Tag Archives: The Inkling

The Inklings: Chapter 96

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

When D’arby was about halfway to work he sat down on a brick wall, took the parcel out of his backpack and examined it. It was in one of the carboard boxes that they sold at the post office and it had stamps on it, but D’arby couldn’t see a postmark.

D’arby rattled the box but it didn’t make any sound. D’arby sniffed the parcel, but it only smelt like cardboard.

D’arby wondered for a minute whether he should take the parcel to Sonia and get her to open it, but decided against it. Although he was a little bit worried that it might explode or contain a listening device, D’arby thought it most likely was that the parcel was meant to be seen by him on his own.

There was stickytape holding the box closed so D’arby cut it using a key. Then D’arby gently opened the box. Inside there was a white envelope and inside the envelope were photos. The photos were of people entering and leaving the secret RenewBank office plus some photos of D’arby at his desk and of everyone having lunch in the rooftop garden. D’arby could easily see the significance of these photos – they meant that someone knew where the real RenewBank work was being done, and who was doing it, and if they knew that they could know more. What D’arby didn’t understand was what the motivation was for sending him the photos, and then it occurred to him that there might still be a note hiding somewhere in the box or envelope. D’arby shook the envelope and out came a folded-up piece of paper. The note said:

“I was commissioned to find out what RenewBank is really up to, and I did. What will RenewBank pay me to keep this quiet? I will contact you tomorrow with payment details”

D’arby put the note and photos back into his backpack and continued walking to the official office. The sense of urgency D’arby felt made him want to run but he knew there was no point getting to the office before 7:30am so he walked, and tried to calm himself down by concentrating on his breathing.

At the official office D’arby calmly followed the usual security procedures and Sonia didn’t notice that anything was wrong, but as soon as D’arby was on the way to the secret office he rode his bike as fast as he could, and managed to arrive at the secret office just before 8am.

Nobody else had arrived yet so D’arby had to wait. He went to his desk and looked at the photos and tried to work out where they’d been taken from. Some were taken from above and some were on street level so D’arby guessed they must have been taken from different levels of a building across the street. D’arby looked out the window and saw that there was a ‘For Lease’ sign in the building directly opposite. Then he looked down and noticed that Rudnika and Leopold were both approaching the office. D’arby ran downstairs to meet. He showed them the photos and told them how they’d been left for him by a mysterious man early that morning.

When Carol and Valentine arrived Rudnika gathered everyone together around the meeting table. After D’arby explained what had happened and everyone had looked at the photos it was time to decide what to do.

“I think we need to move the office today” said Leopold. “If we do it before whoever took the photos shares them with whoever commissioned them then things might be ok.”

“Yes, we should move today, but we also need to find out who took these photos and who they were taken for” said Rudnika.

“Can’t we just see how much money they want? It might be cheaper to pay than to move” said Valentine.

“We could pay, but how do we know that will be the end of it?” said Rudnika. “And how do we know they won’t tell anyone else about us?”

“Why would someone try to sell us photos they had taken for someone else?” asked Carol.

“This is why we need to find out who did this” said Rudnika. “Then we will know what we are up against. But first we need to move and we need to make sure nobody manages to follow us.”

Rudnika packed the photos and the note back into the envelope and postbox and put it into her bag.

About an hour later a moving van arrived and everyone had to help load all the RenewBank stuff into it. Then the van drove away and Rudnika took everyone to a café down the street to discuss what was going to happen next. Rudnika had organized for the van to disappear into a busy industrial area, where their stuff would be moved to a different van and taken to the new office. The new office wasn’t far away. Rudnika told them the address and made everyone memorise it because she didn’t wany anyone to write it down. Nobody was going there today though. For the rest of the day they were going to investigate how someone had managed to find out where the secret office was, who had found out and why they’d done it. They brainstormed for ways to find answers and then divided the tasks up and set off. D’arby and Rudnika were going to work together, Carol and Valentine were another team and Leopold was going to work on his own. D’arby was pleased with this because he wanted to get to know Rudnika better and because the first thing they were going to do was investigate the empty building across the road. Rudnika was sure that the ‘For Lease’ sign hadn’t been there on Friday.

D’arby was expecting that Rudnika would pick the lock so they could sneak into the building and have a secret look around but instead she lead the way to the Real Estate agent that was managing the property and pretended that she was interested in leasing it.

The agent was a man called Ross who tried to get them to come back at 3pm because that’s when he’d organized to show another potential tenant around. D’arby had suspected that something like that might happen and turned to Rudnika to see how she would deal with it.

“That’s unfortunate” said Rudnika. “We have a tight deadline and need to decide on an office space by 2pm today. If you think that showing us the office before 3pm is a waste of your time then you must not be very confident that we will want to lease it, which is fine because my colleagues are looking at other places this morning so we will just take one of those instead.” Then Rudnika paused for a couple of seconds before handing her mobile phone to D’arby and saying “Can you please call Valentine and let him know that if the Bourke Street office is ok that we will go with it”

D’arby didn’t really know how to use the phone and he definitely didn’t know how to call Valentine so instead he called the number of his old flat and wondered how many times he should let it ring before pretending that Valentine had answered.

“If you do that you will miss out on a great office space” said Ross, who was trying to sound calm but gave away his anxiety by speaking too fast. “It feels unfair to show it to you before the person booked in for 3pm, but it is my duty to get the best tenant for the place so I will get the keys and take you there now”

When Ross turned away to go and get the keys Rudnika winked at D’arby. D’arby gave Rudnika back her phone and smiled. He was glad he hadn’t had to deal with Ross on his own.

As they walked down the street towards the vacant building Ross pretended to be friendly and asked lots of questions but even D’arby could tell that Ross was just trying to find out what sort of tenants they’d be. Rudnika gave polite answers but soon took control of the direction of the conversation by asking Ross about the previous tenant and why they’d left.

D’arby could tell that Ross was trying to think of how to put a good spin on his answer. “Lawrence ran a successful investment business and I was going to enjoy having him as a tenant” said Ross. “But his mother became sick on Friday and he had to leave in a hurry to go and look after her in Perth”

“The owner must be in a hurry to lease the property then, after the sudden loss of rental income” said D’arby. He was hoping the question would annoy Ross.

“Well, actually Lawrence paid the rent in advance for the whole 5 years so there is no pressure to fill the building for another 4 years and 11 months” said Ross, sounding a bit smug.

D’arby was feeling pretty clever for having tricked Ross into giving away how long Lawrence had been in the building.

Ross unlocked the front door and while he was disarming the alarm Rudnika watched but D’arby started looking around. D’arby took note of the view from the downstairs windows and was sure that this was the building where the photos of people entering the RenewBank office had been taken from. He was keen to see the view from upstairs and so didn’t pay much attention when Ross started explaining the facilities downstairs. Rudnika was more interested. There was a bathroom and kitchen downstairs and she wanted to see them both.

D’arby watched Ross and Rudnika walk into the kitchen and then he rushed upstairs. There were two windows that faced towards the Renewbank Office. D’arby noticed that one had a dusty window sill and the other didn’t so he looked out the window with the clean sill. He could see into the office where he, Valentine and Carol had been working and there was also a clear view of the roof garden.

“It is a nice view, isn’t it?” said Ross.

D’arby got a bit of a fright but tried to pretend he hadn’t.

“There is a lot of dust” said D’arby and he ran his finger along the dusty window sill.

“I haven’t actually been in here since Lawrence left but I will forgive him for not having taken time to clean when he was so worried about his mother. If it is an issue I can organize for a cleaner to come through before you move in” said Ross.

“Ok” said D’arby and he looked towards the stairs, wondering where Rudnika was.

Ross noticed and said “She’s using the bathroom”.

D’arby doubted that Rudnika was really using the bathroom and realised that he should try to keep Ross busy.

“Do you know how old the building is?” asked D’arby.

“Not sure exactly” said Ross. “More than 100 years old though. But the owner had the wiring and plumbing redone a couple of years ago and there aren’t any leaks”.

D’arby asked a few more questions and Ross dutifully answered before Rudnika came upstairs.

“Thank you Ross. This is a very nice space” said Rudnika. “I need to talk to my colleagues to find out about the places they have looked at before I can apply for this place. I will get back to you in 30 minutes. Will you be back at your office then?” asked Rudnika.

Ross looked at his watch and said “Yes. Don’t waste any time though. 2pm is approaching fast.”

Rudnika smiled then turned and hurried downstairs. D’arby said goodbye to Ross and then followed Rudnika.

When they got outside Rudnika put her arm out to attract a taxi and she and D’arby hopped in. D’arby was surprised when Rudnika asked the driver to take them to the police station, but he didn’t want to ask what was going on infront on the taxi driver.

When they got out of the taxi infront of the police station Rudnika said “I have a friend here who is going to help us. You wait outside and I’ll be back in 10 minutes”.

D’arby didn’t like standing out the front of the police station because the people who came and went tended to glare at him. Fortunately Rudnika returned as quickly as she’d said she would.

“What’s going on?” asked D’arby.

“I lifted some fingerprints and a friend is going to check them” said Rudnika.

“How did you do that?” asked D’arby. “And won’t your friend get into trouble?”

“Make-up and stickytape, and no he won’t get into trouble because he is investigating identity crime, and I bet the person spying on us didn’t use their real identity” said Rudnika.

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The Inklings: Chapter 95

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

Aminata paced up and down along the sill of the front window for 15 minutes after Ousman left for school. Binta wondered whether Aminata hoped Ousman would sneak back home and she suspected that Ousman would have liked to. Ousman had seemed disappointed that he was going to miss out on going to the hospital that day.

Mamadou came inside carrying a roll of drawings of the garden he’d designed for Gina and Penny. Binta didn’t think that Penny or Gina would be very interested in building a garden when they didn’t have a house anymore but Mamadou was confident that once they saw his design they would want to start straight away.

There was another barrier to Mamadou starting his gardening business though. Binta had discovered that not only was Mamadou’s visa temporary, but it also didn’t allow him to work. Binta thought that was very mean and hoped that they could get the conditions changed.

Mamadou wasn’t as upset as Binta. He didn’t mind there being a barrier to him earning money and he was determined that it wasn’t going to stop him from building gardens. He could see that Binta was upset though and realised that she’d been looking forward to running his business.

At the hospital Mamadou and Binta found Gina sitting next to Penny’s bed. Gina and Penny were happy to see Binta and Mamadou, and Penny was extra pleased when she noticed that Mamadou was carrying a roll of drawings.

“They discharged me this morning” said Gina. “But I don’t really want to go… I can’t go home and I don’t want to leave Penny”

“Tell her not to worry about me” said Penny. “I’m going to be out of here soon too… in a few days”

Mamadou was very pleased with this news. He’d been really worried about Penny. Mamadou wanted to show his drawings but thought it was too early in the conversation.

“India has been working hard to create a kind of home for you at her place” said Binta.

“Yes, I should show appreciation for what India is doing for us” said Gina. “What if you take me there when you leave? If I return to our street with company it won’t be as painful”

Mamadou and Binta were happy with this suggestion, and Penny tried to look happy too, but inside she was sad that she had to stay behind in hospital. To take her mind off this she asked Mamadou to show her his drawings.

Gina looked over Penny’s shoulder as she unrolled the drawings. There were ten pages. The first page was a garden plan and the next 8 pages were views from different angles and drawings of some of the details, including the outdoor shower. Penny and Gina made approving noises as they looked at these pages, but it was the final page that they found really exceptional. It was of a cute little house that was almost completely hidden in the garden.  The door and some windows were visible but the roof was covered in garden.

“You’ve designed us a new house too!” said Penny.

“Yes. I hope it isn’t too soon to start thinking about what you might build. I hope I haven’t gone too far. This is what the house of a real garden lover should look like”.

“I would love to live in that house” said Gina.

“So would I” said Penny. “I would hate to move to a normal house now that we have nothing to put in it. It would feel so empty. But this little house would be so cosy and comfortable.

Mamadou looked at Binta and was happy to see that she was smiling.


The Inklings: chapter 94

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

John had a hellish Sunday night. His body seemed restless and it ached if he tried to lie still. He moved about so much in bed that the bottom sheet came off and became twisted around him. John must have fallen asleep a couple of times because he managed to have some bad dreams. In his dreams John was trying to get away from something or someone and was feeling extremely guilty. Sometimes he was driving a car, sometimes riding a bicycle and sometimes walking, but always along a quiet country road with the sun setting on his left.

John desperately wanted to get outside and stretch his legs but waited until 5am because he thought that was about as early as you could go out without raising suspicion. John was careful not to make any noise as he got dressed, and he closed the front door very gently. It was still dark outside but there were a few people around, mostly runners. John remembered how much fun Syafika seemed to be having now that she’d become a runner and he decided he should run too so he dashed down the street. The pavements in the area were old and unpredictable and so John had to pay attention to where he was putting his feet. To add to the challenge, there were spaces between street lights were it was completely dark. John took short, quick steps and concentrated on how his feet were moving. John had so much fun that for a little while he wondered why he didn’t run everywhere, but then he became puffed and sweaty and had to stop running.

John wondered what to do next. He didn’t want to go home until it was time for Fanta to get up. John decided that the university grounds would be fun to explore at this time of day so he headed that way, but when he realised he was on the street of the flat he and D’arby used to live in John instead decided to go and see it first. D’arby had told John how a fence had been put up around the block of flats and that he expected it would be knocked down soon. When John arrived there he saw the fence but the building was still standing. Attached to the fence was a large, friendly-looking sign. The sign was just close enough to a street light for John to have a go at reading it. It said something about a housing cooperative and that the building was going to be renovated. There were contact details on the sign so John tried to memorise them. He couldn’ wait to tell D’arby that the block of flats wasn’t going to be knocked down, but it was still too early for anyone to be up at home so to kill some more time John ran into the university. John noticed that the paving of the university was much more predictable so he started running as fast as he could and then stopped to walk and catch his breath. He did this quite a few times before he noticed that the sky was starting to lighten. Then John started walking back home. As John walked along he realised that while he’d been out running he’d forgotten all his worries.

John was glad to turn into Fanta’s street because his legs had started to feel heavy, but he was startled to see a man coming out of the gate of Fanta’s house. In the half-light of early sunrise John thought it might be D’arby leaving early for work, but when he got closer he realised that it wasn’t. The man hurried across the road, got into a car and quickly drove away. John tried to memorise the numberplate but only got the first half of it.

When John got to the doorstep he found a small parcel on it addressed to D’arby so he picked it up and took it inside.

D’arby was putting on his shoes, which meant he was about to leave for work. Nobody else was up yet so John had to be quiet, even though he was very excited.

“A man left this parcel for you. I saw him leaving as I came up the street” whispered John. “Do you think it might be a bomb?”

It took D’arby two seconds to comprehend what John had just said, before he looked at the parcel and shrugged.

“What was it about the man who delivered the parcel that makes you suspicious?” asked D’arby.

“Well, it was so early and he drove a car not a van. He wasn’t wearing a uniform either” said John.

D’arby wondered what he should do. If he hadn’t been working for RenewBank he probably would have just opened the parcel, but because of the top secret work he’d been doing, and the deception he had to keep up everyday about what he was working on and where his office was, D’arby had become suspicious. He didn’t think it likely that the parcel was a bomb but he did think it likely that the parcel was meant to cause some kind of mischief. D’arby thought about the timing and wondered whether whoever left the parcel was hoping that he would take it with him to work so he considered leaving it at home and opening it that night. However, he didn’t want to risk leaving a parcel that might be dangerous at home in case it harmed someone there. D’arby was annoyed at being delayed by this conundrum and decided to compromise. He put the parcel in his backpack and set out. He planned to stop and open the parcel when he was halfway to work.


The Inklings: Chapter 93

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

When Rose went outside on Sunday morning she discovered that a crowd had gathered to inspect what was left of the building next door. Rose noticed that amongst the crowd were Victoria and Graham, who owned the larger part of the building. Rose could hear Graham telling the crowd that they’d been underinsured and wouldn’t be able to afford to rebuild. Rose hadn’t had much to do with Victoria and Graham but she felt sorry for them. However, Rose was more concerned about how Gina and Penny were.

When Gina woke up on Sunday morning she wondered how she’d managed to get to sleep at all because her leg was hurting, and she was scared to move it in case it made the pain worse. Gina wanted to go and see Penny, who she knew was on a different floor of the same hospital, but Gina didn’t think she’d be able to walk.

Gina had the urge to brush her hair and wished that someone would bring in her hairbrush and some clothes. She would have been pleased to know that Rose was already at the hospital. Rose was downstairs with Penny, who was in intensive care. Penny wasn’t saying much, but she kept asking for Gina. It was as if Penny didn’t believe it when people told her that Gina was ok and wanted to see it for herself. Rose wondered whether she’d be able to bring Gina down to see Penny and went to ask someone.

When Rose appeared in the doorway of Gina’s room she was accompanied by a man with an empty wheelchair. His job was to take patients where they needed to go.

Gina forgot about her leg being sore and plopped herself into the wheelchair. She felt like telling the man pushing her wheel chair to hurry but thought that might be a bit rude, so instead she just leant forward.

Penny was waiting in anticipation when Rose and Gina arrived. The man pushing Gina in her wheel chair delivered her to the room and then left. When Rose saw Penny and Gina holding hands she thought she should leave too, so she offered to get some tea. Neither Penny nor Gina wanted tea but they insisted Rose get herself some. Rose said she’d be back later and wandered off, looking for stairs or lifts.

It didn’t take Gina long to work out that Penny was in a worse condition than her. Penny had broken bones and lost lots of blood, and had been operated on. Penny and Gina swapped versions of what had happened but still had lots of questions. Nobobdy had told them how much of their house had been damaged and they wondered where they would go when they were discharged from hospital. By the time Rose got back Penny and Gina had so many questions that they were glad to see her.

“How bad is the house?” asked Gina.

Rose had been expecting that question and decided to not to drag out the bad news.

“The whole building was destroyed, not just your part. So you will have to decide what to do next. Everyone hopes you will rebuild because we don’t want you to move away. I’ll help you sort out the insurance and India wants you to stay with her when you get out of hospital” answered Rose.

Gina and Penny were both very disappointed to hear that news. Penny moaned and started to remember all the treasures she’d had that were now lost.

“But the fire was only in the kitchen” said Gina.

“Yes, but it had spread everywhere before it was put out” said Rose.

“I am the worst neighbour in the world” said Gina. “Graham and Victoria will hate me. The fire didn’t damage your house too, did it?”

“No, our place is fine” said Rose. Rose decided that she wouldn’t mention that Graham and Victoria were underinsured.

As Rose was leaving the hospital she bumped into India. India had been busy making plans for Gina and Penny and had brought them some clothes and a big basket of other things they might need. Rose felt bad that she hadn’t thought to bring anything like that. India promised to visit Rose that afternoon and then rushed off to Penny’s room.


The Inklings: Chapter 92

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

Lately John had been waking in the middle of the night with a sense of dread. During the day John usually managed to feel hopeful about the future, or at least the short term future, but when he was alone in the dark John could only see disasters in the future. He worried that one day a detective would come to the door to arrest him for all the stealing he’d done. John also worried that one day Fanta would realise that she was too good for him. Then there were the worries that John had for everyone because, like D’arby had said, the people making the important decisions in the world didn’t seem to care about the future. John worried because the weather wasn’t right, he was worried because the world was being turned into a rubbish dump, and he was worried because hardly anyone seemed to care about what would happen beyond their next meal, shopping trip, drink or cheap holiday. John worried that he wouldn’t be able to cope with all the loss he could see ahead.

As well as his relatively rational worries John was worried because a familiar feeling had returned and was getting stronger. It was a feeling of incompleteness and longing – a feeling of needing something, but not knowing quite what. It was only when this feeling returned that John realised it had been missing ever since D’arby had given him his special pills. John suspected that it was this feeling that had been the source of all the trouble in his life but he was too frightened to tell anyone about it.

John was in the kitchen when the phone rang on Sunday morning. He was still feeling the dregs of his night time anxiety and so he rushed to answer the phone faster than was necessary.

It was Emily on the phone and she wanted to know when she and Tim could come to visit John. John’s anxiety began to rise. He didn’t want Fanta to ever meet Tim.

“What about tomorrow for lunch?” suggested John.

Fortunately Monday lunch suited Tim and Emily and John was congratulating himself on having picked a time when Fanta would be at work when he noticed that Fanta was looking at him.

“That was Emily. I’m having lunch with her and Tim tomorrow” said John, because he thought Fanta must have been waiting for him to tell her about his phone call.

“Why does your family make you so anxious?” asked Fanta.

John realised that his hands were shaking and started laughing nervously.

“It isn’t healthy, is it?” said John and he paused so he could decide how to answer. He definitely didn’t want to tell Fanta that he was scared that if she met his brother Tim she would think that John was the inferior brother, but John realised that there was another thing about his family that made him anxious and he decided to talk about that instead. “I have disappointed them so many times. I am desperate to have a good relationship with my family but I don’t know how to and I am terrified that I will let them down again. I know that their love is conditional and that I may not always meet the conditions.”

Fanta put her hand on John’s shoulder. She wanted to say something but was too busy trying not to cry. John didn’t need Fanta to say anything though because he really just wanted to feel understood, and he did.

After about a minute Fanta managed to say “I find what you say so sad. And I think it is because I have felt something similar”. Fanta was about to tell John about what had happened to her when she was younger, but the phone rang again. This time it was Syafika and she needed to tell Fanta about what had happened the day before.

John left the room so Fanta could talk to Syafika but even from the kitchen he felt like Fanta was next to him. John looked around the kitchen as he tried to remember what he’d been doing before the phone rang but he couldn’t remember because he was too busy noticing that the connection he was feeling to Fanta had reduced his craving for something more. John wondered if that was a clue to preventing a backward slide into addiction, but realizing that he needed Fanta made John even more scared that he would lose her.


The Inklings: Chapter 91

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

When Syafika woke up on Saturday morning a shower of rain was just finishing and so she decided she’d have breakfast in the garden to enjoy the freshness in the air.

Syafika walked out into the garden carrying her breakfast on a tray. She had a towel across her shoulders that she was planning to use to dry the outdoor table and chairs with. Syafika sat down and was pouring herself a cup of tea when Rose came out into the garden and sat down at the table with Syafika. Syafika noticed Rose looking at her breakfast with a critical look on her face.

“What?” asked Syafika.

“Would you like me to poach you some eggs to go with that toast?” said Rose. “With all that running you’ve been doing you need to eat more protein”

“Lots of herbivores are really good runners” said Syafika.

Rose wanted to tell Syafika that she was being silly but decided to hold her tongue because she wanted Syafika to be in a good mood for her next question.

“You are coming to India’s birthday party this afternoon aren’t you?” said Rose.

Normally Syafika would have wanted to avoid a party at India’s house, but this time she was interested in going because she thought there might be suitable strangers there that she could test out Celine’s tricks on.

“Ok” said Syafika.

Rose smiled and watched Syafika drinking tea. Syafika was listening to water trickling through Mamadou’s garden.

“Has India asked Mamadou to build her a garden yet?” asked Syafika

“No” said Rose. “Why?”

“I bet that’s her plan. I bet that at the party she will corner Mamadou and organize everything. She’ll make sure he has just started working on her garden when Zikpi’s episode about our place airs on TV, so that whenever anyone talks about how great our garden is she can tell them that she’s getting one too”

“That won’t work” said Rose. “Mamadou’s doing Penny and Gina’s place next and our place is episode number 6 in Zikpi’s so when it airs in another 5 weeks Mamadou will still be working on Gina and Penny’s garden”

“Does India know that?” asked Syafika.

“Probably” said Rose. “She and Penny have afternoon tea together sometimes”.

Syafika thought for a while and then realized something. “Well if it isn’t the garden then India will be asking Dad to do a greywater system or something” said Syafika. “She can’t let an opportunity like this go.”

Rose smiled because it amused her to know what Syafika had been thinking about, then Rose smiled again when she imagined how annoyed Festus would be if India insisted he do some work for her. Then Rose got up and went to do some gardening. She was going to make India a portable herb garden in a basket as a birthday present.

After breakfast Syafika got a book and went back to the garden. This time she sat down near the pond. Before she opened the book she had a look for frogs because Ousman claimed he’d heard some croaking coming from the pond during the night. Syafika didn’t see any frogs but she did see a blue dragon fly.

Syafika had been in the garden long enough to have read a few chapters of her book when she saw Ousman come out into the garden carrying a cup of tea. He knocked on the door of Mamadou’s shed and waited. Mamadou came outside and squinted in the sunshine. Syafika realized that Mamadou mustn’t have had any breakfast yet. She knew he’d been working on a garden design for Penny and Gina and hoped he would either finish before India’s party started or take a break from his work so he could go to the party. Syafika knew that Ousman was looking forward to going to the party because he’d been talking excitedly about how India was hiring a chocolate fountain.

“Thankyou” said Mamadou to Ousman. “Come in and look at my drawings of Penny and Gina’s garden”

Syafika tried to get back into reading her book but she couldn’t concentrate because she was so curious about what Mamadou and Ousman were talking about inside the garden shed. Then Syafika realized that it was an opportunity for her to improve her spying skills, so she put down her book and crept over to the shed. Then she put her ear to the shed and listened.

“How will that work?” said Ousman.

“I will use the water pressure in the pipe to push the water through this coil of black pipe and then this tap will control the flow to the outdoor shower” said Mamadou.

“Did Penny really ask for an outdoor shower?” asked Ousman.

“It will have a modesty screen all the way around” said Mamadou. So it is perhaps not strictly outdoors, but more without a roof. Penny said that she wants the garden to be full of cheekiness and laughter”

“Where does the used shower water go?” asked Ousman.

“See here” said Mamadou. Syafika imagined he was pointing to his drawing. “This is where it gets funneled into a pipe that goes to water the garden”

Syafika jumped when she heard the back door open and quickly moved her ear away from the shed. Then she dashed over to get her book and was walking inside when she saw Binta coming outside. Aminata was sitting on Binta’s forearm.

“Have you seen Ousman?” Binta asked Syafika.

“He is in the shed” said Syafika.

Aminata flew off and landed on the roof of the shed. Her claws made an awful scratching sound on the roof so Syafika hurried inside, and on the way she noticed that Rose was in the greenhouse.

………………………………..

Syafika was getting changed to go to India’s party when she heard music start playing. Syafika put her head out of her window to try to determine where the music was coming from and wasn’t very surprised when she realized it was coming from the direction of India’s house.

Syafika put on her shoes and waited at the bottom of the stairs for her mum and dad to come down. Ousman and Binta came down first. Aminata was sitting on Ousman’s shoulder.

“Is Aminata invited to the party too?” asked Syafika.

“India put her name on the invitation” said Ousman.

Syafika looked at Binta for confirmation.

“India thinks Aminata is a good conversation starter” said Binta.

Syafika wondered what Aminata thought of India.

Festus, Rose and Mamadou were soon ready to leave and as everyone was walking out the gate they met Penny.

“Isn’t Gina coming to the party?” Rose asked Penny.

“She is, but she hasn’t finished making sweet potato chips. She promised India she’d bring some, but they take so long to make. I hope she gets to the party before it ends” said Penny, and then she gave a little laugh, as if she was trying to make sure that everyone knew she was half joking about how long Gina would take to make the chips.”

Penny couldn’t help noticing the basket Rose was carrying on her arm. She’d planted thyme, oregano and rosemary in it.

“India is going to love that!” commented Penny.

India’s house was five houses down, on the other side of the street. As everyone crossed the road Syafika noticed that there were cars parked along most of both sides of the street that day, and it made the street so narrow that there was only room for one lane of traffic.

There was a sign on the front door of India’s house instructing guests to take the path down the side of the house to the backyard.

Just as Ousman started walking down the side of the house Aminata changed her mind about going to the party and flew off in the direction of home.

“Do you think she will be ok?” asked Ousman

“I’ll just check she has gone home” said Binta. “You go and enjoy yourselves”

As Ousman watched his mum walk off towards home he looked like he wanted to follow her, but then he noticed everyone else was heading towards the backyard and he felt compelled to follow them instead.

India had positioned herself close to the entrance to the backyard so she could welcome everyone as they arrived. Syafika felt a bit intimidated when she saw how many guests were there, and realized that the extra cars parked in the street were probably all owned by people at India’s party.

As Penny predicted, India was delighted by the herb basket. “Thank you! So beautiful! So clever! So useful!” said India and she put the basket on her arm. As Rose watched India’s response she realised how much she appreciated a person who was able to be genuinely thrilled by being given a present. Rose realised that it was not really about what was being given (although the right present would make it easier!) but about being touched that a person had thought about you and wanted to make you feel happy.

India insisted everyone get themselves something to eat and drink and gestured towards one side of the yard where, presumably, tables of food and drink were what a crowd of people had huddled around. When Ousman asked Syafika to help him find the chocolate fountain she realized that the thought of a chocolate fountain excited her just as much as Ousman so they took off together, weaving their way through the crowd of guests.

When Syafika and Ousman saw people carrying skewers with chocolate coated strawberries on the ends of them they new they were close to the chocolate fountain and it was finally revealed when a couple of large men moved off in the direction of drinks table. The fountain had three tiers, with the size decreasing as they went up. The melted chocolate overflowed from the top layer and ran into the second, then over the edge of the second layer into the bottom layer, where it must have been pumped back up to the top again. A couple of small children were hanging around the fountain and both had chocolate smeared on their faces and clothes. Syafika noticed that Ousman seemed pretty grown-up in comparison. Ousman smiled as he skewered a strawberry and then let the waterfall of melted chocolate stream over the strawberry. He enjoyed the process so much that he gave his strawberry to Syafika so he could do another one for himself. Syafika was about to protest that she’d like to do her own, but changed her mind when she looked at Ousman’s expression because it reminded her of herself when she was a child.

Syafika and Ousman were enjoying their chocolate coated strawberries when Rose came over. Rose looked worried and insisted that Syafika and Ousman come with her immediately. They were soon rushing down the street in the direction of home and Syafika didn’t know what was going on but could see Festus and Mamadou infront of them, and Penny infront of them.

A car sped down the street and Syafika wondered whether it was rushing for the same reason that they were, but it wasn’t. Up ahead Penny was so distracted that she didn’t notice the car and it hit her as she crossed the street. Syafika sprinted towards the accident, hoping that Ousman hadn’t seen it. Festus stood in the middle of the road and put his hands up to stop traffic. The driver of the car got out and vomited in the gutter.

Syafika knelt down beside Penny and saw that she was breathing but she was bleeding from her forehead and arm. Suddenly Rose was there next to Syafika. She took Penny’s hand and told Syafika to call an ambulance and make sure the firebrigade was on its way.  Syafika stood up and saw Binta rushing towards her while talking on their cordless phone. Binta had already called 000 and was coming over to pass instructions on to Rose. Syafika was wondering why Rose had mentioned the firebrigade, but then she glanced towards Penny’s house and noticed a large plume of black smoke rising from the back of it.

Syafika stood up as tall as she could and watched the smoke. She guessed it was coming from the kitchen. Penny and Gina’s house was really half a house. When Rose and Festus chose their house they thought they’d enjoy living next to the grand house on the corner block, and for many years they did. But then a couple of years ago the corner house had sold to a developer who decided the quickest way to make some money from it was to divide it into two smaller homes and build a fence down the middle of the yard. Penny and Gina’s half of the yard contained much less than half the house – their section was single story but the part of the house on the corner had two stories and a lovely upstairs verandah.

Syafika looked around for Gina but couldn’t see her and was worried. She ran and knocked on the door of Penny and Gina’s house and yelled out to Gina but there was no response. Then Syafika realised she could access Gina’s backyard from their backyard so she ran home and was just opening the front door when she heard a loud smashing sound. Syafika turned and saw that there had been another accident in the street – a car had turned into the street and crashed into the back of the queue of cars that were stuck because the road was still blocked by the car that had hit Penny.

By now a crowd had started to gather so Syafika assumed someone else would check on the people who’d just been in a car crash and she ran through the house and out into the backyard to see if she could find Gina.

“Gina! Gina!” yelled Syafika.

“She’s here” replied Mamadou.

Gina was sitting on the grass in her backyard and Mamadou was hosing her down. Syafika could see a large burn on Gina’s leg.

“I was going to try to put out the fire and then I found Gina needed the water more” said Mamadou.

“Good” said Syafika. “Keep doing that until the ambulance arrives”

Syafika ran back to the front of the house and announced to Rose and Binta that Gina was in her backyard and that she had a bad burn and probably needed to go in the ambulance too. Syafika noticed that Festus was telling cars who’d come down the street from the direction of India’s house to reverse back-up the street and go another way. Then Syafika saw Ousman standing nearby looking terrified so she led him inside tried to get him to sit down, but Ousman didn’t want to sit down.

“There’s a fire that needs putting out” said Ousman and he ran out to the backyard. Syafika followed and they found another hose and started spraying water at the flames that were coming out of Gina’s kitchen window.

Syafika thought she could hear sirens in the distance and it comforted her to think that help was on its way.

A few minutes later two paramedics came into the backyard and assessed Gina. Then they took her to an ambulance on a stretcher. Syafika left Mamadou and Ousman to fight the fire and followed Gina’s stretcher. There were two ambulances and they’d been forced to park a little way down the street because there was still some traffic blocking their way. Festus looked very frustrated.

Fortunately nobody had been seriously injured in the second car accident but the drivers were having trouble manoeuvring their cars out of the way. Some quick-thinking neighbours had used outdoor furniture to barricade off the end of the street so no more cars would try to turn into it.

Syafika wondered where the fire engine was. She couldn’t hear one coming.

“Is the firebrigade on the way?” Syafika asked Binta.

“Yes” said Binta. “I checked and they are but they keep getting stuck in traffic”

Syafika looked up at Penny and Gina’s house and could see flames coming from the roof. She realized that the house would probably be ruined. The people who lived on the other side of Gina and Penny had come out of their house and were very distressed because they knew that their side of the house would probably also be damaged by the fire.

It was a relief when the ambulances turned on their sirens and drove off, but now Syafika was starting to worry that the fire was going to destroy two houses and possibly spread further.

“I’m going to the backyard to help Mamadou and Ousman with the hosing” Syafika told Binta.

Binta didn’t like the idea of Ousman firefighting and so she followed Syafika to the backyard and insisted that Ousman let Syafika take his hose.

“Is Penny going to be ok” Ousman asked Binta.

“I hope so” said Binta. “I think Rose and India are going to the hospital to comfort Penny and Gina”

Binta and Ousman watched as Rose and India walked up the street and got into India’s car. Festus was watching too.

Then Ousman heard a siren, so he ran up the street to tell India to stay where she was until the fire engine had made it into the street.

When Ousman saw a police car coming down the street he was very disappointed, until he realised that there was a fire engine behind it.


The Inklings: Chapter 90

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

Fanta woke up before her alarm went off and wondered why. Then she noticed noises coming from the kitchen and realised that John or D’arby must be having breakfast.

On balance Fanta was happy that John and D’arby had moved in, but there were some things they did that annoyed her. Waking her up too early was one of them, and another was that they introduced a lot of unpredictability into the house. When it had been just Fanta and her sisters Fanta had been in control of what they were going to be doing or eating and what was cleaned and when and how it was done. Now there were three adults in the house Fanta was having trouble keeping track of what was going on. She might come home and find the washing had been done, or she might find that the bathroom had been cleaned instead. Sometimes D’arby would go shopping and buy ingredients to cook dinner and sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes John would make bread before he left for the restaurant and sometimes he wouldn’t. This week John hadn’t made any bread because he’d been busy at the library. What this meant for Fanta was that she couldn’t plan ahead, and that made her feel anxious.

There was a long list of things that Fanta did like about having John and D’arby around though. Some of her favourite things were that John would help get her sisters ready for school in the morning and that D’arby would wash the dishes after dinner.

Nancy had also been woken up by the noises coming from the kitchen. She got herself dressed in her school uniform and then went into Fanta’s room.

“It’s a school day! Get up!” Nancy told Fanta.

“Go and see who is making all that noise” said Fanta to Nancy.

Then Fanta got up and got dressed for work.

D’arby was opening the front door to leave for work when Fanta appeared.

“Why are you leaving so early?” asked Fanta.

“I like my work so much that I want to get there as soon as the office opens at 7:30am” said D’arby. “See you tonight”

After D’arby closed the front door behind him Fanta went to the kitchen to make some tea and found John and Nancy there making pancakes.

“Surprise!” said John. “You are up early. I thought I’d have everything ready before you got up”

“You and D’arby were being too noisy” said Fanta.

“Sorry. That’s not good at all. I’ll be quieter next time and I’ll tell D’arby too” said John. “Go and sit at the table and read the paper and I will bring you tea and pancakes in a minute”

Fanta smiled and did what John had suggested. Fanta smiled again when she saw that it was an old weekend paper that John had put out for her, but it made sense because they hardly bought papers. The news headlines on the front page of the paper made Fanta feel depressed so she turned to the colour magazine at the centre of the paper. It was about real estate. Fanta felt a bit nostalgic looking at it and realised that she hadn’t had to think about selling houses for months. Fanta opened the magazine and looked at some house ads and started laughing. Something funny had happened – either Fanta had forgotten how things were or they’d changed a lot in the last couple of months. The advertisments for houses all included prominent pictures of the agent responsible for selling the house, as if they deserved to take credit for the house. The pictures were amusing too, because the agents seemed to be trying to look like the stereotype architect – by wearing skivvies or glasses with ridiculous frames and being photographed in black and white in unnatural poses or creepy lighting.

Fanta started reading an article about an interior designer renovating a tiny flat and trying to make it good enough to replace the Australian Dream of a house and garden. It made Fanta feel very guilty and she was glad when Nancy and John interrupted her by serving breakfast.

 


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