“Oh, dear God. My girl. My poor girl. Who did this to you? What they did to you! Oh, God. No! No!”
“Mom, help me…”
The ambulance sped through the many rural areas to Şanlıurfa hospital. Where Huban was born. The medics raced Huban’s stretcher through the emergency entrance, while a loud speaker summoned doctors to the OP. Her mother’s bewildering plea was the only sound in the crowded lobby: “Please. Please. No window, no mirror. I beg of you. Please!”
“Hello there, my love!” Huban stirred with difficulty. Butrus?
Her eyelids resisting her will to open, a smile grew on her face.
“Hi there, love!”
“Butrus, you are here! You are here! But…oh no, wait, don’t look at me. Please, don’t. I’m in terrible shape. And my hair -“
“My love, you’ll grow it again,” he interrupted.
“Remember, whenever the sun shone on it, you’d –“
“say,” Butrus picked up from where Huban left, “your hair is too stunning to confine in braids. Let the light fall on its waist-long drop and show off its blackish maroon hue!”
“Okay, okay, you fixed my hair. But…but, see what they put on me?”
“All I see is my elegant Huban on top of a radiator,” Butrus responded.
Huban started to inch one arm under her covers. Exhausted, she gave up the effort. Ignoring the increased soreness on her chest, she tried to reach Butrus with her other arm. That one landed on her throat. She gave out a faint groan; then let that wondrous past in.
Harran University was brand new, and its library, still under construction. A radiator below a dormer window had become her reading place between classes. It stood at the end of a hallway that strayed from a high-traffic passage to lecture halls. A deep and wide marble slab atop the bars – a code for heating companies back then, diffused the burn for her just about enough. Rapt in her book, Butrus’ sudden presence had caught her by surprise, especially the ease at which he engaged her in a conversation.
“Poor me, my seat choice never escaped your teasing.”
Butrus grinned and went on: “It was an October morning. An unusual chill had set in. Black was your color: a high-neck, long-sleeve sweater, bell-bottom pants, low heel boots, a long-strap handbag, and a large tote. And then…there was your hair. Down. All the way down.”
“You looked so good in black,” Butrus spoke in awe. “The sun-shaped pendant on your necklace was the only different color on you. Outside the honey-touched sparkles in your eyes, of course. I had never seen such a shade of intense green before.“
How about you, my darling? Huge hazel eyes. Long, thick eyelashes. Eyelids adorably slanting with each attractive smile.
“You were wearing clear, stylish glasses,” Huban uttered.
Those light brown waves of hair resting on your neck.
“You knew how to resist the college-male fad of well-below-the-shoulder-look.”
Your tall, slender, shapely body in a casual outfit. The faint laugh lines on the corners of your lower eyelids. And those lips…curling upward with each laugh. Leaving me with a sensation I hadn’t felt before.
Wednesday afternoons, Huban had a secret routine. Skipping her last class, she left the campus for the language institute. Butrus had started learning Spanish. She secured a spot in the farthest corner of the alley across from the multiple-story building. His classroom was on the second floor, with windows looking over the school’s spacious, circular landing. He always came out first. His rushed feet nearing him to her delighted Huban. One arm tucked in the back, donning his landmark smile; he greeted her with the same ‘hello, my love, hello!’ Then unveiled her favorite flower: a rose. One black rose.
“Can you believe, we have known each other four months already?” Butrus spoke in full excitement but looked tired.
“Did you have enough sleep last night?” Huban didn’t hide her concern. His classes at the university ended at noon. In the early afternoon, he studied for the next day. Then came his language hours. In the last two months, he had acquired two night jobs – one in the university library and one in the town’s largest bookstore. However well paying they were, Huban worried for his health.
“Have you extended your work hours?” Huban feared to hear a ‘yes’.
“No, my love, I don’t need to. I already put aside a decent amount of money for us. I know, my Spanish classes take a good part of it but that’s to secure our life in Zafra.”
“Zafra? What’s going on, Butrus? What IS Zafra?”
Butrus took an envelope from his coat’s inside pocket and pointed: 06300 Zafra – Badajoz, Spain.
“That I’m adopted, you know but there is much more to it, my love.”
“I wish I were adopted – except for my mom,” Huban’s voice reeked sadness.
“I know, love, but things will change very soon. And remember: your parents didn’t die when you were two.”
With his familiar hand gesture, Butrus then moved her bangs aside and kissed her forehead. Her tears showing her regret for reminding him of his huge loss in the October 1983 earthquake, Huban held on to his hand for a long time. The nanny had stayed back with a sick Butrus, while his parents – as custom on religious holidays – had been visiting in-laws in Erzurum…
Butrus broke their melancholy: “Listen, my love, we are both going to be just fine. I have very exciting news.”
“What is it?”
“You know who gave me home. ‘What IS Zafra?’ you asked. Well, my uncle lives there. As a physician. He brought me up here, though. In my birthplace. I’m sure he didn’t want to take me away from my parents’ compassionate neighbors. They took me as their own child; invited us for many meals; brought over countless dishes. Besides, he was their endeared Dr. Candemir. So, I lived well – considering. He, however – I believe, sacrificed his life. He left for Zafra only after my admission to Harran University with scholarship. Room and board included.”
Huban listened with intent.
“After all he has done for me,” Butrus’ voice showed his emotions, “he now offers us the safety of his home. Imagine, my love! He writes we can live with him until we tire of him and that he is ready and able to cover all our material needs.”
Sliding his hand in to the same pocket, Butrus brought out another envelope. Inside: two plane tickets and a sizeable pack of Euro bills.
That Wednesday afternoon in the alley opposite the language school, Huban let Butrus’ pull her close to his warmth. He caressed her eyes with fire in his. The darkness of the corner where they stood encouraged them to their first lip-kiss. It was snowing. In barely there gentle flakes. Gentle like Butrus. Her soon-to-be future husband.
His nicotine-filled breath right on her face, Huban’s brother was fierce in his slander of Butrus. The family had gathered in the kitchen’s ell – their makeshift living room. He started growling at her:
“You’d better be careful. Or, you’ll answer to me!” He growled.
He towered over her miniscule stature by at least two heads. Tonight, he was even more intimidating. At eye-level with Huban, his fiery pale blue eyes were piercing her. Raising his angry voice with each of his insults, he paused only for a brief moment when – stone-faced, their father got up from his chair. His muscular body of overwhelming height approached Huban. He stopped at only a breath-length distance from her face. His blue-grayish eyes scanning her from top to bottom, he spoke in threatening calm – stressing every word in slow motion:
“He is not one of us; he will never be one of us. Get it, or else!”
His lips coiled in to one, her brother then held her shoulders with a tight grip and shook her with severe force. At that point, he had straightened his body to its full height. Stretching his neck upward with self-pride, he first turned toward their father, then threw their mother a quick, spiteful look and shouted:
“Remember how much I insisted you’d not send her? What did I tell you about mixed schools?”
With his eyes almost all about their white, he turned to Huban again and yelled:
“There are two types of girls – those to marry and those to have fun with. You know what type YOU have to be. Don’t you ever forget it! If dad weren’t the youngest…if it weren’t for his brother, you wouldn’t have even seen any school, let alone be in college. You’d better watch out and do as I say! Or I’ll put him in his cage!”
Their mother, unmoved in the chair on the farthest corner of the room, was silent.
6 (Continued elsewhere)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
How wonderful, you arrived here! That means you have read my short story excerpt!!! (Or at least, scanned through it=YESSS!)
My dear reader, I have been working on a short prose parts of which I have given you above. The complete story will be my Free Lance Writing final exam (the one for which I had to request a deadline extension a short while back). I have been my own reader and editor so far and feel like I am circling around the same over and over. So, I wondered, if you would share with me your frank reaction on the sections here – primarily to tell me the following:
Having seen what you have now, would you be tempted to read more?
Or, are these excerpts flat – right from the start?
If you could, please, comment as you are inclined, I would greatly appreciate your critique. You have my thanks either way, though! For just being here!