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Culture

Greek American Stories -Areti’s Secret

 

By Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

 

George looked worried as he sat down among his friends in Dixon’s that Sunday. “What’s bothering you, George,” Dimos asked, concerned. George was finding it very difficult to explain what he hoped was just a misconception. But, with caution, he began, “It may not be what it appeared, but…I…saw…” Then, his mouth shut, tight. Out of patience, John insisted, “Come on, George! You can trust us, you know. What did you see?” After a few tension filled seconds, George told them what he witnessed a few days ago on his way to his daughter’s school rehearsal. “I just left off Kiki when I decided to go to Yiannis’ house where I saw Areti speaking to an unsavory character. She looked around as if afraid someone saw them.”

Dimos, taken aback, asked, “What do you mean, unsavory?” George, trying not to sound sententious, told them, “He’s a known card sharp and a cheat who owns the restaurant, Acropolis, on 57th Street. You know the one I mean.” Dimos was awed. “It can’t be anything suspicious, George. I mean, come on! Areti? I won’t believe it!” Kipreos said, “Maybe, he’s an old friend.” George shook his head, slowly. “That’s what I hoped! But, I inched closer to hear what they were talking about. That’s when I…I…” he shook his head, again. “What were they saying, George?” asked John, nearly spilling his coffee.

After an intake of breath, George continued. “He asked her if Yiannis knows anything yet. She answered, no! Then, he asks her if it’s her first time at it. She says, ‘yes’. He took her hand and told her not to worry – that Yiannis will never find out, yet.” After another long, frigid silence, Dimos said, in a low voice, “You…think that…Areti and this guy…” George shrugged, saying he didn’t know what to think. Kipreos, all sympathy for the hard working, obedient, innocent, good, Areti, offered, “Well, if that’s the way it is, I say, let her do what she wants! After all, we all know what Yiannis is…cheap, lazy, unappreciative, demanding…” Knowing Kipreos for his bachelor ways, John said, “That’s not the way it should be, Kipreos. Family is precious and one must have honor – no matter what!” Dimos, looking downcast, said, “Yes, family IS precious. But, sometimes a woman can take so much – yearns for something like …affection, appreciation, maybe.

Areti has been supporting Yiannis since marrying him – just eighteen, too. He’s twenty years older, don’t forget. She’s never had a carefree life. He takes care of Barbara while she goes to work. She comes home, starts dinner, washes clothes, cleans up, irons the next day’s clothes, then, goes to sleep while Yiannis burps and snores and collects her pay. I say let’s pretend we know nothing.” Sympathetic, yet hesitant, John agreed. “Yeah! Maybe Yiannis deserves it! But, I am very surprised. Shocked! The woman is a devout Christian, loving mother.

There’s few like her.” George continued, “There’s more. She asks him what can she do for him. He told her, ‘nothing, Areti. Just leave everything to me! I want to please you!’ She smiled, kinda’ shy like. Then thanked him. He asked when does he come home. She told him, about one or two in the afternoon on Sundays. ‘He’s with friends at Dixon’s’, she explained to him.” He says, ‘ok, I’ll leave real quick. Don’t worry! I’m very experienced at these things.’” That’s when I wanted to jump out and punch his slimy face – preying on naive women. If Yiannis finds out she’ll find herself on the street.” John shook his head. “That will never happen! Yiannis lose her pay check? His ‘easy street’ address?” Kipreos poked him. “Shhh! Here comes Yiannis now!”

All smiles, Yiannis took his place between Kipreos and Dimos and, reaching for a donut, told them, “Hah! Areti thinks she has a secret from me! But, a waiter from the Acropolis told me what’s going on.” Dimos, laying a firm hand on his arm, said, “Whatever it is keep your cool.” Yiannis leaned back in his chair. “I’m cool! I don’t mind.” They fell into an icy silence. Stupefied, George said, “You…don’t mind?” Yiannis, smiling, told them, “Why should I? I think it’s a great idea!” The suspense was like a rubber band stretched to snapping point until Yiannis told them that he learned from that waiter that Areti was planning a catered, surprise wedding anniversary party for him and her. “Our twentieth!” George, glad he didn’t do anything that would have had him arrested for assault, fell into an uneasy silence. The others, heaving a long, loud sigh of relief that sounded like a Nor’easter, relaxed. Yiannis, sensing their concern, assured them, “Hey! Don’t worry, guys! You’re all invited!”

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