How Emma managed to keep a poker face and not fall into a fit of laughter, she would never understand. Can was behaving ridiculously. It was quite cute.
He looked like a movie star today. The subtleness of his dark blue jeans and black pullover sweater just enhanced his overall charisma. He had a presence that you couldn’t fail to notice.
Another interesting fact she had noticed. He gesticulated a lot with his hands when he was agitated. For some reason, it made him feel more approachable.
The waiter had placed English menus for the girls downstairs. But up here, all that was on offer were Turkish ones. And even though Emma had glanced at the menu downstairs, she still needed some help. And by the irritated looks, she and Osman were getting from Can while they were huddled close so he could translate for her. He was quickly moving away from agitated to pissed off.
‘Are you going to translate the entire fucking thing for her?’
Both she and Osman looked up at these words.
‘Maybe it would be better, Emma, if you told Osman what you would like to eat, and he can just translate the particular dishes that pertain to that. Or better yet, let’s get some English menus.’
She saw the look he gave her as she watched Can get up, in search of a waiter. He wanted her to follow him. Well, she had no problem with that.
‘Excuse me, I’m just going to the restroom.’
She stood up and went out the door that Can just exited. He was waiting right outside for her. And as soon as she shut the door, he grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her into a dimly lit, darker corner. It gave them at least the illusion of being alone.
His mouth immediately possessed hers, hard. And she could feel the tingling excitement building in her body. After what felt like minutes but was probably only a few seconds, the kiss softened and then ended and Can placed his forehead on hers, keeping her close, murmuring.
‘I’ve been wanting to do that since I saw you.’
Emma couldn’t help the small chuckle escaping.
‘You’re behaving quite funny in there.’
‘I want them to leave. I want to be alone with you, and I couldn’t even sit next to you.’
‘Osman seems nice.’
‘I brought him for Veronica. But by her overly enthusiastic welcome of me and her getting up grabbing my arm, he thinks he’s here for you.’
So, he was jealous.
‘Well, I’m not interested in him. And I will be giving him no sign that I am. So, don’t worry about it.’
That was like poking a bear. He moved away from her a bit and started gesticulating again.
‘He is sitting like a centimetre from your face, he might as well be in your lap.’
‘He was leaning in, trying to be nice translating for me.’
‘He touched your arm.’
‘When he was talking to you. Trust me, I know him better than anyone. He’s flirting with you.’
‘Are you always this jealous?’
She saw him take a moment to think about it, and then in a baffled tone, he replied.
‘No. It’s never happened to me before. Can’t say I like it much.’
‘Well, you’re being very entertaining to the rest of us. But tone the possessiveness down will you. It’s just dinner.’
He looked at her with determination.
‘You move. Get Osman to change places with you.’
‘How am I going to do that?’
‘I don’t know, and I don’t care. Say the light is hurting your eyes in that angle, or that his English is so fucking bad you can’t understand what he’s saying, so you need my help-’
‘His English is perfect, and there isn’t a light in my eyes.’
’You’re missing my point. I ‘am not going to be spending the evening sitting next to your cousin, watching Osman trying to charm the pants off you. It’s not happening. So, either you move, or I’m going to tell them we are seeing each other, and we want to have dinner without them.’
‘I don’t want Veronica to know that…’
Emma didn’t even know how to word it. She didn’t even know what it was.
‘That we have been seeing each other. That is what I mean. Well, saw as in once, and…’
Can finished that sentence for her.
‘Like each other, and want to spend time together, why is it so hard for you to say it?’
Why was it so hard for her? She didn’t know if it was because she didn’t quite know how to navigate this situation because she’d never been in it before? Or if it was the fact that if she told Veronica. She would start asking questions, she didn’t have a clue how to answer.
There was also this little niggling thought in her head that she was somehow being disloyal to Brad. She hadn’t seen anyone since he passed. Never really had a relationship before him either. Brad was all she had ever known. And this was vastly different from what she’d had with him.
The truth was that she had never felt this kind of explosive desire with her first husband. And that put an even bigger feeling of guilt and confusion in her mind.
And Veronica would tell everyone when they came home. She was terrible at keeping secrets. And if, and that was a big if, she was going to have a holiday fling? She certainly didn’t want it broadcasted to everyone she knew.
She didn’t know what to do. What she did know was, she had met this man less than twenty-four hours ago and was already having these discussions. And that was simply crazy. She wasn’t ready to say anything to anyone, because she genuinely had no clue what to say about the situation.
‘I will move seats.’
She could tell Can was frustrated about her non-answer to his question. But he decided to let it go.
He gave her another smouldering kiss before they headed back to the others.
Leaving the restaurant three hours later, Emma got her first inkling of who Can Kaplan was. It had been decided that they would move along to another nightclub. Veronica, who had slept most of the day away. Wanted nothing to do with an early night. And if she was honest, she didn’t want to leave Can yet.
They’d had a great dinner.
Osman had moved of his own accord when they’d gotten back from their little rendezvous. He had either figured out that Can’s interest really laid in Emma, or he was genuinely interested in Veronica. They were getting on like a house on fire.
Can asked the valet for his car. And when they brought it around, the four of them started heading outside. Emma was momentarily blinded by several flashing cameras, and at least thirty to forty people were waiting to meet him. Veronica was smiling dazzlingly for the cameras, but Emma did everything she could to move out of the way.
This sort of attention did not suit someone who was inherently private and shy like her. But she could tell that Can was in his right element. He morphed into a god-like creature that everyone wanted to be near. And even though he was trying to hurry things along, while the three of them jumped discreetly into his car. It took Can at least twenty minutes to extract himself from everyone.
As he jumped into the car, she heard the excitement in Veronica’s voice.
‘Are those pictures going to be in the paper, you think?’
‘This is so exciting. I can’t believe this is your life.’
Can was driving, and Osman was sitting up with him. Emma was behind Can, and she could see him looking at her in the rear-view mirror. He looked a little worried. Which meant she hadn’t been able to disguise her discomfort at all the attention.
This was another world. And not one she wanted part of.
She liked him a lot. But there was no way in hell she would stand beside him while they were taking pictures and hurling questions at them. If they were going to continue seeing each other for the next few days, it would be in secret. It was the only alternative she could live with.
Emma woke up to an extremely excited Veronica, she glanced at the clock. It was barely nine. She couldn’t keep the irritation out of her voice when she asked.
‘What are you being so loud for?’
‘Osman just wrote to me; he wants to spend the day together, showing me Istanbul.’
‘Oh. Well, that’s nice. I thought you and I were going to spend the day together, though?’
She just gave her a big smile.
‘Come on, Emma. We still have three full days. You don’t mind if I spend it with him, do you? I really like him. And a romantic holiday fling in a foreign country. I can’t miss out on that.’
She couldn’t help but laugh with her. That was such a Veronica thing to say. She grabbed life by its balls and just went for it. No matter what. She wished she could be more like that sometimes.
‘Go. Go and enjoy your day. Keep me posted on tonight.’
Within thirty minutes, her cousin was out the door. And Emma was left with the peace and quiet. Maybe she would go to the Bazaar today. She had always wanted to visit an authentic one, and this was her chance.
She had just gotten out of the shower when she heard her phone ringing.
It was Can.
’Morning beautiful. A little bird told me you were spending the day on your own. So, I ‘am offering my services as a tour guide for the day. I’m downstairs waiting.’
‘I don’t know if it’s such a good idea.’
He didn’t immediately answer, maybe she could have said it a bit nicer.
Making her voice more conciliatory, she explained.
‘I want to go sightseeing. I’m going to the Bazaar, and then onto some other touristy things. And quite frankly, the way you draw attention to yourself is something I would like to avoid for today.’
Again, there was a small pause.
‘You mean, avoid altogether. Not just today.’
’Well then, you’ll be pleased that I ‘am in disguise. I am wearing both sunglasses and a baseball hat. No one will recognize me. Don’t worry.’
‘Emma. I can be out if I’m careful. Maybe not just walking around with nothing to make me blend in. But yesterday, the restaurant called those photographers. Restaurants and clubs always do. Its great press for them. And then the news spreads quickly to fans, and they show up as well. Now I know my life seems a bit overwhelming. Still, I can assure you that with a hat and sunglasses, I will be able to walk around tourist attractions without causing a riot. Ok?’
She did want to see him.
‘Now. Take your time. I’m waiting outside in my car when you’re ready.’
The mantra Emma kept telling herself as she got ready was to grab life by the balls and just go for it. And that was precisely what she was going to do today.
Can waited patiently in the car. He knew she had been spooked yesterday. She had kept her distance from him at the nightclub and only been near him when he managed to sneak her away to a deserted corner. There weren’t many of those in a crowded nightclub.
And for the first time in his life, he had resented the people trying to get his attention. He had always enjoyed fame. But seeing how uncomfortable it made Emma, he just wanted people to get out of his way.
It’s funny how different she was to every other woman he’d met. The fame was usually, at least in his own opinion, what drew women to him the most. They wanted a taste of it. They wanted him because they knew other people did as well. And by being chosen by someone people thought was special, they felt special.
Emma, not so much. She liked him better before she understood how well known he was. This was not something she saw as an attribute; it was an obstacle.
The door opened, and Emma got in. And gave him a scrutinising look.
‘I can definitely see that it’s you.’
He smiled. Couldn’t help it. What a lovely greeting. He leaned in and gave her a quick kiss.
‘Good morning to you too. And you are expecting to see me. Others won’t. Did you have breakfast?’
‘I brought you a bagel and coffee. The bagel’s in the glove box.’
‘So, where are we starting?’
‘Kapali, I think it was called. It’s supposed to be one of the biggest covered street markets in the world.’
‘Then that’s where we’ll start.’
He parked close, and as they were walking towards the big market, Emma squeezed his hand and looked at him. He pulled her closer to him, putting an arm around her while keeping the pace.
‘Just… I don’t think your disguise is as good as you think it is. And I really want to spend the day with you. Just try and blend in, don’t smile at anyone, you have a very distinct smile. And for goodness sake, don’t speak to anyone in Turkish. You’ll be blown straight away. Today we are tourists, and you’re my American companion.’
That made her lose her balance. He steadied her and then embraced her and nuzzled her neck.
‘You don’t have a boyfriend after thirty-six hours of acquaintance.’
‘I don’t know. It’s just weird.’
‘Well, let’s be weird together then.’
That at least earned him a smile.
‘You’re slightly mad, do you know that?’
‘About you? Absolutely. Wouldn’t deny it.’
They just stood there looking at each other and Can was trying to convey everything he was feeling with one look instead of speaking it out loud.
That would have her running faster than the wind could take her.
When his father had told him that love can come to you like a lightning bolt, he had told himself it was a metaphor. It meant that you could find love in unexpected places. But really, what his father had been trying to say to him, was that love could hit you the minute you met someone. He finally understood that.
The Market was overwhelming. Emma had never seen anything like it. There were stalls everywhere, and everything under the sun was being sold. Spices, candy, food, clothes, toys, rugs, you name it, they had it. It was truly remarkable. And for once, she wished she had listened to Veronica. She should have brought a suitcase and not just a carry-on.
But luckily for her, the market sold those as well. So, she decided she would purchase one so that she didn’t have to limit herself with the rest of the stuff. She could fill that up to take home.
Immediately upon entering the stall, a small man appeared and shoved a small vase-like glass with a warm liquid at her and Can. She smelled it and realised it was some kind of apple tea. Which truth be told smelled better than it tasted. But she kept on sipping while she perused the different bags, she didn’t want to insult the man. Then she picked a suitcase and went to pay for it.
This was the first time Can opened his mouth to speak since they had entered the market.
‘What are you doing?’
Emma thought it was self-explanatory.
‘You should haggle.’
Emma couldn’t hide the confusion.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Here, it’s customary to bargain. It’s part of the process and tradition. If you just pay him what he asks, best case he’s going to think your stupid and worst case he’s going to be offended you didn’t deem him worthy of negotiating with.’
Emma looked at the man again, and yes, he looked a little annoyed.
‘So, if I pay what he asks for it, I’m insulting him. But if I fight with him over the price, I’m a good customer?’
‘Now, you got it.’
She turned back to the man wanting five hundred lira for the suitcase. It was if she had calculated it right about fifty pounds, which she thought was a fair price.
‘Sir, I can give four-hundred and eighty for it. Take it or leave it.’
She heard Can sigh at her back. And it didn’t take him more than a second to interfere.
‘We’ll offer you two hundred.’
That sounded ridiculous to Emma. He just asked for a sixty percent discount. They were going to be chucked out. She could feel a blush coming on. This was taking it to far, this was her negotiation.
‘What my friend here is trying to say is we’ll offer four-hundred and twenty.’
Can didn’t go along with that statement.
‘That’s not what I meant to say. And I’m not her friend, I’m her man. We’ll give you two hundred.’
Emma felt like she wanted to disappear altogether. This was mortifying. I’m her man. Who speaks like that?’
But the two men had decided to ignore her, and now they were in active negotiations. Until Can, all of a sudden, grabbed her hand and started pulling her away.
‘What are you doing? I haven’t bought it yet.’
‘We are going to walk away, so he sees that we are serious.’
‘I don’t get this at all. I was perfectly happy to pay five hundred. If you got anything off that, it’s a bonus. Can we please just stop this nonsense?’
He just leaned in and kissed her murmuring quietly.
‘Just trust me.’
And he was right. They didn’t take more than a few steps before the man shouted after them.
‘Two-hundred and seventy-five. Last offer.’
Emma turned around so quickly she almost lost her balance again.
As she was pulling out her money, Can was already handing his money over to pay for it.
‘Wait. I’m paying.’
‘Because I’m the one buying the bag.’
‘It will still be yours, Emma.’
She turned back to the little man.
‘Sir. Do not take his money. I’m paying.’
She could tell the man was not only confused, but a little amused at their exchange. Can looked at her with confusion himself.
‘Why does it matter who pays for it?’
‘It matters because I’m used to paying my own way. And I would prefer it that way.’
She could tell Can was getting a little irritated with her. But she didn’t care.
‘So, are you saying I can’t buy you anything?’
Jesus. Could he not see that the man selling her the bag was about to laugh his ass off looking at the show they were putting on?
‘Could we discuss this later, please?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘You can buy me lunch if you want.’
‘Ah. So, I can buy you food, but not things. Why? What’s the difference?’
Emma saw the hand gesticulations and thought to herself, here we go. He was getting upset. She really didn’t want him upset. She’d been having a great time.
‘I would just prefer to pay my own way. That’s all.’
‘So, for instance, if we were married. Would you feel the same way?’
That completely threw her for a loop.
‘Well. No. But that’s completely different.’
What did he see? She didn’t see anything. And she felt like she was losing the plot completely.
‘What do you see?’
She could tell she had offended him. And she was getting a little pissed herself because she didn’t know how. But what she absolutely did know was she did not want to argue over a stupid bag.
‘Just pay then. If it’s that important to you, just pay for the god damn thing.’
He handed the money over, and Emma got the feeling she had been played. She was the loser, but she was entirely in the dark as to what the game was.
Can had the best day of his life. Being with Emma was more than just entertaining and fun. It was like he had been shown a glimpse of paradise. She was perfect for him, that was.
She had her quirks.
She was clumsy. If there was something to walk into, she would do so. Repeatedly. She was naïve. Alarmingly so, ready to give a hand to any ruffian who asked for it.
Recalling the conversation, they’d had thirty minutes ago, made him smile. He didn’t really do anything but smile when he was with Emma. Even when she was being aggravating, he found her entertaining.
He had gone to the restroom for five minutes and came back to find her, yet again, looking through her wallet for money. A man was standing next to her with glee in his eyes.
He hadn’t even thought about it this time. He just walked up and told the guy to get lost before he called the cops on him. And while he was scurrying away, Emma had looked at him with accusatory eyes.
‘What did you just tell that boy? You scared him away.’
‘Boy? He must have been closer to twenty.’
She rolled her eyes at him.
‘He lost his wallet and needed a little bit of money to get himself home. That’s it.’
‘Yeah, right. If that was the best, he could come up with he didn’t deserve your charity.’
‘I believe in kindness.’
‘I know you do. You should save it for those who really need it.’
She put her hand on her hips.
‘Can you truly be a hundred percent certain that boy was trying to scam me? And wasn’t genuinely in need of help?’
There it was. That confused look that made her look about twelve.
‘Wait, what? How?’
‘I know my city. He was a scammer.’
He saw her eyes take on a frustrated but humorous look.
‘Can. You’re not supposed to say that.’
‘That you’re a hundred percent certain. You are supposed to say that you are ninety-nine percent certain. So that I could make the argument that I was giving him the money on the off chance, that he was that one percent.’
He had been able to do nothing but laugh and kiss her breathless.
Lastly, she had no sense of direction. Emma got so engrossed in things she completely forgot everything else around her, including him. Which made her not great at knowing where she was or where she was going. It was also a novel experience, not to have the full attention of the woman you were with. If she found something, she deemed more interesting. He was an afterthought.
He was falling for her completely. Completely.
Three nights and two days left. That was all that was ringing in his head. He had to get himself some more time with her. He was trying to move them into a feeling of being a couple. And paying for the bag had been the first step. She had given up paying for things after that. He knew she only did it to appease him. But it was a move in the right direction.
Did friends pay for each other? Maybe like Emma said, for food. But for things?
Not really. Couples though?
Yes, if you were a couple, the man paid. Was that old fashioned? Yes, probably. Was it the way he was raised? Yes, most definitely.
It was getting closer to five, and they were sitting in the car, Emma looking down at her phone frowning.
‘Osman is taking Veronica to dinner as well.’
‘Oh. Well, that’s great. That means we get the night to ourselves.’
She turned and looked at him, concern in her eyes.
‘You didn’t put him up to this, did you? Spending the day and dinner and stuff? Cause I think Veronica actually likes him.’
‘No. I promise I didn’t put him up to anything. I brought him yesterday because I thought they would hit it off. But I haven’t interfered after that. If Osman is taking her out, it’s because he wants to. Not because I’ve asked him too.’
While she was texting her cousin back, he was sitting there just watching her. He had been imagining her in his home. He wanted to make that a reality.
‘Come home with me.’
He saw her pause the texting for a few seconds before she finished whatever she was writing and put the phone down.
‘I’m not sure- ’
‘You can sleep in the guest bedroom if you want. No pressure whatsoever if that’s what’s bothering you. Just come home with me. We can cook, swim, hang out, and just spend time together without other people around.’
‘I didn’t bring anything with me, I don’t even have a toothbrush.’
‘I have extra toothbrushes, extra bathing costumes, and you can have a t-shirt of mine to sleep in.’
He felt like a nervous schoolboy asking a girl for a date for the first time. He needed to get a fucking grip.
‘Just say yes, Emma. I want you with me.’
‘OK. Let’s go then.’
He leaned over and kissed her, then pulled out and headed home. It was going to be a good night.