The Millionaire's True Worth

By: Rebecca Winters

Their dirt-poor background might be a memory, but it was the one that drove them so they’d never know what it was like to go hungry again. Unfortunately their ascent from rags to riches didn’t come without some drawbacks. For various reasons both he and Vasso found it difficult to trust the women who came into their lives. They enjoyed brief relationships. But they grew leery when they came across women who seemed to love them for themselves, with no interest in their money. He thought about their parents who, though they were painfully poor and scraped for every drachma, had loved and were devoted to one another. They came from the same island with the same expectations of life and the ability to endure the ups and downs of marriage. Both Akis and Vasso wanted a union     like their parents’, one that would last forever. But finding the right woman seemed to be growing harder.

Akis’s thoughts wandered back to the words he’d just spoken to the guests in the ballroom. He’d meant what he’d said about Chloe, who was kind and compatible. She suited Theo, who also had a winning nature. They both came from the same elite, socioeconomic background that helped them to trust that neither had an agenda. If two people could make it through this life together and be happy, he imagined they would.

Every so often he felt the maid of honor’s dark eyes willing him to pay attention to her. Althea Loris was one of Chloe’s friends, a very glamorous woman as yet unattached. She’d tried to corner him at various parties given before the wedding. Althea came from a good family with a modest income, but Akis sensed how much she wanted all the trappings of a marriage like Chloe’s.

Even if Akis had felt an attraction, he would have wondered if she’d set her eyes on him for what he could give her monetarily. It wasn’t fair to judge, but he couldn’t ignore his basic instinct about her.

There was nothing he wanted more than to be loved for himself. An imperfect self, to be sure. Both he and Vasso had been born into a family where you worked by the sweat of your brow all the days of your life. The idea of a formal education was unheard of, but he hadn’t worried about it until the summer right before he had to do his military service.

An Italian tourist named Fabrizia, who was staying on the island that July, had flirted with Akis at the store where he worked. He couldn’t speak Italian, nor she Greek, so they managed with passable English. He was attracted and spent time swimming with her when he could get an hour off. By the time she had to go home, he’d fallen for her and wanted to know when she’d be back.

After kissing him passionately she’d said, “I won’t be able to come.” In the next breath she’d told him she’d be getting married soon to one of the attorneys working for her father in Rome. “But I’ll never forget my beautiful grocery boy. Why couldn’t you be the attorney my parents have picked out for me?”

Not only had his pride taken a direct hit, her question had made him startlingly aware of his shortcomings, the kind that went soil-deep. The kind that separated the rich from the poor. From that time on, Akis had enjoyed several relationships with women, but they didn’t approach the level of his wanting to get married.

Too bad his brother had to leave after the wedding at the church and couldn’t attend the reception. He was away on important business at the moment so he couldn’t rescue Akis with a legitimate excuse to leave early. Akis would have to manufacture a good one on his own.

Thankfully the speeches were almost over. Chloe’s father was the last person to speak. After getting choked up because he was losing his precious daughter to Theo, he urged everyone to enjoy the rest of the evening and dance.

Akis watched as Theo escorted Chloe to the floor for the first dance. Soon other couples joined them. That meant Akis had to fulfill one last duty. It was expected that he ask Althea, who was more than eager to find herself in his arms.

“I’ve been waiting for this all day, Akis.”

He knew what she was saying, what she was hoping for, but he couldn’t force interest that wasn’t there. The long, exhausting wedding day was almost over. Akis couldn’t wait to leave, but he needed to choose his words carefully. “Unfortunately I still have business to do after the reception is over.”

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