The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat by Sophia Nikolaidou Read Free Book Online

Book: The Scapegoat by Sophia Nikolaidou Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sophia Nikolaidou
for their taste.
    If they could, they would have buried me with him.
    And he, the head of the Security Police, is the worst kind of village boor. A lout. I caught him picking his nose. I’d rushed into the room, I couldn’t understand why he’d called me down again, just to tell him the same things over and over. He pulledhis finger out of his nose and stuck the precious discovery on the bottom of his chair with an air of indifference.
    Where I’m from men like him were my servants, they shined my shoes, opened doors so I wouldn’t dirty my gloves. I grew up in Alexandria, with a silver spoon in my mouth. I had a French governess and a real porcelain tea set for my dolls. The lace from my dowry dates back three generations. My dresses were all tailored in Paris.
    On evenings when she was going out to the theater, Mother would take me into her room and lay her dresses on the bed so I could help her choose. We picked out earrings and necklaces. She sang and clapped and tickled me, pulled on satin gloves, spritzed herself with perfume. She always left in a rush. She would kiss the air around me, so as not to muss me with her lipstick. She left the other dresses on the bed and the jewelry boxes open. When she was gone I would try on her clothes, her jewelry, her pumps, posing in front of the three-paneled mirror. I was pretty.
    Father worried that I would marry too young. But Mother would reply that
a woman’s marriage is her career—which is to say
the sooner the better
, she added, pinching my behind. When I told them I was going to become a stewardess, they didn’t show the enthusiasm I had expected, but didn’t object, either. Father, who had lost piles of money during the war, not to mention Mother’s entire dowry, said that it was a fine job, well remunerated.
And you’ll meet plenty of respectable gentlemen
, Mother said, smiling.
    She was right, I did. I even came close to marrying one of them. His name was Jan, he was Swedish. He worked for his father’s company, and he was in line to be president. He was polite and obliging. He entertained me for three days in Stockholm, in December, just before Christmas. We ate reindeer with elderberry sauce. It smelled so awful I thought I would vomit. But the worst part was the darkness—a thick darkness that enveloped people and houses and everything else. It was only light for threehours each day. And it was a weak, consumptive light that came out looking frightened and hid again soon after.
    I made some excuse and left early. I wouldn’t have stayed another day for all the world. My soul shrank in that darkness, I thought I would die.
    Later on I met Jack. He was twice as old as me, and twice as tall, too. I had met very few Americans in my life, but he certainly stood out. His eyes shone as if he had a fever. He laughed out loud, and he hugged me so tight he left a mark. He danced like a movie star. He loved life and let it show. He had friends everywhere. With him the day was a thousand hours long. There was time for everything.
    He asked me to marry him. He kneeled in the middle of the street one day and kissed the toe of my shoe. Passersby were watching, but he didn’t care. He took the ring out of his pocket and said,
Will you marry me?
without any warning, without any wasted words. I said yes right away, and he kissed me so hard my lip split.
It’ll be like sugar, the two of us together
, he promised. He wasn’t one for words, he preferred actions.
    After we were married he asked me if I knew any
good communists
he could talk to, if we had anyone in the family
who’s in the Party, any reds, a man I can trust
, someone who could arrange an interview with the rebel General. I laughed.
So that’s why you married me
, I teased.
    I did in fact have a third cousin who was a rebel fighter. Jack insisted that we go visit him in jail. I still remembered Nikitas in shorts, stealing candies from me and shoving them all in his mouth at once. Stuffed,

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