lydias-letters

Lydia's Letters

October 1909. The island of Pringipos, one month after the suicide of Lydia Mella's husband, Dimitri. Lydia is still in shock over his loss and the pain is so deep she decides never to speak to anyone again. Thus, she begins a painful inner journey of writing letters to her dead husband, her way of keeping him close and trying to understand why he would take his own life.

August 1912. Lydia's eighteen-year-old daughter, Anna, cannot take her mother's silence any longer. Realising that she's causing her daughter a lot of pain, Lydia decides to start showing Anna some of her letters.

Through this unconventional way of communicating, mother and daughter start piecing together the puzzle of her father's death and of his brother's, Anna's uncle Nikos. Why did they lose the hotel they owned? Who was responsible for this? Why does Lydia's mother, Kyria Andigoni, consider herself responsible for all that happened? For what reason will Lydia never talk to her brother, Yannis, again? And how is the man Anna has fallen in love with, Michael, a stranger from Kavala, involved in the loss of her father's hotel?

All these troubling questions come hurtling together creating painful situations for both women. Past and present merge. Will Lydia and Anna ever discover the reason this tragedy came into their lives?

The truth lies in unspoken secrets that slowly unravel and in Dimitri's last letter, a letter Lydia has kept sealed for more than three years.

 

You can also read the first chapter of the book below:

 

LYDIA'S LETTERS

 

I
Island of Pringipos, Sea of Marmara

 

10th October 1909


Darling Dimitri,


          A month has passed. A whole month, thirty long days and thirty endless nights. Only I know how long each day has been. Today, during our evening meal, I felt numb. I kept pinching the top of my hand for some reaction; but I could feel nothing. Anna kept bringing me food, kept hovering over me, looking into my face, studying it for something, anything. I could see the concern in her big violet eyes. She touched me, placed her hand on my shoulder. She was the only one who didn't seem frightened of talking to me. Everybody else - our other children, my mother, Magdalini - gave me half-smiles and kept their distance, all trying to act as if nothing had happened.

     'Mama, you must eat,' she kept saying. But I could not eat or drink anything. I could only look at her in silence. I was not present in my body. I wasn't sitting round a table of black-clad people, their noses buried in their plates. I was not really present in this dining room, being served food, dessert, coffee. I was very far away.

     I was on our beach, on our beach here on the island, where we'd go before the children were born. Only you were no longer there with me.

     I've cried so much, Dimitri. I am so lonely. And so angry, so very angry at you. It hurts to feel so angry. It only seems like yesterday or maybe even a week ago, that we lay together on our beach, the sand sticking to our naked bodies, the cliffs guarding us as they had always done. It means nothing knowing that years have passed, whole decades. I can still feel your hot breath on my skin, your body deep within mine, your hands on my breasts – hurried, burning, hungry – as if you were touching me now.

     But you're not on the beach . You're buried deep in the ground.

     I can no longer touch you, watch you as you sweep your hair off your face, feel your arms wrapped around me like a second layer of skin. How am I to live with your absence? Can you tell me that, Dimitri? How can I bear to get up in the morning, knowing that I can't talk to you, cannot even see you smile? All I got was a letter, posted from Constantinople, the day after you left the island. One letter. It's still sealed. I haven't the courage to read it yet.

     I cannot even begin to imagine what was going through your mind when you jumped off that train, if you thought of me; or if the memory of your brother's body tormented you. I don't know if your heart pounded; if you really meant to carry this through, or if you just got dizzy, lost your balance and fell. All I know is the huge hole you've left behind. And how lonely I feel.

     The week-long wait, before I got the telegram informing me of your death, nearly killed me. I paced my mother's house in Constantinople. I couldn't sleep. Our children tried putting food into my mouth, but I dismissed everything. I could sense something was wrong. I almost smelt it.

     The day after I'd seen your body your letter arrived. Your face was barely recognisable. The sight of you, lying on that metallic bed, was indescribable. A month has passed and I still cannot get that image out of my mind. How can I go on as if nothing has happened? Everyone tells me that time will heal this nightmare; but I know it won't. I'm buried with the dead. My heart has gone with you. I am travelling with you on that fateful train, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to stop you from jumping off. No. This will never heal. All I can do is run through events over and over again. It's the only thing that keeps me going, keeps me sane.

     I should have paid attention to that dream and should not have dismissed it. Oh, how it scared me! I should have heeded its warning. Ay Yiorgis did not appear to me for nothing.

     I will not look at my brother any more. He came to your funeral, but I would not look at him. How could I? When I see him I think of you and Nikos and I want to send him into the grave with you and your brother. I hurt when I think of him. He is my brother and I still love him, but I cannot forgive him. I cannot forgive him what he did to you and Nikos. You would have been given a proper sermon. Your bodies would have rested in the church, the priest giving you your final absolution. But instead, you both got buried without any fuss, no priest to bless your journey to God's side, as happens with all who take their own lives. And for that I blame my brother, I blame Yannis.

     I could forgive him other things, but never this.

     All this is so painful, so unfathomable  that I let my mind wander. It's easier that way. It helps me forget the anger that's lodged in my body, burning my throat, my insides, my mind.

     I catch myself thinking back to the time when we first met, at the Hatzis' party. You were the most attractive man there, with your wavy chin-length hair the colour of roasting chestnuts, and such broad shoulders, but I wouldn't dare look at you for too long lest my mother catch me staring and take me away. But I longed for you to notice me so much that my corset dug into my ribs and I could hardly breathe. My body tilted forwards and I kept thinking I'd lose my balance but I didn't care. That New Year's Eve party was a wish come true, twenty-eight years ago, although it doesn't feel that long now.

     Maybe I should tell our children our story, maybe that would help them understand the tragedy that hit us all, maybe it would help me get over the pain. But I do not want to talk. No one can ever understand what we shared.

     So I have made a decision. A month to the day after your body was buried in the ground I have made this promise to myself...I will never speak again. What's the point of talking if I cannot talk to you?