All I Need Pt. 05

byAnomic©

I was lost in my thoughts for a while, thinking how much Amy would love to check out the architecture around here, when I heard a feminine voice speaking to me. Her Greek accent was thick, but her English was flawless.

"It's not their best dish, is it?"

I looked up to see a very attractive, tall, slender woman with olive skin and green eyes smiling down at me. She had long, dark hair pulled back in a light ponytail and was dressed in an elegant black dress with a small black purse in her hand.

"It's fine, really. I'm just not that hungry." I replied.

"Do you mind if I join you?" She asked, politely. I couldn't think of a polite way to decline her on a moment's notice, so I gave her a small smile and motioned her to a chair.

"Thank you. I get tired of eating alone at lunch every day." She smiled again. "You don't recognize me, do you?"

"I'm sorry, I don't." I was now puzzled. Did I know her from somewhere?

"I'm Natali. I work at the gallery."

"Oh, right! I'm sorry, I should have remembered." I pondered if I had ever seen her there. I never paid much attention to the people there. I think I vaguely recalled seeing a tall, dark haired woman around.

"How do you like working for Mr. Cain?"

A waiter came up and she ordered moussaka without so much as a glance at the menu.

"It's a good job. Keeps me busy, but still allows me time to work on my own paintings. He and his wife are good people."

"They seem to be." She agreed.

After a few moments of silence, Natali asked, "So what brought you here from America?"

"I don't know. A fresh start somewhere new. I wanted something different." I shrugged.

"Somewhere new? You are in one of the oldest cities in the world!" She laughed brightly. It took me a moment to realize she was making a joke.

"Yeah, well. It's not Austin, so it's good enough for my purpose."

"Austin? Texas?" She asked, her green eyes seemed to stare through me. It made me uncomfortable, even though she was polite and friendly.

"Yeah." I replied as I picked at my pasta. It was the sauce, I decided, that made the dish unappetizing.

"You don't look like what I picture an American from Texas to look like." Smiling at me again.

"I left my chaps and spurs in the States." I quipped.

She looked me over for a moment, a couple of wrinkles appearing between her eyebrows. Then one of her eyebrows cocked to a high point.

"You are joking with me." She decided aloud. I couldn't help chuckling.

"Ah, you are!" She exclaimed, delighted. "You should smile more. You have a nice smile."

She put a hand gently on my forearm, and it finally dawned on me that she was flirting.

"Thanks." I picked at my food some more, scraping the offending sauce away.

"You really don't like that very much, do you?"

"Not really," I admitted. "I'm not used to the food here, yet. Still trying different dishes."

"Would would you eat if you could have anything?"

"That's easy. Egg rolls. Hot and sour soup. Some good lo mien." I replied.

"I know a place. If you'd like to meet me for dinner?" Her eyes met mine expectantly.

I looked back down at my plate, trying to think of how I could turn her down without hurting her feelings. The obvious answer occurred to me a half second later.

"I'm sorry, I've got to head back in a couple of hours."

"Oh. That's too bad. Maybe another time." She briefly looked down, her smile faltered a little. But it returned almost immediately.

"Maybe so. When I don't have to get back to the island so soon." I lied, aiming for politeness.

"Sounds good to me." She replied, brightly.

We finished our meal, or more accurately, she finished her meal as I picked at mine in disdain and paid for our bills separately. I turned to wave goodbye to her and instead was met with a brief hug. She gave me her business card with a home number written on the back and walked back toward the gallery.

She seemed like a nice girl and was certainly beautiful, I thought. But the idea of getting involved with anyone just made my stomach churn. There was only one person I wanted to be with. I flipped the card over in my hand and read over it.

"Natali Panagakos," Her name was followed by some Greek lettering that I assumed meant sales representative or something similar. The only other thing I could read on the card were the words "fine arts." Fair enough, I shrugged. I slipped the card in my back pocket and walked back to the ferry.

Back on Milos, I told the Cains about the encounter over dinner. They both listened with great interest. Margaret was, of course, completely amused at my obliviousness to having been hit on by a girl until she had touched me.

"I know her family," Theron observed. "They are nice people. You could certainly do worse if you decided to pursue her."

"I'm not going to pursue her. That wouldn't do anyone any good, I don't think." I replied, thoughtfully.

"I understand." He replied as he exchanged a slight glance with Margaret, who shrugged. I didn't know what that meant and I didn't ask.

I was pretty sure that I was better off alone at this point. The relationship I'd had with Amy was irreplaceable. There wasn't any reason to bother with anyone else as far as I was concerned.

* * *

Eventually, November rolled around and I realized for the first time that I had a pretty decent idea of where I could find Amy. She would likely be in Colorado for the week, as called for by family tradition. I pulled out my laptop and priced flights to the US. I chose a flight and sat with my credit card in my hand, about to put in the information to buy the ticket when I froze up. I must have lingered there for ten minutes, indecisive. What would I even say at this point? How could I approach the entire family that way? It's not like I could just knock on their door, walk in, hug everyone except my parents, and sweep Amy up in my arms. What if she didn't want me anymore? The very idea sounded absurd. I closed the laptop and went for a walk.

The afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, which meant nothing other than Thursday in Greece, I sat at my kitchen counter staring at my phone for a few long minutes. I finally picked it up and called Aunt Linda's place. On the fourth ring, someone picked up. I could hear the jovial atmosphere in the background. I swallowed hard at the sound of Aunt Linda's voice.

"Hello?"

"Happy Thanksgiving, Aunt Linda."

"Oh my god, is this Adam?!" She exclaimed.

"Yes, it is. I'm sorry I couldn't be there this year. I miss you guys." I tried to sound better than I felt.

"I'm so glad you called. We miss you, too! Holly! Holly, it's Adam." I heard Aunt Linda call to my mother. Shit, I thought to myself.

"Aunt Linda!" I tried not to shout, trying to get her attention back.

"Yes?" She sounded puzzled by my desperation.

"Is Amy there?"

"No, she's not, Adam. She stayed in California for the break. You didn't know that?" Now she definitely sounded confused. My heart sank. California? How the hell was I supposed to find her there?

"Okay, thanks. Send everyone my love." I replied.

"Don't you want to say hello to your mother? She's right he-" I hung up before I had to face that conversation.

I slumped at the counter and stared at the wall for a long while.

* * *

When I left the United States, I had originally expected to be gone for just a few months at most. I had now been in Greece for three years. I had come to really enjoy living there and the idea of returning to the States filled me with a sense of dread. At one point I looked into renting a house near Theron and Margaret's home, but they were adamant that I continue living in the small apartment built off of Theron's studio. I felt that I was about as comfortable as I could ever expect to be, and although the gaping hole in my life that Amy had once occupied was still there, it had diminished somewhat. I can't say that she was ever far from my thoughts.

Over time, Natali's gentle persistence eventually wore me down and we went out on a date during one of my visits to the mainland. Before the date even started, I knew that it was a mistake. I carefully explained to her that I was just not in a place emotionally where I could handle being in a relationship with someone. I made sure that she understood it wasn't about her and that I thought she was a great person. She claimed to understand and, after a slightly awkward couple of weeks, we settled into a comfortable friendship. I had worried that she was holding out hope for me to eventually want to be with her, but she began dating another guy soon after and I relaxed.

She was a fan of my work and showed some of my pieces to a friend who worked at a gallery in Rome. Before long, I had pieces showing in a gallery there, as well. When I traveled to Rome to deliver the pieces, I stayed at the Palazzo, the same hotel Amy had stayed at when she was in Rome several years before. I pulled out my phone in the hotel room and looked through the pictures she had sent me from that very hotel. As silly as it seemed, even to me, I wondered if I was staying the the same room that she had. I sat on the balcony that night, listening to Swans' "Love of Life" album, and wished she were with me.

A few months later, I was in my biggest gallery show yet. This time in London. Theron had a big show there and had pulled strings with the gallery owner to be sure that I was included in the show. Theron gave me a thirty foot section of wall space near the entrance to his gallery and ensured that my name and art was included on the promotional materials for the gallery opening. As I selected pieces for the show, I joked that I felt like the opening act for a concert. He commented that it was a good comparison.

Theron and Margaret both found my thought process surrounding the pricing of my work for the show to be hysterically funny. Every time I would jot down a price on the list, Theron would come behind me and scratch through it, writing in absurdly ridiculous amounts instead.

"Oh, fuck off Theron! No one is ever going to pay 18,000 quid for that. I painted it in three hours.. I practically pissed on the canvas!" I exclaimed, trying to write the price back in at two thousand. Honestly, I still felt I was ripping people off asking two thousand for it.

"This isn't those piss ant little college shows you used to do. This is a real show at a serious gallery. They don't know you did that in three hours. And so what if you did? Eighteen thousand is a bargain for that painting. I think you should price it at twenty five thousand quid, myself!" Theron barked back at me.

"You have got to be kidding me. I don't know if you've been drinking the salt water out there or what, but you are out of your goddamned mind." I shook my head at him in frustration. Margaret just cackled at our bickering.

"I should be taping this." She remarked at one point, earning looks of exasperation from both of us.

They finally bullied me into agreeing to their pricing plan, arguing that they had years of experience in the art world and that I didn't understand the value of my work. By the time it was all said and done, I had set a total value of my paintings to be featured in the show at a little over 340,000 Euro. I found that number staggering to contemplate.

The three of us flew to London together the week of the show and they were both further amused by my excitement about seeing England for the first time. They had both grown up there, and found the place to be rather dull.

The night of the opening, I was dressed in a suit and tie. It was not my idea, but Margaret had insisted. The gallery was packed with people and I was slightly thrilled to see the degree of interest in my work. Theron introduced me to a couple of other very well known artists that were friends of his and I felt I did a fairly good job of hiding my sense of awe at meeting some of them. I was surprised to find that a couple of them shared my generally cynical view of the art world. But what really unnerved me was the realization that some of the art critics that attended the opening were looking over my work and taking notes.

I don't think it had hit me until that moment that my work would be viewed by serious, world renowned art critics this evening. Theron was off working the crowd, greeting some fans, and so on. Margaret noticed the look on my face and brought me a glass of wine. She assured me that it was going well so far and that I didn't need to be concerned about the critics. I drained the wine in about thirty seconds and a server handed me a replacement.

An older British woman approached us and claimed to be a fan of my work. I tried to be gracious about it, but was again very uncomfortable with the idea that I actually had fans. It turned out that this woman had purchased one of my paintings at a previous show in Athens and had actually come to this show to see my work, not Theron's. Margaret flashed me a huge smile when she overheard that and nodded at me as if to say she had told me so. The woman gave me an email address and asked that I send her photos of any new pieces I would consider selling that were not currently on display. I assured her that I would and she went on her way. I didn't find out until later that it was considered extremely rude by most serious artists and galleries for a buyer to request to see work that was not currently on display. I didn't see a problem with it, myself.

About an hour after the show started, I was able to ignore the critics milling about and began to get bored. Truthfully, I was surprised I lasted that long. I normally lost patience with these things in the first twenty minutes. I sipped a glass of wine, wishing it was a beer, and was chatting with Margaret when I heard a soft voice behind me that made my heart seize up.

"Your new work is beautiful, Adam."

I turned and saw Amy standing before me, a shy and hesitant smile on her face. Her eyes were tired but warm and beautiful. She was dressed in a tight, dark blue dress that ended a few inches above her knees with matching heels. The sapphire necklace that I had given her for Christmas years before dangled from her gorgeous neck. Her hair, now longer, was hanging loosely over one shoulder, exposing her neck fully on one side. She didn't look a day older than when I'd last saw her, over three years before. She took my goddamned breath away.

I opened my mouth to speak, and words wouldn't form. I just stared at her for a long moment, just as she stared at me. My mind started racing through thoughts so quickly that I could hardly form them into words. Part of my mind was screaming at myself at the top of it's lungs to speak, while another was racing through questions. Did she resent me? She would have every right to. I left her behind. I fucking left her behind. Why the fuck did I do that? Did she still want me? Need me like I needed her? Speak, goddamn you! She's right here. Fucking speak! Has she moved on? Is she over me? She's here. She can't hate me. Right? Make your mouth work. Hug her. Hold her. Don't. You. Fucking. Cry.

"I wasn't sure I should come." She finally spoke, her lower lip trembling with uncertainty.

"I'm so glad you did." I replied, taking my first breath of air in what I thought may have been nearly a minute. In my mind, my words sounded distant, like I was on autopilot for a moment. I wasn't prepared for to see her. I had so much to say. I tried desperately to get my thoughts in order. Fuck! She was really here! I ached to hold her in my arms.

"So it's okay that I'm here?" Her voice cracked a little, still hesitant. A storm of emotions was clearly visible in her beautiful blue eyes. I could only imagine the same could be seen in mine, assuming I didn't look as afraid as I felt. Afraid of her. Afraid of myself. Afraid she'd leave. Afraid of... everything.

"It's more than okay. I just can't believe that I'm seeing you." I stepped forward and hugged her, no longer able to control my impulse. The hell with my fears, I had to hold her. At least once.

Her arms wrapped around me in a tight embrace and she started shaking. Her wonderful, familiar scent filled my lungs. My body had missed her on a cellular level, as I felt rocked to my very core by the warm softness of her small frame encased in mine. Every fiber of my being was focused on holding her in my arms again. I felt a tightness deep in my chest, a feeling I had possessed for so long that I no longer remembered it was not a part of me, slowly begin to uncoil.

We didn't speak for a few long moments, neither of us willing to release our grip on the other. We both seemed to physically vibrate with the power of the moment we were sharing.

"You were so fucking hard to find." She nearly whispered, her voice choking the words out. I could feel her tears dampening my shoulder.

"I've missed you so much." I breathed in her ear, my voice cracking around the knot in my throat. I tightened my arms around her in a squeeze for a moment but couldn't will myself to let go of her yet. A tear of my own slid down my face, despite my efforts to contain it.

Finally, she pulled away from me a few inches, her hands sliding down my arms to take both of my hands in hers. She smiled at me as warmly as ever, relief and elation written all over her face despite the tears that caused her mascara to bleed tiny black lines. Many of my questions fell away from my mind in that moment, no longer relevant as I looked in her eyes. They still shone with her love for me. As blue as the water back home.

I heard someone clear their throat suggestively nearby and glanced up to see Theron standing a few feet away with his arm around Margaret. They both had huge expectant grins painted on their faces. Hell, Margaret looked like she may start bouncing at any moment. Margaret wordlessly held a tissue out to Amy, who took accepted it and held it to each of her eyes.

Theron mouthed the word "Amy?" to me, although he looked certain that he already knew the answer. I nodded slightly, suddenly remembering where I was and that we were in a room full of people.

"You must be Amy." Theron said. Amy glanced at me with a puzzled expression, but nodded to him.

"This is Theron Cain and his wife, Margaret. This is Theron's show." I explained.

Theron extended his hand and Amy shook it politely, her other hand still holding mine.

Margaret leaned over and planted a kiss on Amy's cheek, motioning to me. "I can't tell you how important you are to this man. I'm so very glad to get the chance to meet you."

Amy didn't seem to mind Margaret's well meaning affection, despite her being a stranger and hugged herself to my arm, which was still trapped fiercely in her grip.

"He's everythi-" She started to speak and buried her face in my shoulder instead, shaking against me. I pulled my free arm up around her and held her close.

People were moving through the gallery, blissfully unaware of us and the tremendous importance of our reunion. We weren't being stared at, but I wanted to be alone with Amy all the same. I didn't care about the show at all anymore. My little sister was back in my arms and that was the only thing that mattered to me right now. I looked up at Theron, who nodded at me as if reading my mind.

"Get out of here, man. I'll call you in the morning and tell you how the rest of the show went. You've got more important things to take care of." He smiled at me, and put his arm around Margaret again.

Margaret's eyes were shimmering like she was going to start crying at any moment as she smiled more widely than I would have guessed she was capable of.

"Thanks." I acknowledged, and led Amy out of the gallery to the street. Her arm was still wrapped around me as we walked. I wasn't going to complain.

I started to hail a cab, but decided to walk for a while instead.

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