Red Dress in Black & White by Elliot Ackerman Read Online (FREE)
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A Tuesday in late November 2013
That evening, at half past nine
To William, the question of his mother is clear. The question of his father is more complicated, because there is Peter.
The night that they meet, William is about seven years old and his mother has brought him to one of Peter’s exhibits. She hasn’t said much to her son, just that she has an American friend, that he takes pictures and that the two of them are going to see that friend’s art, which is very special. That’s what she always calls it, his art.
His mother doesn’t drive, at least not in this city, and in the taxi on the way there she keeps looking at her wristwatch. It isn’t that they are late, but that she’s anxious to arrive at the right time, which is not to say right on time. The apartment she’s trying to find is off İstiklal Caddesi, which is a sort of Ottoman Gran Rue running through the heart of Istanbul, the place of William’s birth but a home-in-exile to his mother, who, like her friend Peter, is American. As their cab crawls along Cevdet Paşa Caddesi, the seaside road which handrails the Bosphorus Strait, she stares out the window, her eyes brushed with a bluish cosmetic, blinking slowly, while she absently answers the boy’s questions about where they are going and whom they’ll meet there. William holds a game called Simon on his lap. It is a palm-size disk divided into four colored panels—blue, red, green, yellow—that flashes increasingly complicated patterns, which reflect off the cab’s night-darkened windows. The aim is to repeat those patterns. It was a gift from his father and his father has the high score, which he has instructed William to try to beat.
An allée of birch canopies their route and they skirt the high limestone walls of Dolmabahçe Palace. Their cab jostles in and out of first gear in the suffocating traffic until they break from the seaside road and switchback into altitudes of linden-, oak- and elm-forested hills. When the sun dips behind the hills, the lights come on in the city. Below them the waters of the Bosphorus, cold and pulling, turn from green-blue to just black. The boat lights, the bridge lights, the black-white contrast of the skyline reflecting off the water would come to remind the boy of Peter and, as his mother termed it, his art.
After paying the fare, his mother takes him by the hand, dragging him along as they shoulder through the evening foot traffic trying to find their way. Despite the darkness eternal day lingers along the İstiklal, flightless pigeons hobble along the neon-lit boulevard, chestnuts smolder from the red-painted pushcarts on the street corners, the doughy smell of baked açma and simit hangs in the air. The İstiklal is cobblestone, she has worn heels for the occasion, and when she catches one in the grouting and stumbles into the crowd, she knocks a shopping bag out of another woman’s hand. Standing from her knees, William’s mother repeatedly apologizes and a few men reach under her arms to help her up, but her son quickly waves them away and helps his mother up himself. After that the two of them walk more slowly and she still holds his arm, but now she isn’t dragging her son, and when the boy feels her lose balance once more, he grabs her tightly at the elbow and with the help of his steady grip she manages to keep on her feet.