Last Train to Istanbul(8)

By: Ayse Kulin

Macit now gave the same answer to his sister-in-law. “I don’t know, Selva. Time will tell!”

He realized he was now using diplomatic tactics in his personal life. He had always thought that things could change in the blink of an eye, bringing unforeseen results. But in the present circumstances, Europe could find no solace in predictions or hope.

Before leaving Selva, Macit held her hands tightly and looked into her eyes. “Everything can change, Selva, and change rapidly. Should anything happen that puts your life in danger, you must return home immediately.”

“I can’t return without Rafo, Macit.”

“I think you should. He’s a man; he can look after himself.”

“We’ve vowed to stick together throughout our lives. He wouldn’t want to go back. You know all he went through, all those insults. And I just couldn’t leave him.”

“Think carefully. We only have one life to live. We alone are responsible for it.”

“Macit, try to understand. I am not only responsible for my own life.”

“Exactly. Even at sea women and children abandon ship first.”

“You don’t understand; I’m not talking about Rafo.”

Macit, who had stood up to leave, sat down again. “No! You don’t mean…”

“Yes, I do.”


“Early next year.”

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I had hoped you’d notice.”

Looking at her more closely, Macit could indeed see that she had put on weight around the waist and that her breasts were fuller than he remembered. On the other hand, her face was drawn. He thought she must be mad to get pregnant in wartime. Rather reluctantly, Macit wished her well.

“Do you want me to tell Sabiha?” he asked.

“I have already written her, but she may not have received my letter yet. If you are going back tomorrow, you may as well spread the news, but I’d rather she hear it from me first.”

“Of course.”

“I have also written my mother.”

“Think very carefully, Selva. You now have one more reason to return to Istanbul.”

“I can’t raise my child without its father. Don’t worry, Macit. Rafo also believes that staying here is dangerous. He is following up a few work possibilities outside Paris, somewhere in the countryside. We may be leaving Paris within a month.”

Rafo and Selva did eventually manage to leave Paris and move to Marseilles, but to what use? The Nazis had cast their shadow even down there. In order to save the southern part of the country from being invaded, Marshal Pétain’s newly formed government sacrificed the French Jews in order to cope with Hitler. Gradually, the French Jews, who had thought they might be able to go unnoticed by living in remote areas, began to realize they were wrong. The Germans penetrated everywhere, just like smoke. It became impossible to get away from them.

Rafo had started working in Marseilles with a friend of his who was a chemist. Selva’s mother had sold a diamond ring at auction and managed to send the money to her younger daughter without the knowledge of her husband. Rafo invested the money in a partnership with his friend the chemist. He and Selva lived in an attic apartment right across the street from the shop. Selva gave English and piano lessons to three young girls who were neighbors. They had managed to make a few friends, but Selva’s best friend was still her sister. She wrote to Sabiha every day, giving her details of their life. Her pregnancy was going fine. No morning sickness. No financial problems, but they were living hand-to-mouth. Their only luxury was the telephone they’d installed so that the sisters could keep in touch. Nevertheless, Rafo and Selva were well aware of the net closing around them. Selva had even heard atrocious reports of men being stopped by the police and asked to drop their pants in order to check if they had been circumcised. Luckily, Rafo hadn’t been subjected to this humiliation. All of their friends looked upon them as Turkish, since they always spoke Turkish to each other. Back in March, Selva had even fasted for Ramadan and had made sure everyone knew she was fasting. Despite all their efforts, she feared that sooner or later the truth would come out.

Macit knew his wife constantly worried about her sister, but there was nothing much he could do about it. These days personal dramas were a drop in the ocean compared to those that confronted the nation. He went indoors after finishing a second cigarette. He was shivering as he walked toward the bedroom. He stopped outside and heard his wife breathing heavily; Sabiha had managed to fall asleep. He crept into the bathroom and undressed there so as not to disturb her. Then Macit got into the warm bed, but he couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned until he heard the telephone ringing.

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