Last Train to Istanbul(7)

By: Ayse Kulin

“Because I’ll be considered the leftover of a Jewish husband—is that it? Don’t you worry, dear sister, I am sure that if the flame burns out, as you say, our friendship will survive. We will be lovers and best friends.”

“What if, God forbid, something should happen to Rafo? Will you come home as the Jewish Madame Alfandari?”

“I certainly won’t do that. I won’t return to the house of our father, who has rejected me, simply because I have fallen in love with a man who is not a Muslim. Who knows, by then anyway I may have children of my own, or even grandchildren.”

When Sabiha realized she was getting nowhere with Selva, she tried talking to their father.

“Times have changed, Father. These sorts of differences don’t matter anymore. Please don’t do anything you’ll regret later. I beg of you, Father, please be sensible. Look at Sami Paşa’s daughter-in-law—she’s Greek, isn’t she? Then there is Vecdi’s wife, who is German. What about them? Plus, you were educated in Europe. You’re supposed to be more open-minded.”

“If she marries that man, she will no longer be a daughter of mine. She’ll have to forget she was ever my daughter.”

“But, Father, how can she possibly forget she is your daughter!”

Fazıl Paşa looked far away, out the window.

“You mean ‘was.’ ”

This dreadful situation had turned the family upside down and lasted not just a few days, weeks, or months, but years. Fazıl Paşa’s unsuccessful attempt at shooting himself hadn’t stopped Selva; she simply waited until he was well again and then went to her lover. Then it was their mother’s turn to cause havoc. She took to her bed, seriously ill, and needed constant care and attention. Fazıl Paşa refused to leave the house. The family was so ashamed; they couldn’t look any of their friends directly in the eye. The incident hadn’t done the family any good, but at least now they knew who their real friends were. Now, even friends they had considered close were gossiping behind their backs, blaming Paşa because he had educated his daughters in Christian schools, as indeed many of them had.

Sabiha and Selva, like most of their friends’ children, were sent to the American school in Gedik Paşa for their primary education, then to the French school for their secondary education, and finally to the American college. Both sisters grew up speaking English and French fluently.

Macit remembered how impressed he was, many years ago, when he first saw his fiancée reading poems by Baudelaire and Byron. Even his mother, God rest her soul, had been impressed. “Just the sort of wife who would be right for a diplomat,” she had commented.

Selva’s voice brought him back to reality from where he had been lost in his thoughts. “Will Turkey join the war then?”

“No, she won’t.”

“Are you sure?”

“We are doing our best to see to it that she doesn’t. We certainly can’t afford another war, Selva.”

“Macit…There is something I need to ask.”

“Please do.”

“My father? Will he—will he ever forgive me?”

“Frankly I don’t know, Selva. Your sister and I have closed this subject. We no longer talk about it.”


“Yes, what else is there to say?”

“You really think so, Macit?”

Macit took a sip of coffee before replying. “What I think is neither here nor there. You have done what you wanted. Aren’t you happy, at least? Was it worth the upheaval you caused?”

“I resent your attitude, I must say. You are talking as if you had never met Rafo yourself.”

“I don’t see why you should resent my telling the truth. You simply refused to listen to anyone. You went ahead and burned your bridges. You hurt your father, your mother, and Sabiha. I only hope that it was worth it. We all hope you’ll have no regrets.”

“I love Rafo very much, Macit. I have no regrets, but I am very unhappy…”

Tears were streaming down her face. Macit took her trembling hands in his. “Come on, Selva, you shouldn’t be unhappy if you love him so much. Think of all you have endured to be together. You are a very strong person; you have always known what you wanted and had the courage to stick to your guns. I’m sure your father is aware of this too. He may not have forgiven you yet, but I am sure that deep down inside he still loves you dearly.”

“I miss everybody…so much.”

“Time is a great healer. Give this a little more time.”

“I wonder how much more time,” Selva said anxiously.

Was there any? Macit thought. Time was so very precious these days—particularly the past few months—as precious as gold. Wasn’t it time that the Turkish delegation had come to Paris for? President Inönü was seeking time more than anything else: time to think, time to distract, time to avoid war. In fact, Inönü kept answering questions regarding the war by saying, “Time will tell.”

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