Summary: After Dila catches Kuzgun and Gunesh kissing, she realises it’s time to make a permanent change in her life.
Note: Started writing this before I heard about the cancellation.
Was there a limit to how many times a heart could break? After each one, the jagged pieces would find a way to fit together and work again but there was only so many times that rebonding was possible. There would eventually come a time when the pieces were too bent, the bruises too thick and it was simply impossible for the heart to continue.
She never thought she could continue living after Kuzgun disappeared, but she found a way. Her mother died; she found a way. Then Kuzgun returned, hellbent on vengeance, and he shattered her all over again. Her father dead by her own hands, her soul broken. This time, it wasn’t even a figurative heart break. She literally shot herself to end her life. Yet Ferman put her back together again, even if she fought against it.
But right now, watching Gunesh and Kuzgun kiss, Dila knew this was it. This was the moment where her heart would give out finally. And nothing could put it back together. She turned around and found Ferman standing a few feet away. Anger was stamped across his features, his gaze accusatory. She’d never seen him this angry before but knew he was always capable of it. Suddenly he erupted, storming towards her. Or maybe he was aiming for Gunesh and Kuzgun. She didn’t know, and she didn’t want to find out. She started walking up the hill, not looking at Ferman as he passed by her. She thought learning to walk again had been difficult, but it seemed to pale in comparison at how weak she felt now. Sounds of loud yelling drifted behind her, she could hear Gunesh and Kuzgun and Ferman fighting, but it didn’t matter. None of it did. The closer she got to her car, the more distant the sounds grew.
Somehow she got in her car and drove away, the world a blur.
“You didn’t come home for three days.”
Dila looked across at Ferman, his gentle eyes watching her with concern. “I know. I’ve been busy getting things ready.”
“Ready for what? Why are we meeting at the airport?”
She looked down at her intertwined hands, nervously picking at her fingers. What she had to say left her feeling wracked with guilt but it was something she needed to do.
“Gunesh refuses to come home as well,” Ferman continued. “She’s been staying with Kuzgun.”
The words were a punch to the gut, rendering her breathless. She gave herself a mental shake and told herself to snap out of it. “You helped me when I was at my lowest and I have no idea how to thank you for that.”
He stared at her with a somber expression. “You don’t need to.”
“Yes, I do.” Announcements about not leaving any baggage unattended echoed throughout as she turned back to grab her carry-on bag and retrieve the manila envelope that was inside. “I’m signing over my shares to you.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on.”
She peered at him. “I’m leaving for good, Ferman. I can’t marry you.”
“Because of Kuzgun.”
“Because I want out of that world. Completely. And I can’t do that if I’m with you.”
“I’ll make sure he never bothers you again.”
She gave a bitter laugh. “You’re the one who said it. He’ll always be there, no matter what. I deluded myself into thinking I could be happy with you and not have to deal with Kuzgun but that’s not possible.” She pushed the folder towards him. “You’ve done a lot for me. You saved me when I was at my lowest. When I didn’t believe in myself, you believed in me. But if I stay here with you, I…” She drew a painful breath. “I’ll rely on you forever. I’ll always be a mess and I don’t want that anymore.” Her eyes fell on the crowd of teenagers that were walking by, their faces bright with joy. “I want to build a life I can be proud of, away from everything here.”
“I’m not going to lose you because of him.”
She looked at him squarely in the eye. “Is that how you really feel?”
“Then come with me. Leave this, leave everything behind. We can start over in London. Just you and me, and no one else.”
Ferman stilled. Even without uttering a word he confirmed her suspicions. Ferman wasn’t just with her because he had genuine feelings for her, it was also because of her history with Kuzgun. She was a pawn for Ferman to use, like Kuzgun had used her in the past, and there was nothing in it for Ferman to gain if he couldn’t throw her in Kuzgun’s face.
“Once the project is up and running we can go to London for our honeymoon. I promise,” he stated.
She shook her head ‘no’. “Then you and Kuzgun will find another reason to war. Because that’s what this is about, all of it.” She pulled out the papers from the envelope and turned to the page where his signatures were needed. “I owe you a lot, and I can’t think of any other way to make it up to you other than this.”
“This doesn’t make up for what you owe me.”
Her stomach tightened; she recognised the threat lacing his voice. “I know, but there’s nothing else I can give you.” She took off her engagement ring and his mother’s necklace and placed them on the table.
She covered his hand with her own. “When I think of you, I want it to be as someone good, someone kind, someone who helped me during my darkest moments. Don’t ruin it, please. I couldn’t bear it.”
After a long pause he finally nodded his head, taking the papers and the ring. “Keep the necklace. It’s yours.”
“I couldn’t. It belonged to your mom and I-”
“It wasn’t a request,” Ferman said, his voice cold.
His guard was up, like it had never been before. “Goodbye, Ferman.” She cupped his face with one hand, giving him a sad smile. “I hope you find someone who will love you the way you deserve.”
Grabbing her carry-on, she left the bar and headed for airport security.
Kuzgun stormed into Ferman’s office, his lawyer following behind him. His heart pounded in anticipation at the thought of seeing Dila, but apparently she hadn’t arrived yet. It would be his first time seeing her after she caught Gunesh kissing him, a part of him still feeling guilty over the unexpected gesture. He had no idea what the hell the girl had been thinking but he had been very firm with her later that evening. His heart belonged to Dila, and it would be that way forever. Gunesh hadn’t taken it well and his mother had swept up the redhead and been consoling her ever since. If it hadn’t been for Ferman attacking him and Gunesh on the street after catching them in a kiss, Kuzgun would have followed Dila right away and confronted her about her jealousy but he’d had his hands full at that moment.
Over the past week he’d made numerous trips to their private, treasured spot, hoping he’d run into her but she hadn’t shown up there. This morning, however, he’d woken up with a sense of excitement, knowing he’d see her at the meeting. Already prepared for her indifferent act, this time he was determined to get through to her and have her confront her feelings. As much as he hadn’t wanted to see her in that much pain, maybe the kiss was a good thing. At least now she’d finally admit how much she loved him. Unfortunately, she still wasn’t here and the room was full of lawyers, her punk ass brother and the bastard Ferman.
He sat down across from Ferman, leaning back in his chair. Eyebrow cocked, he greeted his enemy. “Good morning.”
Ferman cast a steely glance in his direction. His index finger quivered ever so slightly, indicating his current agitation – a tell Kuzgun had picked up not too long ago. A wide smirk crossed Kuzgun’s face, knowing how much he was already irritating his opponent.
“So seducing young impressionable girls is how you do business,” Ferman said. “That doesn’t surprise me at all.”
“Your cousin started the seduction,” Kuzgun snarked back, rocking languidly in his chair. “I simply enjoyed the benefits she provided.”
Score. Ferman scowled, shooting darts at him with his eyes. Kuzgun smirked. Just because it was a lie didn’t mean he couldn’t use it to torture Ferman.
The secretary closed the door, leaving them alone in the room. “Alright, let’s get started,” declared Ferman.
“I see dementia has already hit you in your old age,” Kuzgun retorted. “You seem to have forgotten we’re missing a key board member.”
“Dila Bilgin is no longer a part of this project,” Ferman’s lawyer spoke. “Her shares were transferred over to Ferman Koroglu effective this morning.”
Kuzgun sat up straight. “What the hell does that mean?”
“It means we have the majority votes,” Ferman said quietly.
“Where is Dila?” Kuzgun demanded, focusing his attention on Ali.
“Somewhere you can’t get to,” Ali replied smugly.
Kuzgun stormed towards Dila’s brother. “Tell me where she is,” he demanded, grabbing Ali by the collar.
As soon as Ali took a swing at him, Kuzgun retaliated and the boardroom erupted into a scene of chaos.
Later that evening Kuzgun was on the roof, staring into the darkness. His jaw was swollen but the pain was nothing compared to how sick he felt on the inside, his stomach twisted into knots. He took a swig from the bottle, the alcohol burning his throat. Footsteps approached from behind; Kuzgun turned around to find a dejected Cihan standing a few feet away.
“Where is she?” Kuzgun asked.
“She closed all her accounts in Istanbul. Brother, she’s gone,” Cihan said softly.
“I bet Ferman is behind this. Why else would she sign over her shares? She knew he was planning to evacuate those poor people, she wouldn’t let him do that. He’s got her somewhere, I know it, he’s hiding her and forced her to sign over her shares.”
Cihan pulled out his phone to find something and handed the device to Kuzgun. Reluctantly, he stared down at the security images. The pictures were clear, there was no doubt that it was Dila and Ferman, whose back was to the camera, sitting at an airport bar. There were several images. One with her holding an envelope, one with her hand on Ferman’s. Pictures of the fucking ring he hated so much and the new necklace that Dila wore sitting between them on the table. Another one with her cradling Ferman’s face, smiling. Kuzgun felt nauseous. He dropped the phone and reached for the bottle again.
“She left for London,” Cihan said quietly. “Maybe Ferman told her something about you and Gunesh-”
“Good riddance,” Kuzgun interjected, facing the pitch blackness of the night.
Once again, she had left him without a word. Well, fuck her.
Chapter 2 (added 10/08/19)
Two years later
Dila glanced up from the computer on her desk and smiled. Through her office window she spotted the crowd of teenagers laughing and razzing each other while they set up the decorations for the senior social later tonight. For a while she simply watched them, enjoying their antics. The were defiant and hostile most of the time, like teenagers were wont to be, but considering most of them had grown up in impoverished neighbourhoods with high crime rates they could’ve turned out a lot worse. She’d been working here for eight months now, helping kids who were in trouble with the law perform community service, and it was simultaneously the most rewarding and frustrating job she had. Most of them were broken in some way, and as much as she tried to help them they still saw her as someone who didn’t give a damn and therefore not to be trusted. The success cases were few and far in between but it was incredibly rewarding when she finally managed to gain their trust.
Her phone rang with a text notification. She unplugged it from the charger and saw there was a text from her sister, Naz. Immediately she smiled. Naz was in her first year of college and usually too busy to keep in touch so any contact from her left Dila in a good mood.
Hi, sis. I’m going to be in London for a week in December. Can I stay with you?
Dila texted back. Of course. Can’t wait. Love you.
Love you too!
Dila sat back in her chair. Not seeing Defne grow up, not speaking to Naz on a daily basis, dinners with Ali and Seda – she missed all of it, but as she had already been living apart for them before moving to London the pain wasn’t as intense as it had been previously. Her year of seclusion from everyone except Ferman had hardened her, and actually made her permanent move to London easier. Not that she would ever admit that to him.
She scrolled through her text messages to find the ones from Ferman.
Every once in a while he reached out to her. They exchanged basic pleasantries, he inquired about her life, she inquired about his. Their communications were nothing of substance, but she knew why he did it – to remind her of everything she owed him. She wished she could cut him out of her life completely but knew it was impossible. He’d never let her go without repercussions. Guilt surged through her instinctively. She reminded herself that in her darkest moments he was the one who believed in her, loved her, supported her throughout her recovery and made her believe life was worth living again. Except, at times, she used to wish Ferman hadn’t. If he hadn’t saved her from the rooftop, hadn’t pushed her to cling to life, she’d be free of all pain. Kuzgun wouldn’t have the opportunity to hurt her again. But he had, he’d shown her over and over again how little she’d mattered to him, and it had finally forced her to leave so she’d never have to see him again.
For the first time in her life she was free of Kuzgun, his memories, his influence, the ‘what ifs’ that used to plague her most of her life, and she was at peace. Everything that had happened had led her here, to this place where she could help these kids and feel like she was finally making a positive impact in life.
Putting her phone away, she returned to work.
It was Saturday night and Dila was enjoying her dinner date. Omer was a pilot wo worked out of New York but whenever he came to London, which was once every few months – they always met up. He was handsome, funny and could talk for hours about the smallest of subjects. She liked spending time with him because he didn’t demand anything from her, and their relationship – if it could even be called that – required no effort on her part. They were not exclusive, which was fine with her.
“I’ll be going to Istanbul for a few days next month. Want to join me and show me around the city?” Omer asked, sipping from his wine.
Dila gave him an apologetic smile. “I can’t. Next month is really hectic at work.”
“Have you reconsidered taking the law exam here? You could be doing so much more with your law degree than working at some community center.”
Omer didn’t know about her license being revoked in Turkey and she preferred it that way. “I like the work that I do.”
“But the money sucks.”
“I don’t do it for the money.”
“See, now, only someone who grew up with money would ever say that.”
“Omer, you know where I live. It’s not exactly posh.”
“True, but I suspect you’re rebelling against your family’s wishes. Something tells me all you’d have to do it call your parents and they’d rescue you in a second.”
Irritated, Dila finished her wine. Omer was supposed to distract her, not interrogate her. Luckily her phone rang just then. It was a number she didn’t recognize. “Hello?”
“Dila, it’s me. I’m in jail. Some undercover cop arrested me. Can you come get me?”
Hearing Robert’s voice on the phone, Dila grew worried. He was a 20-year-old kid she had met last year, too charming and handsome for his own good, and despite all her efforts to help him he seemed hellbent on destroying his life. “Which station?” she asked, grabbing a piece of paper and pen from her purse.
After jotting down the address, she hung up and flashed an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Omer. I need to cut our dinner short. Need to go post bail.”
“One of your cases?”
She ignored his condescending tone. “Something like that.”
“What’s he been arrested for? Dealing drugs?”
“No, nothing like that.” She stood up, getting ready to go. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
“Sure. Let’s try for dinner again.”
“Okay.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek before rushing out of the restaurant.
Two hours later they were climbing up the stairs of her building, headed for her apartment on the third floor. Despite his troubles Robert seemed unaffected, which only concerned Dila more. “You can’t keep turning tricks on the street. What if the next guy you hook up with turns out to be some dangerous psycho? You have to stop putting yourself at risk!” she lectured, hoping something – anything – would get through to him. Robert was blessed with movie star good looks which made prostitution a convenient way to make money.
“It’s fine. I stay away from the psycho guys,” Robert said.
“You won’t know who they are until it’s too late.”
Robert shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever. It’s not a big deal.”
Slightly out of breath, Dila cast Robert a worried glance. He was a good kid, with a good heart, but he seemed to think he was invincible and she didn’t know how to convince him otherwise.
“Who’s that?” Robert asked, looking straight ahead.
Dila followed his gaze, and immediately stopped in her tracks.
Standing in front of her apartment was Kuzgun.
Kuzgun sensed her presence almost immediately. He turned around, and found her at the other end of the hallway. Their eyes locked. Every nerve in his body was suddenly alive, blood rushing through him, his heart pounding. Two years. He hadn’t seen her in two years. When she left, she took a part of him with her. That emptiness in his soul was absolutely crushing, her loss so profound he’d even accept her being with Ferman as long as it meant Kuzgun could be a peripheral part of her life. When she’d disappeared the first time around he told himself he would do whatever it took to make things up to her, that she was angry and punishing him with the divorce but he’d find a way to get through to her. This was Dila. She loved him, and he loved her and they could get through anything – but they hadn’t.
As she drew closer towards him, Kuzgun inhaled her in. She’d always been beautiful but now she looked ethereal, a goddess come to life. Her hair was longer, and she was wearing a pale blue silk dress that looked like a slip and all he could think about was ripping it off of her and tasting every inch of her naked skin. It was only when she broke eye contact, looking at the dipshit beside her did Kuzgun realise she wasn’t alone.
He was young, too young for her, and immediately Kuzgun felt anger course through him. Who the fuck was this kid? And why was she dressed like that with him?
“What are you doing here, Kuzgun?”
Kuzgun gave the kid a once-over, hating how physically close he was to Dila. His Dila. “Who is this?”
“Who the fuck are you?” the kid snarked back, pissing Kuzgun off further.
“I’m her husband,” Kuzgun barked.
“Ex-husband,” Dila pointed out. She handed her keys to the idiot, pressing her hand on the fucker’s chest. “Robert, go inside.”
Kuzgun saw red.
Dila couldn’t wrap her mind around what was going on in front of her. Kuzgun was here. Kuzgun. After two years of no contact, he was now here. In front of her. Her knees felt weak, her hands clammy. Why was he here? What did he want?
The hold he had over her was still potent, his gaze drawing her in as she moved towards him. He was casting a spell over her, like he always did.
“You alright?” Robert asked.
It took everything she had to tear her eyes away from Kuzgun, but she managed to do it, and as her gaze wandered over Robert’s face, her mind reeling, she struggled to get herself under control. “I’m fine. He’s my ex.”
Before Robert could respond Kuzgun was closing the distance between them, his demeanor hostile and aggressive. It’s how he always reacted whenever she was around men, even though he refused to admit it. “What are you doing here, Kuzgun?” she asked.
“Who is this?” Kuzgun demanded, getting in Robert’s face.
Rage washed away her shock, filling her up with absolute fury. How dare he walk back into her life and demand answers?
“Who the fuck are you?” Robert snapped.
“I’m her husband.”
“Ex-husband,” Dila pointed out. She placed her keys in Robert’s hand. The last thing she needed was for Robert to get hurt. “Robert, go inside.”
“I’m not leaving you alone with this psycho.”
She gripped his arm, urging him to look at her. “Please. Do as I say.”
Her heart was beating fast in her chest, with anger, hurt, all those emotions she had desperately tried to work through but it seemed whatever peace she’d achieved in the last two years had been an illusion. Because with Kuzgun here, she felt just as small as she did every time he hurt her. She kept her eyes fixed on Robert as he unlocked her door and went inside the apartment.
“He’s a little too young for you, isn’t he?”
She forced herself to stay calm, meeting Kuzgun’s piercing stare. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I was in the neighbourhood and thought I’d stop by,” he said sarcastically. “Why do you think I’m here?” he asked, taking a step towards her.
Instantly she retreated, refusing to let him anywhere close to her. “I don’t know, but I don’t want you here.” His jaw twitched, he linked his arms together behind his back. The action immediately drew her attention to his arms, the fabric moulding to his muscles. His hair was longer than when she last saw him, his beard the same length. Seeing how good he looked, she felt the same, deep familiar ache in her belly. Then the image of him kissing Gunesh flashed through her mind. “Please leave.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he declared smugly. “You’ve been running long enough. It’s time we finally settle this.”
“Because everything works around your schedule, right?” A bitter laugh escaped her lips. “You’re unbelieveable.” She shook her head in exasperation. “I’m done playing games with you, Kuzgun. I’ve been done for years. For the first time, I’m at peace. I’m content. I have a life that I love here and I’m not going to let you ruin that for me. So stop wasting both of our times and go back home.”
Before he could say anything else she went inside her apartment and slammed the door behind her. She felt sick to her stomach, she wanted to throw up. The scar on her chest felt alive, clawing at her.
“You okay?” Robert asked from the kitchen. “You look pale.”
She composed herself as much as she could. “I’m fine. Just do me a favour, stay away from him.”
“Did he knock you around or something?” Robert looked at her, concerned.
“No, nothing like that.” Her throat felt dry. “He’s dangerous in a different way.”
“Give me a few minutes alone with the asshole and I’ll get him to leave you alone.”
Dila went to the linen closet and started pulling out fresh sheets for Robert. “If you get into a confrontation with him, it’s you who’ll end up hurt. That’s the last thing I need.” She placed the linens on the sofa where he’d be sleeping. “Forget about him. He doesn’t matter.”
“Then why do you look so fucking terrified?”
She didn’t have an answer for him. “Good night, Robert.” Before he could interrogate her any further Dila went to her bedroom and shut the door. For a long time she simply sat on one corner of the bed, staring down at the ground. It was as if all the work she did to get herself in a mentally healthy place these past two years had suddenly dissipated and she was back to being unsettled, insecure, vulnerable – all because of Kuzgun. But she refused to simply roll over and let him implode her life. Not this time. Not again. Her life and everything she’d worked so hard to build meant too much to let Kuzgun ruin it.
She had no idea why he was back, but she wasn’t going down without a fight.
To be continued…
Chapter 3 (added 10-12)
“You were quiet the whole evening,” Omer said.
They were seated in his rental, in the parking lot of her building. Dila surreptitiously glanced around the lot, worried at any moment Kuzgun was going to pop out. But that was ridiculous, she reminded herself. After their confrontation last night, he had no reason to remain here. “Sorry. I’m a little tired.”
“Can I come up for a nightcap?”
“I have Robert in my apartment,” she reminded him.
“I can’t believe you let him stay in your place.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “He needed help.”
“There is a limit to how much you can help people. Please tell me you understand that.”
She sighed. “You sound like my shrink.”
“Alright, fine. I’ll stop lecturing you.”
“We can go back to my hotel room,” he offered, sliding closer to her.
“I’m sorry, I’m just really tired.” Her mind was too distracted, and she simply wasn’t in the mood to be with Omer. “Next time you come into town, I’ll make it up to you.”
“Okay, fine,” he murmured. “Come on, I’ll walk you to your door.”
It was chilly outside as they made their way towards the entrance to the building.
“This place needs an elevator,” Omer grumbled as they climbed up the stairs.
“I don’t mind. It’s my cardio for the day,”
As they steered down the hallway, he inclined his head to the apartment beside her. The door was open, large cardboard boxes sitting by the door. “Looks like you have a new neighbour.”
“Hopefully not someone too annoying,” she remarked as they came to a stop in front of her place. She could hear loud music coming from inside, which meant Robert was there. “Sorry I wasn’t more fun tonight.”
He held her hand, smiling. “It’s fine. Next time.”
“You can come in and meet Robert if you want.”
She was reminded of how much his dismissive attitude bothered her. Dropping his hand, she started searching for her keys.
“No goodnight kiss?” he teased.
“Doesn’t seem like she’s in the mood,” came a familiar mocking voice from behind Omer. Her stomach dropped. She looked past Omer to find Kuzgun leaning against the neighbouring door, casually dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, eyes glinting with irritation.
Her head swarmed with confusion. Why was he back? Why did it look like he was moving into the apartment next to her? She needed to breathe, to compose her thoughts. No, she needed Kuzgun out of her life. But first, she had to get Omer out of here. “I’ll call you later,” she said, reaching up to kiss his cheek.
Omer gave her a puzzled look. “Okay, see you.”
As Omer headed towards the staircase, Dila turned to Kuzgun. “What do you think you’re doing?”
He quirked his eyebrow. “New boyfriend every night?”
“None of your business, is it?”
“Come on, Dila. This isn’t like you.”
She laughed, astounded by his arrogance. “You think you know me?”
“I know you better than anyone else.”
Dila approached him, even as the narrowing proximity between them made her nervous. Coming to a stop in front of him, she looked him squarely in the eyes. He was close, too close, but she needed to prove to herself that he couldn’t turn her into a withering mess any more. “I’m not the same person who used to be madly in love with you. If that’s why you’re here, you’re wasting your time.”
His hand reached for her hair and she retreated immediately, desperate to avoid any physical contact with him.
A slow, languid smile curved along his lips. “Some things haven’t changed. You still want me.”
She scoffed, shaking her head. “Is that why you’re here?” She crossed her arms, staring up at him defiantly. “I get it. You miss the old me. The one who used to believe in you, love you, who used to think she could heal all your hurts and make you whole again.” She bit her lip, laughing. “You miss that attention, don’t you?”
“That’s why you think I’m here? Because I miss attention?”
“Yes.” She nodded her head emphatically. “Just get a dog, Kuzgun. It’ll give you the unconditional love that you miss so badly.” She started to walk back when he suddenly gripped her arm, pulling her towards him until she was crushed against his chest.
“I miss you.”
Two years ago, she would have melted at his confession. A year before that she would have been overjoyed. Now, she simply felt angry. “Why? Why now? I’ve been here for two years but I never heard a peep from you.”
“I was pissed off.” A muscle in his jaw twitched as his piercing gaze shot through her. “You left without saying anything to me but not Ferman. He used your shares to destroy the neighbourhood.”
Her heart reeled with disappointment. Even now, after all this time, a part of her couldn’t help but hope he loved her sincerely. Not because she was a pawn to get closer to her father, not because she stroked his ego, not because she was a convenient excuse to start a war with Ferman. Obviously she’d been a fool, and he’d managed to make her feel worthless once again. “So you’re here to wage war with Ferman.”
“If that’s what I wanted I could have just stayed at home. It would’ve been much easier with his sister chasing me around.”
“And you did nothing to encourage that, right?” Guilt flashed over his face. She swallowed audibly. That kiss had haunted her, made her feel so sick with jealousy that she couldn’t imagine ever looking at either of their faces again. It was what finally drove her to end things with Ferman and rush back to London, so maybe it had been some kind of blessing in disguise – except the thought still nauseated her. Why was she doing this to herself? How could she allow herself to fall back into the same old patterns? Because she was an idiot, that’s why. She pulled away from him, disgusted by herself. “I’m never going to let you use me ever again.”
“Look at all the crazy excuses you’re coming up with to convince yourself I’m lying,” he said, agitated. “First you say I want attention. Now, it’s because of Ferman. What’s next, Dila? Wouldn’t it just be easier to believe me?”
“I learned a long time ago never to trust your words.” He looked hurt but she knew it was simply an illusion, something she created in her own mind to give him more gravitas than he deserved. “You’re here because you want something from me. What is it?”
“I want you back.”
“That’s never going to happen,” she replied calmly.
“You’re trying to deny your feelings for me because you’re angry, but there’s no point in fighting yourself. The heart always wins.” He exhaled a long breath. “I’ve been exactly where you are right now.”
She gave him a sad smile. “No, you never have. You have no idea what it’s like to lose yourself in someone else completely. To love someone so much that even when they keep hurting you over and over again you still can’t walk away. You turn yourself inside out, you convince yourself that the person you love wouldn’t push you over the edge on purpose but then one day you’re falling into darkness and realise that’s exactly what happened. At that point you’re in so much pain that death becomes the only escape.” Even as her eyes glistened with unshed tears, she laughed at the wary expression on his face. “Don’t worry, Kuzgun. No one expects that kind of love from you.”
She turned to walk back to her apartment, feeling a strange sense of relief. The tightness in her chest had loosened, as if finally venting those emotions were what was needed to set her free.
“I love you.”
She stopped in her tracks, processing what he just said. His tone of voice was grudging, angry even. Like he was resentful she had forced him to say the words. Whatever relief she felt a minute ago disappeared instantly. Her heart was beating so fast se worried it would explode out of her chest. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes. For so long she’d wanted to hear him say those words, but the only time he’d uttered them was when she was about to kill herself. Something any decent human being would say, even to a stranger, under such extreme circumstances. And now, because of whatever reason he was hiding. Feeling her resolve return, she faced him and started speaking to him with the same patient voice she used at work. “You’re a proud man, I know you find love to be beneath you. So that probably was an extremely difficult thing for you to say. Thank you.”
He appeared bewildered, his gaze holding hers. “I don’t want your fucking gratitude. What I want is for you to tell me you feel the same.”
Of course he did. Because Kuzgun would never put himself out there if he didn’t think the outcome was guaranteed. It’s how he had successfully maneuvered through life. “The problem, Kuzgun, is that I don’t believe you.”
The tick on his face returned, his jaw clenched. “You think I’m lying?”
“No, you’ve probably convinced yourself it’s real, but it’s not. You’re not capable of that kind of emotion.” Despite everything that happened between them, she still loved him even if he couldn’t. “I’ve made a life for myself here, one that I’m proud of. You can do the same, you know, back home.” Her voice softened. “There is goodness in you, Kuzgun. I saw it when you were fighting for your neighbourhood, when you interacted with children. Maybe one day you’ll have your own.” She swallowed the lump in her throat, remembering all the unfulfilled dreams she had with Kuzgun. A small home of their own, three children, days filled with laughter, nights filled with passion. “Whatever the reason you’re here, let it go. Forget this war with Ferman, forget everything that happened. Don’t let the world steal anything else from you. You’ve fought so hard to get revenge your entire life, now fight for your own happiness. You deserve that after everything that happened to you.”
He pored over her face, watching her intently.
Maybe this was the closure they both needed to move on. “Goodbye, Kuzgun.”
She returned to her apartment, unlocked the door and slipped inside. Robert was playing hardcore rap, not one of her favourite genres. “Can you turn that down?”
He popped out of the kitchen, clad in a pair of jeans. “I’m making dinner.”
She lowered the volume herself before heading to the kitchen. “Why?”
“Why not? I owe you for letting me crash here.”
“Temporarily.” Whatever he was cooking smelled good, but she was already full from her dinner with Omer. “Save me some for tomorrow. I ate already.”
“Just eat a bit with me.”
“Fine, whatever,” he grumbled. “Sweet and sour chicken from scratch. Learned it from a real Thai chef when I was in high school.” He winked at her mischievously. “He taught me a few other tricks in the bedroom too.”
“Of course he did. Grown man dating a high school kid. What could be wrong in that scenario?”
“Your ex moved in next door. Did you know that?”
“Don’t worry. He won’t be bothering us anymore.”
“Did you kill him?”
She pulled out a beer from the fridge and opened it. “I told him he’s wasting his time here. He should move on.”
“And that’s it? He’ll vanish now?”
She drank from the bottle. “Proud men like him don’t stick around after they’re rejected. He’ll be gone tomorrow. I guarantee it.”
“So I won’t have to kick his ass?”
Later that night she lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. A conflicting mix of relief and sorrow swept over her. Kuzgun would be out of her life again soon. As much as that hurt, she reassured herself it was for the best. They were poison for each other, their relationship one of complete toxicity. It was different when they were children, they’d been innocent and untouched from all the harshness of life, but then her father had changed all that. Both she and Kuzgun were forever affected, and they could never heal as long as they were together.
And she needed to recover, she wanted to, she didn’t want to feel that hopeless despair ever again. And that meant being far, far away from Kuzgun.
It was cold outside, the air nippy, yet Kuzgun didn’t feel the chill on his skin as he drank his bottle of whiskey. His mind kept rerunning the conversation from earlier, remembering what Dila had said. Twice he’d told her he loved her and both times she’d cut him deep because she didn’t believe him. He couldn’t wrap his brain around that. Dila wasn’t a stupid woman, she was brilliant in fact. Yet she couldn’t see the truth that his heart belonged to her completely, that he loved her with everything he had. How could she not think him capable of love?
Anger surged through him. He gave up his entire life in Turkey to be here with her. Wasn’t that enough to convince her?
He took another swig.
It was time to go home. Tomorrow he’d book his return flight and get out of here. Suddenly Cihan’s words flashed through his brain, reminding him of the promise he made to his best friend before Cihan passed away. Cihan, who called Dila his sister-in-law till the very end.
Kuzgun closed his eyes, leaned his head back on the chair. What was he doing? He couldn’t leave. Because his heart belonged here with Dila, and Cihan knew it and that’s why he’d insisted Kuzgun come for her.
Anyway, it was exactly what she expected him to do and he’d hate to be predictable. So no matter what she said, how much she pushed him away, as long as she still loved him he’d fight for her. He owed Cihan that. He owed himself that.
Dila told him to fight for his happiness. That’s exactly what he intended to do.
Kuzgun knocked on Dila’s door, lightly at first and then more vigorously. He wasn’t expecting Dila to answer; she had left for work an hour ago but the kid should have been home. After a few minutes he finally answered, yawning. He was also dressed in a skimpy pair of shorts and nothing else. With his muscular frame it was clear the kid worked out, and Kuzgun grew irritated the idea of him running around naked in front of Dila.
“What do you want?” the kid asked, casting him a suspicious glint.
Kuzgun used the opportunity to scan what he could see of the living area, and breathed an inner sigh of relief when he spotted the rumpled sheets on the sofa-bed. Obviously, the kid and Dila weren’t sleeping in the same bed. “I have a job for you.”
“I’m not fucking you.”
Kuzgun glowered at him. “That’s not the job I had in mind.”
“What do you want then?”
“I have a ton of things I need to unpack next door. I’ll pay you £50 to help me out.”
“You expect me to believe that shit? You just want dirt on Dila.”
The jackass was too smart for his own good. “I’ll give you £75.”
Kuzgun scoffed. “100. No more.”
“Fine. But you’re paying for lunch and dinner.”
“Come to my place in an hour.” Kuzgun started walking back to his apartment. “And put some goddamn clothes on.”
The kid slammed the door in response.
Rob, as the obnoxious kid liked to call himself, wasn’t as big of a pain in the ass as Kuzgun had first presumed. For the most part he worked quickly and efficiently, and, unfortunately for Kuzgun, he kept his mouth shut about everything related to Dila. At the moment they were quietly eating takeaway lunch when Kuzgun decided to prod again. “Want a beer?”
After a trip to the fridge, Kuzgun handed him a bottle and took a seat on the floor. “How long are you planning to stay with Dila?”
“None of your business, innit?”
“Stop being a fucking brat and answer the question.”
“What’s it to you? She doesn’t want to have anything to do with you anyway.”
That stung, especially after Dila’s words from yesterday.
“Dila can be a bloody nag but at least she gives a shit. Not many people do,” Rob said. “She’s one of the good ones.”
Kuzgun took a sip of his beer. “She’s the best person I know.”
“So why’d she dump you? You fuck around on her?”
Kuzgun glared back. “No.”
“I know she didn’t mess up. So it must have been you. What’d you do?”
The last thing Kuzgun wanted was to spill his soul to some teenage punk. “Alright, that’s enough. Let’s get back to work.”
“You’ve got no chance, mate. You know that, yeah? She’s quite fit. She’s prob got a boyfriend already.”
Kuzgun scowled at Rob. “If you don’t get your ass up right now, I’m not paying you anything.”
Rob chugged the rest of his beer in a hurry.
By the time Dila returned home from work, it was already past six in the evening. She was tired, physically and mentally, and longing for a glass of wine and sleep. Dinner would probably be pizza but she didn’t think Rob would mind. That boy ate anything, which was a relief.
As she walked past the apartment which Kuzgun had rented, she cast a wistful glance at the door. Loneliness had marked her existence ever since he’d disappeared as a child. When he returned as an adult, she had clung to him tightly hoping their connection would heal them both – but it hadn’t. Their relationship had been so toxic that loneliness stopped being her biggest fear. Instead, she dreaded the deep anguish resulting from the choices he made, the decisions that were forced upon her.
In the past it was revenge that drove Kuzgun’s every move but his pride was a close second. He used it as an armour against the world, a way to protect himself from any genuine emotions that may inadvertently hurt him. A part of her used to wish she was as proud as him, maybe then she could have defended her heart against all the pain, but it had taken many therapy sessions to realise that that was no way to live. Neither was hiding from the world, like she’d done with Ferman.
While Dila would never let herself become so desolate again that death seemed the only escape, that didn’t mean she had to reject emotions that made her vulnerable. After all it was those same feelings that allowed her to help troubled teenagers now. They recognized themselves in her, someone who knew true isolation, someone who had also suffered in life, and they connected with her because of it. That mattered a lot more than her own self-preservation. Ironically enough, helping these kids was what finally drove away the loneliness she’d feared so much when she was younger.
She glanced at Kuzgun’s door again. Most likely, he’d already left. Even though a part of her ached for him, she reminded herself this was for the best. For both of them.
Using her keys, she unlocked her apartment door and stepped inside. The apartment was empty as Rob wasn’t around, which meant she had a few minutes of complete privacy to indulge in a warm bath. Smiling, she headed to the bathroom to fill up the tub.
An hour later she was dressed in her favourite silk robe and enjoying a glass of wine when she heard keys clattering from the other side of the door. Rob walked in with a box of pizza, a breezy smile on his face.
“Hey.” She turned off the TV to greet him. “You look happy.”
“Made 100 quids today.” He beamed with a proud grin. “And scored this box of pizza for free.”
Her forehead furrowed with concern. “What did you do? Don’t tell me you went-“
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist. I didn’t have to blow or fuck anyone.” Placing the box of pizza in front of her, he opened the lid and grabbed himself a slice. “Just had to help someone move some boxes.”
“That’s a lot of money. Was it a friend of yours?”
He nodded, quickly looking way. Something troubled her about his reaction, especially since he was avoiding her gaze. “Rob. What are you not telling me? What did you do to get the money?”
Rob’s chin jutted stubbornly forward. “It wasn’t anything illegal.”
“Then why aren’t you telling me?” She drew in a calming breath, trying not to reveal her disappointment to him. “I was serious when I said you can’t be turning tricks or getting high when you’re staying with me.”
“I didn’t!” Rob said defensively.
“Then how did you get that money?”
The way he sat down on the sofa, pouting, made her think of a child about to have a temper tantrum. “You’re going to be pissed when I tell you.”
“As long as you didn’t do anything illegal, I promise I won’t.”
“Fine. It was your ex. He came to the flat this morning and asked if I’d help him unpack and move his stuff around.”
Her anger was potent, filling her with so much rage that she practically started trembling. How dare he? How dare Kuzgun use Rob to get info on her? Because that’s exactly why he’d asked Rob for help.
“See?” Rob looked up at her from the sofa, concerned. “This is why I didn’t want to tell you. You’re pissed at me.”
Her lips pressed into a thin line, she headed for the door. “No, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m pissed at him.” She slammed it behind her, and stormed towards Kuzgun’s flat. His door bore the brunt of her temper as she pounded on the surface. When Kuzgun finally answered, she pushed past him and charged inside. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, facing him.
He shut the door gently. “Want something to drink?”
“Answer my question.”
“I’ll pour you a glass of red,” he said, sauntering past her casually.
She followed him into the kitchen, incensed by his nonchalance. “I don’t want a bloody drink!”
“Okay, then I’ll pour myself one.”
It was as if he was deliberately trying to goad her, and she’d had enough. Grabbing his arm, she forced him to turn around. The moment their eyes met, she realised her mistake because now his beautiful, brown eyes were languidly roving over her face, lingering down her body, inhaling her in. She sensed every nerve come alive under the intensity of his piercing gaze. Her throat felt parched, she swallowed. Under her silk robe she was only wearing a pair of lace panties and the twinkle in his eyes seemed to reveal he already knew that. She crossed her arms, took a step back.
“Leave Rob alone,” she said in her sternest voice, glaring at him.
“Why? Seems like he needs a job and I need help.”
“Do you think I’m stupid?”
“No, I think you’re beautiful.”
She blinked for a few seconds, dumbfounded. Kuzgun wasn’t one to flatter easily; she couldn’t even remember the last time he’d called her beautiful.
Her breath caught in her throat when he reached out to touch her hair, curling the strands around his finger. “Why are you doing this?” she asked, staring up at him.
The corners of his eyes crinkled; a half-smile lit up his face. “What am I doing?”
“Moving in next door. Barging into my life. Making friends with my roommate. Why? Why do all that?”
“Why do you think?”
“I don’t know.”
His eyes gleamed with sincerity as he leaned forward, inching closer to her. “My life has no meaning if you’re not with me.”
Once upon a time she would have been ecstatic to hear those words and reveal her excitement. Now, she forced herself not to give away even the littlest bit of emotion. “But mine does. Does that not matter to you?”
A resigned sigh escaped him as he pulled away, linking his arms behind him. “You can’t be happy without me.”
“Is that a threat?”
“Come on, Dila. Do you really believe I’d hurt you?”
“You have. Many times.”
He looked startled by her words, like she’d slapped him. Pain flashed across his face. In turn, her stomach turned and she felt like vomiting – the last thing she wanted was to cause him more suffering. “Kuzgun, we can’t be in each other’s lives. Don’t you see that? It’s better for the both of us when we’re apart.”
His jaw twitched, a dark storm brewing in his eyes. “Maybe before, but it would be different now.”
“Because I’m different!” he snapped. Agitated, he rubbed the back of his neck. “What do I have to do to prove it? Tell me and I’ll do it.”
“Nothing.” Saddened, she shook her head. “There’s nothing you can do, nothing you say that’ll make me change my mind.”
His lips pursed into a thin line, a stubborn glint replacing the sorrow in his eyes. “Then what difference does it make if I live here or not?”
“Exactly. So I’ll just make a life for myself here.”
Irritation surged through her, but she tried not to give him the satisfaction of seeing her react. “Do whatever you want, but stay the hell away from me and Rob.” She started to walk away but stopped when Kuzgun spoke from behind.
“That kid will get himself into trouble if he’s left alone.”
Hearing Kuzgun’s words, she turned back reluctantly. “What do you mean?”
He raised an eyebrow, leaning back against the counter. “He’s lived on the streets for a long time, right?”
“What else did he tell you?”
“Not much, but I can tell he’s gone through a lot.”
Dila nibbled on her bottom lip, and immediately Kuzgun’s eyes narrowed, following her every move. “Stop staring at me like that.”
An unexpected smile formed across his mouth. “Make me.”
Her heart fluttered, she found it hard to breathe all of a sudden.
“If you want that kid to stay out of trouble, keep him busy. Trust me on this. Don’t let him get restless.”
Dila forced herself to pay attention to what Kuzgun was saying instead of fixating on his smile. “Fine. I’ll find him a job.”
“Let him work for me.”
His suggestion troubled her. Kuzgun was attracted to the life of darkness and chaos that came with illegal activities, and that was the last thing Rob needed. “I don’t want Rob involved in your kind of work. He’s already been arrested a few times.”
His brows knit together with frustration. “I’m not going to be joining the fucking mafia, Dila. I want to start an actual business here. All legal, I promise.”
Surprised, she stared at him. “What kind of business?”
“I have a few ideas. But I need help researching, looking into things, and the kid can help me with all that.”
“I don’t want him to get hurt. He may come across like he’s all tough but he’s not.”
“I know the type.” Kuzgun said with a self-deprecating smile. “I’ll keep him safe.”
She wanted to believe him, desperately. “I’m trusting you with him. Don’t let me down. Please.”
“I won’t break your trust. I promise.”
Eyes locked, several feet apart, they stared at each other. She wanted to drown in him, she ached to breathe him in, to touch him. As he slowly approached her, the rational part of her brain screamed at her to turn around, to leave, but she was spellbound by him. When he stopped directly in front of her, she worried her knees would buckle.
Captivated, she held his gaze.
“Next time you show up at my place in this robe…” His finger traced over the silk fabric over her right breast, the sensation so arousing she felt her nipple harden under his touch. “Be prepared for me to rip it off you.”
Dila scurried away immediately, using every ounce of will power she had.
The last thing she heard as she closed the door behind her was his soft laughter echoing from behind.
To be continued…
A/N – I’m so sad about the cancellation. If there’s interest, I’ll still continue writing this wonderful pair. Let me know your thoughts.