Sunrise over Cappadocia
‘Come here. There’s sleep in your eye.’
‘Mmmm…That’s good to know.’
He leans closer, and with his fingertip, removes the offending article. I can feel the softness of his skin as he takes the tiny haul from the corner of my eye. He smiles, proudly, displaying the crustie, then kisses the end of my nose. The room is draped in shadows, and the pale blob resting on his nail is barely discernible in the dim light.
‘How can you do that?’I say.
‘Why not? It’s part of you.’ He wipes his finger on the side of the bed.
‘You wouldn’t do that for me?’
‘Not squeeze the blackheads on my back?’
‘Would you cut my toenails if there was ever a time I couldn’t reach them…’
‘You’d be lucky.’
He edges across the bed, so his face rests on the pillow beside mine, our noses almost touching in the morning half-light.
‘You’re a hard negotiator.’
I inhale his breath, tasting musty mornings, sex, unwashed bedding, Raki. I can smell the garlic and cumin of the Karnıyarık still lingering in his hair. The silence outside is thick, unsettling, transient. The ripples of the party only calmed an hour before – remnants of the mandolin and the accordion fizzled around us as we lay in the dark, together with the voices, scraping chairs, clinking glasses, and shuffling feet we’d left behind earlier. As the sultry air cooled just before dawn, the echoes of the revellers dissipated like memories. Now, the scent of the desert sand wafts in the air, carrying with it, a lighter, humid overcoat. I know it is only a question of time before the birds begin their morning song, and the sun commences another journey of blistering tyranny over the land.
His hands move towards my body, draw me closer. The links of his watch-strap dig into my ribs and I shift slightly.
‘Oops,’he says, undoing the catch. He places the watch on the bedside cabinet. The sun’s now visible through the muslin draping the balcony window, and throws a dusky-rose cast into the room. He turns to me, grins, looks like he did years ago.
‘We should get up.’I say, ‘Shower.’
‘What’s the rush?’
The back of his hand rests on my stomach, the coolness of the thick wedding band presses next to my navel. His fingers stroke in gentle circles, move to my inner thigh, where the skin is tender; sore.
‘The balloons,’I whisper.
‘There’s time,’he whispers back.
The sound of the shower drowns the birdsong, and I pad back into the bedroom, relishing the cold smoothness of the tiles beneath my feet. He’s sprawled on his back, pillow ruched behind his neck, fingers wrapped tightly within his hair. I smile wryly, and shake my head at the way he’s glorying in his own nakedness, then glance at the area between his legs, and nod.
‘I don’t know what you’re so proud about.’
‘Didn’t hear you complaining five minutes ago…’
‘Shut up -‘
‘But now you come to mention it – you were doing an awful lot of moaning.’
I lift a pillow from the bed and throw it at him.
I’m showered and so is he. The sun is higher now, still low on the horizon, but powerful with heat and light, bleaching away the earlier soft glow of the room. I’m dressed in white, and he’s in cream linen, and he smells so good – of fabric softener, sun lotion, ginger and bergamot. I remember the night before, as we stepped onto the mosaic deck for our first dance. As we swayed slowly to the music, my nose and lips pressed gently into his neck, where his skin gave to my touch – before the tornado of whooping and clapping whirled us around for the rest of the night.
I pick up my bag. We can watch the balloons from the balcony, but we’ve decided to leave the sanctuary of the room. I’ve dreamt of coming to watch the balloons for years.
I put on my hat and glasses, as he gets his wallet and watch from the bedside table. He’s about to pick up his phone.
’I was thinking about Christmas this year -‘I say.
He raises his eyebrows. ‘You want to talk about Christmas?’
‘It’s just -‘
‘I just don’t want a repeat of the last couple of years.’
I don’t know what’s come over me. Why I need to talk about this right here.
‘It’s okay for you. You don’t have to -‘
‘Look, you asked to do this, and we’re here.’
‘I’m not being awkward.’
‘I know- ‘
‘I can’t cope with another -‘
‘I know.’ He touches my face, ‘But you know -’
His phone rings. I look at him, and he shrugs. Mouths ‘sorry’as he answers.
‘Hi, Bridget,’he says. His eyes crinkle, and his cheeks flush. I turn away, as he strolls away into the hallway.
‘No, no, you didn’t wake me. Meeting starts in half an hour.’
Holding apart the muslin drapes, I step out onto the balcony, away from the protection of the air-conditioning. My hat doesn’t shield me in any way from the torrid blast of heat. As the day progresses, it will only get worse.
I can hear his voice in the distance, laughing.
‘Yes, I’m missing you too. It’s been tough here. How’s Lauren? Oh – good. Hello, gorgeous. Yes, Daddy misses you. I’ll see you soon darling. Only a few days.’
He laughs again as the first hot-air balloons – huge orbs of colour advancing from the grey, rockbound horizon – start to drift into the blue expanse before me. For a moment they seem so close, I believe I can touch them. But slowly, they float away, growing smaller and smaller into the distance, until I am left only with an arid landscape and an empty sky.
The laughter stops, and then, he’s behind me. He slips his arms around my waist. His chin rests on my hair.
I hold my breath, relieved I’m wearing sunglasses.