Fortuna lifts her upper lip in a smirk. “Oh, Miss-so-educated teacher, who has come with all the wisdom of Paris in her big head”
s soon as she has finished eating the strange yogurt and bread mixture that Fortuna, her host, puts before her, Becca asks for the address of the police station.
“It is not in these parts,” Fortuna says.
“If you write down for me an address, I will surely find it. You do have maps around here, I assume.”
Fortuna flushes. Does she understand the sarcasm, then? Can she write? Maybe she cannot write. Has she humiliated her hostess? A pang of regret.
All these questions. Becca has fragmented into Hannah, her older sister’s uncertainty, anxieties, becoming part of her. What has become of her?
The yogurt and cucumbers are churning in her stomach. If she had thought that the shift from Mama’s food to Parisian fare had been a challenge — for months she had craved the comfortable fullness that only a bowl of kasha with mushrooms can bring — this Turkish repast made her feel lightheaded and nauseous.
She pushes the bowl across the table and looks at the woman full-on. She speaks slowly and clearly.
“I need the help of the police. To find my stolen passport.”
The money she has no hope of retrieving. She will have to write to the director, and explain the circumstances, and ask him to send more. An international bank transfer, perhaps. He must have an arrangement with the director of the boy’s Alliance school. Come to think of it, she will have to borrow a stamp.
Somewhere — hopefully not in her stolen bag — she has the details of his whereabouts.
Never mind. Even if it has been lost, she can simply make her way to the school. Surely he has succeeded in teaching enough French that someone can help her.
In the meantime, she must concentrate on her passport.
“Well, you will have to wait for my husband. And he only gets home this evening. Now, he is in the candle factory. Later, marketplace. Later, meeting with supplier. But then, no police at the station.”
Becca looks at her watch. “I do not understand why I cannot go now.” She looks around at the children, playing something on the floor. It will be her job to teach them. Swift, swift, on to other thoughts. “Perhaps one of the children can guide me there.”
Fortuna lifts her upper lip in a smirk. “Oh, Miss-so-educated teacher, who has come with all the wisdom of Paris in her big head.” She leans forward and taps her head as her body sways to some invisible music.
“You did not learn, did you, that here in Izmir, a woman does not go out alone, unaccompanied. And so it is only my husband who will take you to your precious police station, as if they could do anything, ha. And my husband would not go alone with a woman who is not his mother or sister or grandmother or wife. So you must wait. For you will only get to the police station when my husband is here to take you, and I, too, am able to leave the house to join you both.”
There is something in her eye. A glimmer, a glitter of triumph.
Becca meets those eyes. The other woman may have won this battle, but the education in her Parisian head, sooner or later, will be the means for her own triumph. She will not be beaten by a simple woman from Izmir. Non. No, indeed.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 684)
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