My take on how Vahide fares in Darkliquid's Ten.
The second largest marketplace in Ankara was crowded and filled with the competing shouts of food and cloth vendors, a typical early Saturday morning in late summer. The heat was already oppressive, though the sun had only sauntered over the horizon an hour ago, so business was booming. Everyone was in a rush to be back inside before the temperature climbed into the thirties.
The girl moved awkwardly through the sweaty mass of tourists and locals, doing her best to avoid all human contact and flinching violently whenever a stray elbow or hand grazed her body. She kept her head down, her long black hair falling in a dirty tangle around her face carefully arranged so as to conceal as much of her features as possible. As many of the bruises as possible.
Vahide’s tongue toyed with a loose tooth in her lower right jaw as she slipped past a bread vendor, her stomach singing an embarrassingly loud song of hunger and longing. Bora had caught her begging for food again and had disciplined her accordingly, with promise of worse should it happen another time.
“What is wrong?” her pimp had screamed at her as she cowered on the dirty floor of her tiny room. “Do I not pay you enough to eat? Would you like a raise, is that it? Do I look like I can afford to pay you more?”
Vahide had been wise enough not to compare the designer jeans and shirt which clung to his thickly muscled body to the tattered and stained robes which hung off her thin frame. She knew enough not to comment on his newly bought sunglasses, pushed up high on his short, curly black hair.
Instead she had begged for his forgiveness and allowed another small piece of her pride to blacken and die.
It was remarkable she had any dignity remaining. Just six months shy of her twentieth birthday, it had been nearly seven years since her mother had passed away in their village of Ayvali and her father had subsequently brought her to the capital and sold her to Bora for a few hundred lira. For her mother’s sin of giving him one daughter and no sons she was forced into a life of servicing angry, lonely men for the pathetic salary Bora gave her. It was barely enough to buy one meal each day.
But Vahide had a secret that she guarded more closely than the hazy, distant memories of her mother: she never spent a single kurus of the money Bora deigned to share with her.
She saved it all and begged for every morsel of food that passed between her lips. Her eyes were constantly glued to the ground when she was allowed to leave her room, searching for dropped coins of any denomination. On lucky days she might find a one lira coin, but fifty, ten, even one kurus coins were never passed by. She would stoop to buckle her perpetually undone sandals, scoop up the stray coin, and be on her way without garnering any attention.
But on this day there would be no begging. Her savings had grown slowly, oh so painfully slowly, but steadily over the years and after receiving her pay that morning she finally had enough stockpiled. She was on her way to her hiding place to collect her money and then it was on to the train station and a one way ticket for Sofia in neighbouring Bulgaria.
It was a terrible risk. Nesrin had tried to escape and look how she ended up: a beaten and bloody mess in the middle of an abandoned field twenty miles out of town. Bora had gathered up all his girls in his cube van and brought them to watch so he could make a proper example of her. They had watched in silence, not daring to be caught looking away, and then left her there. Nesrin hadn’t been seen since.
That had been three months ago. Some of Vahide’s horror had receded now, the fear bottled and tucked safely away. With her teenage years about to be left behind she was nearing the end of her “prime usage days”, as Bora liked to put it, and what happened next wasn’t worth thinking about.
She emerged from the crowds at the north end of the market and hurried down a narrow side street, a pronounced limp slowing her progress. The last client of the previous night had acted out his twisted foot fetish with her and she would not be walking normally again for days.
Vahide took a left at the next intersection, then a right and another left as the crowds began to lessen and the market noise grew more muted. Eventually she came to an unlit, foul smelling alley that ran between a butcher shop and a dance club and, after a nervous glance around the empty street, she disappeared into its darkness.
The loose brick was exactly thirty paces from the entrance of the alley. She no longer remembered how she’d first found it; that was at least three lifetimes ago. She held her breath and kneeled amidst the discarded pieces of lambs and goats, her fingers quickly finding the edges of the brick and pulling it free. She reached a hand inside and pulled out the envelope that contained her life savings and opened it.
Her heart must have stopped beating for a full ten seconds when her fingers found only a thin piece of paper and the glossy texture of a photograph.
“Oh no,” she wailed, her head snapping around, fully expecting to find Bora watching her. “Oh no!”
But the alley remained empty. Feeling nauseous and light-headed, she stumbled to the opening of the alley. Still staring wildly around her, she pulled out the paper and forced herself to read the words written upon it in a loose, flowing hand.
“Do you want to play a game?” she read in a hoarse whisper. This was followed by a list of nine names and then… and then, “Kill these people and we will give you a life of comfort and ease and Bora will never harm anyone ever again. Proof is in the envelope.”
It was a trick. It must be. Bora had discovered her secret and now he was messing with her, like a cat with an injured mouse.
Only… that didn’t feel right. Bora was not that sort of man - he let his anger do all of the thinking. And he was not nearly clever enough to think up something that twisted.
Or was he?
With a deep, shuddering breath, Vahide reached into the envelope and extracted the Polaroid.
“No,” she murmured as tears began to slide down her cheeks, “it can’t be.”
But there, pinched between Vahide’s violently shaking fingers, sitting on a resort beach with a cocktail in her hand, was the smiling, unblemished visage of Nesrin.