Constantinople, Turkish Republic: 1924

The last call of the muezzin slowly fades; the evening sun embraces the horizon over the minarets of the quaint neighbourhood. Ahmet admires the sunset through the arched wooden window while holding the hose of his brass hookah and taking a puff. Situated on the second floor of his two-story vacation home, his bedroom offers the perfect, picturesque view. Specks of light from the mosaic lantern on his bedside table illuminate the green walls of his bedchamber. A framed painting of Sultan Mehmed VI hangs opposite the majestic wooden bed. Next to the portrait are the Turkish flag and a gallantry medal engraved with the Ottoman crescent.

Gazing at the azure ribbon of the Marmara Sea, he expels a plume of smoke with a sigh. So many changes have occurred in his beloved country since the previous year when he left the Ottoman gendarmerie and entered the spice trade. Ahmet recalls the golden days of the Empire; it had been unfair for the newly elected progressive leader, Mustafa Kemal, to shift the capital to Ankara a year ago.

A series of knocks interrupts his thoughts. He looks out the window to find a petite young woman standing in front of his house, a carpetbag swaying from her arm. The rich velvet abaya fails to hide her voluptuous curves.

Within minutes, she stands in his bedchamber. A beam of light accentuates her olive-skinned face, which glimmers through the diaphanous veil. She drops her veil into the carpetbag and tosses the latter on the ottoman near the bed.

Her hazel-brown eyes, highlighted with dark sormeh favoured by the girls in the local brothels and framed by thick lashes, are enticing in every sense. An ornate silver hairpin sparkles in the long, raven hair, straining at the bun it holds together. Teardrop earrings dangle from her lobes, gold glinting against her skin. A thin but elaborate chain adorns her neck, glowing in the sun’s dying light. The temptress flashes a sultry smile at Ahmet, ready to bring him to his knees.

He holds out his right hand towards her, and she plants a gentle kiss on it. With eyes on her Junoesque figure, his head tilts and sweat gathers above his upper lip. His eyes follow her curves, devouring and savouring every dip and swell of flesh. Shallow breathing reveals his anticipation. The cotton of his dress is sheer against his damp skin. His gaze shifting downwards, he mentally undresses her, his tongue licking the moisture off his lips as he imagines tasting her silky skin.

Ahmet’s thoughts run wild as he pulls the hookah’s mouthpiece closer to his lips. The rosy scent of the attar she wears blends with the smoke, further intoxicating his senses. It has been a long time since he has seen such a belle.

“Do you know why I summoned you?” Before she can say a word, he holds up a finger to stop her, exhales a cloud of fragrant smoke, and continues. “I have heard tales of your sensual prowess. They say no woman in Constantinople compares to you when it comes to pleasuring a man. Is this true?” Smoke wafting from his lips, he takes a final puff and drops the hose before twirling his imperial moustache. “No, do not answer,” he orders her, his voice hoarse. “Show me instead.”

“Spend the evening with me and you will know what the best feels like.” She puckers her plump lips, her youthful charm arousing him. “You will experience it all.” Eyes smouldering, she saunters towards him. His heart speeds as her scent invades his nose. “Give yourself over to me, and I will kindle irresistible passion you have never known,” she whispers and pulls away, teasing him. Her enticing words make him feel every degree of the evening heat.

“Very well!” Ahmet strokes his salt-and-pepper beard, and the pink tip of his tongue wets his lips. He removes his red fez and, with a smirk, places it on the bedside table. “I do not spend so much for my pleasure often. You better be worth it.”

“I am worth every lira you spend.” Her flirty eyes beckon him. “Lose yourself to me and sink into my depths. You will understand why every effendi in this city craves my touch.”

“I shall judge that for myself.” Ahmet walks and circles her still form, imagining the carnal fantasies he could fulfil with her womanly curves. He has high hopes for her, as few can satisfy his fetishes. Despite being in his late fifties, he often wonders if he has the drive and desires of a younger man. He is very much a conqueror in bed, as he had been a conqueror in his decades-long paramilitary career. This clandestine, libidinous escapade is planned around his family’s trip to their hometown for a wedding. And this is not the first time he craves another woman’s touch. So far, he has always taken what he wanted by hook or by crook, be it women, villages, or lives. Many faceless women have visited his bedchamber over the years. But this one is different. An aura of feistiness surrounds her, a stark contrast to the subservient nature of most harlots.

The seductress removes her earrings, sensuous and slow. Ahmet inches closer, a lascivious look in his eyes. “One more thing, güzel kadın.” A hand lands on her shoulder and trails slowly down her waist. “I want to eat some lokums off your bare back.” He motions to a ceramic bowl of Turkish delights on the bedside table. Dusted with powdered sugar, the rose-flavoured chewy cubes glisten.

“As you wish. I will let you taste the lokums.” She runs a hand over his şalvar trousers. Gliding her fingers, she caresses the stiffening bulge. “But first, you must taste my own sweetness. Take as much as your heart desires. I am all yours.”

As she tugs at his waistcoat, Ahmet closes his eyes, fantasizing the next few minutes.

The siren slips off her abaya, revealing the emerald green silk lingerie, which clings to her sun-kissed skin. His lecherous eyes explore the scars on her thighs and knees. Her flaws make her all the more alluring. She cradles his right cheek in her palm. “I cannot wait any longer. Take me to bed and have your way with me.” The lyrical rhythm of her voice makes him both weak and strong at the same time. “Come, my sevgili,” she murmurs. “Show me the things you wish to do to me. The pleasures only a real man like you can give me.”

Brimming with passion, Ahmet pulls his waistcoat off and undresses himself, piling his clothes on the carpeted floor until he is stark naked. “Satisfy me like you never have before.”

She coils her arms around his neck, her smooth skin warm against his. Her breath brushes the fine hairs on his face. “Today”—she pushes him onto the bed—“I will show you what heaven feels like.”

He lies spread-eagled, head resting on the cushion, ready for her to sate his salacious desire. She pulls a pair of cuffs from her carpetbag. With a mischievous smile, she pounces on top of Ahmet and straddles his waist, then secures his wrists to the headboard.

He furrows his brows.

“I am going to do unspeakable things to you. Ravage your body like no other,” she purrs, and slides the key into her cleavage with a wink. “You will love it.”

Turned on by her every word, Ahmet prepares himself to devour her lips and beyond. Unquenchable lust ripples through his body. She seductively runs a finger from her luscious, coral-pink lips, down to her collarbone, between the swell of her clothed breasts, and down to her navel.

His manhood throbs in sync with his heartbeat, her every move seducing him. As she dots feather-light kisses over his face and teases him, his loins are set afire. The vixen’s fingers dance over the pink Turkish delights in the bowl. She grabs the largest piece and licks it lingeringly for a moment before shovelling the wet confection into his mouth.

Mouth stuffed, Ahmet can only mutter, “This is delic—”

She traces her fingertip over his lips, hushing the next syllables. “Do not just eat it.” A giggle escapes her as he playfully nips her finger. “Close your eyes and savour it.”

Ahmet heeds and rests his head deep on the cushion. He chews the piece with a slow, sinful relish, each bite lasting as long as possible. It melts on his tongue, the smooth texture reminding him of her skin and how hungry he is to taste her.

She slides a hand into the knot of her hair and pulls the ornate silver hairpin free. She then shakes her head, and free-flowing hair tumbles around her slender shoulders.

Her eyes dart towards Ahmet, who is busy savouring the delight. Lips curved, she takes aim and plunges the pointed end of the hairpin into his neck.

Ahmet gapes in horror, nostrils flaring. Rivulets of blood flow down his neck. She pulls the hairpin out, and a sinister grin plays on her face as she thrusts it in again. Twice. Thrice. Until her fury is satiated.

Veins throb in his forehead as he instinctively tries to overpower and strangle her, but the cuffs restrain him. He chokes, gasping for breath.

The woman slides off the bed and steps backwards. She walks towards the Turkish flag and wipes a swathe of crimson from the dripping hairpin onto the already red fabric. She then ensconces herself on the ottoman and picks up the bowl of Turkish delights from the bedside table. Rolling a piece on her tongue, she revels in its succulence. “Mmm, this is divine. Truly divine.”

Her lips part into a wicked smile. “Do you know how long I have waited for this moment? All these years, I have been following you from afar, observing your routine, learning your habits. I have lurked in the shadows alongside harlots, waiting for the time you would call upon one.”

“What”—he sputters, struggling through his next words—“did I”—he spits tiny shreds of Turkish delight out of his mouth—“ever do to you?!”

Her feigned smile vanishes, replaced by nearly a decade’s worth of rage. She turns and lifts her long hair to reveal her bare back.

Ahmet’s pupils dilate with fear as he focuses on the tattoo, a heavily decorated dark cross with a flower in the centre and loosely coiled knots on all four sides.

The Armenian cross!

His chest tightens. A chill runs down his spine.

She drops her hair and picks up another delight. She clenches it in her fist, causing the gel to ooze between her fingers. Bitter memories flash before her eyes.

The galloping horses of the gendarmes spearheaded by a bloodthirsty, moustachioed officer.

The flames of hate engulfing her home when he ordered his men to invade and ravage her village. The dragging footsteps and unheeded cries of her family being led in a death march alongside fellow villagers.

Wails of her naked mother being flogged and mercilessly raped by him and the men under his command. The skull of her new-born brother smashed open as he was thrown to the ground.

Dead bodies piling upon each other, blood saturating the earth beneath them. The once-turquoise waters of the Euphrates turning red.

Her innocent, 14-year-old self had witnessed these atrocities, had wanted to save her family. But stabbed and presumed dead, she had been left for the vultures. Vengeance stole her innocence when she later rose from the ashes like a phoenix, rage aflame in her heart.

“I still cannot forget the words you spat on my dying mother.” She fights back tears. The tendons rise in her neck. “‘Filthy Armenian infidel! We will wipe your kind off our great, holy empire.’” She takes a deep, pained breath and shudders. “You dare ask what you ever did to me, you bastard?!”

“That flag!” She clenches her jaw and motions to the Turkish flag. “That flag is smeared with the innocent blood of millions!”

Blood squirts from Ahmet’s neck. His legs twitch, life on the verge of leaving him.

“My name is Arpine.” She locks eyes with him for the final time and points to herself. “And I am here to say that your mission to wipe us out did not succeed. We. Will. Never. Be. Overcome.”

Every word hits him hard. Unable to hold onto his life anymore, Ahmet lets go. His hands go limp; his pulse comes to a standstill. He drops dead on the cushion, mouth agape, the half-eaten Turkish delight on his tongue.

Not wasting another moment, Arpine dresses again, covering her face with the veil. Carpetbag in hand, she jumps out the window, using the trellis to make her way safely to the ground. With a furtive glance in each direction, she disappears into the darkness.

In a whorehouse somewhere in the heart of the city, the true harlot lies drugged and unconscious. Back in the bedchamber, surrounded by patriotic memorabilia, a genocidal psychopath has received the justice he deserved.


“Armenia is dying, but it will survive. The little blood that is left is precious blood that will give birth to a heroic generation. A nation that does not want to die, does not die.” — Anatole France