The wedding and the military coup
It drizzled in the morning. Then the sun came up for the wedding. Thinking 'it's going to be a great day after all,' Sara turned her head to the other side but she abruptly sucked in her lips to suppress a giggle. Only wearing his undershorts and shirt, Ali was trying to adjust the bow tie. She tried to act natural when she realized that Ali saw her from the mirror.
“Don’t you dare laugh,” he said, “I’ll get you back when you get to your pantyhose.”
“Oh God. I’m marrying Charlie Chaplin.”
“By the time I get done, I’m going to feel like him.”
For her wedding outfit, Sara had chosen a simple cream summer dress with pleats around the shoulders, a strand of pearls that used to belong to her grandmother, and a chiffon headband.
“You should be wearing a wedding gown. This is your first time,” Hatice and Ayten insisted.
“Never mind them,” Ali told her. “Wear what you want. I don’t like that clown suit either. Women seem to get lost in it. I really want to make sure it is you I am marrying.”
Inside the Town Hall, Ali and Sara sat at the table listening to the official performing the ceremony. Around them on the benches, sat a small group of people consisting mostly of policemen, Nimet, who kept sniffing into her handkerchief, Taner, Sophie, a couple of secretaries from the department, Hamdi, Ayten, Ahmet, Emel, and Emel’s husband. Kenan sat next to Ayten without a word. ‘He’s taking it all in,’ Sara thought. The official was asking his customary questions. At one point he asked the crowd if anyone objected. Kenan suddenly dashed forth and jumped on Sara’s lap. “I want to marry her, too,” he said. Ayten rushed to get him, but Sara motioned her not to. The photographers had gone crazy with their flashes. A buzz of laughter filled the room. The official stopped, unsure of what to do.
Sara kissed Kenan’s cheek. “We’re getting married altogether,” she said. “You, me, and Daddy. You sit with Ayten, so we can go ahead with it. I’ll draw a bride for you when we get back.” Kenan nodded and retreated to the bench.
“My worst competition turned out to be my son,” Ali said after the ceremony. ”I can’t believe he did what he did.”
They had a small reception out in the hallway, which lasted about fifteen minutes, long enough to take photographs and pass around candy and a few refreshments.
“Who’s Melek?” Ali asked Sara, reading the card on a bouquet.
“My girlfriend from high school. She lives in Izmir. Let me see.”
On the card Melek had written, ‘Best wishes. Somehow, I always knew you’d beat me to it.’
“Congratulations, Kid! You got yourself a first rate woman,” Hamdi shook Ali’s hand on his way out.
“She can also catch fire,” Kenan said loudly, all excited.
“What does he mean by that?” Taner asked.
“Hard to tell,” Ali laughed. “You know how children are.”
“Where are you going for your honeymoon?” Nimet asked.
“I have no idea,” Sara said. “He’s keeping it a secret.”
“Oh, this is so much better than any story,” Nimet sobbed into her handkerchief.
“What did you tell her?” Ali asked.
“That the place of the honeymoon was your secret.”
“I hope you don’t cry like her when you find out,” Ali said.
After the ceremony they came home. Sara pulled out her valise. “What shall I take?”
“Nothing,” Ali said, unplugging the phone. “We’ve arrived. We’re in the place where the first honeymoon was.”
“This is where I wanted to come all along,” Sara kissed him. “Who knows we’re here?”
“No one except Emel. She won’t tell. I figured it is safe and private and we both like it.”
“And I’ll do much better than the first time. You see, I’ve had some expert coaching on important matters since then.”
Her eyes were closed. She could no longer remember where they were. Except that the heat circled around her, and a vulture was flying overhead. Someone said something about her mother being cruel. “No, she wasn’t,” she screamed.
Ali’s hands were pressed against her shoulders. “You are not allowed any nightmares on your honeymoon.”
She clutched him and wept. Her crying again came as a surprise.
“Let’s make rules for the week. I wanted a lifetime but the department only gives a week off for honeymoons,” Ali said.
“We go everywhere together inside here.”
“Nobody wears clothes.”
“No phone. No answering the door,” Sara said.
“Those are already taken care of. I had the phone off. The door is double locked. And the refrigerator is full. Now your turn to come up with a better one.”
“No one sleeps too long.”
“Fantastic! I think that covers just about everything. Salute,” he said clicking his wedding ring against hers.
“We’re married,” she smiled at him.
“All the time, now, tomorrow, later, in this life and afterwards too.”
“All the way...”
The week passed.
Ali drove Sara back to work on September 8th, Monday. The situation on the streets had grown worse.
“I’m feeling guilty because I feel so happy,” Ali said. “I don’t want to see this anymore.”
Although the weather was still warm, most people were overdressed. The arms they carried on themselves bulged through their outerwear. The meek walked hastily trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. The city had lost its sanity.
“I know what you mean,” Sara said. “What hurts me most, is that terrorism was forced on us from the outside.”
“Syrians were the ones that recruited people in the beginning. But the stupidity still lies with us.”
Sara decided to quit her job at the end of the month. In another week school would be open, and she wanted to spend more time at home. She had so much to look forward to.
“I have to get the curtains for the new house,” she said when she stepped off Ali’s car in front of the department.
“Don’t go alone. We’ll do it together.”
‘He’s still worried about me,’ Sara thought. But, she was not afraid for herself. Her worst fears were for him. He had plunged into more danger than she could ever have imagined. She turned around and looked at him.
“Be careful,” she said in a pleading tone.
Luther called in the evening. He was back from Germany.
“Congratulations, Sara. I knew you’d do it.”
“Thank you. It was on August twenty-seven. We missed you that day. Ali and I are very happy,” Sara said.
“I was referring to the contest.”
“You should have checked with the school. They sent the papers there. You won the scholarship.”
“Really? You don’t say...”
“No doubt about it. Now what was it that you were saying?” Luther asked.
“Ali and I got married in August.”
“That is great news. Best wishes. Now you can concentrate better on your work this year.”
Ali unwrapped a package on the kitchen table. “I want to make it up to you for being late,” he said, unloading the baklava unto a plate, and then licking his fingers.
“I wasn’t mad at you,” Sara said. ‘But terrified’ she thought to herself. “Luther is back. He called.”
“That’s great. It isn’t that late. I think I’ll give him a call.”
“What happened to your wrist?” Sara suddenly noticed the gauze peeking from under his sleeve. Her nerves were on full alert.
“Calm down, Honey! Look, it’s nothing! It was cut a little. He unbuttoned his sleeve to show her. It was a small cut. But the blood had drained out of her face.
“Relax! It happened at lunch. The knife slid out of my hand.” He smiled at her.
‘No one can smile like that,’ Sara thought. She held his face and kissed him.
“Sorry,” she said. “The outside got to me, today. It’s the pollution of everything: noise, air, water, people.”
“Come with me. I’m going to call Luther, now.” He held her by the waist and led her out of the kitchen.
She sat on the bed and watched him brag about the way the ceremony went, the way Kenan made everyone laugh by wanting to marry Sara. Then, she watched him listen silently to the other end, his cheeks flushing with excitement and his eyes sparkling as they danced on her from time to time. She was good at interpreting to herself all the tiny shifts of expression on his face. She guessed what Luther told him, and why he looked as if he won the National Lottery.
“I knew it, I knew it. I knew you’d do it.” He kissed her wildly as soon as he got off the phone. “Why didn’t you tell me when I came in?”
“I forgot,” Sara said. That was true, somewhat. She had meant to tell him.
“This is for forgetting and not telling me,” he kissed her pinning her on her back.
“I deserve more punishment,” Sara said, pulling him to her.
Luther came to dinner on Wednesday.
“You have to accept and use the scholarship within a year. It’s only a semester,” he said, “You could go this month.”
“I have to turn it down. They better grant it to the runner up,” Sara said immediately.
“Honey, take it. You’d learn so much.” Ali urged her.
“I don’t want to leave. I can’t. That’s all.”
“Why?” Luther asked. “I don’t understand. You don’t want to leave your husband, is that it?”
“Yes,” her voice wavered.
“It is only for three months. I could take time off for a couple of weeks, and we could drive through Europe. Then I’ll leave you and come back,” Ali suggested.
Sara’s color had turned ashen and her eyes were dampening. Her life with him was not an expired transportation ticket that she could tear it up and get another one. She felt hurt that Ali didn’t recognize her feelings, worse yet, that he could let her go.
“Does she have to answer right away?” Ali asked Luther. “I might be able to take a leave of absence for a few months and go with her, if it’s next semester.”
“See, how much he wants you to succeed,” Luther said. “Sure, we’ll tell them she’ll go the following semester.”
Thursday was a gray day. It was not so much the weather but the feeling of being stingily lit like the quiet before a storm. Small eruptions of violence dissolved as the evening drew near, as far as Sara could tell.
“Over the last nine months, we had over two thousand known deaths due to terrorism, not to mention those other crimes,” Hamdi said, “Who knows how many cases we’ll get right here tomorrow?”
Ali got a phone call toward the morning. From the conversation she heard through her sleep, she figured he would have to go.
“Don’t go to work today,” he said. “Don’t even get out of the house. Something’s happening. I got to go. I’ll call you.”
He was serious, very serious. She could tell because he didn’t wake her up for nothing. The times he had to leave while she slept, he left a note near the lamp. She pulled herself up leaning on one elbow. He was already out of the bedroom door.
She woke up again to the sound of measured footsteps from the street. She buttoned her robe and went to the window. It was daylight. Two pairs of soldiers were marching up and down the street. She checked the clock, but it had stopped. The electricity was out. She picked up the phone only to find it dead. She reached for her watch on the nightstand.
Emel and her husband were excited. They had known this was coming like the last one twenty years ago. Didn’t she read the papers? The commander of the armed forces had held two or three talks with the government officials to warn them to find a way to stop the killings. But they were inefficient and so, finally it had happened, the military had taken over.
“Don’t worry about the coup. It is for the better,” Emel’s husband said. “Turkey is not like other countries. Our military solves our problems. We should be thankful for them.”
Sara sighed with relief when she saw Ali come in. He looked worn out and dusty.
“It’s over... The utilities are getting turned on again.” He hugged her. “Military justice is swift. We are already gathering the troublemakers. I talked to the area commander. He wants to see what we’ve got. They are searching house to house. Of course, they had to pick up the government leaders first.”
“They weren’t really guilty,” Sara said.
“They were weak. Their guilt is not directly definable like terrorism. Don’t worry about them though. The military will probably let them go in a day or two. My guess is they are held because they are being protected.”
“Is it such a good idea to rush the Red Dragon thing now? Shouldn’t we wait and see?”
“Honey, they are very strong. We shouldn’t give them time to reorganize. Some are already resisting. They are shooting at the policemen and the soldiers.”
“Promise me, you’ll be careful,” Sara laid her head on his chest. The thump of his heart felt like music.
They divided the papers into groups and put them in several envelopes.
“Aren’t you glad this thing is over?” Ali said. “You and I will take these to the headquarters tomorrow. Ahmet will meet us there with the other set of copies.”
“Why two sets copies?” Sara asked.
“Customary procedure. In case one set cannot make it. Ayten has a third set of everything. But that is for us to know.”
“Does that mean you aren’t sure?”
“There’s no such thing as sure.” Then he hugged her, rejoicing. “You are acting so alarmed. What happened to the brave girl I met at the bookstore?”
“They better pick every single one of them right away,” Sara mumbled.
“Take your I.D. with you. Take your permit too if you’re taking the gun. They might search us.”
There were soldiers and tank-guards on the main roads. Ali was stopped at least five times. The Area Commander was a pleasant man. He became very excited and impressed with their investigation.
“But why did you hold on to it?” he asked.
“Our investigation completed only last month,” Ahmet said.
“Even if we had it before, the system of justice at the time was questionable,” Ali added.
“So much paperwork has been done. Who is responsible for all this?”
“My wife took care of the paperwork and broke through the major part of the puzzle through the files. Ahmet and I collected depositions and did the organizing.”
“Ali did the infiltrating. He deserves major credit,” Ahmet said.
“Do you also agree that your husband deserves major credit?” The Commander asked Sara. “If you do, I’ll put him down as the leading investigator. We have to file reports, too.”
Sara and Ahmet nodded together. There was no question. Ali deserved all the credit.
“Maybe we should ask him to keep our names under cover,” Ahmet said outside. “There might be leaks.”
“They wouldn’t dare now,” Ali shrugged.
Sara frowned. There was such a thing as sudden insane revenge.
“They are picking them up like dead flies,” Ali said a few nights later. “Do you have any idea what a major thing we’ve accomplished?”
“Don’t I know it...”
“There was a short hearing today on the case. They charged Enver and the major founders of the Red Dragon with treason. If proven, they’ll be hanged.”
“Did they get him?”
“Yes, he’s in custody. But a few of them are loose; they might be in or out of the country.” He took her in his arms, seeing her shudder. “Now, don’t you think we deserve a wild night?”
She looked at him sideways as he drove her to work in the morning. His smile was calm and relaxed, but in her, the joy of the pleasures of the night was still stirring. Her connection to him was an ongoing rapture.
“Isn’t it hot in here?” he asked her, rolling down the window. “The air conditioning is out again. I should change this car soon.”
She kissed him intensely before she got out. As she closed the car door behind her, she heard him remark.