‘Live-in Housekeeper required for family in Athens, Greece. Primary role general housekeeper, preparing light meals, serving drinks, laundry, light cleaning, driving the family to school, day-to-day management and chaperone to 12 year old girl wishing to practice English. Luxury accommodation provided and use of swimming pool…… Please apply to Maid-4-U.‘
Amelia knew instantly it was what she had been looking for. Wow, Athens, Greece, home to the Acropolis, birth place of democracy, full of art, history and philosophy and a world away from England. Yes, this was the one. She sent off her application immediately and just two weeks later was on the train to London for an interview with Sarah Harris, head of Maid-4-U and the key to her future.
Amelia was desperate to get away from her Derbyshire hometown and start again where no one knew what happened to her or what she had been forced to do to survive. A job as a live-in housekeeper for an affluent family, in a large Greek villa, had seemed the perfect solution. So when she saw the advertisement she couldn’t believe her luck. She had seen a number of positions advertised but most were looking for couples, years of experience, or a standard of cooking she just didn’t have. She had hoped for something in the England, maybe even Scotland. In fact anywhere far away from the people who knew her and what had happened.
The train was full, so she stood most of the way in shoes that pinched and a faded black suit borrowed from her sister, which she hoped screamed of ‘I’m extremely efficient and have been running houses for years’. She felt nervous when she got off the train and walked the short distance to their offices. Terrified in fact. She hoped all the research she’d done on all things housekeeping would be enough. The English part wasn’t a problem, or chaperoning a 12 year old. She knew she could do that without hesitation. She’d looked after her twin cousins many times. And she was hoping the two years at teaching training college, specialising in English Language would be enough. But it was her knowledge of linen rotation, stain removal, cleaning and household management was her concern. She’d read every cook book from Jamie to Elizabeth David, Moroccan, Greek, Spanish but could she really pull it off? By the end of the next hour she’d know. Well, two and a half hours actually.
By some crazy coincidence Sarah’s brother was a tutor at the same London college Amelia had studied at and although she never met him, she knew his name.
She hoped he didn’t know hers.
“So can I ask Amelia, why, after two years of teaching training, would you choose to go and work as a housekeeper? If I can be frank it doesn’t exactly seem like a great career move?”
Sarah looked over the top of her glasses rather smugly. It was always going to be a question she got asked at interviews, a grade A student, just ten months from graduation and an eye on a role at a top public school, giving it all up to be a housekeeper? Even she had to admit it sounded fishy. But she had prepared her answer carefully.
“Yes, erm………. I agree it must seem a rather strange choice on paper. I really did have my heart set on being a teacher but my Aunt became ill and her children were still young and, well, my family needed me. I dropped everything, went home and moved in with them. I got it all under control and after some time I found that I was actually pretty good at it. But I think my uncle felt guilty taking me away from college so he hired a live in nanny and housekeeper and well…………. he just didn’t need me anymore. That was when I went to work for our local Vicar. I could have gone back to college but I’d missed so much work and to be honest I really started to love the work. Baking, organising a home, I really loved it. And I guess that’s why I’m here, I’d like to take it one step further and go for it full time, a live in housekeeper.”
Ok, so it was a major stretch of the truth. Her aunt did get glandular fever and she had gone home to help out, but only for a couple of weeks until the nanny and housekeeper had arrived. Uncle John was a wealthy guy and there was no way he was going to let his twenty two year old niece manage his estate and two children for longer than was necessary. Of course it wasn’t long after, well, that it happened and she’d had to give up college. And she did end up going to work for the local Vicar. So she wasn’t lying, not really, not exactly. She hated lying but she didn’t want to jeopardise her chances of getting the job, it was just too good to miss and a real chance for a fresh start. She’d allow herself this one lie.
She didn’t know if the connection with her brother or the sob story about her aunt had done it, but just two weeks later a letter arrived with the Maid-4-U logo. Her sister Alice shouted up the stairs. “I think your letter is here Amy”.
‘Dear Amelia….good to meet you……………good match, which is almost as important as having relevant experience…..you seem like the perfect match for the Kellias family…….and therefore would like to offer you the position of live-in Housekeeper with Mr Kellias start date Saturday …..…….’
Good lord she’d done it, the job was hers! She couldn’t believe it.
As she settled into her seat on the night flight to Athens she flipped excitedly through the Greek phrase book she’d been poring over the last few weeks. Ok, so her new job didn’t require her to speak Greek, quite the opposite, but she loved the idea of being able to say a few words and it felt like the right thing to do. She was a ‘right thing to do’ sort of person. As she practised the few words she knew already – Hello/Yia sas and Goodbye/Antίo sas, she thought about the painful goodbye with her family just a few hours earlier. She knew she was breaking their hearts. In particular her sister, they’d been inseparable the last year and who knew when she would be back. Months, years? Or as long as it took for the terrible memories to fade? But she couldn’t deny the excitement and exhilaration she was feeling. Setting out on an adventure, to a place she had only read about, to meet total strangers and a world away from the horrors of the last twelve months.
So, in just three and half hours she’d arrive in the middle of the night, bleary eyed, to a warm Athens, to work for Alexander Kellias, a wealthy Greek property owner, in need of an English housekeeper and ‘friend’ to his 12 year old niece. Ok, so it wasn’t that ambitious, but she hoped it was the start of the all new fun and happy Amelia. Other than a brief and slightly abrupt phone call, where he confirmed what the agency had already told her, that a driver would pick her up from Athens Airport and she would meet him and his niece later the next morning, she’d no other contact with her new boss.
She ordered a drink from the flight attendant and thought about Mr Kellias, Alexander Kellias, Greek shipping and property magnet, big important person. What did that even mean? He owned lots of ships and houses? He moved lots of things around? She tried to picture what he was like, what kind of guy he was, what was his niece like and where were her parents? None of this had been explained at her interview or subsequent calls with the agency. Maybe she wasn’t the only one with secrets.
From the brief call she’d had with him last week, she couldn’t work out his age but he certainly sounded very Greek with a heavy accent, deep and thick. She tried to picture what he looked like and settled on balding, about fifty, slightly over weight. And maybe one of those enormous handle bar moustaches. But as long as he treated her well, she didn’t care how much facial hair he had. It was a relief to hear that his English was great and whilst he was professional and to the point, he didn’t seem too scary.
“Miss Chadwick, I assume you are able to make you own travel arrangements to arrive in Athens on Saturday 1st July? You will of course be compensated when you arrive.” He’d asked, well more or less told her.
“Erm, well, yes of course, I can book it online, my sister has a laptop which I can use and then I can let you know the time of the …..” She’d spluttered out but before she could finish he’d cut in and told her to let the agency know all the details and he would ensure she was collected by his driver.
“Goodbye Miss Chadwick. I will see you at the weekend.”
And then he’d hung up. OK, no cosy chats then. Ok, that was fine, just how she wanted it in fact. Yes, super.
Taking a sip of her crisp white wine, she flipped through the folder the agency had sent giving her an overview of her new employer, basic family background, details of the apartment and the house at Agios Dimitrios. Two houses? She hadn’t realised there were two properties. How would she be able to manage two? There were details about his business; a large property portfolio in Greece and around Europe, commercial property and shipping with an extensive global reach in both sea and land. She wondered if he was famous. Not that it was important to her. But now she wished she’d Googled him.
The agency had confirmed that a driver would be there to pick her up. Maybe he’d be carrying one of those signs with her name printed on a white card?
She didn’t know why this part excited her most but it somehow felt like she was important, that she mattered. So as she came into the arrivals area she was sure she would see her name on a sign immediately. How many other people could be arriving in Athens at 2.30 in the morning anyway? But how wrong she was. There was a sea of faces, people milling around, taxi drivers touting for business, people calling to friends and family, hugging and chatting. She looked around and to see if anyone was carrying a sign with her name. But no, nothing. The noise and unfamiliar chatter was disorientating. She moved down the ramp and into the crowd, dragging her suitcase with her, banging into people as she went. She scanned the crowd, desperately looking from one person to another. She tried to stay calm but couldn’t help worrying that maybe she had been forgotten.
She realised she didn’t even have a telephone number for Mr Kellias, only the London number for Maid-4-U and it was unlikely anyone would be there to answer the phone at this time of night. Angry with herself for being so stupid, she could feel herself starting to panic when a large, and very tanned, hand suddenly gripped her elbow. “Amelia Chadwick? I’m…….”
She looked up to see a stunningly handsome man, dressed in an immaculate dark grey suit and a crisp white shirt, which only served to accentuate his dark olive skin. His thick wavy black hair matched his dangerous black eyes and she could see his dark stubble shadow accentuating his masculinity. She felt herself blush as she looked up at his handsome face. What the hell was wrong with her? She found him attractive? No, don’t be ridiculous Amelia, she thought. She was shocked by her reaction to him. She didn’t find men attractive, she avoided them like the plague and the thought of it rocked her safe little celibate world where she protected herself from men. Sexual magnetism yes, imposing, majestic even, but he didn’t exactly look friendly. In fact his body language screamed cold and hostile and actually, he looked rather annoyed. It was then she saw the sign in his hand and she half smiled in relief, the driver had found her.
“Yes, I’m Amelia Chadwick, thanks goodness you’re here. I was beginning to panic that you hadn’t turned up, would you mind taking my bag while I just …..” letting go of her arm and taking her suitcase he said in a wonderful deep voice.
“Follow me, but hurry as I am parked in a restricted area.”
So much for the uniform and romantic notion of feeling rather important, she thought.
“……. just call home to let them know I’ve landed. They’ll be worried you see, silly really as I’m totally fine. But I haven’t travelled on my own before and Daddy thinks I’ll get lost………….also, can you direct me to the nearest bathroom?”
She knew she was rambling, which was a rather annoying habit of hers when she was nervous.
She’d stopped and started rummaging through her bag for her mobile but as she looked up he was taking long powerful strides towards the exit. She waited for him to stop but he didn’t seem to hear, or was he ignoring her? Almost running to keep up with him, she stepped outside and was amazed how hot it was, hitting her like an oven door being opened. Wow, was that still the temperature at this time of the morning, she thought? Reaching the car she found herself being her most polite.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name? Would you mind if we just went back inside so I can use the bathroom, I’m sure we have time? It will only take a few minutes…….” But he carried on, put her case in the car and without looking, got in. So he was ignoring her, clearly annoyed at having to come out so late to pick her up. Ok, not exactly the start she was hoping for. Maybe if she apologised he’d loosen up?
She slid into the back seat and could just about make out his profile. Despite his arrogance, she hated to admit that he was gorgeous, tall, dark and handsome. She laughed at the cliche. She took in his thick black hair, the shoulders, the broad shoulders stretching his suit to its limits and his long long legs…………….ok hold it right there missy she thought. He’s the driver, for my new employer and certainly not someone to have romantic notions about. And he’s rude.
“Hi. Sorry, can we start again. I’m Amelia. The new housekeeper. Look, I’m really sorry you had to come out so late. You must be exhausted but this really was the only flight arriving today and Mr Kellias, well, he was pretty clear he wanted me to start this weekend. But thanks for coming to get me, I really appreciate it.”
He didn’t reply or tell her his name, he just nodded in acknowledgment. Well, she’d tried. If that’s how he wanted it, fine she thought. ‘Two can play the silent game.’ He made no attempt to talk to her on the journey and before long she found herself drifting to sleep thinking about what her new home, new job and new boss.
She was boiling hot and was finding it hard to breath. She heard something, a loud noise and instantly thought he was back. She felt paralysed with fear. Gasping, she knew she had to get out and run, there was time, she wouldn’t let him hurt her again, this time she would get away. She was struggling to see the way and her legs felt like dead weights. Disorientated, she put her hand out for the wall, to show her the way, but it collided painfully with something in front of her, bending her hand back. She yelped in pain and her eyes flew open. “what the….” Where the hell was she? Slowly her eyes adjusted and she could just make out some lights ahead of her, headlights? Confused she looked around wildly, hoping to see something familiar. With a sudden rush of relief she realised she was in a car and had been having a nightmare again.
“Thank god, it was just a dream…….” She sobbed out, falling back against the seat. It was a dream, it was ok, it was just another dream and she was safe.
“It sounded more like a nightmare considering the amount of screaming you were doing.” A low voice said, surprising her.
She looked up to see the driver had put the light on. He’d pulled over to the side of the road and was now looking straight at her. Gentler this time, he asked.
“You were screaming so loud I had to pull over. Are you alright”
He got out of the car, opened the back door and leaned in towards her.
“Show me your hand. You gave it quite a bang.” He asked, his outstretched hand gesturing for her to give him her hand, but she withdrew it to her lap.
“No, it’s ok, sorry……… erm, it’s fine, I’m fine. Sorry I just banged it but I’m sure there’s no damage done.”
He leaned in and put his hand to her forehead and muttered something in Greek. She was burning up. His hand felt cool on her skin and briefly she closed her eyes, enjoying the soothing sensation.
“Miss Chadwick, when was the last time you drank or ate something? I think you’re dehydrated after the flight. It’s very hot here in Greece at this time of year so you need to drink plenty.”
Before she had chance to reply he reached into the front seat and handed her a bottle of water.
“Here, please, drink this. It’s ok, it’s just water.”
Hesitantly she took the bottle and took a long drink.
“Thank you. But really I’m fine, I’m sorry for being a nuisance. If we could just get going as I’m sure Mr Kellias will be wondering where we are.”
She sat up straight and tried to sound more sure than she felt.
She was right was, he was annoyed at having to pull over and deal with a hysterical girl in the middle of the night. But he had to admit he was shocked by how pale she looked when he’d put the light on and despite the air conditioning she was glistening with sweat.
“Mr Kellias knows exactly where you are and believe me he is not the type of man to spend time wondering what his housekeeper is doing in the middle of the night.”
He moved back into the driver’s seat, slammed the door shut and pulled out onto the highway. She couldn’t see his face now as the light was off, but sensed his irritation and of course his smugness at her embarrassment.
Damn it Amelia, she thought. She’d worked so hard over the last few months to control the nightmares, and was shocked to have one after being asleep for such a short time. At first she’d had them night after night, but thankfully they’d become less frequent, in fact this one was the first for weeks.
The rest of the journey passed slowly and uncomfortably with Amelia desperately fighting to stay awake, despite feeling exhausted. She didn’t want to risk having another one in front of him. She’d had enough embarrassment for one night.
She’d read briefly that Agios was south, just down the coast from Athens and was one of the most picturesque parts of mainland Greece, but frustratingly as the sun wasn’t up yet she couldn’t see anything. It wasn’t the best of starts she admitted, annoying the driver and embarrassing herself all in the first few hours in Greece. She really wanted this to be a fresh start and it wasn’t exactly going to plan. But she had always been a positive sort and knew that later, when the sun was up and she met Mr Kellias, and his niece, things would feel better.
They turned off the coast road and headed up a steep hill where she could just make out the silhouette of a grand villa on the hill. The sun was starting to come up and it gave the house a purple glow. Wow, she thought, it was gorgeous, stone arched windows, terracotta tiled roof, numerous balconies and a sprawling green lawn with palm trees dotted about. They swung through open gates and into a long drive bordered by what looked like orange trees, with pink and lilac bougainvillaea crawling up and over the veranda. As they got closer she could see it was on two floors, traditional stone walls in parts and was totally breathtaking. And it was going to be her home for the next……well, however long she needed it to be. She couldn’t wait to explore.
The driver carried her case up the steps and as they got to the front door she asked.
“Do you think Mr Kellias will be up yet?”
As she stepped through the door into the hall way, the driver replied.
“Mr Kellias hasn’t been to bed yet either, Miss Chadwick.”
And as he turned towards her he said sarcastically.
“He had to collect someone from the airport.”
She was totally confused.
“He had to collect……who?”
What? Mr Kellias had also been at the airport? But…..no, no no, it couldn’t be. Damn it. It suddenly dawned on her what he meant. The whole time he was Mr Kellias? She was totally mortified at her mistake.
“I, I didn’t realise, I assumed…..”
“Yes I know what you assumed, but if you’d given me a chance I would have introduced myself. You’ll learn that we all work hard around here Miss Chadwick and are often called upon to do extra work. Even me. Now, if you follow me I’ll show you to your room.”