Sara drew her lines as if she was carried beyond speech and sound into a world where her senses grew more acute and her vision got deeper. Luther Brandt was moving around the class, monitoring the progress of the students in point media.
“Would you see me after class, please?”
The teacher’s voice penetrated through her concentration.
“Sure,” Sara said as she looked up with effort, wondering if she missed something.
When the last student left, he asked her, “Let me see again what you were doing there?”
Sara handed over the drawing board. Luther Brandt examined it for a while, twirling his pencil in his mouth.
“How much instruction did you have before?”
“Before?” she repeated him. “I had art in high school.”
“Is that all?”
His question was more like an exclamation as he handed back her drawing board.
“I would like to take this with me. It is very good work.”
Sara cut through the tape and handed him the paper.
“Thank you, Herr Brandt,” she said.
“How did you know how to address me? Do you know German?”
“Yes, some. I took it in school. Also I went to Berlitz.”
“Great! As soon as I find a permanent place, I’ll lend you some of my books. Everything is in boxes in the hotel,” he scratched his chin. “Why is it so difficult to find a rental in Istanbul?”
“Too many people are rushing into the city from the rural areas. What kind of a place are you looking for?”
“Not large. Hopefully with north light, hot water and central heating. Do you know of any?”
“I could ask. You want it close to here, right?”
“Yes, but not necessarily. I would like to settle as soon as possible.”
Once Sara got on the bus, she marveled at how easily she forgot about school, teachers or art itself. This city, so exquisite yet crowded over without warning, bloodied with terrorism, and with rampant crime, pressured her into caution. She felt the split of the place within her, as the split between her attraction to art and the will to face the terror; yet, there was something else lifting her above everything, something much higher, which seemed to have found its place in Ali’s eyes. It could be called vision; yet no man-invented word could describe it. She smiled to herself when she recognized the way she felt about Ali. She was not surprised. He deserved it.
“Don’t stay after hours tonight,” Taner said. “We don’t get much paperwork on Mondays. Besides you worked on Sunday.”
That late afternoon, Sara took this opportunity to visit Lamia. Her mother looked distraught, in house clothes with her hair uncombed. This wasn’t like her at all.
“Are you ill? Is something wrong, Mother?”
“Oh, isn’t it terrible? I feel so bad for Enver.”
“Why? Is he sick?”
“Worse. His wife has divorced him.”
“Mother, I don’t believe you. Isn’t it better now? I’d think that you’d want to marry him.”
“Marriage is not an issue between us.”
“Mother, you don’t need him. You never did.”
“There are circumstances you wouldn’t understand. I won’t leave him. He is my partner.”
“Okay, okay. But you said you felt bad for him, why?”
“Enver lost a great deal of wealth because of the divorce. You see, originally, most everything belonged to his wife’s father.”
“Why did she divorce him now? She knew about you all along.”
“Not about me, Silly. Enver and I made some deals, investments you might say, that backfired. She didn’t approve.”
“Illegal ones?” Sara asked carefully.
“What is legal and illegal? It is all so mixed up these days. Enver didn’t want to give her the divorce but she acted faster. She found out enough to threaten to drag all of us into mud. Enver had to let her have the divorce.”
“The whole world knows about you and him, Mother. Why would he be afraid of that?”
“Not that. There are other things. Please don’t pressure me, Dear. I can’t talk about them. It is business.”
Sara could not believe how her grandmother could raise such a monster. Lamia had no scruples.
With an effort to cover her repulsion, she said, “I still don’t understand. You are talking in riddles. I don’t mean to pry, but things just don’t make sense. For example, those people who are trying to extort money could threaten her as well, couldn’t they?”
“To a degree. But they are really after Enver. They’ve got something to hold over our heads.”
Sara called Ali as soon as she got in.
“I have some important things to tell you,” she said.
“I’m all ears.”
The sound of his voice was shaking her up. Suddenly she felt embarrased; she choked. She was feeling lowly, sick, fallen, contaminated by her mother’s filth. She didn’t want to let him know that her mother had counted on her boyfriend's wife's money. She didn't want any shame her mother had brought upon her. Not him. She couldn’t face him anymore. Now that she had recognized the feeling...
“Not now. I’m sorry. I have to go,” she said.
“Are you home?”
“Madam Arakian is upstairs.”
“Then why aren’t you talking to me? I mean, what happened to ‘Hello, how are you?’ bit?”
“I’m sorry. How are you?”
“Fine. But I am not so sure about you.”
“Fine. I’m fine.”
Sara felt her face warming up. Shame cloaked her.
“Okay. Then I’ll see you later.”
She shouldn't have dialed his number in the first place. She had acted like a jerk.
Madam Arakian opened the door of her room. Sara could see the red glow of the crackling embers in her stove.
“Come sit with me,” Madam Arakian said. “My room is warm now. Bring in your work if you like.”
“Only for a little while. I’m really tired today.”
“I hate to say it but you look it. Would you like some hot lemonade or cocoa? Come see the new scarf I am knitting.”
Sara watched Madam Arakian’s needles move back and forth through the yarn, as she kept chatting, but Sara’s thoughts kept returning to Lamia’s words from a couple of hours ago.
“Are you all right, Sara?” Madam Arakian asked.
“Just tired. I guess, I’ll go to bed. Good night, Madam Arakian.”
She stretched on the bed, her clothes still on, without opening the covers. She had assumed Lamia’s involvement from day one, but why did it hurt so much to find out that her assumption was for real? Shah jumped on her with a soft purr. She limped up to her feet remembering that she had to feed him.
She heard the knock on the door as she was getting out of the kitchen. “I’ll get it,” she said to Madam Arakian who was coming out of her room.
Ali Soner waved at her when she lifted the side window to check who could be knocking.
“Is it too late for a visit?”
“I thought I should take a look at her stove,” he explained later to Madam Arakian. “She wasn’t very sure of it.”
“How thoughtful of you,” Madam Arakian was beaming.
It seemed strange to Sara to be sitting across from him on her bed right there inside her very room feeling as if she didn’t have her clothes on to cover her up. Madam Arakian had retreated to her own room.
“I hope you didn’t mind my dropping in on you,” Ali said. “You didn’t sound right over the phone.”
“It is good to see you,” she answered, meaning every word.
“Tell me why you wouldn’t talk to me on the phone.”
Sara couldn’t answer. She tried so her face wouldn’t show the pain. She wished just for that moment he did not watch her every move so intently.
“It has something to do with your mother, doesn’t it?”
“Do you suppose it runs in my blood?”
“On the contrary,” Ali answered right away. ‘You have very different values.”
“I want to hate her but I can’t. And I know I should.”
He sat next to her and put his arm around her. She wished she could cry; she was so deeply moved... His warmth was crowding out everything else. His voice was soft when he talked again.
“Your mother participated in wrong things because she was weak. It would be easy to hate her but you wouldn’t. You know why? Because you are you.”
“So you didn’t come to see about the stove after all?”
“Neither did I come for the information.”
“That is very kind of you.”
“Kind? What gave you that idea?”
Sara stood straight in the middle of the room after Ali had left. Her room now looked brilliant and uplifted. What remained unspoken between them had beaten out the gloom.
On Tuesday, afternoon classes were canceled because of a bomb threat to the school. So Sara decided to go to work instead. As the bus left for Beyoglu, she looked back at her school’s building. It seemed sad, grim, and tortured by those who sought political justice in the wrong places.
She was welcomed in the store since it was one of those busier days. The customers were jumpy and irritable. The uneasy times were taking their toll on everyone.
“You don’t have to stay after hours if you don’t want to,” Taner told her. “You were here in the afternoon.”
But Sara chose to work late, since a huge pile of paperwork had amassed. It was to her relief that she was really earning her wage.
The gentle tapping on the window startled her. Her eyes searched for the boy but didn’t see him. She peeked out the door without opening it. Then with a sudden animated motion, she unlocked it.
“Didn’t I see you just last night?” She asked with a grin.
“Okay, then,” Ali turned his back making believe he was about to exit.
“Come back here.” Sara pulled him in by his coat sleeve. “I won’t let you off the hook so easily.”
They both laughed, then fell silent for a few seconds.
“Anything new?” Sara asked.
He shook his head negatively. “I wouldn’t tell you even if there were,” he said. “We’re going to have dinner at my place.”
“You mean no work, all play?”
“To what do I owe this honor to?”
“Impulse. Maybe we can investigate what lies under that, too.”
They stood under the eave until he opened the umbrella. They walked to the tremolo of the raindrops overhead on the umbrella and on the asphalt, before they reached the car. Sara couldn’t recall if she had ever seen the lights dazzle like this off the wet ground.
“I have a bone to pick with you,” he said when he started driving.
"I am scared,” she laughed.
“You should be. You called me Sunday afternoon, right?”
"You told me you put up your stove in the morning. Right?”
“That was true.”
“But there was something else you omitted. Right?”
Sara didn’t answer. She knew he was referring to the car theft she had witnessed on the Shore Road.
“Why didn’t you tell me, Sara?”
“Ahmet said you might have had a concussion. I was worried you’d get up.”
“If you had told me, I would have your testimony placed under confidentials. They left it with your name open in the records, where anyone could find out.”
“I am not afraid,” Sara shrugged.
“I would be miserable if anything happened to you. Don’t you care about that?”
“I care about you a lot, too,” Sara said.
The rain had stopped when they reached his place. He held her hand when she stepped out of the car and didn’t let it go until they walked all the way to the third floor to his apartment.
“We are not going to talk about your mother, Enver, terrorists, rightists, leftists, elections, or anything unpleasant, promise?”
“I know a pleasant subject,” Sara said.
“That is exactly what I had in mind. The pleasant me. What is so pleasant about an old grouch?”
“I think you are fishing.”
After dinner, he showed her photographs of his family, his brother, his ex-wife, and his son.
“Do you see your son often?” Sara asked.
“It is difficult to arrange a meeting. Bad feelings are still there between his mother and me.”
“Must be hard on you.”
“Harder on him. He is too young to understand anything.” His face saddened. “When a marriage doesn’t work, children are the first to suffer. But you know about that well enough.”
“I am sure you did the best you could.”
“No, I didn’t. I couldn’t.” He hesitated. “I never wanted to marry her in the first place.”
“Why did you?”
“My mother pushed it. She had a terminal illness and my brother had just died. She found her for me. I couldn’t back out. Then of course the thing didn’t work out.”
“I can see why,” Sara said.
“No, you don’t. I wasn’t good to her, even after the baby. She can not forget.”
“Forget what?” Sara asked.
“What I did to her.”
“To her? You? Why, you wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
“Believe me, I was awful. I didn’t touch her. I couldn’t touch her. Then I fooled around with others.” His hands were shaking. Suddenly he straightened up. “I shouldn’t be telling you this. Not you...” He gave her a worried look. “Did I shock you?”
“Not at all,” Sara said softly. “You were forced to marry someone unwillingly. It must have been like rape.”
“It hurt you bad, didn’t it? The rape, I mean.”
“I still have nightmares. My mood still changes without warning. That is why I keep busy. I fight it.”
She felt that she was telling him this for him. Knowing about the way she was hurt might ease his pain.
She saw him reaching for her. His hand gently touched her arm. He took a deep breath in when her skin prickled under his touch. He slid his other hand around her shoulders and tightened his grip. He bent and pressed his lips lightly upon hers. Then he kissed her again longer.
“There is no other way, “ he said, as if talking to himself.
She raised her eyes and looked into his face. She sensed the tremor going through him. He pulled her closer to his chest and stroked her cheek. “Now you know,” he said.
She leaned into him, her arms clasped around his waist. “Do you?” She asked.
“Yes,” he said, touching his lips on her hair. “Yes.”
She felt his face with her hand. His cheeks were wet with tears.