They did not have swimming suits, so we brought an extra pair with us. They always wore our clothes anyway. They were so small compared to me and Esin, so when our clothes did not fit us anymore our moms gave them to Ruya and Mina. Every time they received a heap of t-shirts, shorts, skirts and shoes they knew the proper thank you words and how to show respect to the elderly. Behind their polite silence around the adults I could see how they were exhilarated to own the clothing that was once mine and Esin’s. I always felt like a heroine, a rock star when I was around them. They admired me and loved me so much! Maybe a little too much sometimes!
When it was time to change our clothes they got shy so we resigned to different corners of the garden to change. On their skinny bodies our swimming suits looked too large. The top part of the bikini was absolutely unnecessary. I was a bit concerned about the bottom part as well. What if it floated away once they were in the water? Their legs reminded me the branches of the sour-cherry tree Nene planted the year Esin and I were born. Until the moment I saw them in bikinis, I had not noticed how big their heads were compared to their bodies. Their black eyes looked larger than ever due to the excitement and fear they were feeling.
“Malnourishment” was Nene’s explanation for their size. “These girls can’t grow because they don’t eat proper food. They should eat with us more often”.
But they never did. At the end of the long mornings when we played in our garden when one of the adults called our names (and theirs too) from the upstairs window for lunch, they remembered that they needed to go back home and help mom to prepare lunch. They ate ice cream with us though. In the afternoon when we heard the bells of the ice cream car from the end of our street, mom gave me extra money so that I could treat the girls as well. They could not say no to ice cream. Or maybe they knew that their participation was necessary for me, for their dear heroine, to enjoy her own ice cream. They were right in a way. I could not and would not eat any if they were to stare at me with their big black eyes and empty hands.
They indeed knew so much!
We walked downhill in Old Lady’s garden towards the beach in one line. They followed me silently. Even the 3-year old brother was quiet. In my backpack I was carrying all the plastic swimming devices that I had sneaked out of my parent’s room earlier that day. My father was taking a nap when I tiptoed into the room. Life jackets, a pair of flippers, sleevelets and swimming suits for the 4 of us. I had carefully placed them in my backpack and quietly closed the door. Dad murmured something in his sleep.
When we arrived to the beach I let Mina lead the way. She knew where the hole in the barbed wire was. We followed her into the sea, which reached to the level of our thighs right away. Mina was right. The hole was there but it was too small for me and Esin to pass through. Plus, the wire separating the private beach of the “Club” from Old Lady’s property was rusty.
I watched the girls and their baby brother passing through it with no difficulty. I took a few steps further. The water has reached to the level of my groins and my short were getting wet. I looked at the other side of the barbed wire. Girls were waiting for me to do the move. They were probably expecting me to help Esin to pass through too because I always helped her. Plus this time she had this patch covering her right eye which made her look even more helpless than usual.
She had an eye operation ten days prior and she was not supposed to put her head in water. It was not like she was not supposed to go into the water at all or anything. I tried to reason with my mom and my aunt many times during the previous week. She could have kept her head above the water. We could still go to the beach right? It was ridiculous that we stayed at home the whole day because Esin had to avoid seawater.
How about we still go to the beach but she does not swim? “C’mon,” I begged them, “we always go to the beach. It is too hot to stay at home. And so BORING!!” They did not even listen to me. I cried and yelled at them for being mean and unreasonable. My mom stormed in to the room, grabbed me by my shoulders and hissed into my ear that it would be very, very bad for me at the end if I continued to act like a spoiled brat.
That is how my perfect plan began.
We did not need the adults to go swimming. That was my first point as I later explained to Esin. As long as she kept her head above the water, she was fine. We were not babies anymore. We always spent our time between breakfast and lunch on the street or at Old Lady’s garden anyway, so none of the adults would be concerned about our whereabouts. I thought about each and every possible way that we could be caught and blocked it strategically.
“Plus” I said and stopped to increase the power of my words,
“We will be swimming not just anywhere. Not in the public beach where our moms take us all the time. No. No.”
I watched the anxiety on her one eye slowly being replaced by curiosity and excitement. Just like the clouds in the sky.
“We will swimming at the… Club beach!”
This last one had the bomb effect that I was expecting. She jumped up to her feet! Swimming at the Club beach? Was I serious?
“Yes”, I said, “Now sit down and listen to me carefully!”