Lizzie fought back the emotional tears stinging the backs of her eyes as Ilios finished speaking.
‘But he must have loved you as well. After all, he left you the villa,’ she told him impulsively, wanting instinctively to ease what she knew must be his hurt. Who would not be hurt in such circumstances?
‘No, my value to him lay in my genes, that is all,’ was Ilios’s harsh response.
Lizzie ached with sadness for him. Was his own childhood the cause of Ilios’s determination not to marry and not to allow any woman to knowingly have his children? Had having to be so self-reliant, unable to trust the one adult he should have been able to turn to, left him so badly scarred that he was unable to trust other human beings himself? It would have taken great emotional strength and endurance and great maturity to have survived the childhood Ilios had had and emerge unscathed from it, far more than any young child could have been expected to have.
Lizzie felt desperately sorry for the little boy Ilios must have been—so sorry, in fact, that she wanted to gather that child up in her arms and hold him safe, give him the same loving childhood she herself had known. But of course that child no longer existed, and the man he had become would scorn her emotions as mere sentiment, she suspected.
‘The past is over. Looking back toward it serves no purpose,’ Ilios told her curtly. ‘We live in the present, after all.’
‘That’s true, but sometimes we need to look back to what we were to understand what we are now.’
‘That is self-indulgence and it also serves no purpose,’ Ilios insisted grimly, looking at his watch and adding, ‘If you are ready to leave…?’
Lizzie nodded her head. The subject of his childhood and the effect it must have had on him was obviously closed, and she suspected it would remain that way.
It would soon be spring, and the temperature was beginning to rise a little. Wild flowers bloomed by the roadside, the way they had their faces turned up to the sun making Lizzie smile as Ilios drove them towards the east and the peninsula where Villas Manos stood.
Since Ilios was a good driver there was no logical reason for her to feel on edge. No logical reason, perhaps, but since when have the emotions of a woman in love been logical? Lizzie asked herself wryly.
They passed the turn-off for Halkidiki and the famous Mount Athos peninsula, with its monasteries and its rule that no female was allowed to set foot there, including female animals, and then had stopped briefly at a small tavern for a simple lunch of Greek salad and fruit. It was eaten mainly in the same silence which had pervaded since they had set out.
If Ilios was regretting inviting her to join him, then she was certainly regretting accepting his invitation. She felt rejected and unwanted, deliberately distanced from Ilios by his silence—a silence that her own pride would not allow her to break.
Ilios drove straight to the villa on the western side of the promontory, ignoring the fork in the road to the east where the apartment block had been.
It seemed a lifetime since she had first met Ilios there. Then she had been a single woman, her only concern for her financial situation and the future of her family. Her own emotions as a woman simply had not come into the equation. Now she was married and a wife—at least in the eyes of the world. Her family were financially secure, and her anxiety was all for her own emotions.
Ruby had sent her a photograph of the twins via her mobile, so that Lizzie could see the new school uniforms she had bought for them at Lizzie’s insistence that she must do so and that they could afford it. A tender, amused smile curled Lizzie’s mouth. The two five-year-olds had looked so proud in their grey flannel trousers and maroon blazers, their dark hair cut short and brushed neatly.