The Inklings: Chapter 31

Fanta was anxious as she walked to Syafika’s place. Syafika had invited Fanta to dinner because Ousman and Binta were also coming for dinner and Syafika hoped that Fanta being there too would somehow make it more bearable. Fanta had a feeling that there would be arguments tonight though.

When Fanta arrived she found Rose in the front garden. Rose was busy digging up her gardenia bushes.

“What are you doing?” asked Fanta, with pain in her voice. The gardenias were flowering and smelt beautiful. Fanta couldn’t understand why Rose would be destroying them.

Rose stood up and pointed down the street. “Look!” she said. “See how many houses now have vegetables growing in their front yards? I used to grow vegetables and herbs and tomatoes in the front yard, but then all the rich people started moving into the street and they looked down their noses at me and complained that the fertilizer I was using stank, so I moved the veggie patch to the back yard and planted gardenias here instead.”

Rose paused so that Fanta had time to peer down the street. Then she continued.

“Well, then a few months ago it started to be trendy to grow your own vegetables and so now everyone has been pulling up their gardenias and planting vegetables! See number 32? They even have a worm farm!” said Rose.

“That black box on legs?” asked Fanta

“Yes! So now I’m going to plant basil and chives and chillies and rockmelons and sunflowers and zucchinis and whatever else I like! And then I’m going to put on the stinkiest fertilizer I can find. I might even try to get some chicken or cow pooh” said Rose and she chuckled.

As Fanta looked up the street she noticed that Rose had by far the biggest front yard. Fanta the real estate agent chuckled as she estimated the value of the land that would soon be covered in manure.

Fanta was going to ask Rose where Syafika was and whether Ousman and Binta were there yet, but Rose had returned her attention to digging, so Fanta went inside instead. Not surprisingly, Binta was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Ousman was there too. Binta had given him the job of washing the vegetables and while he wasn’t reluctant to do the job, he wasn’t giving it his full attention. When he heard Fanta say hello to his mother, Ousman turned around with a smile on his face. Binta wasn’t smiling though. She stopped what she was doing and looked sternly at Fanta.

“Where do I start!” said Binta. “How dare you interfere in my life in such a way! How dare you!”

Fanta realized that Binta had found out about her secret project. She hadn’t really expected such anger to be directed at her though. Fanta was certain she’d been doing a good thing.

When Fanta didn’t respond Binta continued “Why didn’t you talk to me about this? Didn’t you think I had the right to know what my own son was up to?”

“Ousman begged me to help him and not to tell anyone” explained Fanta, but she could see that perhaps she hadn’t done the wisest thing and that she should have consulted Binta.

“What are you doing here anyway? How can you think you know what is right for my son when you are always leaving your daughters at home and going out on your own?” said Binta angrily and then she turned her back on Fanta and pretended to be stirring the contents of a saucepan.

There were plenty of things Fanta could have said, but because she could feel tears forming in her eyes she turned and left instead. As she walked off down the street Fanta knew that she would regret not having stayed to explain things, but couldn’t bear to go back. Fanta was used to people she didn’t know assuming that her sisters were really her daughters, but she hadn’t expected it from someone she considered to be a friend. She imagined Syafika’s family discussing her – talking about her having been a teenage mother and how she tried to trick people into thinking her kids were her sisters. Fanta wondered what Syafika really believed. Fanta’s sisters were almost young enough to be her children and she was their guardian but Fanta was hurt that these people might not believe her when she said they were not her children.

Fanta was also hurt by Binta saying that she didn’t know what was good for Ousman. Maybe Syafika hadn’t told Binta how Fanta’s father had died just before Fanta’s youngest sister was born, or how Fanta’s mother had then abandoned them all and run off with a new man. After going through that, Fanta thought she did have some idea of what Ousman felt when his mother didn’t want him to know who his father was.

Fanta wondered whether Binta was right to think that Fanta shouldn’t go out and leave her sisters behind. Fanta had always considered that she should be able to have a separate social life, like she would have if her parents had been around. She never left her sisters on their own, they always had a babysitter, and tonight they were home with their aunt and uncle, who were practically their parents anyway.

Fanta wondered what would have happened if she had proposed to Binta that they try to find Ousman’s father. She knew Binta’s initial answer would have been “No!”, but would Binta have eventually changed her mind? Fanta decided that Binta probably would have eventually agreed with the plan to find Ousman’s father and Fanta began to regret not having discussed it with Binta first. She wished she had been able to say so.

After gathering her thoughts on the walk home, Fanta realized she needed to call Syafika, who would at least need to know why she hadn’t stayed for dinner. Festus answered the phone. He’d been instructed to tell Fanta that Syafika was too angry to talk to her. “Of course Syafika feels betrayed too” thought Fanta. She could imagine how angry Syafika would feel when she found out that she’d been left out of a secret.

After Fanta explained to her aunt and uncle why she’d come home so early her uncle told her his news. He’d had a phone call. The letter had been delivered successfully. Fanta smiled and hoped she’d eventually be forgiven.

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