Last Train to Istanbul(10)

By: Ayse Kulin

Selva listened to their footsteps down the hall, got up from the bed, plaited her hair, and walked toward the mirror, fixing her hairpins. “I’ll never forgive you, my Lord; no, no, never. I shall never forgive you, Lord Seymour. I trusted you with all my heart. You may now leave me,” she said, pointing to the door.

Hearing her daughter, her mother returned to the bedroom, asking, “What on earth are you doing, my child?”

“Oh, Mother! I didn’t hear you come in,” she said with a laugh. “I am rehearsing the end-of-term play. I am playing Elizabeth the First…”

“Who’s the king?”

“There is no king, Mother. When Henry the Eighth died, all hell broke loose. The play is about the rivalry between two women fighting over the throne of England. Mualla is playing Mary Stuart and Rafo is playing Lord Seymour. Of course, there are other parts too, priests and lords, et cetera. Please, Mother, can I invite the cast for tea next week? Please don’t say no.”

“You can invite just the girls.”

“Really, Mother, how can we rehearse with just the girls? Who’s going to play the boys’ parts?”

“Oh dear! What will I do with your father again? You know how he feels about these things. You know what I went through to persuade him to let you go to parties.”

“What do you mean? You never let me go to parties.”

“But, darling, you’re not even eighteen yet.”

“Don’t fret, Mother. I won’t want to go to parties even when I am eighteen. I only say I want to go to tease my sister.”

“And why on earth won’t you want to go?”

“Don’t you think I know why girls go to parties? They go because they want to find themselves a husband!”

“And where does all this come from?”

“I hear Sabiha talking to her friends about it. It seems that they are all after the same thing, they all have one thing on their mind.”

“And what’s wrong with that, may I ask? Of course, suitable young men with good educations are invited to those parties. They all speak several languages and behave impeccably. Besides, these parties are always held at home, where their elders can keep an eye on things.”

“I know, and that’s exactly what annoys me. The mothers arrange these parties so they can choose a suitable husband for their daughters.”

“So, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a mother wanting her daughter to have a good marriage?”

“Well, I certainly don’t want that!”

“That’s all right by me then; your father and I won’t help. You can rely on the old-fashioned method, like I did. Let’s see how you react when the matchmaker comes knocking on our door!”

“God forbid—that’s not what I meant at all!”

“I can hardly imagine you being happy with that.”

“Never. Over my dead body!”

“I didn’t think so…so what are you carrying on about?”

“I don’t really know. I just find it odd for eligible young men and sweet little girls to be herded together to try to…Oh…I give up…I can’t explain.”

“Perhaps you can explain exactly how you will find the appropriate young man to be your husband. Are they to be found in the marketplace, by any chance?”

“All I know is that I will find my own husband myself. I would hate to find someone through a competition organized by keen mothers.”

“That’s just great; you have spoken just like the child you are. What would someone of your age know about choosing a husband? Enough of this; you had better get on with your rehearsal.”

Just as her mother left the room, Selva called after her, “Mother, wait! What about next week’s rehearsal here? Would you at least allow me to ask just one, I mean, just one boy who has the lead?”

“Who is this star, then?”

“Rafo. Rafael Alfandari.”

“Alfandari? Is he the famous doctor’s son?”


“Well, what can I say? I suppose you can. I believe your father knows the family. He might not be against it.”

Leman Hanım left the room and Selva continued to practice her lines in front of the mirror.

Later that evening Selva was studying when her mother rushed into her room in a flurry. “Selva, it’s half past five and your sister isn’t back yet.”

“It can’t be that time already. I haven’t heard the clock chime yet.”

Just as she said it, the cuckoo called once from the clock in the hallway, as it did every half hour.

“There you are,” said Leman Hanım.

“Don’t panic, Mother, she’ll be here any minute.”

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