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When I was 25 I spent the summer in the South of France.

—–

Nicky was a homeless rich kid who drove an overpriced sports car and blew his allowance on other necessities (i.e. gambling and girls). We became friends because he sometimes dated my housemate Claire, and lived in her room even when she didn’t.

I lectured him on want and waste. Fed him breakfast. And told him if he ever touched my computer or my Sugar Smacks I’d throw him out the window. He said his Pappou would love me and he’d treat Claire and I to a holiday abroad if he ever got through the term.

——

Nicky’s grandfather was a poor man who made his millions the way most Greeks do, and swore his daughter’s only child wouldn’t see a cent (Or Drachma. Or Euro. Or whatever it was the old man was giving away.) until he went to university and made something of himself, without help or handout (living allowance not included) from the family.

Learn the value of something. Anything, really. That was the plan.

Nicky only pretended to learn. But he pretended well, and left Uni on time.

——-

His grandfather’s home was the size of my old secondary school. When we arrived, the wrinkled old patriarch was sat by the pool. After introductions, Nicky took Claire to tour the house. I stood waiting for a blonde girl to show me to my room.

“You are good friends with NEEkolas?”

Big NEEK was an old man with a thick old accent. He couldn’t move very well, but it didn’t matter….the world moved for him.

I told him the truth.

“NEEkolas doesn’t have any friends. Just a lot of pretenders who want to get something off him. ”

“Mmmm.” The old man nodded. He sat under an umbrella. In white clothes and black shades. He lowered them to stare at me. “Like Americans?” he said.

I wanted to slink off and join the others. But I didn’t. “Listen.” He made me feel bad. Like I was a cheat or a bum or something. And I wasn’t. “I’ve been feeding junior all year, and I don’t get an allowance.” I’d never had an allowance in my life! “If it wasn’t for this American your grandson would be sleeping in a gutter.” (Ok. Sometimes he did. But that was beside the point.)

“He would have been fine.” The old man almost smiled. “I am sure.”

“Whatever.” I don’t argue with rich old Greeks. “I’m not his friend. But I like him well enough. And I deserve this vacation. OK.” I remembered my manners. “Sir” And left.

——-

Claire and I spent the first few weeks doing a whole lot of nothing with a whole lot of wine. Nicky was home for breakfast and out for lunch. He always brought back gifts. I’d enjoy the sun and the luxury that was my strange friend’s life, but I wouldn’t take his grandfather’s money. Claire took it just fine.

What I did take was his yacht… to Monaco. With Nicky and Claire. The old man and his nurse.

A teeny French woman came to fit us for clothes that weren’t our own, and tutted and made weird clucking noises every time she measured my waist. Nicky bought Claire a necklace that she hocked the next year to pay for med school. His grandfather let me borrow a huge rock of a ring that had sat in its box since 1957.

“Pretty girls should wear pretty things.” He said. And “This is what men do,” as he put it on my finger.

It belonged to his dead wife. She never wore it. Said it didn’t sparkle.

One woman’s trash….. You know the drill.

I thanked him. And liked him.

I felt rich in Monte Carlo. With a ring like that. And an idiot dropping thirty grand on the table next to me.

I enjoyed the air and the being there and left the night young. Claire and Nicky didn’t leave it at all. They spent the week practicing indiscretion all over the principality, popping in and out to say hello and drop off bags and change clothes. I spent it on board the boat with the old Greek and his girlfriend/nurse. He taught me how to turn a phrase in MonÃgasque and I taught him how to drawl like a country boy. He told me money made good men stupid. And he worried about his grandson. I told him there were plenty of stupid poor men too. I knew a few. And his boy would get on alright.

He reminded me of Pa. With white hair. And a yacht.

He laughed and slept alot.

I drank champagne and kept my face out of the sun and thought about how momma’s never gonna believe this.

——

When Claire and I flew back to England a few weeks later we took Nicky with us. We fed him coffee and screened his grandfather’s calls. I told him Nicky was doing fine…even when he wasn’t.

“You should come visit. You can sleep on my floor.”

He laughed. “Ahhh. If I were young. But that country hurts my bones.”

The old man died the following Christmas.

He left Nicky his millions.

He left me the ring.

Tall Dark & Handsome had a tough act to follow.

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29 Comments

  • C&V
    Mar 11, 2006 at 1:20

    loving it – just caught your post on my site and apologies for not catching it and thanking you earlier – am crawling back to the land of blog with Manchizzle’s encouragement…

  • David
    Mar 11, 2006 at 6:45

    Ok, this is gonna sound so “American” of me, but where is the pic of that rock?!

  • hattigrace
    Mar 11, 2006 at 10:46

    And, what happened to Nicky, or did he disappear once he had his millions? Or is this just a great read only?

  • Buffy
    Mar 11, 2006 at 11:08

    Men like Nicky always disappear. It’s what they’re made of.

  • LisaBinDaCity
    Mar 11, 2006 at 19:42

    LOVED your story. I was completely mesmerized!

    And I really liked Nicky’s grandfather. I understand men like him. Sounds like you do too!

  • vicissitudinaire
    Mar 12, 2006 at 14:26

    Beautiful writing. I really like stories about eldery people with a personality, well I like the elderly themselves too. I like hearing what they like to say.

  • Dawn (webmiztris)
    Mar 12, 2006 at 19:46

    he left you the ring? sweet!

  • Heather B.
    Mar 12, 2006 at 19:47

    That was a terrific story. Wonderfully told and well written.

  • Deanna
    Mar 13, 2006 at 0:32

    Very fun story! Keep it up!

  • joey
    Mar 13, 2006 at 5:24

    i loved this passage. your writing is engaging, interesting, addicting!

  • Melissa
    Mar 13, 2006 at 14:41

    Is this a true story? I noticed it wasn’t categorized under fiction, but still…If it is true, it’s one hell of a tale!

  • Kat
    Mar 13, 2006 at 21:43

    Can we talk about how much I loved this story? I read it the other day but didn’t have time to comment. I really don’t now, either, as I am at work and supposed to be doing something other than reading blogs. Oops. Anyway, most people’s stories really bore me, and I read this one through to the end. I love your writing style. This post was so engaging and really drew me in.

  • Anna
    Mar 14, 2006 at 19:21

    Oh my goodness — this post made me wish I lived in Europe, not the US where “flying to Monaco” doesn’t just “happen.” Jealous! Great story!

  • amanda
    Mar 14, 2006 at 20:10

    what an amazing story, and expertly told. fantastic.

    plus, i love that you scream into your closets in case you have an intruder, per your comment on my blog. thanks for that image. i loved it.

  • Lynn
    Mar 15, 2006 at 17:39

    Oh, I hope you wore an Hermes head scarf and Jackie O sunglasses.

  • Serena
    Mar 15, 2006 at 19:57

    Both visceral and poetic. I do believe you may have been a painter in a previous life.

  • egan
    Mar 15, 2006 at 22:00

    I just want to say hello and thanks for stopping by my blog. I will be back.

  • Janet
    Mar 16, 2006 at 0:40

    You’re a great storyteller. Had me till the end.

    By the way, was it just fate or kismet that brought a site called Plain Simple English to my post today?!:)

  • ChickyBabe
    Mar 16, 2006 at 4:37

    Lovely story, and you write very well. I look forward to reading more.

  • The Real Me
    Mar 16, 2006 at 13:53

    Thanks for making your way to my corner of the world.
    I’m so glad you did… now I have a fabulous new blog to read! You writing is very good and this story made me smile at so many things.

    I’ll be spending some time here catching up.

  • Merteuil
    Mar 17, 2006 at 15:15

    Fantastic story, slightly Hemingway-esque. 🙂 What happened to Nicky? And yes, I absolutely am dying to see a pic of this ring!

  • cibbuano
    Mar 20, 2006 at 22:42

    Great post – is that a real story, or is a short fictional piece…?

  • Buffy
    Jun 23, 2006 at 12:52

    Cibbuano – I post my fiction pieces under ‘fiction’.

  • Nikos
    Jul 15, 2006 at 1:47

    Neat story. I found it while Googling the Greek spelling of my name. (Don’t ask.) You’re dead-on with the Greek pronunciation.

    I laughed when I read the bit about the grandfather saying, “Like Americans?” Greeks will say the worst things about America and Americans, even when they’ve lived here. My own damn relatives came here, made tons of money and went back to Greece. They *still* hate America. Hilarious.

    But it looks like you did a good job winning over at least two Greeks. Cheers.

  • Trish B
    Jan 23, 2007 at 13:42

    What an adventure and something that makes up who you are in life.

  • Sophie
    Jan 23, 2007 at 13:43

    I was captivated. You have a strong and unique voice and pull your reader in right from the get-go.
    I look forward to reading more.

  • Carol R
    Jan 23, 2007 at 13:43

    You are a great writer, I enjoyed the story and was living it while you told it.

  • Mariana
    Jan 27, 2007 at 20:14

    Oh I was there honey – right there on that yacht drinking that wine and letting that ring flash…now, that’s my kind of living – (she says as she types in her fuzzy slippers flannel PJ’s and drinks Trader Joe wine)…I loved this story, Miz Buffy H. Salud!

  • eileen
    Jan 27, 2007 at 20:16

    A story well lived. Nice verse!

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