the little bride, part two

If I were selfish enough, I’d have him marry me right away. I could make my father proud, but what would I get from it? If I married him now and got pregnant at 16, how would I explain to my friends?

Just a month ago I’d seen a marriage where the bride’s thirteen. It had been broadcast as part of a series exploring culture around the country. And the day after the episode was broadcast, I’d been awakened by the sound of a crowd outside the house. I’d got up, my vision still blurry, and had looked at the window to see women marching on the streets, carrying signs that most said: “Shame on you, Murat Doğan!” (Hafsa Doğan Ateş 1, the child bride mentioned earlier, is the daughter of Murat Doğan. The hashtag #savehafsadoğan and #direnhafsa had also made an appearance on the signs.)

I stopped my bike and parked it in front of a block of flats. I passed the entrance and entered a narrow aisle of doors. I glanced through the reddish-brown cherry wood doors, looking for a gold sign with “Arif Tosun” written on it. Not on the first floor. So I took the stairs to the second floor. As I walked my way to the end of the aisle, I spotted a gold sign. It hung on a door. But I put down my rucksack and dragged my way with it to the third floor after seeing the name on the sign.

Hüseyin Kara. Not the one I was looking for.

In the middle of the aisle, as I looked to the right, I saw another gold sign, this time stuck on the door. It had “Arif Tosun” written on it. So I knocked the door.

“Aliye, what are you doing here?”

“It’s a long story, Aunty. Maybe I should tell you about it inside.”

Everything was in place when I came. It felt weird, seeing a living space already tidied up by eight in the morning. I put my backpack on the couch as if this place were home.

“So tell me, what happened?” she asked while washing the dishes.

“My father, again. He wants me to get married.”

“Oh dear me, that’s just…I really can’t even bear to imagine what’ll happen next! Then you must be here to…oh, I see.”

“See what?” I almost jolted from the seat in excitement.

“You’re coming here to hide from him, right?”

I was surprised she hadn’t smashed any plate or glass or anything like that – Father told me she was one of the clumsiest people he’d ever known, apart from my sister.

And even from a considerable distance I could hear her mumble, “Oh dear me, I’ve got a bloody refugee in this wrecked flat…”

“Well, if you won’t welcome me, Aunty, I can stay somewhere else, you know. Maybe I’ll hide in a hotel. Maybe I’ll run away back to my mother’s place in Kars. Maybe…”

“Don’t. You can stay here. Meanwhile, I’ll take care of that heck of a father you have there. Really, Ahmet, you troublemaking cunt…” she went on rambling to herself, her hand almost reaching a rolling pin. If she’d grabbed it, I guessed she would swing it around as if he’d been right in front of her and she would hit him.

It’s no secret that neither my mother and my father were from Istanbul. My father’s the son of a fisherman who hailed from Trabzon. And it had seemed that one of the fisherman’s children, the first one – who I know as Aunty Latife and who happened to be the only daughter he had – inherited both his sailor mouth and toughness (imagine sailing through a storm). And so minutes after I got in, Aunty L already swore at her brother, unleashing even the most shocking cuss word in between while pretending to hit him.

“Alright then, sorry for the bad start, Aliye dear, but don’t worry, you can stay here. As long as you don’t get in trouble with anyone – especially Esra.”

Not getting in trouble with Esra Tosun? Seems ninety percent impossible to me.

One of my greatest fear was living with someone who has two frequently alternating personalities. No, not a mood swing. There’s usually a trigger for the underlying personality which you need to learn, and some of these kinds of people can switch personalities even by a subtle reference of said trigger. Others have subtler, less specific triggers.

Aunty Latife’s trigger was my father.

“He had it easy as fuck,” she once remarked. “Boys don’t get bossed around in the house. Even my three little brothers. And that’s how they learnt that women are just as lowly as slaves.”

  1. That’s how she had been mentioned on the TV show – she was officially still Hafsa Doğan, but folks doing the show acknowledged the marriage. What a shame. 

the little bride, part one

“Who is that?” he barked at the door.

“It’s me.”

“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.