“Who is that?” he barked at the door.
“Did you bring your son?”
“Of course. That’s what we came here for, right? Now can you please open the door, Ahmet?”
My father opened the door to reveal a very dear friend of his, along with his son. I had no idea why they were here. I watched them from above, right in front of my room. I saw and heard them talking about something, interspersed by the sound of the metal tray with two tulip shaped teacups put on the table, which might have sounded quieter if it weren’t for my sister’s clumsiness. And so came the reprimanding sound of Father: “Emine, you sloppy girl! You could’ve broken the cups!”
And so she shuffled her way to the kitchen – where a woman should be, according to him.
As I listened to them, I caught the words marriage, my daughter and my son – the latter being uttered by the friend every once in a while in the conversation. My daughter also popped into the talk pretty often, more often than my son. And your daughter was also there too, coming from Mr Hasan, who – as I observed – had a glint of worriness in his eyes.
“Aliye, come down here!”
It all felt so strange. I just walked downstairs. I’d seen little brides, both in real life and on TV. Okay, maybe the last ones were fictional. But what difference does it make? Nothing. Other than the fact that the TV versions tended to be exaggerations of the real ones. The climax, the stakes, the escape, the falling action… Some girls (un)reluctantly agree to marry and drop out of school, while others loudly declare to their family their opposition and escaped from their houses.
Three pairs of eyes stared at me, each with a different expression. Father’s were full of hope and pride, almost saying, “Finally, I can let go of this one,” and wishing that I’d be obedient and marry the young man. Mr Hasan’s eyes instead showed worriness and doubt: “I don’t think she’s ready yet, Ahmet. Why not wait till she’s 18?” And as for the young man – Mr Hasan’s son – his eyes signalled a sign of surprise: “So this is that Aliye? She’s so young.”
“Aliye, this is Mr Hasan. You probably already know him. And this one,” Father pointed to the young man, “is his son, Necmettin.”
“Nice to meet you.” And I just replied the same, with a smile. It wasn’t a forced one, to our surprise. I was ready for him, but I wasn’t ready for this.
“As you know, we have decided to get you two married. We have discussed this carefully, and I hope there will be no objections. No ‘but’s. And. . .”
“Excuse me, sir,” Necmettin interrupted, “I thought we were given a choice. Is it an arranged or forced marriage?”
“Both are the same. And. . .”
“Sorry, sir, but if it’s forced, I will not even ask for her hand. I want to ask for her consent first.”
“Her consent does not mean anything, Necmettin! She’s a girl!” I stayed silent as the situation heated up. And so Mr Hasan, who had been silent, reacted back, “I thought you’re different now, Ahmet. Don’t you remember about your wife?”
“That’s what she got from disobeying me, and what she’ll get if she disobeys me!”
“Have you even thought about how you always degrade women? You always tell them to shut up as if they have no power over you!”
“Of course they don’t!”
With no way to change Father’s belief, Mr Hasan surrendered and let him win the argument. I’d wanted to speak up too, to support Mr Hasan, but I’d been afraid that things would get worse and Father would decide to marry me to Necmettin sooner. And so a brief silence followed.
“Alright then, should we start?”
When I eavesdropped the conversation earlier upstairs, I noticed that Necmettin had already asked my father’s permission. I knew what was coming next.
“Aliye, will you be mine?”
“Well. . . I know everyone wants me to. And I know – even from just a few glimpses from the past when I was ten and you were seventeen – that you will take care of me well. But I’m still so young, I don’t know if I should. I. . . I need time to think.” I ran upstairs into my room.
I took my rucksack from the corner of the room and cleaned the dust. I opened the closet, only to find some clothes fall down from their stacks. Trousers, T-shirts, dresses, skirts. . . I threw a random set of clothes into the rucksack. I did not bother to wrap them tidily, much less put them into a suitcase; all I wanted to do was get out of here. The remaining space was only used to fit a small towel, leaving a (still) large space. I grabbed my shoulder bag, which was only occupied by a wallet filled with the remainder of the monthly allowance, leaving the perfect space to put my travel kit in. I carried both bags downstairs to the kitchen and left them next to the back door.
“Where are you going?” my sister asked me, quickly getting up from one of the chairs.
“Out of here.”
“But what about. . .”
“I won’t go far. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at Aunty Latife’s. Just don’t tell Father. He’ll be furious.”
“You know, if I were you, I’d marry Necmettin and get out of here.”
“But I won’t and can’t be listed as married. I’m still fifteen, remember?”
“At least you’ll live somewhere better than this hell of a house. You know, you can be religiously married and yet legally unmarried at the same time.”
“I don’t want to be the cause of his arrest!”
My sister then gave up on her attempt to keep me here and hugged me. She said, “I know it’s difficult. I promise I won’t tell him.” After she released me, I took my bags, went out the door and rode my bike away.