Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll (6 page)

W
hen Kelsey spoke to Nanna Rose that afternoon she didn't mention Raza.

‘Is anything wrong, Kels?' Nanna asked.

‘Just tired.' Kelsey's voice sounded flat and quiet. She didn't want to say how ill she was starting to feel. Instead, she asked about the story.

‘Will Rubi get better, Nanna?'

‘I hope so, as long as Asher can buy her some medicine.'

‘But that means Rubi has to give up Amy Jo.'

‘Yes, but she will understand I think. It is important to get better and she has loved the doll. It was kind of Asher to give her that experience, don't you think?'

Kelsey thought about it. Would it be better not to see the doll and then Rubi wouldn't miss her? Or would the memory of Amy Jo make Rubi happier?

Asher let Rubi keep Amy Jo for two days. He crawled into the cardboard box to sleep with Rubi on the second night. He waited until morning before he told his sister the news.

‘I have found a man in the bazaar who may give me a good price for the
gudiya
. I will be able to buy you a new
shalwar qameez
to wear and medicine for the whole year. Your lungs will get better now.'

Rubi smiled but there were tears in her eyes. She took a clip from her hair and fastened it into Amy Jo's.

‘Why are you doing that?' Asher asked. ‘That was
Ummie
'
s
hairclip. It's the only thing you own.'

‘I want the
gudiya
to have something of me since she has helped me so much.'

Asher nodded and gently lifted Amy Jo from Rubi's arms. Since Amy Jo couldn't make tears she blinked her eyes instead. She would have liked to see Rubi get well, and to hear more songs.

‘You're a good doll,' Asher said as he carried her. ‘You've made my sister happy. That alone will help make her better. I'm sorry to sell you but we have to live. I hope you understand.'

Amy Jo blinked her eyes at him as he walked to the bazaar.

The bazaar was full of stalls with bright, pretty cloth blowing in the wind and huge hessian bags brimming with coloured spices. Asher was jostled by the crowds and Amy Jo thought she would slip out of his hands. Finally he stopped in front of a small shop. An old man in a white cap sat cross-legged on a rug in front of a sewing machine.

‘Here is the
gudiya
,
janab
.' Asher handed the old man Amy Jo.

Asher held his breath as he watched the man check Amy Jo's hair and clothes. There were scratches on the doll, her dress was ripped and she was dirty. Would that matter?

The old man looked up at him. ‘You have spoken truly,
beta
. This is a special doll from England. She is called a porcelain doll.'

He pulled a purse from his
qameez
pocket. ‘Here is your payment.' Then he added, ‘May your sister get well.'

Asher counted the money. ‘
Shukriya
,
janab
.' He placed his right hand over his heart in thanks.

The old man put aside his sewing work and measured Amy Jo. She wondered what would happen. Would he put her in a box?

He took off her boot, her socks and dress, and washed her with a damp cloth. It was good to feel clean again.

She lay on the bench beside spools of thread while he cut a pattern for a little
shalwar qameez
from burgundy silk. He threaded a needle and began stitching along the tiny seams.

‘It is a long time since I have made an outfit for a little princess like you.' He smiled as though he remembered a happy time long ago.

When he finished stitching he dressed Amy Jo. He plaited her hair and put in Rubi's clip. He then measured some white leather and cut out a tiny boot. It was different from the other one. ‘It is not perfect but only
Allah
can make a perfect thing.'

Amy Jo didn't mind. It was good to feel properly dressed again.

The old man unfolded his legs and his bones creaked as he stood up. ‘You can sit up on the shelf. Now everyone can see how beautiful you are.'

K
elsey was not well. Since waking, she'd vomited three times and had to run to the toilet twice. She didn't even care she had to squat. Her head felt as if someone were hitting it with a hammer.

‘I'm worried, Len,' her mum said. ‘It's the floodwater. Imagine how many amoebas are in it. She's probably got a bug in her intestines.'

Her dad nodded. ‘I got that when I lived here as a child. I'll buy the medicine.'

Kelsey was more worried about not seeing Shakila and Raza. Was he all right? ‘Dad, can you find out if everything's okay at Shakila's house?'

‘Sure thing.' Then he added, ‘That was a brave thing you did to save Raza. You could have been swept away yourself.'

At the time Kelsey had forgotten how dangerous the floodwater was. All she had thought of was Raza.

Kelsey hated waiting all day for news but at least something interesting happened. Six ladies visited the house and Mum taught them how to sew.

Her dad had bought two Singer sewing machines a week ago and had set them up in the lounge. Kelsey had never seen machines so old. They didn't even use electricity. They were pumped by a foot pedal to make the needle go up and down. Kelsey found it fascinating to watch her mum work it.

‘We will practise on tablecloths and sheets,' Mum said to the ladies, ‘since all your things were lost in the flood. Then we will make clothes.'

Kelsey was too tired to help so she rested on the couch and listened. She could even understand some words the ladies said. She told her mum, ‘They're scared of the needle in the machine.'

Mum smiled at the ladies to show there was nothing to be frightened of. She showed them how to use the pedal and keep their fingers away from the needle. One lady had sewn with a machine before and helped show the others what to do.

By the end of the afternoon each lady had made a tablecloth and a sheet to take home.

‘When we leave for Australia,' Mum told Kelsey as the ladies left, ‘we'll give the machines to the women to start a sewing business. They'll be able to make money for their families.'

Kelsey lay on the couch with the laptop. Mrs Penner had downloaded some ebooks for her to study. She was reading one about a girl who disappeared into paintings on the wall to save her family in the past.

After a while Kelsey could hear her father outside thanking Izaak in Urdu. She put the laptop aside and managed to walk to the open doorway. ‘Dad.'

‘
Salaam ji
, miss,' Izaak said. His eyes were bright and watery when he looked at her.

‘
Salaam ji
, Izaak.' Kelsey said it as well as Shakila now. Izaak touched the top of her head as a blessing.

‘How is Raza?' she asked.

Izaak tilted his head, but remained quiet.

Dad answered instead. ‘He's sick like you, Kels, though much worse.'

J
ust before dinner Kelsey rang Nanna Rose.

‘Nanna,' she cried when Nanna Rose's face appeared. ‘Raza fell in the river and now he's sick.'

Her father knelt beside Kelsey to see Nanna Rose as well. ‘Actually Mum, it was Kels who pulled Raza out. Now she has a nasty bug too.'

‘I'll pray you both get better quickly,' Nanna Rose said.

Kelsey nodded, thinking she should tell her class in Australia about Raza. They might be able to help.

Then Nanna Rose said, ‘I'm running out of names for the story, Kels. What's your favourite Pakistani name?'

Kelsey didn't have to think twice. ‘Shakila. She's my friend.'

Amy Jo sat on the shelf watching all the people pass by. This shop was very different from the Teddy Bear Shop. There was no glass and the shop was open so she could see the lane where everyone hurried and jostled about. She saw ladies in shawls with babies and children, and men with turbans wrapped around their heads. Lots of children stopped to stare at her. The old man didn't tell them to move away. He kept sewing clothes. Some children even pointed at her. But none of them looked as if they had enough money to buy her. So here she was again – on a shelf, waiting. At least the man loved her. He spoke to her each morning when he came to work.

‘So my princess, did you have a good sleep?'

Amy Jo blinked at him.

He smiled and she saw the gaps where he used to have teeth. ‘I'm glad I have you for company – I was getting lonely.' He sighed as he sat cross-legged in front of his sewing machine. Amy Jo watched the back of his head and wondered who he was making clothes for today.

It was almost time to close the shop when a man and a girl walked by.

‘Wait,
Abu
.' The girl stepped backward. ‘Look at the
gudiya
on the tailor's shelf. She looks like a Bollywood actress in that
shalwar qameez
, ready to dance. She would make a first-class gift.'

‘Shakila, this is a Western doll. It will be too expensive.'

‘And how much has been given back to us?'

The man was silent a moment. ‘You are right,
beti,
my daughter.'

He stood in front of the old man's shop. ‘
Janab
, for how much will you sell the doll?'

The old man saw how the girl waited for his answer. ‘Fifty
rupees
.'

The father and his daughter exchanged a glance. ‘Are you jesting,
janab
?' asked the father. ‘I thought you would say five hundred.'

The old man smiled. ‘I was going to keep her for myself, but I see you have more need of her.' He slowly reached for Amy Jo.

Amy Jo liked the look of the girl. She seemed kind.

‘Shall I wrap her?' the old man asked as he put Amy Jo's old dress in a little paper bag to keep with her.

‘Yes,' the father answered. ‘She is to be a special gift.'

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