Brian Beard
Problems in Poultry Farming

Liz Bender
The Hypnotist

William C-F Long
Pet Hive

Wendy Dolber
Charlotte's Plan

Emily Holland
Something Cool

Writer's Site

Nektaria Petrou

Black Lace

Savina stared at the black menace peeking out from the crevice between the velveteen cushions of her husband’s couch. A sock, surely. Andreas was always leaving his socks around, along with orange peels, apple cores, stray note papers, underpants with overstretched elastic, and whatever else he couldn’t be bothered to find a place for. And yet his socks didn’t have scalloped edges like that, nor diaphanous designs. Almost like lace.

Savina looked out the window, toward the cypress trees of Saint Eleftherios Cemetery, jutting up like ragged, overused paint brushes behind the weedy stone wall. Istanbul, she’d always said, was the City of the Dead. Her husband, a native of the place, would disagree with her: over fourteen million lived there, and three thousand “of us” still remained. By us, he meant the native Greek minority, a tiny community doomed to extinction. A community that Andreas himself refused to call Greek: they were Rums, he’d say, the last descendants of the Eastern Romans. Those who hadn’t left in the wake of the 1955 pogrom were rotting in cemeteries like Saint Eleftherios, surrounded by Soviet-style cement, gypsies, broken asphalt, and dozens of stray cats.

Savina took a sip of American filter coffee—a preference she’d picked up during their thirteen-year teaching stint in Brooklyn. Bitter and stale. Too lazy to make a new pot, Andreas had probably reheated the coffee he’d made that morning. Savina glanced at the couch cover, now a heap of blue-flowered polyester on the laminate floor. It wasn’t quite as dirty and disheveled as the rest of the apartment, but the coffee stains and crumbs showed a need for washing. She’d been about to take it to the kitchen, where Andreas was cooking stuffed vine leaves, when the black menace caught her eye. She felt an abrupt, unwelcome awakening, like when she wore her sleep mask, ripped it off her face in her dreams, and burst through the layers of sleep into her bright bedroom. But she only wanted to remove the feeling of the mask, not the mask itself. And she certainly never wanted to wake.

Savina pulled the black thing by the scalloped edge. It unfolded, one tug at a time, a nothing-thing that would belong to a woman half her size. It wasn’t even a regular thong with a substantial crack piece, but a daring triangle held together by mere threads. With it came a string of memories. Twenty years ago, while they were teaching at Saint George School in Brooklyn: Andreas had been so helpful to that widow teacher, Lena Kosti. Fifteen years ago, just after they’d moved back to Greece: he’d answered his cell phone while driving and said, Hi, baby. And then he’d started visiting Thessaloniki too often. Once Savina had snuck up on him in his attic study and heard him describing his ideal blow job into the telephone.

There were explanations. He’d helped Lena Kosti find an apartment in a difficult city. The Hi, baby had been for their eleven year-old daughter. Andreas had taken a church cantoring job in Thessaloniki to make more money for Savina and the kids. The blow-job woman had been a telephone sex worker. A distraction. Telephone sex wasn’t infidelity, after all. Neither were blow jobs: the American president had proven that.

But Andreas was a family man, a theology teacher. He changed diapers (their children’s, his mother’s, their grandson’s), did the grocery shopping, called repair men, and dealt with everyone from construction workers to the butcher. He was so busy. How could he have time for that?

But the black lace thong.

In her hands.

Savina herself had sent Andreas to Istanbul from their home in Kavala. After the crisis struck in Greece, their retirement stipends were cut in half. Not one of their three adult children could find steady work near home. And Savina certainly didn’t want the children to emigrate. When job opportunities came up in Madrid and Amsterdam, Savina, whom the children called Buddha for her succinct pronouncements and sage opinions, said, “Too far.” Besides, Andreas was a good cantor, and Istanbul churches paid cantors far better than Greek churches. His departure (along with his mother’s, of course, because the old woman had to go with him) brought relief. Andreas no longer complained about the stinking pots in the sink and the cobwebs in the rafters. She no longer heard him say, “You didn’t make dinner again? Why do I have to do everything?”

But lately people had been talking about a Brit who was leaving heart symbols on romantic songs that Andreas posted on Facebook. Their daughter Viky had sat Savina down on the porch, facing the pines and olives that Andreas himself had planted. “Mama,” she said, taking Savina’s hand, “Baba might have someone in Istanbul. You need to bring him home.”

Andreas? Sixty-one? Bald? With a limp? A grandfather? Could he even get it up anymore? Not that Savina would know. Sex had never been her thing, not even at thirty. So much mess for just a small bit of pleasure (which one didn’t always get anyway). And who could feel anything for a furry old man with a lopsided belly, an ogre who left orange peels all over the damn house, even on the piano?

Savina held the thong to her nose: it smelled of roses.

She marched into the closet of a kitchen, displaying the thong before her face, stretching it between the tips of her fingers. Andreas looked up from the gas camp stove.

“I found this in the couch,” Savina said. “I suppose it belongs to your Brit?”

“Nicoletta’s not a Brit, just lived there for a while. She kept her stuff in the storage space under the couch this winter.”

This wasn’t in the storage space.”

Andreas wiped his hands on a dish towel and draped it over his bare shoulder. “So?”

Under other circumstances, Savina would have questioned whether a man with so much chest hair should be cooking without a shirt, but the black thong was more important. She said, “While I was taking care of the kids at home, you were—”

“I just helped her out.” Andreas pulled up his drooping trousers, which he hadn’t bothered to button.

“You can’t fool me anymore.” Savina snapped the thong in front of his face. “This is exactly what women like that wear for . . . adventures. Lace! Black! All string!”

Andreas’s snake lips curled over greying teeth. “It’s a thong. What’s it supposed to have?” He turned off the flame beneath the vine leaves. “I told you about Nicoletta. She translated the kids’ resumes. Would I tell you about her if I was fucking her?”

Savina examined the thong again. At the tip of the triangle, an inch above the spot where the crack-string attached, was a thin, dry, shiny film. “You can’t deceive me any longer,” she said. “Get out of my way.”

Savina’s posterior was too wide for the narrow clearance between her husband and the kitchen table, so Andreas stepped into the hallway. Savina pushed inside the kitchen, threw the dirty thing into the rubbish bag that he kept atop a plastic stool, and washed her hands with dish soap. Through the curtainless window she could see the pale tombstones of Saint Eleftherios, lonely crosses and dirty monoliths dotting the fading greenery of early October. She wanted to scream. But however upset she was, it was best not to wake his mother, who was dozing in the next room, hooked up to her nebulizer.

Savina hissed, “God save your soul!”

She returned to the living room and crumpled onto the couch, the same couch where . . . how old had Viky said the Brit was? Thirty-nine? A pseudo-poet or something? Andreas could be her father. He’d be humiliated in the eyes of their grandson—if the baby were old enough to understand, which he wasn’t. Viky had forced Savina to look at a Facebook picture of the culprit: thin as a column, long brown hair. But the photo hadn’t shaken Savina. Firstly, because the Brit was too attractive for a man like Andreas. Secondly, because the Brit’s breasts were so small, and Savina’s so large. What man could be turned on by lemons like that? Savina didn’t say any of this to Viky, who was herself meagerly endowed with lemons.

Now, through the open window, Savina could hear a man on a loud speaker hawking something in Turkish. She went to the balcony. Below, a red pickup filled with apples and pears was crawling up the hill. Syrian refugee children, sitting on their broken doorsteps, were singing in Arabic. Older boys, the same ones who always kicked around a beat-up, half-deflated ball, shouted in Kurdish. This was Tatavla’s Son Durak: Last Stop. Perfectly fitting. Savina hated the garbage in the streets at sunset, the satellite dishes covering the cement facades like barnacles, the bathroom pipes that smelled like sewage. She wanted her salt air and pines, her wormy apple trees and geraniums, the weedy fennel beside the porch of the four-story house they had built overlooking the Gulf of Kavala and the three hills of Thasos island, sprawling like a woman on her back, arms above her head, knees slightly bent.

Why had Savina listened to that priest, thirty-six years ago? She should’ve known that Andreas’s sudden enthusiasm for her would eventually be transferred elsewhere. Besides, his feet were the ugliest she’d ever seen, crooked clubs with thick yellow nails. She was embarrassed when they went to the beach. Worse yet, he defended the Turks when anyone mentioned Greece’s suffering at their hands. She’d only spoken to him because she’d wanted to spend more time with Vasilis, his best friend, a swimmer with blond curls and the feet of an Ancient statue. A patriot whose brother had been killed in Cyprus. A man who was proud to call himself Greek.

Savina refused Andreas’s first proposal. He insisted she see Father Dionysius, an abbot with a long white beard, who told her, while sitting on a stool outside his cabin, that Andreas was the man for her. “He’s a gift from God, a provider, a man who will run about with fire in his feet to get things done. You’ll be able to build a home, have children. That’s all a woman really wants, isn’t it?”

“But I don’t love him,” twenty-three year-old Savina replied.

“It would be a pity to break his heart. Besides, you’re not the kind who can manage on her own.”

Savina was very bad at everything. She couldn’t even cook. Her mother said she was irresponsible, and yet Savina desperately wanted children and a name: wife. Perhaps she wasn’t worthy of a man like Vasilis. With Andreas, she wouldn’t have to worry about life overwhelming her. She would be Mrs. Yannopoulou. Respectable. Situated. Legalized. Authorized by the church to procreate. Wasn’t that enough? All a woman really wanted?

She accepted Andreas’s proposal. Within six months they married, packed one suitcase each, and boarded a plane for their first teaching assignment: Saint George’s Greek School in New York. Three children were born. Thirteen years in America, during which Savina managed to learn the language but not to ride the subway alone, drive a car, fill out a tax return, or socialize with anyone besides her first-grade pupils and their parents. Finally they returned to her native Kavala and built their house on a lot given to Savina by her baba, who understood her need for two-hour coffee breaks, even when the dishes were piled up in the sinks and there was nothing for dinner.

After retirement, Savina learned to cook a few things: cheese pies, stuffed tomatoes, moussaka. She started ironing Andreas’s shirts, but she still took two-hour coffee breaks. At their parties, Yorgos, their only son, would play the violin. Savina would get drunk on ouzo while Andreas fried meatballs. Sometimes she would eat so many that there would be none left for Andreas when he finally finished frying, but by then she would have had so much ouzo that his complaints wouldn’t matter.

Andreas shuffled into the living room of his Istanbul apartment, his pants nearly falling off, the dish towel still slung over his hairy shoulder. Why couldn’t he buy tighter pants? Or shave his back of the hairs that crept up his spine like sickly ivy, like a disease? He set the plate of stuffed vine leaves on the table. Their meaty, pickled aroma gave Savina a break from the apartment’s insistent frying-oil-and-fish stink. Andreas gathered up the sofa cover and took it to the kitchen. She heard the hollow metallic sound of the cover being stuffed into the washing machine, then the tick-tick of the cycle choice and the groan of the motor starting. She sat at the wobbly dining table and picked up a stuffed grape leaf. Heavy, soft, moist like a ripe fig, but messily wrapped. She took a bite. After his high blood pressure diagnosis, Andreas had stopped using salt. The mixture of ground beef, rice, cinnamon, onion, and lemon juice was tasty, but disappointingly lacking.

“Disgusting,” she said when Andreas returned with the plates, cutlery, and salad.

He dropped the silverware onto the table with an offended clang. “But I tasted one—”

“Not the vine leaves. The screwing. At your age!”

“I told you—”

“Where does she live?”

“On the straight road.” Andreas served her a large helping of hot pepper and tomato salad. They didn’t bother with glasses. Instead, they drank from the same one-liter plastic bottle.

“I want to see her building,” Savina said.

“Later.” He leaned toward the hallway and said playfully, “Cadı!” Andreas was always mixing Turkish with Greek when he spoke to his mother. Especially when he didn’t want Savina to understand.

“What did you call her?”


Had she not found the lace thong, Savina would have laughed.

Andreas called out again, “Cadı, are you going to eat?”

“Not with her!” shouted Grandma from her bedroom. Savina had tried hard to please her mother-in-law, inviting her to Kavala, braiding her cottony strands, buying her powder and creams for wrinkles that nothing could improve. But after thirty-six years, the old lady was still sick with jealousy.

They ate listening to the rattling hum of Grandma’s nebulizer. Savina wondered if she should kick Andreas out. He already was out, of course, but permanently, publicly. Stand on her own like the single mothers of New York. Then she thought of the Kavala gossips. “Savina Yannopoulou didn’t know how to keep her man,” they’d say. Savina wouldn’t be able to stand the rezili, the shame of it.

She looked at the pink lily decal peeling off the white canvas that hung crookedly above the couch. That wall decoration had seemed so original, so different when Savina bought it at IKEA. Now the decal was shrinking from its place, separating, unsticking.

“I’ll have to fix that,” she said.

The meal over, Savina turned on Grandma’s favorite Greek music show, beamed in by the satellite dish on the balcony. She pulled her wool poncho over her head and waited by the door.

“See you later, baby,” said Andreas, donning a patchwork newsboy cap that Savina had never seen before.

“Don’t be late, my love,” Grandma called back.

They set out on their walk, up the asphalt hills that put Savina out breath. They passed through the open square of Son Durak, where buses lined up, waiting to leave for better, more human parts of the city: Taksim, Beyoğlu, Eminönü. Two stray mutts with tagged ears curled up on a narrow curb, oblivious to the danger of the taxi traffic. Young men with puffy Elvis hairdos sped by on motorcycles. African prostitutes with purposely ripped jeans headed downhill, toward corners in even worse neighborhoods. Men with wives in full burka rattled in Arabic.

Savina followed Andreas up the straight road of Tatavla, whose Turkish name she could never remember. This formerly Greek neighborhood, Andreas said, had once been full of wooden houses with oriels, gardens, and springs—all destroyed in the Great Fire of 1929. Now Tatavla was an ugly mess of concrete, sidewalks too narrow for pedestrian traffic, Kurds and gypsies in outrageous colors, and Iraqi and Syrian refugees on a stopover, because even they didn’t want to stay. After twenty minutes of walking, Andreas touched Savina’s elbow. They’d never walked hand in hand, not even before they were married. Back then he’d begged her to, but his arms were too heavy and sweaty. Besides, she didn’t like public display.

“That’s it,” he said, pointing at the top floor of a narrow cement block.

Savina imagined a studio with a moldy bathroom, dirty clothes tossed about, takeout boxes of half-eaten food in the kitchen, sordid scenes of the Brit on her knees, giving a blow job to a man who should have been playing trucks with his grandson. “Who knows what went on up there,” she said.

“Coffee,” said Andreas. “And dinner. She’s an excellent cook.”

Savina felt slapped. She struck back: “Surely not much of a housekeeper.”

“The place is spotless. Remodeled by an architect.”

“So you had a falling out?”

“No.” Andreas continued up the road, doing the waddling shuffle that always made Savina think of the Humpty Dumpty rhymes she’d read to the children while in Brooklyn.

She would forbid him to return to Kavala. The children would hate him for what he’d done. They’d hate the Brit as well. That would be his punishment. Savina would be the saint. Shamed, but vindicated.

As they proceeded up the straight road, the crowds changed: fewer headscarves, shorter skirts; less Arabic, more Turkish; fewer ungainly buildings, more 1930’s attempts at style. But still, there were plastic garbage bags piled up between the parked cars, broken sidewalks, and Africans hawking bracelets and carved wooden statues on tablecloth-covered patches of sidewalk. There were crates of blackening okra, soft tomatoes, overripe bananas, and other unsellables abandoned in the street outside the green groceries as an offering to the poor. And then there were the awful, roped-off construction sites that forced pedestrians into the street, where they would be at the mercy of bus drivers trying to keep to schedules.

Savina wouldn’t ask Andreas if he still loved the Brit. During their first year of marriage, he had told Savina he loved her every day. But she’d never been able to say, “I love you, too.” When she was eight months pregnant with Viky, Andreas had insisted Savina say something, either I do or I don’t love you. Savina had replied, “I feel something.” He never said he loved her again.

As they turned the corner of the road that Savina called Cemetery Street because it ran along the wall of a Levantine Catholic graveyard, heat came to her eyes. She was going to be alone. How would she manage? The driveway needed to be repaved. There was a leak in the roof over the bedroom. The olive trees needed trimming and the lawn mowing, the tomato beds weeding. And how could she face anybody in Kavala ever again if she were nobody’s wife?

A drop fell from beneath Savina’s glasses. What if someone she knew saw her like this? One of those people in the cafés that encroached on the sidewalk, one of those pouring out of the subway station up ahead? Tatavla was like New York’s Astoria. You always saw someone.

“Let’s turn around,” Andreas said.

“And go back to Grandma?” It wasn’t like him to want to go home before his mother’s bedtime.

“I’m tired.”

Savina glanced up the street, toward the traffic mess at a big intersection: buses, taxis, cars, motorcycles, jaywalking pedestrians, all caught in a me-first deadlock. Andreas had to have spotted her in that crowd. His bid for home was an effort to avoid a collision between wife and mistress.

“See somebody you know?”

“No,” he said, glancing down at the tips of his worn Dockers. “Besides, she walks so quickly she probably wouldn’t even notice you. She does Pilates. Twice as strong as both of us.”

“Then what could she possibly like about you?”

Andreas looked into Savina’s eyes. “Has it ever occurred to you that not everyone sees me as you do?”

Savina didn’t reply.

Andreas turned into a downhill side street. “It’s quieter here, less traffic.”

“And less likely that we’ll run into anybody,” said Savina.

“Not really. This is her shortcut.”

They heard shouting up the street. A woman from a second-story window was shaking her fist at the green grocer opposite. A crowd began to gather around the defendant’s shop. They could pull out guns any moment. Savina could be shot. Her twenty-six year-old son would have to do his own laundry, make his own breakfasts in the morning, change his own sheets. “Maybe we should turn around,” she said.

“Nonsense. It’s just a neighborhood spat.”


“Would you trust me for once?”

She quickened her pace, keeping closer to Andreas. The angry woman’s unintelligible curses stormed in her head. What could the grocer possibly have done? Given the lady rotten pomegranates? Blackened walnuts? Overcharged her for celery root?

Andreas pressed his hand against Savina’s shoulder blade, directing her around a corner. “Come on,” he said.

Savina glanced ahead: another incline. Everything was so up and down in this city, nothing ever level, nothing ever the same. It was all deep ditches, abrupt hills, surprises. “Slow down,” she said, panting. “Grandma won’t have gone to bed yet.”

He stopped outside a trendy café with the word Marika painted onto an imitation vintage sign. The café’s wooden tables, cactus centerpieces, and chalk-board menu all said expensive. Not Andreas’s kind of place. And nothing like the rest of Tatavla’s cheap, bleach-smelling, plain-as-sliced-white-bread teahouses.

Andreas walked straight through the semi-outdoor smoking section, past the common table where young trendies worked on Macs, to the bar at the back of the café. He placed an order for himself in Turkish and then said in Greek: “For you?”

Savina stared at the English menu on the wall: Los Pecos Microloft, Kenya Gratuya AA, Burundi Mudusi, Rwanda Kamiro, Mutheka Muthvani AA. Were these coffees or tourist destinations? What was the suffix AA? Automobile Association? The tears that Savina had mostly been able to hold in during their walk now spilled over her lids and fogged her glasses. “A filter coffee. Or Nescafé, or . . . where’s the restroom?”

Andreas pointed to an orange door. Savina rushed to it, locked it behind her, and let her fears come out in sobs, just like she’d often done during their first years of marriage, when she realized that she’d never be able to respond to the brightness in his eyes. But she’d grown used to him being there, beside her in bed at night, even if they slept with turned backs, and even if he spent weeks at a time in Istanbul. She knew he was coming back. But what if one day he didn’t?

She splashed water on her face, wiped with a scratchy paper towel, and looked in the mirror: her eyes were slightly red, but it was nothing her glasses wouldn’t hide. Thank God she’d never worn makeup. When painted women cried, they ended up looking like abused hookers. Savina remembered her baba, who had thought that Andreas wasn’t good enough for her. Baba had been right.

She left the restroom and sat down at the white metal table that her husband had chosen near the bar. That was strange, too. Andreas was obsessed with sitting beside windows. Did the Brit have a fear of drafts?

“Madam,” he said.

Why did he call her that? She took a sip of the coffee in front of her. Tepid. Milky.

“Savina?” someone called out.

Savina turned. By the large open window, Andreas was sitting at a pine table with two steaming coffee cups. She looked again at the mug in front of her—a half drunk cappuccino—and then at the man beside her: a bald Turk of roughly Andreas’s size, wide like an American football player, but wearing a shiny grey suit rather than Andreas’s sloppy jeans and windbreaker.

“I’m so sorry,” Savina said in English.

The man put his hand over his heart and bowed slightly. He said something in Turkish, too, but Savina didn’t understand. She skittered like a mouse seeking cover.

“What’s gotten into you?” Andreas said.

Savina emptied a paper tube of brown sugar into her mug, stirred, and drank half the hot, nutty brew. “I wish I could hide,” she said.

Andreas and the man exchanged a smile. “Don’t worry. I think he enjoyed it.”

“Let’s go home.”

“We haven’t finished.”

She gulped her coffee so quickly that it almost choked her.

“And mine?” he said.

She reached for his cup, but he pulled it away, spattering coffee onto his hand. “I’m not as generous as your boyfriend.”

Had she lost him already? There had to be a way to get him back. What did her friends do—at least the ones who weren’t widows—to keep their husbands? Baklava? Pastitsio? Blow jobs? Savina remembered the Asian porn videos she’d caught Andreas watching during his last stay in Kavala. “Those videos,” she said. “The Japanese ones. Nice, aren’t they?”


“You know, with the nurse giving the patient a special treatment.”

“We’re talking about porn now?”

“I like porn,” said Savina.

“Since when?” Her statement was so unbelievable that it didn’t even merit a scoff.

“Well, you like it, don’t you?” Savina tried to sound seductive, like her cougar hairdresser when she spoke to buff young clients, but it didn’t work. Savina always sounded like a mommy. “If Grandma is sleeping when we get back, maybe I could—”

“Another time,” said Andreas. Which meant: No, thanks.

His penis in her mouth would probably have made her sick, anyway, but his refusal showed the seriousness of the situation. The kids were her only cards. “I’ve been thinking,” she said. “We’ve got to divide up the house into apartments for the children. They’ll never be able to afford their own, and we definitely don’t want them to emigrate or move to Athens. Could you talk to a contractor?”

Andreas stared at the wall painting of two Spanish women collecting flowers from a field.

“Can we go now?” said Savina.

He followed her to the door. Just as Savina’s foot touched the pavement, she lifted her head and caught sight of a speed-walking woman, brown hair, unmistakably long, all the way to the inch of taught waist exposed between yoga pants and cropped shirt. The woman’s eyes were obscenely smeared with black eyeliner. Her cheeks were shiny. Seeing Andreas and Savina, she covered her mouth with her hand, convulsed, stepped backwards. Savina noticed the basement staircase behind the woman: a void cut out of the pavement. For a second Savina hoped the woman would fall in. Then she said, “Careful!”

The woman stopped. She understood Greek.

“Nicoletta?” said Andreas. Savina recognized the fake cheer in his voice, as if he still believed he could pass the girl off as a friend or acquaintance. “How are you doing?”

The Brit stifled a moan—like something Savina had once heard from a lamb about to be slaughtered for Easter—and darted into a side street.

Andreas took a step forward. Savina stared him into place. “Are you going to leave me?”

He fixed his gaze on the stunted trees of the side street into which the Brit had disappeared.

Savina said, “The children will never forgive you.”

Andreas bit his bottom lip so hard that, when he released, there was blood. “If I haven’t done it yet, I’m not going to do it now.”

As soon as they entered the apartment, Andreas went to the kitchen to wash the dishes. Savina took a mug of linden flower tea and a plate of butter cookies to Grandma’s room and sat down on the fleece blanket, her hip touching Grandma’s knee. This was so out of character for Savina that Grandma immediately removed her nebulizer face mask, coughed, and said, “What the hell has gotten into you?”

“Do you know anything about the Brit?” Savina said.

Grandma turned her good ear to the kitchen. Having confirmed that Andreas was still washing dishes and therefore unable to hear them, Grandma whispered, “Don’t think she was the first. But it’s nothing to worry about.”

Nothing to worry about?”

Grandma held her fingers to the side of her mouth as a sound shield. Her formerly long, red nails were bare and split by fungus. “He wanted to divorce you years ago,” she said. “When he had the first mistress, but I told him over my dead body.”

“You didn’t want to get rid of me?” said Savina.

“We’re Istanbul Rums,” Grandma said. “We don’t divorce. I couldn’t bear the rezili.”

“You couldn’t bear me either.”

“True, but things worked out. You don’t love him, he doesn’t love you, and he can’t have her, so I get him all to myself. Besides, you make good cookies.”

Andreas closed his bedroom door without saying goodnight. Savina changed into the old sweat suit with a hole in the left armpit, turned the couch into a bed, and put her eye mask over her head like a hairband. She tried to adjust the pink lily decal canvas, but it swung back to its crooked position. She pulled the sleep mask over her eyes and wondered what that Turk in the café had said. Stay if you’d like? I’d be more than happy to live at your side, take two-hour coffee breaks, and tend to the garden? I wouldn’t expect anything that people our age shouldn’t?

But romance was too much trouble for Savina. For everybody, in fact. Even for the Brit, even for Andreas. Everyone was better off the way things were.

Nektaria Petrou’s essays have been published in The Huffington Post, Al-Monitor, Daily Sabah, and Mashallah News. Her short story “The Evil-Eye Expert” won an honorable mention in the William Van Dyke Short Fiction contest and was published in the Spring 2015 issue of Ruminate Magazine. She recently completed a novel about the Greeks of Istanbul, Turkey, where she lives.

Dotted Line