Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll (4 page)

few days later, Nanna Rose rang on Skype. Kelsey had lots to tell her.

‘I gave Shakila my Barbie and she loves it,' Kelsey said.

‘That was very generous.' Then Nanna frowned. ‘Have you had any mail from Australia?'

‘No,' Kelsey said. ‘But we've had emails.'

There was a worried look on Nanna Rose's face.

‘What's wrong, Nanna?'

‘Nothing, just thinking.'

Kelsey wondered if she was thinking about the story. ‘Can you tell me what's happening to Amy Jo and Zebi?'

‘Of course.' Nanna Rose's eyes crinkled up as she smiled and continued with the story.

Zebi took Amy Jo outside to play while her dad found more rubbish to sell. She wouldn't have to cook the curry for a few hours yet and she had already swept out the tent.

Before the flood, when her mother was alive and they lived in their house, they did the housework together. Zebi told Amy Jo about it.

‘After the washing
took me to the bazaar and bought me a hot
and toffees. Would you like a toffee?' She picked up two pebbles and pretended to eat one. She held the other to Amy Jo's mouth. ‘Mmm. I can see you like that, Gudie.'

Amy Jo was pleased. No one had shared sweets with her before.

, Zebi.' Zebi looked up. It was her friend, Batool.

‘What have you got there?' Batool said. ‘
, a
. Can I play with it too?'

‘It's not a toy.' Zebi held Amy Jo closer. ‘
needs to sell it.'

‘So why is it out here?'

‘I'm taking it inside now.' Zebi stood up.

‘Why don't you bring it to my place? It will be safe and we can have
and biscuits.'

It was an offer too good to refuse. Zebi tucked Amy Jo into a cloth bag and walked arm in arm with Batool.

Batool's family lived in a tent too and they had six foam mattresses piled up inside. Her mother shooed them outside to play. It was too warm in the tent.

Amy Jo didn't like being in the bag. She ended upside down and it reminded her of the box. At least it was better than being bitten by a dog. She bumped against Zebi's back as the girls ran off.

‘Let's go far enough that I can't hear
calling me for a chore,' Batool said. ‘I've already helped wash the clothes at the river today.'

Zebi kept quiet. She wouldn't care how many jobs she did if she could have her mother back. They stopped when they had passed all the tents.

‘Here,' Batool said. ‘Now show me the

Zebi hesitated, then drew Amy Jo out.

Amy Jo opened her eyes. She liked seeing the trees and it was cool in their shade. A monkey chattered and leaves fell down, but the girls didn't notice.

‘Look at her dress, pretty with lace. But where is her
, her trousers?' Batool said.

Zebi shrugged. ‘She was dressed like this when
found her.'

‘You could make a
for her.'

Zebi liked Amy Jo just the way she was, as if she had come from a magical kingdom far away.

Batool tried to make Amy Jo stand by herself. Her two white boots dug into the dirt, but Amy Jo couldn't manage it without her plastic stand. She fell, face first, onto the ground.

‘Careful,' Zebi said. ‘She mustn't get dirty again.'

Batool laughed as she picked Amy Jo up. ‘I wonder if she can fly then.' She threw Amy Jo in the air and caught her.

Amy Jo wasn't sure she liked that.

Zebi held out her hand. ‘It's time for me to go. Give Gudie back.'

‘Gudie? What a baby name. She needs a princess name like Jahanara.' Batool threw Amy Jo up again but this time she didn't come down. A brown paw snatched her.

‘No!' Zebi shrieked. ‘Look what you've done. Now the monkeys have her.
will be so angry.' She climbed up the tree but the monkey jumped to another one. ‘Climb that tree,' Zebi called to Batool.

Amy Jo thought the monkey was like the bears in the shop: furry, brown and cuddly. The monkey sat, lifted up Amy Jo's dress and pulled off one of her boots. He sniffed and dropped it. Then he jumped to another tree. And another. And another. Amy Jo skimmed through the branches and leaves until, finally, the monkey stopped. He sat with his tail curled around a branch turning Amy Jo over and over.

When he decided she wasn't a baby monkey he tried to chew her face. But Amy Jo wasn't good to eat either so he left her on the branch.

A sudden breeze shook the branch. There was no way Amy Jo could hold on. Her hands weren't strong enough. She slipped off and landed softly in the leaves behind the tree.

All Zebi could find on the ground was Amy Jo's little white boot.

elsey finished wiping the breakfast dishes.

‘You never liked doing the dishes at home, Kels,' Mum said.

Kelsey thought of Shakila helping at her house and Zebi cooking and washing clothes in the tent. ‘It's okay.' She picked up her backpack. This time she put her favourite book in it.

‘See you later, Mum.'

Kelsey ran down to the river where Izaak kept the boat. Dad was waiting and helped her in. As soon as she was seated, Izaak started the motor.

Weeks had gone by since they had first arrived and the water had receded a little. She could see the tops of bushes she hadn't seen before and roofs of houses. The spiders were still spinning webs in the trees.

,' Dad said to Izaak as they jumped out of the boat. Kelsey walked straight to Shakila's school tent. It was early and the girls were just getting settled. Kelsey showed her book to Miss Parveen. It was about a snow leopard.

, good,' Miss Parveen said. ‘Why don't you read it to the girls?'

This time, Kelsey remembered to say the words slowly. She showed the pictures too and even the older girls said, ‘Ooh'.

When she had finished, Miss Parveen said, ‘Please tell more of the doll's story, Kelsey.'

Kelsey told them about Zebi, Batool and the monkey and, when she had finished, the girls clapped.

At the end of the morning, Kelsey told Miss Parveen she could keep her book in the school. She hadn't seen one storybook in the tent or exercise books. The girls wrote on slates.

‘That is very kind,

A bigger girl pushed past Kelsey as she left. ‘You're just pretending you care,' the girl said. ‘You'll go back home to your nice life and forget about us. Leave us alone.'

Tears pricked Kelsey's eyes.

‘Don't cry,' Shakila said. ‘Fozia is not angry with you. She is not well and she is sad because her little sister drowned. Many people have lost someone in the flood.'

Shakila led Kelsey back to her house. As they walked Kelsey kept thinking how sad Fozia must feel, like Zebi, and of the stinging way she said the words. It was true she would go home and true she didn't care in the beginning. When she was back in Chantelle's pool would she forget the flood and the children walking through the water with ropes? Would she forget the peacock's cry which Kelsey thought sounded as sad as the flood? She glanced at Shakila. How could she forget about Shakila, her new friend, and the tent school?

Shakila took Kelsey to her room to show what she had made for the Barbie.

shalwar qameez
.' Kelsey looked doubtfully at Barbie's new blue trousers and long top. ‘She looks different. She has a plait now, like you.' Kelsey didn't think she looked like a Barbie anymore. She couldn't see her long legs.

Shakila said gently, ‘She's mine now. She doesn't have to be the same.' Then she said, ‘Your country is rich.'

Kelsey had never thought this before. ‘We're not rich.'

‘Do you have another doll at home? Books? Pencils?'

Kelsey was silent. She had six Barbies and so many pencils and Textas she wouldn't know the number. Was that rich? They had two cars. She knew Shakila would think that was rich. They only had a boat.

Yet Shakila had something else. Kelsey loved going to her house where there was always something happening, someone to spend time with or talk to.

‘You're rich too,' Kelsey blurted out.

Shakila laughed.

‘You're rich in family. I have no brothers or sisters. My cousins live in another state.' Her eyes watered just thinking about it. ‘But I do have a lovely nanna.'

Shakila put an arm around her. ‘So do I – I have two and all of their sisters. You can share them and my cousins. There are too many for me.' She made a funny face and Kelsey laughed.

‘Let's go help peel the vegies.' It was so much fun doing chores at Shakila's house. It was like a party.

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