Finding Direction

What she needed most, Vahide realized half an hour later, was a plan.

She knew that after Istanbul would come Sofia, but what then? And the money she had stolen from Henry would only last for so long - what would she do once she had spent it all? Go back to selling her body for spare change?

“No,” she said with a firm shake of her head. “Anything but that.”

Begging on the street might earn her enough coins for some bread, but it would also leave her terribly exposed to her pursuers. Once Bora realized she was beyond his reach, he would turn to his friends in the General Directorate of Security and the hunt would begin in earnest. It may already have begun, she realized, and a heavy weight settled into the pit of her stomach.

Vahide closed her eyes and rested the back of her head against the seat. Breathing deeply, she forced herself to think rationally. What would they be looking for? A frail little girl, without much money to speak of, whose only employable talent was performed in the wrong part of town, in squalid rooms with men of questionable morals and standards.

“So they will be watching the brothels and pimps,” she said. “That won’t be an option, even as a last resort. Fine by me.”

They would expect her to be on the street, either begging or trying to find acceptance with the resident hobo population. They would never expect her to find a better solution - Bora was always calling her stupid. He’d tell anyone who would listen that she was half-witted on a good day and quarter-witted on a bad.

“So use your smarts, girl. If you have any left.”

The fingers of her right hand traced the outline of the wallet hiding in her pocket as she continued to consider her options. But her mind soon returned to her old room, to Henry, to the bloody knife in her hand. Images, splashed with red and darkened by shadows, began flashing across her eyelids. The killing blows played over and over until the scene froze just as the blade entered Henry’s chest for the final time.

“Oh, make it stop!” she said, her eyes snapping open. Her queasiness had returned, but underneath it lay something else. Something dark and elusive. It took her several seconds to put a name to the emotion, but once she did she was barely able to whisper it as a question.

“Satisfaction?”

The thought was revolting at first, but Vahide refused to turn away from it before understanding came. It was not killing in and of itself that had pleased her, she soon saw. No, it was that Henry had deserved it. And she had delivered the justice he had earned for himself. A simple, pathetic whore had suffered his assault and fought back. She had taken control.

She had taken up a position of power.

It was an entirely foreign concept for Vahide. She had been living under the brutal rule of a tyrant for so long that she had forgotten what it felt like to have authority. It felt good.

“So is that the way forward?” she asked the passing countryside, her hand gripping the hidden wallet. “And what of this game They wish me to play? Could I do it again? What if they are innocent, what then? What will They do with me if I turn them down? They have found me twice already, first at my hiding spot and then again on this train... I don't think I have any choice in this.”

“No, I’m afraid you don’t,” Ege told her as he returned to the car. Vahide’s heart attempted to claw its way up her throat and leap from her mouth as he sat down across from her, a covered silver tray in his hands. Flashing her a wide smile he said, “I absolutely insist that you share this meal with me.”

“Oh… no, I couldn’t -”

“I am quite certain you can! Besides, my mother made this for me and she always makes far too much. I swear she thinks I must aspire to be wider than this train one day!”

He removed the cover and placed it on the seat beside him, releasing a tantalizing fragrance into the confined space. Vahide shook her head but her mouth began watering immediately and her grumbling stomach gave her away. She had not eaten since breakfast and that meal had not remained inside her for long.

“This is very kind of you,” she said quietly as she accepted a square plate heaped high with rice, cubed potatoes, and chunks of stewed lamb. “It smells… amazing.”

“And it tastes even better, I assure you,” Ege said. “So will you be staying in Istanbul very long?”

Yes.

No.

“I don’t know.” Vahide brought a forkful of food to her mouth and chewed slowly, stalling for time. It was an effort not to shovel it all in at once. “I have not made any definite plans yet. Everything seems to be happening so fast right now.”

“My shift ends when we arrive,” Ege said, his gaze going to the window. “I would… like it very much if I could take you to my favorite coffee shop. I would understand if you wish to be rid of me the second we pull into the station, but it seems to me you could use some friendly company right now. I can give you that, at least.”

Vahide swallowed her food with great difficulty. When he turned to look at her again, she surveyed the land rushing past the window. All she had to do to be rid of him was say no. Then she would be free to do what she wished, when she wanted to do it. No questions to answer, no lies to remember, on her own once more. No one to look out for her.

Completely alone.

“Yes, I think I would like that.”

The End

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