Kelly pressed her finger on the skip button again and again: no Chili Peppers, no Pixies, no Lil Jon. Yes. Chris Isaak sounded exactly how she felt right now. Her swollen eyes slipped closed, and her hand released her phone, letting it drop down to land softly beside her on the mattress. The lovesick lyrics rang true in her broken heart, and her breathing slowed and deepened until she was fast asleep.
The dreams came fast and thick, up mountains of deadly forests and through seas of pesky acrobats as the grandfather clock tolled the hours, one after another after another.
She woke in the early morning hours, her corduroys damp with sweat and wrinkled from being pressed into her sheets by her sleeping deadweight, a smile on her face and her tears long since dried. She rose, and seized the day.
I hope each and every one of you had as lovely a day as I did, whether with friends or family or peacefully home alone.
“Where we are going is here.”
The statement came out of his mouth so matter-of-factly that Cheryl didn’t even consider the that he’d just thrown a dart at a map of the country. Stephen followed it up with another statement, this one even more unsettling.
“Pack your shit, it’s time to go.”
She blinked at him, temporarily frozen in her surprise. “Right now? Stephen, you can’t be serious. It’s the middle of the night!” The paralysis wore off, and she gestured at the open window next to him.
He turned to regard the twinkling stars and flowing galaxies high above the rooftops of the houses across the street. With a shrug of his shoulders, he turned back to look her in the eye again. “So what?”
She didn’t have an answer for that.
The face-off lasted less than a minute before Cheryl gave in and left the room to pack the few things that she wanted to keep with her on this adventure. Excitement began to blossom deep in her stomach as she zipped the bag closed and trotted back out to the living room. He was standing in the same spot, arms crossed over his barrel chest, staring out the window again.
The dart had fallen from the map and rested on the floor beneath it.
“Stephen,” she began, timidly. “Do you remember where you hit the map?”
He grunted, still standing at the window.
She tried again to capture his attention. “Do you want to throw it again?”
His head straightened abruptly, as though he’d awoken from a deep sleep. “What was that?” he asked, turning to face her. His eyes dropped to the bag in her hand. “Where do you think you’re going?” His eyebrows drew together and that gruffness that she hadn’t heard in so long, that gruffness that she feared so much, crept into his voice.
The bag slipped from her loosened grip to land softly on the carpeted floor. “I-I…you just…nowhere, Stephen.”
His glare softened. “Well, don’t just stand there, Cher, bring it to the truck. We’ve got to get–” he turned to look at the map and noticed that the dart was missing. “Shit. These walls must be too solid. You wanna throw it this time, girl?”
She shook her head, but stepped forward to retrieve the errant dart and pass it to him. He took it from her hand with a caress, and winked at her as he did so. “Let’s go somewhere sunny,” he whispered in her ear. “You look beautiful on the beach.”
He took her in his arm, and as their lips met, he threw the dart again, and it thunked solidly through the glossy paper map and into the plaster behind.
“Southern California, here we come,” he murmured, brushing her hair out of the way with his nose and kissing her beneath her ear, in the spot that made her breathing heavy and her muscles weak. He broke away and slapped her ass. “Pack it up!”
Cheryl ran back to the bag she’d just dropped, and when she straightened, the smile was back on her face.
We sat on the bench seat of his old pickup next to the city river. I think he was happy to just sit there and enjoy the feel of my head nestled into the hollow of his shoulder. He’d left the switch on so we could listen to the radio, and I sang along to about every song that came on.
We didn’t talk; we didn’t need to. At least, not yet. But we would.
He’d lost his job, and my travel visa was up next week. Without money coming in, he wasn’t going to be able to come back with me, and My application for an extension was denied. Everything we’d carefully planned over the past month, shattered with the loss of his paid vacation time.
It wasn’t even anyone’s fault; there was no one to blame for the fire that took out half of the block his company was on. Bad wiring, or something. Neither of us cared why it had happened, only that it had.
I closed my mouth mid-verse, and closed my eyes as I tried to burrow deeper into his embrace. The burgers we’d had for dinner lay in a ball of indigestion in my stomach.
I didn’t want to say goodbye.
I thought back to the night we met, two people walking opposite directions downtown, our eyes met, and that was it. I’m not so naive as to call it love at first sight, but we knew we were kindred spirits, even before we spent the next seven hours laughing over the same two cups of coffee in that deserted diner.
“I don’t want to leave you,” I whispered. I didn’t think I was loud enough for him to hear me over the radio, but he did.
“I don’t want you to leave,” he answered me.
Tears were threatening, and I had to back it up a bit. “Remember that time we got stuck on the sandbar when the tide came in?”
“That was all your fault,” he chuckled.
He was right, and I knew it. But since he didn’t hold it against me and we made it through okay, it had become a running joke. That was our second date.
He reached his hand up to stroke my hair, and I opened my eyes again.
“Do you want to go get ice cream?” I asked.
He cranked the truck in answer, and I sat up to put my seatbelt on.
We could talk tomorrow.
The courtyard was bitter cold, and the acrid dust picked up by the gusts of wind was the kind that sticks in the nostrils, hardening to concrete as you breathe. It didn’t matter; my comrades and I had noble work to do.
We were nearing completion of the bronze statue of our Atatürk; everyone else was in a merry mood. Everyone but me.
While the entire country admired the living legend, I alone harbored a grudge against the man. He was responsible for the death of the one true love of my life, Fikriye.
True, it has been ten long years since I lost her forever, but my heartache has not grown less. Indeed, if anything, it has intensified with this time apart!
I know Fikriye and I were never an acknowledged couple. I understood when she had to make a show of her affections for Atatürk. No, I encouraged this! I wanted only the best for my Fikriye, and knowing that I could not provide it, I pushed her away and watched from afar the twists and turns of her life that led her to him.
Him. He who refused to value her as she deserved. He married another in her stead, and allowed this woman to push my Fikriye away, out of the life she had built with the work of years!
My Fikriye killed herself because her life was gone, and that woman who replaced her didn’t even go the distance with him.
I will never forget; I will never forgive.
I love you, Fikriye. This lock of your hair that I hide inside Atatürk’s bronze head will serve as my memorial to you, forever.
Disclaimer: for my Turkish readers, I mean no offense to your national hero. This is a work of fiction, and should be taken as such.
And tnkerr, thanks for encouraging the research!
I tasted your lips once, that much I do know;
The kiss that took place a long, long time ago.
I smelled your sweet scent as you leaned to my face
And I forgot all of that cold, dark, hard place.
It was night, it was winter, I was young and alone,
But wherever you were was my one only home.
You tasted of sweat, and of smoke, and of lies
You lingered not long past our final goodbyes.
You left me alone and you left me afraid,
But there on my lips, your flavor stayed.
When I opened my eyes, post-kiss, you were gone,
And I felt that somehow, something had gone wrong.
I waited and waited for you to return
I waited so long, my heart started to churn.
I knew I had lost you; I knew it was done
I touched my own mouth, and in short, I was stunned.
Many long years passed; now, I remember you still
I close my old eyes, and I savor my fill.