First Words-Part I

It will be published in several parts over the course of several days.

800 BC

ancient greece

Loukas Artopoios reached into the oven to retrieve the loaves of bread he’d made to take to the market stalls in the morning. The heat from the raging fire within rushed to his face and he blinked as he set the finished work on the cooling table. And he noticed the strange markings on his forearm.

“Hey you dropped your phone.”

He wondered what the markings meant. It seemed like they were letters made into words, but as a baker in Greece, he could only decipher the Greek alphabet and only spoke and heard other people speak Greek. He imminently felt sinking in his heart and his shoulders dropped. He’d already waited several years for his reveal; the appearance of his soul mate’s first words to him somewhere on his skin. That’s how everyone knew their soul mate. He’d longed for this day since he learned how this happened for everyone in his childhood, but now that he saw those words…his words…meant to reveal his true, lasting love…they were written in some language he didn’t understand or even recognize at all, and he privately mourned. He almost began to cry. Once he finished baking all the loaves, he attempted a few hours of sleep before heading to the agora to sell them, but his occupation with the new, inscrutable markings on his arm left him bothered and restless. He went to the marketplace and set up in his stall, exhausted and saddened for himself.

His regular patrons eagerly traded for his loaves…fruits and wine and honey…and they spoke with him about their families and some local events until Ari, the smartest man he knew, his friend who had actually traveled some before returning to Athens inquired about his arm.

“Yes, finally, my friend. But I don’t know what it means. Do you know the language?”

“I’m sorry, Loukas. I don’t. I wonder what that means…”

As Ari walked away with his two loaves, an older woman and a younger woman and a boy walked up to the stall. The older woman asked about Loukas’s last three loaves for sale, but Loukas couldn’t pull his eyes away from her younger counterpart. The girl coyly smiled at him. He returned her earnest grin as he made the exchange with who he supposed was her mother. The boy chattered away to his mother and sister, and the woman made the friendly exchange for her family’s bread with Loukas, but the girl remained silent. He kept looking at her, and she kept smiling. “Your loaves are Meli’s favorite. She thinks you are the best baker in the square. She bids us to come here every week,” the small boy said.

“Does she?” Loukas asked the boy, but remained looking at the girl.

“Meli can’t talk, but she’s still pretty persuasive,” her mother said.

“Thank you,” Loukas said directly to the girl this time, wondering why she couldn’t speak, but not putting a lot of importance into words anymore. She communicated a lot with only her eyes. Meli’s eyes lit up with ecstatic surprise and her smile became even more pronounced…and even more lovely, Loukas thought to himself. She hastily rolled up her sleeve to reveal the words, ‘Thank you,’ printed across her left wrist. Her mother and brother looked to Loukas simultaneously after scanning Meli’s delicate skin again and confirmed without words what Meli and Loukas were both thinking: ‘It’s you.’ Loukas showed the family the markings on his own arm and asked if they recognized the symbols. They all shook their heads, and for a moment felt worried. Meli ran her fingers over, ‘Thank you,’ once again and the melancholy look on her face pained Loukas. “I’m sure that’s me,” he said, reaching out to take her arm at the wrist and placed her hand over the words on his arm. “And I’m sure this is you. It must be…because…you don’t have words.” They shared another smile and Meli’s family began planning a marriage with Loukas.

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