Tag Archives: The Inklings

The Inklings: Chapter 142

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

On Sunday morning John woke Fanta up earlier than she would have liked.

“Emily is making breakfast” said John.

“Why so early?” asked Fanta.

“She wants to take us all to a playground this morning then out to lunch” said John. “I know you said you wanted to have an adventure today and maybe this is not what you were thinking of, but it might be fun. Emily seems to really be enjoying having us here”

Fanta felt grumpy about Emily planning her Sunday but she realised that the kind of adventure Emily was taking them on was probably at least as good as what she’d have been able to organize – it wasn’t likely that she and John could do something really exciting, like spying on people, when they had to bring her sisters along.

When Fanta and John walked into the lounge room Emily’s kids came to greet them.

“Good morning Summer and Spencer” said Fanta.

“How did you remember their names so quickly?” whispered John.

“I said them over and over in my head twenty times” said Fanta. “Do you remember how old they are?”

“They are smaller than your sisters so I guess they are 3 and 5” said John.

“Close” said Fanta. “Spencer is 4 and Summer is 6”

Greg told everyone to sit down at the dining table while he and Emily brought out the breakfast.  Fanta could tell from the way Spencer and Summer reacted to what their parents put on their table that Emily and Greg had gone to more trouble than they usually did at breakfast time- Spencer was bouncing in his chair with excitement as he looked at the plate of pancakes and Summer kept trying to grab a cinnamon roll.

“Wait!” said Greg. “Let the guests serve themselves first”

“Please don’t take all the cinnamon rolls” asked Summer.

“Don’t worry, there are plenty. I have more in the kitchen” said Greg.

“Who’d like scrambled eggs, toast, tea or coffee?” asked Emily.

Fanta noticed John’s eyes light up when Emily mentioned toast.

————————–

After breakfast everyone set out to walk to the local park.

“We can stay here a few hours and then have lunch. There’s an excellent café next to the park” said Emily.

Fanta wondered how any park would keep them busy for more than an hour but was glad she didn’t say anything because when the park came into view she realised that it wasn’t an average local playground – it as enormous and full of adventures. There were three giant slides that you had to climb towers to get to, flying foxes large enough for adults to play on, giant swings and even a lake with pedal boats for hire.

Fanta noticed that Emily and Greg had been watching their guest’s faces and were smiling at their reactions. When Ruby and Nancy ran off in the direction of the flying foxes Fanta had to control the urge to race them there. Instead she looked at John to see what he wanted to play on first.

Emily dropped John, Fanta and her sisters home late on Sunday afternoon. When they got inside Nancy declared “That was the best day ever!”

“Yes it was” said Fanta. Her muscles ached, her hair was messy and her clothes were grubby, but it had been worth it.


The Inklings: Chapter 140

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

When John knocked on Emily’s door he thought he heard an echo.

“I can hear thunder!” shouted Nancy.

“Look – lightning!” shouted Ruby.

“I can smell the rain coming” said Nancy.

When Emily opened her front door John noticed a familiar smell. As he stepped inside the cool, dark house he heard more thunder and felt a gust of warm air follow him in.

John noticed a change in Ruby, Nancy and Fanta as they came inside. Their faces became serious and they moved carefully and silently.

As Emily greeted Fanta and her sisters John looked around nervously. The floor was tiled in what looked like polished marble but wasn’t. There were paintings on the walls with heavy-looking golden frames and the furniture all looked solid and heavy too. John remembered Emily telling him how she’d had it all custom made from Camphor Laurel because it grows like a weed. John realised that the suitcase had been left behind at the front door but decided he’d go and get it later.

As John followed Emily into the sitting room he tried to work out what the familiar smell was and before he knew what was happening he was standing facing his mother. She put out her arms and gave John a cuddle. John’s mum seemed to have become smaller and more fragile.

As John watched Emily introduce Fanta and her sisters to his mother he noticed that Fanta looked terrified. When they sat down and started talking John noticed that his mother kept asking Fanta questions and he remembered how judgmental his mother was. Fanta seemed to have been giving the right answers though, because John could tell that his mother liked Fanta.

After John’s mother had had a good look at Ruby and Nancy she suggested they go and play with Emily’s kids. John watched the four of them trot off to play in another room and wished he could go with them. John leant back in his chair and tried to relax as he waited for an opportunity to ask where his father was.

“John, you should go and help your father in the kitchen” said John’s mother. As John got up he wondered whether she had been reading his mind.

John stood awkwardly in the kitchen doorway for a few minutes and watched his father making pasta before summoning enough courage to interrupt.

“Hold this” said John’s father, and he draped a sheet of damp pasta over John’s forearms.

As John watched his father he wondered when he’d learnt to make pasta, but he was too shy to ask.

“I wonder what’s keeping Tim. He usually helps me make the pasta” said John’s Dad.

John wondered whether his father might be losing his memory.

“Tim’s minding my restaurant tonight so he can’t come for dinner” said John.

“Yes, he was going to do that but I insisted I send one of my managers over so he could join us” said John’s father.

John felt his whole body become hot with panic. He felt like taking Fanta by the hand and running away before Tim could arrive, but a voice inside him told him that there was no point running because Tim would have to meet Fanta one day. So John stayed where he was and turned his panic into anger.

“Why didn’t you consult me?” John asked his father.

“It was meant to be a surprise – a surprise family dinner, just like your mother and I being here was a surprise” said John’s father.

John realised that Emily must have planned what she thought would be a pleasant surprise and felt guilty for having behaved so passively. He decided to make an effort to enjoy himself, but was still terrified that Fanta would decide that Tim was better than he was.

When John heard a burst of laughter from the sitting room he knew that Tim had arrived. He started walking out of the kitchen but his father stopped him and took the pasta sheets off his arms first.

Emily and Tim were laughing at something. John managed to see Fanta’s expression before she realised he was in the room and was relieved that she didn’t seem to be admiring Tim.

“Tim, this is Fanta” said Emily.

Fanta stood up awkwardly and shook Tim’s hand. John wanted to sit down beside Fanta but Tim beat him to it so John sat down next to his mother and watched Tim try to coax Fanta into a conversation.


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 138

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

On Saturday morning Fanta was stirring her cup of tea when she noticed that her hand was shaking. She realised that she was feeling anxious about meeting John’s sister Emily that evening. Fanta had the impression that John’s family had high standards and was worried that they wouldn’t like her, or at least they wouldn’t like that she came from such a broken family. Fanta’s worry showed on her face as a frown and when John and D’arby noticed they thought Fanta must be cranky with something they’d done so they offered to clean the house while she did whatever she liked.

Fanta went out to the backyard to escape the noise of the vacuum cleaner. She sat in the shade and realised she missed her parents. Fanta wondered where her mother was and realised that she hadn’t seen her for almost nine years. Before she realised what she was doing she was remembering the day her Mum left.

Fanta didn’t realize anything was wrong at first. The house looked pretty normal. Nancy and Ruby were both in their playpen in the lounge room and the radio was on. Fanta could smell her mother’s perfume and thought she must be around somewhere, but she wasn’t anywhere in the house. While looking for her mother Fanta realized that there were lots of things missing from the house. It wasn’t until Fanta went to her mother’s room and found that most of her clothes were gone that she realized she had left them. Next Fanta went to the kitchen because that was where the phone was and Fanta thought she better call someone to ask for help. That was when she found the letter on the kitchen bench.

“Dear Fanta,

I have gone travelling with Ben and I don’t know when I will be back. Your aunt is coming tomorrow to take you and your sisters to live with her. You have to go with her because I have sold the house.

I know you will take good care of your sisters. I will see you when I get back.

Love,

Mum.”

Fanta still remembered what she’d felt like that day,and it made her start crying. She remembered how her aunt had told her that her mum would be back in 6 months so Fanta had counted down the days, but her mum never came back. Fanta had gone through periods of hating her mum and hating her mum’s boyfriend Ben (she’d even made voodoo dolls of Ben) but what she still really wanted was for her mum to come back. Fanta knew her aunt was in contact with her mum but her aunt would never tell her anything about her or where she was, except that she was ok.

Fanta wiped her eyes and mentally rehearsed answers to the question that she expected Emily would ask that evening – the same question everyone asked when they found out that Fanta looked after her sisters: “What happened to your parents?”

On Saturday afternoon Fanta packed a suitcase to take to Emily’s place and tried to get her sisters to choose what they wanted to pack but they were too excited.

The sun was still hot when they set out for Emily’s place. Nancy insisted on pulling the suitcase along as they walked to the train station. After a train trip they caught a bus that took them to the end of Emily’s street. By the time they arrived the sun had dropped behind the houses, and the warm colour of the sunlight made the houses in the street look even more impressive. Ruby and Nancy were amazed by the tall street trees and beautiful gardens. One garden had a large sprinkler going that overshot the garden and wet the footpath. Fanta’s sisters screamed as they ran back and forth the section of footpath, and didn’t stop until their hair was dripping wet, despite Fanta pleading with them to stay respectable.


The Inklings: Chapter 137

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

On Saturday morning Binta woke up at sunrise and as she listened to the birds singing she realised she hadn’t felt as happy in years. She quietly got out of bed and looked out the window. Binta watched the sky slowly brighten as the sun rose and she noticed the patterns that the leaves of the backyard trees made as they moved in the breeze. She wondered why she hadn’t noticed these details before and why everything looked more colourful than it had the day before.

Binta waited until she heard movement in the house before she went downstairs to have breakfast. Mamadou was in the kitchen and seemed surprised to see Binta there so early.

“Are you going to work?” asked Mamadou.

“No, not on Saturday” said Binta.

“Good, because I want to talk to you about something” said Mamadou.

“Ok” said Binta and she made herself a cup of tea then sat down at the kitchen table.

Binta listened carefully as Mamadou told her about the friends he’d left behind and how he wanted to help them. As Binta listened she realised that Mamadou thought she’d been involved in his rescue and when she had to admit that she didn’t know how to organize such a thing because it had all been done by Fanta and her uncle and aunt she felt ashamed.

“I will talk to Fanta and see if she has advice” said Binta.

Mamadou stared at Binta for ten seconds and Binta wished she knew what he was thinking, but his face was expressionless.

“I also need to send them money” said Mamadou. “So I need your help to start my garden business”

Again Binta didn’t know what to do. She told Mamadou about how his visa conditions would prevent him doing that but he didn’t want to listen and became angry.

“I don’t care about why I can’t do it, I’m asking for your help. Will you help?” said Mamadou.

“Ok” said Binta. She knew she should try to say more but she was too scared – she hated it when Mamadou was angry.

Binta took the rest of her cup of tea and went upstairs. Ousman was still asleep so she quietly turned her computer on and checked her new work email account, but there were no new emails. Binta thought back on her first day of work and thought it had gone pretty well. She went to the website where there were pictures of all the staff and tried to memorise everyone’s name. Then she stared at the photo of Bert for a while and smiled.

Later that morning Binta made another cup of tea and sat on the front steps to drink it. She could hear India’s voice in the distance and wondered how Penny and Gina were coping at her place. Binta noticed movement in the corner of her eye and looked down the street to see what it was, but couldn’t see anyone. She’d almost convinced herself it must have been a bird flying past when she noticed a flash of light being reflected off something. Binta squinted at a row of parked cars and noticed a pair of binoculars peeping over the top of a car bonnet. Binta looked over her shoulder to work out what the binoculars were pointing at. They were angled up and seemed to be aimed at the upstairs windows – maybe at Amanda’s bedroom, or Rose and Festus’s bedroom.  When Binta looked back at the binoculars they were gone but she could see a man walking off down the street. He looked athletic, was wearing dark running clothes and had shiny black hair.

Binta stood up and was about to go inside and tell Rose what she’d seen when India came over and asked for her help preparing for the street meeting that evening.


The Inklings: Chapter 136

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

As John folded clean washing he realised that he was looking forward to taking Fanta and her sisters to Emily’s place the next day. He knew that Emily would like Fanta and imagined she would also like Nancy and Ruby. John wondered whether Nancy and Ruby would enjoy playing with Emily’s kids and realised that he couldn’t remember how old Emily’s kids were or even what their names were. John realised he hadn’t been a very good uncle to Emily’s kids and made a mental note to try harder. Then John wondered whether he should also be making more of an effort to look after Ruby and Nancy and decided that he would -starting straight away. He went to the phone and called Fanta at work.

“Would you like me to pick up your sisters from school so you can stay longer at work and walk home with Syafika?” said John.

“Yes, I would like that” answered Fanta. “Thanks!”

When Ruby and Nancy saw John waiting for them at the school gate they started laughing and whispering to each other.

“Can we get an icecream on the way home?” asked Ruby.

“Ok” said John, remembering that he needed to go to the shops on the way home anyway.

As John and Fanta’s sisters left the shops John noticed a lady getting off a bus carrying a baby and a folded up stroller. She tried to unfold the stroller with one hand while holding the baby in the other but couldn’t manage it so John offered to help.

When her baby was safely in the stroller the lady thanked John and said “Your girls are lovely”

John felt embarrassed and wondered whether he should explain that they weren’t his kids.

“I bet they make you really happy. My baby boy makes me happier than I’ve ever been. And you know what I realised when he was born?” said the lady.

“What?” asked John.

“When I felt the love I have for my boy I realised how much my Mum loves me” said the lady.

John wanted to reply but he couldn’t think of anything to say so he just smiled, but on the walk home all he could think of was about how much his Mum must have loved him when he was a baby and that maybe she still did.

When they got home John suggested that Ruby and Nancy watch TV while he started making dinner. He hardly noticed when Ruby came into the kitchen to get a couple of pairs of scissors and when John came out of the kitchen an hour later he discovered that there were tiny pieces of paper all over the rest of the house.

“We made it snow” explained Nancy.

“Does Fanta let you do things like this?” asked John.

“No way” said Ruby.

John had just finished vacuuming up all the paper when he saw Fanta and Syafika approaching the house. John smiled as he watched Fanta walk up the steps.

John, Fanta and Syafika had just sat down with cold drinks when D’arby arrived home.

“Can you tell us your news yet?” asked John as he poured D’arby a glass of water.

So D’arby sat down and told everyone about RenewBank and how Anthony had been trying to blackmail them.

As they listened John noticed that Fanta and Syafika looked at each other and raised their eyebrows.

“But what happens now?” asked John. “Now that RenewBank isn’t secret anymore”

“All day we had people from other groups coming to the office to discuss how they could help us” said D’arby. “It was amazing actually. There’s this feeling that what we want to do is the missing part of a whole new system – people were even starting to suggest that we might be almost at that magical tipping point that everyone is always hoping for.”

“But what about all the people who don’t like your plans” asked John.

“Yeah, we don’t know what they will do but we expect they won’t roll over. But with all the support we have we feel we might have a chance of surviving whatever is thrown at us” said D’arby. “And if they do stuff that gets our plan into the public eye we’ll probably get even more supporters, who will eventually become customers – we could look at it as free advertising”

After D’arby finished speaking there was silence as everyone digested the news. Eventually John suggested it was dinner time and he got up and went to bring the food to the table.

When everyone had been served John looked around the table to see how everyone liked their first bite. Nancy and Ruby were eating fast, which meant they liked the food. Fanta and D’arby both complimented John as they tasted their food but Syafika wasn’t eating.

“What’s wrong” John asked Syafika. “Don’t you like the food?”

“It’s not that” said Syafika. “It’s Anthony”

“What about Anthony” asked D’arby.

“What does this mean for him? And what does this mean for my investigation into Anthony?” asked Syafika.”Because I have new evidence that he is up to something else as well, something even closer to home”

“What?” asked D’arby.

“I think he is spying on someone in my family” said Syafika and she told everyone about Anthony knowing she’d run home barefoot and how he’d been interested in hearing about Rose giving money to the lady who lived in the park.

“It could be nothing” said John. “What if it was a coincidence that he saw you running barefoot? Or if he was watching you walk home because he is stalking you?”

“I think there might be something going on – or at least enough chance of it to warrant further investigation” said Fanta. “I want to help. Who else wants to help?”

“I will” said D’arby.

“Where D’arby goes, I follow” said John.


The Inklings: Chapter 135

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

D’arby felt liberated as he set out for work because it was the first time he could walk straight to the real office. He left later than usual too, but that was because he was still feeling weak from all the vomiting yesterday. Syafika may have only vomited four times before she got better, but D’arby had vomited seven times.

When D’arby walked into the office he saw that Rudnika was in the meeting room and it was full of other people.

Valentine walked over to D’arby looking excited.

“It’s started” said Valentine. “Those people are hear to learn about our plans”

“But how did they get here so fast – I thought we weren’t saying anything until today” said D’arby. He felt he’d missed out on a lot by being out of the office yesterday.

“Yeah, we didn’t say what we were up to until now – they are hearing the first of it right now. But yesterday we contacted all the groups that we knew would be sympathetic and asked them to send people here this morning to hear about our plans” said Valentine.

“Who did you know would be sympathetic?” asked D’arby

“All the groups that care about people or nature – there’s lots of those” said Valentine.

“What else is there to care about?” asked D’arby

“Money” said Valentine. “We didn’t invite anyone who cares about money – which is kind of funny because money is half of our plan!”

D’arby smiled and peeped into the meeting room to survey the expressions on the faces of all the people in there.


The Inklings: Chapter 134

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

Binta woke up early on Friday morning feeling anxious. At first she thought it was because she was still excited from the meeting the night before but then she remembered that she was expecting an email reply from Bert.

Binta got out of bed and quietly walked over to Ousman’s bed. As Binta watched Ousman sleeping she was reminded of how he’d been as a baby. She smiled and then walked softly to her desk to check for new emails.

Binta saw an email from Bert that had been sent yesterday afternoon and wished she’d checked her emails last night. Binta held her breath and opened the email.

“That’s fantastic! When can you start? Can you come in tomorrow? Tell me when you will arrive and I will be ready” wrote Bert and then he gave her the address of his business.

Binta gasped and looked at the time. She was terrified of seeing Bert again but also excited to have a new job. After calculating how long it would take to get to work Binta replied to Bert that she’d arrive at 9:30am. Binta tip-toed over to the wardrobe and spent a long time quietly agonising over what to wear before putting on her favourite outfit.

Binta was brushing her hair when Ousman woke up.

“You look nice. Where are you going today?” asked Ousman.

“I have a new job!” said Binta.

“Did you forget to tell me?” asked Ousman.

“No, I just found out this morning” said Binta.

“What’s the job?” asked Ousman.

“I don’t know much about it yet but I think I’m going to be helping make a movie” said Binta.

“Cool!” said Ousman. “Are you going to be in the movie?”

Binta laughed and said “No, not me. I’m just helping organize everything”

“You will be good at that” said Ousman.

When Binta and Ousman went downstairs to have breakfast they discovered Mamadou sitting at the kitchen table. He was drinking tea and working on a drawing of some kind of large courtyard with a pond in the middle.

Mamadou smiled when he saw Binta, which made Binta feel happy.

“Do you have time to talk this morning?” asked Mamadou.

“I am going to work – I got a new job” said Binta. “What about tomorrow?”

“Ok, tomorrow” said Mamadou, but Binta thought he looked very disappointed.

After breakfast Binta walked Ousman to the bus stop then she went to the station to get a train. It started raining just before Binta got to the station but she was too excited about her new job to care about getting wet. As she watched other people run towards cover Binta just smiled and took her time.

At 9:29am Binta arrived at Bert’s office. It was in an old, but well maintained warehouse in a trendy suburb. A young man answered the door and took Binta to Bert. As they walked they passed people sitting at computers with headphones on who were so engrossed in what they were doing that they didn’t notice them passing by.

Bert was in the kitchen making a pot of tea. Binta smiled when she saw the tea and was relieved that she still recognized Bert.


The Inklings: Chapter 133

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

On Friday morning Fanta was relieved that neither she nor her sisters had become sick during the night.

Fanta noticed that D’arby was looking well and seemed to be feeling relaxed that morning. Instead of rushing off to work D’arby was sitting and drinking tea with John.

D’arby also looked relieved when he saw that Fanta and her sisters were up.

“Can you invite Syafika over for dinner tonight?” D’arby asked Fanta. “I have something to tell everyone”

“Ok” said Fanta.

“What is it?” asked John.

“I don’t want to spoil the surprise – wait until tonight” said D’arby.

“It’s not bad news is it?” asked John.

“No, exciting news” said D’arby.

Fanta thought she knew what D’arby was going to be talking about, but didn’t say anything.

When Fanta arrived at work she was disappointed to find that Syafika wasn’t there.

Instead of paying attention during the team meeting Fanta daydreamed about having adventures. A particular favourite was imagining what it would be like to walk into the kitchen and discover Nelson trying to stab Christine with a knife. Fanta decided that in that situation she would disarm Nelson by throwing hot water all over him.

When Fanta walked back to her desk after the meeting Celine walked next to her.

“What is she doing here?” asked Celine, sounding disgusted.”She will infect us all”

Fanta looked up and saw Syafika walking into the office looking apologetic.

Syafika smiled at Fanta and then went to apologise to Christine for having missed the team meeting.

Then Syafika walked over to Fanta and whispered “Let’s catch-up over lunch” before settling down at her computer.

At lunchtime it was raining and so Fanta and Syafika went to a café instead of the Botanic Gardens.

As Fanta listened while Syafika told her all the details of her date with Anthony she realised she felt impatient and a bit cranky. Fanta wondered if she was starting to feel the way her mother had felt before she ran away.

“What’s your next date? With the waiter you met when you were with Celine?” said Fanta.

“Who?” said Syafika, looking confused.

“Celine said a waiter gave you his phone number and made you promise to call” said Fanta. “Or was she making that up?”

“No, now I remember” said Syafika and she opened her wallet and looked in all the sections without finding what she was looking for.

“Don’t tell me you lost his number” said Fanta.

“I must have. I remember putting it in here, but now it’s gone” said Syafika.

Fanta realised she felt disappointed – disappointed for the waiter, disappointed that Syafika wouldn’t have a new romance to distract her from Anthony, and disappointed because Celine was the one who’d been with Syafika when the waiter had given Syafika his number.

“What’s wrong” asked Syafika. “You don’t look happy today”

Fanta sighed as she gathered her thoughts.

“I wish my life was more interesting” said Fanta.

“Why would you want a life as full of disappointing dramas as mine? You’ve got love and stability – the things most people dream about” said Syafika.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m just feeling left out while you and D’arby have all these adventures” said Syafika.

“Do you want to help me work out what Anthony is up to?” said Syafika.

“Yes!” said Fanta.

“But you’ve always disliked Anthony” said Syafika.

“I don’t want you to marry him, I want you to discover that he does evil things because then you won’t like him anymore” said Fanta.

Syafika laughed and Fanta couldn’t help joining in.

“Shall I tell you what happened when I got home yesterday?” said Syafika.

“Yes” said Fanta and she listened patiently as Syafika told her about the conversations she’d had with Amanda and Rose yesterday. Fanta wanted to think that Syafika was just being paranoid, but she had to agree with Syafika – the evidence didn’t add up to there being nothing going on.

“So what do you think? Do you know why Anthony has been watching me or my house?” asked Syafika.

“I think that Anthony does love you but that he is also spying on you for some other reason, and I think that he is scared that you are playing some kind of game with him. Maybe he thinks you know more than you do” said Fanta.

“I like that!” said Syafika. “I just wish it was true – that I did know what was going on. Do you really think he has mistaken my confusion for tactics?”

“It makes sense” said Fanta. “Anthony behaves like he is attracted to you one minute, and then is is angry or scared of you the next. What if he is just as confused as you and neither of you are trying to be manipulative?”

Fanta noticed a tear running down Syafika’s cheek.

“That’s so sad!” said Syafika. “Next time I see Anthony I’m going to give him a hug – poor thing! But what does that mean about Mum and Amanda?”

“I don’t know – what could they possibly be up to that Anthony would be interested in?” asked Fanta.

“Will you help me find out?” asked Syafika.

“Yes” said Fanta. “But we have to be careful. They are your family”


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.


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