Mirror Magazine  

30th November 1997

Mystery school

" But this is educational equipment."

Gihan heard these exasperated words from the cubicle next to his. He was at the Customs Department to sort out a problem which had arisen over a shipment of spare parts. He was with the Asst. Commissioner. In the next cubicle was his assistant whose voice was now heard.

'Yes, yes. Educational; equipment. I know. You have all the paperwork correct. But to me, they look like toys and I'll say that to anyone. What to do. One rule for the rich and one for the poor. That's all I say. Here miss, I have stamped and approved it.

"Educational Equipment! It looks like swings and seesaws to me. Huh! You take this to the room down the corridor and show it to them."

Gihan, his work done, followed her down the crowded corridor. "Having trouble Miss?" He asked. Shalini turned, she was imageflushed. "No, not really, I'm clearing some goods for a friend of mine. He seems to have got held up somewhere. Just then there was a sound of hurried footsteps and a few 'excuse me's. A clergyman joined them. "He passed it!" Shalini said triumphantly. "Now we just have to identify the crates and take them away. By the way, Brother, this is Gihan Siriwardene, a family friend; Gihan, this is Brother Francis. The equipment we are here to clear is for his school."

"Oh," said Gihan, shaking hands bemused, "What school?"

"That's a long story, too long to go into now . . . I'll tell you . . .later . . . if you're really interested," she said over her shoulder as she and Brother Francis hurried off.

Gihan saw a quizzical gleam in Bro. Francis' eye and did not like it. What a brush off! And he was just a 'friend of the family' was he? Not even her friend! Moodily he went back to work.

Next Friday saw Gihan back at Harini's. He took as his share of the food a chocolate fudge cake. "What a pity! It was Shalini's favorite. She won't come today, you know."

"I didn't bring the cake for her.... Why didn't she come?"

"Arun said that she teaches at some school which she visits once or twice a week and goes to another every other Saturday. She leaves early in the morning, so she doesn't like to stay up late the day before."

"What's this school that works on Saturday?"

"I don't know. A special school maybe." Harini giggled suddenly. "You are very interested aren't you?"

Gihan made a grab for his dignity. "I'll go away and take the fudge cake with me if you are not careful. I'm asking because . . . I'm a family friend."

"Oh, is that so?" Harini mocked. Carefully she took the cake away from him.

Gihan spent a restless night, wakening before dawn. Suddenly he sprang off the bed. Yes! That's what he would do. He washed and dressed with haste and drove to Shalini's sister's house. Yes, he was in time. Michael the old 'family' driver was loading some stuff into the boot of the 'family' car. "Hello, Master," he greeted him.

"Hello Michael, is Missy going anywhere?"

"Why don't you ask her yourself?" Looking cool in a cream skinny and brown jeans, was Shalini. "Good Morning, you are up early, Gihan.'' Gihan ground his teeth. "Well, I will ask you, where are you going? What are these schools you are working at? What are you doing?"

"I told you it was a long story. I can't tell you in five minutes." She put her handbag into the car and prepared to get in. "I have to leave now Gihan. Maybe we can talk next Friday."

Gihan barred her way. "I'll take you where you are going. We can talk on the way. Michael, move Missy's things into my car."

Michael was amazed, "Missy, she is going to Galle, Sir," he said hesitantly. "I'll take her,'' Gihan said with finality. He reached into the boot and hoisted out the bags himself. Michael looked from one to the other unsure of what to do. "So you haven't lost your habit of forcing other people to do your will, have you?'' Shalini taunted. "What makes you think I'll go with you?"

Gihan closed the boot and took Shalini's handbag from Michael who had helpfully removed it from the rear seat thinking maybe he could have the day off today. He felt really too old for these long trips. Not that Shalini Missy forced him to take her or to drive fast or anything like that. They set off at five 'o' clock so that he could drive at an easy pace getting to Galle at nine.

Gihan held open the door to the passenger seat of his car. "Get in Shalini, please," he said. "But. . . " Shalini started to say . . . "Shalini get in!" Shalini got in.

About two hours later she ventured to draw a breath. Contrary to his words, Gihan had shown no inclination for speech and had almost snarled when Shalini had attempted to voice a protest. He had put his foot down on the accelerator and it seemed to her he had not lifted it yet. Fortunately there had been very little traffic on the roads but that close encounter with a bullock cart she could have done without. Shalini felt a bit bolder now and dared to breathe. She had wondered why Gihan should be so angry and some of the answers she had come up with did not make her unhappy.

She turned her head to look at him and caught him scowling at her. "What?"

"It's just that we are going to be so early. Slow down a bit Gihan. The nuns will still be at Mass''



"You mean we are going to a convent?" the horror in his voice made her giggle. "What is this? Nuns, priests, or brothers. Are you joining the convent?"

"No. They wouldn't have me! I'm helping to train some disabled people, children and adults and I work with two schools. One is in Galle the other in Kandy. I go to Kandy once or twice a week and to Galle once a fortnight. I usually get there at nine 'o' clock and leave around three p.m."

He was silent, digesting this. Then, "When do you eat? Breakfast I mean."

"I usually bring it with me. It must still be on the kitchen table."

He had the grace to look ashamed. " I suppose I should apologise," he said, " but you made me so mad."


"That's a long story too. I'll tell you later." Shalini laughed, "I suppose I deserved that," she said. They were driving along very slowly now, "All right. Explanations later. What shall we do for breakfast?"

Continue to Mirror Magazine page 3 * That's Incredible * Plans to break another record * Leopard at Buttuwa

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