Last Train to Istanbul(4)

By: Ayse Kulin

Macit was so busy that it seemed—to her, at least—that he didn’t even notice the change in his wife. This made it easier for her to keep to herself. As for her friends, lately she had started making up excuses so as not to attend their various get-togethers. The nanny wasn’t doing any shopping today and she didn’t have to collect Hülya from Madame Marga’s Ballet School. What was true was that the nanny was indeed returning to England. Macit wanted it that way. He believed Hülya no longer needed a nanny now that she was going to school, and that Sabiha should devote more time to their daughter herself.

Sabiha was aware that she hadn’t been in control of her life for some time now. This damned war was running her life! What’s more, it wasn’t even in her own country. Nothing could be found in the shops, and no one could travel; war was the only topic of conversation. Macit was like a prisoner of war; it was as if he were a soldier himself! They had been such a happy couple, had had so much fun together once upon a time—before her sister went away, before the war. Sabiha missed those long-gone days. On the other hand, she couldn’t help thanking her lucky stars whenever she read the newspapers or listened to the radio. At least in Ankara their lives were secure. No policeman or soldier was knocking on their door at some ungodly hour. There weren’t people around wearing yellow badges on their chests like branded asses. Branded asses! Whose words were those? Necla was the only one who would make such crude remarks. Suddenly Sabiha remembered: two weeks ago during a bridge party, Necla, in one of her callous moods, had said, “The poor Jews have been made to wear yellow badges on their clothes, just like branded asses!”

“What on earth are you saying?” Sabiha screamed. “How can you possibly compare people to asses? You call yourself a diplomat’s wife. I wonder if you can actually hear yourself!”

Necla, almost in tears, had asked her friends, “What’s got into her? Why is she screaming at me like that?”

“This war has got to all us girls,” their hostess had said, trying to defuse the situation. “These days the slightest spark causes an explosion. Come on, let’s get on with the game. Whose turn was it?”

Sabiha now felt embarrassed remembering her outburst. She certainly was in a terrible mood. It was the same thing every day when she read the news in the papers. The Nazis storming over Europe…The fleeing emigrants…France…Ooooh! Sabiha reached out to touch one of the wisteria blooms on a wall, but just as she was about to pick it, she withdrew her hand. She couldn’t bring herself to snap off the flower. Suddenly she felt a lump in her throat, and as she turned toward the street, tears streamed down her face. As night descended she gasped for breath. The sad day would turn into yet another sad night.

Macit was probably going to come home late. Hülya would have her endless whens, whys, and wheres throughout the meal. The nanny would sit across the table, undoubtedly talking about the war. Ankara, which was so full of happy memories, only represented sadness now. Not just sadness, but monotony, dreariness as well. Life was just gray!

Macit opened the front door as quietly as possible; he didn’t want to disturb his wife if she was sleeping. He tiptoed into the bedroom, and could see by the pale, pink light of the bedside lamp that she was awake. She lay with her hair spread across the pillow, looking at her husband through puffy red eyes.

“What’s wrong? Why have you been crying?” asked Macit.

Sabiha sat bolt upright in bed. “I’m on edge. This letter arrived by the evening delivery; the postman left it on the doormat. I found it as I was taking out the garbage. Here, read it.”

“Who’s it from? Your mother? Is your father ill again?”

“It’s not from Istanbul, Macit. The letter is from Selva.”


“Macit, I am scared. We’ve got to do something. We must get her here. This cannot go on. Sooner or later, my mother will hear what’s happening in France, and I swear it will give her a heart attack.”

Macit took the letter and tried to read it by the dim light.

“Selva would never agree to come here, leaving Rafo behind,” he said. “Rafo wouldn’t agree to come back.”

“But this can’t go on. Selva has got to consider our mother. I have asked the telephone exchange to connect me to her. God knows how long it will take. Maybe by the morning or sometime tomorrow…”

“You’ve done what, Sabiha? How many times have I told you not to call Selva from the house?”

“Well, I certainly couldn’t go to someone else’s house at this hour of the night. I have to speak to my sister; I have to persuade her before it is too late.”

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