Fandom: Kiralik Ask
Spoilers: Season 2, diverges after episode 56 (starts the morning after Omer picks up Defne and Pamir from the police station).
Rated: R for language and sexual situations. Don’t click the link if you’re under 18!
No copyright infringement intended!
Jaw clenched, body tense, Omer gripped the edges of the terrace railing. Employees from the building were mulling around outside in the courtyard, some eating lunch, others smoking, going on about their day just like any other. If only he could do the same, but that was impossible with this horrible pit of despair decaying his soul. Frustration surged through him. He didn’t know how to fix things with Defne, what to do, but more than that he didn’t know how to react to her strange behaviour. Defne, his Defne, had always been an emotionally volatile person whether she was angry, happy or sad. It was one of the things that had initially made him wary when she’d first come into his life yet he had ended up falling madly in love with her for that very same quality. But now she was closed off, withdrawn, and he had no idea what to do. A part of him wanted to march down to her office and shake her out of her stupor, but his temper would only make things worse.
“Omer?” He turned around to find Sinan standing a few feet away. “Are you okay?”
Omer rubbed his beard. “No.”
“I guess you spoke to Defne?”
“If you can call it that.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s acting really weird. Not like herself at all.”
“Yeah, I noticed that too.”
“She wasn’t upset, she wasn’t even angry. It was like talking to a stranger.”
“She put in her resignation.”
Agitated, Omer started pacing back and forth. “It’s like she’s trying to sever all connection she has with me. What the fuck am I supposed to do now? I don’t know how to get through to her.” Sinan stared at him with a troubled expression on his face. “What is it? Just spit it out.”
“I told her about how devastated you were in Rome, but…”
“She thinks that was because of your breakup with Fikret.”
He kicked the railing hard, and kept kicking it until Sinan forcibly pulled him away. “What the fuck am I supposed to do?” he screamed. “How can she think something so stupid? How am I supposed to get through to her?” Tears stung his eyes. Struck by grief, he felt utterly hopeless. “Tell me what to do, Sinan.” He would’ve dropped to his knees if it wasn’t for Sinan holding him up, taking on the burden of his weight. “I can’t see a way out of this.”
“The two of you need to sit down and talk this out, brother. Just the two of you.”
Omer’s voice was hoarse, laden with tears. “She’s shut herself off.”
“And you did the same thing to her before, but she always got through to you. She never gave up on you. So don’t give up on her. I know you’re a proud man-”
“Fuck my pride!” Omer yelled, pushing Sinan away. “You think I give a shit about that? I’d get on my knees and beg her to come back to me if I thought it would do any good, but she doesn’t want that. She doesn’t believe anything I say. So what do I do?”
“She feels betrayed by you. It takes time to get over that.”
“We’ve wasted so much time already. And on top of that, she’s quitting. How do I talk to her now?”
Sinan quirked his eyebrow. “You know where she lives.”
“Go to her family. Apologize. Beg for forgiveness. Maybe if Defne sees that, she’ll realise how much she means to you.”
“I’ve been asking to do that for months now. She’s the one who insisted I stay away from her family. We’ve even fought about it before, so what if it just upsets her more?”
“Damn.” Sinan brushed the back of his head, dejected. “And here I thought I came up with a great idea.”
“Maybe I just need to take her way from here, go somewhere private. Just the two of us. She’ll have to listen to me then.”
“That sounds like kidnapping.”
Omer shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t care if it means we can finally talk.”
Sinan shook his head ‘no’. “Don’t, please. Just be rational. Think about what you’re saying.”
“Nothing else is working.”
“How about patience? How about wining and dining her? How about wooing her with flowers and gifts? There are a lot of things you can do before resorting to kidnapping.”
Omer stared down at the ground, mulling over the options in front of him.
“Omer, come on,” Sinan griped. “Please tell me you’re seriously not considering this very bad idea.”
Omer didn’t respond.
Later that evening, Defne was sitting at the dinner table with her family. Nihan and Serdar were sharing a story about an annoying customer that came into the restaurant while Esra played with a cooing baby Iso. Her grandmother was sitting at the head of the table, alternately laughing and ordering Defne to eat more. Despite the happy atmosphere, she felt disconnected from her family and she didn’t know why. Anyway, it didn’t matter.
“Defne, can you please make me some coffee?”
She nodded ‘yes’ to her grandmother but didn’t move. “I have to tell you guys something first.”
With the exception of baby Iso, everyone fixed their attention on her.
“What’s wrong, Defne?” Serdar asked, worried.
“Nothing. I just wanted to tell you guys that I’ve decided to get married.”
Her grandmother started cheering, and clapping her hands together. “Oh, my love. I’ve been waiting to hear that for so long now. Okay, we’ll start looking for a guy-”
“No, Grandma. You misunderstand. I already know who I’m going to marry. Pamir, my boss.”
They all stared at her in silence, until Nihan finally spoke up. “Pamir? I didn’t know you guys were seeing each other.”
“He’s the one who came to the house before?” Esra asked.
Defne nodded. “I’ve asked him to marry me and he said yes.”
“You asked him?” Serdar prodded.
“Yes,” she replied, not offering any further information. As much as she loved her family, they wouldn’t understand why she came to the decision she did. Besides, it would mean telling them the whole story – including Omer’s return – and that was the last thing she wanted.
“Defne, do you love him?” her grandmother asked, scrutinizing her.
“Yes.” Maybe it wasn’t the whole truth but it wasn’t a complete lie either. She loved him as a friend, but she wasn’t in love with him – which was one of the reasons why she was so keen on this marriage.
“Are you sure?” Serdar asked, his forehead furrowed. They were all watching her with disbelief except for Esra who had returned to playing with Iso.
“Of course I’m sure.”
“Okay, when is he going to come to the house for the engagement ceremony? And we need to fix a date for the wedding.” Her grandma stood up, excited. “We have to clean the house, and wash the curtains. And where are we going to have the wedding? Oh, there’s so much to plan! I have to call all of our friends in Manisa. Oh, and we have to invite the neighbourhood too-”
“Grandma, stop.” Defne’s voice was deliberately steady when she spoke again. “There isn’t going to be a wedding.”
“What does that mean?” Nihan asked.
“Just what I said. We’re going to keep it simple, just immediate family. That’s all.”
“But why?” her grandma asked, visibly upset. “Come on, girl. This is supposed to be the happiest day of your life-”
“We’ve already been through this before, remember? Nosy neighbours, meddling relatives asking rude, impertinent questions, spreading malicious gossip. I don’t want to live with the fallout of that again if something goes wrong. Besides, Pamir and I want to keep things simple. We’ll go to court, get married, and then we can all go to dinner. That’s it.”
“Really?” Serdar said. “People will think we’re being cheap, or they’ll wonder why the sudden rush to get married.”
“I don’t care. What matters to me is the marriage, not some big, elaborate wedding.”
“Defne, weddings are supposed to be causes of celebration. What happened before was horrid, I know, but we need to move on from that. We should celebrate this, it’s a fresh start for you, for us. Don’t you want people to know that?”
She stood up, started cleaning the table. “Grandma, I told you what I wanted. I’m not going to change my mind about this. Either you accept it or you don’t.” Collecting the dirty plates, she headed to the kitchen. Behind her she could hear the concerned voices of her family whispering in hushed tones.
After dinner Defne headed to Iso’s store, determined to put things right between them. They hadn’t spoken to each other since Omer and he had gotten into a fight few weeks ago, and she cringed at how foolish she’d been back then. Iso was her closest friend, he only wanted the best for her, and the fact he’d felt so strongly against Omer should have been a clue she’d made the wrong decision. Spotting him through the window, she hesitated. It was late at night, Sadri Usta had already gone home but Iso wasn’t alone. He was sitting at the table across from Aysegul. There was a warm smile on both of their faces, and Iso seemed to be beaming with joy. It had been a long time since she’d seen him with such an expression and it saddened her to realise she had no idea that he and Aysegul had grown so close. Just like she’d kept things hidden from Iso, he’d done the same from her – and she couldn’t blame him. Gathering her courage, she knocked on the door.
Iso and Aysegul turned towards her. While he glanced at her with surprise and then hesitation, a guilty mask flitted across Aysegul’s features.
“Good evening, Defne,” Aysegul greeted, standing up quickly. “Thank you for the shoes, Iso. I’ll see you soon.”
“Good night,” Iso said, standing up to walk Aysegul to the door.
Defne gave Aysegul a smile, watching after the brunette as she quickly marched past her and down the street.
Alone again, the atmosphere was steeped in tension. Finally, Iso broke the silence. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to apologize for… what happened before. You were looking out for me and I should have respected that.”
Iso appeared taken back by her words. “What happened?”
She shook her head. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Want some tea?”
Relieved, she smiled. “Yes, please.”
After he poured her a cup of tea, they sat across from each other. Usually all it took to soothe her frayed nerves was a conversation with Iso where he would guide her in setting things straight, but not tonight. Not even Iso could get her out of the weird funk she was in. “I have to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“I’m getting married.”
“You just told me not to worry about Omer and now you’re telling me you’re marrying him? What the hell?”
“It’s not Omer, don’t worry,” she said calmly. “I’m marrying Pamir.”
Iso peered at her closely. “What?”
“Pamir and I are getting married. Soon.”
“Few weeks ago you were in here telling me you and Omer are back together and now you’re marrying Pamir? What’s going on with you?”
She stared at the ground, picking at her nail polish. “Pamir and I are good together. We’re compatible. He understands me, and he doesn’t judge me.”
“That’s great, but that’s no reason to marry the guy. Unless you’re in love with him. Are you?”
“No, but that’s why this is perfect. If he ever leaves me, I won’t be devastated. I’ll be able to get over it and move on with my life.”
Iso’s eyes narrowed. He shook his head, agitated. “You can’t marry someone out of fear. That’s a cowardly thing to do and you’re not a coward. You’re one of the strongest people I know, Defne. You’re a fighter.”
“I’m tired of fighting, of being hurt!” She blurted out. “I want stability. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling insecure and worrying if I’m good enough. I’m not asking for happiness, just some peace. Is that so wrong, Iso?”
He reached out to cover her hand with his own. “What happened with Omer?”
“It doesn’t matter. You were right to tell me to stay away from him. Anyway, he’s not a part of my life anymore.”
“Why the need to rush into a marriage then? Just wait a few months, take your time.”
“I’m tired of putting my life on hold. I want to move on.”
“But you don’t look very excited to get married.”
Defne stood up. “Iso, can’t you please just support me on this?”
It was a while before he answered. “You’ll be building a life with this man. He’ll be the father of your children. Is that what you really want?”
She remembered how Pamir didn’t want to have kids, and that hollowness in her soul grew bigger. “Yes.”
“Fine. If this is what you really want, I’ll support you.” His reassuring words belied the doubt that was evident in his troubled eyes. “But if you change your mind-”
“I won’t.” She sipped her tea. “Enough about me. What’s going on with you and Aysegul?”
Iso bristled, resuming his work. “Nothing. She was just in here to drop off some shoes that need fixing.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you so happy.” A heavy burden seemed to be lifted from his shoulders, causing her to wonder if he’d worried about being judged.
“You really think so?”
“Of course. But what about Cevdet? Is he gone for good? I haven’t seen him around in weeks.”
“No one knows where he is but she isn’t waiting for him to come back. She filed for divorce today. Once the documents are ready, I’ll hunt him down for his signature myself if I have to.”
“Good. I’m glad he’s out of her life. She deserves to be happy.”
“We all do, don’t you think?” Iso gave her a pointed look. “Are you happy, Defne?”
She shrugged her shoulders, tucking her hands into her pockets. “No, but I’m also not in pain.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t need to be happy if it also means coping with sadness. I just want an easy, simple existence from now on.”
“But that’s not a life, Defne.”
“It’s what I want.” Recognizing the concerned glint in his eyes, she stood up. “I should get going. It’s late.”
“Defne, are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry.” She hugged him tightly. “Let’s never fight again.”
“Girl, you know that’s impossible. We’re going to fight like cats and dogs as long as we live.” He nudged her playfully. “Come on, I’ll walk you home.”
Feeling more like herself than she had in the past few weeks, she walked alongside her best friend.
Defne’s last day at work was uneventful, which was exactly what she wanted. Because of the short notice, the employees barely had any time to plan a goodbye party but some of the warehouse staff brought in cake and other treats and they had a brief gathering to celebrate her departure. After the short break, she was back in her office to pack up when Omer sauntered in. She cast him a brief glance before resuming her work.
Hands in pocket, he sauntered closer. “Why are you resigning?”
She walked over to the cabinet to collect some of her things. “I have my reasons.”
“I’d like to hear them.”
“Because I’m considering enrolling in a full-time business program.”
“You don’t need to quit to do that. You can take a leave of absence.”
“No, thanks.” She sensed him close the distance between them but she didn’t turn around.
“Doesn’t really have anything to do with that, does it? It’s because you don’t want to work with me anymore. You’re trying to break everything that connects us together.”
Hurt simmered in his voice, but she ignored it. “It’s the best thing for both of us.”
“Give me a week. Let me take you away from here, somewhere quiet, somewhere where we can hash this out. Please.”
His hands gripped her waist, maneuvering her around gently but firmly. His eyes were dark and filled with emotion, pleading with her.
“Defne, one week. That’s all I’m asking. If after that you don’t want to have anything to do with me, I won’t bother you anymore.”
His jaw tightened, gaze darkening. “Be reasonable about this.”
“Omer, I said no.”
“So that’s it? You want to end things just like that? Without any talk, or discussions? Without even giving us another chance to work things out?”
“I’m not interested in getting back together,” she said coldly. “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that.”
His mouth closed over hers unexpectedly, pulling her in for a kiss. She’d forgotten how sweet his lips tasted, the tantalising thrill of his beard rubbing against her skin – something that should have been unpleasant but was, instead, sensuous – as he devoured her. The scent of him, the feel of him, his hands pulling her close one second, threading through her hair the next, his body grinding against her own – no longer was she in a cocoon devoid of emotion. He was pulling her out of her shell, forcing her to engage, bringing her back to life while her heart threatened to explode in her chest. And then, suddenly, an image of Fikret flashed through her mind. Fikret in his arms, kissing him, and Omer returning the gesture with just as much ferocity as he was kissing her now.
Just like that, the spell ended.
Breath labored, cheeks flushed, she pulled away from him. His arms encircled her, rubbing her back. “I’m in your blood, Defne. And you’re in mine,” he murmured, panting for air. “Nothing is going to change that.”
She stepped back from him, in control once again. “I wish you’d remembered that when you were sleeping with Fikret.”
Omer flinched. “Stop it,” he warned.
She leveled him with a serious glance. “The more distance there’s between us, the easer it is to move on. You experienced that yourself when you took off for Rome. I deserve that same chance and I’m going to take it.”
She quickly walked away, leaving him watching after her.
Defne was sitting across from Pamir at a restaurant, regarding him silently while he sipped his wine. He had asked if they could go for dinner, and she’d obliged. Normally he was a chatterbox like her, but today he seemed to be uncharacteristically quiet. It was obvious something was on his mind, drawing her curiosity. “I told my family about us,” she said.
His blue eyes brimmed with uneasiness. “How did they take it?”
“They were happy for me.”
“Really? They weren’t surprised by the news?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “A little, but they were fine with it.”
“Are they okay with you moving to London for a few months?”
“Pamir, I don’t even know if I’m getting in.”
“You will. I know someone in admissions at Brighton University. Just a matter of you submitting your application.”
Defne mulled over his words. Could she really pursue these business classes? The thought of starting her own business was terrifying yet also exhilarating, and these classes would give her a good understanding and foundation to succeed – but what if she failed at the whole thing? What if she was a disaster in school, or a complete failure in running her own business? What then? “I’m not sure I can do this. I always sucked in school.”
“Well, you’re doing it. I insist.”
“Because you don’t believe in yourself and I think this would be a good way to boost your confidence. Besides, I think it would be fun for us to spend some time together far away from here.” Concern eclipsed his face, his eyes transitioning into a dark blue. “Defne, we need to tell Omer about the engagement.”
She was about to take a drink but paused at his words. “No, we don’t.”
“He deserves to hear it from you, or at the very least, us. We owe him that.”
Defne fixed her attention on Pamir. “This doesn’t concern him.”
“I know you’re angry but you must see-”
“Pamir, I’m not going to tell him. He can find out about us when everyone else does.”
He watched her closely. “If you were in his position, wouldn’t you want to know?”
Her gaze remained glued to the empty coffee mug in front of her. “He and I always had different views of our relationship. Before, I couldn’t imagine a life without him, but he didn’t feel the same way. Will he be upset when he finds out we’re married? Probably, but only because it’ll be a blow to his pride. He’ll get over it and move on with his life pretty quickly. You’ll see.”
“Are you sure?”
She met Pamir’s glance. “Yes.”
He nodded. “Okay, so I guess it’s time I officially meet your family. When should we do this?”
“The sooner the better.”
Pamir’s eyebrow quirked up. “You seem to be really aiming for a shotgun wedding. You’re not pregnant, are you?”
She rolled her eyes, slightly irritated. “Of course not.”
“Oh, good. Really not in the mood to play daddy to my cousin’s kid.” She shot him a warning glance and right away he waved his hands in the air as a gesture of surrender. “Sorry. Anyway, we need to tell my mom sometime soon. Did you want to do that together?”
“Do you think she’ll be happy with me? I mean-”
“She loves you, you know this. Can we move on from this topic, please? I’m getting really bored of these kinds of conversations.”
“Okay, sorry,” she mumbled. Half-heartedly, she pulled up her chair closer to him so they could decide on dates.
Over the past few weeks the boxing ring had become Omer’s new haven. It was the only outlet he had to vent his frustrations, and as usual, that’s where he was tonight, sparring round after round with a few people at the gym. Haunted by the status of his broken relationship with Defne, he couldn’t sleep and it was only after exhausting his body beyond its limits could he manage to get some rest. With every passing day, he felt more sick and heartbroken. Time was supposed to heal wounds but it only made him feel worse. It had been the same way in Rome. Back then alcohol and women had served as distraction but now… now, he didn’t want to fall back into those old habits.
Not being with Defne was affecting every facet of his life. He couldn’t eat, could barely sleep and even his work was suffering. She had been his inspiration for the last few years and without her functioning as his muse, he couldn’t even design. Sinan was frustrated with him, and Omer felt bad at not doing his part in running the business. But, to be honest, he had no interest in going into work; everything in that building reminded him of Defne and knowing she was no longer there ripped him to shreds.
“Alright, I think that’s enough for tonight,” Yousef, his coach, declared.
Omer removed his boxing gloves, wiped the sweat off his face. “See you tomorrow.”
After a quick shower he was heading out to the parking lot when his phone buzzed in his pocket. As he went to retrieve it, his heart soared at the thought of Defne calling him. But it wasn’t Defne, it was Sinan, and once again he was left disappointed. “Hello?”
“Omer, where are you?”
“Just leaving the gym right now.”
“Okay. I’m five minutes away from there. Wait for me.”
“We need to talk. Just wait there.”
He hung up the phone, worried about his buddy. Since the fight with Defne at the conference Omer knew he’d been a terrible friend to Sinan, absorbed by his own problems, leaving all work responsibilities for his best friend to deal with. Sinan was probably going through his own shit with Seda but Omer had been too selfish to provide any kind of emotional support for the guy. Shit.
Within seconds Sinan pulled up to the lot, parking his car in a hurry. Omer approached him, noting the panicked expression on Sinan’s face as he slid out of the car.
“Sinan, what’s wrong? Everything okay with you? What’s going on?” Sinan hesitated, which furthered his concern. “Say something. Is it Seda? Did something happen between the two of you?”
“I got a phone call from Pamir a few minutes ago.”
Hearing that name immediately perturbed Omer. He clenched his jaw in response. “What the fuck did he want?”
“There’s something he wanted me to tell you. To warn you, I guess. He wanted to talk to you himself, but Defne forbade it.”
“What does she have to do with any of this?” Omer asked, seething at the sound of Pamir and Defne’s names linked together. But it was the overt uneasiness on Sinan’s face which made Omer’s body tense, an instinctive response to upcoming danger. “What’s going on, Sinan?”
“Omer, maybe we should go inside.”
“Just spit it out!” Omer snapped.
Sinan took an audible breath. “Pamir and Defne are engaged.”
Omer froze, aghast. His brain couldn’t process the ridiculous words Sinan had just uttered. It was obviously a joke, it had to be. Pamir was messing around with Sinan, trying to goad all of them like he always did. That had to be it.
Sinan placed a hand on Omer’s shoulder, peering at him with concern. “Omer?”
“This is a joke. Pamir is just screwing with your head.”
Sinan shook his head ‘no’. “It’s not. They’re getting married, in two weeks apparently.”
Sheer rage coursed through him, rendering him blind with anger. Defne was marrying Pamir? Him? After everything they went through together, the intensity of their feelings, she was throwing it all away to be with his fucking cousin?
He stormed over to his car with only one thought running through his head. Defne. He had to see her. Now. He had to put a stop to this ridiculous bullshit.
“Omer, Omer!” Sinan ran after him. “Where are you going?”
Omer didn’t respond, slamming the door shut. He started his car and sped out of the parking lot, whizzing through the traffic on the highway. He didn’t care about the other cars honking at him, barely even registering the fact Sinan was calling him non-stop while following behind him. His vision was blurred, his mind reeling. He didn’t care about anything or anyone except Defne.
“Girl, you’re being ridiculous. How in the world can you get married in two weeks? That’s not enough time to prepare! You can’t even get a properly fitted wedding gown in that amount of time!”
“And why didn’t you tell us you were quitting Stil Vagon before?” Serdar asked. “I mean, obviously it’s your decision but you loved that job. We all know how much you loved working there so why did you quit? Did something happen? Is everything okay?”
“You’ve been acting really weird lately. You don’t talk to us, you barely even pay attention when we sit down for dinner. It’s as if we bore you or something. What’s going on with you? And London, really? How did you even come up with that?”
Defne stared across the table at her family as each of them spouted off complaints about her behaviour and her recent spate of decisions, and she simply wasn’t in the mood to deal with any of them. All she wanted was to be left alone, and a small part of her realised maybe moving to London for school wouldn’t be so bad after all. “I’m going to meet Iso.” She stood up, walking away.
“Defne!” her grandmother called after her, but Defne kept heading for the door.
A short while later she was sitting beside Iso in the store as he worked away, finding comfort in the silence he provided. Unfortunately it was short-lived, because within minutes Iso received a text. Defne saw him reading the message, and guessed that it was Serdar or Nihan contacting him.
“What happened at the house?” Iso prodded.
Twirling one of his tools on the table, she shrugged her shoulders. “I had dinner with Pamir earlier today. We decided on a wedding date. Grandma isn’t too happy that it’s in two weeks.”
“You seem to be in a mad rush to get married.”
“It’s going to be a small ceremony. We don’t need a lot of time to plan things.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it.”
She pursed her lips, refusing to engage in another argument.
“Defo, in less than a week you told us you were engaged to a guy none of us have met, you quit your job, and apparently you may be moving to London soon. You do understand why everyone is worried about you, don’t you?”
“Everything is fine!” she snapped. “I’m a grown woman. I can make my own decisions.”
“And I’m your best friend. When I see you heading in the wrong path, it’s my responsibility to try and steer you back in the right direction.” Iso exhaled a resigned sigh, his heavy brows furrowed with deep concern. “You’re pushing us away, Defne. All of us. I don’t even recognize the person you are these days.”
Before she could respond, a loud squealing sound outside drew her attention. A familiar car pulled up in front of the store, braking abruptly. As soon as she saw Omer storming out of the car and towards her, she froze.
Anger veiled his face, his eyes blood-shot like he’d been crying. “How far, Defne? How far are you willing to go to punish me?” he demanded, marching towards her. Suddenly Iso was between her and Omer, trying to push him away but Omer didn’t even seem to notice, his gaze glued to her. “You want to marry him? You think that’ll make you stop hurting? That it’ll make you feel better?”
“This has nothing to do with you,” she protested quietly.
“Really? That’s why you’re marrying my fucking cousin?” Omer yelled. The more he tried to move towards her, the harder Iso attempted – and failed – to push him away.
She jumped back when Omer reached for the sharp tool on the table, worried he was going to hurt her or Iso.
“If you want to hurt me so much, why don’t you just make it easy for both of us and take a direct shot?” Omer grabbed her arm, handing her the sharp object. “Take this. Hurt me.” He rubbed the spot over his heart. “Do it. Stab me as much as you want. Stab me until your pain goes away. I want you to do that. I want you to stop hurting. I’ll take your anger, your pain, give me all of it so you don’t have to suffer anymore!”
Sinan had rushed into the store, and now both Iso and Sinan were trying to pull Omer away. Defne stood there, too bewildered to move. It all felt surreal, like a movie scene playing out in front of her face.
“Don’t do this, Defne. Please don’t do this. Don’t make this mistake,” Omer pleaded, voice thick with tears. “I won’t let you!” he continued, his rage returning full-force. “You think if you marry him, I’ll just leave you alone? I won’t. I’ll be there, every step of the way. Every time you turn around you’ll see me. I’ll remind you every minute of every fucking day that you love me, not him. Me.”
“Omer, let’s go,” Sinan.
“I’m never going to give up on you, Defne. Never.”
It took all their strength but Sinan and Iso finally managed to make Omer leave the store. Alone once again, she sat down, stunned by what just transpired.
Sinan was at a loss for what to do next. He’d never seen his best friend act so broken, so erratic, with him let alone in front of so many others. Omer was a proud man, one who always kept his emotions close to his chest, but today he hadn’t cared about any of that. “Let’s go home,” Sinan urged. “I’ll drive. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to get behind the wheel when you’re upset.” He exchanged a quick glance with Iso who nodded his head in agreement.
“I’ll drop off his car at the house,” Iso volunteered.
Even though Sinan had never been great friends with Iso, he appreciated the gesture offered by the other man. He knew it wasn’t easy for Iso after everything happened that between Omer and Defne, but obviously Omer’s uncharacteristic behaviour had troubled Iso as well.
“No,” Omer insisted. “I want to talk to Aunt Turkan.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Sinan protested.
“Maybe you should calm down before you talk to her family. You might make the situation worse,” Iso said.
Omer looked at Iso. “She’s planning to marry someone else. How much worse can it be?”
Sinan followed behind as Omer rushed through the neighbourhood towards Defne’s home. As the green paint of the house came into view, Sinan’s stomach coiled with anxiety for his friend. He wanted to save Omer the pain and humiliation of being turned away, but Omer was insisting on speaking to Defne’s grandmother.
It took a few seconds for someone to answer the knocks but the shock of finding Omer at the door was evident on Aunt Turkan’s face when she saw all three of them.
“May I come in, please?” Omer asked.
Aunt Turkan leveled him with a hostile stare. “I have nothing to say to you. No one in this family does.”
“Please.” Omer reached out to gently grasp Aunt Turkan’s hand. “Please. I owe you an apology, one I should have given a long time ago.”
“Aunt Turkan, I think you should hear him out,” Iso said from behind.
Sinan noted the surprised glint in Defne’s grandmother’s eyes at Iso’s words of support. That seemed to be finally make her relent as she nodded. “Fine. You only have ten minutes.” She stepped aside to let them all in.
Sinan wondered if Omer would ask him and Iso to wait outside. He knew his friend would have preferred a private conversation with Aunt Turkan but that didn’t seem to matter to Omer now as he seemed oblivious to all of them.
“Nihan is upstairs, putting Iso to sleep. And Serdar went back to clean up at the restaurant,” she said, leading them into the living room. Once they were seated, she looked at Omer again. “Whatever it is you have to say, just say it and leave. Seeing you here will only upset my Defne and I don’t want that.”
“Defne knows he’s back,” Iso said.
“So that’s why she’s been acting so distant lately. Why are you back? What do you want? Haven’t you hurt her enough?”
Omer’s troubled gaze filled with guilt as he moved to kneel in front of the older woman. Clutching her hands in his, he peered at her with genuine remorse on his face. “I’m sorry for what I did. I’m sorry for leaving her, the way I ended things. I was hurt, and angry, and I know that’s no excuse but I was irrational. I didn’t care. I should have realised the difficult position she was in, I should have talked to her, tried to understand why she made the decisions she did but I was in too much pain to do that. I was selfish. I thought if I erased her from my life, if I went somewhere without any remnants of her I could move on. I did many foolish things to forget that she was a part of my soul but I could never forget her. I love her, I love her so much. She’s a part of me. I made mistakes, I’m not perfect. I didn’t just let her down, I disappointed you too. You were all my family but I didn’t think about that when I chose to leave. I know that. Maybe I shouldn’t be here now, begging for forgiveness but I am. I am.” He kissed her hand. “Please, Aunt Turkan. Forgive me. I love her so much, and I know she still loves me too. I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to her and to all of you. Please, just give me another chance.”
Sinan realised that Omer’s words had an effect because Aunt Turkan’s features visibly softened.
“Look, Omer, it’s not up to me anymore. Defne is engaged. She’s marrying someone else.”
Omer vehemently shook his head. “She doesn’t love him. She’s only marrying him to punish me, but that’s a mistake. You know that, Aunt Turkan. Please tell me you realise that. She’s not happy with him. And he’s not a good guy. He’s using her for amusement because that’s what life is to him, a game. He doesn’t care about her, he doesn’t love her. Don’t let her ruin the rest of her life, please.” Using the back of his hand he swiped the tears from his face. “If she really doesn’t want to be with me, that’s fine. I can accept that. I want her to be happy, even if it doesn’t mean being with me. But please stop her from marrying Pamir. He’ll make her miserable.”
Sinan’s heart broke for Omer, and he wished there was something he could do to ease his brother’s pain. He leaned forward, hoping his words will further convince her. “Aunt Turkan, does Defne seem happy to you?”
The woman shook her head ‘no’. “No. She isn’t herself at all.”
The door slammed loudly, interrupting Sinan. They all turned to find Defne standing a few feet away. She stared at them blankly, her gaze quickly passing over Omer. “Please leave.”
“Iso, don’t,” she interjected. “Sinan, Omer. I don’t know why you’re here, but you have no right to disturb my grandmother. Please leave.”
“Omer, let’s go,” Sinan urged.
Reluctantly Omer stood up, reaching to kiss Aunt Turkan’s hand as a sign of respect. He strode towards Defne but she refused to look at him, instead keeping her eyes on the ground. “Don’t marry him. You don’t love him.”
His words seemed to bring her out of her lull. Sinan regarded the steely expression she shot at Omer. “This is my life, my choice. I’ll marry whomever I want.”
Before Omer lost his temper again Sinan gripped his elbow. “Omer, let’s go. Please.” Grudgingly Omer obliged, and they left Defne’s home. As their cars were parked in front of the store, they both walked in silence back to the spot. Every few seconds Sinan glanced over at Omer, who seemed to be caught in a daze. “I’ll drive you home.”
“Omer, don’t argue with me.”
“Give me your keys,” Iso said breathlessly, catching up to them from behind. “I’ll drive your car.”
“You don’t have to. I’m fine.”
“Don’t be an asshole,” Iso snapped back. “You’re not fit to drive.”
Omer nodded his head, accepting the decision.
It was after midnight when the doorbell rang. Pamir felt a wave of relief wash over him. Ever since he’d received the phone call from Defne two hours ago, he’d been expecting Omer to turn up. And now he suspected his cousin was finally here.
Tonight was the first time he and Defne had argued. She’d called him, demanding to know why he’d told Omer about their marriage plans and he’d answered her truthfully – that Omer needed to know. She’d hung up right away, angry with him.
As Omer pounded on the door, Pamir took his time in sauntering downstairs. When he finally swung the door open, he found his cousin on the other side – except it wasn’t the angry, volatile Omer he’d anticipated. Instead he found a disheveled, red-eyed Omer waiting for him. He’d never seen Omer so distraught, out of control even. It surprised him.
“Do you love her?” Omer asked, staring at him intently.
“Come in. I’ll pour us a drink.”
“I asked you a fucking question. Do you love her?”
Pamir decided to be honest. “I do, but I’m not in love with her.” He’d expected violence but even then he was taken aback by the hard punch that landed across his jaw, dropping him to the floor.
Defne rang Pamir’s doorbell, anxiously waiting for him to answer. When he finally opened the door, she gasped at the sight of him. He had a black eye, his lips were bruised. Concerned, she reached out to touch his face but he waved her hand away. “What happened?”
“Omer dropped by last night.”
Sidestepping past him, she walked inside, towards the fridge, and checked inside the freezer for an icepack. Enveloping it in a plastic bag, she approached Pamir who was now sitting on a bar stool. She placed the bag over his bruised lip, and he winced in response. “This is what I was worried about. Why did you have to tell him about us?”
Pamir shot her an irritated glance. “Because he had a right to know and since you wouldn’t tell him, I had to.”
“It’s none of his business.”
“Not telling him was cruel. How do you not realise that?”
She shifted the icepack over to another bruise on his face. “How badly was Omer hurt in the fight? I mean, I hope he didn’t have to go to the hospital or anything. I’m not sure Passions can withstand him taking a few days off.”
Pamir smirked. “I don’t think it’s Passionis you’re worried about.”
“Whatever. By the way, I think you should come by for dinner sometime this week. It’s time you met my family.”
Pamir averted his gaze from her, putting down the bag on the table. “Defne, we can’t do this.”
“We can’t get married.”
Irritated, she grabbed a paper towel and started wiping her hands from the wet residue of the melting icepack. “Why? This doesn’t change anything.”
“Defne, all this time you told me he doesn’t love you.”
“He doesn’t. His pride is bruised, that’s all-”
“Bullshit. I saw how he was last night. He was devastated, Defne. He would’ve never turned up at my door like that if he cared about his pride. He wouldn’t have begged me to put an end to this. I’ve never seen him like that, it was disturbing as hell!”
“He gave you a black eye,” she reminded him.
“I didn’t fight back. I thought I owed him that.”
“I don’t want to have anything to do with him.”
“That’s your decision, but I think it’s a stupid one. All I know is I can’t be a part of anything that hurts him.”
“So you’re dumping me?” she muttered in a resigned tone. “And here I thought we were friends.”
“We are. That’s why I’m doing this.”
“I’m really sick of people telling me they’re doing the right thing for me. I’m not a child, I can make my own decisions.”
“But you’re making a mistake. And I don’t want you to do something that you’ll regret.”
“Or what? I’ll have to live with the consequences of my mistakes?” she mocked. “I’ve been doing that as long as I can remember.”
“Don’t you think it’s time to put all that behind you?”
She gave him a bitter smile. “It’s funny how everyone keeps lecturing me about that. When others make mistakes I’m expected to forgive and forget. Be the better person. But I was never offered that chance when I messed up. I paid for it dearly. Why is that, you think? Was I not deserving of forgiveness?”
“Defne, what do you want? An eye for an eye? That’s not who you are.”
“Is there anything I can do to change your mind about marrying me?”
He regarded her silently for a long time. She wondered what he was thinking, if he was reconsidering his choices. After what felt like an eternity, he finally spoke. “Do you know why I came to Stil Vagon?”
She shook her head ‘no’.
“Because my aunt asked me to.”
Those words sent a chill down her spine. “Neriman asked you? Why?”
“Because she wanted me to get close to you.”
“Why? Why did she want that?”
“Because Mr. Hulusi willed all his inheritance to you.”
Shocked, she leaned back against the counter. “What are you talking about?”
“Nuru… she…” Pamir stood up, slowly pacing back and forth in front of her. “She was upset about his decision, so she came to me. Told me if I married you then at least the money would still be in the family.”
Once again everything in her life seemed to be spiraling out of control. Was this some kind of joke? Why did this woman keep targeting her? And why, why would even Pamir agree to it? “So that’s why you became my friend? That’s why you agreed to marry me?”
“At first, yes. But the more I got to know you, the more I liked you. If you irritated me, I wouldn’t have gone through with it at all. No amount of money is worth that.”
“Why would you even agree to something like that? You’re rich, you don’t need money.”
He gave her a bittersweet smile. “Remember my father’s mistress?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, he incurred a lot of debt in her name. He did things, stupid things, using her credit line, taking out loans to cover losses for our businesses. He provided for my mother but left his mistress thousands in debt. I wanted to help her, but it didn’t feel right to use my mother’s money to do that.”
“So you wanted to use me instead?”
“You were a stranger. I didn’t know you.”
“I don’t want the Iplikci money. I refuse to accept it.”
“I know.” He ran his fingers through his hair.
“Is that the real reason you don’t want to marry me anymore? Because there’s nothing in it for you?”
He gave her a pointed glance. “Omer and I may not be talking now but he is my cousin. He loves you, that’s plain as day, and I can’t hurt him like that. That’s why I can’t marry you.”
“Fine. Whatever,” she said dismissively, heading to the door. She was almost there when his voice called out to her from behind.
“No matter what you may think of my motivation, Defne, I do think of you as my closest friend. I know you’re pissed at me right now, so what I say probably doesn’t mean anything but I’m going to say it anyway. I care about you. I want you to be happy and I don’t think there’s anyone in this world that can make you as happy as Omer. He loves you in this crazy, insane, ridiculous way that I’ve never seen before. I didn’t even think it was possible. All that intensity scares the hell out of me but he isn’t afraid of it. Not even a little bit. Think about that.”
She left without saying anything, shutting the door behind her.
Defne walked by the lake, deep in thought about her current predicament. Once again, her world had turned upside-down, thanks to Omer. Even when he wasn’t a part of her life he managed to make a mess of things and she was left picking up the pieces. And then there was Neriman. All those pointed comments about money at Koray’s party finally made sense. The more she thought about it, the more furious she became until she was absolutely livid with rage. She thought she’d gotten over her anger about all the horrible things that woman did to her, but knowing that old witch had tried to manipulate and use her even after everything that happened – her state of calm dissipated. Determined, she hailed a cab and headed for Neriman’s place.
Soon after she was pounding on the door when Neriman finally answered her knocks. The older blonde gave her the once-over, a condescending expression on her face. “Why are you here?”
“You didn’t learn anything, did you?” Defne demanded. “After everything that happened, you still came after me again. What’s wrong with you? How can you be so evil? Don’t you have any conscience?”
“Girl, I’m busy. I don’t have time for your nonsense.” Neriman tried to shut the door but Defne was too quick, sidestepping past her to quickly enter the house. Defne stormed inside and towards Necmi, who stood up from the couch to greet her. He stopped in his tracks immediately after taking in Defne’s expression.
“Defne, my child, what’s wrong?” Necmi asked.
“What’s wrong is that your wife insists on ruining my life over and over again. Did you know she hired Pamir to marry me? She’s so desperate for money and power she used him to get to me.” Defne paused, peering at him. “Please tell me you weren’t a part of it, that you’re not as selfish as her.”
His gaze wavered back and forth between her and Neriman who charged over to stand next to him.
“Don’t listen to this crazy girl. She’s gone insane,” Neriman huffed.
“You did it, didn’t you?” Necmi asked, turning to his wife. “Why? Why would you do this again? After Omer kicked us out of his life, after all the suffering, you still tried to manipulate her? How could you?”
With Necmi’s back to her Defne couldn’t see his facial expression, but it was evident from Neriman’s face the woman was remorseful. Except Defne knew it was only temporary. Neriman’s conscience never weighed heavily enough to stop her from hurting others. “Mr. Hulusi decided to leave me his inheritance, and Neriman couldn’t stand that. So she went after Pamir and got him a job at Stil Vagon so he could grow close to me.” Defne shook her head in disgust, fixing her focus on the other woman. “After everything that happened, you still tried to play the same destructive stunt. It wasn’t enough, was it? You still came after me. I don’t know why I’m surprised. You’ve shown me repeatedly what a selfish, manipulative human being you are, and you’re never going to change.”
“Get out!” Neriman ordered.
“Not before I finish what I came to say.” Defne clenched her jaw. “Pamir needs money to pay off his father’s debts. I’m sure you already know that though, that’s why you exploited his situation. So here’s the deal. You give him the money he needs, all of it, within three days. If you don’t, Mr. Hulusi will find out exactly what you’ve been up to again.” Defne circled around and headed to the door, looking over her shoulder once again when she was almost outside. “Three days. That’s all I’m giving you.” Defne slammed the door behind her.
Next evening Defne was sitting outside Iso’s store, waiting for him to return from his date with Aysegul. Because of busybodies in the neighbourhood that liked to gossip about Aysegul’s current marital situation, Iso and her didn’t like to spend time in the neighbourhood. So every evening they drove out to the city to spend time together, something Defne learned about recently. It was nice to see Iso so happy. Defne felt grateful her best friend had finally seemed to find someone who loved and appreciated him as he deserved. Her reverie was broken when her cell phone went off with a message notification. She retrieved it from her pocket to find a text message from Pamir.
Why did Nuru deposit so much money into my account?
Seemed like the evil woman had given into Defne threats. She started texting Pamir back. Because I told her to. If she didn’t, I’d tell Mr. Hulusi everything she did.
You threatened her? Wow. That’s a first. Didn’t think you had it in you.
She’s an evil, destructive witch. She deserves much worse than what I’ve lashed out.
Thank you for helping me out. I know I don’t deserve it, but I’m grateful.
We’re friends. When I needed you, you were there for me.
Have you thought about what I said about Omer? You need to give him another chance. Advice from one friend to another.
Can’t talk. Have to go. See you later.
She slipped her phone back inside the pocket. Wringing her hands together, she pondered her next move. First she had to tell her family that she was no longer getting married, and then she had to figure out what to do next. The thought of getting away to London, and escaping the chaos in her life, seemed to grow more and more appealing. She’d even looked at her savings and figured out a way to pay for school.
All her life she’d been surrounded by friends and family, she never had to be alone or accomplish anything on her own. The thought of going to London was terrifying but a part of her wanted to do it for that reason alone. Maybe then she’d be strong, and not so prone to being hurt. Maye then she could make smart decisions and move past all the mistakes in her life.
Soon after, Iso returned and joined her on the steps. He handed her some sunflower seeds but they didn’t talk like they usually did, instead snacking in silence.
“How was your date?” Defne asked after a while.
“Good. Very good. She laughs a lot now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Before there was always fear in Aysegul’s eyes. I didn’t know that’s what it was of course, but more and more that look seems to be disappearing from her face. I think she’s starting to feel safe again.”
Defne smiled. “And I’m sure you have a lot to do with it. She’s lucky to have you.”
“No, I’m lucky to have her.” Iso munched on a few more seeds. “We just need that bastard to sign the divorce papers and she’ll finally be free of him.”
“Where is he?”
“Still don’t know. He’s gone into hiding.”
“He definitely is that.” Iso cleaned the crumbs from his clothes before continuing. “Are we not going to talk about what happened with you, Defne?”
She swallowed an audible breath, formulating what she was going to say. Should she tell Iso that Pamir broke their engagement off? Sooner or later she had to tell everyone the truth but a part of her wanted to avoid the conversation altogether.
“I never thought I’d see Omer so broken.”
“I don’t want to talk about him,” Defne said firmly. Since their last altercation she had done everything in her power to distance him from her thoughts. It had been a difficult task, but she’d managed not to dwell on the image of a humbled Omer begging for her grandmother’s forgiveness.
“You can’t marry this Pamir guy, you know that. You don’t even love him.”
“Iso, please don’t. I’m tired.”
“Tell me you don’t love Omer anymore and I’ll never bring him up again.”
She stood up. “Good night. See you tomorrow.”
“How long are you going to keep running?” Iso called after her.
She ignored him and headed home.
Few days later Defne and Iso were driving out of the city in a borrowed car, heading to a town a couple of hours away. Iso had heard Cevdet was hiding out there, and he’d asked Defne if she’d come with him to get the asshole to sign the divorce documents. Defne knew Iso was worried he wouldn’t be able to contain his own temper when he came face-to-face with the jerk so she’d readily agreed.
“How much longer you think?” she murmured, leaning her head on the passenger window. Although the drive was scenic, she’d been up late last night completing the application form for the business program in London and now she was fighting to stay awake.
“Still a while to go. We’re going to spend the night at Aysegul’s aunt’s house tonight and then head into town tomorrow morning.”
“Hmm…hmm…” She yawned. “I’m sorry I’m so sleepy.”
“It’s alright. My ears are still bleeding from Nihan’s gossiping this morning anyway. I could do with some silence.”
Defne smiled. She closed her eyes, telling herself she was only going to rest them for a moment.
When she opened her eyes next it was dusk outside. They were driving up a dirt road which led to a house at the end of it. It was small but beautiful, with lush green trees peeking out from behind.
“Where are we?”
“Aysegul’s aunt’s house.” Iso pulled the car to a stop, reaching for a set of keys from his pocket. “Here.” He handed them to her. “Why don’t you go inside the house and I’ll bring our things in?”
“You said the house is empty. Why?”
“Her aunt went for a holiday. Aysegul said we could stay here for the night.”
Defne unbuckled her belt. “Why didn’t you ask Aysegul to come with you?”
Iso paused. “I did, but I think she’s afraid of seeing Cevdet again. And I didn’t want her to feel pressured about, you know…”
Defne nodded her head, understanding the truth behind his words. Aysegul may not have been ready to spend the night alone with Iso yet.
“Okay, so inside. Turn on the lights and stuff. I’ll bring the bags in.”
Defne slid out of the car, surveying her surroundings. The gardens were gorgeous, filled with bright, cheery flowers that made her smile, but it was the red door that caught her attention. Her heart pulsed, remembering Omer’s house from before. Their conversation from months ago about the red door came flooding back. It hurt to think about that time. It felt like a lifetime ago, when she’d wrongly believed they’d gotten through all their troubles and had looked forward to building a life with him again. Anyway, none of that mattered now. It was in the past. She gave herself a mental shake and approached the house.
The inside was cozy, filled with a warm, embracing atmosphere she really loved. There were fresh flowers in the kitchen table, and she realised someone must have been looking after the home while Aysegul’s aunt was away. The living room had a comfortable-looking couch against the wall while the rest of the rooms were located near the back. The biggest surprise, however, was the huge backyard, so big there was even a small pond. She could imagine lying on the grass at night, staring up at the sky and counting stars for hours on end.
“It’s beautiful,” Defne said once Iso came inside.
“It really is.”
“Where’s your stuff?” she asked, noting he’d only brought her overnight bag in.
“I’ll bring it in after. I’m going to get some gas for the car. Think you’ll be okay in here by yourself?”
She smiled. “I’ll be fine.”
“Maybe you can make us a snack or something? The fridge should be stocked up.”
“Alright. Let me freshen up first.”
Iso left, and she made her way towards the smaller bedroom in the back. After a quick shower to waken herself up she moved to the kitchen, deciding on what to prepare for dinner. Soon, she heard the main door close. “I’m in here,” she called out, looking through the drawers in the fridge. “There’s a lot of food in here but I don’t know what to make. What are you in the mood for? Soup? Rice? Maybe omelettes?”
“How about some pasta? It would go well with the red wine.”
The hair stood up on the back of her neck upon hearing his voice. Omer’s voice. She stood up and turned around, her heart pounding in her chest. He was leaning against the entrance to the kitchen, his beard thicker than the last time she saw him. He was holding a bottle of red wine which he placed on the counter next to him.
It took her a few seconds to recover from the initial shock of seeing him, and she was careful to keep her calm composure when she spoke next. “What are you doing here?”
“Iso thought you and I should spend some alone time together.”
“He did, did he?” She walked over to the table where her phone was and picked it up. Turning her back to Omer, she called Iso. Her best friend picked up immediately.
“I know you’re mad-”
“Why did you do this, Iso? Don’t you know how wrong this is? I’m engaged to someone else, remember? How could you leave me here stranded with him?” she demanded.
“Give it a few days with Omer. If you’re still keen on marrying Pamir after that, I won’t object.”
“It’s my life. Whether you object or not doesn’t really matter, does it?” Upset with herself and him, she turned off her phone. Taking a deep breath, she braced herself for the inevitable argument. Except Omer was casually munching on an apple while pulling out vegetables from the fridge. “What are you doing?” she asked, flustered by his nonchalant demeanor.
“Making dinner.” He seemed to be familiar with the kitchen as he pulled out a few spice jars from the cabinet. “How about you make the salad? Knife’s in the drawer beside you.”
She didn’t know what to do. He was behaving so calmly and she didn’t know how to act around him. “Why are you here?”
“Because it was high time we talked, just you and me.” He uncorked the bottle of wine and started pouring two glasses.
“I’m not interested in anything you have to say.”
“Fine. Then you can do the talking.”
“I’ve already said everything I have to say.”
Holding one of the glasses he approached her with a casual gait, and she felt her stomach tighten with anxiety. She couldn’t do this, she couldn’t be alone with him, not for hours let alone few days. She wanted that oblivion back, that feeling of being disconnected from him entirely. “I’m leaving,” she declared, circling around the table so as not to cross paths with him.
“There’s nowhere to go, Defne. We’re miles away from the nearest town and no cabs come this far,” he said, apparently unfazed by her reluctance. “A week, that’s all I’m asking for. After that if you still don’t want to have anything to do with me, I’ll leave you alone. I’ll never bother you again.”
“I don’t need a week to make up my mind. I already know I want to marry Pamir.”
His jaw clenched, and she wondered if he was going to lose his temper now. But he seemed to relax in front of her within seconds, even surprising her with a smile on is face. “Well then, seven days with me isn’t going to be a big deal.”
“And how am I supposed to explain this to Pamir?”
He shrugged his shoulders, took a sip of his wine. “Easily, if nothing happens between us.” He leaned back on the counter, winking at her. “Or are you hoping something will happen?”
“Nothing will happen,” she insisted, refusing to fall for his charms.
“In that case you have nothing to worry about.”
She blurted out the next thing that came to her. “I don’t have enough clothes for a week.”
“You don’t need to worry about that. Nihan packed some extra things for you. It’s in my car.”
She glared at him. “She was in on it too?”
“Not just her. Your grandmother knows too.”
Anger surged through her. “So you guys all went behind my back to plot this, huh? Because you can’t seem to accept the choices that I made? Go to hell!” She charged out of the kitchen and headed to the room she’d left her things in. Once inside, she slammed the door shut behind her. What the hell was happening? Why did her family turn on her? Couldn’t they see she was struggling to survive and being here with Omer was only going to make things more difficult? Frustrated, she pulled out her phone to call Pamir. He picked up on the second ring. There was loud music blaring in the background and she guessed he must have been at a party or something. “Pamir?”
“Defne? Wait a few seconds. Let me just… quiet.”
Finally the music dimmed and she guessed he was somewhere outside. “Pamir, I need your help.”
“Can you come get me? I’m stuck here in the middle of nowhere!”
“Where are you?”
“I don’t even… oh wait, I can check the GPS on my phone and send you a screenshot.”
“How did you get there?”
“It’s a long story. I just… I’m here with Omer and we’re alone in this house-”
“Omer’s there with you? So you’re not alone? You’re not in trouble.”
“Pamir, I don’t want to be here with him. Will you please come get me?”
He chuckled. “Sorry, my dear ex-fiancé, but that’s not going to happen. Why don’t you hang up the phone and go talk to Omer? Better yet, indulge in some make-up sex.”
“Pamir? Pamir?” she yelled into the phone but to no avail. He had already hung up. Furious, she flung her phone at the wall and it fell to the floor with a loud thud.
Defne tried to ignore the knocking on the door but that proved to be an impossible task. Reluctantly she got out of bed and approached the door, swinging it open. Omer stood on the other side, a charming smile firmly in place. “Come on, let’s have dinner.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You can eat and still be mad at me. No point in starving yourself.”
On cue her stomach grumbled, and her cheeks flushed a bright red.
“I made your favourite,” he said, turning around to walk back to the kitchen. She followed him grudgingly. Upon seeing the pasta dish he’d prepared, her mouth watered. If he wasn’t here she would’ve wolfed the food down but he seemed to know that, so she feigned disinterest, not wanting to give him any further satisfaction.
The table was set beautifully, with them seated next to each other. He pulled the chair back for her but she refused to oblige, instead reaching for her plate and moving it to a position farthest from him. He only smiled, which irritated her more. She served herself and ate in silence, hoping her rudeness would keep him at bay. Unfortunately he seemed to be in a mood to talk despite her unwillingness to participate.
“The new building is almost ready. We’ll be housing production there too. Sinan thinks if we maximise our resources we can get up twenty-five percent more output but that’ll take time. We’ll have to invest in new equipment and so on-”
“Why are you telling me this?” Defne asked, staring at him.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not part of Passionis anymore so you shouldn’t be telling me about your business strategy.”
“But you are a part of my life, the most important part, and I haven’t talked to you in weeks. I miss you.”
The earnestness in his tone gave her pause. She locked eyes with him, caught in the magnetic spell he had over her. His brown eyes were liquid velvet, drawing her in, and she felt that hollowness in her soul start to dissipate. The yearning for him returned. Realising how dangerously close she was to losing control, Defne forced herself to snap out of it and she stood up. Grabbing her empty plate, she headed to the sink and started washing it.
“Defne, just leave it. I’ll do the dishes later.”
“No, it’s fine,” she insisted, scrubbing as hard as she could.
Suddenly he was standing beside her, then reaching over her to turn off the sink, and she felt her insides tremble at his unexpected proximity. She leapt to the side, putting distance between them.
“It’s okay,” he reassured, displaying a lazy, languid smile. “Calm down. I’m not going to do anything.”
“Good,” she fired back, glaring at him. “The only reason I’m still here is because I have no other choice. You made it impossible for me to leave. That doesn’t mean I have to pretend to like it.”
The smile on his face grew more flirtatious, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “You blush so beautifully when you’re excited.”
“Oh, go to hell!” she yelped, agitated at his affable state. Turning around, she stormed out of the kitchen and back into her room. Turning off the light, she slipped into bed.
The next day Defne stood outside in the backyard, watching Omer as he hammered nails into the wooden rafters. It was after noon and he’d been working on putting together a gazebo for the past hour and a half. The site he chose was the perfect spot, overlooking the pond, and she could already tell it was going to be a beautiful structure if the diagrams were anything to go by. How did she not know he could build things? Or maybe he couldn’t, and the final product would end up looking like crap. The thought made her scoff though. Omer was great at everything he attempted. There was no way the gazebo wouldn’t be perfect. Of course all thoughts of construction went flying out of her head when he removed his t-shirt. Clad only in jeans, he was hunched over a piece of wood and hammering nails into place, his muscular arms in a state of constant movement. All of a sudden he looked up, catching her gaze. She found herself breathless.
She averted her eyes quickly.
“Defne, can you get me something to drink? Please.”
She headed inside to prepare a pitcher of lemonade. Returning several minutes later with the tray, she handed him a full glass which he sat up to take. He flashed a grateful smile, making her heart soar in the process. She quickly withdrew her hand, refusing to make physical contact. Sweat glistened across his upper body, drawing attention to the tight muscles under his skin which she tried desperately not to notice. She tried her absolute best. But to no avail. “Why are you even building this?” she asked, hoping conversation would serve as the distraction she needed.
“Because I’ve always wanted a gazebo.”
Something clicked just then. She had assumed they were staying at Aysegul’s aunt’s place but with Omer being so familiar with the house it only made sense this was his summer home. She felt like an idiot for not realising it earlier. “Why did you buy a new home? What happened to your mom’s place?”
“It’s still there, but I thought it would be nice to get something in this part of the country.” He wiped his forehead with his arm. “It’s beautiful, don’t you think?”
“We’ll have dinner outside tonight. When the sky’s clear, you can see millions of stars out here.”
Seeing through his attempts to cajole her, she was angered. “Why are you doing this, Omer? What’s the point? Why force me to stay here when you know I don’t want to?”
He ignored her and finished the lemonade. Once the glass was empty, he put it aside and returned his attention to the wooden rafter. He held it up, gripping it tightly. “Here. Hold this while I screw in the bolts.”
“Did you hear what I said?”
“I did, and we’ll talk about all that at dinner tonight. I promise. For now though, I just want to get this done and I need your help. So will you hold this?”
Reluctantly she set the tray down on the ground and did as he asked.
Over the next few hours they worked together, sometimes in silence, other times with Omer leading the conversation. As hard as she tried not to, she couldn’t help but enjoy his company. With everyone else he may have projected a strong, silent image but with her he’d always been communicative, open, even talkative. They made each other laugh often and that still held true.
By the time they were done for the day, only about a quarter of the work was done. She was exhausted and in desperate need of a shower after being out in the sweltering sun for hours.
“Go inside,” Omer said as he started cleaning up.
“You should too.”
“We have leftover pasta from last night. You okay with that for dinner?”
She nodded ‘yes’. “It was delicious.”
“Oh, really? You didn’t say anything last night.”
“Okay, well, I’m complimenting you now.”
Mischief danced in his eyes. “There’s many ways to express your appreciation to the chef.” He took a step closer. “Like, you could give him a kiss.”
Her feet faltered, she tried to reign her heart under control. “Don’t push your luck.”
Grinning, he winked.
She turned around and rushed inside.
Later that night they were sitting outside, eating dinner. Omer was talking, trying to engage her in casual conversation but Defne remained quiet. It bothered her how easily she had slipped into domestic bliss with him. One afternoon together and she was ready to jump right back into danger without any thought to her self-preservation. Stupid, stupid Defne.
As if sensing her distant mood, his index finger grazed along her hand to capture her attention. Immediately she snapped back to reality, withdrawing her hand from his.
“Are you tired? Should we make it an early night?” he asked.
“You said we were going to talk at dinner. So, let’s talk. Why am I here? What’s the point of all this?”
He exhaled a heavy sigh, leaning back in his chair. “I wanted to remind you how good we are together.”
“But we’re not.”
“How can you say that? What you and I have is amazing, it’s special. Some people never experience love like that but we were lucky enough to find it with each other.”
“Okay, fine. We had fun playing couples for an afternoon but that wasn’t reality. Things are only good between us for a brief time. Then, everything goes to hell. Aren’t you tired of that?” Her voice grew thick. “Don’t you want a life free of pain? Because I do, Omer.”
“But life is pain. It’s also full of pleasure, and love, and laughter, and a million other things. You can’t just shut yourself off to all emotions because you’re afraid of being hurt. If you did that, you might as well be dead.”
“I’m not strong like you. When you get hurt, you get over it and move on. You’re as tough as steel, but I’m not like that. When my heart gets broken I lose myself a little more every time. One day there’ll be nothing left of me, I’ll be torn into pieces. What then?” She swiped the tears from her face, shaking her head vehemently. “I can’t risk that. I won’t.”
Agitated, he stood up, and started pacing. With his back turned to her, she assumed he was angry but it wasn’t rage etched onto his face when he turned around, it was despair. His eyes brimmed with unshed tears. “How do you still not realise what you mean to me? You think I’m strong without you? That I just move on? Everyone else can think I have no feelings but how can you? I opened myself up to you. I let you in. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone else in this world.”
“You got over me pretty quickly when you fell for Fikret,” she pointed out.
A bitter laugh escaped his throat. “I didn’t fall for her. She was convenient when I was lonely, but all it did was make me realise how hollow and meaningless my life was without you. I didn’t think it was possible but I fell more in love with you then.”
“Omer, please don’t. Just accept that we’re over. It’ll easier for the both of us.”
“Easier?” he winced. “I can’t breathe without you. My insides, they…” His hand rubbed over the spot where his heart resided. “You keep saying I’m fine without you. Do you know what it’s like when you’re not there? My life’s an abyss. There’s no light, no hope, it’s just endless pain. At least you had your family and Iso to turn to. All I had was alcohol, and drugs, and yeah, women. But none of that worked. Nothing matters if you’re not a part of my life.” He knelt in front of her, gripping her hands in his. “I know I hurt you. I wish I could take it back but I can’t. All I’m asking for is a chance, just one chance, to fix things, to earn your trust back.”
“Every time we’ve tried to make it work, it’s ended in disaster-”
“Because there’s always been secrets between us! Of course things didn’t work out when we couldn’t be completely honest. But now we can.” He cradled her face, wiping her tears with his thumbs. “You’ve always accused me of being proud but I’m not. Not when it comes to you. I don’t care what I have to do, how much I have to beg. I don’t care that you agreed to marry Pamir. None of that matters to me as long as we’re together.”
“I wish I could trust that but I… don’t. Every time I’ve done something wrong, you’ve left, and I’ve had to pick up the pieces and start all over again.”
“Is that why you won’t forgive me?” He moved closer, resting his head on her chest. “Please, Defne. Stop punishing me. I know I made mistakes, that I’m asking a lot from you, but what we have is worth fighting for.”
The top of her blouse was wet with tears, and it took her a second to realize Omer was crying silently. Her heart ached. He was usually so proud, and strong, but now he was breaking down in her arms and she couldn’t stop herself from wrapping her arms around his shoulders to comfort him.
“We deserve another chance together,” he insisted.
“It’s not that easy,” she confessed. “Don’t you wish I could forget everything? But I’m scared. I’m not saying this to hurt you but I don’t feel emotionally safe with you. It takes time to rebuild trust. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
He pulled back to look at her, peering closely. “I’ll wait as long as I have to.”
“But you’re impatient. When I don’t do things your way you get angry-”
“I won’t. I promise. We’ll take things slow, you can have all the time you need.”
The glint in his eyes were both a reflection of his desperation and hopefulness and somehow, someway, her heart started swaying towards the idea of them being together again. Was it possible? Could they really start all over again after everything that happened?
“Do you love me, Defne?”
There was no point in denying the truth. “Yes. I can’t stop even though I want to.”
He stood up and pulled her to her feet, encircling in her arms. “I hope you never stop because I can’t love anyone but you. You’re inside every part of me, you’re my other half, and nothing will change that.” He cupped her face in his hands, his soulful brown eyes boring into hers. “It’s been a long day, and I know you’re tired.”
Surprised by the abrupt change in topic, she blinked. “You don’t want to talk anymore?”
He smiled, caressing her hair gently. “You asked me for time, and I’m going to respect that. Besides, you’re exhausted. And we have this whole week to talk things out.”
“I’ll help you clean up.”
“You can help me tomorrow with the gazebo. There’s lots to do so you should get some rest tonight.” He dropped a tender kiss on her forehead. “Think about what I said, okay? About giving us another chance?”
A sad smile crossed her face. “Things would be easier if we were different people. We could start new without any baggage.”
“Maybe we can.”
“What do you mean?
He gifted her with a mischievous smile. “You’ll find out tomorrow.” He pulled away. “Okay. Go, get some sleep. I’ll clean up here.”
Later that night she was lying in bed, tossing and turning. Her heart refused to slow down, her stomach still coiled into knots. A small bud of hope had blossomed deep in her soul and no amount of dire warning was going to make it wither. Could she really throw caution to the wind and start anew with Omer? Was she even foolish to consider the idea? They had disappointed each other, hurt one another so many times – why did she think this time would be different? Because he’s changed. Her inner voice had shifted loyalties, now it was following her heart rather than her head.
Okay, fine. A part of her had finally come around to realise that he didn’t love Fikret, nor did he think of Fikret as the one who got away. But the nagging doubt Defne had didn’t stem from his feelings for other women – it all boiled down to if she could trust him to stick around. If she made a mistake, would he stand by her and work through their issues together or would he give into his anger and abandon her like he always had? That was the thought entrenched in her brain.
After mulling on it for another hour, she finally fell asleep.
The sky was grey and filled with heavy clouds the next morning. Thunder struck outside, heavy rain pelted against the windows. To Defne it seemed to be an omen, adding to her misgivings about reconciling with Omer. After brushing her teeth and a quick shower, she headed to the kitchen and found Omer whistling to himself while he prepared breakfast. Unencumbered by the bad weather, he appeared to be in a great mood.
“Looks like we can’t work on the gazebo today.”
He turned around, flashing a beautiful smile. Her pulse quickened in response. Would her body always react like that to him?
“Oh, I didn’t know there were other guests staying here as well.” He wiped his hands on a towel before reaching out to shake her hand. “Hi, I’m Omer.”
She stared at him, confused. “What’s going on?”
“You wanted to start new. So that’s what we’re doing today. We’re two strangers staying in a bed and breakfast together.”
“Really?” She smiled at the silliness of it.
He wiggled his fingers. “Don’t leave me hanging here. Introduce yourself.”
She took his extended hand and shook it. “Hi, I’m Defne.”
“Very nice to meet you, Defne. Have you stayed at this resort before?”
“Yes, I come here every year. It’s my favourite place to vacation.”
Omer grinned. “I was just making myself some breakfast. I’m happy to make you something.”
“What would you like?”
“Whatever you’re having is fine. And I can make the coffee.”
“Oh, I don’t like coffee.”
She laughed. Apparently he really did want to pretend to be someone else. “So tea it is then.”
“So tell me about yourself, Defne. What do you do?”
She joined him by the counter and started cutting up vegetables. “I run my own logistics business.”
“Yeah. I started last year. We’ve been expanding slowly, and right now I only have a few clients, but it’s been going really well.”
“Did you always want to run your own business?”
“Not at first.”
“What made you change your mind?”
“I wanted the freedom to make my own decisions. I’ve never had that before.”
“I didn’t realise that was important to you,” he said, breaking character.
“How could you? We don’t know each other, remember?”
He gave her a smile, a strange glint lingering in his eyes. “Well, you definitely sound more ambitious than me.”
“Oh, really? What is it that you do?”
“I travel all over the world.”
She chuckled. “That’s a nice job.”
“It’s my life’s calling. I like to visit exotic places, meet new people.”
“You must be doing really well to afford all that.”
“Nope. I just work odd jobs until I can pay for my next trip. I could never have a regular career. That kind of responsibility doesn’t appeal to me.”
She grinned. He really was choosing a persona that was the complete opposite of him.
“It’s not like I stay in luxury resorts or anything. I backpack my way through all the places. It’s the perfect way to really get to know the locals.”
“You seem like quite the social butterfly,” Defne remarked.
“Yup, that’s me. A social butterfly.”
She laughed heartily, amused by the idea.
They spent the next little while talking about their new personas. They laughed over breakfast, while they did the dishes, over many rounds of different board games. Throughout the entire time it rained heavily but they seemed oblivious to the weather.
In high spirits, they enjoyed each other’s company over several bottles of wine. Defne felt easy and more relaxed than she had in a long time, and she wondered if it was because of Omer or the wine.
“Here,” Omer said, handing her a plate of food. “Eat this.” He sat down next to her on the floor, stretching his legs out.
She pouted. “I thought you were going to get more wine, not food.”
“As much as I love a drunk Defne, I’d rather you not get sick.”
His gaze roved over her face, those dark, soulful eyes of his that made her heart explode in her chest and her body feel boneless. She could stare at him for hours, longingly admiring every inch of him. And there was his little half-smile, setting every nerve in her body tingling with delight.
His eyebrows furrowed with curiosity. “Why are you staring at me like that?”
“Because you’re beautiful.”
A shy smile graced his lips. “Is that so?”
“Oh, come on. You already know that.”
“It’s different when the woman you love thinks you’re the most beautiful person in the world.”
“I didn’t say you were the most beautiful.”
“Oh, really?” He pulled her close, nuzzling her nose. “So there’s someone else more beautiful than me?” he teased, tickling her.
She started laughing, trying to block his moves.
They rolled around on the floor, playfully fighting for control. Eventually Defne won, although she suspected he let her. Out of breath, she sat astride him but the laughter died on her lips when she caught the stark desire on his face. Instinctively she tightened her grip on him. He was watching her with an intensity that made her already flushed cheeks even more heated. All of her senses were on overdrive, blood rushing to the core of her.
“I love you,” he said, full of certainty, without any doubt.
“You can’t love me. You just met me. We’re strangers, remember?”
“I’m going to love you till the day I die. Maybe even beyond that.”
Her heart was so full of emotions, it was ready to burst. How could she think when he was looking at her like that? All of a sudden he rolled over, pinning her underneath him. Then he shifted off her body, as if realising his weight was heavy atop hers. Balanced on his elbow next to her, he played with her hair. “You think I’m going to let you get away without answering?” He smiled. “So who’s the most beautiful, huh?”
Giddy with joy, she giggled. “You know, I used to have the biggest crush on Sinan when I started at Passionis.”
Omer reacted with exaggerated shock. “What?”
She stared up at Omer, fingers tracing over his features. “He was so handsome and charming when he used to come into Manu. And he was very nice, down-to-earth when I started working at Passionis.”
It was strange to think back at those earlier moments. She was such a different person back then, as was he. “I’d never met anyone like you before. You were always so serious, intense. You used to terrify me back then.”
“But you’re not scared anymore?”
She peered at him. “No. I am, in a different way.”
A brief bout of silence ensued, but then he smiled. “Do you still think I’m not fun?”
“Hey, I never said that.” She reached up to run her fingers through his hair. “Only very few people know how wonderful you are beneath that hard exterior. You don’t reveal your true self, so when you do it feels like… we’re lucky. We’re privileged.”
He kissed her fingers. “You know me better than anyone else.”
She nodded, knowing it was the truth.
“I was a zombie before I met you,” he continued. “I was alive, but not really. Just going through the motions in life. You showed me this world is a good place, that I could believe in people again. You made me believe in love. You reminded me what it was like to laugh.” He kissed her cheek, first left then the right, his soft, warm breath humming against her skin. Feeling cherished, her insides turned into a puddle of liquid. “And don’t think for a second I didn’t know about your crush on Sinan. I used to be so jealous of the two of you always flirting with each other.”
“What?” she asked. “I never flirted with Sinan.”
“Oh, please,” Omer guffawed. “It used to drive me insane. I still remember my miserable birthday party on the yacht. I went downstairs and saw you guys cuddling and that messed me up for days.”
“He was comforting me because I was upset! Neriman had said some horrible things to me that morning.”
Omer stiffened. “What did she say?”
Defne shrugged. “The usual. The only reason you’d be interested in me is because of all the changes she forced me to make. If it wasn’t for her, you’d never look twice at me.”
He sat up abruptly. “She said that to you? Fuck her! Fuck. Her.” Omer’s eyes brimmed with uncertainty when he turned to her. “You know that’s not true, don’t you? I fell in love with you. Your goodness, your kind heart, all the crazy things that make you so different and amazing. She tried to set me up with so many women and they were all the same. They were like her, superficial, materialistic, always obsessed with money and status. That’s not who I want, Defne. I want you. I love you.”
“Come here,” she said, pulling him towards her. He lay beside her again, his head resting in the crook of her neck while she held him tight.
“You’re the strongest person I know, Defne.”
She stared up at the ceiling. “That’s not true. I’m always scared.”
“But that’s what makes you so incredible. Despite your fear, you keep fighting. You don’t give up. I think about all those months when you had to keep your secret. Everything you must have gone through, with my aunt, Sude, and everyone else pressuring you. And I know I made things difficult for you too, but you didn’t give up on us. On me. That’s who you are, Defne.”
Her heart squeezed with a dull ache when she thought about all that pain. He may have thought of her as strong but she didn’t want to go through anything like that again. “I’m tired, Omer. I’m tired of fighting.”
Perched above, his fingers gently smoothed across her features. “I know. So let me be the one to fight for us now and you rest.” He dropped a tender kiss on her eyelids, his touch hesitant but loving. She breathed in his scent, yearning for him. It had been so long since they made love and she missed him. Cradling his face, she closed her mouth over his. At first sweet, even chaste, the kiss soon turned heated, heated with longing and desperation to posses each other. Her fingers pulled at his sweater, his hands quickly removing her top.
His lips traced along the column of her neck, nipping her skin, biting her sweetly. She arched against him, wrapping her legs around the back of his thighs.
Her moans echoed throughout the room, clawing at his back. “Omer, please.” There was no time for foreplay, no need for it. She was ready, aching for the sensation of him inside her.
He moved with fierce determination and she loved him for it. Latching onto him, she bit his shoulder as he thrust into her. Bodies intertwined, hands twisted up in each other, Defne clung to him as his movements sped up.
The world exploded into colourful star lights, thunder rolling in the distance when her orgasm hit.
And that was only the first time.
Later that night they were lying in bed, Defne still wide awake while Omer slept beside her. Well, he wasn’t next to her as much as he was all over her but she didn’t mind, absent-mindedly stroking his wet hair while her concentration remained fixated on the ceiling. The rain had died down hours earlier, sunlight bursting through the grey clouds and they had spent a few hours outside, first working on the gazebo and then stargazing. At the end of the night they had showered together before finally falling into bed.
It was one of the most wonderful days they had spent together. However, now that she was alone with her thoughts and no distractions, her old insecurities came rushing back. As much as he loved her, and she believed he truly did, she still couldn’t be sure he’d stick around if something went wrong. When he was angry and hurt, Omer was irrational. He didn’t listen to reason. Would he have the patience to work through their problems or would he leave like he always did? The night of their wedding was still fresh in her mind, and the morning after had scarred her permanently. She had waited for hours for him to return, convinced he’d be back to give her a chance to explain. But he never had, instead sending his solicitor. What if that part of him hadn’t changed?
And then a terrible idea struck.
Over the next hour she mulled over the horrible lie, wondering if she could really do it. If Iso knew what she was considering, he’d call her crazy. And maybe she really was, but it didn’t matter. She needed to know if Omer would stick by her even if she made a mistake.
Defne entered the kitchen, determined to go through with her plan despite the nauseous feeling in her stomach. The moment she spotted Omer her resolve weakened. He got up from his chair and greeted her with a warm kiss and beautiful smile, hugging her.
“I thought we could go into town after breakfast,” he said, pouring a cup of hot tea for her. “Are you up for that?”
“We need to talk about something, Omer.”
Seeing her troubled expression, he immediately sat across from her and took her hand in his own. “Okay, let’s talk. What’s wrong, sweetheart? If you think we’re rushing into things, I can slow down. Whatever you want, I’ll do.”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I have to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“When I found out about you and Fikret, I was really upset. I was… devastated.”
“I know. I’m sorry-”
“I went away with Pamir for a few days to get away from you, from everything.”
Omer’s jaw clenched. “I remember.”
“I did something stupid, Omer.”
“I know. You got engaged to him.”
She shook her head ‘no’. “That’s not what I’m talking about.”
He released her hand and pulled away, sitting back in his chair. His face was covered in a blank expression except for his eyes which regarded her suspiciously. “Just spit it out, Defne. What did you do?”
That dreadful feeling coiled tighter in her stomach. Could she really hurt him like this? But then she remembered her reasons for going through with this charade and realised it was the only thing that could give her some reassurance. “I slept with Pamir.”
Defne remained seated in the kitchen while Omer, caught in a spiral of madness and anger, turned the next room upside-down. The way he’d looked at her after she’d confessed her lie – it was etched into her brain. Somehow, there was even more hatred on his face this morning than the day of their wedding. But one thing had remained the same. He hadn’t asked for an explanation, he hadn’t tried to understand her reasons. He’d simply stood up and stormed away.
For a long time she sat by herself, tears running down her cheeks. She could hear him screaming, punching walls, crying and cussing in the living room. Several times she contemplated telling him it had been a lie, but then she reminded herself why she’d done it in the first place – to find out if he’d dump her if she messed up again. Now she had her answer.
Eventually her tears dried up. There was no point in crying. It was better that she knew the truth sooner rather than later.
When the main door slammed shut, she realised Omer had left. After several minutes of solitude, she got up and headed to the living room. The place was completely destroyed. The furniture items had been flipped over, there were holes in the wall, shards of broken glass on the floor. Taking a deep breath, she started cleaning up.
After several hours, the room was somewhat presentable. Omer still hadn’t returned. Tired, she went to take a shower. Lying in bed later that night, she finally heard the car pull up. The door shut with a loud thud. Hesitant but determined, she slipped out of bed and headed to the living room to find him sitting by the door, staring into space. His eyes met hers momentarily before his gaze turned away from her. Evidently, he couldn’t even bear to look at her.
“I’ll pack my things. I’d like to leave tomorrow morning,” she said calmly.
He didn’t argue.
She returned to her room, and went back to bed.
Omer was livid. He felt angry, betrayed, but more than anything, he was hurt. Intense agony had penetrated into every pore in his body and the wound seemed to magnify with every second. How could Defne do that to him? How could she ruin everything they shared? She fucked Pamir! She fucked his goddamn cousin! After everything they meant to each other, she had thrown it all away for a cheap tryst.
He turned to look at her. She was sitting on the passenger seat, staring out the side window. They hadn’t spoken a word to each other since leaving the cottage this morning. Even then, their verbal exchanges had been short and curt.
A part of him wanted to lash out at her, to shake her and demand to know why she’d done it. But more than anything it was her silence that bothered him. Why wasn’t she talking? Why wasn’t she offering apologies, explaining herself? She was acting like she’d done nothing wrong and it was pissing him off even further.
The more they drove, the more the tension grew. The anger festered inside him, growing worse in the hostility that had permeated every inch of the car. Finally, he couldn’t hold it in any longer. He pulled over to the side, braking sharply.
She finally looked at him, her face covered in a blank expression.
“How the fuck could you do it?” His voice sounded vicious even to his own ears, but he didn’t care. “Didn’t you think about us at all? What that would do to us? Or you didn’t care?”
“I made a mistake.” She sounded like she was reciting the goddamn newspaper instead of earnestly defending herself.
“So what am I supposed to do now? Just forget it ever happened? Act like the thought of you and him doesn’t make me sick to my stomach? Every time I look at you I see his fucking hands on you. I see him kissing you-”
“And it hurts. I know. I had the same images of you and Fikret in my head when I found out about you two.”
“Oh, so this was revenge? You slept with him to hurt me? So that’s who you are now? That’s the kind of person you’ve become?” She tried to avert her gaze but his fingers curved around her elbow, refusing to let her go. “How was it? Did you like it? Did you like him touching you, kissing you? Did you think about me at all or were you so wrapped up in him that I didn’t even cross your mind?”
Her eyes were hollow, her face apathetic. “Start the car. Drive. Once you drop me off at home, you’ll never have to see me again. We can forget about each other and move on.”
“It’s that simple for you, huh? You can just move on to the next person like I’m nothing, like I meant nothing to you. But it’s not that easy for me.”
Finally there seemed to be life in her gaze again, even if it was scorn. “Don’t worry. It will be. I’m the one who messed up, I’m the one who betrayed you. So you can move on with your life with a clear conscience.”
“Was it worth it? Was fucking him worth ruining our relationship? Was revenge that important to you?”
She seemed distant again, robotic. “Nothing I say will ease your pain. So there’s no point in discussing this any further. The sooner I get home, the sooner I’ll be out of your life. So start driving.” Turning away, she stared out the window again.
Omer didn’t know what to do. He wanted her to fight back, to argue, to defend herself, but she seemed lost to him and somehow, someway, it felt even worse than finding out about her and Pamir. How was that possible? What the hell was wrong with him? He hit the steering wheel hard to alleviate his frustrations; she didn’t even flinch. Agitated, he turned on the engine again.
After a couple more hours of driving, Omer stopped at a roadside restaurant. While he was too pissed off to eat, Defne was probably starving. He doubted she’d eaten anything last night and this morning they had left at the crack of dawn with no time for breakfast.
“Why are we stopping?” she asked.
It was the only words she’d spoken in the last few hours.
“Because I need a break,” he snapped.
He left the car, giving her time to grab something to eat, and decided to take a short walk to clear his head. When he returned she was sitting outside, a short distance away from the parking lot. There was no food in her hand, she was staring off into space. Irritated, he headed inside the restaurant.
Several minutes later he approached her, handing her the plate of kebabs.
“I’m not hungry,” she said.
“Eat,” he ordered harshly.
They sat beside each other, eating, until, finally, he had enough of their polite charade. “At least now I know why you got engaged to him.”
She didn’t respond.
He levelled her with a heated glance. “Do you regret any of it?”
“Does it matter? You’ve never cared before if someone regretted their mistakes, if they were truly sorry. You don’t forgive people easily.”
“So this is my fault? Because I hold people accountable for their actions?”
She exhaled a resigned sigh. “No, it’s not your fault. It’s mine. I did something horrible, I betrayed your trust. Obviously you would never do anything like that.”
She stood up and walked back to the car, leaving him alone with his thoughts. The niggling voice in his head refused to absolve him of his own guilt, reminding him that he had betrayed Defne. Even if they weren’t together at the time, his fling with Fikret had devastated her and she’d completely fallen apart. So did that mean he had no right to be angry? That he deserved what she did to him? No. He couldn’t accept that. Because his situation with Fikret had been different than Defne and Pamir’s. He’d only hooked up with Fikret because he’d been so heartbroken by Defne’s lies-
Shit. In a way Defne had turned to Pamir for the same reasons.
Okay. Fine. Maybe the circumstances were similar but that didn’t mean his hurt had dissipated. He was still furious at her for what she did and that rage wasn’t going to lessen anytime soon. So what did that mean? Where did that leave him and Defne? Could they get through this? He had no idea.
Dejected, he stood up and headed back to the car.
It was another couple of hours before they reached the city. Again, she’d been completely quiet throughout the ride. He wondered where her mind was at, what thoughts were running through her brain? Defne was an emotional person, and he knew how to handle himself around her when she was behaving like her normal self – but he hated when she shut down on him. That part of her was so foreign to him and he absolutely detested it. She should have been trying to regain his trust. Instead, her silence made it seem she didn’t care at all.
When he pulled the car to a stop in front of her house, she unbuckled her belt. As he waited for her to speak, she moved to get out of the car and it enraged him that she was actually going to leave without saying so much as a word to him. “Are you serious, Defne? You’re going to take off just like that?”
She paused for a brief moment, finally looking at him over her shoulder. “Goodbye, Omer.”
That’s it. That’s all she said. And he sat there, flabbergasted, watching after her as she removed her luggage from his car and headed inside. After a few minutes of stewing in anger, he decided to go speak to Sadri Usta.
The elderly gentleman was already at the door and locking up the store when Omer approached him.
“Omer, son, how are you?”
Omer kissed the other man’s hands as a sign of respect. “Not so good. I thought maybe we could talk but if you’re busy-”
“No, no, not at all. I was just going to walk over to Iso’s house. He was supposed to come here hours ago but he hasn’t. And he’s not answering my phone calls. I thought I should go check on him.”
“I can come with you,” Omer offered.
Sadri Usta unlocked the door and led him back inside the store. “We can do that after our talk. Why don’t you sit down, my boy? You look very troubled. What’s wrong?”
Omer fidgeted in his seat for a long time, contemplating what to say. The truth was as much as Defne had hurt him, he didn’t want his mentor to have a bad impression of her. Finally, he decided to be vague with the details. “Defne did something very hurtful to me. I… I never thought she was capable of such a thing. When she told me, it was like someone had shot me right through the heart. Even now, when I think about it, it makes me sick to my stomach.”
“Is it something you can forgive?”
“I… don’t know.”
Sadri Usta gave him an understanding smile. “We’re all human beings, my child. We make mistakes. None of us are perfect. Maybe you can’t forgive her just yet, but can you try and understand why she did what she did? Is that possible at least?”
Omer considered the other man’s words. “I was in a similar situation as her, and I guess… I mean… I did the same thing she did but the difference was I wasn’t trying to hurt Defne. I was just trying to get over my pain.”
“But the end result remains the same. You both hurt each other.”
Omer rubbed his beard, nodding nervously. “Yes, that’s true.”
“Did she forgive you?”
“We were in the middle of working things out when she confessed. I think she was going to, probably, but I worked for it. I begged her for forgiveness. I pleaded with her. But Defne? It’s like she doesn’t even care that she did this horrible thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“She hasn’t tried to explain herself even once. She hasn’t even apologized. She told me what happened and that was that!”
There was a long bout of silence before Sadri Usta spoke again. “I think she’s trying to protect herself.”
“What?” Omer asked. “No, that doesn’t make sense. She’s the one who hurt me.”
“Last time she told you the truth, you were gone for a year. Maybe she’s expecting the same thing again.”
“I’m not the one pushing her away.”
“No, she’s doing it for you. Maybe, subconsciously, she made the mistake in the first place to drive you away. Deep down she still doesn’t believe you will stick by her through the tough times.”
Realisation sank in. Being abandoned had always been one of her deepest insecurities and his earlier actions had only strengthened that fear. Was Sadri Usta right? Was she sabotaging their relationship now to see if he’d abandon her again? Was that why she wasn’t even bothering to put up a fight?
“Time heals all wounds, my son. You’re living proof of that. Remember how angry you were after Defne told you about the deal?”
“Yes. My entire life fell apart. That’s why I had to go away.”
“I understand. And while you were away, you found compassion for her actions. You understood why she did what she did. You even forgave her.”
“Because I realized it didn’t matter. Besides, it was partially my fault. I didn’t exactly make it easy for her to tell me the truth.”
“That year apart gave you a lot of clarity.”
“It made me realise I don’t want a life without Defne.”
Sadri Usta smiled. “You two love each other deeply. Remember that. Because it will help you get through this and anything else life throws at you.”
“But I’m so pissed off-”
“Yes, and that won’t go away overnight. But one day, you will forgive her. You’ll trust her again.”
“We’ve lost so much time already. I don’t want to waste any more of it.”
“Good. You should go and tell her that.”
His mentor’s words resonated with him. Yes, he was still furious about what Defne did with Pamir but it didn’t mean Omer didn’t love her, that he wanted to end things. They had gone through so much already and each time they had come out of it stronger. They would do so again.
Feeling determined, he stood up. Sadri Usta followed suit and Omer reached out to hug him. “Thank you so much. I always feel so much better after our conversations.”
Sadri Usta smiled. “I’m glad.”
“I know I said I’ll come with you to find Iso-”
“But you want to talk to Defne first. I understand.” He smiled. “I think I’ll have a cup of tea and then head to Iso’s.”
Omer gave him a grateful smile and then started walking back towards Defne’s home. Upon reaching her place, he knocked on the door. There was no response. He called her cell, and the faint sound of her ringtone drifted from inside. She was probably ignoring him on purpose. No way in hell was he going to let her get away with it. He pounded on the door again, calling her name. “Defne! I know you’re in there. Open the door.”
Finally, she answered. Her eyes were red, as if she’d been crying. Instantly he pulled her close, enclosing her in his arms. “I love you, Defne.”
She struggled against him, trying to push him away. “You need to go right now!”
“We’ve both made mistakes, I know, but I’m so tired of all these issues coming between us. I want to be with you, no matter what. I want us to work through this.”
She was sobbing, even shaking. “Omer, please-”
“No,” he interjected, kissing her tear-stained right cheek. “I’m never leaving you again.”
A threatening voice beckoned from inside. “Get back in here now, bitch. And bring that asshole with you.”
Omer looked past Defne to find someone vaguely familiar lurking behind the door. The same guy he’d beat up a few months ago for hurting Defne. Cevdet. He was holding a gun, pointing it at them. It dawned on Omer why she was trembling. She’d been inside the house with that madman.
Omer considered pushing Defne onto the street, away from the house. Maybe she could escape and get help. But what if Cevdet had good aim? What if he shot Defne? The thought of anything happening to her made Omer’s blood run cold. He contemplated tackling Cevdet but, again, he worried the gun going off accidentally and hitting Defne.
“Either of you take another step outside and I’ll shoot that motherfucker Iso dead. Get in here. Now!” Cevdet barked.
Omer stepped around Defne, shielding her body behind his. Defne’s fear was vibrating off of her in waves and he knew he had to keep her calm and do whatever it took to protect her. “I’ll go inside with you. Let Defne go,” Omer said in a deliberately composed voice.
“That bitch isn’t going anywhere. And neither are you. Don’t think I don’t remember the beatdown you gave me. You’ll pay for that now. You all will pay for it.”
“What do you want? Whatever it is, I’ll make sure you get it. Just let Defne go.”
Cevdet smiled, his eyes glistening with sheer malice.
Fear trickled down Omer’s spine.
“Are you serious, Defne? You’re going to take off just like that?”
Outraged, a part of her wanted to lash out at him. Over and over again he claimed to love her, promised to stick by her but every time he’d broken his word. And the fool that she was, she believed him. He expected forgiveness after hooking up with Fikret, but didn’t want to extend the same generosity to her. He was a hypocrite.
It had taken her a lot to come to the realisation that he wasn’t perfect. For so long she’d put him up on a pedestal, sincerely believing he was infallible and she’d never be good enough for him. But now it was clear to her that he was just as messed up as she was. At least she acknowledged her flaws, he wasn’t even willing to do that. In spite of that she loved him intensely, but he didn’t feel the same way. He expected perfection and she wasn’t that. She’d never be that. And it was time to face that fact.
Her heart felt like it was being crushed against her chest but she held her head high and slipped out of the car. She was strong, resilient, and had a history of being left behind. Like always, she would get past this.
Grabbing her things from the back, she headed towards the house. Omer’s gaze penetrated into her back but she ignored him. Pulling out her keys, she stepped inside. Right away her instincts flared up. Something was wrong. The house was too silent. Usually their home was always noisy with the sounds of baby Iso crying, or the family talking all over each other. If nothing else, the TV should have been on. However, there was nothing.
Putting her things down by the door, she slipped out of her shoes and into a pair of slippers. “Gradma? Esra?” Defne called out, heading to the living room. The sight inside made her stop mid-stride. In the farthest corner of the room was a bloody and bruised Iso who lay crumbled on the floor, with the rest of her family and Aysegul huddled next to him. Cevdet was standing a few feet away, pointing a gun at Esra.
The shock wore off immediately and Defne ran towards Iso, falling to the ground to hold him. “Iso? Iso? Are you okay? Say something!” Iso’s left eye was swollen, dried blood streaked his face.
“Don’t move, bitch!” Cevdet barked.
His eyes were red, like he’d been drinking, and acting erratically. “What do you want?”
“I’m going to ruin you. All of you! You think you can take my wife, take my family, humiliate me in front of everyone and I won’t say anything?” Cevdet screamed, kicking Iso repeatedly.
Defne covered Iso’s body, suffering Cevdet’s assault. The rest of the family tried to intervene and jump Cevdet but he grabbed Esra by the hair, yanking her close.
“Get back!” he threatened. “Or I’m going to shoot this snotty little slut right now!”
“Stop this, Cevdet. Please,” Aysegul begged, sobbing. “It’s me you want. Take me. I’ll go with you, just leave them alone.”
“Leave them alone? Every single one of these assholes humiliated me.” Releasing Esra, he grabbed Defne by the hair with such a strong grip tears stung her eyes. “This one came after me on the streets.” He dragged her on the floor, finally shoving her towards Nihan and her grandmother. They latched onto her, holding her protectively as Cevdet continued his tirade.
“Look, we’re sorry,” Serdar pleaded. “We’re sorry for everything. You’re my friend, Cevdet. I promise you we won’t bother you again. Just put the gun down.”
“You’re a fucking pussy!” Cevdet yelled back. “You let your wife and sister boss you around like a goddamn faggot. You put ideas in my wife’s head. She fucked around with this piece of shit because of all of you!” Cevdet kicked Iso again who spit blood onto the floor.
The door bell rang suddenly. Frantic, Defne contemplated screaming for help when Cevdet knelt down on the floor and pointed his gun at Iso. “Say anything and he’s dead.”
Trembling, they all remained quiet.
The doorbells grew frantic, followed by loud knocks on the door. “Defne!”
Hearing Omer’s voice heightened her fear exponentially. What was he doing here? Would Cevdet recognize his voice? Omer had attacked him on the street after finding out Cevdet had bruised her arm. What if Cevdet remembered that incident and wanted revenge? Defne rushed to take control of the situation as best as she could. “That’s my boss, Pamir. He said he was going to drop by today.”
“Why isn’t he leaving?” Cevdet demanded, getting more agitated.
“He will. If we don’t answer, he’ll leave,” Defne assured, desperate for Cevdet to not cross paths with Omer.
“Defne! I know you’re in there. Open the door!”
Her stomach clenched. She didn’t know what to do.
“Get up!” Cevdet ordered. “You’re going to answer the door and tell him to leave.” He pulled Defne to stand up, yanking her arm behind her. “Say one thing to him, and I’ll kill everyone.”
With him leading her every step of the way, she headed for the door. He hid behind it as she swung the door open, giving her hope he wouldn’t see that it was Omer standing on the other side. Omer’s eyes gleamed brightly in the sun as he pulled her close.
“I love you, Defne.”
“You need to go right now,” she said, trying to keep her voice from quivering.
“We’ve both made mistakes, I know, but I’m so tired of all these issues coming between us. I want to be with you, no matter what.”
Her insides crumbled, she started sobbing. “Omer, please-” Right away she realised her mistake. She bit her tongue, hating herself for inadvertently saying his name. Why? Why did she do that? Her body started shaking at her stupidity.
“No.” Omer kissed her tear-stained right cheek. “I’m never leaving you again.”
“Get back in here now, bitch. And bring that asshole with you.”
A mixture of emotions flitted across Omer’s features before his expression went completely blank. She squeezed his hand to get his attention. “Go,” she mouthed silently. “Leave.” But he wasn’t looking at her, he was staring at Cevdet who had come out from behind the door.
“Either of you take another step outside and I’ll shoot that motherfucker Iso dead. Get in here. Now!” Cevdet barked.
Omer stepped around her, shielding her body. Defne couldn’t understand why he was doing it, why was he inserting himself into this horrendous situation. Why wasn’t he leaving? Why wasn’t he running away to get help? Why did she have to be so stupid and get him involved in this?
“I’ll go inside with you. Let Defne go,” Omer said calmly.
“That bitch isn’t going anywhere. And neither are you. Don’t think I don’t remember the beatdown you gave me. You’ll pay for that now. You all will pay for it.”
Defne didn’t know how to get through to Omer, to make him realise what he was walking into. He entered the house, still protecting her but as soon as they were inside Cevdet whipped Omer with the handle of his gun. Defne screamed, clinging to Omer as he stumbled forward. Cevdet shoved them inside the living room. And then everything turned chaotic.
Serdar jumped out from behind, shoving Cevdet. For a second Defne thought Cevdet was disarmed but he quickly overcame Serdar, beating and kicking him. He pointed the gun at her brother and Defne instinctively knew he was going to shoot.
Everything seemed to happen in a flash. One second Omer was leaning against her, his head gushing blood. Next, as if suddenly acquiring a burst of superhuman strength, he moved to push Serdar out of the way as Cevdet fired the gun.
A bloodcurdling scream reached her ears, a voice that was her own, at the realisation Omer had been shot. She didn’t notice that Nihan and Aysegul had managed to catch a distracted Cevdet by surprise and take the gun, or that Serdar was yelling at Esra to call the police. The only thing she could focus on was Omer whose body lay still in her arms, bleeding profusely.
Omer was in surgery for hours. Throughout that time Defne was either deathly silent, or a frantic, crying mess. The cops tried to speak to her about what happened but she wasn’t in the right state of mind to answer any questions. There was a brief moment of relief when one of the other doctors informed them Iso was going to be alright, but then she remembered Omer was still fighting for his life and she unravelled all over again. Despite the hell they just lived through, her family was with her the entire time. They made sure she ate even if she didn’t claim to be hungry, and comforted her when she started to fall apart.
The waiting room was full as they waited for news. Omer’s family was there but Defne seemed oblivious to everything around her. At one point Niraman initiated a conversation with her – one Defne refused to engage in – and Omer’s aunt quickly started to blame her for everything that happened. Right away Mr. Hulusi and Sadri Usta intervened while Necmi led his wife away.
Sinan, Koray and Serdar took turns keeping her busy, sometimes with incessant chatter, other times taking her for walks around the hospital. Eventually they realised there was no point because their tactics weren’t working. Defne’s mind was focused entirely on Omer.
After what felt like an eternity, the doctors finally came out to speak to them.
Defne rushed to him, desperate for good news. “How is he? Is he okay?”
“Under the circumstances, it went as well as we could hope for.” Dr. Engin shared the details, telling them what to expect, what Omer’s recovery would entail.
“Can I see him now?” Defne asked.
“He hasn’t regained consciousness yet. That may take a few hours. The anesthesia-”
“Please,” she begged.
“Let’s wait another hour and one family member can go in to sit by him after that.”
Defne imagined Omer lying in the hospital bed, alone and scared, and her heart broke. “I don’t want him to think he’s alone.”
“Right now he’s completely out. We want to make sure he’s comfortable and recovering well before we let visitors in.”
After the doctor left, Defne started pacing the floor again.
Few hours later Defne was sitting next to Omer, anxiously waiting for him to wake up. Although his vitals were good and the nurses and doctors didn’t seem concerned, she was sick with worry. What if Omer wasn’t fine? What if he never woke up from surgery? What if he had suffered permanent damage from the gunshot? Tears streaked down her cheeks as she stared at his sleeping form. A part of her was absolutely furious at him for getting in front of the gun. Why? Why had he done it? Didn’t he know if anything happened to him she wouldn’t be able to survive it?
Later that day Defne was sleeping on the chair next to Omer’s hospital bed when a sudden noise startled her awake. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Omer as he was still sleeping soundly; the morphine had yet to wear off. She was surprised to find Aysegul at the door, staring at them hesitantly. Right away Defne was struck with worry. “What’s wrong, Aysegul? Is Iso okay? I went to see him an hour ago and he seemed fine. Did something happen?”
“No, no. Sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you. Iso’s just being discharged and I was coming by to let you know.”
Defne stood up. “I’ll go see him now.” She turned to Mr. Hulusi who was also resting nearby. “Do you need anything? Should I bring you some water? Maybe tea?”
He shook his head ‘no’. “I had tea a short while ago. But you haven’t eaten anything. Maybe you should get something?”
“It’s okay. I’m not hungry.” She peered down at Omer, bending forward to place a gentle kiss on his cheek. His eyes fluttered. She thought for a moment he’d wake up but he didn’t. Disappointed, she headed out of the room with Aysegul.
“How are you holding up?”
Defne shrugged her shoulders. “I’m fine.”
“Is Omer’s aunt still bugging you?”
“She was upset I was allowed to stay overnight with him. She kept saying it should be them since I’m not family. Mr. Hulusi told her to leave if she was going to create a scene again.”
“I noticed the tension between you guys.”
“She’s a petty, vindictive woman.”
“Is she close with Omer?”
“Not anymore. As far as I know, he hasn’t really spoken to her since coming back.”
“Defne, I just wanted to say…” Aysegul’s brows furrowed together with deep concern. “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. Cevdet wouldn’t have come into your lives if I’d stayed away from you guys.”
“What happened wasn’t your fault. Cevdet was the one responsible. You had nothing to do with his actions.”
“Still nothing,” Defne insisted. “He was a horrible person and I’m sorry about all the things he put you through.” Despite being fraught with concern, she tried her best to offer Aysegul a reassuring smile. “But now you have Iso in your life and he’s wonderful. He loves you, and I think you love him too.”
“Take care of him, please. He deserves to be loved and cherished.”
Relief swept over Aysegul’s face. “I will, I promise.”
They both took the elevator down to Iso’s floor.
Later that evening Defne was dozing next to Omer when hoarse whispers woke her up. Spotting Omer’s open eyes, she quickly moved closer. “My love?” she cried, her eyes brimming with tears of happiness at the sight of him finally awake.
“Def…?” His voice was gravelly, his eyes drowsy as his eyelids fluttered for several minutes.
“I’m here, I’m here. You’re safe, I promise.” She cradled his face. “Do you want some water?”
“Defne….” He tried to speak again. “You… right?”
She peered at him with concern, unsure of what he meant. “Let me call a doctor.” She pressed the help button.
“You… okay? Cev… hurt…you…”
It finally dawned on her that he was worried about her when he’d been the one shot. Holding his hand, she peppered his face with tender kisses. “I’m fine. You’re the one who got hurt.” Smiling down at him, her eyes wet, she brushed her fingers through his hair. “If you ever risk your life again, I’ll kill you myself. I mean it.”
She nodded her head. “They were all here but only one person is allowed to stay overnight. There was no way I was going to leave so Mr. Hulusi and your uncle offered to let me stay and they went home.” She may not have liked Neriman but the older woman did love her nephew and it wasn’t fair to keep that from Omer. “Neriman didn’t want to leave either but Necmi uncle convinced her.”
“They’re okay. They were here too. Everyone will be so relieved you’re awake now.” She gave him a warm smile. “You saved my brother’s life. If you hadn’t jumped in front of him, he would’ve been shot.” There was a lump in her throat again, remembering that horrible moment. “Why would you do that, Omer? Why would you risk your life like that? That was so foolish of you!”
“He’s… my… family. Like you.”
Her heart swelled with emotion, ready to burst in her chest. Omer really did think of her family as his own. They were important to him, he cared about them so deeply he’d been ready to die to protect them. The thought made her realise how lucky she was to be loved by him.
The nurse came in. Defne held his hand, kissed his fingers when grimaced with discomfort throughout the checkup. Afterwards when she tried to move away, he tightened his grip.
“No. Don’t… go.”
“Don’t worry,” she assured. “I’m not going anywhere. I just want to call everyone and let them know you’ve okay. They’ve been really worried.”
He nodded his head, finally releasing her hand.
After making the requisite calls she returned to Omer’s side, hovering over him again. His eyes were closed, he was asleep. She brushed his hair, her touch feather-light so as not to wake him up. As she studied him, she realised the heavy pressure on her chest had seemed to finally deflate.
He could have died. Died. In her arms, and there was nothing she could do to protect him at that moment. Or her family. Not even herself.
All of a sudden her body started shaking violently, practically convulsing with tears. The dam burst and emotions flooded over her.
Over the past few weeks she had been desperate to bury her feelings because she’d been so afraid of being hurt by Omer. And yet, in one fraction of a moment when she spotted Cevdet holding her family hostage, her entire life could have been destroyed. Family dead. Omer dead. So what was the point of being cautious with her heart when it could all end so quickly? Who knew what tomorrow would bring? For now, all she could do was hold on to the people she loved and never let go.
Leaning over Omer, she dropped a tender kiss on his forehead.
The doctors reassured that Omer would make a complete recovery but that it would be a slow process with months of physiotherapy. Above all, he had to be careful not to be stressed.
Throughout the next couple of days both of their families came by to visit Omer in the hospital. It was good to see him slowly get back to his normal self, but Defne still worried about him.
Things were progressing well until Pamir kept to visit. He’d gone camping for a few days, far away from civilisation and they’d had no way of contacting him. He had rushed to the hospital immediately upon hearing the news.
Immediately Defne stiffened, remembering the horrible lie she’d told Omer. Throwing a quick glance at Omer, who had dozed off, she greeted Pamir with a hesitant smile. “Hey.”
“Just can’t stay out of trouble, can you?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“How is he?”
She gestured for them to talk outside the room. He followed her out to the hallway.
“Surgery went well but he needs to take it easy for the next few months. Anyway, I have to tell you something.”
Pamir’s blue eyes narrowed. “What’s wrong?” His brows linked together with concern. “How are you holding up? I know these last few days couldn’t have been easy for you.”
Defne bit her lip. “I lied to Omer. About us.”
“I… told him we slept together.”
Pamir stared chuckling. “Why would you so something so stupid?”
“I thought…” Defne started pacing, rubbing her forehead. “I wanted to know if he’d stick by me even if I did something horrible.”
“How did he take it?”
“We got into a huge fight.”
“No kidding. No guy is going to be happy to find out his girlfriend cheated. But you guys obviously worked things out.”
Defne swallowed an audible breath, remembering how simultaneously happy and terrified she felt when Omer had retuned to the house. “The whole Cevdet thing happened before we had a chance to talk.”
“So you’re going to tell him the truth?”
“Yeah. But can you come back tomorrow? Let me talk to him first.”
Omer’s low grumble drifted into the hallway. “Defne!”
Pamir shrugged his shoulder, his smile reflecting genuine warmth. “Loverboy calls.”
She waved bye before returning to Omer’s side. “Do you need anything?”
His eyes twinkled with mischief. “You. I thought you left me.”
He reached for her hand, lacing his fingers through hers. “I should probably tell you to go home and get some rest, but I’m selfish.”
“I’m not leaving you.”
“Good. I don’t want to be here without you either. Hospitals remind me of when my mom was sick.”
Her heart yearned at the pain in his voice. She squeezed his fingers before reaching down to kiss his cheek. “Omer, I know this probably isn’t the best time but I need to tell you something.”
Trouble brewed in his eyes. “What is it? Are you okay? Did Cevdet hurt you?”
“No, no, nothing like that. I just…” She took a deep breath. “About the Pamir thing-”
“Stop. I don’t want to hear it.”
“You need to.”
“Defne, it doesn’t matter,” Omer interjected, his voice soft but firm. “We both made mistakes but it’s in the past. Let’s just move on and start new.”
“Please, Defne. I don’t want to talk about that anymore.” He reached up to play with her hair, curling the strands along his index finger. “I love you. And you still love me, right?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I do.”
“Then it’s time we leave the past behind.”
Her gaze wandered over his beautiful face, her mind still marveling at the idea of how lucky she was. He loved her, he really, truly loved her – just as much as she did him – and that kind of amazing, exhilarating feeling was a miracle. “Omer, marry me.”
He grinned. “I’m supposed to ask you that.”
“You love a crazy maniac who doesn’t do things the normal way.”
Fisting her shirt, he pulled her close. “My answer is no. I won’t marry you.”
“Why?” she demanded, flummoxed.
“Because I want to propose to you.”
“Then do it.”
“But only when I can get down on one knee and put my mother’s ring on you. And obviously I need to pick you up in my arms after you say yes.”
“You’re not going to be doing any of that . Your body needs time to heal, and then there’s physiotherapy-”
He grazed his lips against hers, his voice smooth as velvet. “You’ll have to be patient then. Think you can wait that long?”
Warmth flooded over her. She loved him so much, she felt secure in his love. And, as always, her heart was pounding and she felt breathless under his sensuous gaze. Would that ever change? She didn’t know, but she was looking forward to finding out. “I’m yours. Forever.”
Omer smiled. “And I’m yours.”
Four months later
The kitchen was in a state of disarray. Even though it had been perfectly organised moments earlier, Defne felt the sudden urge to clean and started taking out all the dinnerware from the cabinets and polishing them. Then, she started scrubbing the floor all the whilst muttering to herself. “Of course he wants to go to the doctor alone. He doesn’t need me anymore. Before it was Defne this and Defne that.” She started mimicking Omer’s tone of voice. “Defne, I can’t live without you. Defne, I love you. Defne, you are my life, my love.” She paused, still ranting to herself. “I bet it started because of that stupid physiotherapist. Okay, yes, Demet’s wonderful and she’s helped him a lot but why does she have to be so beautiful? Like it’s not enough God gave her so much brains he has to make her look like a model too? No wonder Omer told me he doesn’t want me at those sessions anymore.”
An hour after cleaning the already spotless kitchen, she headed upstairs to take a shower. As warm water washed over her, she closed her eyes and pondered her current situation. Maybe she was being too hard on Omer. After all, these last few months had been very frustrating for him. He was a man used to being active and doing things, but after the incident with Cevdet he’d had to revamp his daily routine. Physiotherapy was the only physical outlet he had to work out but even then he had to take things slowly so as not to injure his body.
Then there was the fact they couldn’t make love since the doctor had advised against any strenuous physical activity. While they experimented sexually in other ways, it wasn’t enough – and they were both agitated because of it. Yet that still didn’t explain why he didn’t want her to accompany him to his appointments anymore. Didn’t he like being around her? Was she getting on his nerves? What was going to happen when they were married? Or maybe she was just getting ahead of herself. It’s not like he’d even asked her to marry him.
Suddenly, the shower door opened. Omer, wearing only a mischievous smile and nothing else, stepped inside. She stared at him blankly. “What are you doing?”
He didn’t respond, but the stark look of desire on his face set her heart racing.
Before she could speak his mouth closed over hers, kissing her into a mad frenzy. Her fingers dug into his back, clinging to him for support as her knees threatened to give way. His hand laced through her hair, stroking her, delving down to her neck, caressing the length of her back before cupping her butt. Her mouth trailed down his body, peppering his skin with fluttery kisses until she reached the scar on his body. It was left there from the surgery that removed the bullet. Her lips gently grazed over the injured skin as she tried to reassure herself he was okay. “We shouldn’t be doing this,” she murmured. “The doctor-”
“Gave me the okay,” he interjected, cradling her face.
Ecstatic over the news, she kissed him fiercely.
Later that night Omer played with her hair while Defne cuddled him close. They were sated, but exhausted. It had been so long since they made love and she wanted to stay deeply connected to him. “Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked, worried. “I know the doctor said it’s fine but-”
“This is why I asked you not to come to my appointments anymore. You worry too much.”
She sat up, scrutinising him suspiciously. “Oh, is that why? I thought it was because you wanted to be alone with Demet.”
He chuckled, gathering her close. “Is my Defne jealous?”
“Hmph,” she muttered.
“You freak out whenever I try to push myself.”
“Because I don’t want you to overdo it.”
“Love, I’m fine. Besides, f I didn’t push myself we wouldn’t be here right now,” he reminded her seductively.
“Why? What’s the rush?” Her fingers splayed along the scar on his chest. “If you get hurt again-”
“I’m fine.” He dropped a tender kiss on her forehead. “I promise.”
His wounded body flashed through her mind. The sudden onset of fear had her hugging him tightly, trying to get past the panic.
“There’s another reason why I want to rush my recovery,” Omer said.
“Because I want to be at 100% when we move.”
She cast him a quizzical glance. “Move?”
Wearing a mysterious smile, he scooted over to the nightstand table by her side of the bed and opened the drawer. Her cheeks flushed red when she realised he was retrieving the letter she’d received – and hidden – from him six weeks ago. It was an acceptance letter from the business program she’d applied to many months prior. After the accident, however, that had been the last thing on her mind. Upon receipt, she’d simply shoved it inside the drawer.
“Defne, why didn’t you tell me about this?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Because it doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it does. You were accepted. That’s incredible.”
“I applied when I was angry at you.”
“Defne,” he said in his most patient tone. “This is important to you, even if you like to pretend it isn’t. You want to own your own business and this program is the first step towards that.”
“I wanted that, you know, before… it was a silly dream anyway.”
“Remember that day at the cabin when we were pretending to be other people? Even then you talked about starting your own business.”
Defne sat up, tucking her knees under her chin. She wanted this, a lot, and a part of her felt guilty for it. It should have been enough that Omer was okay, and they’d found their way back to each other, but in the deepest recesses of her heart she still wished for this.
“The program begins in six weeks and I’ve already started making arrangements,” Omer said, sitting alongside her as his hand stroked her naked back.
“Maybe I can defer admission for now. You need to be here to go through recovery and I don’t want to leave you.”
“Did you think you were going to London alone? You can’t get rid of me that easily.” His lips lingered along her bare shoulder. “I’ve already asked a realtor to look at some houses for us.”
“But what about Passionis?”
“Sinan’s been doing a great job holding down the fort these past few months. Besides, I can design from anywhere.”
“But you’re one of the owners. It’s important that you be here.”
“No. What’s important is that you have the chance to pursue your dreams, and I want to be there to support you.”
Her heart was ready to burst with happiness. While she loved her family dearly and they meant the world to her, their financial struggles meant everyone had to make sacrifices. Defne’s career aspiration had always been an afterthought – except now. No matter what Omer said, he liked being a hands-on partner at Passionis which meant he loved her enough to put aside his own needs. That realisation was overwhelming, she felt swept away by his generosity. Cradling his face, she kissed him with all the aching tenderness that thrived in her heart. “I love you,” she whispered.
He kissed her in response.
Eighteen months later
Defne slid out of the car, pulling her jacket close at the cold air that bristled against her skin. As she retrieved the keys from her pocket, Pamir finally caught up to her. “How did you like the restaurant?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “It was alright.”
“Just alright? They had the best lobster I ever tasted!”
“But I don’t like lobster,” she grumbled.
Stepping inside the apartment, she removed her jacket.
“What’s the plan now?” Pamir asked, striding down the hallway. He helped himself to a glass of wine, pouring her one when she gave him a pointed glance. “You’re almost done business school. Are you going to come back to Istanbul or continue to live here?”
She took a sip of her wine, hoping the liquid would help pacify her agitated mood. It didn’t. “I like London, but I miss home.”
“I don’t know why. I love this city.”
“Then why don’t you just move here?”
“Too many bad memories.”
“More like one-night stands.”
He grinned. “That too.”
She glanced at the clock, sighing. Time didn’t seem to want to pass at all.
“I know that look. Don’t worry. Dear cousin will be here soon.”
Her lips formed into a pout as she took a seat on the couch. “He’s probably so exhausted right now. You know how airports are, especially with so many flights grounded. Omer hates big crowds.”
“They’re not going to fly planes during a snowstorm just because Omer doesn’t like people. Why is he in New York anyway?”
“He and Sinan flew out there to sign a new expansion deal,” she explained. “He was supposed to come back yesterday.”
“I know, I know. You miss him. You love him. Blah, blah, blah.” Pamir rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually think I have more fun hanging out with the two of you as a couple than you alone. Never thought I’d say that considering how sickeningly sweet you guys act with each other.”
Pamir’s phone rang, signalling a text message. A mysterious smile crept over his lips.
“What?” Defne asked. “New girlfriend calling you?”
“Something like that.” He chugged the rest of his wine in one quick gulp and stood up. She protested when he reached for her glass; it was still half-full.
“Hey, I’m not done with that yet.”
He set the glasses aside, pulled her to her feet and started fixing her hair.
“What are you doing, Pamir?” she asked, slapping his hand away.
“Just want to make sure you look good.”
“For what?” she asked, confused.
He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Good night. Have fun. And do me a favour, remind Omer that he owes me one.”
“For what?” she asked.
Pamir quickly disappeared down the hallway and out of the apartment, leaving Defne alone. She shook her head, bemused, taking the empty glasses into the kitchen. While cleaning up, a recent picture of her and Omer caught her attention. A stolen moment between the two of them, captured perfectly by Iso. She smiled, thinking back to when her family had come to visit them in London and the wonderful week they had spent together.
Her phone vibrated, she checked the text message.
Come upstairs, my love.
What the hell? She quickly went up the spiral staircase, confused but excited. Was Omer home already? Had he been sleeping all this time while she’d been out to dinner with Pamir? It’s not like she’d intended to go. After being heavily disappointed that Omer was stuck in New York on their anniversary, she’d been planning to stay in and wallow in pity when Pamir turned up at her door unexpectedly. He was in town, and insisted on taking her out to which she’d reluctantly agreed.
The bedroom door was closed and she opened it hesitantly, heart thundering in her chest. The sight awaiting her left her shaken to the core. The room was awash with the lights of numerous, beautifully-lit candles, casting a warm glow all across. And then there was Omer, standing in the middle of the room, handsome and regal in his suit, gazing at her with the most loving of smiles.
“Did you miss me?” he asked.
She ran towards him, jumping into his arms. They had only been separated a week but it felt like a lifetime of loneliness without him.
“I guess that’s a yes,” he chuckled, grazing her forehead.
“When did you get here? I thought your flight was delayed? Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve picked you up at the airport. And what’s all this?” she asked breathlessly.
“My flight was delayed, just not as long as you assumed it would be. I lied.” He grinned. “I needed time to get things ready here without you. That’s why I asked Pamir to keep you busy.”
She surveyed the room, still amazed at how beautiful everything was. “Why did you do all this?”
Suddenly he knelt down on one knee, her hands firmly entrenched in his. Her mind seemed to go blank, she couldn’t breathe at what was happening.
“I love you, Defne.” His lips traced along her palm, making her tremble. “You mean everything to me. My life, it’s completely empty without you.”
“Mine too,” she said, tearing up.
“I wish I could write like Proust, or Austen, and explain how much I love you, but even that wouldn’t be enough. Nothing I write, or say, can ever truly express how much you mean to me.”
“I love you so much.”
“We’ve built a beautiful life together, haven’t we?”
“Yes, we have.”
“I want you as my wife, as mother to our children. I want to spend every day I have in this world with you.”
“I want the same,” she whispered.
“Marry me. Please.” His voice was hoarse, trying his hardest to keep the tears at bay, his fingers quivering as he pulled out a jewelry box from the inside pocket of his suit. It was his mother’s ring, the same one she’d returned to him, but even through her teary gaze she could spot that it looked different. Her heart leapt with joy when she realised why. Many months ago she’d been flipping through a magazine and had commented on how much she loved the look of the Tanzanite gemstone. Apparently Omer had filed that anecdote away because the main stone was now replaced with just that, a stunning bluish-purplish gem which gave the ring an ethereal profile. “I had it altered,” he explained, sensing her confusion. “Because you and I are different people now than when we first met. We’ve changed, and grown together, and I thought the ring should reflect that.”
She smiled at him, sobbing. “Why did you wait so long?”
“I didn’t want to distract you from your classes. Plus, it took a while to find the perfect gemstone.”
“You’ll be graduating next week.” He kissed her hand. “We’ll have to make decisions about what to do next. You can start your own company, or you can come work with me again at Passionis and be a full partner. Whatever you decide, we’ll do it together.” His soulful eyes bore into her. “As husband and wife, if you’ll have me. So, will you? Will you marry me?”
Exuberant, she inhaled him in. Every part of this moment was etched into her brain.
“Defne, say something. You’re being unusually quiet and it’s starting to worry me.”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” she squealed, giddy with joy.
Laughing, he slid the ring onto her finger. She grabbed at him, pulling him up so she could kiss him. As he swung her in his arms, she couldn’t stop grinning.
Much later that night he lay asleep, cuddling her, but she was too excited to do the same. She stared at the new ring on her finger, musing about the strange, twisted journey their life had taken. All those years ago when he’d left after their disastrous wedding, she never thought they would find their way back to each other let alone be planning another wedding again. As excruciating as their separation was, however, Defne wouldn’t change anything about their past. Because everything that happened before led them to where they were now.
Turning towards Omer, she gazed at him lovingly. His long, sultry lashes fluttered as she smoothed her finger over his cheek. His eyes opened, locking with hers.
“Love you,” he murmured, his voice laden with sleep.
Life may not have been perfect, but as long she and Omer were together they could get through anything. Feeling incredibly happy, she held him close. “Love you too.”