My entire body aches. I must have slept awkwardly. I try to move. But I feel (too) heavy. Then I realise why. Mia slept with (or rather, on) me last night. I gently move her off my back. And turn my phone on. Forty missed calls from Anthony. I delete his voicemails (without listening to them).
I scroll through deleting his texts. Then I notice one from Mark (my ex-husband) “thought I should just let you know that I introduced Mia to a girl I’ve been seeing”. This is the first time he has done that. And I am strangely unsettled by it.
I ask Mia if anything interesting happened over the weekend. All she will say is “I met Daddy’s friend. She has blonde hair”. I am desperate to know more. But do not pry any further.
I make discreet enquiries through a mutual friend. She tells me that he is dating his blonde ex-catalogue model of a receptionist.
Model? She is probably very pretty; all button nose and blonde hair. I feel a little deflated. Why does the word ‘model’ have that effect on me? Even with the word ‘catalogue’ in front of it?
Mark always said I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He talked me out of having the nose job I’d been planning for years. I said it was big. He said it was strong. And part of my heritage.
I conceded that there were very few Cypriots with little button noses. He said he didn’t like button noses. Or blondes for that matter. And now he is with a blonde button nosed ex-model.
What if she is there the next time I drop Mia off? That only gives me two weeks to get used to the idea. He called her a ‘girl’. What if she is (a lot) younger than me? I look in the mirror. And I swear I look older than I did yesterday.
I persuade Mia to watch Stardust again. I need a moral reminder of why it is not good to want to remain forever young. Instead I find myself thinking “Is it really such a terrible thing to rip out the heart of a fallen star and devour it for eternal youth?” I turn it off. I am a very bad person.
What on earth is wrong with me? Is this purely my ego? Or do I still have feelings for Mark?
I am saved from further analysis by the doorbell. It’s my parents. My mother walks in clutching a handful of dried olive leaves. She sets them alight. Then she blows the flames out and circles the olive leaves around Mia’s head, wafting the smoke towards her face and muttering “Your eyes to your arses, your eyes to your arses”.
Something is clearly lost in translation because (bizarrely) it sounds normal in Turkish.
Mia stays perfectly still “Mummy, what is nene (grandma) doing?” “I am protecting you from evil eyes” responds my mother (as if it is the most natural thing in the world).
Apparently someone put the evil eye on Mia. And that is how she ended up with the chick pea in her ear. Luckily I taught Mia not to take her crazy ramblings seriously. She giggles as I roll my eyes.
Then I notice my father looking sadly around at my minimalist (Philippe Starck) furniture “You should have told me you didn’t have enough money to buy a proper three piece suite.” He takes out his wallet “How much do you need?“
The doorbell rings again. My mother beats me to the door. It’s Anthony. His arm is in a sling. And he is holding a huge bunch of flowers.
She looks at me suspiciously “Who is he?” He responds before I do “I’m the flower delivery.....man” and thrusts the flowers at her. He turns to leave. She stares after him. Then calls out, “Wait!” I hold my breath. “I can’t believe they are making you work with a broken arm”. He claims it is “only a sprained wrist”. There is probably nothing wrong with it at all. It’s just a cheap ploy to get sympathy.
It works (on my mother), “Oh you poor thing. Where are you from? You look Turkish”. He admits to being Greek Cypriot. She invites him in for some of her Cypriot vegetable and lamb soup. He tries to refuse. But she won’t take no for an answer.
I am tense (to say the least). My father talks to him in Greek. My mother brings him soup. He makes (over the top) appreciative noises as he eats. She asks him (smugly) if his wife’s soup is as good as hers. He says he isn’t married.
Then adds (whilst looking at me) “There is a woman I would love to marry. But her parents wouldn’t approve of me” My mother nods sympathetically “It is because you have a crap job. Why are you still a delivery boy at your age?”
He doesn’t know how to respond to that. She peers intently at him “Hmm...your eyes are a little too close together. Are you a bit slow? Is there something wrong with your brain?” She illustrates this by tapping the side of her head and scrunching up her face.
She isn’t trying to be rude. My mother simply has no tact or a single politically correct bone in her entire body. She takes his lack of response as affirmation; shaking her head as she tuts, “You should forget about marriage”. Then she shrugs “Eh. What can you do?” and offers him more soup.
He looks across at me “Do you think she would want to marry me?” I am so incensed by his nerve that I respond (venomously) without thinking “She wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire, let alone marry you!”
All three of them are taken aback by my outburst. My mother breaks the silence “You know this woman?” I try to sound casual “No. But I know his type” He responds (too emphatically) “You have me all wrong, you really do”. I glare angrily at him. I don’t trust myself to speak.
My father looks from me to him. And back again. Then he whips Anthony’s plate away (while he is still eating) “Well, we mustn’t keep you. Off you go”. He is still holding the spoon as my father practically hauls him out of the chair and pushes him out of the door.
Then he suggests I go outside (to the garden) with him to` keep him company’ while he smokes. I think I know what’s coming. And I’m right. He looks me straight in the eye and asks “Is it finished between you and that Greek?” I realised some time ago that it is utterly pointless trying to lie to my father. “Yes” I say “It is”. Then “Please don’t tell mum.”
But it’s too late. She has been hanging out of the window behind us (eavesdropping) “You were with that Greek? Aman AllahIm (oh my god)!”
We go back inside and help her get down from the window. She is hysterical “A Greek ! I will die of the shame! Is that what you want? To kill me?” My father tells her to calm down. She turns on him “This is all your fault. You told me not to interfere. Do you see what happens when I don’t interfere? Now do you agree that we should get involved?” He (reluctantly) nods.
She (immediately) calms down. And adopts a worryingly sweet tone, “Sweetheart, we have let you try it your way. We think you should try it our way now. Let’s face it; you’re not getting any younger are you? And if the best you can do is a Greek retard then you obviously need our help”. They exchange glances. “It is time for us to find you a nice Turkish husband”
Somebody shoot me. Please.