Continued from last Sunday …
“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 for 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 my love but there is more to it.”
“I wish I were adopted,” 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. You made memories with them for twenty years. I can’t remember anything about mine.”
Butrus then moved her bangs aside and kissed her forehead. With tears of 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 my uncle gave me home. ‘What IS Zafra?’ you asked. Well, he lives there. He brought me up here, in my birthplace though. The town’s esteemed Dr. Polat. He sacrificed his life for me. He left for Zafra only after I was admitted to Harran University with scholarship. Room and board included.”
Huban listened with intent.
“After all he has done for me,” Butrus’ voice echoed 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 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 were two plane tickets and a sizeable pack of Euro bills.
That Wednesday afternoon in the alley opposite the language school, Butrus pulled Huban close to his warmth. He caressed her eyes with fire in his. The darkness of their corner encouraged them to their first lip-kiss.
His nicotine-filled breath right at her face, Huban’s brother looked fierce. He had gathered the family in the kitchen’s ell – their makeshift living room. A friend – the new kitchen help had seen Huban and a young man in the university cafeteria together. Stone-faced, their father got up from his chair. His muscular body of overwhelming height stopped at a breath-length distance from Huban. Scanning her from top to bottom, he spoke in threatening calm:
“He is not one of us. Get it, or else!”
His lips coiled in to one, her brother then grabbed her shoulders and shook her with severe force. He towered over her miniscule stature by at least two heads. He was even more intimidating tonight. At eye-level with Huban, he pierced her with his eyes. His angry voice rose in a growl:
“You’d better be careful. Or, you’ll answer to me!”
He threw their mother a quick, spiteful look and shouted:
“What did I tell you about mixed schools?”
His eyes almost white in rage, 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, our beloved doctor, you wouldn’t have 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 was silent.
‘I’ll always be there for you, my love. I’ll never let you down’.
Huban started to inch one arm under her covers. Exhausted, she gave up the effort. Ignoring the intense 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.
For weeks, she had been falling in and out of consciousness. When she tried to come to, she didn’t understand first why her head gave her agonizing pain. Or why she had violent cramps in her abdomen. Her chest felt tender and heavy. Her hands ached in throbs. Then, she remembered…she and Butrus…
Chapters 7-9, forthcoming on next Sunday…