Pannos stood at the perimeter of the airport staring up into the clear blue sky. His eyes were sore from the tears he had shed, the vision of his Danielle still vivid in his mind. As he stared into its vastness, the usual hustle and bustle of airport life carried on around him, oblivious to the pain that dominated his heart. His legs felt like jelly beneath him. His heart was beating hard in his chest, but somehow he still managed to find the strength to stay standing. He closed his cried out eyes and pictured Danielle’s face in his mind. The image of her was so clear; she was smiling at him, and her big, emerald eyes sparkled, inducing a smile to creep across his grief stricken face. He took a deep breath and breathed in the memory of the woman that had stolen his heart, filling his lungs with every precious moment spent with her.
Time soon passed him by as he reminisced back to when he held her in his arms, comforted by the thoughts conjured up in his mind. The last two weeks had been the best two weeks of his life, but now they had come to an end, and he had to get back into the normality of his so called life. Suddenly, he felt a stubborn frustration rise up from the pit of his stomach, and a harsh reality consumed him. He did not want to return to a mundane world that did not include Danielle. He wanted to have her by his side for the rest of his days; to feel her next to him while he slept; to see her laugh when he was feeling down, and to make love to her. Oh, how he yearned to make love to her. These estranged feelings brought tears to his eyes, and it took all of his mental strength not to let them fall. Opening his eyes, he looked back up into the sky. For a split second it was as if she had been just a wonderful dream. Unbelief began to rule his thoughts.
“No she was real,” he said out loud, as if to convince his deceit ridden conscience. “No my Danielle was here,” he said, his voice now just a whisper. He didn’t want her to be like the plane that had taken her away from him; to become a distant memory, soon to fade away into the horizon of his past. The pain of his loss was so unbearable that he had to force himself to pull himself together, and come to terms with the way that it had to be. He felt so powerless over the situation and hated the feeling that dominated his willpower and that overrode his control.
He put his head in his hands and had the urge to squeeze his temples, but resisted when he was suddenly interrupted by the phone ringing in his pocket. He reluctantly pulled it out and looked at the screen. When he saw his brother’s name displayed in bright green letters, Pannos felt both annoyed and relieved by the disturbance, which quickly brought him out of his despair. He thought twice about answering it and just stared at the screen until it finally stopped ringing. He felt a pang of guilt because he had ignored his brother’s phone call, but he did not have the strength to talk, not even to Yannis right at that moment. He soon convinced himself that Yannis would understand, when or if he explained himself.
As he looked around the car park, he suddenly became aware of the silence around him. The car park was deserted and a deep sense of abandonment engulfed him. He felt so lost and alone: a feeling that he had never experienced before; somehow, this began to scare him. Then he looked at his watch and realised that he had been standing there for almost two hours. So, he took a deep breath, quickly pushed the alien feelings away, and started to make his way to the car. As he climbed into the Mercedes, and turned on the engine, the familiar sound of a love song filled the car.
The sudden sound of the woman singing took his breath away, and he remembered the many times that he had sung it to Danielle. The vision of her invaded his mind again, and he had to turn the stereo off, because the memory of her lovely face induced such pain, he felt like he had been kicked in the stomach. Forcing down the tears that had violently erupted, he composed himself and began to make the short journey up to the hotel. He travelled slowly through the high street and couldn’t help noticing all the young lovers walking hand in hand down the road. They interacted passionately with each other and a pang of jealousy overwhelmed him as he watched their smiling faces.
One couple in particular caught his eye when they stopped in mid walk. The man stole a kiss from his partner, and then they carried on without a care in the world. His heart felt heavy when he was reminded that it was only a short while ago when he too was the other half of a couple, but now he had to face his life alone.
Everyone around him seemed to have that common bond of love that tied them together. This deepened his loneliness, enhancing his pain even more. He suddenly felt the need to be with his family: to be in the security of his loved ones. There, he was sure to find some kind of safety where he could come to terms with his great loss. So, he put his foot down on the accelerator and made a speedy getaway from the love struck couples who, unbeknown to them, tormented his own existence.
Once again his phone began ringing in his pocket, but this time he resisted the urge to ignore it and answered his brother, who was obviously worried about his welfare. The conversation was short; he reassured Yannis that he was alright, and that he would be with him very soon. When he hung up the phone, a smile escaped from his lips as he recalled the concern in his brother’s voice. He knew then that it would take time, but with his family’s support, he was going to be alright.
Pannos drove up the winding road that led to the hotel. He parked the car and got out. He walked to the bottom of the entrance steps, stopped and closed his eyes. The sun was high in the sky and felt very warm against his face. He let its comforting rays sink into his skin as the warmth enveloped him. Then, as if by magic, a surge of strength rose up from deep inside him, enabling him to walk up the steps to face his life as a hotel manager again. He took a deep breath, put Danielle to the back of his mind, and then walked into the hotel. Yannis was behind the reception desk and looked over to his brother. His face showed no emotion as he studied Pannos’s face for any sign of distress, and he was soon relieved when Pannos smiled and nodded his head in assurance. Pannos continued passed him and walked over to the bar where a man was standing eagerly waiting to be served.
“What can I get you sir?” He asked proudly, a wide smile dominating his face. On the outside it was if he hadn’t a care in the world, but the pain that was still raw in his heart told another story. “I will get over this,” he convinced himself, and began pouring the gentleman’s drink.
Danielle looked out of the window of the plane, tears flowing down her cheeks. The pain that she felt inside was too hard to contain, so she helplessly let the tears continue to fall. They were high up above the clouds, but the beautiful, clear blue view that surrounded her was no deterrent from how she felt. All she could think about was Pannos and the love that they had shared, which had now been cruelly snatched out of her hands. Her heart felt like it was made of lead as she recaptured every moment spent with the man of her dreams, reliving every touch, every kiss, and every heart rendering memory of being safe in his arms. Regret pierced her heart and ruled her mind at her sheer stupidity for letting him through the barrier that she had built up to protect herself: the barrier that had taken so many years to build. But now here she was, her heart broken into pieces, and in a place where she vowed never to let herself be. She sighed heavily at her weakness, clutching hold of her stomach where the root of her pain resided, provoking the tears to flow faster down her face.
“Why did I let this happen?” she thought. “How did I let this happen?” She closed her eyes as a picture of Pannos spontaneously came into her mind. She wanted to rid herself of the vision, but found that she couldn’t, and she realised that she didn’t want to lose the memory of his handsome face.
Mick was sitting next to Danielle, and his heart went out to his heartbroken friend. He had watched her stare out of the window and felt helpless to her sorrow. He tried his hardest to take her mind off Pannos by telling a few jokes, but she was oblivious to his jibes. He wanted to tell her that it was all going to be alright, but these words seemed so powerless he chose not to speak them. He turned to Bill, who was seated the other side to him, but he had his eyes closed and was lost in his own thoughts. Then, to Mick’s relief, the stewardess came down the aisle pushing the drinks trolley. As he thought back to the promise he had made to himself, uneasiness took over his body. Suddenly, fear consumed him at the prospect of him never drinking again, and the determination he had felt earlier vanished into thin air.
“I will do this,” he thought, trying to claim back his strength. “But, technically my holiday doesn’t end until we are back in England.” He finally convinced himself. These thoughts triggered his fears to disperse as quickly as they had appeared.
“Yes sir, what can I get you?” The pretty, dark haired stewardess asked smiling. He hadn’t even been aware that he had his hand up, when he suddenly realised that she was speaking to him. He guessed that they had been in the air for about two hours, so he thought carefully about his answer.
“Oh, yes a drink. Could I have a large.....” he hesitated and turned to Danielle who was still staring out of the window. “Sorry could you make that two large vodka and oranges please; one for my friend.”
“If she doesn’t drink it, it will save me ordering another one later,” he thought strategically. The stewardess gave him his requested drinks and then carried on down the aisle, smiling professionally at her potential customers. Mick took a big sip of his drink and relished the peace that it enticed. Confidence soon made an entry as he imagined his life of sobriety.
“I can beat this, and I will beat this,” he thought self-assuredly. “When I am home it will be easier.”
Bill’s mind was racing with all kinds of thoughts, but Danielle was his main concern. He tried desperately to wipe her out of his mind by thinking about being back at home, but she would sneak uncontrollably back into his thoughts. He could see how deeply upset she was, and felt an irrepressible need to put his arms around her, just like he used to when she was hurting. He felt so confused because of the pain that she had caused him, but somehow that did not seem to matter now. As far as he was concerned, Pannos was three thousand miles behind them, out of sight and out of her reach, where he belonged. Tears stung the back of his eyes as he remembered them being together, inducing a familiar pain to penetrate his heart. He opened his eyes and looked over at Danielle. He could see the tears glistening on her cheek, and was mesmerised by them as he watched them roll down her face, and then fall onto her arm that was lying across her stomach.
“Why couldn’t she feel like that towards me?” he thought regretfully. “Why couldn’t she love me like she loved him?”
He closed his eyes again, instantly stopping his tears from escaping, took a deep breath, and quickly prompted his thoughts to move on to something else.
They spent the rest of the journey in silence. The excitement of all the other passengers filled the air, but it was if a dark cloud of sadness hung over the three friends. Then the sound of the captain filled the plane, as he informed them that they were now coming into land. Danielle was brought out of her thoughts by his voice, as she mindlessly put on her seat belt. She wiped away her tears and consciously put Pannos to the back of her mind. Suddenly, she felt an excitement stir up in her stomach at the thought of seeing her three children again; this encouraged a smile to form on her face. Her strength made a comeback as she pictured her babies in her mind.
“I will get over this,” she thought positively. “I have to for their sake.” She realised then that she felt better as her excitement overruled her sadness.
The plane brought them back into their world safely, and the same stewardess who had pushed the drinks trolley told the passengers that it was safe to leave the aircraft. Bill was the first to get off, closely followed by Mick and Danielle. They were led off the plane in single file, and as they walked through the airport lounge, the three friends found themselves walking side by side. Danielle looked at Mick and smiled. No words were said as he put his arm around her and kissed her head. He felt so relieved to see her smiling again that he gently squeezed her side. For once he didn’t feel the need to say something funny as the three friends went to get their suitcases. They were waited patiently for their luggage when Danielle walked up beside Bill. She felt awkward as she stood by his side, but she really wanted to say something to him. Her words swam around in her head, unable to reach her mouth, blocked by her guilt. Bill became aware that she was there. He looked at her and smiled half-heartedly.
“B-Bill...” she said shakily. “Bill I am so sorry. I did not mean to hurt you. The whole situation took me by surprise.” She looked down at the ground, frightened to show the shame that her eyes portrayed for ruining their friendship.
“Dan, it is ok babe,” Bill replied, recognising the sincerity in her voice. “That is all in the past now, and I am sorry too. It’s not all down to you sweetheart, and I really hope we can be friends again.” His words were genuine as he put his arm around her and gave her a big hug. The thought of never seeing that Greek man again reassured him that their friendship had a good chance of restoration, and this made him squeeze her tighter.
Mick looked over at the friend’s embrace and smiled at the heart warming reunion. He still felt slightly guilty about what had happened between Pannos and Danielle, but he convinced himself that now they were back on English soil, everything would get back to how it used to be. He also hoped that he and Pannos could still be friends, and that they would keep in touch. They were, after all, like brothers, and this, he guessed, would not change.
Mick decided to catch up with his two friends, so began walking towards them, but as he got closer, his sandal got caught on the step and he went flying into the back of Bill’s legs. Bill was taken by surprise as his legs buckled beneath him, and was more than shocked when he noticed Mick sprawled out on the floor.
“Mick, what are you doing?” Bill said, not knowing whether to laugh or be concerned for his clumsy friend.
“These bloody Greek...” Mick said without thinking, then stopped when he became aware of what he was about to say. “These bloody English steps, they are everywhere.” Mick burst out, laughing at his humiliation, causing Both Bill and Danielle to follow suit. All three of them were laughing hysterically, causing everyone around them to stop and look at them, curious at what was going on. They were yet again the centre of attention, and Mick, being Mick, was the culprit behind the disturbance. Bill bent down to help his friend up off of the floor, tears of joy streaming down his face.
“Thanks Bill me ole mate. It’s good to be home. Hello England, we are back!”
Danielle thought her sides were going to split as she watched Bill haphazardly pick Mick up off of the floor, tears were now streaming down her face. She suddenly became aware of her tears, and felt relieved that they were tears of happiness. She had successfully locked Pannos away in a vacant box in her mind, and was pleased that she had managed to do so. Mick was now standing, so she was stood in-between her two closest friends. The three of them claimed their luggage and made their way to the taxi rank to take the final part of their journey home.
To their relief, an empty taxi was at hand, so they made their way over to it and began to put their luggage in the boot. Bill took hold of Danielle’s suitcase, so she took the opportunity to phone her mother to let her know that she would be home in about forty five minutes.
Danielle was overjoyed when she heard the voice from home, and was pleased to be told that everyone was at Danielle’s house eagerly waiting her return. Excitement bubbled in her stomach: she could not wait to be with her family again. She was pleased and relieved that Bill seemed to be alright with her, and she felt honoured because he was willing to salvage what was left of their friendship. She looked over at Bill who was shutting the boot of the taxi, and smiled. He was so special to her, and she couldn’t believe that she had nearly ruined the close bond that they shared. She knew that her feelings for him were platonic, and was somehow relieved that he now knew it too; nothing or no one could ever take that away.
“Come on Dan, time to get you home.” Bill said enthusiastically, pulling open the back door of the taxi.
“I can’t wait to see my babies.” Danielle squeaked excitedly. “And thanks Bill, you are a true mate.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and got into the car.
The atmosphere in the taxi was electric as Mick had everyone laughing at his silly ways, and Pannos was not mentioned at all. They spoke about Stuart, and all three of them wondered whether he had been in the King’s Head, and if he had, what had he said. Danielle felt guilt raise its ugly head as they went through the whole Stuart saga. She hoped that he had found the help that he needed, and when they met again, he would be the same Stuart that had first come away with them. Feeling a positive conclusion would come of the Stuart situation, she focused her mind back on being reunited with her children again.
Pannos came to the forefront of her mind many times, but she skilfully managed to push him out of her thoughts. The memory of him still provoked a terrible pain in her heart, so she did not want to put herself back in that place unnecessarily. She had now accepted that this great love story had come to an end, and when the time was right, she would have the strength to think back to those wonderful times.
They had been on the motorway for forty minutes, and thankfully it had been traffic free. Danielle’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the familiar sight of the local Holiday Inn, a sure sign of coming onto home ground.
“In five minutes I will be back under my own roof,” she thought, realising just how homesick she felt. She couldn’t wait to be in the comfort of her own home, and have her children in her sight again. Then, as she had predicted, five minutes later, the taxi took up her road. She directed the driver to her front door. Bill got out first to help her with her suitcase as Danielle opened the car door. She had only had time to get one leg out when the front door of her house flew open, and a very excited Charlie came running out, followed closely by Marie. Charlie proceeded to run around the side of the car, and flung his arms around his mother, kissing her frantically on the cheek. She managed to pull herself out of the car with Charlie hanging around her neck like a baby monkey. She dropped her bag on the floor to free her arms and held her son so tightly that she was in danger of crushing his ribs.
“Mummy, mummy, I have missed you so much.” Charlie said continuing to kiss her face. “Have you got me a present?” was his next statement, causing Danielle to laugh out loud.
“First things first, Charlie,” She said, looking into her son’s gleaming, brown eyes. “I missed you too sweetheart.” She said, trying to prize his arms off of her neck, without much success. “And, yes I have got you a present.” This seemed to do the trick; his grip loosened and he dropped to the ground. Then Marie came up to her; she had been patiently waiting at the curb side for her mother’s attention, and flung her arms around her, squeezing her tight.
“Mum, I have missed you, and I am so glad that you are home. Wow mum, you are so brown.” Marie said, taking a step back and looking her mother up and down. Then she suddenly remembered herself and flung her arms back around her mother again.
“Have you got me a present too?” she asked jokingly, and both of them started laughing as Danielle nodded her head.
“I wouldn’t forget you, my beautiful girl.” This time Danielle eyed her daughter up and down. “My beautiful grown-up girl, you have got to be two inches taller than when I left. That’s amazing. I can’t believe how much you have grown.” Danielle cuddled her daughter tighter as pride overwhelmed her. She looked over to the doorway of her house where her mother, brother and sister in-law were standing at the threshold, smiling at their heartfelt embrace. Suddenly, Danielle’s mind filled with confusion when she realised that one person was missing.
“Where is Billy?” she said. Tears began to sting the back of her eyes as she pulled away from Marie. Induced by his absence, her heart felt like it was going to stop, but then Tony moved out of the way, clearing a space for Billy to appear.
“I am here mum, you didn’t think that I would miss being here to meet you did you?” Billy said, a big grin staining his face as he walked towards his mother. The cloud of confusion quickly lifted from Danielle’s mind as she watched her son walk towards her, and a huge smile swept across her face.
“Billy, oh Billy, it is so good to see you,” she said, putting her arms out to claim her firstborn son. “Look at you, you have grown too, and you are more handsome than ever.” She fought back her tears as he walked into her outstretched arms and hugged her. It felt so good to have him in her arms again. As she kissed his cheeks, time seemed to stand still. Then, Bill placed her suitcase down next to her, and she was forced to let him go.
“Sorry Dan, but we have got to get going; the meter is ticking away here.” Bill said, feeling bad that he had to interrupt the happy reunion. He was feeling very tired from the journey and longed to be back at home. So, Billy picked up his mother’s suitcase, as Danielle said goodbye to her dear friends, and walked into the house, followed by his brother and sister. Meanwhile, Danielle watched the taxi disappear out of her road, then, taking a deep breath, walked into her house to be with her family.