The store owner, a fat, pudgy man, was standing right in front of her now, explaining how the calf skin leather was so soft and smooth.
“It will be so easy to fold and put in your bag. Here lady, feel it” he said.
She reached to touch the jacket. It did feel soft and smooth. Was he still behind her? Why didn’t she just turn around and look.
“How much is it?” she asked the store owner.
“550 dollars” he said. “But for you, I give not 60 percent discount like I give others. For you lady, I give very special discount - 65 percent. So only 500 dollars. OK?”
He thrust the jacket into her arms. She held it up.
“Mirror over there. Come lady, try on”
She could have resisted. But she didn't want to. She wanted to stay longer. She wanted one more look into the stranger’s eyes. She wanted to know why her stomach was in knots.
She'd gotten off the bus and on to the dusty roads of Izmir with four other people. A friendly elderly couple from Australia, a short man who wore a light pink t-shirt that stretched over his beer belly - who said he was from the Philippines, and an unshaven tour guide who had a bad cough. When the guide said they were visiting a leather store on their way back, she was feeling too hot and sweaty to be impressed. But when they arrived at the square, orange building, she was thankful to be out of the sun and in the dark air-conditioned room. They were served apple iced tea in tiny Turkish tea glasses and made to sit in front of what appeared to be a fashion runway.
As it turned out, it was a runway. And the stranger with the dark eyes came on first, when the lights hit the runway and music came on. As he stepped out, she saw him scan the room briefly, then his gaze landed on her face. Her heart pounded as his gaze deepened, his eyes locked on hers, as he walked right towards her. She couldn't look away and she realised she was holding her breath. He reached the end of the runway, so close to her, she could have touched him if she stretched her hands. His eyes bore into hers, not a flicker of emotion on his face, not even a hint of a smile. She was dangerously close to a fit of giggles.
She had to look away. And the moment she did, he turned around and walked away. Then, the next model came on. And the next. And the next. And then it ended. Fluorescent lights came on and they were ushered through a tiny door into a bright room.
And there he was, the dark-eyed stranger, standing in a corner amongst some leathery things. Oh how she wished she'd had the borrowed confidence of alcohol in her blood stream. She might have walked up to him then and said 'hi'. But she'd only had apple iced tea, and it did nothing for her. She felt hot and sweaty. And felt a sudden urge to smell her armpits.
So she pretended to concentrate on a yellow jacket hanging on the stall in front of her. The store owner of course, took that as a sign of interest and came rushing over.
"Mirror over there. Come lady, try on"
Holding the jacket in her hand, she walked over to the mirror.
"Amir! Don't just stand about. Come help this beautiful lady try this"
She watched the dark-eyed stranger, walking over, taking the jacket off her hand and holding it up for her to slip her arms into. All the while, as she looked at the mirror, she saw his eyes never left hers. Not once.