A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
(For Part IV click here)
Istanbul is hot in the summer, and Madison’s Grandma was not as young as she used to be, and Kemal’s personal assistant, Zehra, had clearly started life as an Olympic sprinter. She’d shown up early (right after the room service breakfast) business cards in hand — with a grim resolve that Ertan Bey’s women were going to enjoy the hell out of the ancient Ottoman capital. Oddly enough, Sylvia, who’d lived in Istanbul for nearly 10 years, had never been inside many of the places their impromptu guide was dragging them to, and it was kinda fun – at first. But when there was no end in sight, and then there was shopping … Sylvia called a halt. To Zehra’s stricken surprise, she found an outdoor table at a café and sat down.
“I can’t go another step without coffee. You two go buy us something to wear tonight.” Sylvia looked directly at Zehra, “Ertan Bey is a dear friend. I’m certain you’ll find something that won’t make me look like a beggar. I’ll meet you in a couple of hours.”
Daunted but determined, Zehra wrote down an address on the back of yet another business card, navigated Madison through the crowded street and disappeared.
“Oh, thank God.” Sylvia needed time to think.
Plan A had been simple. Fly in as tourists. Quietly go see Karga. Play Remember When for a while, and then ask him who was selling Western girls these days. Get the wherefores and buy the girl back. Then casually fly off to Rome with an extra granddaughter. But Plan A was over. Karga was obviously very well known in the city, and her sudden association with him had poked Canadian tourist Sylvia Harrow’s head above the radar. She had no idea who was watching Karga — certainly local police and probably security services — but whoever was, might very well be watching her now, too. Plus, and maybe it was just paranoia, but, given recent events, there was no guarantee Karga wasn’t already part of the plot. After all, Teddy had stolen a lot of his money, and Turks have a long memory.
“Kahve as sekerli.” She said unconsciously when the waiter came by. He twigged at the yabancilar’s flawless accent.
Sylvia needed a Plan B, but more than that, she needed a way out. A bolthole. She felt terrible about Teddy’s daughter and she’d do the best she could, but if things went bad – well – then, it was every girl for herself. Besides, she still didn’t have any hard evidence that Jennifer Copeland was even in Istanbul and the cold reality was, if she wasn’t, she was already gone.
But Jennifer Copeland was there. She and the other girls were locked in the hold of the S.S. Delfini, docked at a warehouse pier in the old harbour. Ironically, Sylvia’s Plan A wouldn’t have worked anyway because these girls were not for sale.
Fortunately, Sylvia didn’t know that, or she might have just cut her loses, grabbed Madison and got on a plane. Instead, she sat with her coffee and let the relentless energy of the moving street wash over her. It had a busy rock beat rhythm, and the air was heavy and spicy and warm to the touch, and it carried you with it and folded you into its arms. And the more Sylvia tried to plan, the more she realized she liked this place and she wanted it — not just Istanbul, but this place. This place that dissolved away the Mrs. Ferguson years and left her with the woman she recognized at the airport. The confident woman with all the possibilities. And maybe it was the excitement, or the stress or just a lethal dose of caffeine, but she decided that Jennifer Copeland was going to go home and Sylvia Harrow was going to make it happen. She reached into her purse for the telephone she’d bought at the airport and touched Freddy’s number in Rome.
“Hi, how’s it going?”
“Fine … and you?”
“Fine. Fine. I don’t have much time to talk. I just wanted to let you know it’s very beautiful here and everybody is really friendly. In fact, we’re having such a wonderful time we’ve decided to change the itinerary. We’re going to go to Bulgaria. Apparently, there’s a place on the Black Sea where everybody used to go in the old days. Our tour guide hopes we’ll meet some old friends there who have a vehicle, so we can drive around for a bit. Maybe even get to Romania. It’s going to be quite an adventure. We’re not sure which day, but it should be soon. How are things with you?”
“Same old. But we were thinking of taking a trip ourselves. It sounds like you’re having fun and staying out of trouble.”
“Yeah, our tour guide is keeping a pretty close eye on us, so you don’t need to worry. Anyway, I’ve got to go. See you soon.”
“Okay, thanks for calling. See you soon. Bye.”
Sylvia put the phone back in her purse, dropped some money on the table and looked for a taxi.
“Grandma, you’ve got to see these clothes. They’re totally gorgeous. Let me put this on and show you.”
Madison took the box and practically ran to the fitting room.
“I selected Arzu Kaprol for Miss Madison. She’s an established designer who uses a lot of colour. Very vibrant for a young woman.” Zehra phrased her words as if they were a question. “And for you, Fatos Yalin, a little more mature but still very youthful. I guessed at the size but if you will try it on … there are women here who can alter it.”
“I’m sure it will be fine.” Sylvia said and took the box.
Ten minutes later, both women stood in front of a tri-fold mirror. Madison’s dress was a multi-coloured abstract hourglass design with cap sleeves and a hemline just below the knee, and Sylvia had a gauzy dancing voile in blue and silver. Zehra had made a good guess: it fit perfectly.
“Fantastic, Zehra! These are excellent. Could you hand me my purse and I’ll give them my credit card.”
“No,” Zehra shook her head, “Ertan Bey left strict instructions: all charges must come to him.”
Sylvia stopped and looked at Zehra. Then she laughed, did a half pirouette and bent her leg at the knee.
“Well, Ertan Bey is certainly going to get what he paid for,” Sylvia said. And then she smiled and crinkled her eyes. It was a sparkle Madison had seen once before.