Tag Archives: Syafika

The Inklings: Chapter 111

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

As Syafika walked home from Fanta’s place she wished she’d changed into her running clothes because she wanted to run but the shoes she was wearing were not suitable for running in – just the walking she’d done in them that day had given her blisters on her little toes.

“Why am I putting up with this!” she asked herself, and took her shoes off. She put them in her bag, then ran barefoot the rest of the way home.

When Syafika arrived home she saw a tow truck loading up a large white car. She was relieved to see that there was no obvious damage to the car, not because she cared about the car, but because she didn’t like the thought of more people getting injured by cars in her street.

Syafika wanted to tell her mum about her date with Anthony but couldn’t because India was there. India and Festus were examining a drawing of a building. They looked angry. Rose was writing notes. Syafika could smell beans and realised that her dad must have cooked dinner. Binta was making salad.

“Where are your shoes?” asked India.

Syafika had forgotten that she was barefoot. She looked at her feet and noticed that they were a bit grubby because she’d run through some muddy sections of footpath on the way home. “In my bag. They were too uncomfortable” said Syafika.

“Better give your feet a wash” suggested Binta.

Syafika didn’t like all the scruitiny her feet were getting so she went to have a shower.

When Syafika came back India was still in the kitchen and Rose had made a few more pages of notes.

“What’s going on?” asked Syafika.

“We’re organizing a street meeting for Thursday night” said India. “Some greedy a-hole wants to build this disgusting thing where the burnt-out houses are”

Syafika looked at the drawing India was pointing too and realised that it was a large block of flats.

“The block of land won’t be big enough for a building that big” said Syafika.

“They want to buy us out too” said Festus.

“And they’ve also made offers to the people with blocks backing onto the site – we went and spoke to everyone this afternoon to see what we could find out” said India.

“Can I come to the meeting?” asked Syafika. She didn’t want a block of flats next door and was worried her parents might consider moving.

“Of course!” said India.

Mamadou, Ousman and Aminata came into the kitchen and India realised that it was dinner time so she got up to go.

Syafika noticed that Aminata was making a hissing sound.

“Is she ok?” asked Syafika.

“She’s been making that noise for a couple of hours” said Ousman. “I think she’s imitating the sound of something”

“It sounds like a tyre deflating” said Binta.


The Inklings: Chapter 108

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

Syafika was feeling guilty when she got back to work because she’d had such a long lunchbreak. She walked quickly and quietly to her desk without looking at anyone. When she was safely behind her computer Syafika had a look around. Celine was at her desk but Fanta had gone home and Nelson wasn’t as his desk, nor was Christine in her office. Bronwyn looked up and when she saw Syafika she came over.

“Are you ok?” asked Bronwyn. “You look like something has shaken you up”

Syafika liked Bronwyn but wasn’t sure how much she should tell her. “Yes, I guess I have been a bit shaken up. I think a friend of mine tells lies and now I’m confused about what is true and what is made up” said Syafika.

Bronwyn looked sympathetic but the phone on her desk started to ring so she had to go and answer it. Syafika looked at Celine and felt like crying. She hated to think that Anthony had been on dates with Celine. Syafika tried to stop tears from escaping by taking slow, deep breaths. Then, to take her mind off Anthony and Celine, Syafika checked her email.

When Bronwyn finished talking on the phone she came back over to Syafika’s desk and said “If you feel like going home, go. You do more than a satisfactory amount so you should be able to have a rest when you need one”

“Thanks” said Syafika. “I’m feeling better now but I might leave a bit early”.

Syafika was supposed to meet D’arby at 5pm but before that she wanted to try to talk to Nelson about Anthony.

“Do you know if Nelson will be back this afternoon?” Syafika asked Bronwyn.

“He just popped out for a coffee so he should be back soon” said Bronwyn.

Syafika wondered whether Nelson had gone to get a coffee from the Botanic Gardens cafe and began to suspect that Nelson may have been having an emergency meeting with Anthony so they could get their story straight. Syafika was pleased that Celine was at her desk because she didn’t want Anthony to have emergency meetings with her.

Syafika was busy replying to an email when she noticed Nelson walk in. She waited until he’d had a chance to settle down at his desk before she went over.

“Did you ever work with Anthony Long” Syafika asked Nelson.

“Yes, I did. I was his team leader when he started working here” said Nelson. “Why do you ask?”

Syafika felt embarrassed because she hadn’t thought beyond her first question.

“I used to work with him too but I never knew what to think of him. What do you think of him?” asked Syafika.

“Why are you even thinking about him?” asked Nelson. “He’s not still working here, is he?”

“No…” said Syafika and she tried hard to think of something better to say but her brain had switched off. She looked at Nelson briefly and tried to read his thoughts from his face. Nelson looked like he was using a lot of effort to try and keep his face blank and this confirmed to Syafika that Nelson had just met with Anthony. “I better get back to work” said Syafika and she went back to her desk.

After Syafika sent the email she’d been working on she spent some time watching Celine. It was past the time that Celine usually went home and Syafika wondered what she could be up to. Syafika was about to walk over to Celine’s desk and ask her what was keeping her back late when Celine’s mobile phone rang.

“Hello” whispered Celine and she bent over as if she was trying to hide behind her computer screen. Celine looked at her watch before saying “Ok”. Then Celine turned her computer off, picked up her bag and left the office, saying a quick ‘See you tomorrow’ as she walked out.

Syafika decided that she was going to follow Celine. If she headed to the bus stop it meant she was probably going home, but if she headed towards the Botanic Gardens it probably meant that Anthony had called and asked her to meet him.

As Syafika walked into the foyer she noticed the lift doors closing and guessed that Celine had just got in. Syafika went to the stairs and hurried down. When she got to the bottom she stopped and watched Celine walk out the front door of the building. Celine turned right, which was the way to the Botanic Gardens, and so Syafika followed her.


The Inklings: Chapter 104

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

At 12:45pm Syafika left her desk to go and meet Anthony. She didn’t change into her running clothes this time because she was determined that she and Anthony were going to talk. As Syafika walked to the café in the Botanic Gardens she mentally rehearsed the list of questions that she and D’arby had come up with. D’arby seemed to think that Anthony was some kind of spy and told Syafika that she should pretend she knew what he was up to. Syafika was impressed with the way D’arby thought. Anthony being a spy would explain his disappearing, name changes and maybe even the wig. It also explained why Anthony had wanted Celine to work in her team – Celine must be another spy. What Syafika found disconcerting was that if Anthony was a spy he’d probably only had lunch and dinner with her to get information out of her. Syafika imagined that Anthony had a set of tricks similar to Celine’s and knew how to make people like him and think he was interested in them, when really he was only interested in what they knew.

At 1:10pm Anthony hadn’t arrived and Syafika started to think that he wouldn’t turn up. She decided that she’d continue to wait outside the café until 1:10pm and then she’d go inside and order herself some lunch. She wasn’t going to let Anthony completely ruin her lunchtime.

At 1:15pm Anthony still hadn’t arrived. Syafika looked in all directions to see if she could see him approaching but she couldn’t so she went inside and lined up to order herself something to eat. Syafika was very disappointed that Anthony hadn’t come and tried not to cry as she ordered one of the fancy salads. Then she noticed the chocolate cake and ordered a slice of it too.

“Same for me and I’ll pay for it all” said the person behind Syafika in the queue and Syafika jumped because it was Anthony.

“Thanks”said Syafika and tried not to show how happy she was to see Anthony. “You were so late I thought you weren’t coming”.

“I tried to call you lots of times to tell you I couldn’t get here until a quarter past, but your phone’s been off” said Anthony.

Syafika thought that was pretty funny and said “I hate mobile phones”.

Syafika and Anthony took their food to an outside table and sat down to eat.

“Why didn’t you call me sooner?” asked Anthony.

Syafika thought that was a ridiculous question and guessed that Anthony was trying to get her to reveal how she’d got his number.

“You didn’t make it easy to call you, especially when you only gave me a number that didn’t work” said Syafika.

“So how did you get a number that worked?” asked Anthony.

“I saw you with Celine, in your silly wig so I got your number from her” said Syafika.

“What did you tell Celine?” said Anthony.

Syafika could tell that Anthony was worried about what she had told Celine, or maybe about what Celine could have told her and thought it might be funny to let him think that she and Celine had discussed him but she didn’t think she’d be able to trick Anthony and so she kept closer to the truth.

“No, I took your number from Celine’s phone when she wasn’t looking” said Syafika.

Anthony looked relieved for a second, then started to look worried and Syafika guessed that he must have realised that he wouldn’t have been listed as ‘Anthony’ in Celine’s phone.

“But she has a nickname for me” said Anthony. “How did you know that?”

“Mr L?” said Syafika. “I didn’t know what Celine called you but because there was no ‘Anthony’ in her phone I wrote down all the names that sounded masculine. There was also a Mr X and a Mr Triangle”

Anthony didn’t look entirely convinced by Syafika’s explanation but didn’t say so.

“Now it’s my turn to ask you some questions” said Syafika. “What’s going on between you, Celine and Nelson? Is Celine spying for you? Do you want your old job back?”

Anthony looked frightened when Syafika mentioned Nelson and after a pause he answered “My old job back? No. Celine is just someone I went on some dates with and I knew Nelson when I was working there before. We sometimes catch-up” said Anthony.

Syafika didn’t enjoy hearing Anthony say that he’d been on dates with Celine because she was hoping that their relationship was professional, even if it was that they were both professional spies. Syafika tried to remember the exact words of the conversation she’d overheard between Anthony and Nelson so she could work out whether what Anthony said about him and Nelson being friends could be true. She remembered that Anthony had been pressuring Nelson to make sure that Celine got a job in her team. Syafika supposed that Anthony may have done that because he was in love with Celine, but if Anthony and Celine were in love then why hadn’t Celine spoken to Anthony when she’d seen him in the Botanic Gardens last week? And why had Celine told her that she was single?

“Where are you working now?” asked Syafika.

“Here and there. I mostly do short term contract work” said Anthony. “It gives me the flexibility to travel to see my Mum when I need to. She lives in Perth and she’s been quite sick lately”.

Syafika wasn’t satisfied with that answer. She wanted to know what kind of work Anthony was doing but knew that if he really was a spy he wouldn’t tell her. Syafika wondered whether she should bother asking how Anthony could afford his harbourside flat. She suspected that he’d just make up a story about having been given free rent by a relative or something. Syafika wondered what Celine would do in her situation, and then she remembered what Celine had taught her.

“Sorry to hear about your Mum” said Syafika. “What’s wrong with her? Is she going to be ok?”

Anthony looked relieved and started telling Syafika how his Mum had a heart problem that meant she got tired and dizzy easily. As Syafika listened to Anthony she looked at his eyes and imagined describing them to Celine. Anthony’s eyes were a greenish brown and Syafika wondered if that meant they should be called ‘hazel’.

“What’s Perth like? Did you grow up there?” Syafika asked Anthony and as Anthony told her how he had grown up in Perth and about all the places there he liked to go Syafika was busy working going through the rest of Celine’s list of observations.

“What are you doing tomorrow night?” asked Anthony. “Would you like to go out for dinner and a movie?”

Syafika was so happy she almost laughed. “Yes, I would like that” and they arranged the place and time. When they said goodbye Anthony gave Syafika a hug and she tried to work out what Anthony smelt like.

As Syafika walked back to work she looked at her watch and realised that it was 2:30pm.  She walked a bit faster and hoped she hadn’t missed anything important.


The Inklings: Chapter 103

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

Syafika rushed to work on Tuesday and worked diligently until Celine arrived, then she walked over to Celine’s desk.

“Will you come for a quick coffee with me after the meeting? I’d like to go back to the café and see the waiter again” said Syafika.

“Sure” said Celine, sounding pleased. Syafika noticed that Celine looked towards Fanta’s desk and thought Celine might have been checking to see whether Fanta looked jealous but Fanta was too busy reading to have noticed.

And so straight after the team meeting Syafika and Celine went to the café. When they arrived Celine noticed that the waiter who’d given Syafika the note wasn’t there and suggested they come back another day.

“But I saw him here when I walked past this morning on the way to work” said Syafika. “Maybe he’s just gone to the bathroom. I really need a coffee anyway. We can come back again tomorrow if he doesn’t turn up today”

Syafika was feeling proud of how she’d thought of a convincing lie so fast. She could see D’arby sitting at one of the tables and noticed that he was holding a mobile phone, which made Syafika feel like laughing because D’arby hated mobile phones more than she did – he didn’t have one and would normally have refused to even use one.

When they’d ordered their coffees Syafika lead Celine to the table next to D’arby’s, and sat down facing D’arby. This meant that Celine had to sit in the seat with her back to D’arby.

As soon as Celine was comfortable D’arby dialed her phone number. When Celine heard her phone ringing she took it out of her bag and answered.

“Hello?” said Celine. “Hello?” Celine looked at her phone screen and shook her head. “Someone called me from a private number and hung up as soon as I answered”

“Maybe it was a wrong number” said Syafika.

When Celine noticed the coffees being delivered to their table she put her phone back in her bag and was just about to take a sip of her coffee when D’arby rang her phone again. Celine sighed and answered but D’arby hung up again.

“Maybe they keep losing signal?” suggested Syafika.

“Maybe someone is trying to annoy me!” said Celine.

D’arby quickly sent Celine a text message that said “Why did you hang up?” Celine’s phone made a soft chiming sound when D’arby’s message arrived.

“I’m not going to read that” said Celine. “Stupid phone”

“It might be important. I don’t mind if you check it” said Syafika.

“No. I’m cross with my phone now” said Celine.

D’arby had to send another five messages before Celine’s curiosity grew large enough for her change her mind. Syafika watched as Celine unlocked her phone to check her text messges then Syafika deliberately picked up her coffee cup without taking a proper grip. The cup slipped out of her hand and spilt coffee all over the table

“Ow!” said Syafika, pretending she’d burnt her hand.

The next bit had been hard to plan because D’arby and Syafika could only guess what Celine and the waiter might do, but fortunately their behaviour suited the plan. The waiter rushed to get some ice for Syafika’s hand and Celine dropped her phone into her bag and rushed over to the counter to get some serviettes to wipe up the spilt coffee.

D’arby reached down into Celine’s bag and took her phone. He knew he only had seconds before the screen would lock so he quickly opened her Contacts and looked for a ‘Lawrence’, but there wasn’t one. There was only a ‘Mr L’. D’arby looked through the rest of Celine’s contacts and couldn’t see any sensible names. While Celine was wiping up the spilt coffee and the waiter was presenting Syafika with a bundle of ice wrapped in a tea towel D’arby discreetly copied down the numbers for Mr L, Mr X, Mr Triangle, Lion and Mouse. Then he carefully put Celine’s phone back in her bag.

“Would you like another coffee?” the waiter asked Syafika.

“No thanks, I feel so embarrassed that I just want to go. Thanks for offering though” said Syafika.

Celine was a bit annoyed because she’d been looking forward to drinking her coffee and the waiter could tell so he poured Celine’s coffee into a takeaway cup. Syafika insisted on paying the bill and while she was doing so D’arby walked past and dropped the phone he’d been using and a piece of paper into Syafika’s bag.

As they walked back to the office Syafika apologized to Celine and they organized to go for a coffee again the next day.

Back at the office Syafika did some work for about half an hour and then discreetly put D’arby’s phone and piece of paper into her pocket and headed for the bathroom. Syafika checked that the cubicles were all empty and then opened D’arby’s note. It said:

“There wasn’t a Lawrence in the phone so here are some possibles. Try them until you get him”

Underneath the note was a list of the phone numbers D’arby had copied from Celine’s contacts and ‘Mr L’ was first. “L for Lawrence” thought Syafika. “But what about T for Tucker?”. Syafika noticed there wasn’t a ‘Mr T’ on the list. Complicating Syafika’s thinking was the fact that when he’d been working with her, Anthony had gone by the name ‘Anthony Long’.

Syafika opened the phone D’arby had given her and tried ‘Mr L’ first.

“Hello?” said Anthony.

Syafika was so relieved that she didn’t have to call everyone on the list that she almost forgot what she was supposed to say.

“Hi. It’s me – Syafika. We really need to meet today. At lunchtime. I’ll wait for you at the café in the Botanic Gardens at 1pm. Ok?”

“What?” said Anthony. “What’s this about?”

“I can’t talk now. Will you be there at 1pm?” said Syafika.

“Ok” said Anthony.

Syafika quickly hung up, put the phone in her pocket and tried to look normal as she walked back to her desk.

As Syafika sat down she heard a funny tinkling sound and realised that the phone was ringing. She looked at the number and realised that Anthony was calling her back. Syafika couldn’t speak to Anthony there and didn’t know how to turn the phone off so she took the back off and removed the battery. Then she looked up to see who’d been watching her and was disappointed to see that Nelson and Celine were both looking at her.

“Sorry. New phone. I don’t know how to use it properly” said Syafika, hoping that she hadn’t stuffed everything up.

 


The Inklings: Chapter 100

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

It was raining when Syafika left Fanta’s place, but Syafika liked being outside in the rain. There was still a little bit of light in the sky when Syafika arrived home so she decided to have a look at how the runoff was flowing through the back garden. As Syafika walked out the back door she discovered that Festus had set up his tools under the back verandah and was making something from pieces of wood.

“What are you making?” Syafika asked.

“I’m making two wheelchair ramps for India so that Penny can get in the front and back doors of her house” said Festus.

“That’s nice of you. I hope Penny and Gina are able to feel comfortable at India’s house” said Syafika. Syafika couldn’t imagine how she would survive living with India and realised that Penny and Gina would have to put up with it for at least a year.

“India will be on her best behaviour. She feels responsible for the fire and car accidents because she’s the one who asked Gina to make sweet potato chips, and it was India’s friends who filled the street with parked cars” said Festus.

Syafika took off her shoes and paddled along the miniature river to the pond. She could hear frogs croaking but it was too dark to see them. Then Syafika heard Rose telling Festus to come inside and reminding him that it was the 15th of March. Syafika had forgotten it was the anniversary of her grandparent’s death. She rushed inside to have a quick shower before 9pm.

Every year at 9pm on 15th March Rose would select something from her parents’ music collection to play and everyone had to sit in silence and listen to it from start to finish. It was not something that Syafika looked forward too, but she endured it without complaint because she knew how important it was to Rose.

When Syafika came into the loungeroom Rose was carefully opening a box that held the CDs, cassettes and records. Ousman was next to Binta and trying to stick his head into the box to see what Rose would choose to play.

“Be careful Ousman. The records are very fragile and precious” said Syafika.

There was a rule about which music was chosen. Each year they would play what was at the front of the box and then put it at the back of the box and Rose would not let anyone change the order. If anyone wanted to play any of the music on any other day of the year Rose would have to supervise and make sure that the order was not changed.

At the front of the box there was a CD and Binta took it out. The cover had a picture of a man sitting at a piano on it. Ousman laughed at the man’s hair because it was parted down the middle and stuck out a bit at the sides.

“This is the pianist who got so carried away that he often played wrong notes” said Binta.

Syafika remembered how when she was a girl her piano teacher had often been cross at her for playing wrong notes and decided that she might enjoy this record.

Syafika looked at Mamadou to see what he thought of this ceremony because it was the first time he’d been there to take part. Mamadou looked happy and Syafika wondered whether all artists were obsessed with music.

Festus turned on the lamp near the CD player and turned off the overhead light. Syafika realised that she sitting in the darkest seat in the room and was glad because it meant she wouldn’t have to worry about her face giving away any of her thoughts.

The first piece of music was slightly familiar to Syafika but not something she’d ever tried to play so she wasn’t able to tell if the pianist made any mistakes. The left hand played the melody and the right hand ran up and down the keyboard making complicated patterns that Syafika suspected were beyond her ability. Syafika enojyed the piece and wondered whether her grandparents had hoped she would be able to play it one day.

The second piece was something Syafika had played, but never as beautifully. The pianist on the record was explaining something using music, as if he wasn’t able to talk but had something very important to say. When Syafika had played the piece she’d been so worried about keeping time and getting the notes right that she’d made it sound robotic.

Syafika looked at Ousman to see if he was getting bored. He had his eyes closed and was leaning against Binta. At first Syafika thought he’d fallen asleep but then he smiled and moved his head to the other side so Syafika realised he was just enjoying the music.

The third piece of music was a trio and something Syafika had heard her grandfather listening to many times. The violin’s cheerful start made tears come to Syafika’s eyes. She remembered her grandfather’s bushy eyebrows and couldn’t help crying. Then Syafika remembered a stream of other things, like the day she’d got stuck at the top of a pear tree and her grandmother had called out helpful instructions to guide her down, and the taste of the dark purple plums her grandparents had grown. Syafika wiped tears from her cheeks and tried not to sniffle too loudly.

The next piece was just for piano and not something Syafika remembered hearing before. It reminded her of running up a hill and her mind drifted to other things. Syafika realised she missed being a kid who had nothing much to worry about apart from music lessons and she realised that she missed her piano teacher too.  Next Syafika remembered the photo of Anthony that D’arby had shown her that evening and the plans they’d made for her to contact Anthony. She realised how much she enjoyed being part of a plan that involved team work. It had been fun to spy on Anthony by herself, but also a bit too scary for comfort. Now that D’arby, Fanta and John were involved Syafika thought she would be able to relax and enjoy the adventure more.

When Syafika realised that instead of listening to the music she’d been thinking about Anthony and she decided that she’d give her full attention to the music for the rest of the CD. So Syafika spent the next half hour thinking only about the music she was listening to and she enjoyed it so much that when it was over she was disappointed.

When Festus turned the light on Syafika realised that Amanda was sitting on the floor near the door and looking really sad. When Amanda noticed that Syafika was looking at her she dashed out of the room and up the stairs so fast that Syafika wasn’t sure she’d really seen her.

Nobody else in the room mentioned Amanda and Syafika wondered whether they’d even noticed her. Ousman asked whether they could listen to music like that more often but Syafika didn’t wait to hear what Rose and Binta would say because she didn’t want anyone to notice that her eyes were red from crying. She said “Goodnight” and went to her room without looking back.


The Inklings: Chapter 99

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

D’arby couldn’t help running the last kilometre of his trip home. He was anxious to find out if he was right that Lawrence the spy was also Syafika’s Anthony.

When D’arby burst in the front door Fanta came out of the kitchen and whispered for him to be quiet, then pointed towards the chair where John was sleeping.

D’arby quietly opened his backpack and took out an enlarged copy of the photo on Lawrence’s license.

“Is this Anthony?” D’arby asked Fanta.

Fanta looked at the photo carefully and then said “I think it is him, but you should ask Syafika to be sure. I only saw him once, and he was running pretty fast. But why on earth do you want to know?”

D’arby hated that he couldn’t tell Fanta what was going on. “I decided I would try to find out what Anthony is up to afterall” said D’arby.

“Where did you get that photo?” asked Fanta.

“I’m not supposed to say” said D’arby. “Is Syafika coming for dinner tonight? I’d really like to show her the photo”

“She is. I will call her to see if she can come early” said Fanta. She had never seen D’arby looking so excited and didn’t want him to have to wait any longer than necessary.

The stress of the fire on Saturday had left Syafika mentally exhausted and she was not enjoying being at work on Monday, so when Fanta called to ask Syafika to come early for dinner she was happy to oblige. Syafika turned off her computer and went downstairs to change into her running clothes. The clothes were still damp with sweat from Syafika’s lunchtime run but she decided that being a bit smelly was a fair price to pay for getting to Fanta’s place a bit faster. Syafika started running as soon as she came out the front door of her office building and smiled to herself because she looked and felt like she was running away from work.

When Syafika arrived at Fanta’s house John answered the door and Syafika thought he looked like he’d just woken up.

D’arby was in the kitchen making salad to go with leftover pumpkin soup and bread. Fanta and her sisters were in the backyard taking the washing off the clothesline because it looked like it was about to rain.

Syafika went to the kitchen to get a glass of water and caught D’arby muttering to himself.

“I want to show you something” said D’arby and he quickly washed and dried his hands before going to get the photo of Lawrence.

“That’s Anthony!” said Syafika as soon as she saw the photo.

“I thought so” said D’arby. “I just have to make a quick phone call and I’ll be back in a minute” said D’arby and he rushed to the phone to call Rudnika.

“I was right” said D’arby to Rudnika.

“Ok. See what else you can find out and I’ll see you tomorrow” said Rudnika.

Syafika was still looking at the photo of Anthony when D’arby returned to the kitchen.

“Where did you get this?” Syafika asked.

“I can’t say” said D’arby. “But I’ll help you find out more about Anthony if you like”

“Why now? A couple of months ago when I suggested we spy on him you and the others thought it was a dangerous idea” said Syafika. She’d been feeling a bit hurt ever since.

“I realised I should have been more helpful” said D’arby. “Tell me what else you want to know about Anthony”

Syafika didn’t want to tell D’arby that she wanted to know if Anthony had a girlfriend so she tried to think of other things she’d like to know and eventually said “I’d like to know how he can afford to live in a flat with harbour views and where he really went last year when he said he was moving to Perth. And I’d like to know where he works now, and why he pretends to be someone called Lawrence and has meetings with Celine and Nelson from work”

D’arby couldn’t help smiling when he heard all this information, even though he’d heard most of it before, because this time it made sense and he no longer thought that Syafika was making it up. D’arby really wanted to give Syafika some answers but knew he had to be careful. Then D’arby had what he thought was a brilliant idea. “Why don’t you organize to meet up with Anthony and just ask him all your questions?”

“I don’t know how to contact him” said Syafika. “I don’t have his current phone number”.

“Nelson must have it though” said D’arby.

“And so does Celine” said Syafika. “I saw her put it in her mobile phone”.

“What’s going on?” asked John as he walked into the kitchen with a fresh teatowel.

“Do you know anything about mobile phones?” D’arby asked John.

“Only how to steal them” said John.


The Inklings: Chapter 87

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

As Syafika walked to work on Wednesday she kept thinking about her Mum. Syafika hadn’t mentioned to Rose that she’d seen her give money to the lady who lived in the park. Instead Syafika decided that next time her Mum said she was going to the beauty salon she would follow her. Syafika was impatient to find out what was going on but she was also excited to think that she might be able to find the answer without having to ask. Syafika suspected that her Mum never went to the beauty salon and that instead she walked around looking for someone to give the money away to. It made Syafika proud to think that her Mum had this extra dimension of kindness.

When Syafika arrived at her desk she noticed that Celine had beaten her to work so she checked the time. It was only 8am. Syafika wondered why Celine had arrived so early that day, because (just as Anthony had requested) Celine and Fanta were sharing the one role and so they each worked only 3.5 hours per day. Fanta would be there during school hours and Celine usually did the same. Christine had even been persuaded to move the team meeting back to 9:30am so that Fanta and Celine could attend.

A bit later Syafika was engrossed in some reading when Celine came over and asked if she’d like to go out for a coffee before the team meeting. Syafika felt uncomfortable around Celine and looked up to see if Fanta had arrived yet so she could suggest Fanta come too, but Fanta wasn’t there.

As Syafika agreed to coffee with Celine she tried to sound enthusiastic. Celine lead the way to the coffee shop where Syafika had seen her meeting with Anthony (Lawrence). As they walked, Celine kept asking Syafika questions. Celine asked what Syafika was working on, how long she’d been working there, what the other people in the team were like and then moved on to more personal topics. By the time they arrived at the café Celine was asking Syafika if she had a partner and as they ordered their coffees Celine volunteered that she was also on the lookout for a boyfriend.

“What’s your type?” asked Syafika. She was hoping to find out whether Celine had a romantic interest in Anthony.

Celine paused to think before she answered “Someone brave who thinks for themselves. And someone who is genuine. I hate it when people try to trick me”

Syafika wondered whether that was a good description of Anthony and decided that Anthony probably wasn’t very genuine – although he didn’t seem to directly try to deceive Syafika he had always been evasive and she realized she hardly knew anything about him.

Then Celine asked Syafika what her type was and Syafika struggled to find an answer. Eventually she managed to say “Someone who I can have good discussions with and who likes me the way I am”.

“That’s easy!” Celine exclaimed. “Good discussions are something you can initiate, and making someone like you the way you are is easy too”.

“What? How can that be? How can you make someone like you the way you are?” asked Syafika.

“It all comes down to making them feel good about themselves when they are with you. There’s almost a formula for that” answered Celine.

Syafika wanted to know the formula but she was a bit skeptical and so she said “How do you know people don’t just like you anyway because you are so good looking? I bet what works for you won’t work for me”

Celine laughed and rolled her eyes. Celine had noticed that the waiter had looked at Syafika a few times so she thought she’d use this to her advantage.

“I will teach you and then you will believe me” said Celine. “When the waiter brings our coffees over I want you to smile and then observe him. I need you to be able to tell me the colour of his eyes and any distinguishing features of them. You will need to keep him here a while so you get time, so ask him a question – an interesting question that he is likely to have something to say about. And when you pick up your coffee to take a sip make sure that you wobble the cup so a little bit spills into the saucer. Then laugh at yourself – don’t get annoyed. And smile.”

Syafika thought this was stupid but she decided that a good way to show Celine she was wrong was to do what Celine asked and have it fail. So Syafika decided to make it look like she was taking the instructions seriously.

At least Syafika didn’t have to pretend to smile – she was so happy to see the generous sprinkle of chocolate powder on top of her cappuccino that she couldn’t have stopped herself from smiling. But Syafika remembered she couldn’t take a sip yet. She looked the waiter in the eye and asked him what the best and worst things about working in the café were. The waiter looked surprised because he’d been expecting a question like what the cake of the day was. He was happy to answer though and Celine nodded because she thought Syafika had asked a good question.

“Customers are the best and the worst thing” said the waiter, and he started telling the story of the day a customer had fixed the coffee machine when it broke down in the middle of the morning rush.

Syafika noted that the waiter had blue eyes but knew that wouldn’t be a detailed enough description to satisfy Celine so she looked harder and saw that around the pupil his eyes were slightly golden and that there was a ring around each iris that was almost black but probably really a very dark green.

As Syafika went to pick up her coffee she did as Celine had instructed and spilt a little bit of coffee into the saucer.

“Oops” said Syafika, and she smiled to herself.

The waiter smiled and would have told Syafika about his worst customers but he was called over to the cash register because the queue of people wanting takeaway coffees was growing longer.

While Celine and Syafika drank their coffees Syafika impressed Celine with her description of the waiter’s eyes but Celine was disappointed that Syafika hadn’t noticed other things she thought were important, like which hand he’d used to serve the coffees, whether his top or bottom lip was larger, what he smelt like, the shape of his earlobes and how the length of his upper arm compared to the width of his shoulders.

“You didn’t tell me to look for all those things!” complained Syafika. “And what is all that information good for anyway?” Syafika was beginning to think that Celine might be playing a trick on her.

“If you do the observation well you will see the effect for yourself” said Celine.

It was time to leave the café and go to the team meeting. The waiter was still operating the cash register when Celine and Syafika went to pay, but he didn’t continue his stories because the man operating the coffee machine was the owner of the café and he would have heard. Instead the waiter looked at Syafika and asked if they’d enjoyed their coffees. To buy Syafika time to make the rest of her observations, Celine gave an exaggerated description of how nice her coffee had been and described the flavours she’d been able to pick out and asked where the coffee beans were grown. While this was going on Syafika was looking at the waiter’s mouth, ears, arms and shoulders. Then she leant forward slightly and took a deep inhale.

When Syafika and Celine had left the café Celine said “So?”

“Right handed, bottom lip was slightly bigger, he smelt like cinnamon, his ear lobes were triangular and his upper arms were about 75% as long as his shoulders were wide” said Syafika. “How did that make him like me?”

“What’s that note in your hand?” asked Celine.

Syafika looked down at what she had thought was a receipt but it was really a handwritten note on a scrap of paper. It said “I hope you come back soon”. Syafika looked at Celine carefully because she still felt like Celine might have been tricking her and suspected that the waiter might be in on the trick too, but there wasn’t time to interrogate Celine because they had to rush back for the team meeting.


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