The villa was exactly the same as Elisaveta remembered and yet different. Shabbier, although there were signs that someone had recently done some renovation work, many of the rooms shut up and shrouded in dust sheets. It had felt a little eerie when she’d arrived, late in the evening as the sun began to fall over the horizon, and she had locked herself in one of the cleaner bedrooms and tried, unsuccessfully, to get some sleep. Every time she dropped off she could hear Theo’s voice echoing round and round: ‘There’s nothing going on between Elisaveta and me!’
The sun rose early and she with it, glad to leave her tangled sheets and even more tangled dreams. A quick shower, muttering a blessing for a switched on and working boiler, a change into the shorts and t-shirt she’d bought at the airport and she was ready. Ready to confront the rest of her life. ‘But first,’ she muttered, ‘breakfast.’ No one ever made a good life-changing decision on an empty stomach.
It was many years since she had visited Villa Rosa with her mother, but Elisaveta remembered the way down to the nearest village; on her visit it had been her job to run down in the morning to buy freshly baked rolls. The baker’s was unchanged and she stood in the cheerful queue just as she had done when she was a girl. There were enough tourists for her presence there to go unremarked. Some juice, cheese and milk completed her shopping and Elisaveta started the uphill stroll back to the villa in a much more optimistic frame of mind. How bad could things really be when the sun was this warm, the meadows filled with such an array of brightly coloured flowers and the birdsong so sweet and so loud?
Of course, she had no right to be here at the villa, but as soon as she could face her phone, she would call Posy and explain. She might not be close to her cousin but they were friendly and she was sure Posy would allow her to stay for a while. Maybe she could get a job here on the island? Her language skills would be an asset in a place that relied on tourists in the summer months.
But for all her optimistic thoughts Elisaveta was all too aware that she was running away, and that might be a valid thing to do for a few days but as a life plan it left a lot to be desired.
She filled a roll with some cheese and made herself a large cup of coffee, carrying her breakfast to the lawn at the front of the villa overlooking the sea. The tide was out and the beach curved to meet it, the distinctive horseshoe arch bisecting it. Although the beach was open to anyone, the only way down was from the villa, essentially making it the personal property of the villa’s owner – unless visitors sailed in of course.
At that moment a small dinghy sailed into view and to Elisaveta’s amazement and horror—after all, she wasn’t supposed to be here – moored alongside the narrow jetty. As she watched, a tall, brown-haired man stepped out of the boat and onto the wooden planks. Her heart stopped. Even from this distance, he was completely recognisable. It was Theo.