Excerpt from The Turkish Mirror:
Umut’s brown, callused toes touched lightly from rock to rock, graceful with excitement. Foamy hands from the Mediterranean grabbed his ankles, shocking blue green, frothing too white against his skin. That far out the jetty waves thundered from deep below, their curls surging higher, up his calves, hindered by boulders as he scrambled around to where the path was flat. Overhead gulls drifted, screeching harsh calls as inarticulate as the boy’s. I never understood Umut’s garbled Turkish, but I knew what he was saying: they were coming. From my place on the cliff I could see them. Around the thick jaw of rocky teeth that protected Incir’s bay came small wooden boats, painted blue and trimmed with red and white, diamonds of green and yellow on their cabins. Behind the boats, the sun descended into the sea, pouring blood red on the agitated waves. The fishermen were coming; spared by the sea one more day. Maşallah.
Children on the beach—digging holes with branches, tossing bulbs of seaweed like balls—glanced up. They saw Umut’s stick-thin arms waving and his tattered flapping trousers and they dropped their wood and seaweed. In a dash to be first they ran for the village, taking the goat path up the cliff, going home. Like so many crows, they took up the call: their fathers were coming.
Xiao Lian sat high on a rock at the root of the jetty that pushed into the bay. Xiao had been writing. A letter home. I knew because Mizou told me. His curled hand dipped brush into ink, forming character after character of elegant Chinese calligraphy, an inkstone balanced on the uneven rock by his knee. He took his eyes off the wind-ruffled page and peered down at Umut, leaping below him on the slippery boulders.
“Umut!” He waved, and the child looked up. Just un petit instant. Umut took his mind off his feet un petit instant— and he was gone. Slipped into the sea without a sound. Swallowed. Mon Dieu!
Xiao stood and dove: a fluid, singular gesture from sitting to swimming. He plunged without hesitation into brilliant Mediterranean blue, unconcerned for rocks that shattered the waves, or undertow, or the menace of that dreadful mirror.
His hands were the last that I ever saw of him. They thrust out of foam, gripping the boy’s waist. With a heave they threw the child onto black, wet rock: battered, frightened, bleeding. We never found any trace of Xiao Lian, though Incir’s boats searched coast and open sea, and the fishermen threw their nets where currents might carry him. I paced the jetty where he disappeared a hundred times in the next few days, wishing I had the courage to throw myself in after him.
But I didn’t. Because of you, my girl. Xiao’s death marked the beginning of your life, sweet daughter, and the end of my childhood.