An extract from Issue 2

A GREEK TALE  by Charlie Higson

Halfway down the hill the driver switched off the engine. His two friends, squashed next to him on the wide, front seat, laughed. Said something in Greek. Daphne translated for us.     

  ‘They say it saves gas.’     

  Without the engine to restrain it, the car quickly picked up speed. The men whooped as we were thrown from side to side going round the steep, switchback bends. The oldest of them, Yiannis, stretched a wiry, tanned arm along the back of the seat and grinned at us.     

  ‘You like?’     

  We smiled back at him, eager not to show any weakness – we weren’t scared. No way. We were enjoying this, actually. It was an adventure …     

  These guys were a lot older than us. Men. We were just boys. Three green English schoolboys travelling in Greece … In a car that was completely out of control.     

  Yiannis and Daphne had got into a conversation in Greek. It was clear he didn’t speak much English. He was grinning. Cool. In charge.     

  In the seventies Greek girls were very protected. Kept away from the local men in almost medieval seclusion. Girls from the more relaxed European countries who came here on holiday were seen as easy prey.     

  But this was something altogether different. A Greek girl hitchhiking with three English boys was unheard of. Which was why Daphne pretended to be English most of the time. As well as hitching we were using buses and Daphne was careful not to speak Greek when we were on one, so she could listen to what the old women in black were saying about her, assuming she couldn’t understand them …     

  ‘Look at that foreign whore …’     

  ‘Look at how she is dressed…’     

  ‘She will go to hell…’     

  ‘She does have lovely hair, though – long and dark like a good Greek girl.’     But Yiannis and his friends had realized she was Greek as soon as they’d picked us up at the top of the hill. So she had to be ‘easy’, and a bunch of 16-year-old boys was no competition.   

  ‘He says we should come to his restaurant tonight,’ Daphne translated again.        ‘He will give us a free meal.’     

  ‘Yes – free,’ said Yiannis, recognizing the word. ‘You like drink? Ouzo? Yes. You like. Hahaha.’     

  We all knew this was a bad idea, but as teenagers with an inflated sense of our invulnerability and a very tight budget we accepted the offer. Daphne looked at us. She knew this was a bad idea as well. But at least she was tougher than us.     Daphne was a year older, smart and confident and sophisticated. We’d met her in England. She was a family friend of a Greek man, Vaz, who’d been teaching at our school on an exchange. It was the long, glorious summer between finishing O levels and starting in the 6th form and Vaz had invited a group us to Greece. We divided our time between his family home in Athens and his villa on the island of Spetzos. It was quite clear that he liked the company of teenage boys. He, did, for instance, encourage us to wrestle in our underpants. Classically Greek. But he was harmless and we went along with things – after all, we were getting a free holiday.     

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