Constantinople, Republic of Turkey — 1924
The call of the muezzin slowly fades into the evening breeze; the minarets of the neighborhood exude a gentle calm. Ahmet rises from his prayer rug and walks to his balcony. His bedroom, situated on the topmost floor of his vacation home, offers the perfect, picturesque view of the beautiful city outside. He pulls out his pocket watch and flips it open. “It is almost time for her to arrive,” he mutters.
Lit candlesticks illuminate his bedroom’s green walls. A framed painting of Sultan Abdul Hamid II and a gallantry medal engraved with the Ottoman insignia — remnants of an imperial past — hang opposite the majestic wooden bed. Beside the portrait, a blood-red Ottoman flag hangs proudly, the star and crescent shining.
Gazing at the azure ribbon of the Marmara Sea, Ahmet lights his hookah and takes a puff, sighing. So many changes had occurred in his beloved country since the previous year when he left the Ottoman gendarmerie and entered the spice trade. Ahmet drifts off in thought, recalling the golden days of the Empire; so many battles, so many triumphs — a legacy spanning 600 glorious years — all reduced to dust after the war. It was unfair of the newly-elected ‘progressive’ leader, Mustafa Kemal, to abolish the Caliphate and shift the capital to Ankara.
Three loud knocks interrupt Ahmet’s thoughts. His lips twist into a smile as he gazes down from the balcony to find a young woman standing in front of his house. Dressed in a maroon abaya, she looks beautifully mysterious. Even though her face is covered in a veil, she catches Ahmet’s fancy.
He heads down to open the door before leading her back to his bedroom. She removes her veil and drops it onto the carpet bag swaying from her right arm. The flickering candles give her olive skin a soft satin glow.
Her hazel eyes, highlighted with dark sormeh, are enticing. An ornate silver hairpin sparkles in her long, raven hair, straining at the bun it holds together. Teardrop earrings dangle from her lobes, gold glinting against her skin. A thin but elaborate chain adorns her neck. The temptress flashes a sultry smile at Ahmet. Her beauty is captivating, a balm on his battle-hardened soul.
Ahmet holds out his right hand, and she plants a gentle kiss on it. His thoughts run wild and he grabs the hookah again, pulling the mouthpiece to his lips. The rosy scent of the attar she wears blends with the smoke, further intoxicating his senses. It had been a long time since he had seen such a fine woman.
“Do you know why I summoned you?” he asks in a commanding tone. Before she can say a word, he holds up a finger to stop her. He exhales a cloud of fragrant smoke. “I have heard tales of your sensual prowess. They say no harlot in Constantinople compares to you when it comes to pleasuring a man.” Smoke wafting from his lips, Ahmet takes a final puff and drops the hose before twirling his imperial mustache. “Is that true?”
She puckers her plump lips, her youthful charm arousing him. “Spend the evening with me, and you will know what the best feels like,” she says. Eyes smoldering, she saunters toward him. “You will experience it all.”
Ahmet yearns to touch her, to taste her. The cotton of his white shirt is sheer against his damp chest. Every inch of him lights up with the burning need to possess her.
“Give yourself over to me, and I will show you passion you have never imagined,” she murmurs and pulls away, teasing him.
“Very well.” Ahmet smirks and strokes his graying beard. He removes his red fez and places it on the bedside table. “I do not often spend so much for my pleasure. You better be worth it.”
“I am worth every lira.” Her flirty eyes beckon him. “Lose yourself in my depths and you will understand why every effendi in this city craves my touch.”
“Let me judge that for myself.” Ahmet walks in a circle around her still form, adoring her hourglass figure. He has high hopes for her, as few can satisfy his carnal fantasies. Despite being fifty-four, he has the drive and desires of a younger man. He is very much a conqueror in bed, as he was a conqueror in his decades-long paramilitary career. So far, he has always taken what he wanted, be it women, villages, or lives. Many faceless women have visited his bedroom over the years. But this one is different. An aura of feistiness surrounds her, a stark contrast to the subservient nature of most harlots.
The seductress removes her earrings and drops them slowly. Ahmet inches closer, eyeing her with lust. “One more thing, güzel kadın.” He touches her shoulder and trails his fingers down her waist. “I want to eat some lokums off your bare back.” He motions to a ceramic bowl of Turkish delights on the bedside table. The rose-flavored chewy cubes dusted with powdered sugar shine in the candlelight.
“As you wish.” She runs her hand over his şalvar trousers. Gliding her painted fingernails, she caresses the stiffening bulge. “But first, you must taste my sweetness. As much as your heart desires. Mind you, most of my customers say I am addictive. Very, very addictive.”
She tugs at his yelek, his waistcoat is wrapped around his sturdy body. Ahmet closes his eyes, fantasizing about the next few minutes, then flicks them slightly open.
The siren slips off her abaya, revealing the emerald green silk lingerie, which clings to her sun-kissed skin. His ravenous gaze travels along her curves, exploring the scars on her body. Her flaws only make her even more alluring.
She cradles his right cheek in her palm. “Come, my sevgili.” The lyrical rhythm of her voice makes him both weak and strong at the same time. She pecks his right ear and whispers, “Tonight is going to be the greatest night of your life.”
Brimming with passion, Ahmet pulls his yelek off and undresses, piling his clothes on the carpeted floor until he is bare. He grabs her waist and pulls her closer. “We have a long night ahead of us. Unlike other men, I am not easy to satisfy.”
She coils her arms around his neck, her silken skin warm against his. Her breath brushes the fine hairs on his face. As he tries to push her toward the bed, she holds his hand and looks into his eyes. “Let me lead.”
Ahmet rubs his chin. Since his days at the gendarmerie, it was he who did the commanding—the one who always dominated. He is reluctant to be controlled by someone else — that too, a woman. Were it any other harlot, he would refuse. But no, not this woman; she is too seductive for him to resist. He gives a nod of approval.
She pushes him onto the bed. “I am going to take you to cennet — a heaven where you will reach the epitome of pleasure.”
He lies spread-eagle, head resting on the pillow. She pulls out a scarf from her carpet bag and pounces on top of Ahmet. She straddles his waist, and with a mischievous smile, starts tying his hand with the scarf.
Ahmet arches a brow and narrows his eyes.
“I am going to ravage your body like no other and do unspeakable things to you,” she purrs with a wink. “You will love it.”
Turned on by her every word, Ahmet prepares himself to devour her lips, her neck, and beyond. Unquenchable lust ripples through him. She coquettishly runs a finger from her luscious, coral-pink lips, down to her collarbone, between the swell of her clothed breasts, all the way to her navel.
Heat settles in between Ahmet’s thighs. His manhood throbs in harmony with his heartbeat.
The vixen’s fingers dance over the pink Turkish delights in the bowl. She grabs the largest piece. A light sweat breaks out above her upper lip as she slowly licks it on the sides and takes a sensual bite.
“I am hungry for you,” Ahmet growls like a tiger.
Biting her bottom lip, she brings the piece closer. Ahmet playfully nips her finger. She laughs and pops the wet confection into his mouth.
Mouth stuffed, Ahmet can only mutter, “This is deli—”
She traces a finger over his lips, hushing the next syllables. “Do not just eat it.” A giggle escapes her. “Close your eyes and savor it.”
Ahmet heeds and rests his head deep on the pillow. He chews the piece with a slow, sinful relish, each bite lasting as long as possible. It melts on his tongue, the smooth texture reminding him of her skin and how eager he is to have her.
She slides a hand into the knot of her hair and pulls the ornate silver hairpin free. She shakes her head; free-flowing hair tumbles around her slender shoulders.
Her eyes dart toward Ahmet, who is busy enjoying the delight. Lips curved, she aims and plunges the pointed end of the hairpin into his neck.
Ahmet gapes in horror, nostrils flaring. Blood squirts from his neck as he moans in pain.
She pulls the hairpin out. A sinister grin plays on her face and she thrusts it in again, venting her wrath.
Veins throb on Ahmet’s forehead as he instinctively tries to overpower and strangle her, but the knotted scarf restrains him. He chokes, gasping for breath.
She slides off the bed and steps back. Walking toward the flag, she wipes a swathe of crimson from the dripping hairpin onto the already red fabric. She then drapes herself over the ottoman and picks up the bowl of Turkish delights. She rolls a piece on her tongue and revels in its succulence. “Mmm… this is divine. Truly divine.”
Her lips part into a wicked smile. “Do you know how long I have waited for this very moment? All these years, I have been following you from afar, observing your everyday routine, learning your habits. I have lurked in the shadows alongside harlots, waiting for the time you would call upon one. The harlot you seek is lying drugged back in the whorehouse.” She levels her icy gaze on him. “I am not here to give you pleasure. I am here to make you taste death.”
“What”—Ahmet sputters, struggling through his next words—“did I”—he spits tiny shreds of Turkish delight—“ever do to you?”
Her feigned smile vanishes, replaced by nearly a decade’s worth of rage. She turns and lifts her long hair to reveal the tattoo on her bare back—a richly decorated cross with coiled knots on all sides. The Armenian cross.
She turns back and bangs her fist on the table. “You destroyed my family. You destroyed my people. You destroyed everything we ever had.” Tendons rise in her neck. “You dare ask what you did to me, you vile bastard!”
Ahmet’s eyes redden, and a vein twitches on his forehead.
She picks up another delight from the bowl. As she clenches it in her fist, the gel oozes between her fingers. Bitter memories flash before her eyes. Her tortured brain screams with shrill cries of pain.
Galloping horses. Barbarous gendarmes. A bloodthirsty commander. Her village in flames. A death march into the Syrian desert. Her mother, naked, beaten, and raped. Her infant brother thrown into the Euphrates. A growing pile of bodies. Innocent blood saturating the ground.
Her innocent 14-year-old self was witness to these atrocities. Stabbed and presumed dead, she was left for the vultures. The raw wound of her heart demanded only one thing. Vengeance.
She shoots Ahmet a death stare, rage burning her from the inside. “I still cannot forget the words you spat on my dying mother.” Fighting back the tears, she takes a deep, pained breath and shudders. “Filthy Armenian infidel! We will wipe out every single one of you from our great empire.”
Springing to her feet, she clutches a lit candle from the holder. Slowly, she retraces her steps toward the flag and clenches her jaw. “This flag! This flag is smeared with the innocent blood of millions.” With a flick of her wrist, she sets the fabric on fire. Hot orange flames consume the red banner of oppression.
Her fury burns as fierce as the fire. She turns back to find rivulets of blood flowing down Ahmet’s neck. His legs twitch, life on the verge of leaving him.
“I want you to know my name before you die.” She locks eyes with him for the last time and points to herself. “I am Nane. Nane Hakobyan. And I am here to say that your mission to destroy us failed miserably. We. Will. Never. Be. Overcome.”
Nane watches as every word hits him hard. Unable to hold on anymore, Ahmet lets go. His hands go limp; his breath comes to a standstill. Life extinguishes from his eyes and his head drops on the pillow, his mouth agape, the half-eaten Turkish delight still on his tongue.
Not wasting another moment, Nane dresses again and covers her face with the veil. Carpet bag in hand, she climbs down from the balcony, carefully making her way to the ground. With a furtive glance in each direction, she disappears into the darkness.
“Armenia is dying, but it will survive. The little blood that is left is precious blood that will give birth to a heroic generation. A nation that does not want to die, does not die.” ~ Anatole France
sormeh – kohl
attar – fragrant essential oil
effendi – Ottoman title of respect
güzel kadın – beautiful woman
lokum – Turkish delight
yelek – Ottoman waistcoat
sevgili – beloved
cennet – heaven