The Inklings: Chapter 7

Syafika and Fanta were both 23 and had never had a boyfriend, not even a kiss. It wasn’t intentional for either of them, but Syafika took it much worse than Fanta did. Fanta didn’t seem to be very concerned but Syafika was very ashamed. She was so ashamed that whenever someone asked she told them that she had a boyfriend called Vincent. She had a well practiced description of Vincent’s appearance, personality, where he worked and good excuses for why he never turned up at parties when Syafika was invited to bring a partner. Syafika hadn’t ever told Fanta this though, because she knew how angry Fanta would be with her for having told such stupid lies.

When Anthony left, Syafika was miserable. She was especially miserable at work. Her job seemed so dull without there being the chance of meeting Anthony at the photocopier or of getting a smile from him in the corridor. She tried to hide her misery at work but was only moderately successful – her two friends Helen and Julie still noticed it. So Syafika had to make up an excuse for her misery. Over a coffee she told Helen and Julie that she and Vincent had broken up. They were already familiar with Vincent, and although they had never met him, they felt like they’d known him for years. So, when Syafika told them how she and Vincent had split up they were genuinely sad. Then, as the months passed and Syafika still didn’t seem to be back to her usual chirpy self, Helen and Julie began to be concerned. They decided that they needed to start taking Syafika out so she would fall into the path of other young men and eventually forget about Vincent.

Syafika wasn’t at all willing to go out dancing or drinking. She didn’t want to draw attention to her figure by dancing in front of anyone and she also hated the atmosphere of pubs and bars. They made her feel like she was the only one there who didn’t know what to say or do. In general she hated any place or activity where strangers would be scrutinizing her looks, movements or the things she said. What Syafika would agree to was to go out for dinner. Syafika was always much calmer when food was the central focus. So Helen and Julie sneakily decided that they would go to have dinner in a pub.

Helen, Julie and Syafika left work together and walked to the pub that Helen said had the best bistro in Sydney. As the three friends walked in the door Julie looked at her watch and said “It’s really too early for dinner. Why don’t we have a little drink in the bar before going to the bistro?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s sit over there where we can see everyone who comes in” said Helen, pointing to three comfortable looking chairs in a corner.

Syafika was alarmed by this modification to the plan, but didn’t want to look awkward and so she just said “Ok”. Then Syafika remembered that there was less potential for social blunders if you were the first person to buy everyone drinks and quickly asked the others “What would you like to drink?”

Fortunately Helen and Julie both asked for the same kind of wine so Syafika didn’t have to worry too much about getting the order wrong. Thinking ahead, Syafika took some money from her wallet, put her wallet back in her bag and then asked Helen to mind her bag so that she would more easily be able to carry three drinks.

As Syafika walked back to where she’d left Helen and Julie she was congratulating herself on being able to carry two wine glasses, a glass of orange juice and her change at the same time until she realized that Helen and Julie weren’t sitting there anymore. Syafika put the drinks down and sat down, trying to remain calm. Surely they must just have gone to the bathroom and would soon be back. Syafika looked at her watch and then checked to see if Helen and Julie were coming back. Then she realized she had forgotten the time and checked her watch again. She took a sip of juice and decided to look around and try to enjoy watching what other people were doing, but watching other people just made her notice when they looked at her. What must they think of her sitting alone with three drinks? Next Syafika decided to look out the window and pretend to be deep in thought. She sipped her orange juice. She wished that Anthony would walk in. Thinking about Anthony made the time pass faster. When Syafika finished her juice she looked at her watch and realized that she’d been waiting for half an hour. “What should I do next?” she wondered.

Syafika decided that she wanted to go home. Hopefully her parents hadn’t gone out because her house keys were in her bag (and her bag was hopefully still with Helen). “I’ll find a pay phone and call Mum on my walk home” decided Syafika. She didn’t think it likely that Helen and Julie were still in the pub and she was happy to have an excuse to be able to go home, but to make her excuse a really good one Syafika thought she better first have a look around the pub to make sure that Helen and Julie weren’t waiting somewhere for her.

Syafika picked up the two glasses of wine and explored the pub. The next floor was very busy. Syafika couldn’t be sure that Helen and Julie weren’t there but she didn’t want to push her way through the crowds to make sure so she walked up to the roof garden. The roof was not as busy, but that was only because it had started to rain. On her way down the stairs Syafika was thinking about where she should leave her glasses of wine when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

Syafika turned around, feeling very relieved because she thought one of her friends had found her, but instead found herself smiling at a handsome man.

“Have you lost someone, or are you lost?“ asked the man.

“I’m looking for my friends” said Syafika and blushed. She didn’t want to have to explain that her friends had taken off and left her. She just wanted to go home.

“Don’t worry! Let’s find somewhere to sit down and wait for them to find you” said the man.

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