Excerpt from a novel in progress


she waits in the lobby seated near the bar
by panoramic windows framed in dark mahogany.
outside beyond a veranda behind a bluish film
needle-like spires of Ottoman mosques
form a ragged skyline above the glistening Bosphorus
separating Europe and Asia.

she consults her watch on a delicate gold chain
cursing him silently for making her wait.
more than anything she wanted to avoid the waiting
which she now finds excruciating
as she had known it would be.

she stiffens and adjusts her skirt seeing the barman stare
from behind a potted palm.
a front desk clerk watches her also.
tossing a stray lock from her face she turns
to gaze out the window.

she is aware of the revolving door
a figure entering
hesitating a moment
walking briskly
across the crimson carpet.
noticing, she pretends not to notice.

she stands and accompanies him to the elevator
seeming from all appearances
to be his companion.
the barman busies himself folding napkins
pretending not to watch.

in the elevator, alone with him
she sees him study her face in the mirrored panel.
she pretends to watch the numbers
illuminated above the elevator door.

Tenth floor

the room does not overlook the Bosphorus
as might have been expected
but rather the city on the opposite side.
entering, he goes to the glass door
and walks out onto the balcony.
below, tiny red flags hang lazily in the cloying heat
draped from white poles aligned like toothpicks
alongside the entrance to the hotel.
from hidden loudspeakers songs like plaintive wailing
waft through the October afternoon.

when she does not join him on the balcony he returns to the room
finding her seated on the side of the bed
her hands folded delicately in her lap.
from his breast pocket he produces an envelope
from which he removes a packet of bank notes.

Shall I count them?

she insists knowing her insistence will offend him.
she wants to offend him at least just a little
if for no other reason than for accepting her proposition.
with a practiced smile he places the bills on the dresser
apportioning them in haphazard stacks of ten apiece.

when he has finished there are eight stacks in all
representing the exact amount
of her father's debt.

the slightest hint of sorrow plays in her face.
she glances at the money and quickly turns her eyes.
he has avoided mentioning her father
not even asking after his health
though he had known beforehand
the money was intended
not for her.

she lies down on the bed propping herself on a pile of pillows
and gestures for him.
when he does not lie down
she feigns a smile
then gives him a puzzled expression
thinking he is being coy.

she watches, still not believing in him
when he opens the door to leave.
she glances at the money stacked on the dresser
half expecting it to be gone.

he pauses in the doorway without looking back at her
then as if deciding something he tells her farewell
and goes out, closing the door behind him.

by the time she has made her way down to the lobby
he is nowhere in sight.

peering through the revolving glass door
she glimpses the white taxi
as it bursts into flames.
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