Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll (5 page)

T
hat night the internet connection wasn't working. Kelsey had to wait almost a week to check her emails and speak with Nanna Rose before her dad got it working again. Kelsey wanted to know if Amy Jo would be safe in the forest, but she sent her schoolwork first. Then she saw emails from Mrs Penner and Chantelle.

Mrs Penner said she had bought pencils and would mail them to Kelsey to give out. She also asked Kelsey what else the class could do to help.

Chantelle wrote that she was having a pool party and everyone would pay a dollar to come. ‘That way,' she said, ‘all the girls in the tent school will get a notebook too.'

Kelsey thought that much money would even pay for pens. Maybe other classes in Australia could also raise money. Shakila's school wasn't the only one held in a tent.

She rang Nanna Rose then. ‘Hi, Nanna. It's been a while but it's been raining and we've had trouble with the internet.'

‘I thought there must be a problem. I've been trying to reach you for days. Are you having a good time?'

‘I do have a good time at Shakila's house. But I'm worried about the kids. So many are sad and sick, like a girl called Fozia, and there isn't enough medicine. My class is raising money for notebooks, but—'

‘Maybe there'll be enough for medicine too.'

Kelsey thought that was an excellent idea. ‘I'll tell Mrs Penner about it.'

‘Would you like to hear the story now?'

‘Yes, I'm worried about Amy Jo too. What if another animal picks her up in the forest?'

Nanna stared at her from the screen. ‘That's a good idea, Kels.'

Amy Jo was feeling sorry for herself. She was muddy again, lying in leaves and dirt. She had lost one of her lovely white boots. An animal with tickly whiskers nosed around her checking if she was good to eat. Now her face was sticky from its licking.

A boy walked through the trees and the animal scampered off. He took slow steps and stared at the ground. He spotted Amy Jo.

‘A
gudiya
.' He picked her up. ‘I've never seen one like you before. You are just what I need to cheer up my sister, Rubi.'

He walked faster telling Amy Jo about Rubi.

‘She's very sick, but I look after her. I have to pick up rubbish to make money for her medicine. You're the best rubbish I've picked up yet. I'll have to sell you to buy medicine but she'll be able to play with you for a while.'

Amy Jo didn't like being called rubbish but she felt happier when the boy spoke of his sister. Maybe she'd be nice like Zebi.

The boy carried Amy Jo past a scrap heap the size of a mountain to a big cardboard box under a tree. Inside, a girl lay on a blanket. Her
shalwar qameez
was even dirtier than Amy Jo's dress.

‘Rubi, here is a surprise for you.'

Rubi coughed and coughed before she opened her eyes. She held out her hands when she saw Amy Jo.

‘You can only have her for a short time. I'll have to sell her. She should buy enough medicine for months.'

‘
Shukriya
, Asher.' Rubi tucked Amy Jo into the crook of her arm and stroked her hair and face.

Asher strode off toward the scrap heap with a huge plastic bag. A truck had brought more rubbish.

Amy Jo wished she could say words. Rubi didn't look well at all and her body shook when she coughed

Rubi didn't talk about being sick. Instead she sang Amy Jo a song. It was about butterflies and elephants and
billies
. ‘Who made the
hathi
, the elephant?' Rubi sang.

Amy Jo didn't know.

‘
Khuda ne banaya
,' Rubi sang. ‘God made them.'

Amy Jo liked the song. The only music she had heard was from the music box in the Teddy Bear Shop. Rubi's voice sounded even nicer.

O
n Friday, Kelsey's dad and Izaak dropped her off at Shakila's house on the way to the new village they were building. Shakila was doing her English homework when Kelsey arrived. She had to write words in sentences and learn a long list of spelling.

‘Miss Parveen says my English is getting better from playing with you,' Shakila said.

‘That's good. Can you teach me some sewing and Urdu words now?'

While they sewed they laughed over the way Kelsey said the words. Shakila had a square of cloth for Kelsey to use.

‘Draw a picture,' Shakila said. ‘And colour it in with thread.' She showed Kelsey how to do a chain stitch.

Kelsey drew a boat with water all around it. Then she drew flowers, butterflies and birds on the side of the boat.

‘That looks like our boat!' Shakila giggled.

‘It is.'

‘Let's take the goats down to the river now,' Shakila said. ‘Good grass grows there.'

Kelsey remembered her mum's warning. ‘Are you sure it's safe?'

‘Of course, I always do it. Raza can come too.'

The girls packed lunch, a bottle of water, and the Barbie in a cloth bag. Kelsey took Raza's hand and they let the goats out onto a patch of grass. They sat under some trees and ate fried eggs rolled up in
chapattis
again.

Raza trotted off to chase the goats and Shakila picked up the Barbie.

‘Will he run too close to the water?' Kelsey imagined what her mum would say.

‘No, he's too little to go far. He'll be back to annoy us soon. Let's play the
guddiya
is going to the bazaar.'

‘She can buy more clothes and shoes,' Kelsey said.

‘No, we can make her more clothes. She buys some
samosas
. She's too thin, she needs to eat more.'

It was strange playing Barbies with Shakila. She made the Barbie do different things. ‘Does she ride a bicycle? Or drive in a car?' Kelsey asked, thinking of Chantelle's pink Barbie car.

‘She walks to the river and rows a boat to the bazaar.'

Suddenly they heard a squeal. Kelsey jumped up. ‘Where's Raza?'

They couldn't see him on the grass, but they could hear him screeching.

Both girls ran to the river. ‘There he is!' Kelsey said. They stood at the water's edge. ‘He's fallen in!' He was drifting away from the land.

‘What can we do? What can we do?' Shakila cried.

She ran into the water up to her knees screaming, ‘Raza!'

There was no time to lose. Kelsey pulled off her sneakers and jumped in. She had to reach him before he drifted too far away. The water was a different colour from a swimming pool but it was still water. She tried to swim freestyle to Raza but soon found it was much harder than swimming in a pool. The water had a mind of its own. By the time she was close enough to grab Raza, he was gulping water and coughing. He tried to climb up to her shoulders and Kelsey couldn't keep afloat with his weight dragging her down.

‘Shakila!' she screamed. But as she opened her mouth the river water rushed in and she coughed as much as Raza. She went underwater and struggled to surface again.

‘Look!'

Kelsey could see Shakila at the water's edge – she was pointing at something in the water. A plank was drifting toward them
.
Kelsey tried to hold Raza around the neck like she was taught in swimming lessons but he struggled and screamed too much. She reached for the plank as it drifted close. She missed and tried again. Finally she clasped one end. She pulled Raza onto her hip with one hand, then steadied the plank as he climbed on. He lay down and Kelsey put her arms around him to keep him safe. She trod water hanging onto the plank to catch her breath. Then she slowly pushed it back to shore.

Shakila was there to pull them out.

‘Raza? Raza? Are you okay?' Shakila was crying.

‘Kila,' he whispered. Then he coughed and muddy water dribbled out of his mouth.

‘
Alhamdulillah
, praise God.' Shakila hugged Raza. ‘You saved him.'

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