Authors: Kate Frost
Tags: #women's fiction
Kate Frost 2013
Published as an eBook in Great Britain in 2013 by
Lemon Tree Press
. The moral right of Kate
Frost to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.
All rights reserved in all media. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are
the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or
events or localities is entirely coincidental.
For Mum, Dad and Nik
Thank you Mum and Dad for your unwavering support and to Nik for always believing in me.
Thanks to Judith van Dijkhuizen, Tamsin Reeves, Paul Dale and Andy Warburton for your
invaluable advice during those many lunches in Bath spent workshopping our novels. Thanks
also to novelists Lucy English and Tricia Wastvedt for reading and commenting on those very
early drafts of
The Butterfly Storm
‘Is it because you’re pregnant?’ Mum asked.
We were standing in her kitchen with two boxes filled with my old stuff between us: school books,
paintings, boxing gloves, dungarees, a train set and Anne Rice novels. It was three hours before my
coach left for Heathrow and my goodbyes were not going well.
‘Is that really the reason you think I’m going to live with him, because I’m pregnant?’ I
She poured herself a glass of white wine. ‘Sophie, you did only meet him six weeks ago and have
only actually spent one week together. What do you expect me to think?’
‘Is it too alien a thing for you to comprehend that the reason I’m moving to Greece is because I
want to be with him? I love him.’
She took a sip of her wine. ‘Love is a strong word.’
‘It’s also the right one. Just because you don’t believe in love at first sight doesn’t mean I
‘Oh, I believe in love at first sight alright, it’s what happens after the initial honeymoon period that
I’m wary of.’
‘I really don’t need your negativity right now.’ I taped closed the flaps of the box nearest
‘I thought I’d got rid of all this when you moved out,’ she said, scuffing the box with her
‘Well, I can’t take it with me.’ I took a pen from my bag. ‘Have you got some paper?’
She pointed to a used envelope wedged between the coffee and sugar jars.
‘This is the address in Greece,’ I said, writing it down.
‘It doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue.’ She set her wine down on the black marbled worktop before
pinning the address to the noticeboard next to the door. ‘I’m going to make a stir-fry. Do you want
I shook my head.
Her nostrils flared. ‘The plane food will taste of plastic.’
I couldn’t help but admire her attempt at mothering. ‘Maybe a bit then.’
‘The chicken is in the fridge.’
The huge American-style fridge was always full. I took out a cling-filmed plate of chicken breasts,
and found bean sprouts, carrots, baby sweetcorn and mange tout in the salad compartment. Arms
loaded, I turned to see Mum bent over the worktop peeling an onion. Her hair was twisted and pinned
in loose curls; the nape of her neck was tanned against the soft blonde of her dyed hair. Her vest top
was burnt orange, bright against her white gypsy skirt. Despite everything, I wanted to hug
‘Have you learnt any Greek yet?’ she asked.
I slammed the fridge door closed with my foot. ‘A little.’ I dumped the food on the worktop and
reached behind the bread bin for a chopping board. Mum chopped the onion as if it was a
I took the cling film off the chicken. ‘Sliced or cubed?’
‘Sliced, not too big.’
We stood in silence for a moment, our knives thumping wood.
‘So,’ Mum said, breaking our rhythm. ‘How are you going to get a job out there?’
‘Same way as here, apply.’
‘Don’t be smart. You know what I mean.’ She broke off a clove of garlic from the bulb and started
‘The best place to learn Greek is in Greece. I know I want to start drawing again… I can teach
English if I need to. I was thinking of setting up an artist’s retreat.’
‘You’ve got high hopes.’
I stopped mid-slice. My fingers were sticky with chicken. ‘What’s wrong with that? I don’t want to
end up regretting my life.’
Her glossy lips pursed. ‘I may still have a lot of hopes, Sophie, but I’ve no regrets.’
‘Are you sure about that?’
She dropped the naked clove into the garlic press and squeezed. ‘You’ve known this Alekos for less
than two months.’
‘So what? Because of your lies, I don’t know my father at all.’
The garlic press clattered on to the worktop. She reached for her wine and gulped down half the
glass. ‘I’ll be the first to admit I made a mistake,’ she said.
‘When have you ever admitted that?’ I slapped the sliced chicken back on to the plate.
‘What do you want me to say?’ she asked.
‘Nothing.’ I turned away from her and washed my hands in the sink. Outside on the patio, the
barbeque was filled with ash. Beer bottles looked out of place next to the trellis entwined with
When she finally spoke her voice was steady and controlled. ‘I care about you Sophie, obviously too
‘It’s not a case of you caring, it’s you expecting too much from me – the serious job you’ve never
had. Try sorting your own life out rather than mine.’
She topped up her wine and, marching over to the sink, slammed the empty bottle on to the
draining board next to me. She used to smell of cigarettes and Oil of Olay, now she smelt of onions and
the Dior Poison I gave her last Christmas.
‘I’m not the one running away,’ she said, almost spitting at me. I don’t have her sapphire blue eyes.
Mine are green, I presumed like my father’s. I slowly wiped my hands on the towel. I couldn’t even
begin to guess the natural colour of Mum’s hair she’d dyed it so many times. In photos of her when she
first had me, all you had to do was take away the dodgy early eighties’ haircut and clothes, and it was
like looking in a mirror.
‘I’m not hungry anymore,’ I said, tucking the towel back on its rail.
‘That’s typical of you. Go on, avoid the truth. You’re throwing away a good job and life here,
‘You’re so full of shit.’ I grabbed my bag off the worktop.
‘What if you don’t find the answers you want in Greece?’ she asked. She sounded like a soap star,
clutching at a cliché for something to say. She followed me down the hallway to the front door. My
flip-flops went slap, slap, slap against the polished floorboards.
‘I’m not going to find them here.’ I unlocked the door. We’d stood like this so many times
before – her standing her ground in her own house, while I escaped from her and her folded
arms and her big, smothering personality. ‘I’ll make do with plastic plane food. Enjoy your
I opened the door and a shaft of sunlight crept into the hallway. Outside cars glinted, even
the dirty ones. The tree embedded in the pavement by the front gate had wilted in the
From the shadows of the hallway Mum said, ‘If Alekos doesn’t work out, you know where I
‘Fuck you.’ I slammed the front door of my childhood home for the last time.
I got back to an empty flat with no housemates to talk to. My old room had been stripped of me. Only
faded curtains, a fitted wardrobe and a sheet-less bed remained. Only the red wine stain on the carpet
showed I’d even been here. I used to love having the flat to myself on the rare occasions both
my housemates were out at the same time but now I was desperate for their company as
I wandered from room to room, at a loss of how to kill the two hours before my coach
I felt I should phone Mum and smooth things over but I got no further than thinking about it. I
wanted to talk to my best friend Candy but after glancing at my watch I realised she’d still
be working on set with her mobile switched off. We’d said goodbye over a bottle of wine
and a curry the night before and had shed more tears together than Mum and I had in
I made myself a cup of tea, toasted a crumpet and sat by the window. I wanted to tidy, stay busy,
but for once the flat was spotless, an ironic leaving present. I wedged the window open, rested my bare
feet on the ledge and phoned Alekos.
He answered almost instantly. ‘Hey Sophie, where are you?’
‘At home. I’m ready, all packed, just waiting for the coach.’
His English was good but his words were caressed by his accent. His warm, deep voice tickled my
ear. ‘I can’t wait to have you here, Sophie.’
Outside the traffic had snarled up with the beginnings of rush hour. The faintest breath of air
filtered in through the open sash window. I didn’t envy them in their cars below, those with their
windows wound down, sweating. Different music escaped from car stereos, different tastes and beats
clashing. Teenagers in school uniform hung about outside the newsagent opposite, some with ice creams
in their hands, others with fags stuck between their lips, their bikes strewn carelessly across the
pavement. ‘I can’t wait to leave,’ I replied.
‘We’re going to meet you at the airport.’
‘The restaurant’s only open in the evening… Mama is excited, she’s been cooking all
‘I thought it was going to be just you. I don’t want to cause any trouble.’
‘No trouble,’ he said. ‘I told my sister and my uncles and aunts they have to wait until home to
meet you. I thought everyone there would be too much.’
He couldn’t see my smile but I hope he heard it. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’
The deep blue of the sea through the plane window made my stomach somersault. My legs
tensed when the plane dipped into a descent and I saw the coastline spread out, glistening in
the sun’s glare. I was dressed for a Greek summer in a new cream-coloured short skirt,
thin canvas shoes, a pale blue vest top and no make-up, only a brush of mascara on my
eyelashes. I used my sunglasses, wedged on top of my head, to keep my hair out of my
My Greek phrase book was open in my lap; the words for hello, yes, no, how are you and I don’t
understand, tumbled around my head, becoming increasingly muddled the closer we got to land. I
pulled my seatbelt tight and tucked my book and magazine away. Resting my head back against the
seat I watched Thessaloniki fill the oval window. Hazy mountains were the backdrop, their muted
colours blending with the city in the early morning sunshine. We dipped lower, tarmac and parched
grass, bright buildings and signs accelerating into view until we screeched on to the runway with a
Emerging from the plane the heat hit me, like the blast of hot air you get in winter when walking
into a shop. Heat steamed off the tarmac. I was grateful to leave the sunshine behind and enter the cool
building. Luggage endlessly circled in front of me. I didn’t want to move; I gripped the handle of my
Somewhere in here Alekos was waiting. Tucked inside my purse I had one photo of him taken just a
couple of days after I’d met him on Cephalonia. His lips weren’t smiling but his eyes were, shaded from
the sun by his hand. His hair was damp and short, his chest tanned and beaded with seawater. In his
other hand he held an octopus that we had later cooked over coals, before burning our fingers and
tongues eating it.
Sandwiched between a striking woman and beaming bronzed man at the arrivals gate was Alekos,
exactly as I remembered him. Butterfly wings fluttered against my ribcage. He grinned, dimples
puncturing his rough cheeks. His hand shot up in a wave and the three of them stepped forward to
I was in Alekos’ arms, head buried in his neck, my lips tasting the salt on his skin, his lips kissing
my forehead, my cheeks. If I was aware of his parents watching, I didn’t care.
Alekos pulled away from me. ‘Sophie, this is my mother, Despina, and my father, Takis.’
Takis was a well-worn version of Alekos, as tall as him and lean. Despina was something else: vivid
and memorable, her red top as loud as her. She grasped my hands and kissed me on both cheeks.
Takis stepped towards me and planted another two kisses on my cheeks. ‘
?’ he asked loudly.
I replied with a nod, hoping a nod was the right thing to do.