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Sky

With Mum and Dad at work, Tallulah and I were responsible for constructing the mock rock wall.


“Basically, we’ve got rocks from the excavation,” I explained. “We build a wall with them.”


“By rendering them together?” Tallulah asked, glancing at the pot of render.


Somehow it wasn’t freezing over on the cold, Tasmanian winter morning.


“Yep.”


We got to work. I wore gloves to protect my fingers. We built the wall up until it got too high for the two of us to reach on our own. Then, Tallulah and I were going to need to call in reinforcements, and work as a team.


“Alright, I’m going to go and get the ladder.”


I walked off to the shed. For now, it’s something of a construction base, although we’ll need to clear it out sooner rather than later. The interior isn’t our immediate priority. In order to work on that, we’ll need to purchase glass, which I believe Mum is trying to sort out. Once I returned with the ladder, I rested it against the solid wall. I climbed the ladder, metal cold even though my gloves, and we hung a bucket of render from it. Tallulah passed me the rocks, so that I could secure them in place. Eventually, the wall was complete, allowing me to climb back down.


“The piping’s in the shed as well, I think.”


We left the ladder in-situ while we fetched more supplies. Tallulah and I carried them out to where we were working in the exhibit’s unfilled moat, against the side of the building. I climbed the ladder again, but this time my foot slipped. Shrieking, I grabbed it tightly, and somehow managed not to fall off, staying unharmed.


“Are you alright?”


“Yeah,” I assured. “I will be. That was close.”


“Do you want me to go up the ladder?”


“Actually, that would be helpful.”


Tallulah and I gave each other a hug.


“Are you sure you’re alright?”


“Yes,” I assured her, “but that did give me a fair bit of a fright, that tumble on the ladder.”


“You’re alright.”


We parted, Tallulah patting me on the back.


“You’ll be alright.”


She climbed the ladder instead. The rock wall would have been fine. Adding the waterfall, though, would add even more movement to the exhibit.


“You know, I hope I’m doing this properly.”


“I’m sure that it’s fine.”


Finally, Tallulah finished off laying the piping, with my assistance from the ground. She climbed back down to safety. My mind raced, adrenaline still coursing through my body.


“Alright, now it’s time for the fun part.”


Our intention was to use stormwater off the roof of the nocturnal house to create a waterfall into the moat. I walked over to the tap. Tallulah dragged the hose across. I switched the tap on, so that we could start filling up the moat of the macaque exhibit, then splash the roof of the nocturnal house to simulate rainfall. Finally, once I thought there was enough water to make the waterfall work, I turned off the hose. We anxiously stepped back.


“That works, it works!” I exclaimed, flinging my hands into the air.


Tallulah and I turned to one another and embraced.


“I’m so relieved,” I confessed. “I wasn’t sure if that would work.”


Being a clear day, there wasn’t much water to flow, but it was good enough. Once we next get rain, its worth will really start to become apparent. I hope that it will be enriching for the macaques. Considering my grandparents used to care for them, I feel a particular responsibility towards these animals, to ensure that they have as good a life as possible so far away from their native habitat in Sumatra.


“The stormwater also will funnel into the sprinkler system.”


“Like if there’s a fire or something?”


“Yeah, exactly,” I confirmed.


We started ambling back towards the house.


“Do you remember those fires, when we were little?”


“Yeah, I do, you came to stay with Mum and I for a bit when you were evacuated,” Tallulah recalled. “That’s when we were still living near the airport.”


We returned home for a brief bite to eat and coffee to warm us up, before getting back to work. In the late afternoon, I heard the dim sound of my phone ringing. I ripped off my gloves and walked over to answer it.


“Hey, Patrick,” I greeted him, keeping my tone of voice light. “How are you?”


“We’re going to Launceston with Bushmint Lovechild over the weekend. Can you come too?”


“Patrick, we’re building a zoo. I don’t have time for this.”


“I’m sorry, I know, but I would really love you to come. If I meet my biological father again, I want you to meet him too.”


“Right,” I answered, feeling a jolt of adrenaline through my body.


I couldn’t exactly say no to that.


“Alright, I’ll come,” I agreed. “I’ll just have to--.”


“Perfect, great, I’ll pick you up. We’re gonna meet at Macca’s again, but I can pick you up on the way through, make things easier. Thanks, see you then!”


The call ended. I stashed my phone again.


“Patrick just invited me to come away with the band over the weekend. I said yes, I’m going to do it.”


My voice raised in pitch as I spoke, like I couldn’t believe what I was saying. I shuffled my feet.


“What time are you heading off?”


I chuckled.


“Good question. We didn’t get that far. Patrick is going to pick me up.”


I sent him a text message to check. We decided upon a time, allowing me to put my phone away. My friend sighed, and I sensed something wasn’t right.


“It’s different now,” Tallulah pointed out. “I feel like I’ve been robbed of something by Kyle.”


“You have been.”


The words slipped from my lips. I didn’t mean to say my thoughts out loud.


“Yeah, I have been,” Tallulah affirmed.


I cleared my throat. The wind picked up. My phone beeped and I checked the text message, from Maryam, screaming as I read it and took in the attached picture.


“What’s the matter?” Tallulah asked me, sounding horrified.


I couldn’t exactly keep the secret now.


“Maryam’s pregnant.”


I opened up the text message, enlarging the ultrasound image.


“That’s beautiful news.”


I responded with a gushy message filled with plenty of emojis, then checked the time again.


“That’s lovely.”


“You’d better get ready to go soon. I can clean up here if that helps.”


I didn’t want to take advantage of Tallulah, although her expression caused me to agree. Ducking back inside the house, I quickly packed a bag to take with me to Launceston. When I emerged back into the kitchen, Tallulah had come inside.


“Job done,” she confirmed.


“Thanks.”


“No worries.”


“Seriously, thank you so much for helping me today,” I told Tallulah. “I really, really appreciate it.”


“It’s my pleasure, honestly.”


Tallulah left, with Patrick arriving not long after.


“Ready to go?” he checked.


“Yeah.”


Making sure to lock the house up behind me, I brought my bag out to the car. Patrick opened the boot. I slipped it in, then coughed as he closed the hatch. We got into the cabin, fastening our seatbelts and hitting the road. Shortly after, we arrived at McDonald’s. Luke would also be tagging along, having been dropped off by Aunty Paula, who made sure to get out of the car and kiss me on the cheek before she left. Patrick checked his phone.


“Ricky and Maryam aren’t coming. She’s not feeling that well.”


“That’s not good.”


I glanced around. We were able to hit the road, albeit with our hearts a little more on edge than they’d been before. Patrick drove our car, with me in the passenger seat and Luke in the back, with disassembled parts of the drumkit. I put down the window a little, to feel fresh air against my face. Patrick drummed his thumb against the lower quadrant of the steering wheel.


“Talk to me about something,” he requested.


“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive?”


“I’ll be fine. I just need to keep my mind focused.”


“Alright.”


“So, could you talk to me, please?”


“Well, about fifteen years ago, three Sumatran cubs were imported from Indonesia. They went to Queensland and are the most genetically valuable Sumatran Tigers in captivity, particularly outside of Indonesia.”


“Please don’t tell me they died,” Luke remarked.


“No, they didn’t,” I assured. “Well, one of them did, but fifteen is old for a tiger. She lived a nice life.”


“Alright,” Luke replied. “Still sad, though.”


“Yeah, I suppose so.”


We continued on towards Launceston. I looked out the window, barely believing this was how the day had panned out.


“Alright, I would like you to drive, if that’s OK,” Patrick requested.


“Of course, that’s fine.”


Once we found somewhere, we pulled over at a rest stop. Patrick and I swapped over the driving. The rest of the trip was quieter, save for the occasional direction being provided. Finally, I pulled up out the front of our motel rooms. Luke got out of the car quickly, with the others having already arrived not long before.


“I miss Sloane,” Patrick mused, “but I get why she can’t come. It’s a big ask to travel like this at thirty-six weeks pregnant.”


I lingered as long as was polite, then got out of the car. Luke and Lucy had returned from the motel reception with the keys. Patrick followed me out of the car and we took our bags inside the room. We didn’t stay there long. Eager to take the equipment to the pub where Bushmint Lovechild would be performing that evening, we set off once again, to a few streets away. Patrick drove on this occasion, which was just as well considered my mind was a little at sea. When we arrived, I found a table, while Patrick let the owner know they were here. I ordered us some dinner, so that the band guys would have food in the belly before starting to play. The others came over and sat down, continuing their conversations. I found myself mesmerised, by my view of the setting sun out the window. Thankfully, the food didn’t take long to arrive. I ate a veggie burger, while the guys scoffed chips as they tuned and got used to the acoustics of the space. Lucy seemed preoccupied with her chicken schnitzel. Dinner offered little conversation, not that I particularly would have needed it. There had been enough chatter already. When Lucy finished eating, she placed her knife and fork together in the centre of the plate.


“That was delicious.”


She glimpsed her watch. I read the time from a distance, knowing that the performance would begin soon. A small crowd had gathered.


“Thank you so very much for coming,” Patrick spoke to get the show underway, clasping the microphone with one hand.


He licked his lips.


“This is a new song we’ve come up with,” Patrick announced, then slicked back his hair, gel and sweat mixing. “It’s called ‘Sky’. I hope that you enjoy it.”


While I clapped to offer encouragement, I pursed my lips with nerves. I really had no idea what this song might have been about, or when Patrick had come up with it.


I love you like a bright pink sky

Dappled with pastels and I don’t know why

But it takes my breath away, away, away


Patrick gently strummed the acoustic guitar nestled in his lap. I pulled the sides of my jacket together. My lips curving into a small smile, I started to sway to the tune.


Even at the end of days, I’ll love you

Even at the end of days


Patrick gestured towards the audience.


“Sing it with me.”


“I’ll love you.”


I found myself lost within the music. Eventually, the final, slow bars played. There was a split-second of silence following the track, and a shiver went through my body. The audience burst out in applause, and so did I, beaming.


“Unfortunately, Ricky’s not with us tonight. We send all our love to him. Hopefully Ricky will be back before we know it and we’ll all sing ‘Eucalypt’ together again.”


I noticed that the crowd had thinned out a bit.


“OK, take a minute, have a drink,” Patrick urged, after an hour of their set, “but lemonade, of course.”


He winked.


“We’ll be back on the stage in ten minutes.”


Patrick set the microphone back into its stand. He strode down from the stage. I thought I noticed a hint of a tear in Patrick’s eye, but he quickly wiped it off. Within my bag I felt a vibration, although I ignored it, instead greeting Patrick with a grin.


“You were so fantastic,” I gushed.


I cupped his cheeks in my hands and pecked him on the lips.


“What did you think of the new song?” Patrick asked.


“Well, I think we got our colour theory a little bit mixed up,” Luke admitted, “but it’s a beautiful melody.”


“It is,” I agreed. “It’s lovely.”


“I’m going to go and get a lemonade,” Luke announced. “Would anyone else like one?”


A chorus of agreement went around the group, and the others wandered off with him. Patrick and I were left, just the two of us at the table, my stomach feeling a little tight. It took me a moment to work out what to say to him.


“Do you want to be a musician professionally?”


“It would be a nice life,” Patrick admitted with a sigh. “I don’t know if it’s achievable, though.”


“What are you going to do when the baby’s born?”


“It’s Sloane’s decision. I’m not the father, it’s not my decision.”


Patrick finished his drink, then returned to the stage. There wouldn’t be much left of this concert. Patrick held onto the microphone for dear life, while the others returned to their places. The lights dimmed; the crowd hushed. Patrick gave Luke a knowing glance. As soon as he started drumming, I recognised the beat.


You tell me to depart

You tell me to go away


I witnessed the pain within Patrick’s eyes as he tightly gripped the microphone and sang into it, blue light oozing across the stage.


But you cannot break our hearts


I clenched my hands tightly into a fist, unable to blame Patrick.


I have one thing left to say

‘Cause she’ll leave this place


The drum beat swelled into the chorus.


And she’ll leave these people


I started to sing along quietly, thinking that Patrick would relax into the music, but the opposite seemed to be true.


And even when the whole world changes


Others in the crowd started singing along with Bushmint Lovechild, too. I beamed, and so did Patrick, just for a moment.


I will always be her gentleman

You say I need my own friends


I breathed out. Patrick does have his own friends.


And you say that I ought to extend

But will you be there at the end?

And please don’t say that it depends


I heard heavy footsteps on the varnished wooden floors behind me, and glanced over my shoulder.


‘Cause she’ll leave this place


I recognised the man who’d just entered.


And she’ll leave these people


I knew that I’d never met him before, but his facial features were familiar.


And even when the whole world changes


I searched the man’s expression for answers.


He approached the bar and ordered a drink, which the bartender prepared.


I will always be her gentleman

Even if these bonds do break


Patrick sung the bridge with an anger I hadn’t heard before.


New journeys we might undertake

There’s one thing that will never shake


All of a sudden, that emotion evaporated.


I will always be her gentleman

If she’s facing a fire


Patrick crooned more quietly now, holding onto the microphone for dear life.


And there’s no turning back

It is my duty


The man at the bar sipped his drink, but he was fixated on the stage, on Patrick.


To turn her onto the right track

‘Cause she’ll leave this place

And she’ll leave this people


The rest of the band seemed to respond, by decreasing the volume of the music. I could hear my thumping heart in its place.


And even when the whole world changes

I will always be her gentleman


Patrick finally released his grip on the microphone.


When the end is nigh

And there are only tears left to cry


His body shook. He stepped back.


Up until the end of days

I will always be her gentleman


Patrick staggered forward and, for a moment, I thought that he might fall off the stage, but he didn’t. He’d seen what I noticed, too.


‘Cause she’ll leave this place


The crowd started to pay attention, as well. I slowly began to move forward through the bodies, towards Patrick.


And she’ll leave these people


The crowd oohed as Patrick stepped down from the stage. I knew he wasn’t coming for me.


‘Cause even when the whole world changes


Bodies parted in front of him, and I found myself stepping back, too. I couldn’t get in the way, of whatever would come next.


I will always be her gentleman


The crowd applauded. Patrick weaved through the remaining bodies. I kept my distance as he made his way towards the man, while the other band members started to pack away.


“Turns out I’d know you anywhere,” Patrick said.


I could see that his hands were shaking. Patrick turned and looked out for me, so I moved closer.


“This is my girlfriend, Jumilah.”


“Darling, I’ve heard your name all the way from Launnie”


“Oh, right,” I replied, as Patrick placed his arm around me.


“My name is Reg,” he introduced himself, “but I take it you already know that.”


“Yes, I do,” Patrick confirmed.


He shook his head.


“I have children,” Reg disclosed. “I’ve got three more kids. I’d love for you to meet them. How about we take the kids to the zoo? They love the tigers. Will you have tigers at your zoo, Jumilah?”


“Well, I’m not sure about that.”


“I’d love to see elephants in Tassie, what do you reckon?”


“Well, they take a lot of upkeep.”


“Yes, they do,” Patrick chimed in, sounding a little annoyed.


I felt guilty, even though this wasn’t my fault. To give myself an out, I feigned a yawn.


“It’s time for me to get to bed,” I told Patrick. “Will you be alright here?”


“Yeah, of course.”


Patrick and I pecked on the lips, then I left. When I returned to the room, Lucy had the cricket on the TV, but she turned it off after I entered.


“Oh, it’s alright, you can watch that if you want.”


“It’s OK, I just had it on for a bit of sound and noise.”


Lucy pulled back the covers, so that she could get into her side of the bed.


“Did you meet him, when Tallulah was dating him?”


“Yes, I did.”


I breathed out, recalling those early days.


“He’s a very insufferable man, as it turns out. In the beginning, he was quite charming--.”


“But turned out, like many charming men, to be anything but.”


I wondered if Lucy spoke from personal experience, but I didn’t ask.


“How’s, um, Jye Gray going?” I asked. “You know, he was the one who reported it. He told his wife who told Tallulah.”


“Well, everyone’s struggling for wickets. I think that it’s going to be a draw.”


“That’s when no-one wins, right?”


Lucy nodded her head.


“Yes, that is correct.”


“I do know a thing or two about cricket.”


We lay down, not touching, trying to go to sleep.


“What do you think they’re talking about?”


Lucy rolled back over onto her side.


“I don’t know. I’ve had a very stable upbringing.”


“Yeah, so have I,” I agreed, even though I spoke with a tone of lament, out of concern for him.


Eventually, Lucy must have rolled over and fallen asleep. I reached for the remote and switched off the television once the cricket finished, even though I missed the soft, low noise. My mind wasn’t racing, but it was walking briskly. I couldn’t help but pondering what would come next. Pulling at my pyjamas, I eventually got comfortable. I didn’t hear Patrick coming back. I figured that he must have stayed with his father, or slipped back into the guys’ room without saying anything to us, and I don’t begrudge him for that. Just to make sure that he was alright, I sent him a quick text. I was tired, though, and fell asleep before he would have had the chance to reply.


 

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.


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