THE RED OF LATE SUNRISE – Story

Translation: Enes Talha Coşgun

She was afraid of falling off the balcony. This feeling entered into her suddenly, as instantaneous as the vane touches twelve, as definite as the day progress of the calendar, and as irreversible as the arrow of time. She feared that lies would be told on her behalf; she was afraid that her death would be decorated with a seven-letter word with a lot of “i” and a romantic sound: “Suicide”, Such a gentle word! Like “anticipation” or “pride”.

But was the word “murder” look alike like those words? It was a vulgar, blood-smelling word, even when it came out of mouth. The people who would throw her off the balcony would not have described it that way, only because of respect for the beauty of the victim. They were gonna say, “She fell down from the railing.” Just like those women who hit the headlines, at an unexpected moment -for example, when going to the plaza for a job interview- falling from any floor of a skyscraper…

That was the thing which Aysel was afraid of when she was drinking tea with her night-colored nightdress, under the wall clock which shows that it was just after midnight. She was sitting alone in a three-story old apartment on a narrow street. It wasn’t very high. Still, the distance was enough to break her bones.

For about a season, she had lived with threats directed at her life. A close friend, a lover, a company and a million dollars turned her life she thought was ordinary into a city that had survived a war.

She was a physician who had just started her life a year and a half ago. Her dreams were in her mind, her enthusiasm was in her heart. She had finished her compulsory service, completed her expertise as a dermatologist, saved money and attended entrepreneurship courses. And she found a friend of her kidney. Together, they were gonna establish a company that produced cosmetics for deformed faces. The people who lost their faces due to illness, accidents, natural disasters would hold on to life again with the products of this company.

Aysel was the one who offered to give her partner’s very nice name to the company: Rozerin… It means “The dawn”. And Rozerin, who was seven years younger than Aysel, came up with the business idea. She said she was inspired by what happened to someone she knew, but she didn’t give any details. The sign was hung on the exterior of an apartment. The interior was painted white, decorated with sunflowers and roses. The products were lined up in glossy displays. Dr. Aysel and sales specialist Rozerin started to wait for their customers.

With the first month behind, the company gradually became known. One Monday morning, the sound of a car approaching the front of the apartment building was heard. The stairs carried a pair of feet. The office door opened, and a medium-sized man walked in. His face was covered with a surgical mask as much as possible. His eyes weren’t visible. Although it was the hottest day of the summer, he had a thin jacket and a painter’s hat on his head.

Meanwhile, the partners were having breakfast in the back. Rozerin who lives with her family was telling that her parents were longing for child and that they wanted to adopt a child or be foster parents. Their conversation was interrupted with footsteps. Aysel left her tea unfinished, wiped her mouth and went out. She smiled at the invisible face of the person who arrived. “Wellcome,” she said. “Can I help you?”

The customer quickly pulled out a large notebook curled up in his trouser pocket. He showed the first page to Aysel. It said in capital letters, “I can’t talk, sorry.”

“No problem,” said the woman. “How can I help you?”

The man slowly grazed his jacket. His arms were full of blisters. The skin had lost its natural color and was turned into various shades of red.

“I see,” Aysel said. “You want a product for your arms. If I learn how these blisters formed, I can recommend a right product.”

She handed the customer the pen that she took out of her apron pocket and showed him where to sit.

The man put his notebook on the table decorated with various magazines. He turned the page and wrote “chemical substance and fire” in a hasty and distorted writing.

“Ah,” said the doctor. “I’ll be right back.”

She went to the warehouse and soon returned with a tube of cream in her hand.

“This product of ours called ‘Deep Effect’ combines the active ingredients that regenerate skin cells with the content of excellent concealers. I can’t promise healing for such a deep burn, but I can tell you that it will give your arm a healthy and natural appearance and will not cause any allergic effects. Shall we try?”

He nodded his head. Aysel opened the cream and put drops on several points on the man’s arm. Then she distributed the cream drops by massaging. The color of the arm changed instantly, and when the cream dried, it took the appearance of an ordinary skin. The customer lowered his head, pulled down his mask slowly and examined his arm. He raised his thumb in the air.

“You liked it, that’s great. So how many tubes do you want?”

The man raised his three fingers. Meanwhile, “And…” said Aysel, then, “Anyway,” she said, and then she kept quiet and stood up.

The man grabbed the woman by her apron and showed her the page he had just written.

“And what? My face?”

“Well,” said the doctor, feeling caught red-handed. “Frankly, I thought you wanted a product for your face too, but…”

The man quickly turned the back of the notebook. “I’m sure you don’t have any products that will benefit my face,” he wrote, and then he drew a smile.

“You’re terribly wrong about that,” said the the doctor, smiling. “We have products for even the most severely damaged faces. Can you remove your mask? Let’s take a look at the general situation.”

The man took a deep breath and turned the back page. “Are you sure?”

“Sure I am, this is our job.” the doctor said, her smile grew. “Please make yourself comfortable.”

The second act of the man, who took off his beret in a single movement and his burnt, hairless scalp emerged, was to free the strings of the mask from his ears.

Aysel swallowed without showing it, and forced her will not to lose her smile.

The man’s face had completely lost the “face” shape. The nose and mouth had melted, leaving a hole that looked like a borehole. His throat was clearly visible. His little tongue was shaking, his tonsils were like gills on either side. His eyebrows had fallen out, one of his eyes had flowed, and the other one’s shape was deformed and was looking at Aysel between its eyelids which were glued to each other.

“Yes, the damage is bigger than I thought.” she said thoughtfully. “Still, it’s not hopeless. You’ve probably had several surgeries, and there’s nothing more that plastic surgeons can do.”

The customer nodded his head slightly.

“We need to produce a special mask for you that is useful and no different from your actual face. We’re gonna have to work together for a while. Alone…” She hesitated when she said this part. “It will be financially burdensome.”

The man leaned over to his notebook and wrote, “So if I don’t have money, won’t you help me?”

Just for a moment, “Do we look like a charity?” Aysel wanted to say, rigorously. But her heart was still beating faster than usual, she was asking herself how a person could live like this, and her brain was producing horrible scenarios where her own face melted.

“Of course we will…” Aysel said. Her stance was quite calm. Nothing was being reflected her outside from the storms in her inner world. “You are in urgent need. I mean, you don’t ask a starving person for food money. In fact, the necessary interventions should have been done already. In Conclusion…”

She was angry with herself: “Why the hell did you mentioned the financial burden, girl!”

“I don’t want to be under obligation.” wrote the man. “As soon as I can’t make the payment, I stop receiving services. Don’t worry.”

Aysel couldn’t say anything. Meanwhile, the client was putting his mask back on. He took a page out of his notebook, gave it to the doctor, paid for the cream and left. There was a name, a surname and a phone number on the paper.

“Sinan…” the doctor muttered.

Two mornings passed and the same sounds were heard again: the sound of the engine, the footsteps on the ladder, and the sound of the door opening. Aysel had not yet perceived the voices as conscious when her heart began to beat rapidly, just as when she saw the man’s face without a mask. Her body was responding faster than her consciousness.

“Make yourself comfortable.” Rozerin said and stood up. “I will handle it.”

The doctor acted quickly and tried to stop her. Maybe she would have explained, “I think I should do that.” “Mr. Sinan came. We saw each other first. I’m the one who can help him. Please move, it’s my turn now.” She didn’t act or say anything like that. She sat like a stone with a fork in her hand.

It wasn’t long before Rozerin came back and said, “The customer is calling you.” Aysel got up with a smile that she couldn’t prevent and walked in.

Sinan wore a visored cap this time. He was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt. His arms were the color of his skin, smooth as a statue. The make up… Effect of the cream… The man who took out his notebook opened one of the pages and pressed it against his chest and tilted his head with gratitude.

It said “Thank you, ma’am.” in a very legible way. Underneath, there was the expression “It feels great to be able to wear sleeveless in the summer.” with smaller letters, and in the lower right corner there was a heart.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Sinan,” said the doctor cheerfully. She was about to talk, but she heard the sound of the notebook. The back page said, “I was rude not to ask your name.”

“My name is Aysel,” she said, and waited until her heart beat calmed down.

They sat together and drew up a general plan. Aysel talked to a plastic surgeon whose class she had attended at the faculty. She explained Sinan’s situation and asked what could be done. The professor said that he had to examine Sinan to express his opinion. He had to see for himself the extent of the tissue loss. They made an appointment for a proper day.

Aysel wanted to ask Sinan many questions. Unrelated to her job, they were just questions of curiosity. How could he eat without his mouth? Did he have a sense of taste or smell? How did his face get like this? Could any of the chemicals have done this kind of damage? What did Sinan look like before the accident? His voice… How was it sound? She couldn’t ask any of them, but she couldn’t erase them. Aysel had a headache because of the noise in her head.

Rozerin was doing her own thing on the computer on one hand, and on the other hand, she was watching her colleague out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t said anything even after Sinan left. She started writing things down on her cellphone. Aysel leaned against one of the customer seats with fatigue and looked out of the window.

It was a midafternoon cooled by the summer rain. Traffic lights and headlights were reflecting off the asphalt, just like a mirror. Aysel was walking on the road with an empty mind that tired of thinking, her aimless glances which were focused on the sidewalk was an indicator of this situation. She had heel sandals on her feet, and they were became sopping wet. An ordinary anxiety was wandering among the curly wet hairs, how could she get home without getting wet from head to foot?

A yellow light as dense as the sunrise came close to her and stopped. When the woman turned her head, she saw that there was a taxsi next to her. Then she caught her eye on the rear window, recognized the person there, she felt like they came eye to eye, and smiled. Back door opened. Sinan invited Aysel in with his hand.

The unhealthy void in the woman’s mind had suddenly dissipated and replaced it with pure joy. She felt as if the life was convicted to stagnation with the “Pause” button before, and now the “Play” button was pressed again. The colors were vivid, the sounds were fluid. “Mr. Sinan how are you?” she said, her slightly yellowed teeth came in sight as she was smiling. It was hard to believe that this happy woman who sings like a spring bird was the one who boredly walking woman on the side of a street a little while ago.

Sinan raised his thumb. Then he extended his index finger towards her.

“I’m fine, thank you.” she said.

“Where to, ma’am?” the taxi driver asked.

“Well…” Aysel said, turning to Sinan. “Where do you live?”

The passenger took out his phone and showed an address on the map. It was in a remote neighborhood, it would take about half an hour to get there. The doctor’s house was much closer, ten minutes distance on this route… After describing her home to the taxi driver, Aysel invited Sinan to her home as a guest for one night.

“You can stay with me, that road is unbearable in this rain. Please don’t misunderstand me…”

A month was enough to turn a misunderstanding into a truth. Aysel started to have intense and red feelings towards Sinan. She was meeting often with her client on the pretext of inquire after his health, inviting him to her own home, claiming that his home was far away. She had learned the details of Sinan’s life. For example, his age, seven years younger than thirty-two… Or that fatal accident… What happened to the man she liked was a rare misfortune or luck, maybe both.

Five years ago, this young man worked in a factory where powerful acids were involved in the production process. The fire and panic that started when a machine got out of control resulted in Sinan being caught in the flames and squirting acid directly into his face. The man, whose face melted there, stayed in the intensive care unit for months and underwent a lot of surgeries in a row. The doctors described this as a miracle that he survived and did not lose his vision completely. The way the accident occurred was unfortunate, and it was fortunate to get out of such an accident in one piece. The question of which side you’re looking at…

When Sinan responded to Aysel’s feelings, a relationship started between them. Using his hands was the only way to show his feelings. He used to hold the woman’s slightly shriveled hands together, then separate her fingers, and press them, fondle them, play with them; and transfer his love, compassion and lust.

Their first sex was as hot as an August night. The woman kissed the man to her heart’s desire. She kissed mostly the places she forced her will not to turn her eyes away on the day Sinan first took off his mask. From the neck, chin, where the cheek and mouth cavity meet, from the exposed nasal bone, from the joy and astonishment tears that flow from the one eye of her lover… She felt her body as a marble statue, the body she doesn’t like due to its a little overweight and saggy shape.

Formality was lost between them. Thereafter, Sinan’s problem was Aysel’s problem. The doctor was willing to do whatever she could for his face, without any charge. In fact, it wouldn’t matter to Aysel. She loved Sinan as he was, and she was feeling that even if he miraculously returned to his former self, her own love or admiration would not increase even a drop.

One morning, when the doctor opened the door of the shop, she saw Rozerin in the waiting room, not in the back room. It was not a strange image, but Aysel was still surprised. Because Rozerin was talking less lately, sitting in the back room when she found a chance, and not taking much interest in customers. She was spending most of her time corresponding with suppliers and wholesale customers at the distant. She even restricted chatting with her partner. When Aysel insisted on introducing Sinan to her, she spoke only one sentence with a cold smile.

The tall woman with the curl was alive and cheerful, even though she was still in front of the computer. The smile on her face went out when Aysel who was watching her for a while said “Good morning!” to her.

“Huh,” she said, after waiting a few seconds, as if she had a sleep catatonia. “Good morning.”

Aysel sat on one of the seats with quick and light steps. “Roz…” she said. “Is everything okay?”

The woman with the curl said, “Yes…”, she suddenly turned off her laptop and took an attitude that did not know where to put her hands and feet. “Why would it not?”

“I don’t know, you’ve been so preoccupied lately.”

“Because of the season change I guess,” said the young partner. “Autumn is starting. It affects our mood.”

“Yes…” Aysel said. Unlike Rozerin, she loved autumn.

In the following days, the doctor started working with the computer more intensively than her partner. She wanted to push the possibilities for Sinan to the limits. She was researching bionic facial projects. Since the nerve cells on Sinan’s face were completely burned, surgeons say that it is near to impossible to make a functional face. The best thing they could do was save his appearance, which is what Aysel said at first. But since the bionic face would have an internal electronic circuit, it would be able to move, even transmit feelings to the brain.

While the October rains left the city longing for the sun, the store’s sales began to sparse. The monthly profit was reduced by half compared to the previous period. This situation was influenced by the disinterest of the partners in the company. Rozerin has been absent from work occasionally, she was often arriving late to the office and she was spending half of her time by surfing on the internet, sitting at the computer. And Aysel’s mind was on Sinan all the time. She was trying to finish their work as soon as possible, leaving early in the evening to go to the house they lived together.

She was buying hot wine on the way home. Because even if Sinan could not taste and smell, he felt the warmth of the drinks poured down his throat through the tube and liked to be half tipsy. The act of eating was completely thrown into the background. The man had to pass the food through the shredder and then tube it into the esophagus to be able to feed. Aysel didn’t want to see this process. She was going out for eating or snacking quickly at home, because what was the point of eating without him?

Aysel was eating less now, her body became weaker. She became weaker and her facial lines became clearer. If her abdominal skin hadn’t sagged, she could even be fit.

She started correspondence with a biorobotic company in Canada. The company was accepting to produce a functional face which very similar to the real one for Sinan, but wanted an astronomical price. One million Canadian dollars amounted to approximately twelve million Turkish liras. Moreover, this price was only valid until February of the following year.

Aysel had no savings. She was living in a rental house. She gave her everything to the company. Sinan received compensation after the accident, but the amount was not enough to cover the money the company wanted. The doctor became full of ambition to earn money, but she didn’t know how to realize this ambition yet.

One cold evening in November, the woman was looking at her phone, Sinan was lying on the sofa, reading a book of poetry belonging to Attila İlhan he had taken from the showcase.

The book was belong to Aysel, but she didn’t used to read much poetry. The reason why the book was at home was that Aysel’s name was mentioned in one of Atilla İlhan’s poems.

Sometimes she used to hum this poem like a song, the poem that never touched anything in her life: “Aysel go away, I am not for you / I sense that my death will happen suddenly / I am bad and dark, a little ugly / Aysel go away, I don’t want to…”

When the redheaded woman saw the book on her lover’s lap, she began to spontaneously shed these lines. Then she got goosebumps and stopped. She was discovering the meaning of the sentences she had memorized for the first time. It was like seeing an old witch mumbling an ancient curse in the reflection of her phone glass. She was horrified. Standing up and wandering, she tried to throw away the coldness that fell into her; the coldness which was like the decrease of warmth in February. Outside, there was a wind that whistling on the branches of a tree and capable of covering a glass of water with a blanket of ice immediately.

The company’s revenues continued to decline. In the last month of the year, they could not make any profit, only the expenses were covered. The partners were running away from each other, and needless to say, they weren’t making any meetings. They working hours were divided into two parts that did not touch each other. Aysel was taking over in the morning, and Rozerin was in the afternoon. They were drinking coffee at the office, wasting time, and putting off the problems by ignoring them.

Opening the door with the key on the first day of the new year, Rozerin encountered an environment that turned into a battlefield, she was almost passed out. The shelves were scattered on the floor, the seats were turned upside down, one of the windows was broken with the cameras, and as the police investigation revealed later, the company’s vault was opened and a hundred twenty thousand liras were stolen.

Rozerin didn’t calm down after the robbery. She was using medication to sleep at night, having occasional panic attacks, and definitely didn’t want to step foot in the company again. The door of the rice bowl, which did not make money, was shut down irremediably.

Aysel had to be very active in this process. She was just coming home to sleep. If Sinan wasn’t always be with her, it was only matter of time before she gave up because of tiredness. She was talking to the cops, running around the police station and the courthouse. According to the commissioner, the thief was a novice. He left a lot of trails like his hair and his fingerprints. Moreover, these evidences matched the records of a criminal. A grizzled man in his fifties, who has been in prison several times for crimes such as extortion and hijacking, living alone with his orphaned grandson, struggling with a progressive and fatal muscle disease, named Selçuk…

“He probably wanted to guarantee his grandson’s future before he become weaker,” the commissioner explained of the criminal’s motivation.

“Well, if the man is imprisoned, who will look after his grandson?”

“If there is no relative, the kid is taken to child services.”

“Actually…” Aysel said, intertwining her fingers. “I know a family who would like to take care of the child. My partner Rozerin’s family wants to adopt for a long time.”

“Did they apply?” said the commissioner.

“I guess not. But can’t the child stay with the family without the procedures?”

“Unfortunately.” said the police. “First, the first meeting does held under the supervision of the state, then the family’s convinience does investigated, these are the processes that will take a few months.”

“I see.” Aysel said and sent an informative message to Rozerin.

The next day, Selçuk’s body was found hanging in a ruin. In the note he put in his pocket, the deceased had reported that he had committed his last theft for his grandson, that he had committed suicide of his own free will, that no one was responsible for his death, and that he had made a will to take good care of his grandson. But the stolen money was never found.

When the case was closed and the incident started to get cold, Aysel offered her lover to go on a Cyprus holiday together. The man was quite reluctant, first he used the sign language and then, when he was writing that there was no need to spend money for such a thing at this financially hard times, the notebook was almost gonna tear up. And how could she think of a vacation when her best friend was lying in her house, frustrated?

Aysel could not make sense of the last sentence. She frowned and read it again.

“Whom are you speaking of?”

Sinan picked up the paper in a snap. “What do you think? he wrote and added “ROZERİN” in capital letters. So the fire of their first quarrel ignited.

The redheaded woman shouted at Sinan for the first time since the beginning of their relationship.

“Why the hell do you care about Rozerin?” she said. “You talked with her only for once! You spare tire. She’s my friend, but she’s nothing to you.”

Sinan was defending himself with quick hand gestures. At the hottest moment of the fight, he slammed the door and walked out. Aysel threw a wine glass behind him and watched the glass pieces scatter on the ground. Then she cleaned the entree with tears.

Footsteps approached the head of the couch where she fell asleep later in the night. Thin and long fingers gently caressed the red hair that had sprouted white hair from its bottom. Sinan left the two Cypriot round-trip ticket on the edge of the sofa.

On the plane, the red-haired woman sat by the window, and the man without a face sat in the middle. The woman had a small, naughty smile on her face.

Watching the city sunk into the clouds, she thought about a month ago. The day when she saw the crowd shouting at someone on the roof next to the building of the apartment building…

“Don’t do this, uncle!” people were saying. The one on the roof said, “Get away! Let go of me.” he replied.

“Hey!” Aysel shouted. “Sir, please, I’m a doctor. I’m coming to talk. Calm down, all right!” Regardless of the objection of the person on the roof and the people around her, she burst in and went to the old man.

Her first move was to grab the old man and pull him back. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked. She didn’t mean to yell, but she sounded loud. “Are you crazy? Why do you want to jump down?”

“You can’t help. None of you can help me.”

“First, tell me.”

The old man started to talking to Aysel with tears. He described himself as a useless man with no profession. He’d never worked in a place for more than a few months. He was involved in a crime, he went to jail and got out. He had no pension. He fed his grandson by begging. His daughter had married a villain and had been a victim of femicide; the murderer husband had disappeared after he killed his wife. And the orphaned baby had no one but his grandfather.

“On the top of it, I am sick, the doctors say I will die in a year,” said the old man who wiped his tears. “I am exhausted. I won’t be able to walk soon. I will go down with this illness… There’s no remedy. Tell me, Doctor, what is gonna happen? Who will look after Devin?”

Aysel wanted to change the subject to dispel the distress inside of the man.

“Is your grandson’s name Devin?”

The old man nodded.

The devil touched Aysel’s neck and imbued her with an idea. The idea sprouted with the water of ambition and grew like a seed. With the effect of this sprout, a cunning, evil flash had formed in Aysel’s eyes. “I have a n offer for you.” she said. “Do something for me, and I convince a family that will take care of Devin with love to application for adoption.”

“What?”

Aysel looked around. “Not here. Let’s talk in a quiet place. What’s your name, by the way?”

“Selçuk,” said the old man. The memory was ended here.

The redheaded woman mentally returned to the plane. Occasionally she was checking her bag and smiling as she saw the green of her dollar bales. Frankly, she was afraid that Selçuk would not succeed in this job. However, the old man entered the company without breaking his promise and opened the safe with a key and counted the money into the hands of the redheaded woman. A hundred thousand Turkish liras worth of currency was lying in the bag. Later, Aysel laundered the money with a fake document as if she had sold gold in a jewelry store. She had to give one-sixth of the money by doing that, but she didn’t care. Especially if she gets lucky in Cyprus…

She held the bag slightly sideways. The purpose of this move was to hide the money from Sinan. Sinan didn’t know about the fake robbery or the money. Aysel was planning to sneak into the casino and gamble with this money. There were two possibilities, winning and losing. If she lost, it would be a secret between her mind and herself. If she won and made a million Canadian dollars’ worth of money, she’d surprise her lover. She would have won his heart forever.

As she was getting off the plane, she realized that Sinan had taken her poetry book with him. The corner of the book was appearing from the open corner of the zipper of the man’s bag. Her red mind took advantage of this and started to think those sinister lines: “how would you be afraid if you were sleep my sleep / you can’t live any minutes of mine / Aysel go away I am not for you / don’t pollute your brightness for me”

After settling in the hotel and placing his belongings, Sinan told with hand signals that he was tired and was going to sleep. After watching him fall asleep, Aysel put on a light pink shirt, black fabric pants and appropriate shoes. She brushed her hair and tied it up. She looked in the mirror and examined herself. She approached the bed and whispered her partner’s ear that she was going out for a walk, then she went out quietly.

She was now in the corridor, under the gray ceiling, on a road where luck and misfortune converged. She went down to the lobby. She found out from the hotel reception that the casino is just downstairs. She went down the stairs and stepped into the hall where many fortunes changed hands.

There wasn’t a single window inside, but the place was lit up with lamps. Seeing that Aysel was waiting on the red carpet at the entrance, an officer approached and described that she should register with her identity card and get a receipt from the safe. Since it was still early, there were not many customers. Only one of the tables was full.

The red haired woman couldn’t take her eyes from the men in suits playing poker at the table when she was lingering and even loosing about fifty dollars in front of the slot machines. When she saw that the gamblers had finished the game and were recovering, she went to them with small steps like the birds walking on the ground.

“Excuse me…” she said, she was playing with her nails. “May I ask you something?”

“Sure,” said the fattest one.

“I’m a novice here. And I need to make some money… Which game do you think has the best chance of winning?”

While Aysel was telling her story in a thin voice, a smile spread on the man’s face.

“Well, ma’am…” he said. “It’s really hard for you to make money at this rate. Have you never heard of the phrase ’the house always win’ ?”

“I haven’t…” she said, taking a deep breath. “Don’t I have any chance?”

He leaned against the table with one hand. “How many times do you think you can get lucky? Listen, ma’am, if you don’t want to lose your all money, the first thing you need to know is that you just should play for fun. There are two possibilities, win and lose. If you lose, you will begin a new game with ambition. If you win, you’ll start a new game with the ambition to make more money. The more money the game gives you, the bigger your ambition. As a result, gambling becomes an addiction that you definitely lose.”

“I don’t have time for fun, I need money.” Meanwhile, Aysel was worried that her eyebrows had taken a ridiculous and pathetic shape. “I need a million dollars.”

The men in suits laughed silently at first, like the water warming and boiling on the stove, then burst into laughter. They laughed holding their bellies, laughed like crazy. Meanwhile, Aysel was continuing to bite her lips and playing with her nails, she could not even be offended, she sensed that she was gonna find her way out of her difficult situation thanks to these fat men.

When the man who spoke the first calmed down, he said, “Please no offence, ma’am… Well… What are you going to do with a million dollars? We are really curious. Let’s go outside and talk.”

They bought Aysel a drink at the bar and listened to her life story. Semih, that was the name of the man who spoke the first, said that it is very difficult for a person with no funds like Aysel to raise a million dollars unless she didn’t engage in illegal business.

“Dear Mrs. Aysel,” he said with a little progress of sincerity. “If I were you, I wouldn’t try at all. Now you’re gonna ask me why. We men do love to run after women. And if women run after us, we start to like ourselves. We don’t like our wife, we consider ourselves worthy of more beautiful women. You know those guys who divorced their wifes after they found the money. So I say, leave his face as it be. I see you as a sister, do not get me wrong, you’re a beautiful woman. But that’s not enough for him. If he gets a better appearance, the first thing he’ll do is leave you. Someday tomorrow, I hope you won’t say that Mr. Semih was right.”

Aysel said, “Never!” to herself, but the disappointment prevented her from reacting externally by shaking her head.

She returned to the hotel before nightfall. She found Sinan corresponding with someone on the computer. After the accident he studied graphic design and started to work as a freelancer on the internet. He corresponded frequently with his clients. That’s why Aysel didn’t feel weird.

“Baby, we’re on vacation,” she said as she threw her bag over the bed. “Don’t make yourself tired.”

She woke up in the middle of the night with a dry throat. In the sky, the stars were glowing dimly under the influence of light pollution, and crickets chirped in the garden. Sinan was lying next to her, his shapeless eyelid closed one of his eyes. Aysel turned around quietly, crawled and down from the end of the bed to avoid waking him up. She stood up. She walked to the mini-bar at her fingertips, noticed that there were no bottles left, and sighed. She had to make do with the warm water on the table.

The jug, the empty glass, the laptop with open screen and with blue light were standing side by side. As the woman tried to fill the glass with water from the jug, her elbow hit the mouse and the screen opened. Sinan forgot to turn off the computer.

Aysel grabbed the mouse to turn off the device and looked at the screen. A file on the desktop caught her attention: “ROZ_CV.pdf”

She hated invading someone else’s privacy, but she couldn’t help but wonder, so she double-clicked the file. The content was as strange as the name of the file. Rozerin’s résumé was here. The schools she studied, her work experience, etc.

“What is this file doing here?” she thought when she were looking at the lines.

She knew a little bit about her partner’s past. She knew that Rozerin worked as a sales specialist in a corporate firm in the field of industry for a while before their company was founded. However, when she saw the name of this company on her resume, she could not prevent her eyes from opening wide. This is where Sinan lost his face. Moreover, the working years showed that the accident occurred while Rozerin was working at that company.

So Rozerin was Sinan’s old colleague.

The first word that comes out of Aysel’s mouth was, “Why?” Why did they pretend as if they didn’t know each other all that time? What was the reason for this role, this lie? As she looked at the resume with shocked eyes, she noticed a second detail: their high school was the same. They went to the same school for four years.

As the warm fluid of anxiety spread into her abdominal cavity, the woman opened the browser and entered her lover’s social media account. Since she had never used social media before, she did not know where to click and, more precisely, she did not know what to look for. She clicked on “The Photos” tab. Sinan was here before the accident, year by year, from five years ago, from high school, even primary school. She looked at each one of them, one by one and quickly.

She stood in front of a group photo. It was a photo of more than a hundred teenagers standing together from all the classes. It was hard to choose the faces. Aysel clicked once, uncovered the labels and tried to read the names by approaching the screen, frowning. Rozerin wasn’t among them.

If she was there, what would that mean? She did not know. She pressed the back key until she reached the home page. She wrote Rozerin’s name and surname in the search section and opened the profile. After examining the page with mouse wheel for a while, she went up as if she inspired and pressed the message key. She saw the messages.

The beginning of the texting was last summer, the day Sinan first came to the company named Rozerin.

“Roz?” Sinan wrote. “I came for you. And you didn’t even look at me. Why?”

Rozerin replied half an hour later. “Please… Look, I still feel guilty.”

“What good is your guilt feeling to me?” Sinan said.

“I opened this shop inspired by you. Ask Aysel. I told her it was someone I knew.”

Sinan was on the roll now. “First you burned my face, and now do you see yourself as a guardian angel because you established the company?” Then a smiley… “I’m kidding, Roz, the fire wasn’t your fault.”

The sentences were short and piecemeal. Aysel felt a lump in her throat.

“A human error. The administrators got the punishment. You know that. Even if you left the heater on, it would have to turn off automatically.”

So the fire at the old firm started when Rozerin left the heater on. And years later, Rozerin opened the cosmetics company in partnership with Aysel to get rid of the guilt of what happened.

“I miss you, Roz. Talk to me. Just for once.”

Ten minutes of silence…

Rozerin did nothing but express her guilt at first, but in the following days she started to write as willingly as Sinan. They talked about the high school years. They weren’t in the same class in high school, but they were lovers, and they had pictures of them hand in hand.

In a section from the following months, Sinan was saying, “I still love you. I wish everything could be the same.”

“Are you saying this while Aysel is sleeping inside? What do you expect from me?” Roserin said. “Sinan. I can’t. I can’t see your face, I can’t hear your voice. Moreover, it is because of me.”

“Stop it. How many times do I have to tell you? It wasn’t because of you.”

Soon, Rozerin gave her obstinacy up and they started meeting secretly. They started calling each other “my love” and giving compliments. Rozerin once asked Sinan, “Why did you settle in Aysel’s house?” furiously. Aysel did not realize that she was crying until she tasted a salt on her tongue.

The conversations continued until yesterday evening, with the dose of sincerity increasing. The last sentence of the texting belonged to Sinan. “Our fellow is in the house, I’m going now.”

Aysel, who perceived the word “our fellow” as a blasphemy, turned off the web page and the computer in a rage. She didn’t make a sound, but her face was full of tears. Her legs were shaking. She wished that all this would be a nightmare so that she would wake up and be okay. She hurt when she bit her finger. The pain was real, as the whole thing.

She took her bag and got out. She went straight to the casino. She put a lot of money into the slot machine. As she watched the rolls spin, she drank the hard drink she bought down, and the meantime she heard the ringing sign that she had won.

A penniless and beloved woman turned into a millionaire and cheated woman just in five hours.

On the first weekend of March, all the customers of a restaurant in Toronto were eating their meals indoors due to the cold weather, and a Turkish couple was sitting on the terrace. Aysel, wrapped in her thin coat, was smiling at Sinan, whose face was wrapped in bandages.

After the night in Cyprus, she dissimulated the things her know and she announced that she had earned money for the bionic face. Sinan couldn’t believe what he heard, and after he made her repeat the good news, his only eye glowed, and he hugged his lover.

His semi-organic bionic face was gonna be ready to use without bandage in about a month. However, he could already move his new tongue and lips, speak, and grind food with his prosthetic teeth. When Aysel first heard Sinan’s voice, she felt like she was walking on clouds.

The woman who paid the Canadian company sent the remaining money to Rozerin and said that she could continue her cosmetics company. So she thought she’d atone for the theft she committed somehow.

She separated her days from her nights. While the sun was on top, she was taking care of Sinan, smiling at his face -with a real smile- and when the stars took over the watch of the sky, she was logging in the Sinan’s social media account and reading the ongoing texting with Rozerin.

“I miss you so much.” said the woman with the bangs. “I imagine your lips. I shouldn’t do that. It hurts.”

“Why? What’s wrong with imagining?”

They were talking about Aysel and that their lives have improved thanks to Aysel. They were praising Aysel in the lap of their betrayal.

“She is my best friend Sinan. We’re doing wrong.”

“No, Roz, give me time. It’ll all be over when we get back. There’s nothing to be sorry about, we’re adults.”

Aysel wasn’t making a sound, she was just reading.

When the sunshine and colorful flowers were welcoming May, the couple returned to Turkey. The streets were chirping. With the excitement of approaching summer vacation, the children were running around. Sinan was the only person who didn’t get his share of this energy in the vicinity. Sinan’s new face could show any facial expression like other faces, but smile was not one of them.

And Aysel was laughing at every opportunity, she was never fading her smiling face and was hovering around Sinan. She was making excuses and wouldn’t leave her lover alone for a minute. The man wasn’t happy with this situation at all, he was waiting for the opportunity to get rid of this woman and go to the other woman he loved.

The first moment Sinan smiled was when he received the offer “Let’s go to dinner with Rozerin.”. For the first time in days, the couple were happy together. Especially the man was unable to contain himself. He was just feeling like his heart would come out of his chest as he imagined Rozerin’s bangs and her big eyes. The red-haired woman was also happy for a reason only she knew and was laughing without pretending.

The first time the three saw each other was worth seeing. Rozerin and Sinan were being indifferent to each other and showing an exaggerated interest in Aysel. Little Devin was running around and trying to figure out what was going on. And Aysel was observing the environment with utmost care. She had to pick the right time.

She had a big conversation with her partner’s mother. She talked about Devin, she talked about the company. Her eyes was on the mother, her mind was on the rest of the room.

Rozerin, who was sitting as happy as a child on holiday, got up on the pretext of bringing coffee. In thirty seconds, Sinan said he had to go to the toilet. Aysel was already waiting for this. After he left, she counted to thirty, stood quietly and twitched towards the corridor.

She turned her head to the left. She saw the man walking towards the kitchen balcony. She followed him with mouse steps. When he went up to the balcony, the redheaded woman approached and ambushed under the window.

Rozerin was in the corner of the balcony, leaning against the railing. She was wearing a big green flowered dress that looked like a kimono. Her eyelids were painted with a dark eyeshadow, her chestnut bark hair was blow-dried. After hugging Sinan evasively and fearfully, she took hold of his cheeks and brought his lips closer to her own lips.

This is exactly the moment the red woman was waiting for. The moment when these organs, which contain nerve cells intensely in the human body, would touch each other and attain their desire… When she stood up and clicked on the window, the young lovers jumped over with fear. They stepped back and looked at her. The woman managed to force open the swollen balcony door due to moisture and went out.

“Aysel…” Sinan was going to say.

Aysel could not keep her promise that her voice would not tremble. “I know everything,” she said.

“I…”

“I’ve read all your correspondence.”

Rozerin turned her head and didn’t say anything as if she wasn’t there. When the red woman realized that she could not hold back her tears, she turned around and left quickly. Sinan was coming after her like a shadow and calling out her name. “Aysel listen, please listen to me.”

In Aysel’s mind, the verses wandered like rain.

“Either you gain the mastery of dying / or you gain the ability to accumulate fear/ my pain becomes abundant for you /and my joy never fits yours”

When they arrived home after a long road, Sinan decided to play the grumpy man. He screamed that he loved Rozerin, as if he had not adorned the four seasons with lies. Aysel sat on a seat. Sinan was standing, and started to talk.

“Sinan, I…”

“Let me finish your sentence. You didn’t love me despite my face.” he said. “You loved me because my face was scarred. More precisely, you did not actually love me.”

The red-haired woman sighed like water in a whirlpool. She didn’t even have strength to ask questions.

“Do you know what was the thing you loved?” Sinan said. He stood up and raised his voice. “You loved your godlikeness. You loved healing a loser, Panacea! You loved looking down on and feeling sorry for me, you…”

“I didn’t pity you.” Her voice was muffled because Aysel had burst into tears, even though she had made many promises to herself in the opposite direction. “I protected you of the blowing wind so that you wouldn’t get hurt.”

There was not a single sign of feeling in the man. “She protected me of the blowing wind so that I wouldn’t get hurt…” he repeated in a low voice. “I loathe your arrogant compassion.”

“What do you want?” she said, wiping her tears. “Well, you don’t want compassion, you said you were adore it before, but never mind. If you tell me what you expect from me, I will do it.”

“There, that’s the problem you can’t see. You do want me to have expectations from you, and be in need of you so that I come to the door of the goddess and plead, desperately!”

The woman grasped her hair with both hands with fierce, “Why are you manipulating?” she shouted. “What is the relevance? Sinan, you cheated on me with my best friend. Is this how you get away with it?”

“Because I couldn’t break up with you!” the man replied in the same tone. “I couldn’t dare.”

“I would give my life to hear your voice. However, I didn’t know that this voice would carry the words bitter from poison.” said the redheaded woman to herself.

Sinan said, “Okay,” as if he felt her thoughts and sat down in the nearest chair. “My treatment was done thanks to you, I am grateful for that. I can talk, I even got my gestures back. I’ll owe you for life. But the payment doesn’t include relationship. I can’t be happy with you. And you can’t be happy with me. So let me be happy with Rozerin.”

“I was happy,” Aysel said. “It never occurred to me to see you in debt. I’m sorry if I made you feel the heavy burden of gratitude without knowing it.”

“So, if I accept your apology and return to you, will you accept it? Have you no pride? Was the goddess so powerless this much?”

The woman looked out the window and did not answer. Was the sunshine too pale today, or what?

“If we had a healthy relationship, you wouldn’t let me come back at this stage.” Sinan said. “I, for example, would suffer a lot if Rozerin cheated on me, but I would leave her anyway. I wouldn’t look at her face again. Because if I keep the affair going, I would always remember the stain of her infidelity, and I couldn’t love her as pure as I used to. And you’re ready to accept me even though you know everything. You know I’ve been writing to Rozerin since day one, but you want me to get back to you.”

Aysel remained silent. “I’m not telling you to come back,” she said. “I don’t want your lips to touch her lips, wouldn’t you do that?”

“You’re addicted to the feelings I’ve given you. So whether I cheat on you or humiliate you, you’re ready to accept me. Anyhow, the chemicals your brain is addicted to will be released. There is no difference between you smoking marijuana or hugging me.”

The devil slipped through the open window like the wind. He put a little kiss on Aysel’s neck. A seed of idea that mixed with a poisonous rage sprouted into vines. Her mind was just like a Winchester House; the unfinished mansion with dead-ended stairs, with a door to the void and hundrets of rooms which was made built by the widow of an American arms dealer who lost her mind due to the grief and remorse of losing her child…

She went into the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee. She got up and started packing. The stuff to fill a small suitcase was enough. She also put Attila Ilhan’s book in and zipped up. She phoned a nearby hotel and made a reservation. She slammed the door in front of Sinan.

Although Sinan felt terrible, he shrugged his shoulders after a while and muttered, “I didn’t tell her to leave the house.” He opened the fridge and drank the unfinished wine. He was getting dizzy before he threw the bottle in the trash. Was it normal for him to get drunk so quickly? He collapsed when he was thinking about it.

The first thing he felt was a pain when a dim red light filling his blinking eyes. His head was aching as if it were going to crack; his back, arms, legs, all of his body was aching. When he tried to move, to open his muscles, he noticed that he was all trapped and his stomach was contracting with fear. He thought he was paralyzed. His head was tilted back in a very uncomfortable position, and when he tried to move it, he was being obstructed by an uncertain source.

When he fully awoke, he understood the situation. Sinan was tied to a chair. A thin long chain wrapped around his arms, legs, body, neck and restrained his head by holding his forehead. His face was staring up at the ceiling. There was a funnel hanging from the ceiling just above his nose.

“Well, it was not something that required a lot of intelligence.” Aysel’s voice was heard. “Knocking you out with a drink and carrying you here, tying you up tight, arranging the funnel, etc. But you cost me a lot of money, do you know that? A ten-meter chain is 500 liras. I didn’t feel sorry this much even for a million dollars.

She opened the bottle full of acid and listened to its hissing sound like a symphony. “Sinan!” she exclaimed. “Do you recognize this sound?”

Aysel stroked her face and shook her head. No, it wasn’t real. The suitcase she put at next to her feet was real, she really abandoned the house, and she waited like a kitten indeed, but the rest was a dream. Dreams seeping from the reddest corners of her mind… She had not drugged the wine, hung a funnel from the ceiling, and wrapped a six-millimeter ten-meter chain around the body of the man she loved.

Her feet moved almost independently of her will and dragged her to the police station to confess her crimes.

***

She took one of the two letters on the table and opened the folds.

“My dear Aysel,

I’m writing this letter, like the three previous letters, to ask you to forgive me.

I know I’ve lost your friendship, and it hurts. I know there’s no excuse to justify me, but just hear the things from my angle for once, please.

High school romances are like a flash in the pan, they are short lived, but they leave a mark. Sinan was the first person I loved in my life. I used to think I’d pass out when I was holding his hand. When we were at the senior class, he said that I was inadequate for someone like him, that he deserved better than me, and he broke up with me. I stopped eating and drinking for a while. I was so angry with Sinan that I wished for something terrible to happen to him and for his ego to be rasped.

The years that have passed have brought us together in the same workplace. Sinan was in the production department, I was in the administrative department. We didn’t run into each other except in and out. I wasn’t angry with him anymore, but I was pretending not to know him. On a cold winter day, I went downstairs, forgetting the heater on, which I used to warm my feet. My scarf hanging from the chair was caught on fire. It had made a wick effect and burned the stuff inside with the domino effect. It was splashed all over the place within an hour. When one of the machines changed its direction due to heat, the pressurized acid squirted into Sinan’s face. A chain of omissions… It was a lousy place that didn’t even have a functional fire extinguisher.

I was tried in court, and I wasn’t punished, but I couldn’t take the guilt out of me. That’s why you and I started the cosmetics company. Thus, I believed that I could give back what I received from Sinan and get rid of the guilt. I invited him to the store, but when I saw him, I couldn’t talk to him out of grief. I stayed in the shadows like a coward.

I should never have texted with him. I should have been able to stay away from him when I saw him giving you hope, when I witnessed him sucking the love inside you had for him like a sponge.”

Aysel put the letter back in the envelope without reading the rest of it. Ever since she went to prison, she’s been getting letters from Rozerin, scorched with remorse. However, how would be appreciated the conscience that doesn’t guide, and what would be the benefit of the pain that had been felt too late? Her anger at her old best friend had faded away, left its place to pity.

The second letter came from a businessman she met in Cyprus. Semih found out that Aysel had been imprisoned and wondered about her recent situation. “I can get back the favor he didn’t deserve,” he said, implying that he could hurt Sinan’s face. The redheaded woman didn’t want that. She left them be so that they may live each other’s and themselves’ nature knowingly. There was no greater punishment than not being able to look in the mirror of conscience.

She knew the latest news. The company was in the process of being shut down. After Rozerin rejected Sinan, Sinan went abroad and disappeared.

“Three months,” Aysel thought. She spent three months in prison because of the crime of instigate to robbery. Moreover, Selçuk’s relatives who did not look after Devin suddenly appeared and started to threaten her. Of course, it was just a bluff, but it left a mark on her soul. Someone who was scared enough would not believe it for a while when he/she is safe again.

It was because of that reason, on a December day; ten days after she had been discharged she was afraid of someone to throw her down and make this murder look like a suicide when she was drinking tea at midnight, under the wall clock which hung in the kitchen of her new apartment in a three-storey old apartment building in a narrow street. After this momentary and irreversible feeling, she recalled that her delusion was inappropriate and took a deep breath. On the longest night of the year, she felt something that she could describe as a cool spring flowing in her; free, strong, safe. After drinking her chamomile tea to the last sip, she left the glass on the counter and went to sleep.

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