“I don’t want to share the chocolate bar” she shouted, stomping to the edge of their fields. “It’s bad enough we split an orange between three people, but a chocolate…for goodness sake!”
“Sofia, my girl,” said her widowed mother pointing a finger at her. “When you’re as poor as we are, you learn to share the good and the bad. When good fortune comes, and someone gives us a treat, we are thankful to God. You’ll have your bit of chocolate and be quiet.”
“Good fortune is not a chocolate bar”, Sofia muttered, untying her hessian sack, overflowing with fresh picked cotton. “Good fortune, is a better life, without frying yourself in the fields to stay alive.” She looked across the rows at her limping brother as he clambered towards them. “If only I had some real fortune.” She loosened her head scarf, wiping the day’s sweat from her neck. “Are you out there good fortune?” she asked into the hot wind “If you are…… Come to me.”
Soon they would all sleep under the lone chestnut tree, to escape the afternoon sun and rest from relentless crop work. For weeks now they had been handpicking the waist high cotton crop. Thankfully their meal break and siesta time summoned. In the shade, Sophia unwrapped her rag bandaged fingers, before opening the water canteen. Dried blood ripped away from shredded cuticles. She stretched her aching back against the furrowed bark of the tree and drank deeply. Sinking to the ground, she turned to her brother. “How much longer Angelo?” she asked.
“Another week, maybe a little more,” he replied, reaching out a hand for the lunch plate his mother was offering. Bread, olives, feta cheese and tomato. He smiled his thanks, as she kneaded his bruised shoulder muscles. Angelo surveyed their many acres. As far as the eye could see, ripe cotton fields beckoned, like stranded donkeys braying……. “Come to me”.
In the shadowy afternoon they lay on their backs on cotton filled canvas pallets.
“You need to fill in the application and send it in” he whispered as their mother slept. “They’ve rejected me, but you won’t have any trouble. You’re 18 now. You must emigrate. You can escape all this.”
I’m going to the photographer tomorrow. All I need is a passport photo and I’m ready,” she answered.
“On Saturday you will take the bus into Thessaloniki. The sooner your papers are delivered to the Immigration Office, the better. Save yourself, and you will save us all.”
It was decided. Elder brother had spoken.
Drifting off into a light sleep, he prayed that God would hear his plea. If Sofia settled in Canada or Australia, someday he might follow. He could see her now. She was laughing, soft hands beckoning him to an outdoor table spread with chocolate delicacies. Beaming she called…. “Come to me.”
Vasili wiped his shoes before he opened the back door. His sister Olga and her new husband Jim were fussy and fretful when it came to their home. They had a right, he thought. Too many people squeezed into one small house, all immigrants, all family. But that’s how it was here, wasn’t it? Friends and relatives from the homeland, everyone helping one another.
“Lord, I’m ready for my own home,” he prayed “and your plans for my future.”
In the cramped kitchen, Olga and her mother-in-law were preparing the evening meal. Delicious smells of sautéed leeks filled the room. At the table three little cousins were examining a small black and white photo that had arrived in the morning mail. Greek chatter bubbled around him.
“Look at her eyes,” one girl squeaked. “She’s like a film star”
“She can sleep in our room,” her co-admirer gushed.
From the stove, Olga shot a strained smile at her brother.
“Everyone is delighting in our new boarder. She arrives tomorrow. Jim’s cousin Sofia, from Alexandria. Pretty isn’t she?”
“Could be your lucky day!” teased the older woman.
Vasili plucked the photo from the girls, holding it above their heads, as they wailed disapproval like a Greek chorus.
“I don’t believe in luck,” he said. “God’s in control”.
He walked to his shared bedroom slowly, the coveted photo held now in his possession. An unfamiliar tug struck at his heart like a bridegroom’s song. Like Jesus, calling to the weary and burdened.
“Let someone like her,” he whispered in prayer “…… come to me.”
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