Sold to the Enemy

By: Sarah Morgan

‘NO ONE will lend you money, Selene. They are all too afraid of your father.’

‘Not all.’ Selene sat down on the bed and stroked her mother’s hair—hair tended regularly by hairdressers in order to keep up the appearance of a perfect life. ‘Stop worrying. I’m going to get you away from here.’

Her mother lay still. She said ‘from here’ but they both knew that what she really meant was ‘from him’.

‘I should be the one saying that to you. I should have left years ago. When I first met your father he was so charming. Every woman in the room wanted him and he only had eyes for me. Have you any idea how that feels?’

Selene opened her mouth to say How could I, when I’ve been trapped on this island for most of my life? but realised that would only hurt her mother more. ‘I can imagine it must have been very exciting. He was rich and powerful.’ She wouldn’t make that mistake. She would never let love blind her to the true nature of the man underneath.

‘It’s stupid to talk of leaving when we both know he’ll never let us go. As far as the world is concerned we’re the perfect family. He isn’t going to let anything ruin that image.’ Her mother rolled away, turning her face to the wall.

Selene felt a rush of frustration. It was like watching someone adrift on a raft, making no effort to save themselves. ‘We’re not going to ask him. It’s our decision. Ours. Maybe it’s time we told the world this “family” is a lie.’

Her mother’s lack of response didn’t surprise her. Her father had dictated to them and controlled them for so long she’d forgotten she even had a choice.

Despite the oppressive summer heat and the fact that their fortress home had no air-conditioning, a chill spread across her skin and ran deep into her bones.

How many years did it take, she wondered, before you no longer believed your life was worth fighting for? How many years before hope turned to helplessness, before anger became acceptance and spirit was beaten to a stupor? How many years until she, too, chose to lie on her side facing the wall rather than stand up and face the day?

Beyond the closed shutters that blotted out the only window in the tiny bedroom the sun beamed its approval from a perfect blue sky onto the sparkling Mediterranean, its brightness a cruel contrast to the darkness inside the room.

To many, the Greek Islands were paradise. Perhaps some of them were. Selene didn’t know. She only knew this one, and Antaxos was no paradise. Cut off from its neighbours by a stretch of dangerous sea, rocks that threatened ships like the jaws of a monster and by the fearsome reputation of the man who owned it, this island was closer to hell than heaven.

Selene tucked the covers around her mother’s thin shoulders. ‘Leave everything to me.’

That statement injected her mother with an energy that nothing else could. ‘Don’t make him angry.’

She’d heard those words more often than she could count.

She’d spent her life tiptoeing around ‘angry’.

‘You don’t have to live like this, watching everything you say and everything you do because of him.’ Looking at her mother, Selene felt sad. Once, she’d been a beauty and it had been that blonde, Nordic beauty that had attracted the attention of the rich playboy Stavros Antaxos. Her mother had been dazzled by wealth and power and she’d melted under his charm like candle wax under a hot flame, never seeing the person beneath the smooth sophistication.

One bad choice, Selene thought. Her mother had made one bad choice and then spent years living with it, her heart and spirit crushed by a life spent with a ruthless man.

‘Let’s not talk about him. I had an e-mail this week from Hot Spa in Athens.’ She’d been nursing the news for days, not daring to share it before now. ‘Remember I told you about them? It’s a really upmarket chain. And they have spa hotels on Crete, Corfu and Santorini. I sent them samples of my candles and my soap and they love them. They used them in their treatment rooms and three of their top clients insisted on taking them home and paid a fortune for the privilege. Now they want to talk to me and put in a large order. It’s the break I’ve been hoping for.’ She was buzzing inside and longing to share the excitement so it came as a blow when her mother’s only response was to shake her head.

‘He’ll never let you do it.’

‘I don’t need his permission to live my life the way I want to live it.’

‘And how are you going to live it? You need money to set up your business and he won’t give you money that enables us to leave him.’

‘I know. Which is why I don’t intend to ask him. I have another plan.’ She’d learned not to speak without first checking to see who might be listening and instinctively she turned her head to see that the door was closed, even though this was her mother’s bedroom and she’d secured the door herself. Even though he wasn’t even on the island. ‘I’m leaving tonight and I’m telling you this because I won’t be able to contact you for a few days and I don’t want you to worry about me. As far as everyone is concerned I am at the convent for my usual week of retreat and meditation.’