Tag Archives: Ousman

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.


The Inklings: Chapter 34

Binta wondered why it was that after arguing with someone she always felt so much better, even when nothing had been resolved. Ever since she’d yelled at Fanta, Binta had felt much more positive about what had happened. She and Ousman had started talking again, and most importantly, Binta wasn’t angry with him or Fanta anymore. She wasn’t quite ready to admit that she was happy about what they’d been up to, but she was excited to think that Ousman might soon meet his father. She wondered what Mamadou would think of their son and before she could stop herself, Binta started wondering what Mamadou would think of her now.

Binta remembered when, earlier that year, Fanta had given Syafika a painting done by Mamadou. Now she realized that Fanta must have known who Mamadou was when she met him on holiday and bought that painting. Indeed, Fanta must have already known who Mamadou was before she visited him – Fanta must have tracked Mamadou down and just pretended she was a tourist. Binta blushed when she realized that Fanta must have known who Mamadou was talking about when he told her (thinking she was just a tourist) that he’d been planning to marry an Australian woman until he found out that she didn’t trust him. At the time Binta wished she could have told her side of the story, but now she realized that she may as well go along with Mamadou’s version because it was true that she hadn’t trusted Mamadou. When it happened Binta thought she had good reason not to trust Mamadou, but now she could see that she had added a large amount of imagination to small inconsistencies in some of the things Mamadou said. In her head she had turned minor things into major ones and instead of asking Mamadou to explain things that didn’t make sense she’d accused him of things he hadn’t done.

“I should have known!” said Binta to herself when she remembered how every time she’d gotten angry with Mamadou he’d been able to turn things around and make it her fault. Of course it made sense that their arguments would always be at least partly because of things Binta did, so it wasn’t fair for her to assign all the blame to Mamadou in the first place, but Binta hadn’t been able to see that when she was angry. Binta hoped she was wiser now. She didn’t think that Mamadou would have forgiven her though and hoped that Mamadou wouldn’t let his anger at her affect his relationship with Ousman.


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.


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.


The Inklings: Chapter 9

Syafika woke up early and spent an hour trying to decide whether she should call Fanta or not. She wanted to tell her about what had happened last night, but to properly explain she would have to tell Fanta how she’d made up the story about Vincent. In the end Syafika decided she would call Fanta. She needed to tell someone and she didn’t have anyone else who would listen, except her Mum. Rose would listen attentively to any of Syafika’s stories about men because she was keen to marry her off, but Syafika wasn’t ready to cope with that amount of attention from her mother so early in the morning.

Fanta didn’t answer the phone. Syafika wasn’t prepared for Fanta not being available – she needed her! So when Syafika got to Fanta’s answering machine the only message she could manage to leave was a kind of wailing sound. Syafika hopped back in bed and was trying to go back to sleep when she heard the doorbell ring. Then she heard the voices of her Aunt Binta and Ousman.

“Noooo!” said Syafika. “I can’t cope with them right now!”

A couple of minutes later there was a soft knock on Syafika’s bedroom door and Ousman said “Syafika? Are you awake?”

“Ohhh. I hate him!” said Syafika under her breath as she got out of bed, pushed it in front of the door and started getting dressed. Ousman started turning the door handle and rattling the door.

“Syafika?” said Ousman. “Can I please talk to you?”

“Go away” said Syafika

There was a sighing sound and then silence. “That’s strange” thought Syafika. She was in a hurry to see whether Ousman really had gone away or was just tricking her. She put her hair up in a clip without brushing it, moved the bed away from the door and looked out. Ousman really wasn’t there. She could hear Rose and her Mum in the kitchen so she went there.

Ousman was sitting silently at the kitchen table, with his head hung. Syafika had to check twice to make sure that he wasn’t reading something, but he really was just sitting there doing nothing.

Rose was pretending to listen to Binta while really giving her attention to choosing which tea to put in the pot. There were several tea canisters in the cupboard, all identical and all contained a different kind of tea. Of course there were no labels to let you know what was in each canister. You had to open them and sniff the contents to find out. “Mmmmm….. really?” said Rose, but what she was thinking was “Good – French Earl Grey. I never get sick of that smell”. She started scooping tea leaves into a large pot.

“You don’t sound very concerned!” complained Binta.

“Well…“ said Rose, struggling to think of something suitable to say “It wasn’t that bad was it?”

“Rose! He is only ten and he is already skipping school. At least Amanda waited until she was fourteen!” exclaimed Binta.

“Ousman always has been precocious” said Syafika. She knew it was a nasty thing to say but she couldn’t help it. She found it amusing that Ousman had done something naughty. Usually it was her or Amanda that was the bad one and in those instances Aunt Binta seemed to relish having a better behaved, smarter child. Binta had made Ousman her project. She began teaching him to read when he was only two years old and at age three he was learning algebra. When he did something well Binta felt she deserved some of the credit. Syafika thought that Binta should also take some of the blame when Ousman wasn’t good.

“Why did you wag school?” Syafika asked Ousman

“I wasn’t hanging out at the shops or something. I was at uni” complained Ousman

“What were you doing at uni?” asked Syafika, although she expected she wouldn’t like to hear the answer.

“I was at a maths lecture” said Ousman

“I knew it!” thought Syafika “I knew he’d have been doing something that would make me hate him more”. She couldn’t help shaking her head and Ousman noticed

“What?” asked Ousman “Don’t you believe me? The lecturer said I could sit in on the lectures and even go to the tutorials.” He looked at Syafika as he said this and she could see that he’d been crying.

“Ousman! Why didn’t you tell me this?” asked Binta. “Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted to go to maths lectures? Why didn’t you tell your teacher?”

“I don’t know” said Ousman, hanging his head again briefly and then looking at his watch. “Aunt Rose, may I please watch the 9 am news on TV?” he asked.

“Ok” said Rose and Ousman ran off to the lounge room.

Rose gave Syafika two cups of tea and asked her to go and make sure Ousman was ok. Syafika did as her mother asked, without complaining. For the first time ever she felt sorry for Ousman. It was the way he had looked at her with those red-rimmed eyes that had made her feel that way. Syafika was surprised with herself. She rarely felt pity for anyone, let alone someone she didn’t like.

Ousman was sitting in front of the TV. There was a story on about some crisis somewhere. There was talk of massacres and rapes and lots of refugees. Ousman was struggling to watch through tears, wiping his eyes on his sleeves and sniffling. If she hadn’t suspected that Ousman was probably just crying because he didn’t like his Mum being angry with him she would have thought he really felt sympathy for the people he was seeing on TV, although Syafika doubted that Ousman understood the news he loved to follow. How could a ten year old understand what was going on in the world when most adults didn’t?

Syafika discreetly put down Ousman’s cup of tea on the coffee table and took a sip of hers. She was wondering whether she should leave him alone when the doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it” said Syafika. Her heart was fluttering as she rushed to the front door, but it was just Fanta.

Straight away Syafika forgot about Ousman and remembered herself. “Guess what happened to me last night!” she said to Fanta.

“What?” asked Fanta.

“Well, it’s a long story. Let’s go to my room” said Syafika.

“Ok” said Syafika, as she closed her bedroom door. “First I have to tell you something that will make you angry, but then I’ll get to the good part” and Syafika confessed to Fanta about having made up stories about having a boyfriend called Vincent and then pretending she had  broken up with Vincent to cover her distress at Anthony leaving.

“You idiot!” said Fanta. “You expected Anthony to get down on his knee and tell you he loved you when you had been telling people that you already had a boyfriend!”

“I didn’t tell Anthony that, just a couple of my friends! They probably didn’t tell him anything about me” said Syafika, but she didn’t sound very convinced. She hadn’t thought about that before. She just assumed that Anthony would know they were meant to be together.

“So what happened next then?” said Fanta angrily. She wanted to get to the “good” part because she hoped that would make her less angry.

“Don’t be angry!” said Syafika. “I knew you would be angry, and that’s why I’ve had to keep this to myself for so long. You are so judgmental. That makes my life hard sometimes. You are supposed to have sympathy for me because nobody else would” said Syafika. She was sounding close to crying and so Fanta stopped being so angry.

“Ha ha ha” said Fanta.

“What?” asked Syafika. She was annoyed – she hated being laughed at.

“Well, I was thinking that if you had to make up a boyfriend, I didn’t think you’d create an accountant called Vincent. Why didn’t you tell your work friends you had a boyfriend called Fabio who was a model?” said Fanta.

“Yeah, yeah” said Syafika. “Next time I tell lies I’ll think them through more carefully first. Perhaps you can help me.”

“Or, you could tell the truth!” said Fanta

“Anyway…” said Syafika and she continued telling her story. Syafika told Fanta about the night before and how she had become separated from her friends.

“Did they come back?” asked Fanta

“No, thank goodness!” said Syafika

“Why?” asked Fanta

“Can’t you guess?” said Syafika

“Because you liked talking to the stranger too much?” asked Fanta

“No, well yes, but also because of his name. Guess what his name was?” said Syafika

“Ha ha. Not Vincent?” said Fanta

“Yes!” said Syafika.

When Fanta stopped laughing she asked “So what are you going to tell your friends at work now? That you met another Vincent, or that you got back together?”

“I don’t know!” said Syafika. “I hadn’t thought about that yet.”

“Hey, what happened with this Vincent? Any kisses?” said Fanta.

“Maybe” said Syafika

“Really?” said Fanta.

“Just one” said Syafika. Her face had gone red.

“So what happens now? Have you arranged to see each other again? When can I meet him?” asked Fanta

“We are going to see a movie today” said Syafika. “I don’t think I should introduce him to my friends yet. Isn’t that a bit soon?” asked Syafika

“What movie are you going to?” asked Ousman as he burst into the room.

“Ousman! Have you been eavesdropping outside my door?” asked Syafika. She was furious. “Get out!”

“I just wanted to say hello to Fanta before I left. Mum says we are going home now” said Ousman

“Didn’t you hear what I said?” said Syafika and she pushed Ousman out of the door.

“You should be nicer to him” Fanta told Syafika. “He just wants to be your friend”

“That’s too bad. I don’t want to be his friend. He is so rude and annoying” said Syafika

“He’s only ten” said Fanta. “I don’t think he has many friends. I bet he thinks a lot of you”

“How would you know?” said Syafika. “You’ve only seen him a few times. You don’t know what it is like to have to compete with him”

“I guess not” answered Fanta, sounding a bit bored. “Anyway, when you meet Vincent today can I follow you from a distance so I get to see him?”

“Sure, and why don’t you bring Ousman along too” said Syafika, shaking her head.

Want to buy us a chocolate?


The Inklings: Chapter 4

Syafika thought she was madly in love. She was definitely behaving crazily. She’d made a cake for the only person who made her want to go to work – Anthony. Then she told him she’d made the cake because he was leaving, but what she really wanted him to understand was that she loved him and didn’t want him to leave.

After lunch the people at work gathered to eat the cake. Anthony gave a short speech, taking the opportunity to thank everybody and give compliments. He thanked Syafika for the cake and everybody agreed that it was one of the best chocolate cakes they’d tasted. Someone even asked Syafika for the recipe.

Still, when Syafika walked home, she carried the empty cake container unenthusiastically. The day had been such an anticlimax. In her dreams Anthony was much more impressed by the cake and had begged her to come to Adelaide with him. In reality Syafika had listened to Anthony announce that his girlfriend was pregnant. Everybody clapped, but all Syafika could hear was “girlfriend”. What girlfriend? Syafika had been so convinced that the love she felt for Anthony meant that he had to be for her. She’d never heard anything about his girlfriend and she’d never considered that he might not be single. She felt even more stupid and left out when it seemed that everyone else knew about Anthony’s girlfriend.

As Syafika walked back through the park she realized that it was raining again, and that she had left her umbrella at work, but she didn’t care that she was getting rained on. She didn’t know how she would care about anything anymore. Then, just to make things worse, she realized that she was such a small part of the world that it didn’t matter what she felt anyway.

It didn’t help that when Syafika got home her cousin Ousman was there, with her aunt Binta. Syafika’s Mum Rose was still at the beauty salon. She went there weekly and her appointments always went twice as long as they were supposed to. Syafika’s father Festus would always say that Rose was having an affair with her beautician. Syafika loved her father but not when he said things like that, because she wasn’t really sure whether he was serious or not.

Binta was cooking dinner when Syafika came into the kitchen. Binta always did things like that. Rose was so disorganized and Binta was so much the opposite that Binta couldn’t bear to be in their house unless she was allowed to do some cooking, cleaning or organizing. Rose didn’t care. She had told Binta to come for dinner and then hadn’t made any attempt to have anything ready on time. Syafika preferred Binta’s cooking to her mother’s and would have been pleased to see her in the kitchen if it didn’t mean that Ousman would also be there.

Nobody believed Syafika when she said she hated Ousman. He was a 10 year old boy and everyone thought he was cute, with his curly hair, big eyes and round cheeks. He was also incredibly precocious, which was the reason Syafika hated him. Ousman thought he was smarter than her. How dare a 10 year old think that! Ousman was also very good at arguing and his confidence made it look like he knew much more about things than he really did. He was determined to argue with Syafika whenever he saw her.

“Hey Syaf!” said Ousman when he saw her. “Did you read the article in the paper today about how corrupt your government department is? Have you been taking bribes at work?”

Syafika put the dirty cake plate on the kitchen bench and walked to her room without answering Ousman, but he didn’t give up that easily and followed her down the hallway.

Syafika slammed her bedroom door and moved her bed in front of it to prevent Ousman from coming in. “What a little shit!” she muttered as she dialled her friend Fanta’s number.

“Fantaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I’m dying!” said Syafika when Fanta answered. Of course Fanta said she’d come over straight away.

Fanta had just got back from her holiday that morning, but Syafika had been so obsessed with Anthony for the past month that she hadn’t even realized that Fanta was away. Fanta has sent Syafika a postcard, but it was still in a mail bag in another country and would arrive in a few days time. In their last conversation Fanta had told Syafika to keep away from Anthony and so Syafika had been avoiding Fanta. She only remembered Fanta now because she needed her.

Rose had just got back from the beauty salon when Fanta arrived and Binta was about to serve dinner. Syafika was still sulking in her room, and Ousman was sitting on the floor outside her door, reading the paper. Rose asked Fanta to stay for dinner and stormed up the corridor to get Syafika. Rose only got really angry with Syafika when she was sulking. She picked Ousman up by the elbow and propelled him down the corridor in the direction of the dining room. “Syafika!” she yelled through the door. “Stop being so childish and come and have dinner. You can sulk in your room as much as you like afterwards. Fanta is here.”

Rose heard Syafika’s bed being pushed away from the door and knew Syafika was coming so she went to start putting plates on the table.

Syafika was confused when Fanta greeted her with a present and even more confused when she opened it and saw it was a painting of some trees. Her aunt Binta was far more interested in the painting than Syafika. Syafika didn’t even listen as Fanta explained to Binta where she’d got the painting. Fanta’s voice was a faint “blah blah blah” in the background of Syafika’s thoughts. She was thinking about Anthony, of course. It was only when Fanta mentioned love that Syafika tuned back into the conversation. “He said you needed respect and trust as well as love to marry someone” said Fanta as she finished her story.

Festus thought it was his turn to say something. “Where’s Amanda tonight then?” he demanded. Amanda was Syafika’s 16 year old sister. She was a difficult teenager. When Amanda was fourteen her parents had discovered that she’d been sneaking out at night. Festus was so angry that he installed a bolt on the outside of Amanda’s bedroom door and locked her into her room for the night. The next morning he found her lying outside on the concrete driveway with a broken leg – she’d tried to escape in the middle of the night by jumping out of her third floor bedroom window. This really scared Festus, especially as he only found Amanda when he was about to reverse the car over her. It scared him so much that from then on he decided to let Amanda sort herself and now she was allowed to go wherever she wanted whenever she wanted.

Rose had also given up on Amanda. When beauty treatments and shopping hadn’t cured her Rose had started to treat Amanda like an invalid. Amanda didn’t seem to mind this, perhaps because it meant that her mother did everything she asked. Amanda stopped eating with the family and got Rose to bring her food to her bedroom. She also stopped going to school and spent most of the day sleeping.

As her older sister, maybe Syafika would have helped Amanda more, but Syafika just thought that Amanda was being selfish and needed to grow up. She started to ignore Amanda completely, which was pretty easy because Amanda rarely came out of her room during the hours when Syafika was awake.

After Festus’ comment the room was quiet for a while. Then Ousman, who had been reading the paper while eating, began to laugh at an article he’d found and started reading it aloud for everyone else’s benefit. Syafika thought she’d eaten enough to be able to leave the table and took Fanta with her.

“What happened?” asked Fanta, when they were safely in Syafika’s room, with the bed in front of the door.

“You are always right Fanta, but this time I’m glad I didn’t listen to you” said Syafika, and she started crying. Fanta sat down on the bed next to Syafika, and although she knew what must have happened, she asked “What happened?”

“You remember how I told you about Anthony?” asked Syafika. Of course Fanta remembered. Syafika hadn’t had anything else on her mind for months. Fanta nodded and Syafika continued.

“I didn’t stop thinking about him, like you said I should. I stopped talking to you instead. You must be angry. I haven’t called you for weeks – although you didn’t call me either!”

Fanta didn’t say anything, so Syafika continued.

“When I called you today, it was because I was feeling really empty” said Syafika, and tears started to flow. “Anthony is leaving, but that’s not the really bad thing, the really had thing is that he has a girlfriend and she is pregnant!”

“Syafika, did anything happen between you and Anthony?” asked Fanta.

“No” said Syafika.

“Well, that’s good then.” said Fanta. “And it is good that he is leaving – it will make it easier for you to get over him.”

“So you are happy that he didn’t even notice I existed? I knew you would be like this” said Syafika. She was getting angry, but it wasn’t really with Fanta. Fanta always got straight to the heart of things, and Syafika was angry with herself because she could see how stupid she’d been. For months she’d been telling Fanta every detail she knew about Anthony. Fanta had heard about every word Anthony had ever said to Syafika (except for the ten or so in the past month). Fanta knew what Anthony wore, when his birthday was and what he liked to eat for lunch. Syafika talked about Anthony like he was her husband.

“Maybe I should start stalking Anthony and his girlfriend. I could try to scare her away from him. Maybe she is the one who wants to leave, not him. If I get rid of her then maybe he will stay and I will still be able to see him at work.” said Syafika.

Fanta gave Syafika her most disapproving look, until she realized that Syafika was trying to hide a smirk. At least Syafika wasn’t taking this all too seriously. That was what Fanta liked best about Syafika. Syafika may have loved drama, but she could also laugh at herself when she went too far.

“At least now I know what it is like to love someone.” Said Syafika

Fanta didn’t say anything. She didn’t think she was experienced enough in love to be able to tell Syafika that she thought what Syafika felt for Anthony was more like obsession than love.

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