Agape by Fiona J. Mackintosh


Fiona J. Mackintosh


As we set off for Piraeus, the handsome cab driver folds his yellow cardigan neatly over the back of the passenger seat and taps his wedding ring to show us he’s doing it to please his wife. I nod and smile and glance at you, but you’re turned away, looking up at the shabby concrete

buildings, bristling with television aerials and dipping lines of laundry.

We have to stop just beyond the Plaka for a funeral procession. People carry wreaths on the end of long poles, dropping petals on the asphalt, and the driver catches my eye in the mirror. ‘Minister of Finance. Big guy.’ Through the open window, the sky’s a bedsheet of white scored
with ancient columns, and I breathe in petrol fumes and ancient dust and watch the police hold hands to keep the crowd at bay.

There’s a long delay at Piraeus. As the sun slowly sinks over the tangle of the city and the scrubby hills beyond, we follow other passengers onto another ferry, only to see the first one leave before ours, and I hear a woman laugh, ‘I guess we’re on Greek time now.’ For five hours
at sea on the windy deck, we sit apart in silence, wrapped in all the clothes we have. It’s too dark to read so I watch the moon trail on the ship’s wake and strain above the engine’s noise to hear the creak and splash of oars as the triremes of Athens keep pace beside us.

At midnight the ferry groans into Parikia, and the hotels flare into life like streetwalkers on the watch for sailors. They fire up again in the early hours to greet another ship, flooding our room with sudden light, and I see your back’s turned against me in the narrow bed, the sheets
thrashed around your legs.

Morning unfurls into sunshine, a dazzle of whitewash and Cyclades blue. Breakfast in the hotel café is hot chocolate dipped with almond bread, the tang of honeysuckle so strong it seeps in through the closed windows. Outside, the meltemi is sharp despite the sun, and I’m glad of my sweater. We walk through the crooked streets, past paint pots bursting with white geraniums, and, by a church with a red slate roof and a lemon tree hung with bells, we pause to watch the feral cats slumbering on the hot stones and you reach out at last and take my hand.


About the author: Fiona J. Mackintosh is a British-American writer living near Washington D.C. She won the 2018 Fish Flash Fiction Prize and the 2018 UK National Flash Fiction Day Micro Competition, and her flashes have twice been nominated for The Best Small Fictions. Her short stories have been listed for the Bristol, Galley Beggar, and Exeter Short Story Prizes, and she was honored to receive a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist’s Award in 2016.


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