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Excerpt | Evanthia’s Gift – Effie Kammenou

Evanthia’s Gift is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.


The Gift Saga #1

In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets – ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.

The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for.

Evanthia’s Gift is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.

Evanthia’s Gift – Excerpt

Chapter 1
November 1955

The air was unusually chilled for early November in NYC, but despite the dropping temperature, sweat trickled down the back of Anastacia’s neck. Unable to wish away the nausea that was taking hold of her and too ill to sit through her last class, she’d left the NYU campus, hopping on an uptown subway to return home for the day. She’d been lightheaded and queasy the past few days, but nothing as violent as what she was currently feeling. Waiting at the crosswalk, the aroma of garlic and cheese permeating from a nearby café antagonized the volcano that was about to erupt in her belly, and she prayed she would get home without incident.
At last, Anastacia ducked into her apartment building, closing her eyes, and offering a silent thank you to the heavens for the safety and comfort of her home. Once inside her foyer, she removed her coat, hung it in the closet and glimpsed herself in the mirror hanging over the Bombay Chest. Pale skin and sunken eyes replaced her usual olive complexion and healthy glow.
   I just need to sleep off whatever this is.
Her husband, Jimmy, was not expected home from work for several hours, and she hoped to be feeling better by then.
Suddenly, the sound of voices startled her. She walked through the living room, following the noise. She almost forgot the motion sickness that had forced her home earlier than usual as the guttural sound of rhythmic moans grew louder, interrupted only by a woman’s shrill laughter. Anastacia forced her legs to follow the cacophony and found herself at the doorway of her bedroom. She stood there frozen. Seeing, but not believing. Tears sprang to her eyes and dripped down her cheeks, and she began to shake uncontrollably. Anastacia attempted to speak, but bile rose to her throat, rendering her incapable of uttering a word. Then, a cry that seemed to escape from her very soul, revealed her presence.
In that second, they knew she’d witnessed their betrayal. Anastacia was taken aback by the look of pure satisfaction that flashed across the naked woman’s face. A face that held not even a hint of guilt or remorse.
Her husband’s face told a different story. Shock, fear, maybe regret. For getting caught. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, but so many thoughts bombarded her mind that it was as though she were moving in slow motion. But then, the impact of it all slammed into her and she ran.
Jimmy jumped up, wrapping himself in a bed sheet.
“Ana! Wait!” He pushed the woman off him. “Get off me! Move! Get out of here.”
Barely making it to the bathroom, Anastacia leaned over the toilet, expelling the contents of her stomach.
“Ana,” Jimmy pleaded, coming up beside her.
“Get away from me.” She wiped her mouth with a towel, straightened up and gathered all her strength to push past him.
Jimmy blocked the doorway.
“Ana mou, I’m sorry. Please. Let me explain. Sagapo. I love—”
“Don’t touch me or ever say that to me. You’re disgusting. You both are.” She ducked under his arm, but he grabbed her wrist.
His touch seared her to the bone and she pulled away. She was shamed, shaken—broken, but there was no way she was going to let him see it.
“I said don’t touch me. Never come near me again.”
“It’s not what it looks like. She  …  it was all her. I never meant to … Ana, please.”
“It looked like it was both of you. Now let me pass,” she spat. He lifted his hands in surrender and stepped aside as she pushed her way past him through the narrow bathroom doorway.
In the hallway, the woman stood, watching, gloating. Although she and Anastacia both had dark brown hair and similar Mediterranean features, she lacked the poise and grace that Anastacia exuded.
“Get out of my home,” Ana ordered her. “I never want to see you again.” Anastacia stormed out her front door, slamming it behind her. Doubling over, she thought she might heave again, but she drew in a deep breath and continued down the hall to Soula’s apartment. She frantically knocked on the door. When she answered it, Soula took one look at her best friend and she hugged her.
“Ana mou, what is it?”
Between gasps and cries, Anastacia relayed the entire humiliating scene, as well as Jimmy’s despicable attempt to explain the unforgivable.
“What do I do now?”
“We go upstairs and talk to your uncle,” Soula said. “He will know how to handle this.”
“How can I tell him? What will my parents say? How could I be so stupid? What will Uncle Tasso think?”
“Of you? Nothing different than before. Of them? They will get what they deserve. Come. We will go together. I will tell your uncle if you cannot.”

Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other
to persevere in the road to a happier life. – Pythagoras

Chapter 2
July 1956

Anastacia beamed with joy as she stepped out of the taxicab, cradling her precious newborn child in her arms. The air was heavy with humidity, and the heat was oppressive—typical July weather in New York City. She hastened into her building to get the child away from the blaring noise of the passing traffic, as well as the lingering smell of exhaust. Her friend, Stavros, paid the cab driver
and walked in behind her.
“We are home Sophia mou.” She lovingly brushed her finger across
her daughter’s cheek.
Stavros unlocked the door to the apartment, helping Anastacia inside and onto the couch. He took the baby from her arms and carefully placed her in a white wicker bassinet, covered with layers of white lace and pink bows.
Even after spending several days in the hospital, Anastacia was still tired. The birth had not been an easy one, and adding to her stress were thoughts of juggling a career along with single motherhood.
“Thank you Stavros. I don’t know what I would do without you and Soula,” Ana told him.
“You know Soula will be storming through that door any second.”
Stavros laughed, shaking his head as he thought of his wife.
“Yes, I imagine she will and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sit with me a minute until she comes.”
He sat down beside her.
“I know I keep saying it,” she continued, “but I appreciate you and Soula standing by me all these months. I couldn’t have wished for better friends. When we were in school you would tell me about your Soula back home and I never dreamed she would become my closest friend.”
“Ah, yes. I missed her and I chewed your ear off.” Stavros relaxed back into the taupe cushions of the sofa. “It was good to have you to talk to about her. Friendship goes both ways, Ana, and you have always been the kindest of friends to us.”
“You’re a good man, Stavros. I would listen to you and think, ‘Someday I want to be adored by someone the way Stavros loves Soula.’ Sometimes you want something so much you are blind to what is real and what is not,” she murmured regretfully.
Stavros slid over to the other end of the couch and took Ana’s hands in his. “Everything good will come to you—believe me.”
Ana smiled unconvincingly, and nodded. “I am grateful for so much. My beautiful baby and two wonderful friends.”
She looked up when she heard the sound of the creaking door. Soula burst in, her arms flung open with excitement to welcome Ana home. Always full of energy and enthusiasm, the tall slender blonde with the sparkling green eyes picked up the baby.
Ftou sou, ftou sou,” she pretend spat, as she made the sign of the cross over the baby, a common Greek gesture to keep evil away. Soula pinned a Byzantine icon onto the bassinet. Dangling from the pin was an evil eye.
“I see the baby?” asked Konstantinos, the two and a half-year-old standing beside Soula and pulling on her skirt. Tall for his age, the boy peeked over the edge of the bassinet with large  expressive eyes that were rimmed with thick, dark lashes.
“Come, Konstantinos, but be very careful not to lean on the bassinet,” Soula instructed her son. “Is Sophia not the most beautiful little girl?”
“I’m big. I take care of Sophia.” He rubbed her arm gently and kissed her tiny, delicate hand.
“You will, just like you will take care of the new baby your mamá will have soon,” Ana said. She rose from the couch to pat Soula’s expanding belly and then bent down to wrap her arms around Kostas, kissing his plump, little cheek.
“Stavros, come take a picture of the children. Sit on the couch Kostas, and Theía Ana will let you hold Sophia.”
Ana took a seat next to Konstantinos and carefully placed Sophia in his lap, mindful to fully support the infant.
“Love you Sophia mou,” Kostas told her.
Soula clasped her hands together as if in prayer. “Oh, Ana, look at them. They will grow up together and someday they will fall in love.”
“Soula! They are babies. When they grow up, a long time from now, they will decide who to fall in love with.”
“No, I tell you this is why God put us together. We will be one family. I know these things,” she insisted.
“I love you, Soula. There is no one like you in the world. But these are modern times and when our children are adults they will make their own decisions.”
“As long as they marry Greeks,” Soula maintained, with a wave of her hand.
“Yes, because that worked out so well for me,” Ana said, her voice laced with sarcasm.
Soula sighed, “Oh, Ana mou. I’m sorry. Do you think Jimmy— Ugh, I want to spit when I say his name. Do you think he knows about Sophia? I was afraid he would find out and bring you trouble. I want all that to be behind you.”
“It is behind me. Sophia has my name, not his. His name is not on the birth certificate. He is to never have a claim on her. I don’t know where he is and I don’t care. I only know that Uncle Tasso said he would never bother me again.” She shook her head as if to scold herself. “I’ve troubled so many people. I disappointed my parents and myself. But more than anything I worry how this will affect my child. How will I ever be able to trust my judgment again? How did I let this happen?”
“You fell in love. With the wrong man, yes, but you learned from it. We learn from our mistakes, Ana.”
“Yes, but will my daughter pay for my mistakes? I will never fail Sophia; she will always be my first priority. She’s all that matters to me now.”
“Come, let’s get you in bed. You didn’t have an easy time of it and you need your rest.” Soula turned to her husband. “Stavros, take Kostas home and tell Aunt Litsa to come when she is ready.”
Soula walked with Anastacia to her bedroom. She got her bedclothes out and helped Anastacia change into them. Soula wheeled the bassinet from the living room to the foot of the bed, reaching in to straighten Sophia’s covers.
“Thank you, Soula. You’ve done enough for me. Go home now.
You need to rest also. Aunt Litsa will stay the night and help me.”
“I will check on you in the morning.” Soula left as a weary Anastacia crawled into bed.
Ana’s mind wandered as she began to drift into slumber. Coming to the States had been her dream, but dreams didn’t always turn out the way you expected.
She was grateful, though, to have a supportive family. Her Uncle Tasso owned the apartment building and with his help she was able to stay in her apartment after throwing out and divorcing her philandering husband. Her eyelids were as heavy as ten-pound weights but thinking of Jimmy kept her awake. Just days after catching her husband in an act of infidelity that had her reeling, she’d been hit with another blow. She learned she was pregnant. She wanted no connection to him and needed to be rid of him and the humiliation that went with it. But now, because of her child, she would be connected to him forever.
   Well, not if I can help it.

About the Author 

Effie Kammenou Author Image

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real-life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine. Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

Effie Kammenou is a first-generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends. As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

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Book Info 

Buy from Amazon US Icon  Buy from Amazon UK Icon

Paperback   568 pages
 Publisher  Effie Kammenou (8 Aug. 2015)
 ISBN  978-0692471838
 eBook  2656 KB (7 Aug. 2015)
 ASIN  B013MG484M


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