The Florida sun is setting across the parking lot and blinding the eyes of the customers along the western facing stand up bar in the grocery eat in restaurant. Amir and Nada are replenishing the chickpea patties, hummus, tabbouli salad, tzatziki sauce, and fresh baked breads in the display case to be ready for the evening shoppers.
The bell clings against the door. In walks Ms. Dashel. Amir had always felt guilty since Ms. Dashel had become a customer. Her first visit to the Mediterranean market had been with Ulysses Sallas, a notoriously demanding man, a local chef in town who shopped there for specialty ingredients. Amir felt in some way that the store had become a trap to hold Ms. Dashel to something against her will.
She sits in her usual spot in one of the free floating tables, plunking down her satchel and grocery bag on an adjacent chair. She orders a Turkish coffee.
She hardly makes eye contact but she has the dark wild gaze Amir has noticed since the woman starting visiting the store on her own.
Though her eyes that first visit had been a soft, twinkling brown as she floated around on the arm of her new boyfriend, Mr. Sallas, Amir would have sworn her eyes had turned color. He had noticed in recent times they are black with flashes of white shards, as if her eyes were now the obsidian of his homeland.
As in times before he wants to reach out to her and physically reassure her but of course his faith prevented it. He retreats to the counter with her order and begs his wife to speak to her.
Nada is a kind a woman but more reserved than her husband. She believes people’s business should be their own. But Amir was kind to everyone and out of respect for his heart she would do what she could.
“There is a huge bruise on her arm,” says Amir, in whispered tones behind the counter while Nada grinds the coffee. “It looks like that brute has grabbed her.”
Only last week Mr. Sallas had come in and yelled at Nada for poor technique in the preparation of his coffee.
Amir always suspected Ms. Dashel believed herself to be Mr. Sallas’ one and only. Amir had noticed she filled her bag up with things normally stocked by the offensive orospu çocuğu. She was probably running his errands while he was sleeping with someone else.
The delicate Nada carefully sets the ornate demitasse cup and saucer down in front of Ms. Dashel so as not to startle her. Ms. Dashel stares at the blank table at nothing in particular. Nada notices on her exposed upper arm, bare because of her light pink sleeveless sundress, a deep purple bruise the length and width of a thick long finger.
“May I sit with you, Ms. Dashel? I am so tired,” she says, hoping Ms. Dashel will understand her intrusion as a request for a favor rather than a display of pity.
“Yes, dear,” Ms. Dashel replies in an abstracted tone. “Please make yourself comfortable,” but she stares at the table as if her beloved coffee had not been set before her.
“Ms. Dashel,” says Nada, “do you mind me observing that pink favors you. It is a lovely dress you are wearing.”
Ms. Dashel makes eye contact with the lovely Nada whose deep brown eyes gaze at her steadily and compassionately as the eyes of Umay. She bends to bring the tiny demitasse cup up to her mouth. Nada notices a little quiver in her left eye, a faint tick along the outer crease.
“Will you be buying groceries from us today, Ms. Dashel? We are so happy to have you here,” says Nada.
Ms. Dashel applies a tiny gold spoon full of sugar to the dark offering and take another sip.
“When we have coffee at the diner,” says Ms. Dashel, “I don’t stir my cream. He always says it is stupid,” says Ms. Dashel, finally. “He believes I am stupid, even in the little ways.”
“Who says this?” says Nada, knowing the answer but not wanting to appear presumptuous.
Ms. Dashel applies the rim of the deep blue demitasse cup to her fading painted lips. “He laughs at me.”
Nada can only imagine. She remembers vividly Ulysses, a large man, a rope of a ponytail down his back, demanding she start over with his Turkish coffee. She had felt the back of her neck burn as she stood at the stove with the ibrik, willing it to build more foam as demanded of her.
“I want to tell you a secret about stirring,” says Nada, gently, carefully covering her hand over Ms. Dashel’s frail bird claw.
“There is a certain pleasure to be had in not stirring. Let me tell you about those pleasures. First of all, it is beautiful to watch the cream enter the coffee and swirl around, isn’t it, yes? Also, you never know what each sip will taste like. Will it be creamy? Will it be dark? Life is a mystery, and there are some of us who enjoy mysteries and beauty.”
Ms. Dashel’s hand had warmed under Nada’s touch. She retrieved it and put it into her lap. She pushed her spine up against the back of her chair. “You are right,” she said.
That afternoon Ms. Dashel used Mr. Sallas’ credit card to buy Turkish delights for the market employees and their families. She had Nada wrap special boxes for the children and tie them up elaborately with bows. Then she had Amir cut the card in half with the shears he kept behind the counter.
At closing time, she and Nadir and Nada devise a plan:
She would leave town for the beach, using cash only. When she speaks to Ulysses for the last time, she would pretend she didn’t know how the rampant credit card charges occurred. She would be having her last cell phone conversation with him – which she would have by airplane mode to avoid him tracking her.
She would stay at the beach for a month or longer. She would start her life elsewhere to avoid Ulysses’ anger, she would sell everything she had, Nada would help her. It didn’t matter anymore, she would be safe. The night she would say good bye to him, she would be looking out on the ocean from her campsite with her dog, a box of Turkish delights beside her, her favorite kind, large pink chunks of rosewater.
*The inspiration for Nada’s thoughts come from a wonderful little lifehacker article called Why You Shouldn’t Stir Your Coffee.