Vahide couldn’t believe how much blood there was. It was everywhere – the bed, the floor, the table, the walls, her body… everywhere. She would never have guessed the slender old man had contained so much life within his withered skin.
She was crouched over Henry’s lifeless body, studying his frozen face with detached calm. The knife was still in her right hand, its blade dyed a wet crimson that had spread to her fingers and splattered on her forearm. Vahide had never been so close to death before – she had not even been allowed to see her mother after she had passed away – and she couldn’t tear herself away from his glassy stare. She waved her left hand in front of his face and received no response. She prodded his eyes, first his left and then his right, but still he wouldn’t even blink.
“What do you see?” she asked in a hoarse whisper. “Can you still hear me? Would you like to know if I am sorry?” She glanced down at the knife before bringing it to his groin and tapping it gently against the small bulge beneath his stained slacks. “Well, I am only sorry that I did not think to cut this off before you died.”
Vahide rose then, finally breaking eye contact, and stood swaying slightly from side to side. She let her gaze wander slowly around the room as reality began to gradually reassert its presence, stripping away her dazed fog with cruel talons. Nausea began wreaking havoc in her belly, tossing and overturning its contents with abandon, as the fingers holding the weapon started to tremble. A foul taste manifested on her tongue and her nostrils finally registered the smell emanating from the dead body at her feet.
“What have I done?”
The knife slipped from her grasp and ricocheted off Henry’s kneecap before clattering to the floor. Her body was overtaken by violent vibrations and she stood rooted to the spot, her head swinging wildly from side to side in search of escape. How much time had passed since he had come into her room? How long did she have before Bora would arrive to ensure that his customer did not overstay his visit?
“Move, girl… move!” Vahide whispered with a fierceness that rose from a deep place within, an area that had lain dormant for many years. She didn’t even recognize her own voice but in a state of shock she obeyed, as though the command had come from another. She moved to the table with squelching steps, her bare feet leaving a bloody trail, and grabbed Henry’s wallet with numb, shaking fingers.
She went to pocket it without examining its contents but realized with a start that she was still naked. Her gaze moved to the nightgown that had fallen to the floor and her heart sank to terrible new depths when she saw that it was soaked with blood. But Henry’s shirt, safely on the other side of it, remained clean. With the low moan of a wounded animal and skin crawling with revulsion, she slipped it on and tried to be grateful that it fell below her waist.
The wallet disappeared into the chest pocket and she moved to the door as the pain in her back and jaw began to force its way through her shock. She pressed an ear against the pitted oak and listened for Bora’s heavy footsteps in the hallway. Hearing nothing but the muted sounds of cars on the street below the building, she twisted the knob and eased the door open.
With her heart pounding painfully against her ribcage, she stepped from the claustrophobic darkness of her room into the harsh light of the empty hallway. After a fearful glance to her left, where Bora was sure to be scouring the internet for potential clients and employees in his air conditioned office, she stumbled in the opposite direction. It wasn’t far to the stairwell but Vahide was slowed by almost continual glances over her shoulder until her feet inevitably tangled and she crashed to the floor.
“Get up…” she whimpered as she lay frozen on her side, staring back the way she had come. The pain in her jaw which accompanied the words made her head spin and she wondered if it was broken. “Get up or die.”
As she scrambled to all fours she realized that her hands and feet still bore the proof of her sin and her arms grew weak, nearly sending her collapsing back down as her stomach threatened to empty. She wouldn’t be able to go ten feet on the street dressed only in a t-shirt and covered in blood before she was arrested. But the prospect of staying in the brothel was equally dismal.
At the far end of the hallway a door creaked open and the noise propelled Vahide to her feet. She descended the stairs with reckless speed, grasping at the railing whenever her balance was lost. She reached the ground floor with panic firmly entrenched in her chest and stood staring at the exit and the blissfully ignorant pedestrians passing by beyond it. The flush of a toilet reminded her of the washroom to her left and she rushed towards it, her ears still straining for signs of Bora’s pursuit.
Vahide arrived just as the door was opening inward and she slammed a shoulder into it, resulting in a shuddering impact and a startled cry from inside. She forced the door the rest of the way open, stepped inside, and closed it firmly behind her.
“Vahide?” It took her several seconds before she recognized the heap on the floor as Dilara, another member of Bora’s stable. “What are-?”
“Give me your dress,” Vahide whispered, her voice shaking as badly as her hands. When the girl didn’t move, Vahide dropped to a crouch and screamed into her face, “Give it to me!”
“You’ve lost your mind!”
For a moment Vahide regretted leaving the knife upstairs as she was filled with the desire to use it again. It passed quickly and in its wake was left self disgust so powerful that she turned and vomited in the toilet. After several convulsions that moved the length of her body she rested her forehead on the cracked porcelain seat and let the tears fall down her cheeks.
“It was Bora again, wasn’t it?” Dilara asked, resting a hand on Vahide’s shoulder. Taking her silence for confirmation, Dilara helped her to her feet and brought her to the sink. “Here, let me help you clean up. He will only be angrier if he sees you walking around like this.”
Vahide meekly allowed herself to be washed, biting her tongue when Dilara brought the abrasive soap to the soles of her feet. It took several minutes before the last of the blood was cleared away and the remains of her breakfast wiped from her face and extracted from her hair. When she was finished, Dilara stepped back as far as the crowded room would allow and examined the distraught girl before her.
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?” she asked quietly.
“I can’t stay,” Vahide said, staring at the floor. “I have done a horrible, unforgivable thing. I must run.”
“Then take this, and my blessings too,” Dilara replied before unbuttoning and removing her tan dress. “It will be big on you but it will do for now. I will pray for you.”
“I do not deserve your prayers,” Vahide said as she stepped into the garment and fumbled with the buttons. She left the shirt on underneath, with the stolen wallet remaining in its pocket. “Not after what I have done.”
“Yes,” Dilara told her with a gentle stroke of her cheek, “you do. Now run.”
And without another word Vahide fled.