Updated: Oct 9, 2021
The first thing I notice about the tour guide is her eyes. They are green, like sulphur. She guides us onto the boat, and I watch Joe watching her, his eyes unable to divert from her bright green eyes and her mouth as it opens and shuts, talking, on and on. Her name is Hestia. She tells us Hestia means the Goddess of Hearth and Fires in Greek. She laughs gently. Joe smiles, as though this information is nothing new to him.
I think back to when we booked the trip. It was the beginning of our honeymoon and we were walking along the clean, cobbled lanes of Santorini town, holding hands. That’s when we saw the blue and orange sign, unmissable, on the side of the lane.
SWIM IN HOT SPRINGS. SOAK IN SULPHUR. A BOAT TRIP OF A LIFE TIME. BOOK NOW.
We queued up behind a line of sunburnt tourists and booked the trip for the last day of the honeymoon, an all-day boat trip, taking us to the Islet of Palea Kameni, where we would swim in the hot springs, made warm by the sulphur of the active volcano beneath the sea water.
It’ll be so special, Joe had said, kissing me on my forehead. We bought our tickets and we giggled all the way to the restaurant, where we ate calamari and moussaka and drank red wine on the cliff-top restaurant overlooking the Santorini sea.
That was then. We were so full of love at the beginning. Now, here we are, on the boat. It’s the last day of our honeymoon. I try to ignore the way Joe stares at Hestia. In a trance. Unable to drag himself away. I dip my fingers in the spray of the sea water and flick it at him. His body jumps in shock and he turns to look at me, smiling, his eyes dazed, not really seeing me at all.
When we get to our destination, Hestia anchors the boat a few feet away. We jump into the water and swim towards the sulphuric green springs. Joe swims up ahead with her. I don’t call his name as I swim behind them. There’s no point. He won’t listen. I move through the cold sea and into the sudden warmth of the hot springs, where I swim to Joe, who is leaned against a rock, gazing into the green water, his once blue eyes now reflecting an emerald green colour. Hestia is nowhere to be seen.
Joe, I think we need to talk…
He suddenly grabs my wrist with his hand, and looks at me, for the first time today, directly in the eye.
I’m not coming home with you, he murmurs, his eyes burning green.
I know he means it. So I swim back to the boat, where the other tourists and a new tour guide are waiting. No one seems to notice that Joe and Hestia are no longer with us. As we drive away in the boat, I notice two small silhouettes bobbing in the distance. Slowly sinking, further, further, beneath the green, sulphuric sea.