‘He’s been called away.’
‘Ah.’ Stella looked thoughtful. ‘And what is this new note of resignation in your voice? Has all the fight gone out of you, Lisa?’
Lisa smiled a little. ‘You think I should have rugby- tackled him to the ground?’
‘You can’t let him have all his own way.’
It was impossible to remain oblivious to the mischief in Stella’s eyes. ‘Next time,’ Lisa promised without much conviction.
‘So, there is to be a next time?’ Stella’s sharp gaze focused on her face.
‘No, Stella, this is my last day on Stellamaris.’
Stella sighed as she linked arms with Lisa and drew her up the path. ‘Don’t be impatient with Tino, Lisa, he’s a very busy man.’
‘I’m not impatient.’ Just disappointed, sad, and angry with myself for thinking it could be any different.
‘I should think not,’ Stella exclaimed, snapping her out of it. ‘I am here.’
Lisa squeezed Stella’s arm affectionately. She had to put Tino out of her mind, but Stella wasn’t making it easy for her.
After breakfast Stella raised the subject of Tino again.
‘I’m not disappointed,’ Lisa lied. ‘He invited me for breakfast, I just thought he might make the effort to turn up.’
‘He’s a good man, Lisa.’
Lisa turned her head away. She wasn’t ready to hear that, not from Stella, not from someone she trusted as much as she trusted Stella. Then Stella covered her hand with her own as if she sensed her turmoil. ‘Don’t…’ Lisa pulled her hand away. ‘I might cry.’
‘And if you do?’ Stella demanded gently. ‘What is wrong with crying, Lisa? Why are you so ashamed of your emotions?’ Digging into her pocket, she pulled out a crisply laundered handkerchief and handed it over. ‘Sometimes the view in Stellamaris is enough to make me cry… and sometimes my memories are enough. Other times I cry because I am so happy—like the time when Giorgio told me how much he loved Arianna. I’m not ashamed of how I feel. I rejoice in the gift of life in all its guises. And I am Greek,’ she added, smiling mischievously, ‘so naturally I feel things very deeply, as we Greeks do. We have a hunger for life, Lisa… a passion.’
‘I have all those things inside me, Stella.’ Lisa’s voice was desperate. ‘But I don’t know how to set them free.’
Stella touched her arm. ‘Then I must help you,’ she said gently.
‘No one can do that.’
‘How many Greeks do you know?’
The expression on Stella’s face forced a smile onto Lisa’s lips. ‘Too few, and one too many.’
‘Tino?’ Stella asked shrewdly. ‘He’s the one too many?’
‘Yes,’ Lisa admitted, ‘though I don’t really know him.’
‘What do you want to know about him? Shall I tell you that he is the most wonderful man I have ever known? No? Why are you shaking your head at me, Lisa? Do you find that so hard to believe? Let me tell you a little more about Tino. He paid for Arianna to go to the music conservatoire. Without him my daughter’s wonderful voice would never have been recognised. And he gave me more than I could ever tell you… Far more than money, Tino is the son I never had. The apartment block where I live when I am in Athens, and the cottage here in Stellamaris—Constantine gave them to me. He gave me the whole block of apartments, Lisa.’ Stella touched her hand to her chest to express her emotion. ‘And still you frown?’ She shook her head.
‘I just can’t believe we’re talking about the same man. You told me once you’d known Tino for ever, so you must have known his family. Can’t you tell me a little about them so that I can understand him better?’
It was hard to believe how rapidly Stella’s expression changed from open and friendly to completely shut.
‘Tino hasn’t told you about his background?’
‘About his family, no.’
‘Then I can’t tell you either. I’m sorry, Lisa, only Tino can tell you about his past.’
And he would never do that, Lisa realised.