The Inklings: Chapter 83

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Syafika was just about to leave work when her phone rang. It was Rose.

“I know you usually go to Fanta’s place for dinner on Mondays but could you please come home for dinner tonight? We want to have a nice dinner together and then talk about what is going to happen when Zikpi comes to film tomorrow” asked Rose.

Syafika couldn’t help groaning. She wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Zikpi had insisted Syafika be there for the final filming and Syafika was cross about that because it meant she had to take a day off work. Also, Syafika had been looking forward to seeing Fanta that evening because she wanted to talk about what had happened at lunchtime. Syafika had once imagined that she and Fanta would be able to have lots of nice chats at work, but it had turned out that opportunities for that were rare because work kept them both so busy. They couldn’t even walk home together because Fanta usually had to leave work early to pick up her sisters.

Syafika paused while she made a quick plan in her head. “Ok. I will come home for dinner but I am going to pass by Fanta’s house on the way home. I will be about an hour and 15 minutes” said Syafika.

After Syafika hung up the phone she ran downstairs to get changed into her running clothes. She had calculated that if she ran to Fanta’s place she’d have enough time for a decent chat about Anthony before she had to leave to run home for dinner.

When Syafika arrived at Fanta’s house she was puffed but happy. She’d managed to get there as fast as she’d hoped. Syafika took some deep breaths while she waited for Fanta to answer the door.

“I’m glad you are a bit early” said Fanta when she opened the door. “D’arby is cooking and wants an early dinner because he has to start his new job tomorrow”

Syafika had to try to control her expression because she felt like scowling. She hadn’t run all the way there to talk about D’arby.

“I can’t stay for dinner – Mum wants me at home to plan for tomorrow. I just ran here so we could have a quick chat about what happened at lunchtime” said Syafika.

“Ahh, ok” said Fanta and she came outside and closed the front door so she and Syafika could talk in the relative privacy of the front yard.

“You did see Anthony, didn’t you?” asked Syafika.

“Yeah, I guessed that was him. Who else would you bother chasing?” said Fanta.

“What did you think?” asked Syafika.

“I thought you were an amazing runner” said Fanta.”But didn’t he notice you were chasing him? I think I would notice if someone was running so close behind me”

Syafika felt a bit embarrassed. She answered “I don’t know…” but really she did know. She’d just realized that Anthony had known she was chasing him, and must have also noticed the last time she did it.

“Celine seemed to notice too” said Fanta. “When you went to get changed she kept asking me questions about you and about whether you knew someone called ‘Lawrence’”.

“Ah ha! So Anthony must have been pretending to be Lawrence when he met Celine in the café that time” said Syafika.

When Syafika started jogging home from Fanta’s house she was feeling a bit embarrassed that Anthony had noticed her running after him, but it was also thrilling to think that they were both playing a secret game. Syafika had a chuckle and ran a bit faster.

When Syafika crossed the road in front of her house a car came roaring along the street and beeped the horn as it almost hit her. This made Syafika really cross. Her street used to be quiet but recently there had been a lot more traffic. Syafika made a mental note to be more careful crossing the road there in future, and to make herself feel happy again she ran up the garden path and bounced up the front steps.

The house was looking very tidy and Syafika initially wondered why, but then remembered it was all for Zikpi. Syafika had so far avoided being filmed for Zikpi’s documentary but she knew she couldn’t escape it tomorrow. As Syafika changed out of her sweaty running clothes she had a little daydream about Anthony turning on the TV and seeing her strolling happily in her beautiful back garden.

When everyone had finished eating dinner Rose explained the timetable for the next day. It sounded like it was going to be a long one. Zikpi and the film crew would arrive at sunrise and they would stay as long as it took to get good footage and interview everyone.

“They won’t interview me though, will they? I’ve had nothing to do with it” said Binta.

“I don’t know” answered Rose.

“You can hide in my room if you like” offered Syafika.

Binta looked like she was going to say thank you but the phone rang and she was sitting closest so she got up to answer it instead.

It was India on the phone. She’d called to tell them that the first episode of Zikpi’s show was about to be broadcast and that they should turn the TV on.

So everyone moved to the loungeroom and sat down while Ousman found the right channel.

At first it was enjoyable to watch Zikpi’s show. The episode was about a couple renovating an old house that was in such bad shape that it could apparently collapse at any moment. Everything was respectable at the start but then it started to feature more of the couple arguing than of the work they were doing to stabilize the walls.

“You two didn’t argue infront of the cameras, did you?” Syafika asked Festus and Rose.

Rose assured Syafika that they hadn’t but realized that the footage of her crying would probably make an appearance.

Syafika looked at Mamadou. He looked appalled.

“I don’t like Zikpi anymore” said Mamadou. There was silent agreement from everyone else in the room.

The rest of the program was predictable. The couple managed to save the house and at the end of the program they looked reasonably happy together.

Syafika looked at Mamadou again to see if she could tell what he was thinking. When she saw Mamadou’s devious smile she started looking forward to what might happen during filming tomorrow.


The Inklings: Chapter 82

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Syafika, Celine and Fanta were all heading to the Botanic Gardens for lunch, but only Syafika was wearing running clothes. Celine and Fanta were coming with her, but instead of running they were going to have a nice lunch at the café, then walk back with Syafika.

As Syafika started jogging away from Syafika and Celine she hoped that this time she’d see Anthony. It had been months since she’d seen or heard from Anthony and she was beginning to doubt she would ever see him again. But Syafika knew that her regular running trips had not been wasted. Instead of getting puffed after a couple of hundred metres, Syafika could now jog around the gardens for the whole of lunchtime if she wanted to, and she noticed that she was able to run much faster. Syafika thought it was sort of funny that since she’d become determined to spy on Anthony she’d only caught sight of him once, but she also considered her running scheme to be a kind of spy training and it comforted her to know that if she finally did come across Anthony she would be better prepared than ever to follow him on his run.

Syafika sprinted up a slope to see if she could make it to the top. When Syafika made it to the top of the slope she turned around and ran back down again, enjoying how effortlessly she could run downhill and how running made her feel graceful. Syafika remembered the first time she’d run down that slope a couple of months ago and how silly she’d felt. It made Syafika smile. She was really happy when she was running.

Syafika jogged towards the shadiest part of the gardens where there were lots of windy paths to follow. As she turned a corner she caught a glimpse of a runner disappearing around the next corner. Syafika had chased runners around corners many times in the last couple of months only to find they weren’t Anthony, but this time Syafika knew it was him.  She sped up and was able to get close enough to be sure it was Anthony. Anthony turned his head enough for Syafika to worry he might have spotted her, but he showed no sign of having noticed her and so she continued her persuit.

When Anthony took the path that led to Government House Syafika guessed that he must be at the end of his run and she slowed down because she anticipated that he would soon stop to stretch, but he didn’t. Instead Anthony turned down a side path that headed back towards the café. Syafika sped up and was almost close enough to reach out and touch Anthony by the time they were at the café. Then Syafika saw Fanta and Celine sitting at an outside table and she remembered she was supposed to meet up with them to walk back to work together. Syafika stopped running immediately and looked at her watch. It was time to stop running. Syafika watched as Anthony disappeared around a corner, and then she walked over to Celine and Fanta.

“You run fast!” said Fanta. Fanta was amazed. She’d never imagined that Syafika would run so well. Fanta desperately wanted to confirm that the man Syafika had been chasing was Anthony, but because Celine was with them she couldn’t ask.

Celine was feeling confused.  She’d seen Anthony run past too, only she knew him as Lawrence. Celine wondered what Lawrence was up to and hoped he hadn’t been spying on her. Celine also thought it was suspicious that Syafika was running so close behind him.

The Inklings: Chapter 81

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D’arby had always imagined that when he submitted his thesis he’d be handing in a bound copy and so when he discovered that all he had to do was upload the file he found it a bit underwhelming. Still, as D’arby left uni after doing the upload of his thesis he felt like he was floating instead of walking. Then he realized he’d started walking in the wrong direction – he’d been headed to his old flat instead of to Fanta’s place. D’arby felt sad that he couldn’t go home to the old flat to celebrate this huge milestone and so he decided that he’d walk past the flat anyway, before going ‘home’ to Fanta’s.

The block of flats looked so sad behind the temporary fence that had been put up around it. It was as if the building knew what was going to happen to it. D’arby started crying, and as he walked to Fanta’s place he made a note to avoid walking down his old street for a couple of months so he could avoid seeing the building being knocked down.

When D’arby got back to Fanta’s place there was nobody there. D’arby wondered where John was because it was Monday and the restaurant was closed on Mondays.

D’arby sat down near a window and stared out at the garden. He suddenly felt empty and very tired. D’arby calculated that he’d only had 12 hours sleep in the past four days and decided to have a siesta.

Just as D’arby was drifting off to sleep the phone rang. D’arby struggled to get up and answer the phone but was glad that he had. It was Rudnika and she wanted to tell him about the plans for his first day of work tomorrow.

D’arby wondered why he’d agreed to start his new job without taking a break to recover from all the last minute stress involved in getting his thesis ready for submission, but it was too late to change things now. D’arby wrote down the time and place he had to meet Rudnika tomorrow and then went back to bed.

The Inklings: Chapter 80

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Binta opened the kitchen cupboard and was confronted by Rose’s set of indistinguishable tea cannisters. As Binta tried to guess which canister contained the Earl Grey tea she made a mental note to stick discreet labels on the cannisters so she wouldn’t have to play this game everyday. Binta, Ousman and Mamadou had moved in with Rose a couple of days ago and Binta still felt a bit awkward but things were generally very good. Ousman and Binta had their beds in the back room upstairs. The wardrobe was half full of Rose’s craft materials but Binta didn’t mind. Squashing into the house with Rose reminded Binta of when they’d been kids. Binta liked feeling like a kid again because she hated the weight of responsibility she felt when she realized she was an adult and mother.

While Binta made tea, Rose and Mamadou were sitting at the kitchen table but Festus was outside in the rain. Mamadou smiled as he listened to the rain falling on the roof. “That sound is better than gold coins falling from the sky” said Mamadou.

“What?” asked Rose.

“You can’t buy rain” explained Mamadou.

It was a Monday afternoon in March and to celebrate the last day of work on the renovations they were having a special afternoon tea. Zikpi and her film crew would be coming to film the next day and everyone was going to be proud to show her around because it had all been done on time and under budget, and best of all, the result was amazing.

Mamadou’s garden had been finished before the house, and the plants were thriving. There were already plenty of green vegies ready to pick. As the rain fell Mamadou was imagining the roots of plants drinking it up and the leaves being washed clean. He knew that tomorrow the garden would be looking lush.

Festus had told the others that he was out in the rain to check for leaks in the guttering but really he was standing and watching the stream that Mamadou had built. He wanted to see what happened as it filled with rainwater and flowed through the yard to the waterfall. Festus looked over his shoulder to check that nobody was watching him before he walked over to the waterfall. He was secretly amazed by the water pump Mamadou had built. Festus moved the handle up and down a few times and as he did this water was pumped from the small pond at the bottom of the waterfall up to the tank hidden behind rocks at the top of the waterfall. Festus stopped pumping and watched as water trickled out of the tank and ran down the waterfall, ending up back in the pond at the bottom. As rain ran along the stream into this pond the height rose and eventually water started flowing out of it and continuing down the little river to the big pond at the back of the yard.

Festus took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He could feel rain running down the back of his neck. Festus couldn’t believe how the yard had changed in the last couple of months. The small trees Mamadou had planted and the tiny river he’d dug made Festus feel like a giant standing in the countryside. Festus the giant turned and walked into the house, passing the tiny fields of vegetables that Rose had planted all the way up to the back door.

The Inklings: Chapter 79

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It had been a productive month. Mamadou and Rose worked well together and the renovations were ahead of schedule. The new bathroom was almost ready. That day they’d been doing tiling. As usual, Mamadou had found a way to turn someone else’s rubbish into something magnificent. A couple of days before they had gone to buy tiles, but when they arrived at the shop Mamadou had insisted he first go around the back of the shop to check out the skip bin he’d noticed. Instead of buying any tiles they’d gone home and waited for night time, then gone back to the shop to take tiles out of the skip bin. Festus had felt nervous as he waited in the van while Rose and Mamadou walked back and forth from the bin to the back of the van with boxes of assorted tiles. He kept imagining that a security guard would appear and shine a torch into his eyes. But nothing like that had happened and eventually Mamadou and Rose had closed the back of the van and squeezed in next to Festus for the drive home.

When they’d gotten home, even though it was getting late, Mamadou had insisted they unpack the tiles and see how they looked together. When Festus saw that each box of tiles was different and that a lot of them were broken he felt disappointed, but then he looked at Rose and saw that she seemed delighted by the prospect of turning this pile of rubbish into something useful. When Mamadou left at midnight the dining room floor and table were covered with tiles arranged in various patterns.

In the days since then they’d been busy recreating those patterns on the walls and floor of the new bathroom, and that afternoon they’d finished.

As Mamadou and Rose tidied up the tools Festus hobbled out to the mailbox. He put his hand in and pulled out a bundle of envelopes. He was worried that one of the envelopes would contain bad news from Council. They’d been carrying on as if they had building permission and Zikpi had been filming it all but Festus knew that it could end in disaster. As Festus made his way back inside his leg started to ache.

Festus handed the mail to Rose and asked her to open it. Rose flicked through the envelopes and discarded all but one. Festus watched her open it. Rose read it quickly then started smiling.

“It’s ok!” said Rose. “We are allowed to build what we’ve already started building!”

Festus realized he’d been holding his breath and let it out in relief. He noticed that his leg had stopped hurting.

Rose realized that it was probably a good time to talk to Festus about something she’d wanted to mention for a couple of weeks.

“You know how Binta has been without a job?” Rose asked Festus.

“Yeah….” said Festus. He was always impatient to know where questions like that were going.

“Well I was thinking that I could give up my craft room for Binta” said Rose.

“What?” asked Festus. He didn’t understand how Rose giving her craft room to Binta was going to help Binta earn a living, unless she meant that Binta was going to start selling things she’d made.

“I mean, what if Binta came to live with us?” said Rose.

Festus understood this but not how it would work. Surely Rose didn’t mean just Binta, but Ousman as well, and then what about Mamadou?

Festus looked to see where Mamadou was before he started talking. When he saw that Mamadou was out in the backyard and too far away to hear he asked Rose “Where will Ousman and Mamadou go?”

“Yes, it isn’t ideal, but maybe Ousman can share with Binta, and Mamadou can live in the shed” said Rose.

Festus couldn’t help laughing and didn’t realise that he was speaking too loudly when he said “Mamadou can live in the shed? What if he wants to share with Binta?”

Rose looked worried. She realized that it was likely nobody would be happy with her plan and it made her feel sad because she’d just wanted to help.

Mamadou had heard Festus laughing and suggesting he live in the shed and so he’d come inside.

“I would like to live in the shed, actually” said Mamadou.

The Inklings: Chapter 78

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When Syafika went back to her old office to meet Leah she noticed that everyone else was back at work but her old desk was still empty. Helen and Julie came over and asked her how her new job was and soon everyone was milling around her, but Syafika wasn’t sure how much anyone knew. Nobody showed her any sympathy so she wasn’t sure if they had just decided not to mention her having had to leave in disgrace or if they had been told she’d decided to leave instead of being forced to. Syafika thought Helen and Julie might be a bit cross with her, but wasn’t sure. She hadn’t been close to Helen or Julie since they abandoned her in the pub.

Leah came out of her special office in the corner and suggested to Syafika that they go out to a café for coffee.

“What happened?” asked Leah as soon as she and Syafika had settled down at café table.

Syafika wished she’d been given a narrower question to answer. She didn’t know whether Leah wanted to know the sequence of events or whether she wanted to know why Syafika had stuffed up. Syafika decided to give her the sequence of events – she didn’t understand how she’d stuffed up anyway.

So Syafika told Leah about the phonecall she’d received and the email she’d sent in response. And then about how Glenda had come for her a couple of days later but Christine had rescued her and had told her that Joe had made some kind of mistake and blamed her for it.

“Joe was meant to be looking after you while I was away” said Leah, in an exasperated voice. “I’m sorry” said Leah.

Syafika hadn’t been expecting this. She started to cry.

Leah gave Syafika some tissues and patted her on the shoulder. When Syafika had calmed down Leah asked her how her new job was going and told her that if it had been up to her Syafika wouldn’t have had to move. Leah explained that she’d told Syafika’s team that Syafika had chosen to move and hoped that was ok.

When the coffee was all gone and it was time for Leah and Syafika to get back to work Leah handed Syafika her card saying “If you ever need my help please call me.”


The Inklings: Chapter 77

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Anthony was more worried than angry as he ran away. He was under a lot of pressure at the moment and he knew that if he made any mistakes his life could be ruined.

When Anthony ran past the spot where Syafika had been hiding the day before he smiled as he remembered how Syafika had followed him on his run. Anthony had taken an extra long and convoluted route just to make sure Syafika really was following him. He had enjoyed being chased by Syafika but wasn’t sure if it was just another one of her games or if she really thought he hadn’t noticed her.

Anthony decided he’d probably need to call Syafika soon because she might be able to tell him things that Nelson wouldn’t. Thinking of Syafika made Anthony feel happy, and he smiled. When Anthony realized he was smiling it made him remember how dangerous it was for him to interact with Syafika.It wasn’t unusual for him to develop a fondness for people he had spent a lot of time watching, but with Syafika it was worse than usual. Anthony didn’t feel in control of his actions when he was near Syafika. He kept forgetting he was meant to be working. If he made a mistake and told her too much he would be in real danger, and so would she. And Anthony wasn’t sure how much Syafika knew. Sometimes she seemed clueless but other times he thought he could see in her eyes that she knew everything and was just pretending she didn’t.


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