The Inklings: Chapter 133

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

On Friday morning Fanta was relieved that neither she nor her sisters had become sick during the night.

Fanta noticed that D’arby was looking well and seemed to be feeling relaxed that morning. Instead of rushing off to work D’arby was sitting and drinking tea with John.

D’arby also looked relieved when he saw that Fanta and her sisters were up.

“Can you invite Syafika over for dinner tonight?” D’arby asked Fanta. “I have something to tell everyone”

“Ok” said Fanta.

“What is it?” asked John.

“I don’t want to spoil the surprise – wait until tonight” said D’arby.

“It’s not bad news is it?” asked John.

“No, exciting news” said D’arby.

Fanta thought she knew what D’arby was going to be talking about, but didn’t say anything.

When Fanta arrived at work she was disappointed to find that Syafika wasn’t there.

Instead of paying attention during the team meeting Fanta daydreamed about having adventures. A particular favourite was imagining what it would be like to walk into the kitchen and discover Nelson trying to stab Christine with a knife. Fanta decided that in that situation she would disarm Nelson by throwing hot water all over him.

When Fanta walked back to her desk after the meeting Celine walked next to her.

“What is she doing here?” asked Celine, sounding disgusted.”She will infect us all”

Fanta looked up and saw Syafika walking into the office looking apologetic.

Syafika smiled at Fanta and then went to apologise to Christine for having missed the team meeting.

Then Syafika walked over to Fanta and whispered “Let’s catch-up over lunch” before settling down at her computer.

At lunchtime it was raining and so Fanta and Syafika went to a café instead of the Botanic Gardens.

As Fanta listened while Syafika told her all the details of her date with Anthony she realised she felt impatient and a bit cranky. Fanta wondered if she was starting to feel the way her mother had felt before she ran away.

“What’s your next date? With the waiter you met when you were with Celine?” said Fanta.

“Who?” said Syafika, looking confused.

“Celine said a waiter gave you his phone number and made you promise to call” said Fanta. “Or was she making that up?”

“No, now I remember” said Syafika and she opened her wallet and looked in all the sections without finding what she was looking for.

“Don’t tell me you lost his number” said Fanta.

“I must have. I remember putting it in here, but now it’s gone” said Syafika.

Fanta realised she felt disappointed – disappointed for the waiter, disappointed that Syafika wouldn’t have a new romance to distract her from Anthony, and disappointed because Celine was the one who’d been with Syafika when the waiter had given Syafika his number.

“What’s wrong” asked Syafika. “You don’t look happy today”

Fanta sighed as she gathered her thoughts.

“I wish my life was more interesting” said Fanta.

“Why would you want a life as full of disappointing dramas as mine? You’ve got love and stability – the things most people dream about” said Syafika.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m just feeling left out while you and D’arby have all these adventures” said Syafika.

“Do you want to help me work out what Anthony is up to?” said Syafika.

“Yes!” said Fanta.

“But you’ve always disliked Anthony” said Syafika.

“I don’t want you to marry him, I want you to discover that he does evil things because then you won’t like him anymore” said Fanta.

Syafika laughed and Fanta couldn’t help joining in.

“Shall I tell you what happened when I got home yesterday?” said Syafika.

“Yes” said Fanta and she listened patiently as Syafika told her about the conversations she’d had with Amanda and Rose yesterday. Fanta wanted to think that Syafika was just being paranoid, but she had to agree with Syafika – the evidence didn’t add up to there being nothing going on.

“So what do you think? Do you know why Anthony has been watching me or my house?” asked Syafika.

“I think that Anthony does love you but that he is also spying on you for some other reason, and I think that he is scared that you are playing some kind of game with him. Maybe he thinks you know more than you do” said Fanta.

“I like that!” said Syafika. “I just wish it was true – that I did know what was going on. Do you really think he has mistaken my confusion for tactics?”

“It makes sense” said Fanta. “Anthony behaves like he is attracted to you one minute, and then is is angry or scared of you the next. What if he is just as confused as you and neither of you are trying to be manipulative?”

Fanta noticed a tear running down Syafika’s cheek.

“That’s so sad!” said Syafika. “Next time I see Anthony I’m going to give him a hug – poor thing! But what does that mean about Mum and Amanda?”

“I don’t know – what could they possibly be up to that Anthony would be interested in?” asked Fanta.

“Will you help me find out?” asked Syafika.

“Yes” said Fanta. “But we have to be careful. They are your family”


The Inklings: Chapter 132

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Syafika couldn’t help smiling as she watched Binta drag Rose and Mamadou off to India’s place. She wondered how long they’d be gone and what she should do while they were away. Syafika walked around the house with her cup of tea, humming to herself. When she wandered into the loungeroom and when she saw the piano she sat down and opened the lid.

There was a pile of piano music books on top of the piano that would have had a thick layer of dust on them if Rose hadn’t recently had to clean up for Zikpi and her film crew.

Syafika took down one of her favourite books and it fell open at the piece she used to play the most.

Syafika put the open book on the stand, adjusted her position on the piano stool and started playing.

Syafika was glad that it was a slow piece of music because her fingers felt really clumsy. She realised she should have done some exercises to warm her hands up first, but kept playing anyway. About halfway through the piece Syafika felt shivers down her spine and a wave of emotion swept over her. She started crying but kept playing. She felt as if her body had been taken over because her hands remembered the music better than she did. Syafika played one piece after another until she felt exhausted. When she stopped she looked at her watch and realised that over an hour had passed.

As Syafika stood up she had a feeling that someone else was in the room and when she turned around she was surprised to discover Amanda sitting on the sofa with Aminata on her hand.

“I wish you did that more often” said Amanda. “I miss hearing you play”

Syafika didn’t know what to say. She felt embarrassed that Amanda had been listening to her and wondered whether she’d been there when she was crying. Syafika was also amazed that Amanda had come out of her room and that she was behaving so coherently.

“Do you come out of your room often during the day?” asked Syafika.

“No, just sometimes” said Amanda. “There’s still a lot for me to do in my room. I think I’ll be able to start coming out more regularly soon though”

Syafika tried not to roll her eyes when Amanda talked about having a lot to do in her room. Syafika resented how Amanda could get away with being so lazy.

“I’m going to make some lunch. Would you like some?” asked Amanda.

“Yes please” said Syafika, realizing that she was feeling really hungry.

“Why don’t you pick tomatoes and some salad vegies from the backyard while I prepare the rest?” said Amanda.

As Syafika walked out to the garden she realised she needed adjust her vision of reality so that it included the possibility that Amanda might grow up into a normal, functioning person.

When Syafika came back inside carrying tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce leaves she could smell melted cheese and saw that Amanda was grilling cheese on toast.

“Thanks. Now sit down while I make salad” said Amanda.

As Syafika sat silently at the table and watched Amanda chop the salad vegetables there were so many questions she wanted to ask but she was worried that if she asked them Amanda might run up to hide in her room again, so instead Syafika decided to talk about what she’d been up to.

“You’ll never guess what happened to me last night!” said Syafika.

“I don’t have to guess all of it because I checked the answering machine messages – you got sick and stayed at a friend’s house” said Amanda. “Which friend? Fanta?”

“No, not really a friend. His name is Anthony. It’s a long story, but my friend D’arby and I are spying on Anthony to try and work out what he is up to. We think Anthony is some kind of spy” said Syafika.

“Who does Anthony spy on?” asked Amanda as she served lunch.

“That’s a good question” said Syafika. “I know he is trying to find out what goes on where I work, but I think he might also have been trying to spy on D’arby and maybe even me or someone in our family – although I don’t know why he’d do that”

Syafika took a large bite of the cheesy toast and was amazed at how delicious it tasted. Then she tried the salad and discovered that it was also very good.

“Wow. This is so yummy! Thanks!” said Syafika.

Amanda didn’t answer straight away because she was too busy chewing but she looked happy.

“I’m glad you like your lunch” said Amanda. “But what makes you think that Anthony is spying on someone in our family? What do we ever do that’s interesting enough for someone to want to spy on us?”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought” said Syafika. “It’s just that the other evening I ran the last bit of the way home barefoot – that’s the only time I’ve ever done it – and last night Anthony made a comment about me running barefoot. And there is one other thing that happened, but maybe it is nothing too”

“What?” asked Amanda.

“Last week when I was out running I saw Mum give a bundle of $50 notes to a lady who lives in a tent in the park near the station” said Syafika. “And when I told Anthony about it he seemed interested”

“Why did you tell Anthony that?” asked Amanda.

Syafika thought Amanda looked a bit cranky.

“I was trying to find out why Anthony would have been watching our house – I wanted to see how he’d react” said Syafika.

“How did he react?” asked Amanda.

“He looked interested” said Syafika.

“That’s all? He didn’t say anything or ask any questions?” asked Amanda.

“No, he didn’t have time to ask questions though” said Syafika.

“Have you considered that Anthony is just interested in you, romantically? He could have been watching you, not our house. And he might have looked interested when you told him the story about Mum because he likes listening to you” said Amanda.

Syafika felt embarrassed and didn’t know how to answer.

“Do you like Anthony?” asked Amanda.

“No, I mean, I don’t know. I used to, but I don’t know now. I think I still would like him if I didn’t feel like he is manipulating me to find out information” said Syafika.

“What do you think about Mum? Do you think she is up to something?” asked Amanda.

“The only reason I suspect Mum of anything is because I saw her give that lady all that money. Maybe all I should suspect Mum of is of being very generous” said Syafika.

“Yeah, that’s what I think” said Amanda.

Syafika didn’t say anything for a few minutes because she was trying to process all the things Amanda had said. Although each sentence had made sense on its own Syafika wasn’t able to combine them all into a clear picture of what Anthony was really up to. Eventually she decided to change the topic.

“What sorts of things keep you busy?” asked Syafika. She tried very hard to not sound condescending as she said it.

“I’ve been learning lots of useful things – I’m trying to make up for having left school” said Amanda.

“Why don’t you just go back to school?” asked Syafika.

“I don’t fit in at school” said Amanda.

Amanda’s answers had made Syafika feel uncomfortable but she wasn’t sure why. At first she thought it was because she didn’t have much sympathy for Amanda – Syafika hadn’t enjoyed highschool either but she’d still gone. Syafika looked at Amanda for a few seconds before she realised what was making her feel uneasy – it was because she didn’t believe what Amanda was saying.

Syafika heard the front door opening and thought it must have been Rose, Mamadou and Binta coming home. Amanda must have heard the door opening too because she grabbed the last piece of her toast and ran upstairs to hide in her room.

Syafika was finishing her lunch when Rose walked in to the kitchen.

“Where are the others?” asked Syafika.

“Helping India set up for the party tonight” said Rose. “I told India that you were sick and she said you could join the meeting remotely – she’ll set up her laptop in the room”

“I feel fine now though. Why can’t I just come in person” asked Syafika.

“India didn’t like the thought of that. She thinks you should stay in quarantine tonight in case you give your germs to Penny, who is still weak” said Rose. “You should be happy – if she wasn’t scared of catching your germs India would be making you come over and help set up”

“How did you get out of helping to set up?” asked Syafika.

“I just came to check on you and Amanda. Have you had lunch?” said Rose.

“Yes, Amanda made me lunch” said Syafika.

“Great, I’ll head back to India’s place then” said Rose.

“Wait. I need to ask you something” said Syafika.

“What?” said Rose.

“Last Tuesday, after Zikpi finished filming, I went for a run and I saw you giving a lady a bundle of $50 notes. Why did you do that?” asked Syafika.

Rose looked embarrassed and looked at her feet for a couple of seconds before she said “I stopped going to the beauty salon years ago and instead I walk around looking for someone who needs the money and then I give it to them”

“Why are you so embarrassed to be doing that? It’s a good thing” said Syafika.

“I am embarrassed because I kept it a secret. Your dad would probably be cross with me for not discussing it with him first” said Rose. “But sometimes I just want to be able to make decisions on my own, without having to consult anyone”

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell him” said Syafika. “I was more worried that you were up to something suspicious than that you were giving money away”

Rose laughed and asked “What suspicious things did you think I might be up to?”

“I really don’t know, but Anthony seemed interested when I told him what I saw, and he is some kind of spy” said Syafika.

“What are you going on about!” said Rose and she rolled her eyes. “I better check on Amanda quickly and then I’ll head back to India’s place. I’ll be back later to help you set up the computer for the meeting. And I can bring you some dinner over too”

Syafika listened to the stairs creaking as Rose went up to check on Amanda realised she was feeling very jealous. She wondered what sort of things Rose and Amanda talked about when they were home together every day and felt leftout. She looked at her empty plate and decided she’d wash the dishes then search the house for chocolate to eat while she read a book.

As Syafika rinsed the dishes she heard the front door opening and closing and realised that Rose must have left the house. Syafika took off the dishwashing gloves and opened one cupboard after another until she discovered a packet of chocolate biscuits. Syafika felt like a naughty child as she ran to her room with the biscuits and closed the door. She sat on her bed reading and eating biscuits until Ousman came home from school.

“Syafika? Are you home?” yelled Ousman as he came in the front door.

Syafika was touched that she was the first person Ousman thought of when he got home and got up to meet him.

“Did you see the frog and eggs?” asked Ousman.

“Yeah, I did. Very exciting!” said Syafika.

“Yes, I want to go and see it again” said Ousman and he ran off towards the back door. Syafika was about to follow him when the phone rang.

“Hello?” said Syafika.

“It’s me, Fanta. How are you feeling? Should I come over? Or do you need to rest?”

Syafika desperately wanted to talk to Fanta and was about to tell her to come over when she remembered that she was probably still contagious.

“I wish you would, but I think I’m still contagious. What about tomorrow instead?” asked Syafika.

Syafika and Ousman mucked around in the backyard with Aminata for the rest of the afternoon. They watched the frog, picked strawberries and splashed in the pond.

Syafika was feeling pretty tired by the time Binta came back. Binta had brought a large plate of food for Syafika, which would have made Syafika very happy if she wasn’t already full of chocolate biscuits and strawberries.

“Your mum is busy setting up the chocolate fountain so I’ll help you set up my computer so you can watch the meeting from here” said Binta and she took Syafika upstairs to her room, and Ousman followed.

Syafika and Ousman watched as Binta set up her computer. Then Syafika saw India on the screen and heard her say “Hello Syafika! Can you hear me?”

“Yep” said Syafika. “Can you hear me?” said Syafika.

“All fine” said India. “Now you wait there – everyone is eating dinner but when they finish we’ll all come in here for the meeting.

So Syafika sat at Binta’s desk and started eating her large dinner while watching India’s empty dining room. The highlight was when she saw Binta and Ousman walk through India’s dining room and Ousman pulled a face at the computer.

Syafika felt herself falling asleep so she rushed downstairs, put the rest of her dinner in a container in the fridge and made herself a cup of green tea. When she got back India’s dining room was still empty so Syafika did 50 star jumps to wake herself up. She’d just regained her breath when people started coming in and sitting around the dining table, then making a second row around the outside of the room. Syafika counted 30 people and noticed that there was somone there from most of the houses on the street.

India welcomed everyone and pointed out that Syafika was watching from quarantine via the computer. Then India wheeled in a whiteboard and the serious work began.

“Right everyone, you’re going to call out problems our street faces and I’ll write them down. When we think we’ve got them all we will look at how we can work together to solve the problems. Remember when we brainstorm all ideas get written down and there’s no criticizing”

“Our house burnt down and we have no insurance so we can’t afford to build again” said Victoria.

“There’s too much traffic” said Donald, who lived next door to India.

“Developers want to build a big block of flats” said Ousman.

“There’s a cat that poos in my garden” said Sunita.

When India wrote the cat poo problem on the white board Syafika started laughing and had to pretend it was a cough. For the rest of the problem brainstorm she had to keep reminding herself that everyone in the room could see and hear her.

When the whiteboard was full there was a 10 minute break for tea and coffee so Syafika went downstairs to make herself a cup of tea. She was determined to contribute to the next session, which was another brainstorm, but this time they were looking for solutions.

Syafika was not surprised when Victoria suggested that a solution to their problem was to sell their land to the developers and buy one of the new flats to live in. Victoria even tried to convince Penny and Gina that they should do the same. Syafika knew that the block of flats couldn’t go ahead without having at least one adjoining block and so she was cross with Victoria for pretending to be trying to help Penny and Gina when she was really just trying to help herself. The block that Victoria and Graham’s land backed onto was owned by a young family who hadn’t come to the meeting but had expressed how much they didn’t want to live next to a block of flats. Syafika wondered whether Victoria was going to try to pressure them to sell up and live in a flat too.

India dutifully wrote Victoria’s idea on the whiteboard and there was an angry silence in the room for a few seconds. Syafika was expecting someone to chime in about how they shouldn’t be NIMBYS and that they had to accept that blocks of flats were inevitable, but instead Mamadou jumped up and asked for the whiteboard marker.

Instead of trying to explain his idea, Mamadou drew it on the whiteboard. He drew a two storey building on Victoria and Graham’s block. The top storey was a pretty house with a roof garden and the bottom storey was a carpark. Nobody seemed to know what was going on until Mamadou drew the street with one end blocked off with bollards. Then he converted one lane to trees, garden, play equipment and even included a sand box for cat poo.

“We all park here, not on the street” said Mamadou, and he pointed at the ground floor carpark. “Victoria and Graham sell carspaces to pay for their topfloor house and we close the street except for emergency vehicles”

Syafika was glad that nobody was allowed to criticize ideas because she could see lots of problems with Mamadou’s plan – for a start she knew they’d never be given permission to close their street to traffic, but also because it depended on Victoria and Graham changing their minds. Syafika looked to see how Graham and Victoria reacted to Mamadou’s idea and was surprised to see that they were looking thoughtful and nodding.

When the solution brainstorm was over the whiteboard was full and everyone was too tired to vote on what to do with all the ideas so they decided to meet again in a few days.

As Syafika turned Binta’s computer off she realised that she was crying and realised that she’d been surprised by how the people in her street had come together – Syafika realised that her default position was to be annoyed at how stupid most people seemed to be.


The Inklings: Chapter 131

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

The possibility of John being infected with D’arby’s vomit sickness had been enough for Tim to insist on looking after John’s restaurant for the rest of the week. John decided to start his unexpected break from work by going for a walk. As John walked along he picked up paperbark blossoms from the footpath and wondered which kind of parrot had dropped them. He’d seen rainbow lorikeets hanging upside down from the trees but there had also been cockatoos around. By the time he got home he’d collected a large bunch of blossoms and as he arranged them in a vase he realised that they smelt a lot like mashed potatoes.

John was looking forward to surprising Fanta by being home when she arrived home after picking her sisters up from school, but there was a lot of time before that so John got out a pile of papers on addiction and settled down on the sofa to read them. John was feeling quite proud of himself because he’d learnt enough to be able to make sense of most of the things researchers wrote in their papers, but he knew he had a long way to go.

At 3:30 pm Nancy and Ruby ran in through the front door and woke John up. John was embarrassed at them finding him asleep on the sofa and wondered how long he’d been asleep. When he got up he nearly slipped over on the book he’d been taking notes in.

“Surprise!” said John when Fanta saw him. “Tim’s taking care of the restaurant today, tomorrow and Sunday because I might be contaminated with vomit germs.”

Fanta had been moving towards John but stopped when John mentioned germs.

“Have you started vomiting?” asked Fanta.

“No. It’s just a precaution, and I’m hoping it will be a fun one – that I don’t get sick and can enjoy spending more time with you” said John.

Fanta smiled and John smiled back. He felt so lucky.

“What do you want to do on Sunday?” asked Fanta.

John hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“You decide” said John.

“I feel like going on an adventure” said Fanta. “D’arby and Syafika have been having adventures lately and I feel like I am missing out”


The Inklings: Chapter 130

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Penny refused to sit in the passenger seat of India’s car – she wanted to sit next to Gina in the back instead. Binta was usually skeptical about love – she thought that people who were in love behaved as stupidly as people who were on drugs, but there were some couples that made her wish she could find a companion, and Penny and Gina were one of those couples. As Binta got into the passenger seat of India’s car she thought about Mamadou and wondered whether they could ever be a couple again because it was tempting to think that it would solve a lot of their problems. She tried to remember what it had felt like when she’d been in love with Mamadou but couldn’t remember much, apart from a how it had been the only time she’d felt comfortable with who she was. Other feelings were easier to remember, like how embarrassed she’d felt when he’d left her and how scared she’d been at the prospect of having a baby all by herself. Binta realised that she and Mamadou had a lot to talk about and wondered whether they ever would. Maybe it was better to not talk about what had happened in case they began to hate each other.

When they arrived at India’s place Binta did as India had planned – she brought Penny’s suitcase inside while India and Gina helped Penny into her wheelchair. Then she walked home to see if Rose and Mamadou wanted to join them for morning tea.

When Binta opened the front door she could hear Rose, Syafika and Mamadou talking. They were in the kitchen drinking tea.

“Please come and have tea at India’s place instead. She instructed me to invite you to come and welcome Penny” said Binta.

Rose and Mamadou reluctantly put down their tea cups and followed Binta to India’s place, but Syafika refused, saying “She wouldn’t have invited me, would she – India wouldn’t know I was home sick”

When Rose, Binta and Mamadou arrived at India’s it was obvious that Mamadou was the one Penny most wanted to see.

“I have to tell you about the strange dream I keep having” said Penny.

“I’ll make the tea” said Rose quickly and she went to the kitchen, which didn’t surprise Binta because she knew how much Rose hated it when people recounted their dreams.

Binta and Mamadou sat down near Penny and listened as she told them how every night in hospital she’d dreamt that she’d been walking through a strange place that was part city, part forest and part temple. There was dappled light and a feeling of enclosure that you get when walking through a forest but the trees seemed to merge into the walls of buildings. In the spaces between branches and tree trunks there were windows, doors, shelves, artworks and cosy places to sit.

“I was as if a city had been grown from trees and plants” said Penny and she explained how there were small clearings with places to sit, and how there were creeks running between the tree-buildings that had little bridges over them.

“I’d like you to help me create a place like that on our block” said Penny. “I loved your house design, but I think that when you drew that you were trying to please the old me. The new me is much more adventurous because I can’t un-see what I saw in those dreams”

Binta wondered how anyone could turn Penny’s dream into a place that was practical enough to live in and looked at Mamadou to see what he was thinking.

Mamadou’s mouth was gently turned up, as if his expression had been frozen just before he smiled, and his eyes seemed to be staring into the distance despite there only being a blank wall in front of him. Binta realised that the only time she’d seen an expression like that was when she had watched The Wind in the Willows on TV as a child – it was the same expression that Toad had after he’d seen his first motor car and it indicated to Binta that Mamadou was going to become obsessed by Penny’s new idea.


The Inklings: Chapter 129

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Mamadou watched from the front window as Binta walked over to India’s place. He was disappointed with himself for not raising his new plans with Binta over breakfast and frustrated that there seemed to be nothing he could do that didn’t require him having someone to help him.

As Mamadou washed the breakfast dishes he sang a song to himself. Singing made Mamadou feel happier and he decided it was a good day to take Aminata for a walk.

As Mamadou opened the front door he heard the sound of a door closing upstairs. Aminata, who was sitting on Mamadou’s shoulder, seemed to hear it too because she raised her crest and tilted her head.

Initially Mamadou was worried that someone had broken into the house, but then he remembered that Rose had another daughter called Amanda who lived upstairs but never left the house and rarely came downstairs. Mamadou wondered how Rose and Festus could be so calm about having such a strange daughter and couldn’t help thinking that they were probably too accommodating – he wondered how long Amanda would stay in her room if Rose stopped taking food up for her.

Mamadou sang softly as he walked along and Aminata seemed to be trying to sing with him because she made ‘clink-clink’ sounds at regular intervals. The sun was so hot that Mamadou wished he’d worn a hat. Instead of going back to get one he decided he’d decide which way to walk based on which streets had the most shade. It was a good plan and Mamadou had a lovely walk exploring shady lanes and leafy streets but on the way back he started to crave a cup of tea so much that he ventured down a busy, treeless street because he could see a café.

As Mamadou stepped inside the café he felt instant relief and was looking forward to sitting down and drinking tea when a waiter came over and said “I’m sorry but I have to ask you to leave”

“Why?” asked Mamadou, wondering what he’d done wrong.

“No animals allowed” said the waiter.

That’s when Mamadou realised that Aminata was on his shoulder.

Mamadou considered asking whether he could order a takeaway tea but he was the tone the waiter had used had made him too angry to want to stay any longer so Mamadou turned to Aminata, raised his eyebrows and walked out of the café.

Mamadou became thirstier and thirstier on the walk back home and began to look longingly at garden taps, but they were all protected by fences and closed gates. When they passed a house with a birdbath in the front yard Aminata flew over to use it. Mamadou watched from the footpath as Aminata had a lovely time splashing around in the water and wished that someone had put out a big dish of water for humans to play in.

When Aminata returned to Mamadou’s shoulder she was damp and Mamadou thought she felt a bit heavier. Mamadou realised that they were only a ten minute walk from home and decided not to think about drinking water or tea until he got home.

When Mamadou walked around the next corner he noticed a woman coming out of an impressive house a bit further down the street. She turned left and started walking in the same direction as Mamadou so he didn’t get a good look at her face but he was pretty sure it was Rose. Aminata must have been sure too because she took off and landed on a fence near Rose. Rose stopped and put out her hand for Aminata to climb on to then she turned around and noticed Mamadou approaching.

“Who were you visiting in that fancy house?” said Mamadou.

“I had to speak to our local member of parliament about some issues” said Rose.

Mamadou assumed Rose had been there to talk about the block of flats that someone wanted to build next door to their house and so he didn’t ask any more questions.


The Inklings: Chapter 128

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

As Syafika walked home she couldn’t decide what kind of mood she was in. She felt excited and exhausted at the same time. She broke into a run a couple of times but had to stop because when she ran her head hurt.

Syafika kept playing her conversations with Anthony over and over in her head. She was proud of some of the things she’d achieved, like how she’d successfully hidden the bug in Anthony’s coat, but she was not proud of other things. Syafika was still embarrassed that Anthony knew she’d been snooping around in his study, but what made her most uncomfortable was that Anthony had been interested in her story about Rose giving money to the lady in the park. Syafika was beginning to feel scared that Rose really was up to something and that Anthony had been spying on Rose. It made Syafika cross to think that her mum was hiding things from her, but what worried Syafika most was that the information she’d given Anthony might end up causing trouble for Rose. Syafika had considered discussing the matter with D’arby but she hadn’t because she suspected that D’arby had been keeping things from her – Syafika thought that D’arby had been using her to find out things about Anthony for his own purposes.

When Syafika got home there was nobody there. Syafika felt lonely in the empty house and realised she’d been looking forward to hugging her mum. Syafika didn’t know what she should do next. She knew she needed sleep but was feeling so agitated that she thought it would be waste of time to try sleeping. Then Syafika realised she probably needed food so she opened the fridge to see what she could find. When Syafika took a bowl of yoghurt to her room she discovered a note on the floor and realised that Ousman must have slipped it under the door. The note said “Frogs and eggs in pond!”

Syafika smiled and realised that, that day, she trusted Ousman more than anybody else. Syafika decided to eat her yoghurt by the pond and as she walked into the back garden she listened out for sounds from Mamadou’s shed but it was silent. Syafika wondered where everyone was and tried to remember what was going on that day. When she remembered that it was the day Penny was due home from hospital Syafika decided it was likely that everyone was helping with that.

After eating a few spoonful’s of yoghurt Syafika was surprised to hear a funny sound coming from the pond.

“Bop… bop… bop” went the frog in the pond.

Syafika tried to stay still and looked carefully at the pond until she noticed a little frog face sticking out of the water near the far bank. She also noticed some froth that must have been the frogs eggs Ousman had mentioned. Syafika smiled when she realised that seeing the frog had taken away her feeling of loneliness.

When she finished eating Syafika yawned and realised it was probably a good time to have a nap.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Syafika woke in fright. She didn’t know where she was, what time it was or even what day it was. It took her a few seconds to realise that she was at home and that she’d been woken by the sound of people coming in the front door.

Syafika stayed where she was and listened. She could hear Rose and Mamadou talking and walking to the kitchen then she heard the kettle boiling.

Syafika rushed to the kitchen to make sure that there was enough water in the kettle for her to have tea too.

“What are you doing here?” asked Rose.

“Didn’t Ousman tell you I was sick?” asked Syafika, sounding annoyed.

“No, but I didn’t see him this morning. I left before he got up” said Rose. “What’s wrong?”

“Last night I was vomiting, but I feel ok now” said Syafika. “I left you a phone message saying I wasn’t going to come home because I was vomiting too much to travel. Didn’t you listen to it?” said Syafika.

“Sorry, no. I was too preoccupied with all the other stuff going on” said Rose. “Where did you stay? Why didn’t you ask me to come and get you?”

“Lucky I didn’t ask you to come and get me, you mean” said Syafika. She felt sad that while she’d been going through her ordeal, nobody in her family had been thinking about her.

Rose gave Syafika a cuddle and said “Sorry darling. Let’s have tea”.

Syafika felt much better after a cuddle and happily sat down at the table where Mamadou had put out three cups and a pot of tea.


The Inklings: Chapter 127

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Fanta had just sat down at her desk at work when Celine came over.

“Do you know where Syafika is?” asked Celine.

“She’s sick today – hasn’t she called in to say so?” said Fanta.

“Oh” said Celine, and she frowned.

Fanta could tell that Celine didn’t believe that Syafika was sick.

When Fanta went to the kitchen to get some water she bumped into Nelson, who was making himself some tea. Nelson gave Fanta a friendly smile and was about to say something when his mobile phone rang.

Fanta only turned the tap on a little bit because she wanted to take as long as possible to fill her water bottle so she could stay and listen to Nelson’s phone conversation but she didn’t learn much from it because all he said was “Yes” then he hung up and left.

Fanta was disappointed because she’d been looking forward to doing some spying. When Fanta returned to her desk she felt restless and realised that she felt she’d been missing out on the fun that Syafika and D’arby had been having.

At lunchtime Celine asked Fanta to join her in the Botanic Gardens and Fanta happily agreed.

“Do you know what sickness Syafika has?” asked Celine as they walked down the stairs.

“Vomiting” said Fanta. “She might have been contagious yesterday so anyone of us could be next”

Celine looked disgusted and was quiet until they got to the Botanic Gardens.

“Let’s sit over there” said Celine and she lead Fanta towards the rose garden. They sat down on a seat and had barely opened their lunchboxes when Fanta noticed an awful smell.

“Can you smell vomit?” asked Celine.

“Yes” said Fanta.

“Maybe Syafika has been here” said Celine.

Fanta and Celine moved to another seat near the pond.

“It smells better here” said Celine. “I smell leaflitter with a hint of bird poo and a faint whiff of apricots”

Fanta took a deep breath and had to agree. She wondered where the apricot smell was coming from but didn’t say anything.

“Did Syafika tell you about the waiter?” asked Celine.

“No. What waiter?” asked Fanta.

“A waiter at the café yesterday. He gave her his phone number” said Celine.

Fanta couldn’t help rolling her eyes.

“Are you cross that she didn’t tell you?” asked Celine.

“No, we don’t talk everyday. I’ll ask her when I see her tonight”

“Is it a good idea to see her tonight if she is sick – she might still be contagious?” asked Celine.

Fanta’s first impulse was to say that Syafika had been feeling better when she saw her that morning and so she probably wasn’t contagious, but she stopped herself just in time when she realised that telling the truth would contradict the two lies she’d told Celine that morning – that Syafika was sick (when she was already feeling better and was really just tired) and that she hadn’t spoken to her (when she had). When Fanta stopped to think she realised that Celine might be right – Syafika might still be contagious.

“How long do you think she will be contagious for?” asked Fanta.

“I don’t know, but I’d stay away for the rest of the week if I were you. Vomiting is disgusting” said Celine.

Fanta wondered whether Celine was trying to be helpful or whether she was trying to come between her and Syafika. Fanta even started to suspect that the story about the waiter might be a lie.

Fanta took a large bite of her sandwhich and stared into the distance. She could see a figure walking up the slope towards Government House and wondered whether it was Anthony.

“What do you think of Nelson?” asked Fanta.

“What do you mean? You aren’t asking if I think he is handsome are you?” said Celine.

“No!” said Fanta and she laughed as she thought about it. “I mean, do you think he is a good person”

“Why are you asking that?” said Celine.

“I don’t know. I just have a sense that Nelson is up to something” said Fanta.

“You must have been watching too much TV” said Celine.

Fanta didn’t respond but she silently decided that she didn’t like Celine very much.


The Inklings: Chapter 126

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

“Mum, where’s Aunty Rose?” asked Ousman. He looked really excited.

“She went for a walk” said Binta. Binta was a bit cross with Rose. When India had asked if they could help her today when she collected Penny from hospital and finished preparing for the street party Rose had firmly refused, with a vague excuse. The result was that Binta had felt she had no choice but to agree to help India, even though she didn’t feel comfortable in India’s company. India was a friendly person and generally kind, but she was a terrible listener – she dominated conversations and could be quite bossy, and Binta found this exhausting.

“Syafika didn’t come home last night because she was vomiting so she stayed at a friend’s place and is coming home now” said Ousman.

Binta heard what Ousman said but didn’t really take it in because she was looking at the time.

“Great. Time for you to go and get the bus now darling” said Binta. Binta walked Ousman to the bus stop and when she got home there was still half an hour before she’d promised to be at India’s place, so she went to see if she had any new emails.

As Binta sat down at her computer she felt anxious. She had a feeling that she ought to urgently be doing something but she didn’t know what she should be doing. Of course she knew that she urgently needed to start earning an income but she didn’t know how she should do that. Every day she looked at job ads but hadn’t yet found one she met all the criteria for. She’d hoped that she could help Mamadou create a business, but the fire and his visa conditions had made that seem unlikely to succeed. All these thoughts were swirling around Binta’s mind when she clicked on a new email from a familiar name – it was from Bert, who’d she’d been to uni with but hadn’t seen since.

Bert was wondering what Binta was up to these days and asking for help because his animation business had a new project that was really ambitious and he wanted someone to help him keep track of everything.

At first Binta couldn’t understand why Bert would think she could help him, but then she remembered that back at uni they’d worked well together. Whenever they were assigned to the same group for assignments they’d done well.

Binta started typing a reply to Bert and was going to say that she was definitely interested in helping him with his project, but then it occurred to her that she ought to see what she could find out about Bert’s business first. Binta did an internet search and soon found an impressive website with a photo of Bert and lots of impressive-looking staff. When Binta read about what they did she became even more impressed – it seemed that they were at the leading edge. Binta was curious to know how Bert had ended up with an animation company and that’s when she started comparing what she’d achieved with what he had. Binta realised she’d probably have to send Bert her CV, or at the very least she’d have to tell him what she’d been up to, and she became embarrassed because she felt like she hadn’t reached her potential. Binta decided she shouldn’t reply afterall so she deleted the reply then went to clean her teeth.

As Binta brushed her teeth she looked at herself in the mirror and realised she was self-sabotaging, so she returned to the computer and emailed Bert saying that she’d love to help. When Binta walked to India’s place she noticed that she was feeling happier and more energetic than usual.

Gina was waiting by the front door when Binta arrived at India’s place and before Binta could say good morning India came out of the front door and bustled them both into her car. As they drove to the hospital India explained in detail the plans for the day.


The Inklings: Chapter 125

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

After D’arby had spoken to Syafika he suddenly felt very tired so he decided to have a brief sleep before he called her back to see what she’d discovered in Anthony’s flat, but instead D’arby fell into a deep sleep and didn’t wake up until the sun had come up.

When D’arby did wake up he felt really sick, so instead of calling Syafika straight away he went to the bathroom to vomit in the toilet. Then D’arby called Syafika’s mobile phone and waited nervously as it rang.

“Hello?” said Syafika.

“It’s me – D’arby. How’d you go?” asked D’arby.

“Good. I’m just walking home now. Do you want to meet up?” said Syafika.

“Ok. Can you pass by our place on your way home?” asked D’arby.

“Ok” said Syafika.

“Good. Before you go – what’s Anthony’s flat number?” asked D’arby.

“63 on level 7” answered Syafika”, feeling proud of herself for having memorized it. “Why do you want to know?”

“I want to find out how owns it” said D’arby. Then to change the topic D’arby added “I think I caught your tummy bug”

“Oh no!” said Syafika. “Sorry!”

“Don’t worry. I wonder whether Anthony will catch it too” said D’arby.

When D’arby had finished talking to Syafika he remembered that he should have asked her what she’d done with the transmitter. Then D’arby realised that he could find out whether the transmitter was working by turning the receiver on.

D’arby picked up the tiny receiver and attached some headphones. He couldn’t hear anything so he checked the settings but still heard nothing so he took the headphones off and went to tell Fanta that Syafika was coming over.

D’arby found Fanta sitting at the dining table and packing library books into Ruby’s school bag.

“John is making pancakes” said Ruby when she saw D’arby. “Do you want some?”

“I’m too sick to eat pancakes today” said D’arby.

“Why?” asked Fanta.

“I think I caught the same tummy bug as Syafika” said D’arby.

“Don’t give the germs to me please” said Fanta and she leant away from D’arby.

“I’ll take care to wash my hands well” said D’arby. “Syafika is going to pass here on her way home. She is on her way now”

“How is she?” asked Fanta.

“Feeling better” said D’arby. “I’ll go and wait for her out the front so I don’t breathe any germs onto your pancakes”

D’arby went and sat down on the front steps to wait for Syafika. He was feeling very tired but doubted he’d get time to rest that day because he was supposed to organize to meet Anthony, and he should report what had been happening to RenewBank.

When Syafika came walking along D’arby thought she looked pleased with herself and couldn’t wait to hear what she’d discovered about Anthony.

Syafika smiled when she saw D’arby waiting for her.

As Syafika came in the front gate Fanta and her sisters came out the front door on their way to school.

“I wish I could stay and hear about your adventure but we are already late” said Fanta. “What if we visit you this afternoon?”

“That’s fine” said Syafika.

“Come inside” said D’arby and he led Syafika to the dining room where they found John clearing the table. The sight of leftover pancakes made D’arby feel sick. “I’ll be back soon” said D’arby and he rushed to the bathroom to vomit. On his way back to Syafika he picked up the receiver, a set of small speakers, a pen and a notebook.

When D’arby got back to the dining room John was bringing Syafika a cup of tea.

“I heard you vomiting” said Syafika.”How many times have you vomited now?”

“Only twice” said D’arby.

“I was better after four” said Syafika. “So maybe you just have two to go”

John looked alarmed at the talk of vomits. “I don’t want to catch that. It would be terrible if I infected people who came to my restaurant” said John. “They’d think I’d given them food poisoning”

“If you get it you’ll have to stay home until you’ve been better for 48 hours” said D’arby.

“I better call Tim and put him on notice that I might need him to run the restaurant for a few days” said John and he walked to the phone.

D’arby sat down at the dining table and opened his notebook. He could see that Syafika was enjoying her cup of tea and couldn’t wait until he felt better.

“Did you hide the transmitter at Anthony’s place?” asked D’arby.

“Yes. I hid it inside the collar of his jacket” said Syafika. “But I think he might know I did it. He knew I’d been sneaking around and I don’t know how. Maybe he has secret cameras and was watching me from his room”

“I tried listening to it before but I didn’t hear anything” said D’arby

“Anthony went out when I left and he wasn’t wearing the jacket so maybe you didn’t hear anything because there wasn’t anything to hear in his empty flat” said Syafika.

“Let’s try again now. He might have gone home again” said D’arby and he plugged the speakers into the receiver.

D’arby and Syafika listened carefully for a minute or so. They could hear faint noises that could have been someone moving around. D’arby pictured Anthony sitting in his flat reading a book and realised that they could listen for hours and not hear anything.

“Why don’t you call him” suggested D’arby. “Then if he is at home when he answers we should hear that on our speaker. If we don’t hear anything then you can try to find out whether he is at home. If he is home and we can’t hear him we will know that the transmitter isn’t working. If he is still out we won’t know anything”

“Ok” said Syafika and she took out her mobile phone. She still didn’t like using it and hoped it wasn’t going to become a habit. Syafika rang Anthony’s number and waited.

After a couple of seconds the sound of a mobile phone ringing came out of the speaker. D’arby quickly turned the receiver off so Anthony wouldn’t hear them listening to him if he answered.

“Hello” said Anthony.

“It’s Syafika” said Syafika. “Are you ok? I hope you didn’t catch my tummy bug”

“I’m not ok actually. I had to come home because I feel nauseous. I haven’t vomited yet, but I think I’m going to soon” said Anthony.

“Sorry!” said Syafika. “Will you be ok?”

“I’ll be fine” said Anthony. “I’ll just have to stay home today”

“I’ll let you go and rest. Take care! Call me if you need anything” said Syafika.

“Ok. Bye” said Anthony and he hung up.

“He sounds cranky” said Syafika.

D’arby imagined Anthony was going to get even crankier later that day.

After Syafika left D’arby tried to plan the rest of his day. He needed to meet up with Anthony and give him the bad news that RenewBank wouldn’t be paying him any money and he also needed to call Rudnika and give her an update. What stopped D’arby doing anything straight away was that he was starting to feel nauseous again. To hurry things up D’arby drank a large glass of water. Not long after he had to rush to the toilet to vomit.

D’arby washed his face and hands thoroughly and then he called Anthony.

“Hello” said Anthony. “Who is this?”

“It’s D’arby” said D’arby.”We need to talk about your letter – let’s meet up this morning”

“I’ll be at the Rose Garden in the Botanic Gardens in 30 minutes” said Anthony, and he hung up without waiting to hear what D’arby thought of the plan.

D’arby wondered how he’d manage to get to the Botanic Gardens and back without vomiting, but realised that the worst that could happen was that he’d vomit in public.

Before D’arby left he called Rudnika. When D’arby told her about the plan to meet Anthony Rudnika said “Make it clear that we won’t be paying. And see what you can find out from him. Then I want you to use your judgement – if you think that he is at all reasonable or trustworthy offer him a job at RewewBank”

“What would he be doing?” asked D’arby.

“I’m not sure yet, but I’d rather keep him close. He may be useful in the next couple of months” said Rudnika.

D’arby didn’t like the sound of working with Anthony.

“But if we offer him a job mightn’t that sound like we are agreeing to pay him but want to call it something else?”

“That’s why you’ll need to choose your words carefully” said Rudnika.”First make it clear that we won’t be blackmailed but also show that we are not against him – he must have his reasons for what he has done. If you think his reasons are at all justifiable or that there is anything good in him, then offer him a job, but make it clear that he will be paid for doing work for us, not for keeping quiet. Basically be as friendly as you can about refusing to pay him and try to keep him talking as long as you can”

D’arby felt stressed after he finished talking to Rudnika. He was worried about how to talk to Anthony and he was worried he wouldn’t get to the meeting on time. D’arby got out his bike and as he started riding he began to calm down. He decided to not plan what he was going to say and that he wouldn’t look at his watch because he knew that Anthony would wait for him if he was late – their meeting was too important for Anthony not to wait.

D’arby dismounted at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens feeling a bit annoyed that there was a sign prohibiting bike riding, but he tried to stay cheerful and calm as he walked his bike to the Rose Garden.

As D’arby approached the meeting place he saw Anthony sitting on a seat and looking sick.

D’arby nodded at Anthony and as he sat down on the seat beside him he realised that he wasn’t going to enjoy giving Anthony bad news.

“You look like you are about to vomit” said D’arby.

Anthony couldn’t reply because he was too busy rushing off to vomit behind a shrub.

“You were right” said Anthony as he sat back down next to D’arby.

“I might need to vomit soon too. I’ve vomited twice since I woke up” said D’arby.

“That was my second time” said Anthony.

“You will probably feel ok for at least half an hour. We should make the most of this time” said D’arby. “I may as well let you know straight away that RenewBank isn’t going to pay you for keeping quiet. You can tell who you like about our secret office”

Anthony kept his face calm but D’arby was sure that inside he’d be feeling cross at what he’d just heard.

“It isn’t just about your secret office” said Anthony. “I will easily be able to find your new secret office and I can tell whoever pays me what ever they want to know about RenewBank. Nothing will be secret”

“I know this is your job, and that you are good at it” said D’arby. “But we’d rather not keep our secrets than be blackmailed. If you don’t tell people what you know this week, you might tell them next week.”

“I won’t. One payment is all I need and I won’t tell anyone ever” said Anthony.

“Who is your client anyway?” asked D’arby.

“If you paid I’d tell you, but I won’t say anything about my client otherwise” said Anthony.

“How can we trust that you are telling us the truth when we know you are double-crossing your client?” asked D’arby. “Why would you make us the offer anyway?”

“Because I like RenewBank more than I like my client. I want to help” said Anthony.

“But why make us pay you then?” asked D’arby. “If you want to help RenewBank, why not just lie to your client?”

“They only pay for results and I really need the money” said Anthony. “I want to get out of the game but to do that I have to buy myself out – I need the money to get out”

“Why do you need to buy your way out?” asked D’arby. “And why now?”

“I want to settle down and start a family but my life is not compatable with that while I’m doing this work. Family is a weakness – anything you care about can be used against you – people can threaten them. I can’t just leave because I know too much. I know dangerous secrets. I need money so I can disappear and start again somewhere else” said Anthony.

D’arby wondered how Syafika fitted in with Anthony’s plans – was he thinking of settling down with her? Did he expect her to run away with him? D’arby wondered whether he should tell Syafika this, then realised that maybe Anthony was telling him lies to make him think it would be worth paying him to stay quiet. D’arby decided he wouldn’t tell Syafika anything Anthony said unless he was sure it was true. If what Anthony was saying was true then D’arby felt sorry for him and wished he could help him.

“You could always work for RenewBank instead” said D’arby. “It doesn’t pay as much, but it would be an honest way out”

“How would you protect me though” asked Anthony.

“Not sure” said D’arby. “Maybe we could hide you. Maybe you should think about how we could help you and tell us”

“What work would I be doing?” asked Anthony.

“Not sure about that either. You might have a better idea than me. I’m just the messenger” said D’arby. “What could you do for us?”

Anthony didn’t reply for a few minutes and D’arby could tell that he was thinking.

“I could tell you who your enemies are and who your friends are” said Anthony. “And I could find out things about your enemies”. I am very good at my job. You probably know how many people were trying to find out about RenewBank and I was the only one who discovered anything” said Anthony. “Now I know all about RenewBank”

Anthony paused for a while and D’arby could tell that he was thinking again.

“Wait a minute” said Anthony. “Isn’t this just a trick to keep me quiet for much less money?”

“You don’t have to keep quiet though. That’s not a condition” said D’arby.

“Yes, but if I am relying on RenewBank to protect me then it would be stupid for me to tell anyone your secrets” said Anthony.

“If you know all about RenewBank, why didn’t you anticipate this move?” said D’arby, in a tone that he hoped showed he was joking.

“I should have” said Anthony. “Give me two days to consider what you’ve said and I’ll let you know what I decide – or I might propose a different deal”

“Right. Ok” said D’arby. “Just out of interest, why did you choose RenewBank?”

“What do you mean?” asked Anthony.

“I don’t believe you have a client. I think you just decided to find out about RenewBank. Why?” asked D’arby.

Anthony smiled and looked into the distance when said “I will get back to you in a couple of days but I want to go now so I get home before I vomit again”

As D’arby watched Anthony get up and walk away he felt quite satisfied with the way the conversation had gone.


The Inklings: Chapter 124

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

On Thursday morning Ousman woke up feeling excited. He was looking forward to the party that night at India’s place. She’d promised him the night before that she would hire the chocolate fountain again.

Ousman rushed to get ready for school so he’d have some time left to play with Aminata before he had to leave.

When Ousman was dressed he went to the kitchen to pack his lunch and have breakfast and was a bit surprised to find Mamadou there, cooking something with lots of tomatoes and eggs in it.

“Your hair needs more brushing” said Mamadou. “Go and get your brush and I will do it for you”.

Ousman wasn’t happy with this change of plans but didn’t want to be rude to his dad so he went and got his hairbrush.

Mamadou turned the stove off and brushed Ousman’s hair until there were no tangles or stray hairs. Ousman stayed quiet and pretended it didn’t hurt in the hope that it would be over sooner. He hoped that his dad wasn’t going to want to brush his hair every morning.

“There! Now you look really handsome” said Mamadou and he gave Ousman back his hairbrush. Ousman ran to put the brush back and when he returned to the kitchen he saw that Mamadou had put some eggs out for him.

Ousman sat down and looked at the eggs. They had been fried with onion and tomato.  Ousman thought they smelled quite nice, but was a bit suspicious.

“Here – have some bread with it” said Mamadou and he handed Ousman a thick slice of bread.

Ousman watched Mamadou dip the bread into his eggs and copied him. Then Ousman slowly took a bite of soggy bread and was pleasantly surprised by the taste.

Binta came in from the backyard with a bunch of flowers and put them in a small vase on the table before she sat down to eat some eggs too. Ousman watched his mum take her first bite to see what she thought of it and could tell from her expression that she liked it too.

When Ousman had finished eating his eggs he quickly packed himself some food for lunch, before going to find Aminata, who was usually sitting out in the backyard at that time of day.

Aminata was splashing around in some shallow water underneath the fountain. Ousman watched her for a minute or so and then he realised he could hear frogs croaking in the pond so he went to have a look. As Ousman approached the pond he noticed a small splash and imagined that a frog had jumped into the water to hide from him. Then Ousman noticed something that looked like froth in the water. When he looked more closely he noticed that they were frog’s eggs. Ousman was so excited that he ran to tell Syafika.

Syafika wasn’t up yet so Ousman knocked on her bedroom door.

“Syafika! You’ve slept in again! Would you like me to make you tea again? And guess what? There are frog eggs in the pond. Come and see!”  shouted Ousman.

Ousman waited for Syafika to respond but she didn’t.

“Syafika! Wake up!” shouted Ousman, but there was still no answer.

Then Ousman heard the phone ring. Aminata flew over to the phone and started copying the ringing sound.

Ousman was a bit scared of answering the phone because he thought it would probably be someone he didn’t know, but he couldn’t see anyone else heading towards the phone so he reluctantly answered.

“Hello” said Ousman.

“Is that Ousman? It’s me” said Syafika.

“Why are you calling me?” asked Ousman. He was confused because he still thought Syafika was in her room asleep.

“Didn’t you wonder where I was?” asked Syafika.

That’s when Ousman realised that Syafika wasn’t in her room.

“Where are you?” asked Ousman. “Did you leave really early?”

“Didn’t anyone check the message I left on the answering machine?” asked Syafika.

“I don’t know” said Ousman.

“Didn’t anyone miss me when I wasn’t there last night?” asked Syafika.

“Aunty Rose thought you were asleep and she told us all to be quiet” said Ousman. “When you do come home, have a look in the pond. There’s something really exciting”

“Ok” said Syafika. “Can you tell Mum I’m coming home soon and that I stayed at a friend’s house last night because I was sick. I was vomiting!”

“Ok” said Ousman and he was so excited by the news that he hung up without saying goodbye and ran to find Rose.


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