Sara's relationship with her mother deteriorates
The tea tasted bitter and heavy, having been left over from the night before when Enver had come for Lamia. Sara kicked the leg of the table in disgust. Then she set her cup down with a clunk. In her head a restless sensation was pulsating. She liked her tea fresh. She emptied the wet tealeaves into the garbage pail, filled the kettle with clear water and set it to boil. As the kettle's steam became part of the reflections of sunlight on the kitchen wall, she stared at it hypnotized.
Since the demolition of her grandparents' house, she had been living here with her mother.
She did not like it; she did not belong with Lamia. She felt like the farcical shadow of a cardboard puppet. The kind that the puppeteer of the ancient Ottoman theater pulled its strings to make it perform in an offbeat live stage show. She felt ridiculous. She detested the shame she felt when people stared at her on the street. As she passed by, people suddenly hushed their chatter and glared at her, probably accusing her of an indefinable crime, which she wanted no part of.
"You are letting the kettle boil away, Sara."
Lamia stood by the door, her gaze foggy from sleep or rather the lack of it.
"Did Enver leave?" Sara asked.
"Yes, did you get breakfast?"
"I don't want any."
"Well, I do. I got to go to work soon."
"Sure, you do..." Sara snickered.
"Are you sassing me?"
"I wonder why..."
"Things are getting worse around here. I don't care for your attitude."
Sara puckered her lips in defiance. "That isn't my fault."
"Cut it out. Right now. I have a long day ahead of me and I don't want any of your problems."
"Sure you don't."
"Enough, not a word out of you, you understand?" Lamia snapped.
"Sorry. I forgot. Only Enver does the talking around here."
"Shove it! And get lost!"
Sara shrugged and walked out of the kitchen. Even during those times she yelled at Sara, Lamia always kept her distance from her, and Sara noticed the irony.
The town had quieted down after the morning rush hour. Tucking her head inside her collar, Sara walked to the seashore and sat down on a bench by the ferryboat landing. Out here the chill was soothing. The water rippled past southward with its white foam and navy blue color hinting at the powerful undercurrent. A small seagull drifted over the water, while another huddled under the awning by the ferryboat landing. Sara wondered why their cries were short and shredded. Were they cursing the sea?
The feverish feeling on her windburn face and the soreness climbing at her throat forced her up off the bench. The sea before her seemed to move closer. Staring silently, she felt the waves within her growing into giants, salty and dark. What had her father experienced when he had met them for the last time? For a second she thought she heard his laughter, warm and clear. She shuddered and stepped back.
A boat emptied its passengers through the vertically staked iron gateway. A hand touched Sara's shoulder.
"Whom are you waiting for?"
Sara turned around. With his red and brown fisherman's knit cap and his unshaven olive cheeks a lanky figure in an unzipped snorkel stood in front of her. She pursed her lips questioningly, "Osman Aga?"
"Good girl! How have you been?"
"All right, I guess. And you?"
"No complaints. Thousands of thanks to Allah!"
Sara warmed up as if a furry animal had cuddled her. Osman Aga was the fisherman who lived next door to her grandparents' house, running his daily battles with the sea, yet trusting it for sustaining his life. How could she have forgotten him! Maybe living at Lamia's place had erased a chunk of her memory.
"Sometimes I cut through the fish market," she said.
"Ah, but you never stop by. Do you?"
"Mother doesn't like fish. She says it smells up the whole place."
"Now she doesn't like fish? She grew up with fish. You know when she was this little..." His hand fumbled for the imaginary size with his palm facing the ground. "She loved to angle. Your grandfather and I let her come on the boat with us." His voice trailing off he added, "But then she was always different, wasn't she?"
"Maybe I'll stop by and just say hi next time."
"Do that. Soon. And I'll tell the old hag how tall you've grown."
Sara watched him limp away among the buildings and become indistinguishable at the curve of the road. She rubbed her hands together. Her skin was turning to ice without her gloves. The north wind snarled into her eyes and thrust its fist through her coat. She checked her watch. Lamia probably had left for work.
It was the midterm recess and Sara had that whole week free. She smiled at the thought of school. School kept her busy and programmed her life. School also meant that in the mornings she would be out of the apartment before Lamia woke up.
Her key clicked in the lock. Her mother was gone and a maid, the new one, had taken over the rooms. Through the roar of the vacuum cleaner the maid waved at her and continued wheeling the machine around.
Sara went into her room. She pulled Shah from under her desk and sat on the bed with legs crossed. The cat nestled in her lap. She stroked his trembling fur. The animal was scared of every loud sound, especially the vacuum cleaner ever since the Russian tanker had hit their house. Even with Shah on her lap Sara felt alone, forgotten and separated from the living.
How she wished she could return to the olden days, those days when she had her friends! Now most kids ostracized her on their parents' orders and she herself kept her distance from the rest.
Lamia's much-talked-about lifestyle lay waiting at every corner ready to pull the trigger. Sara did not blame the town. It was Lamia who had broken the long-established rules.
Snowflakes had started scouting around the windowpane. They trekked down one after another in tilted rows, progressively crowding into the windowsill. The sound of the vacuum cleaner faded in the hallway. Sara put Shah down on the floor, sank into the chair by the desk and began drawing the picture of an old fisherman in a striped cap.
The maid slipped into the room a few minutes later.
"Would you like some hot chocolate, Sara?"
"Thanks, I'll have it in the kitchen. Mother would kill me if it spilled on the rug."
The maid stirred the steaming cocoa and poured it into two mugs with curved handles.
"That is a pretty photo of your mother in Haber. I brag in my neighborhood that I'm working for a famous lady."
"I didn't see."
"They wrote two full pages about her, and you didn't see it?"
"I don't ask her about her work. I know she had an interview two weeks ago. She didn't say anything about being written about."
The maid handed Sara the weekly, then perched down cupping her hands around her mug.
It was not only that little shop Lamia ran anymore. Now she and Enver owned a newly formed clothing company with several chain stores. Sara scanned through the paper. The woman described in the news story was hardly Lamia. She was set off as a hard-driving businesswoman, who had succeeded in a faltering economy, and a devoted mother to boot. No mention of Sara's name but only a reference to her existence. Sara stared at Lamia's photograph, and then put the paper down. A puzzled expression invaded the maid's face.
"Aren't you proud of your mother?"
"I don't know. What did she do?"
"All that here, and you ask what she did? It is right there in print."
Sara glanced skeptically at the paper again. Lamia did not look like a success; she stood straight like a statue, the lines of her face unpronounced.
"This doesn't tell everything about her," Sara said cautiously.
"Well, what it tells is proper and I'm happy for both of you."
Proper? Was that the word for Lamia? Sara thought of the many times her mother was considered improper.
"Sara's mother's a whore! Sara's mother's a whore!" That chanting of the neighborhood kids rang in her ears over and over again. The whole town had kept whispering and she had heard every single word, even those unsaid.
"She sleeps around..."
"Her husband's dead because of her..."
"She'll burn in hell..."
The apartment looked sterilized after the maid left. Sara believed that a certain sadness littered the too-clean homes. They were isolated, untouched, unused. Not Sara's room; she took care of it her style.
"Isn't your mother home yet?" Enver was talking to her from the hallway.
"She'll be here soon," Sara answered in a dull voice.
"All right. I'll wait. Sara, come here. I have something for you."
No, not again. She was sick of his gifts. She resented him so! He could not win her. Why didn't he accept that? She drifted toward the living room.
His interest in her was like a payment. For what? Her mind could only hint. He felt no true fondness, but he touched her, now and then, as he brushed by her, supposedly in an innocent manner. Enver was not to be trusted, ever! She knew that from the chilling fear and the nausea lumping in her throat.
"Don't bring me presents anymore please," she said.
"Why not?" He was puzzled.
"I don't want any."
"You don't want the presents or me?"
She knew Lamia would be yelling at her for either answer.
"It is too much trouble," she said.
"No, it isn't. Not for a man who appreciates quality. You are quality material."
Sara didn't answer. Enver looked at her through creased eyelids.
"You are old enough. Can't you tell? I like you. In a very special way... Like a man..."
"And you like my mother too!" How she loathed him!
"You are quality and I appreciate quality. " He reached his hand out to her. She stepped back.
"Don't you ever feel ashamed?" She was so disgusted!
"Ashamed of natural things? Come on, grow up!"
"Take the package back please. Mother will be here soon. What if I tell her?"
"But you won't, Precious. I know you won't because you're quality."
He was right. Sara could not tell Lamia then because at that time she did not want to argue. It would be looking for trouble even if she had the heart. But later, things would be very different.
Sara watched Lamia put her small suitcase down at the entrance and remove her gloves and boots. Lamia looked tired. Sara figured it was not because of the plane trip so much but the hassle at the airport and the difficulty of finding a taxi.
"What's up?" Lamia asked.
"I had a good time while you were away. I have been painting."
"Is that your definition of a good time?"
"Better than yours!"
Lamia ignored the sting in Sara's remark. "Mine was a business trip," she said.
"Where's Enver?" Sara asked mockingly.
"He went home."
"Wasn't he with you?"
"Yes and no. He came to the first meeting, then took the flight back immediately."
"I guess sharing a man has its drawbacks."
"So I shouldn't voice my opinions?"
"I am too tired to struggle with you. Why don't you clean up and open a window? I hate that awful smell."
"It is turpentine, Mother Dear. It is not awful."
"It is to me. Why don't you have friends your age and go to parties or something?"
"How exciting! Imagine getting ready for the man-sharing act... What a laugh!"
Sarcasm was sweet. It felt almost like revenge, making up for all the inconsistencies in her life. Straddled on top of her bed, Sara listened to the sounds that organized her mother's life; the rush of water from the shower, the buzz of her hair dryer, the rustle of her peignoir, the click of the light switch. Yes, the moment had come. She reached over and turned on her stereo. In record time Lamia materialized at her door.
"Can't you use your headphones? Don't you think you owe me that much?"
"You were sleeping? So early?"
"I work, remember?"
"Sure you do. You are famous all over town. But then, you have been famous all my life." Sara deliberately stressed on the second "famous".
"You are bitter. And I don't know what else... I just don't know enough to handle you." Lamia looked at Sara grimly as if her relationship with her daughter was beyond repair. "You let all that get to you. I wish you'd think twice," she continued. "Maybe we could arrange staying away from each other."
"How's that possible, staying away?" Sara asked.
"Boarding School, maybe?"
"Terrific! It sure beats seeing you-know-who's face every two days."
"I'd prefer you didn't refer to him as such."
It was evident Lamia was mulling the idea over in her head. "This would solve my housekeeper problem," she muttered.
"What housekeeper problem?"
"The maid told me she can't stay overnight when I'm away. Her husband wants her home."
"Mother, I don't need a babysitter."
"With the boarding school, you'll come home on weekends. This way the whole thing will be taken care of."
next "BOSPHORUS -3-"