I woke up with a start, in the early hours of the morning. For lack of something better to do, I checked my phone, but didn’t have enough brainpower for Wordle. When I awoke for the second time, I noticed a handful of messages in the work group chat, wishing Caleb a happy birthday, so I added in my own. I got out of bed and had a shower, the morning already surprisingly warm.
“Hey, how are you?” I greeted Maryam when I arrived in the staffroom at work.
“Hungry already,” she answered, twirling a pen in her fingers, “but good. Ricky and I finally get the keys to the new place this afternoon.”
“Oh, that’s so exciting!” I gushed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Caleb wasn’t at work. Neither were Sloane nor Patrick, because Frank’s trial date was being set.
“Nobody else sleep with a colleague, OK?” Kevin remarked. “I don’t like it when two staff members are out because they need to hold each other’s hands.”
“Kevin, that’s disgusting. Haven’t we already had enough problems here?”
“Fine, then. I’m getting to work.”
Kevin departed the staffroom, door slamming behind him.
“We need to do something about Kevin,” Maryam decided. “I’m serious. There needs to be change.”
“Amen, sister,” Lucy agreed.
“I know that most of us are happy and fine, but there’s something about this workplace which led to Sloane and Frank sleeping together. Something needs to change. I’m going to keep going up the chain until it does.”
Eventually, we needed to get to work. I was on the checkout at the far end. My mind was filled with what Maryam had said. I wasn’t truly with it as I scanned groceries. The small talk was coming out of my mouth, not that I was really listening to what I was saying, nor would I have been able to recall much about the customers.
“Have a good day.”
The next customer approached and started offloading her groceries.
“Jumilah.” The customer read my name off my name badge. “Are you Jumilah Fioray?”
“Yeah, I am,” I confirmed, starting to scan her groceries.
I started to feel a little breathless.
“You’re Jumilah Fioray. Your parents put in the development application to build a zoo.”
“Yeah, that’s correct,” I confirmed, with a grin which was a defence.
“You should be ashamed of youself. I know your parents might have put you up to this--.”
“Look, I’m very sorry,” Maryam interjected. “Jumilah is at work at the moment. She’ll allow you to purchase your groceries.”
Nobody said anything else, the customer simply tapped her card. Once she put in her PIN, she took her trolley and was on her way.
“Thank you, Maryam.”
“Is there anything you’d like me to do?”
I shook my head.
“I’m fine, it’s alright,” I assured, with a bit of a modest laugh. “I need to learn to fight my own battles.”
I was most grateful to return to the staffroom at the end of my shift. Maryam was packing up at the same time. I noticed that there was a missed call from Mum, so I sent her a text.
Just ringing for a chat; she told me. Everything’s all good. Hope you had a good day at work.
I responded in the affirmative, not mentioning the little run-in with the customer earlier.
“What are you up to this afternoon?”
“I’m not sure,” I answered, then my phone rang.
It was Tallulah.
“This might answer my question. Have a peaceful move.”
I answered the phone and started to make my way out the back.
“Hi, I’m stuck on what I could buy for Eliza.”
“There’s a fairy shop in Salamanca, you could go there to buy her a gift. You know, that fulfils at least one part of the brief.”
“That’s perfect, and I’m sure that I could pick up something cricket-related from work.”
“And that’s everything sorted.”
We agreed to meet and I ended up driving in, as Dad had caught the bus in the morning and Mum had a rostered day off. I was lucky that I was able to find a parking spot near Salamanca. Tallulah walked from uni in Sandy Bay and met me outside the fairy shop.
“This place is magical.”
“That’s the point.”
Tallulah and I walked through the streamers. Pastels and glitter inside overwhelmed, but in the best way possible.
“I wouldn’t even know where to start in here,” Tallulah admitted under her breath.
I could hear a sound that was something like running water, a soft noise, which compelled both of us through the shop.
“So, how are things going with you and Patrick and Sloane and that whole situation?”
“It’s complicated.” I could tell she was deflecting. “How else would it be?”
She started to look at the clothes.
“I could get her an outfit,” Tallulah mused, “but I wouldn’t really know what size. You know, I mean, I could guess from the photos--.”
“Or you could call your father.”
Tallulah shot me a look.
“Now, how can I help you ladies?”
A shop worker, dressed as a fairy, was suddenly before us.
“Ah, I’m looking for a present for a little girl, my little half-sister, I’m meeting her for the first time on the weekend.”
“And do you know how much you want to spend?”
“I didn’t realise there would be a limit,” Tallulah answered, deadpan.
“Right,” she replied. “Hey, big spender.”
I gently rested my hand on Tallulah’s back, to offer support. She selected a wand made of bamboo.
“Is this alright?” Tallulah checked.
“Yes,” I assured with a smile. “She’ll love it.”
We followed the shop assistant back to the front counter of the fairy shop. Really, I didn’t know if my advice held much weight – it’s not like I know anything about meeting your younger sister for the first time. The shop assistant told us the price, and Tallulah paid. I felt proud of her, for this must have been such a big deal. After we were finished at the shop, I drove Tallulah home. The roles were reversed.
“Remind me again what’s happening tomorrow,” Tallulah requested.
“I’m pretty sure that my mum’s picking you up, then she’s driving us to the airport and we’re flying to Melbourne.”
After Tallulah went inside, Mum called. She requested that I pick up some takeaway on the way home, and I was happy to oblige. When I stopped in Sorell, I noticed a missed call from Patrick. I figured that I would answer him later, so I dropped my phone back into my bag. Getting out of the car, I locked it behind me. I crossed the road and walked into the mall. Approaching the Indian takeaway shop, I waited for a moment, while the customer before me was served.
“I’m picking up takeaway for Fioray,” I requested, then had food handed over to me. “Thanks.”
Mum, it turned out, had already paid online.
I walked away from the shop with our Indian. Keen to get home, I rushed over the vinyl tiles, back towards the automatic doors. It was nice for Mum to pay for the dinner, so that I wouldn’t have to.
The voice was instantly recognisable.
“Oh, hey, Patrick,” I greeted him, glancing up, a little flustered. “I was just going to call you back once I got home. Are you alright?”
“Yeah, fine. I just rang up to hear your voice.”
A smile came onto my lips, because that was so sweet of him to say.
“How was your day today?”
I glanced down at the containers in my hands.
“I’ve got to get this food home to Mum and Dad.”
Patrick cupped my cheeks in his hands and kissed me on the lips.
“I hope that you have a wonderful time in Melbourne,” he wished me, “and make sure that you send me plenty of photos.”
“Of course, I will,” I promised, “but now I need to get this food home.”
“Yeah, of course, see you later.”
I smiled, then rushed off. Takeaway in hand, I got back into the car. It’s only a very short drive home. Even still, I felt disappointed all the way. At least the smell of dinner cheered me up a touch, as I drove into the driveway and emerged from the car.
“Sorry I’m late,” I apologised as I rushed in the front door. “I ran into Patrick while I was in Sorell.”
“We can’t exactly blame you,” Dad remarked. “How is Patrick?”
“Yeah, he’s going well,” I answered. “We didn’t talk for long.”
“Thank you for bringing our dinner home,” Mum told me. “This is lovely.”
I scooped aloo palak and rice into bowls.
“And I’m sure it will taste lovely too.”
We devoured our dinner, then cleaned away. Thankfully there wasn’t too much mess. After all, that’s a benefit of having takeaway. When I finally checked my emails, I noticed one from Reuben. He’d apologised for not realising it hadn’t been sent earlier, but provided me with the link to the carnivore TAG meeting. I haven’t mentioned to Reuben about travelling to Melbourne. This isn’t about me, it’s about Tallulah, so I’m not planning on telling him.
Jumilah Fioray is a recent high school graduate from lutruwita, Tasmania. Her parents, Catherine and Adriano Fioray, met at the University of Melbourne in the 1990s and returned to Hobart after finishing their degrees, where they raised their daughter and worked in agriculture. Jumilah's passion for conservation reflects her grandparents' work running a sanctuary in Sumatra.
Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey has long had a passion for the weird and the wonderful of stories, sport and zoo animals. 'From the Wild' is her first anthology.