Continued from last Sunday…
“Demir, this hurts too much. Let me die. Please.”
“Melek, my sweetheart, we are almost there. I’m so sorry you are hurting so much. But Aker will take excellent care of you. We can’t possibly find more capable hands in hiding. And I’ll be by your side the whole time.”
Melek kept begging Demir to let her die. When they reached Aker’s clinic, a makeshift operating table was ready. Immediately, Melek was put under. A week later, hoping her brothers were no longer a threat, both men took her to a hospital. She was made into a star of a horror show: her charred scalp, the knife wounds on her stomach, chest and throat left her disfigured to eternity. It was for her a cruel irony that her face was left untouched.
“Demir, help me die. Aker can find something. I beg of you. Look at me! I’m a freak.”
Aker knew about the women’s safe house in Erzurum – the nearest one to their town. Demir was convinced, if Melek could see how others lived on despite their horrendous traumas, she would want to continue to live.
“Sweetheart, we are taking you to a women’s shelter. You will be safe there, and they will take good care of you until you gain back some of your strength. Everyone in the center knows Aker is your doctor, so, they will allow him to visit you. I, however, have to leave for a while. If I stay, I’ll put you in greater danger. In case your brothers find out…”
“Aker, they are beautiful. But you don’t have to bring me flowers. At least not every time. You have done so much for both of us already.”
Melek’s baby had captured Aker’s heart, as soon as she found out her pregnancy. She made him promise not to tell Demir in any of his letters. Neither had she ever asked him for an address. He was safe whereever he was. Only that mattered.
“Well, Melek, I got you special flowers today because you two will finally be moving out of here! You know my flat – I’m going to settle you two darlings there.”
Melek’s unease showed on her face. A sign of relief flushed over it, however, when Aker added: “There is too much work for me at the clinic these days. Patients around the clock. I set up a hide-a-bed in my office to catch some z’s whenever possible. That’ll be home for a while.”
Aker soon turned his apartment to a lovely nest for the mother and daughter. And boxes full of necessities were never rare. Just like that sunny afternoon. This time, though, he had also brought her a letter-size envelope. Unopened. No address. Only Melek’s name in the front. Melek recognized the unique slanting of Demir’s e’s and his distinctive k’s.
“Melek,” Aker whispered, “I kept my promise. I didn’t tell him.” Then, he left her to her letter.
“My sweetheart, when you read these lines, I will be far away. Your brothers found me. I convinced them not to hunt for you anymore. For that I gave them a self-murder of a promise. To leave the country, never to return. Our dear Aker will take –“
My Demir. Gone. For good –
Her tears falling down to her chin, she covered Melis’ face with kisses.
“My poor girl, you are never going to know your father. An exceptional man.”
Melis fell deep asleep in her arms. Melek put her on her bassinet in their joint bedroom at the end of the short hallway. Leaving the door ajar, she returned to the living room. She then dove in to a violent crying spell. Every moment of that horrible day became alive.
The joyous shouts of ‘time for honor cleansing’; the slashing of her stomach and her chest by her brothers holding large knives; the oldest one, giving her throat a sideway gash – none of the cuts too deep, to leave her alive to live the shame; the shaving of her envy-prompting hair; the meticulous steps her brothers took to cover her face; the unbearable pain on her scalp …
Melek folded the prayer rug, put it over the deskchair in her flat’s only real room. Her evening namaz never interfered with her arrival time at the hospital. Still, she hurried in dressing herself. Her uniform was a blessing. It compensated the time it took to fix her head. First came the white poplin, to which she had sewed a thick, elastic band all around. The bun almost shaped itself after the countless practices in the past. It covered her nape area in full. The nurse’s cap was last – to keep it all in place to help her avoid pitying eyes. Caressing the picture tucked in the outlet of the entry door’s speaker had been for years her last ritual before leaving home.
“Wherever you are, my baby, I hope you’re healthy and happy.”
Almost out the door, she took the faded photograph she stroked every day for twenty years, and soaked it with her kisses.
“I had no other choice, my girl. And Aker said they seemed like a nice family.”
Chapters 13-15 , forthcoming on next Sunday