Tag Archives: Vincent.

The Inklings: Chapter 47

To read the story from the beginning go here.

Although Vincent missed Syafika he thought that because she had disregarded his serious, well intentioned and wise advice on who she should avoid it would be bad for him if he were to see her again because she would inevitably disappoint him in the same way again at some point in the future. It upset Vincent that Syafika was hanging around with people who he didn’t want her to hang around with.

Vincent decided to put Syafika out of his mind and enjoy his break from work. When Vincent left the house he discovered that it had begun to rain and so he decided to take a bus to his favourite café instead of walking. The bus driver was listening to the radio, but for some reason the reception had become bad as Vincent boarded and all Vincent could hear was static. By the time the driver had a chance to adjust the radio Vincent had taken his seat. When the radio signal was restored Vincent heard a guitar phrase that was so familiar to him that he didn’t need to hear the first lines of the song to know what it was.

“I would have given you all of my heart
but there’s someone who’s torn it apart” went the radio. Vincent realized that this song would bring him to tears and so he covered his ears until the next stop, where he got off. He would rather walk in the rain than cry on a bus full of strangers.

The wind and rain was so cold that it shocked Vincent out of his sadness and all he wanted to do was get under cover. As Vincent ran through the rain a van drove past with the window down and radio on. Vincent could hear the tail end of the song he’d been trying to avoid “The first cut is the deepest, Baby I know…”

Vincent swore and wished he’d stayed at home. At least he was nearly at his favourite café. He began to imagine the nice cup of black coffee he’d have and tried to decide whether he would have bacon and eggs or French toast.

Just next to the café was a newsagent and Vincent decided to buy a newspaper to read over breakfast, but as he walked in his eye was drawn to one of the posters in the window. It was advertising a magazine and the girl on the cover looked strangely like Syafika. Vincent turned his head away. He was disgusted with himself. Why was everything reminding him of Syafika today? He should forget about her.

At least the paper looked interesting, which was unusual for the weekend. Vincent was sure he could lose himself in news for at least an hour. One hour without thinking of Syafika would do him good.

Vincent sat down and straight away a waiter came over with a menu. Vincent didn’t need to look at it though because he’d already decided. He ordered his coffee and French toast and was just opening the paper when he noticed that the café was also playing Cat Stevens.

“It’s not time to make a change” went the song.

“Man! Syafika may not have played that cd I gave her but the rest of the world seems to be” thought Vincent. He realized that he wasn’t going to be able to avoid thinking about Syafika today so he gave up trying to read the paper and started going over their fight in his head. He thought that at least that might make him angry enough to stop Cat Stevens from making him cry.

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The Inklings: Chapter 45

To read the story from the beginning go here.

Syafika gave up trying to sleep when she heard birds chirping outside. She reached out and opened the blind so she could watch the sky change colour as the sun came up. The excitement she’d felt the night before had given way to sadness. As she enjoyed the sunrise she couldn’t help crying. How was it that she only managed to appreciate the beauty in everyday things when she was feeling miserable?

A Noisy Miner landed on the window sill and looked judgmentally at Syafika. She couldn’t help asking “Did Vincent send you, little bird?” and in reply the bird flew away.

Then Syafika cried some more because she had finally realized that Vincent was not going to call her again.

“What am I going to do now?” Syafika asked herself. Then she realized that it was Tuesday and she was going to Fanta’s place for morning tea.

“How was last night?” said Rose when Syafika walked into the kitchen. She was a bit confused by Syafika appearing so early in the morning when she didn’t have to go to work. Then Rose looked a bit closer and noticed that Syafika looked really tired and had red eyes, as if she had been crying all night.

Rose rushed over to Syafika and gave her a cuddle and asked “What happened?”

“Vincent isn’t going to call me ever again, is he?” answered Syafika quietly.

“Don’t worry about that!” said Rose. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

Syafika smiled and started to feel better. She decided to have a cup of tea.

A few hours later Syafika swished out of the front gate on her way to morning tea at Fanta’s house. She was wearing a pretty dress and carrying a bunch of jasmine.

Evan though Syafika was a bit worried that Fanta wouldn’t approve, the first thing Syafika did when she arrived at Fanta’s house was to tell Fanta about her date with Anthony. Fanta had never liked the sound of Anthony, but for some reason Fanta wasn’t particularly angry and seemed more concerned that Vincent still hadn’t called Syafika. John and D’arby arrived while Syafika and Fanta were discussing it.

“John! What can we do to make Vincent realize that he won’t find anyone better than Syafika?” asked Fanta

“He still hasn’t called?” asked John

“No” said Syafika. Despite the sudden change in topic from Anthony to Vincent, Syafika was feeling sad enough at being reminded that Vincent hadn’t called for tears to start rolling down her cheeks.

“Don’t cry! Leave it up to D’arby and me” said John

“What are we going to do?” asked D’arby.

“We are going to remind Vincent of Syafika” said John

“How?” asked Fanta

“Yeah, how?” asked D’arby

“Do you have a special song? A song that will remind Vincent of the times he spent with you?” John asked Syafika

“I don’t think so” said Syafika

“Nothing? Didn’t you share music? Didn’t you listen to music together?” asked John

“Yeah…Vincent did give me a CD.I took it to work with me but hardly listened to it. Wait! It’s in here somewhere” said Syafika and she started rummaging around in her handbag.

“Here” said Syafika, and handed a CD to John

“The Very Best of Cat Stevens!” said John

“Yeah, Vincent things he is great but I found it sort of boring” said Syafika

“I know this song – The First Cut is the Deepest” said Fanta

“Did Cat Stevens write that?” asked D’arby, looking at Syafika

“Don’t ask me!” said Syafika

“That’s a good song to play Vincent” said Fanta “But how are you going to get him to listen to it?”

“I have an idea, but I’ll have to discuss it in private with D’arby first” said John. “What I need to know is where Vincent lives, works and the places he likes to go in his spare time” said John

John and D’arby seemed to be pretty excited by their new assignment. Fanta thought it would be better if she didn’t ask what they were planning in case she disapproved. Syafika didn’t really care what they did. She’d be happy if Vincent called her again but she would also be happy if Anthony called instead.


The Inklings: Chapter 25

Syafika wasn’t able to concentrate on her work. Normally her solution to this was to go and get a coffee, but today she didn’t feel like one, which made her suspect that John had been lying when he’d said that the pizza they’d eaten the night before didn’t have any of D’arby’s special pills in it.

Syafika had been shaken by what had happened the night before. She was upset that she had disappointed Vincent, but she was also annoyed that he thought he could order her around. Ultimately she didn’t want to stop seeing John and D’arby, but was wondering whether Vincent was wiser than she was. Perhaps Vincent could tell that those two were going to get her into trouble one day.

“Maybe some music will help me decide what I should do” thought Syafika and she took her headphones and the CD that Vincent had given her out of her bag. The music wasn’t new – it sounded familiar to Syafika, but she didn’t really like it. Then the phone rang. It was Vincent. He wanted to know whether Syafika liked the CD. Syafika tried to fake enthusiasm for the music. She was genuinely happy that Vincent had called though. He didn’t sound angry. It seemed that things were back to normal. Syafika also liked it that he’d called as soon as she’d started listening to the music. “Our minds must be working in tune!” she thought.

After talking to Vincent Syafika’s thoughts were much clearer. She decided she wouldn’t stop seeing John and D’arby, but wouldn’t have the meetings at her house anymore. She didn’t think it was worth causing dramas by telling Fanta, John and D’arby that she wasn’t going to be part of their plans anymore because she didn’t really think their plans would come to anything, and if things did start to happen she could quit then.

Fanta was also at work and distracted. She’d just sold another house and was doing paper work without really thinking about what she was doing. Now that she had finished uni Fanta knew that she really should be getting a new job so she could make use of her degree, and yet it seemed so much easier to just keep on working part time as a real estate agent, especially when she was just beginning to realise that there were probably many other more important things that she should be giving her attention to.

When Fanta got home a bit later, her aunt and uncle were there, going through some complicated documents. They were helping Fanta with her secret project – or actually more than just helping. Fanta wouldn’t have been able to even start the project without their help.


The Inklings: Chapter 23

Monday night had finally come around. John, Fanta, D’arby and Syafika were all going to meet at Syafika’s place. All four of them had a lot on their minds.

John’s preparation for the meeting involved writing one sentence on a piece of paper, but this wasn’t a sign of indifference. John was full of enthusiasm to do something good, and knew what he wanted to do – that’s why he only needed to write one sentence. The only thing bothering him about the meeting was that he wondered how he could discuss his idea without making two dangerous confessions.

Fanta was a lot less certain of her ideas than John. She knew that there were some big things wrong in the world, but for some reason she couldn’t identify them, and so she had no chance of knowing what could be done about them. All she had written down were some (probably minor) things that regularly made her angry. She was looking forward to hearing what everyone else had come up with though.

Fanta was also a bit distracted by a couple of things. One was a pleasant distraction – her uncle and aunt were in town and would be staying until after Christmas. The other distraction was a secret project, and Fanta was feeling guilty that she had to keep it secret from John and Syafika.

D’arby had written pages of dot points, but they weren’t a list of problems and solutions. Instead they were points he wanted to discuss as he tried to describe what he had decided might be the biggest problem in the world. D’arby was also excited that his sister had given birth to a baby boy, and that she had done so in unexpected circumstances. D’arby was going to travel to see his sister and his new nephew the next day.

Syafika had written her list based on the things she found most awful about the world and although she’d decided on solutions, she hadn’t really thought them through. She had spent a lot more time thinking about more T-shirt slogans though. She’d even come up with a special one for D’arby.

Syafika was still busy tidying her room when John and D’arby arrived. John had brought some cold pizza. Syafika was keen to know how the T-shirt give away had gone the night before but John was more interested in heating up and serving his pizza than discussing that. Syafika decided she’d ask again when Fanta had arrived and everyone had settled down.

“Will we sit around the kitchen table?” asked John, as he started looking in the drawers and cupboards for cutlery and plates.

Syafika had been hoping to have the meeting in her room, so that her parents wouldn’t hear what they were talking about, but was now trying to decide whether it would be more embarrassing for her parents to listen to them or for her friends to see her messy room. Then Rose and Fanta arrived.

“Syafika, aren’t you going to introduce your friends?” asked Rose. After Rose was introduced to John and D’arby Rose went on to tell Syafika how Festus was bringing home takeaway and they were going to have dinner in front of the TV so Syafika could have her meeting in peace. Syafika sighed with relief and went to get some napkins from the linen cupboard.

“So, did people like the T-shirts?” asked Fanta as Syafika helped John set the table.

“There was a mixed response” answered John. “Only one person was enthusiastic, but a few people took them – probably just because they were free. Most people looked confused at being offered a T-shirt or were offended by the slogan, or by me asking what size T-shirt they wore. People are complicated!”

“Well, if I see someone wearing one one day I’ll be happy.” said Syafika. “You will keep trying to give them away, won’t you? I have some more ideas for slogans. Some might be more popular than others.”

“Of course, I haven’t given up yet” said John.

As the four friends ate their pizza D’arby told everyone how his sister had given birth at the side of the road after having run away from her husband. Then Fanta told how her uncle and aunt were going to be staying with her for the next month and apologized to John that this meant she couldn’t go to his family’s Christmas lunch with him. John didn’t seem very upset about this.

Finally there were no more excuses – it was time to get out their lists.

“Can I go first?” asked Fanta. “I don’t think my ideas are very good so I better read them out before hearing any of yours or I might not want to read them out at all anymore.”

“Don’t be silly! I’m sure you have great ideas” said John. “But you go first if you want.”

Syafika couldn’t help hoping that Fanta’s ideas were bad. She didn’t want to have the worst ones. She already felt that she was the stupidest person in the room.

“Ok” said Fanta. “I couldn’t work out what the really big problems in the world are so I came up with two things that often bother me. First, I don’t like cars and secondly I don’t like smokers. I guess what I mean is that I would like to see cities and towns that were designed for people not cars (I mean pedestrians mostly, I suppose, but bicycles are probably ok too – I might even ride one if I wasn’t scared of being hit by a car) and I’d like to be able to enjoy outdoor spaces without having to passive smoke. I mean, at cafes, in parks, at the bus stop, at the train station, while walking down the street….”

“I know! We could print T-shirts with the slogan “How much does your freedom cost others?” said Syafika.

D’arby raised an eyebrow at Syafika’s suggestion, which made her feel foolish. She realized she wasn’t really concentrating on the task at hand – she was still obsessed with T-shirts. But D’arby wasn’t thinking that Syafika was a fool. He was actually impressed because he thought Syafika had very quickly compressed what Fanta had been saying into a single sentence. He didn’t know that Syafika was just using what Fanta said as an excuse to talk about T-shirt slogans.

Then everyone turned back to Fanta and she realized that they were waiting for her solutions. “I don’t know how to fix these problems though” said Fanta. “I was hoping one of you would have some ideas”.

“Can I go next?” asked John. “I think my idea goes well with Fanta’s. I think the solution to my problem might also be part of the solution to hers.”

And so John explained how he thought that the worst problem in the world was addiction, but not just to drugs. He included extreme behaviour like eating too much, or starving yourself, or accumulating too much money or too many shoes or gambling all your money away. “There are some things people become addicted to that you can’t remove from your life (like food) so I think that to avoid suffering and disasters people need to look for balance rather than seeking extremes and I think D’arby may have already found part of the solution to this.”

Suddenly Fanta and Syafika were looking at D’arby, waiting for an explanation, but before D’arby could work out what he was supposed to say John said “I need to confess something – two things” and Fanta and Syafika turned their attention back to John.

“Fanta, I only gave up drugs because D’arby gave me some pills and they fixed me. I didn’t want to give up before that and I’d never tried. I should have told you this but I thought it would have made you think less of me” said John as he looked pleadingly at Fanta.

“What’s the other thing?” asked Fanta. She didn’t really care how John gave up his addiction but was worried that the second thing was worse.

John looked at D’arby this time and said “I’ve been putting the same pills into pizzas at the restaurant.”

“I thought I told you not to do that!” said D’arby angrily, and he wished he was at home so he could check the state of his stash of special pills. D’arby had been so distracted by his thesis lately that he’d almost forgotten that John had intended setting a lab up for him at the back of the restaurant. Suddenly he had lots of questions.

“Where did you get the pills you used? You haven’t been trying to make any of your own have you?” asked D’arby.

“Nope, I just took the big jar of them that you had in the laundry. I don’t know if putting them in the cupboard behind the washing detergent was meant to be your way of hiding them, but if it was it didn’t work” said John.

D’arby wanted to ask what had happened to the people who’d eaten the special pizzas, but didn’t think it was appropriate for him to show that much interest while he was still trying to be angry. Fortunately Fanta asked for him.

“Have you been curing your customers?” asked Fanta.

“I wish I knew!” said John. “People come in and eat the pizza, pay and leave and I can’t really see any change, but I don’t know what I should be looking for. I don’t know who is an addict and who isn’t. I don’t know if the pills will work instantly if they are taken as part of a large meal. Does drinking alcohol with them stop them from working? I don’t know anything really. I just hope I’m doing some good and I’d like to be able to do more.”

Syafika had just eaten a bite of her fourth slice of pizza when she froze. “Were there any of these pills in this pizza?” she asked, with wide eyes.

“No, I wouldn’t waste them on us” said John.

“Good” said Syafika and was about to take another bite of pizza when from the corner of her eye she noticed something move in the doorway of the kitchen. Vincent was standing there. He was looking very angry. Everyone at the kitchen table turned to look at him and all of them were thinking the same thing – how long had he been standing there?

Vincent wouldn’t have needed his experience as a police detective to know that he’d interrupted a discussion about something criminal. The four very guilty looking faces around the kitchen table told him that.

John, D’arby and Fanta left immediately, leaving Syafika and Vincent alone.

“Who were those men?” asked Vincent. Syafika explained that John was Fanta’s boyfriend and D’arby was John’s flatmate. Next Vincent wanted to know what they’d been talking about. Syafika felt like a small child as she explained that they were thinking of ways to make the world a better place, but at least Vincent seemed to believe her.

“I think you should stay away from John and D’arby” said Vincent and then changed the topic. Vincent had come over as a surprise to give Syafika a CD that he’d been enjoying. He didn’t stay long. Syafika could tell that he was disappointed with her. As she closed the door behind Vincent tears welled in her eyes. Syafika turned and ran to her bedroom, where she sat on her bed looking at her list of T-shirt slogans and ways to fix the world while she cried.


The Inklings: Chapter 13

Fanta had been forcing herself to study all morning. Her final uni exams started in a week and she really wanted to do well, but she was so tired and distracted that she may as well have spent the morning staring at a wall.

Fanta hadn’t been able to sleep very well the night before. After arriving home she’d put the piece of paper with John’s phone number written on it on her desk. When she got up she looked at it again. She wondered whether she should throw it away immediately in case she was tempted to call him, keep it for a while and think about calling him or just call him. When Fanta remembered what Syafika had said about John she was swayed in the direction of throwing John’s phone number away. Then Fanta remembered how nice it was to talk to John and decided she should give him a chance. Then she thought about her little sisters (who she was the guardian of) and decided that it was better to avoid anyone who might upset their happy home. Then she remembered that she had told John she would call him, which meant she really did have to call him (even if it was just to say she didn’t want to see him). Finally Fanta decided that she didn’t have to decide anything yet because it would be silly to call John so soon anyway. Fanta was just about to start remembering what Syafika had said about John again when the phone rang. It was Syafika.

“Fanta! I’m coming over to your place right now. I need to escape my crazy family” said Syafika.

Syafika arrived not long after and spent the next hour telling Fanta what had been going on at her house that morning.

Festus was still fuming about the damage Amanda had done to the house. Even Rose was angry with Amanda, but that was mostly because the wardrobe had squashed her gardenia bushes. Because Amanda was hiding in her room Festus and Rose couldn’t help directing their anger at Syafika (which Syafika thought was really unfair. She thought her parents ought to be feeling thankful that she was not as naughty as Amanda and be rewarding her comparatively good behaviour with kind words).

Syafika reckoned she could have coped with the bad vibes coming from her parents if her Aunt Binta and Ousman hadn’t also come around with their own problems. They were already yelling at each other when they arrived. Ousman had done something naughty again, only he didn’t seem to think he’d done anything wrong. As Syafika left she’d heard Ousman complaining that there was no point doing well at school if it wouldn’t get him what he really wanted. That sentence had delighted Syafika.

After telling Fanta all about her morning Syafika decided that it was the right day for Fanta to meet Vincent. Syafika and Vincent were going to meet at their favourite café when Vincent finished work and Syafika wanted Fanta to come along.

Fanta was suspicious that the planned introduction to Vincent was just to stop her from being annoyed that Syafika was going to interrupt her plan to study all day.

“So what will we do until it is time to meet Vincent?” Syafika asked, but none of Fanta’s suggestions (clean the house, do the washing, read textbooks) tempted Syafika so Syafika and Fanta ended up making cakes and biscuits and having lots of cups of tea until it was time to go to meet Vincent.

In her head Fanta had a picture of a Vincent who was jumpy, nerdy and weedy (despite Syafika’s description of Vincent contradicting this picture), so when Vincent arrived at the café Fanta was surprised (and a bit sad because she’d grown fond of the imaginary Vincent). Vincent looked strong and had a permanent frown. Fanta imagined that Vincent was the sort of person who would competently take charge in emergency situations. She could see why Syafika liked Vincent but she couldn’t help wondering whether Syafika sometimes annoyed Vincent. He looked like he wouldn’t approve of silliness. Fanta decided that she better try not to giggle too much when Vincent was around.

Vincent and Fanta exchanged meaningless greetings and then Syafika burst in with “How was your day?”

“Busy, but I can’t really talk about it” said Vincent, looking suspiciously at Fanta.

Vincent sat down next to Syafika on the bench and they snuggled up. Fanta was sitting on a chair on the opposite side of the table. She felt like she was intruding. She actually felt even worse than that. Fanta knew that she should be happy for Syafika, and she was happy for her, but she had this other feeling too. It was to do with the change in the way things were. Fanta felt really lonely and decided to leave. She stood up and said something about needing to get home before her sisters made a mess.

Vincent and Syafika acknowledged that Fanta was saying something, but they weren’t really listening. They just said “Bye” and Fanta left.

 

 


The Inklings: Chapter 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go away” said Syafika

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why did you wag school?” Syafika asked Ousman

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

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

“I was at a maths lecture” said Ousman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” asked Fanta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ha ha ha” said Fanta.

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

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

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

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

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

“Did they come back?” asked Fanta

“No, thank goodness!” said Syafika

“Why?” asked Fanta

“Can’t you guess?” said Syafika

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

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

“Ha ha. Not Vincent?” said Fanta

“Yes!” said Syafika.

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

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

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

“Maybe” said Syafika

“Really?” said Fanta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Inklings: Chapter 7

Syafika and Fanta were both 23 and had never had a boyfriend, not even a kiss. It wasn’t intentional for either of them, but Syafika took it much worse than Fanta did. Fanta didn’t seem to be very concerned but Syafika was very ashamed. She was so ashamed that whenever someone asked she told them that she had a boyfriend called Vincent. She had a well practiced description of Vincent’s appearance, personality, where he worked and good excuses for why he never turned up at parties when Syafika was invited to bring a partner. Syafika hadn’t ever told Fanta this though, because she knew how angry Fanta would be with her for having told such stupid lies.

When Anthony left, Syafika was miserable. She was especially miserable at work. Her job seemed so dull without there being the chance of meeting Anthony at the photocopier or of getting a smile from him in the corridor. She tried to hide her misery at work but was only moderately successful – her two friends Helen and Julie still noticed it. So Syafika had to make up an excuse for her misery. Over a coffee she told Helen and Julie that she and Vincent had broken up. They were already familiar with Vincent, and although they had never met him, they felt like they’d known him for years. So, when Syafika told them how she and Vincent had split up they were genuinely sad. Then, as the months passed and Syafika still didn’t seem to be back to her usual chirpy self, Helen and Julie began to be concerned. They decided that they needed to start taking Syafika out so she would fall into the path of other young men and eventually forget about Vincent.

Syafika wasn’t at all willing to go out dancing or drinking. She didn’t want to draw attention to her figure by dancing in front of anyone and she also hated the atmosphere of pubs and bars. They made her feel like she was the only one there who didn’t know what to say or do. In general she hated any place or activity where strangers would be scrutinizing her looks, movements or the things she said. What Syafika would agree to was to go out for dinner. Syafika was always much calmer when food was the central focus. So Helen and Julie sneakily decided that they would go to have dinner in a pub.

Helen, Julie and Syafika left work together and walked to the pub that Helen said had the best bistro in Sydney. As the three friends walked in the door Julie looked at her watch and said “It’s really too early for dinner. Why don’t we have a little drink in the bar before going to the bistro?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s sit over there where we can see everyone who comes in” said Helen, pointing to three comfortable looking chairs in a corner.

Syafika was alarmed by this modification to the plan, but didn’t want to look awkward and so she just said “Ok”. Then Syafika remembered that there was less potential for social blunders if you were the first person to buy everyone drinks and quickly asked the others “What would you like to drink?”

Fortunately Helen and Julie both asked for the same kind of wine so Syafika didn’t have to worry too much about getting the order wrong. Thinking ahead, Syafika took some money from her wallet, put her wallet back in her bag and then asked Helen to mind her bag so that she would more easily be able to carry three drinks.

As Syafika walked back to where she’d left Helen and Julie she was congratulating herself on being able to carry two wine glasses, a glass of orange juice and her change at the same time until she realized that Helen and Julie weren’t sitting there anymore. Syafika put the drinks down and sat down, trying to remain calm. Surely they must just have gone to the bathroom and would soon be back. Syafika looked at her watch and then checked to see if Helen and Julie were coming back. Then she realized she had forgotten the time and checked her watch again. She took a sip of juice and decided to look around and try to enjoy watching what other people were doing, but watching other people just made her notice when they looked at her. What must they think of her sitting alone with three drinks? Next Syafika decided to look out the window and pretend to be deep in thought. She sipped her orange juice. She wished that Anthony would walk in. Thinking about Anthony made the time pass faster. When Syafika finished her juice she looked at her watch and realized that she’d been waiting for half an hour. “What should I do next?” she wondered.

Syafika decided that she wanted to go home. Hopefully her parents hadn’t gone out because her house keys were in her bag (and her bag was hopefully still with Helen). “I’ll find a pay phone and call Mum on my walk home” decided Syafika. She didn’t think it likely that Helen and Julie were still in the pub and she was happy to have an excuse to be able to go home, but to make her excuse a really good one Syafika thought she better first have a look around the pub to make sure that Helen and Julie weren’t waiting somewhere for her.

Syafika picked up the two glasses of wine and explored the pub. The next floor was very busy. Syafika couldn’t be sure that Helen and Julie weren’t there but she didn’t want to push her way through the crowds to make sure so she walked up to the roof garden. The roof was not as busy, but that was only because it had started to rain. On her way down the stairs Syafika was thinking about where she should leave her glasses of wine when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

Syafika turned around, feeling very relieved because she thought one of her friends had found her, but instead found herself smiling at a handsome man.

“Have you lost someone, or are you lost?“ asked the man.

“I’m looking for my friends” said Syafika and blushed. She didn’t want to have to explain that her friends had taken off and left her. She just wanted to go home.

“Don’t worry! Let’s find somewhere to sit down and wait for them to find you” said the man.

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