She had the book open but she wasn’t really reading it. She was too busy sneaking glances at him as he took long, leisure laps in the pool. It felt strange being out there. Usually, they would be inside in the music room where she would be seated at the piano, playing. Her lessons were on a month to month basis and were once per week. They were free because she couldn’t afford to pay for them. She didn’t have a job as yet since she was still in university. This was her last year.
In addition to running a very lucrative business, Thaddaus Kyriaku taught private music lessons at his home. When he offered to give her lessons, she turned him down and when he demanded to know why, she explained that she wouldn’t be able to pay for them. He waved her excuse away impatiently and said, “I won’t charge you, then.”
She agreed to take the lessons and the arrangement was for her to come here to his mansion every Saturday. The first time she saw the white stucco building, she was taken aback. She couldn’t believe that he lived there alone. It had large bow windows and balconies overlooking the courtyard converging at the entrance. It was surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens. There was a tennis court, stables, gazebo and a swimming pool. The room where she had her lessons was very impressive with its mixture of modern and antique furniture, low hanging crystal chandelier and watercolor paintings and, of course the grand piano.
While she played, he sat in the armchair, listening, interrupting her now and then when she didn’t play a note to his liking. He was a very strict teacher but she didn’t mind. He was Greek American and was always telling her about Greek composers. His favorite was Manolis Kalomiris and once before her lesson, he played the composer’s Nocturne for piano solo. He admired Vangelis because music came to him as a natural gift and boasted that Vangelis never learned to read or write music but started playing the piano and other musical instruments as early as four years old.
When she told him, “I like Yanni and I have most of his CDs,” he wasn’t impressed.
“I’m not a fan of new age music,” he told her. “And most women like Yanni not for his music but for his looks.”
While she agreed that Yanni was attractive, she was more interested in his music. When Mr. Kyriaku and she weren’t discussing music and composers, they talked about books and Art. He lent her all sorts of books–fiction, non-fiction, plays, poetry, etc. She had just finished reading The Colour of Madness by Samara Linton and Rianna Walcott. And was returning it.
When she arrived his manservant, informed her that Mr. Kyriaku was by the swimming pool. He escorted her there and after asking her if she wished anything to drink, he left. Mr. Kyriaku didn’t seem aware of her. She didn’t say anything but remained standing by the wooden door and watched him.
While he swam, she took out a second hand copy Dizionario filosofico: Voltaire which she was currently reading. It was censored in many countries, including Switzerland (Geneva) and France because the alphabetically arranged articles often criticize the Roman Catholic Church, Judaism, Islam and other institutions. In these countries, all available copies of the book were collected and burned in the town square. She opened the book to read it.
She couldn’t seem to get past the second paragraph. Her eyes kept leaving the page to watch his progress in the pristine water as he cut through it with powerful strokes.
Her mouth dropped open and she almost dropped the book when he climbed out of the water. He was stark naked. “Hello,” he said as he walked past her and went to the edge of the pool where he sat with his feet dangling over the side. He placed his hands on either side of him. The sun felt nice and warm on his wet back.
Nonplussed, she raised the book to her face. She couldn’t believe that he was sitting there naked. When he came out of the water, he didn’t even bother to cover himself. She caught a brief glimpse of his front before she diverted her eyes. Her heart was pounding and her hands trembled as she held the book in front of her face as if to block her view of him.
Thaddaus turned and looked at her. He knew that she had been there in the same spot watching him as he swam. He stayed as long as possible in the water thinking that at some point she would leave and go to the music room and wait for him there. He hadn’t expected Giorgos to bring her to the pool. After a while, he got tired of swimming the laps and decided that he would get out of the pool.
He swam to the steps and climbed them. His gaze shifted to her. She appeared to be reading. He quickly got out of the pool and stood on the concrete for a moment. Then, he glanced at her again to make sure that she was still reading and was startled to find her staring at him. Drat. He walked past her, muttering a greeting. Instead of putting on his robe which lay nearby, he decided he would sit in the sun for a bit and dry off. No use trying to cover up now. She had seen everything. Perhaps now she would scurry into the house but to his surprise, she remained where she was.
It was amusing and charming how she had the book raised high in front of her face. Seeing him naked must have shocked her. It wouldn’t have shocked the women he knew. In fact, they probably would have found it stimulating and they most definitely would not be hiding their faces behind books. He turned his head so that he was looking away from her and raising his face, he closed his eyes.
Then, moments later, he called to her, “I’m going to get up and get my robe now.”
She determinedly kept the book in front of her face although the temptation to look was very strong.
He stood up, walked over to where his robe lay and picked it up. After pulling it on and tying the cord, he called to her, “You can look now.”
Slowly, she lowered the book and looked at him. Although he was covered up, she knew she would never forget the sight of his naked body or her own body’s reaction to it. “Do-do you usually swim…?”
“Naked? Only when I’m alone. Of course, when I have company, I wear trunks although I hate how they feel when they are wet. Why didn’t you wait in the music room?”
“When I came your manservant told me that you were by the swimming pool and then, he brought me here instead of taking me to the music room. I–I had no idea that you’d be…”
“Does seeing me naked bother you?” he asked. “Is that why you were hiding behind that book? What is it about anyway?”
“It’s-it’s about Voltaire’s critical views on religious institutions.”
“Oh. If at any time, you come by for your lesson and I’m out here swimming, wait for me in the music room.”
“I’ll do that.”
“Now, while I go and take a quick shower, you can wait for me in the music room. You can do your warm up exercises in the meantime.”
“Yes, Mr. Kyriaku.” She picked up her knapsack and shoved the book instead. Then, she followed him into the mansion.