The Inklings: Chapter 21

When Syafika got home from John and D’arby’s place on Sunday afternoon she was feeling tired but excited. She never would have imagined that she’d enjoy the company of people as unconventional as John or D’arby as much as she did. It was as if she’d spent the day in a parallel universe, one where her life wasn’t dominated by feelings of inadequacy, one where she could enjoy doing and learning things instead of having herself at the centre of her thoughts – and she didn’t have to think about herself because she knew she wasn’t being judged. Who’d have thought that Syafika would enjoy something as potentially embarrassing and dirty as scavenging and then learning to screen print? Not even the presence of Ousman and Binta at home could make Syafika angry that afternoon.

Ousman was sitting on the front steps when Syafika arrived. “What are you doing out here?” asked Syafika.

“Sulking” answered Ousman.

“Why?” asked Syafika. She was interested enough to stop and wait for an answer.

Ousman sighed and said “It’s a long story. You probably don’t have time”.

Syafika realized that Ousman was making an observation more than accusing her of not caring. If she’d been in a bad mood she still would have been offended though. Luckily for Ousman, today Syafika realized that what he had just said was true. She never did give him much time so why should he expect her to want to listen now? She was tempted to defend herself but decided it would be more productive if she just sat down and made it clear that she wanted to hear more.

“So?” said Syafika.

Ousman sighed again. He seemed to be having trouble working out what to say. Even this new, improved version of Syafika derived some amusement from this, but it was mixed with pity.

“Imagine if you’d never met your father and if you didn’t even know who he was” said Ousman eventually. “What would you do? Would you just accept it if your Mum didn’t want to tell you anything? Or would you try to find out?”

Syafika was very tempted to tell Ousman what she’d heard about his father, but for some reason she hesitated. She remembered the day she’d heard her mother and father discussing this issue in the kitchen. That was way back when Binta was still pregnant and Syafika was only 13. Festus had been talking about Binta’s anonymous donor so Syafika had asked what that meant. She could still remember the embarrassment she felt when Festus explained how a woman could go to a special kind of bank if she wanted to have a baby without a man. Rose had been so annoyed at this discussion that she’d left the room. At the time Syafika couldn’t understand why her mum was angry, but now she realized that it was probably because Festus had been making up stories as a joke.

“Well?” said Ousman. He was still waiting for Syafika to answer his question.

“I’d want to find out” answered Syafika.

“Me too!” said Ousman. “I wanted to find out, and I did, and now Mum is very angry with me”.

“How did you find out?” asked Syafika, with some strain. What she’d really wanted to say was “What did you find out!”

“I read Mum’s diaries” replied Ousman. “I think that’s the main reason she’s angry, because she doesn’t…” Ousman stopped talking and looked at Syafika as if he’d just realized who he’d been talking to and had decided that he couldn’t trust her enough to tell her any more.

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