Tag Archives: Syafika

The Inklings: Chapter 139

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

It was almost lunchtime on Saturday by the time Syafika got out of bed. She’d decided to be kind to herself that day because she’d been through a lot during the week.

Syafika was wandering around the house in her pyjamas when India knocked on the door and sang out “Anyone home?”. Syafika froze and was considering how she could best avoid India when India opened the door and walked in.

“Did you just get up now?” asked India when she saw Syafika. “Where’s Rose, Festus and Mamadou? I need all hands on deck”

India didn’t wait for Syafika to respond. Instead she walked purposefully through the empty kitchen then out into the backyard.

Syafika chuckled to herself as she heard India rounding up Mamadou and her parents then quickly hid in her bedroom to avoid being added to India’s catch.

When Syafika came out of her room later the house was silent. Syafika realised she felt lonely and so she went upstairs to see if Amanda wanted to have lunch with her.

When Syafika knocked on Amanda’s door there was no answer. At first Syafika assumed it was because Amanda was sleeping and turned to go back downstairs, but something made her change her mind. Syafika turned back to Amanda’s bedroom door and turned the handle. When it opened Syafika couldn’t help letting out a squeal of surprise. She slowly opened the door and found the room empty.

Syafika walked in and had a good look around but didn’t find anything very interesting. The room was very tidy and there wasn’t much stuff in there. One wall had lots of photos on it but everything else was bare and characterless. It made Syafika wonder whether Amanda had run away so she opened the wardrobe and was relieved to discover that it was full of clothes. Syafika was cranky to find that some of her clothes were in there too. She angrily took one of her dresses off the coat hanger and was going to take it downstairs when she noticed that it smelt like Amanda. Syafika disgustedly threw the dress on the floor and stomped downstairs to have lunch.

As Syafika ate her lunch alone in the kitchen she wondered what Anthony was doing and realised she really wanted to see him again. Syafika wondered whether she’d ever get over Anthony. The highs and lows of uncertainty were exhausting and Syafika realised she was at risk of wasting the best years of her life waiting for Anthony to give her a sign.

“Maybe I should just tell him how I feel and get it over with” thought Syafika. She realised that she could call Anthony and tell him right away and the thought of that made her so terrified that she decided she’d wait until after lunch.

After lunch Syafika decided that she’d have a cup of tea before calling Anthony, then a couple of biscuits. Then she thought she better clean her teeth. Eventually she got her mobile phone out and stared at it for a while before calling Anthony’s number.

The phone rang and rang and Syafika was about to hang up when Anthony’s voicemail answered. As Syafika listened to his message she desperately tried to decide what to say. When she heard the beep her mind went blank.

“……… Hello Anthony, it’s Syafika and I need to tell you something. I need to tell you something, but, but not in a message” said Syafika and she quickly hung up and dropped the phone as if it was dangerous.

“Shit, shit, shit” said Syafika. For the next hour she kept looking at her phone, simultaneously hoping Anthony would call her back and being terrified that he would.

Syafika felt so much like running away that she decided she would go for a run. She put on some running clothes but when went to put on her running shoes she could only find one of them. Syafika looked under her bed, in the wardrobe, behind the door, in the laundry basket and anywhere else she thought it was possible for her shoe to be but couldn’t find it. Eventually she decided to treat it as a sign that she should go running without shoes. As Syafika set off down the street she laughed at the thought of Anthony catching her running barefoot again.

Syafika decided to run a few laps of the park near the train station so she headed there. When she arrived she discovered that all the tents had gone. Syafika ran around the park as close to the boundary as she could and when she got to the place where the tents had been she noticed that there were still dead patches in the grass where the tents had been.

Running barefoot made Syafika more tired than usual, probably because she had to be more careful about how and where she put her feet down. Before she returned home Syafika sat down on a seat in the park for a rest. Syafika watched the other people in the park. Most of them were couples. When Syafika noticed one couple walking arm in arm and looking at each other lovingly she couldn’t stop herself from crying.

After wiping her tears away Syafika started running home. When she arrived she noticed a police car parked outside and saw that Rose and Festus were standing in the front yard talking to a police officer.

“What happened?” asked Syafika.

“Someone broke into our house” said Rose.

“What did they steal?” asked Syafika.

“Just cash, as far as I know” said Rose. “But they did make a big mess”

There was something in the tone of Rose’s voice that made Syafika suspicious. “I want to see” said Syafika and she started running up the front steps but the police officer stopped her and told her she couldn’t go inside because they were still taking photos and looking for fingerprints.


The Inklings: Chapter 132

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” asked Amanda.

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

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

Syafika thought Amanda looked a bit cranky.

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

“How did he react?” asked Amanda.

“He looked interested” said Syafika.

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

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

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

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

“Do you like Anthony?” asked Amanda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are the others?” asked Syafika.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Amanda made me lunch” said Syafika.

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

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

“What?” said Rose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello?” said Syafika.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Inklings: Chapter 128

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you doing here?” asked Rose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Inklings: Chapter 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 123

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

Syafika woke up shivering and realised that she didn’t have a blanket over her. She put her hand out and searched for one in the dark but couldn’t find one. Then she realised that she didn’t know where she was sleeping. She thought she could see the shape of a bedside lamp so she put her hand out and felt for a switch. The lamp turned on automatically when she touched it and Syafika saw that she was lying on a bed, on top of the blankets.

It took Syafika a few seconds to remember where she was and why she was there. Her stomach felt better now but she was thirsty so she got up to get a glass of water. When Syafika passed the door of the main bedroom she could hear snoring so she tried to walk as quietly as possible. Syafika gently opened cupboards in the kitchen as she looked for a glass. She found neat stacks of bowls and plates, a modest pantry and a juicing machine before she came across the cups and glasses.

Syafika took her glass of water and walked around the flat. First she looked out at the harbour and noticed that there were no boats moving around. Then she noticed a flash of lightning and as she watched it start to rain she hoped that D’arby had followed her instructions and gone home.

When Syafika remembered D’arby she remembered that she’d met up with Anthony for a purpose. Syafika realised she should look be looking for clues to what Anthony was up to and imagined she might find some on his computer or phone or maybe some paperwork. Then Syafika remembered the transmitter D’arby had given her and wondered where she could hide it. Syafika decided to go back to her room to get the transmitter from her bag but on the way she noticed a door to another room. She turned the door handle slowly and gently, then stopped to listen. When Syafika heard Anthony’s snoring she decided it was safe to continue. She went inside the room and turned on the light.

Inside the room there was a desk, bookshelf and a couple of filing cabinets. The filing cabinets were locked but the desk drawers weren’t. Syafika had a quick look in them but only found stationery. Syafika wondered where Anthony kept the key to the filing cabinets. There wasn’t anywhere obvious to hide a key so she felt the top of the bookshelf but only found dust. Syafika sighed with frustration and wished she’d taken more notice of what was in Anthony’s room when she’d walked through to go to the balcony. Syafika considered trying to creep into Anthony’s room to have a look for his phone or computer, but when she imagined how embarrassed she’d feel if he woke up Syafika decided not to.

Instead Syafika went back to her room and got the transmitter then walked around the living room with it looking for somewhere to put it, but she couldn’t decide on a good spot because all the good hiding places were so out of the way that they probably wouldn’t pick up anything Anthony said and she didn’t want to risk putting it somewhere where Anthony would find it. Syafika was about to give up and go back to bed when she noticed a jacket hanging on the back of the door. Syafika took the jacket down and inspected it. She decided that the collar would be a great spot to hide the transmitter so she quietly got a sharp knife from the kitchen and cut a few of the stitches joining the underside of the collar to the jacket. Then she tured the transmitter on, slid it inside the collar and hung the jacket back up.

After Syafika returned the knife to the kitchen she went back to bed and lay there feeling exhausted but also guilty for not having made the most of this opportunity to look throught Anthony’s things.

Not long after Syafika fell asleep again she was woken by the sound of her phone ringing. She turned the light on and saw that her bag was on the bedside table so she quickly took out her phone and answered.

“Hello?” said Syafika. She was really curious to know who was calling because she didn’t think anyone but Anthony knew her number.

“Are you alright?” asked D’arby.

“Yes” said Syafika. “I feel much better now”.

“What are you doing?” asked D’arby.

“I was sleeping” said Syafika.

“What is Anthony doing?” asked D’arby.

“Sleeping, I guess” said Syafika and she realised that she couldn’t hear him snoring anymore.

“Have you had a look around?” asked D’arby.

“Yes but he hasn’t left anything accessible” said Syafika.

“Are you sure? Why don’t you have another look? What about in his room?” asked D’arby.

“I’m not going in there. He might wake up and catch me” said Syafika.

“You could make an excuse if he wakes up. Tell him you were looking for headache tablets” said D’arby.

Syafika sighed loudly and decided that D’arby was right and she should be making more of this opportunity.

“Ok” said Syafika. “I will do it now. Bye”

Syafika sat and listened for the sound of Anthony’s snoring but couldn’t hear anything. She had a really bad feeling about sneaking into his room and realised that she ought to be able to come up with a better plan. Syafika concentrated on her breathing until she felt calm. Them she got up and gently knocked on Anthony’s bedroom door.

When there was no answer Syafika knocked again and this time she thought she heard something so she gently opened the door and walked in.

Anthony turned on his bedside lamp and sat up in bed, looking a bit startled.

“Sorry to wake you but I have a terrible headache. Do you have something I could take?” asked Syafika. As she said this Syafika felt guilty, but not as guilty as she’d have felt if she had been sneaking around Anthony’s room in the dark. Syafika noticed that Anthony looked different when he was half asleep. His hair was sticking up messily and he seemed to be having trouble registering what she was saying.

Anthony briefly covered his face with his hands as his eyes adjusted to the light. Then he nervously scratched his hair. Syafika made the most of this opportunity to have a discreet look around the room. She noticed that Anthony’s phone was on his bedside table and so she sat down on the floor next to the bedside table and held her head.

“Ok. Just a minute” said Anthony and he got up and left the room. Syafika waited a couple of seconds and then grabbed Anthony’s phone, but soon realised that was a waste of time because it was locked and needed a fingerprint to unlock it.

Syafika put the phone back and, realising that it would take a lot more planning for her to be able to steal Anthony’s secrets, but that there was one thing she could have a go at – she could see what Anthony would tell her.

When Anthony came back he handed Syafika a glass of water and then put two tablets in her other hand.

“Thanks” said Syafika and she put the tablets in her mouth then pretended to take a sip of water and swallow. She had a thing against headache tablets and didn’t want to take them, even when she really did have a headache. When Anthony looked away Syafika spat the tablets into her hand and stood up.

“Will you be ok now?” asked Anthony.

Syafika looked at Anthony and wondered whether she should try to talk to him now or in the morning. She thought he seemed a little bit annoyed at being woken up, which made Syafika think it would be better to wait until the morning. But at the same time, Anthony’s tiredness made him less sharp and Syafika thought she’d have a better chance of getting information out of him now.

Syafika sat down on the corner of Anthony’s bed and sighed loudly.

“This game was fun, for a while, but I’m getting sick of it. Why don’t we both admit we are spying on each other and just tell each other what we would like to know – it would save a lot of time” said Syafika.

Anthony suddenly perked up. He sat down next to Syafika, put his arm around her and said “That sounds like fun. Let’s make some coffee and then we can talk until the sun comes up”. Then Anthony got up and went to the kitchen. Syafika waited behind so she could throw the headache tablets under Anthony’s bed, then she followed Anthony to the kitchen, feeling terrified.

Syafika watched Anthony grind coffee beans and put them into a stovetop percolator.

“I need to watch the temperature carefully and it takes a while so please forgive my silence until the coffee is made” said Anthony. “If you think it is too boring you can go and try unlocking my filing cabinets again. The key is hidden in that room somewhere. See if you can find it”

Syafika’s face became hot with embarrassment and she felt like hiding in one of the kitchen cupboards but instead she had to look Anthony in the eye.

Anthony smiled and took a small digital voice recorder out of his pocket. When he pressed the button it started making a snoring sound.

“Don’t worry. I’m not angry. I would have done the same if you’d let me sleep at your place” said Anthony. “Plus I know D’arby made you do it”.

Syafika tried to hide her surprise when she heard Anthony mention D’arby and wondered how Anthony knew who D’arby was. If Syafika hadn’t been about to bluff her way through a secret-trading session with Anthony she would have asked him how he knew D’arby, but instead she tried to look as if she already knew.

Syafika walked over to the look at the harbour, and on the way she noticed Anthony’s jacket hanging on the back of the door and wondered if Anthony also knew about her hiding the transmitter in the collar. As Syafika looked out the window she noticed that it had stopped raining but she could still see lightning in the distance. Syafika realised that her heart was beating really fast and tried to calm down by staring at the water and not thinking about anything.

“Coffee’s ready” said Anthony and he carried the coffees over on a tray and put it down on the coffee table. Syafika sat down on a chair that was facing the window and Anthony sat opposite her. When she looked at the tray it reminded her of the tea that Ousman had made for her at breakfast time, and she felt like that was a million years ago. Syafika saw that Anthony had made her a coffee with milk and had sprinkled chocolate powder on top and he’d made himself a black coffee.

“It was your idea, so you go first. Tell me something” said Anthony.

“Wouldn’t you rather ask a question?” said Syafika.

“Asking questions is a more dangerous version of the game. I don’t think you’re ready for that level yet” said Anthony.

“I’m not ready? Or is it just that you think you’d be able to control the information you give me more tightly if I can’t ask for the things I want to know?” said Syafika.

“Both” said Anthony. “Go, before the sun comes up. When we see the sun, we stop”.

“Ok” said Syafika. “Today… I mean yesterday, Celine and I went for coffee and we talked about you”

Anthony tried to keep his face blank but Syafika could tell that what she’d said had made him angry.

“That’s not much information” said Anthony, and not what I wanted to know. I don’t follow you to see who you go for coffee with”

Syafika wanted to smile but couldn’t. She was pleased with herself for having made Anthony admit that he’d been following her.

“Sorry. I’ll think of something more interesting next time it is my turn. Your turn now” said Syafika.

“Nelson is a psychopath” said Anthony.

Syafika hadn’t expected that. She had heard D’arby talk about psychopaths but didn’t really know what they were.

“Your turn” said Anthony.

“According to Nelson, Christine is helping the Minister steal money” said Syafika.

“That is more interesting” said Anthony. “But you shouldn’t trust anything Nelson says”.

“Who can I trust?” asked Syafika.

“You should trust Christine” said Anthony. “That was my turn. Now it’s your turn”

Syafika was glad to hear that she could trust Christine because she liked Christine, but she realised she liked Nelson too.

Syafika felt like she’d run out of things to say that might be of interest to Anthony professionally and she couldn’t stop wondering why Anthony had been following her – had he been doing that for his work? Or was he following her because he was personally interested in her? She was tempted to admit that she was obsessed with him but frightened of how he’d react.

“Let me think for a minute” said Syafika. “I need to take in what you’ve said and work out what I should tell you next”

Syafika realised that she needed to rethink everything she’d assumed about Anthony. She’d assumed that he was interested in her because he wanted to know what was going on at her work, and that Anthony was interested in what went on at work because he was involved in some kind of corruption. She’d also assumed that Nelson and Celine were working as spies for Anthony, but if Anthony had two spies, why would he risk trying to find out information from her? Hearing that Anthony thought Nelson was a psychopath and that he thought she could trust Christine made Syafika realise that Anthony didn’t trust Nelson. The way Anthony had got angry when she told him she’d had coffee with Celine made Syafika suspect that Anthony didn’t trust Celine much either. If all that were true then maybe Anthony tried to find out information from her because he trusted her more than he trusted his spies. That seemed like a sensible explanation but it didn’t explain how Anthony knew D’arby, or why Anthony had followed her home.

Syafika wondered what interest Anthony could have in D’arby and remembered that D’arby had started a new job recently but she didn’t know what the job was. When Syafika thought about how D’arby had suddenly become interested in spying on Anthony she wondered whether D’arby might also have his own reason for spying on Anthony. But even if that were true, what business did Anthony have following her home?

Syafika wanted to think that Anthony had followed her home because he was in love with her, but she forced herself to think through other possibilities and realised that there was another reason that Anthony would follow her home – what if Anthony was spying on her because he wanted to find out something about her family? What if Anthony hadn’t been following her when he saw her running barefoot – what if he’d been spying on her house and saw her arrive home? When Syafika thought of her family the idea that Anthony would want to know anything about any of them seemed ridiculous because none of them ever did anything suspicious, until she remembered how she’d followed Rose and had seen her give a bundle of cash to a lady who lived in the park near the train station.

“Ok. I’ve got one. I saw my Mum give a bundle of $50 notes to a lady who lives in the park near the train station” said Syafika. Syafika paid careful attention to Anthony’s face as she said this because she was using it as bait and hoping that his reaction would tell her whether he was interested in knowing about her family or not.

Anthony opened his mouth slightly, as if he wanted to ask a question but he didn’t say anything. He just stared at Syafika.

Syafika held Anthony’s gaze for a couple of seconds and then it became too uncomfortable so she glanced over his shoulder and noticed that the sky was getting lighter.

“I think the sun is coming up” said Syafika. Can we watch it from the balcony?”


The Inklings: Chapter 121

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

When Syafika arrived at Anthony’s flat she was only interested in getting to the toilet because she knew she was going to vomit soon. Syafika was glad that Anthony didn’t follow her into the bathroom. Syafika knelt down beside the toilet and waited for the next wave of nausea. When she’d vomited she rinsed her mouth and washed her face. Syafika discovered that Anthony was sitting on the floor just outside the bathroom door.

“I bet you think this is fun!” said Syafika. She always felt quite good just after she’d vomited, but knew that she’d start feeling sick again soon.

“It is less predictable than the movie we were watching” said Anthony. “What do you think made you sick?”

“Food poisoning or a tummy bug I guess” said Syafika, without giving much thought to what she was saying because she was too busy worrying that her parents would get home and not know where she was.

“Maybe you picked up some germs while running barefoot” said Anthony.

“Maybe. Hey, I need to try calling my parents again” said Syafika.

“But you can stay here” said Anthony.

“Thanks, I know, I will. I just need to tell them where I am” said Syafika.

Syafika got out her phone and called her home number. As she listened to it ringing she realised she was feeling angry with Anthony for having commented on her running barefoot. A couple of seconds later Syafika realised that if Anthony had seen her running barefoot he must have seen her running yesterday and wondered if he’d been following her. She wondered whether Anthony had meant to reveal that he’d seen her yesterday or whether it was an accident. When the answering machine answered the phone Syafika decided she didn’t want to have to keep ringing so she left a quick message about being sick and staying at a friend’s house.

“My parents still aren’t home so I left a message. Now they won’t worry when they come home and I’m not there” said Syafika.

“Good. Now you can relax” said Anthony. “Would you like something to drink? You probably need to rehydrate. Would you like some water with ice and lemon?”

“Thanks, that would be nice” said Syafika.

“Have a look at the view while I make it” said Anthony.

Syafika looked around and realised that the flat had large windows and a balcony on the harbour side so she went to have a look, but what she most wanted to do was see if there was a balcony facing the Botanic Gardens. She was hopeful that there was because when they came in she’d noticed that this was the only flat at the southern end of the floor.

“Wow! Do you have a view of the Botanic Gardens too?” asked Syafika.

“Yes, there’s a balcony off the main bedroom – go and have a look if you like” said Anthony.

Syafika tried not to look suspicious as she walked across the flat. She was aware that D’arby would be confused about what to do because he was supposed to keep watch over her and she suspected that he would be standing outside the door of the building and wondering what he should do. Syafika considered trying to sneak D’arby into Anthony’s flat but realised it was beyond her deceptive abilities.

Syafika turned on the balcony light and went out, closing the door behind her. Even though it was dark she could tell that the view on this side was amazing. She wasn’t a fan of the busy waterfront and would prefer to look over the Botanic Gardens. Syafika looked down to see if D’arby was there and noticed that someone was waving at her – it was D’arby. Syafika was very relieved to see D’arby and yelled out that he should go home because she was going to stay the night. When he said he’d stay outside she thought he was being ridiculous and told him to go. Then she hurried back inside because she knew it wouldn’t take Anthony long to make her drink.


The Inklings: Chapter 119

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

D’arby sat down on a stone wall and felt like a failure. He’d watched Anthony lead Syafika into his block of units and hadn’t been able to save her. D’arby was glad that Fanta hadn’t been there to see how useless he’d been. D’arby realised that he’d gotten into this mess by being over-confident – he’d begun to think that he knew how to be a spy but that was just because he’d never really been tested. Real spies would know how to save their friends from dangerous situations but D’arby hadn’t had a clue.

D’arby tried to calm himself down by telling himself that Syafika probably wasn’t in any real danger and the only problem was that she might be feeling unprotected and alone. D’arby decided that he’d wait outside, all night if necessary, to make sure that Syafika made it out ok. To make the time pass faster D’arby thought about his work at RenewBank. The business with Anthony had caused a delay in the modelling work that D’arby, Carol and Valentine had been doing. D’arby knew they weren’t ready to make any plans public, because they hadn’t properly modelled anything yet. Leopold seemed to have worked things out in his head already though. D’arby wondered what Leopold had been doing before he started working for RenewBank and decided he’d ask him the next time he saw him.

D’arby was busy thinking about all the things RenewBank would have to do to phase-in their new currency and was imagining all the things that could go wrong when a man stopped and handed him some money and said “Go and get yourself a coffee”.

“Thanks!” said D’arby. He realised that a coffee would be a really good idea and wondered why someone would be so kind. D’arby stood up and wondered where he could get a coffee at that time of the night. He realised that he’d have to go to one of those dreadful 24 hour fast food places and wasn’t sure the coffee would be worth the effort. It also occurred to D’arby that maybe the person who’d told him to get a coffee was working for Anthony and the plan was to get him away from the door.

D’arby looked up at the building, half expecting to see Anthony spying on him from one of the balconies, but D’arby couldn’t see anyone. Then D’arby noticed a balcony light turn on about two thirds up the building. He watched carefully and saw the balcony door slide open. Out walked Syafika. She closed the door behind her and looked out. D’arby realised that she must have been looking for him and he started to wave. Syafika didn’t seem to notice and D’arby realised he was standing in the dark so he rushed to a street light and waved again.

When Syafika saw D’arby she waved back and smiled. Then she leaned over the balcony and yelled “Go home! I’m ok – I just keep vomiting so I’ll stay here tonight. I’ll probably be ok by the morning. Go!”

“I’d rather stay, just in case” yelled D’arby.

“What?” said Syafika.

“I’m staying, just in case” yelled D’arby.

“No. Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t sleep in the park. Go home” Syafika replied. And she went back inside and turned off the balcony light.

D’arby stood there for a few minutes. First he memorized which balcony Syafika had appeared on and then he thought about what he should do. He realised that the main thing stopping him from going home was what Fanta might say when she realised that Syafika was all on her own with Anthony.”Maybe Fanta will know what I should do” thought D’arby. “I should just tell her what’s going on, not sit out here doing nothing”. D’arby looked at his watch and realised that if he hurried Fanta might still be awake when he got home.


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