Chapter 22: Fatima, the girl from Istanbul (3)
Mustafa was thankful for Youngho who not only worked for his country but also tried to take care of Mustafa’s financial difficulties. Mustafa had been feeling guilty for not being able to help his own country as much as he thought he should be, but since he started helping Youngho’s work, he felt rewarded as he was indirectly helping his own country. Youngho was his tie that enabled him to give back to his country.
“Lee, don’t be surprised. Fatima is growing so much.”
“Brother, don’t try to mock me. She can’t be growing so much anymore, she’s 18.”
“You’ll see. It’s a mystery to me too. Every time I see her, she looks changed. Well, maybe it’s because she’s eating and sleeping well now but all three of them are growing too fast. It’s like they are compensating for their past time when they couldn’t eat well.”
“Phew, you are exaggerating just like Jongil.”
“Oh yeah, him. How’s he doing?”
“He’s almost killing the militants.”
“Well, he’s training them for hardcore. There might be a real war soon, so we’re all preparing for the worst.”
Mustafa who had been silent for a while suddenly spoke decisively.
“The Armenian merchandisers in Grand Bazaar made a secret pact. We are sending money to Armenia altogether.”
Youngho was stunned to hear that. He thought that merchandisers’ ill-patriotism for their country would cause a bigger trouble to people around them.
“Brother, you should stop them. Helping Armenia from Turkey will make a bigger dispute. When Turkish secret police or extreme rightists find about the pact, you can’t even live here.”
Mustafa just quietly listened to Youngho. He did not seem to understand what Youngho was worried about.
“I got you, we will be extra careful.”
“No. You need to cancel the pact.”
“Brother, are you prepared for torture? They would do anything to stop your pact and find about your group.”
Since Youngho was dead serious, Mustafa did not say anything.
“That’s why some high secret agents have suicide capsules stuck in their back teeth. If they can’t endure anymore torture when caught, they would choose to die rather than giving out information.”
Mustafa now seemed to be getting scared. Youngho continued.
“You might get the Fatima siblings are in danger too.”
After a short silence, Mustafa opened his mouth.
“Is just sending money dangerous?”
“If you want to do it, send it to an American organization instead. Don’t let the merchandisers mention ‘secret pact’ in their mouth ever.”
“Ok, I got you. Phew, if you are this serious, I guess we were being reckless.”
“Brother, did you tell about me too?”
“No, I shouldn’t expose an information agent.”
Youngho stopped there after warning him enough. He was relieved that he was able to stop Mustafa before anything happens.
After Mustafa left him at his apartment where Fatima and her siblings lived, Youngho smiled with a cigarette in his mouth as he looked up to the building. He could not wait to meet them again.
A minute later, he pushed the bell for the apartment room.
Someone checked to see who it was through the little lens at the door. Then the door opened wide and the three of the siblings jumped to Youngho.
They screamed with joy and surprise.
It seemed that they had been waiting for him to come back.
Youngho hugged each of them in joy.
After all the fuss went away, he looked each of them carefully. He was amazed by how much they have changed.
Fatima grew at least 2 inches more. Looking like other girls of her age now, she shined. Zeynep turned into a cute little girl that Youngho almost wanted to pinch her cheek. Lastly, Szechenyi gained much weight and looked like a healthy boy now.
While he was gone, the siblings had been studying with a tutor introduced by Mustafa. They were not educated since they could not afford to go to school before. Their dad passed away three years ago and their mom also followed her husband due to illness six months after. They were at the verge of life when they met Youngho.
On the day when Youngho met Fatima at the flea market, Fatima had no money to spare for food, let alone the cost of medicine for her sister. Even though her parents had said that the relics of the family should never be out in the world, Fatima forgot about it and sold it to Youngho.
Zeynep recovered fully after being hospitalized only for a month. The doctors were surprised and said that she was a mystery. Youngho was not surprised to see her at home since he received the message from Baku, but the thing that made him drop his jaw was their physical changes. Youngho still could not believe that they changed so much.
He believed that the drastic changes in their bodies, was the effect of rings they had on. This time, Youngho brought another ring for Szechenyi too. On one side of his mind, he wanted to keep the mystical rings all for himself but the rings were the siblings’ family relics. It was the right thing to give them back to them. Youngho decided the was glad that he got to keep one for himself.
He wanted to share the secret of the leather shoes too but he was not sure if they were ready hear that. He would find out about the mystical relics of their family once he talked to them.
Youngho thought that it must not be an accident that the secrets of the relics were revealed by him who was an outsider. Mystical items that were likely to exist in fantasy novels were in his hands. He thought, maybe the relics found him to protect the descendants of their maker’s family from near danger, or maybe he was just being delusional.
The next morning, Youngho got up from his bed to the savory smell of a meal.
Fatima greeted him with a smile.
“Sir, I have your breakfast ready.”
Fatima spoke slowly, in case Youngho did not understand her, even though it was easy for Youngho who had been intensely studying Turkish for the past month in Baku.
“Fatima, calling me ‘sir’ feels awkward. How about calling me ‘oppa’? Korean girls call me that.”
After repeating ‘oppa’ for several times, she could easily say the word. Even Szechenyi tried to call Youngho ‘oppa’, so Youngho taught him only girls use ‘oppa’ and boys say ‘hyung’ to an older menn around their age.
The four of them had breakfast together like a warm family.
Youngho took the siblings to the Cevahir shopping mall after the meal. The apartment that they lived in was near Taksim Square, a city downtown with many shopping stores and restaurants were nearby. Even though the siblings could use Youngho’s money in the bank account, they did not spend any except for the basic necessities. Youngho wanted to buy extra things for them.
As if it was their first time coming to a department store, they were hesitant to step into the entrance. Youngho took them in to clothing corner. Because of their drastic physical change, all of the clothes they had looked shrunk. Youngho bought lots of clothes and shoes for them.
Next stop was a beauty salon to fix their hair.
With new hair and clothes that actually fit them, they almost dazzled. Youngho scrutinized their faces now. The siblings did not have traditional Turkish features on their faces. With brown hair and bluish eyes, their look was closer to Northern Europeans’.
Although they looked at themselves awkwardly in the mirror, they seemed to have more confidence in their look now. They enjoyed walking around holding hands together on the street.
When Youngho was walking back to the department store holding Zeynep’s hand, helooked around to the sound of someone calling ‘oppa.’ Wondering if there was any Korean girl around him, he kept on looking. Then the voice called ‘oppa’ again.
It was Fatima calling Youngho. Her pronunciation was so natural, he thought it was a Korean girl. As if it was fun to tease Youngho, she laughed loudly. Youngho pondered at her smile. She was as beautiful as a rose.
She had called him because Youngho and Zeynep were going too fast. Fatima reminded him of his little sister Yunsuh in Korea.
Not knowing what Youngho felt, Fatima took his hand to stay together in the crowd but Youngho was thrilled by her action. ‘Family’ was what came to his mind.
At their second visit to the department store, Fatima picked up some cosmetics that girls around her age liked, with a little help from a sales clerk. Zeynep picked up dainty accessories while Szechenyi was into game machines in the electronics department. Youngho bought bunch of stuff that they wanted. Their blushed faces when they got what they wanted made Youngho happy.
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