Updated: Jun 26
This morning when my alarm blasted, I rolled onto my side and turned it off. I could have thought of it charitably, that I didn’t want to wake Juliet and Erik by it sounding again. Predictably, though, I nodded back off, so when I woke again, it was with a fright. I got dressed quickly, bid farewell, then rode to work, where Lucy was sitting in the staffroom.
“How’s bridesmaid duty?”
“Well, the thing about having twelve bridesmaids is that I really don’t have that much to do. I’m not organising the bridal shower--.”
Lucy opened her bag.
“Speaking of, I’m meant to give you this.” Lucy fetched an envelope and gave it to me. “It’s called an invitation suite, apparently. It includes your invitation for the wedding, the bridal shower, the hens, which is the same as the bridal shower, they’re combined. Today is Maryam’s birthday so both she and Ricky have the day off, but they wanted to get them out.”
When I reached the checkout, the community noticeboard caught my eye, the anti-monorail poster having enlarged. I don’t have strong opinions about it, to be honest. We’re not really city people, we live in Sorell, rather than Hobart. I just hope that we don’t end up on that noticeboard, now that we’re going for planning permission. Just to be safe, and to be good at my job, I made sure I greeted every customer with polite small talk, even though I didn’t have the energy for anything more than that. By the looks of them, the customers didn’t seem like they minded. While I scanned groceries, I dreamed of animals, to distract me from the work I was doing – important but monotonous. During my lunch break, I noticed that I’d missed a call from Tallulah. I called her back, stepping out onto the stairs.
“Hey, sorry I missed your call. I’m at work, but it’s my lunch break at the moment.”
“Are you doing anything tonight?”
“No, not that I can think of.”
“You know, Kyle has suggested that we go out for dinner.”
“Oh, that’s fantastic, Tallulah.”
“Apparently there’s this new vegan restaurant Jye Gray’s been raving about. He’s going with his wife, Vanessa, and they invited Kyle. Then, Kyle invited me.”
“When I said Kyle suggested ‘we’ go out for dinner, I meant he invited you too.”
“Right, that’s generous of him.”
“Well, he said, bring a friend. You’re my friend, and he knows you.”
“That would be lovely.”
“Fantastic, Kyle will come and pick you up about six o’clock, if that’s alright.”
“Yeah, of course,” I accepted. “Are you sure that I’m not cramping your style by coming along?”
“You’re not, I promise,” Tallulah assured me.
“Are you sure Kyle’s happy to come all the way out to Sorell?”
I got off the phone and returned to the others.
“Do you think we should have a baby shower for Sloane?”
“That would be lovely, as long as she’d like to have one.”
“I was thinking of a surprise, is that a bad idea?”
“Well, does Sloane like surprises?”
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “Generally, I think it’s best to avoid surprises, unless we’re sure.”
“Could you please talk to Sloane for us?” Mbeli requested.
“I’m sorry, I’m not the Sloane whisperer.”
“Alright, I’ll broach the subject,” Lucy offered.
Before I got back to work, I sent a quick text to Mum to make sure she was cool with my plans to go out. Thankfully, she responded in the affirmative, so I dropped my phone back into my bag and returned to the checkouts. I proved itself to be an ordinary, if boring, afternoon. When I left work, I couldn’t help but smile at the sunshine. I walked out and unchained my bike, riding it home. Once I dismounted and removed my helmet, I ambled inside, feeling hopeful. Entering the kitchen, I encountered Mum. We greeted one another, before I fetched a drink of water out of the fridge.
“Oh, I never got around to telling you. I couldn’t make an appointment about planning permission. You or Dad had to do it, as the landowner.” I felt a little guilty talking about this, when Erik and Juliet have lost everything. “Reuben found out and he said that he wanted to have a special general association meeting.”
“I didn’t realise we were that special,” Dad quipped from the other room.
“Apparently every meeting is called a special general meeting, for what it’s worth.”
“I think that’s wonderful if they want to have a meeting. Next Thursday I have a rostered day off.”
“Alright, I’ll speak with Reuben.”
“Thanks, I’d appreciate that.”
“I was a bit gung ho, is there anything in particular we’ve got to do?”
“Well, a lot of the documentation just needs to be filled out. I can collect those forms and then we can properly draw up the plans.”
“Cool. Mum, can I talk to you about something?”
“Sure, is everything alright?”
“Yeah, it’s just about the zoo planning. What would you think about me being officially involved and on the papers?”
“I’m more than happy with that idea, personally. I’ll just have to speak with your father about it.”
“Thank you, I’m really grateful.”
With that, I finally got the chance to look through the invitation suite. I felt honoured to have been invited to not only the wedding, but the bridal shower beforehand. Sitting down on my bed, I thumbed through the invitations. Then, I set them atop my bedside table. I chose an outfit for the night and took it with me into the bathroom so that I could shower. After switching off the water, I wrapped myself in a towel and dried my body, then changed into the fresh clothes and moved back out to the loungeroom.
“You look lovely,” Mum praised.
“Thank you,” I replied, resisting the urge to run my fingers through my hair.
“Tallulah’s picking you up, isn’t she, to go into town together?” Mum checked.
“Actually, there’s a guy picking both of us up,” I answered, trying to keep things cool.
“Right,” Mum answered. “Is this guy someone you invited or Tallulah invited?”
“Tallulah,” I confirmed, then lowered my voice even though I didn’t have to. “It’s Kyle Maher, the cricketer.”
“Oh, wow,” Mum gushed, raising one hand to her mouth. “Did Tallulah meet him through work?”
“Yes, she did. We went up to the nets with him last Monday, they’ve become friends.”
Kyle arrived in his fancy blue car.
“How swish-dish,” Mum whispered. “Have a good time, make sure you ring me if you need anything.”
“Of course,” I agreed, kissing her on the cheek before leaving the house.
Kyle and Tallulah got out of the car.
“Thanks for coming to get me.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Kyle assured.
I’m not sure if his pearly teeth actually did twinkle under the starlight, or if I imagined that. Tallulah folded the front passenger seat forward.
“I’m just going to get into the back,” she noted.
“It’s alright, I can sit in the back.”
I wasn’t sure whether I was on wingwoman duty or not, but I honestly didn’t mind.
“OK, thanks,” Tallulah replied.
I slipped into the back seat, before she and Kyle sat in the front again.
“I’m sorry, this is the consequence of driving this sexy beast,” he remarked.
“It’s alright,” I assured again. “Your car is lovely.”
Once we were buckled in, Kyle started driving in the direction of the city. I looked out the window as the glittering lights increased. The restaurant was on the other side of the Derwent, nestled amongst the heritage buildings of Salamanca.
“This is so exciting,” I gushed. “Thank you for saying that I could come.”
“It’s fine,” Kyle assured.
He parked the car. Tallulah was distracted by her phone, as we got out of the car.
“Are you alright?” Kyle checked.
“Yeah,” she assured with a smile. “Mum was just letting me know she’s home from work.”
Once Kyle locked the car and paid for the parking, we crossed the road and entered the restaurant. He and Tallulah spotted the others, already at the table. I couldn’t help but feel guilty, that they were running late because of me.
“Alright, let’s meet and greet,” Kyle spoke up. “You know Tallulah, and this is Jumilah, her friend.”
We sat down, as I was introduced to Jye Gray, and his wife Vanessa, and Jared, one of the other players. Tallulah checked her phone again.
“Mum’s just being a bit clingy,” she noted.
“It’s just you and your mum, is it?” Vanessa asked.
“I was donor conceived. When I turned eighteen, I was finally able to find out my biological father’s details.”
“And so, what did you find out about him?”
“Well, he lives in Melbourne.”
“Are you going to visit him?”
“Yes, Jumilah and I are going for a weekend at the beginning of April, after the cricket season.”
I noticed Kyle’s hand creeping onto Tallulah’s thigh, underneath the table. A waitress approached our table, before I had the opportunity to say anything further.
“Can I take your order?” she asked, looking at Tallulah.
“I’ll have the sizzled haloumi, thanks.”
“And can I please get the fig and pear salad?” Kyle asked.
“Could I please have the tempeh Caesar salad?” I requested.
The waitress wrote down my order.
“Coming right up,” she promised, then walked back to the kitchen.
“I thought that haloumi was a cheese and not vegan.”
“It’s vegan haloumi,” Jye explained.
He poured a top-up of wine for Vanessa.
“So, Jumilah, that’s a beautiful name.”
“Thank you. My mother was born in Indonesia and my father was born in Italy. Jumilah’s Indonesian.”
“Right. That’s wonderful.”
Jye angled the neck of the wine bottle in the direction of my glass.
“More wine, Jumilah?”
“Yes, please,” I agreed, and he poured glasses for both Vanessa and me.
“I’m enjoying this wine while I can. Jye and I are going to start trying for a baby once the season’s over.”
“That’s great news, mate, getting your genes into the world,” Kyle praised. “God help this one having to deal with a little Jye as well.”
“That’s lovely to hear,” Tallulah chimed in. “I hope that will all go well for you.”
“Well, you never know with these things, so we’ll take it as it comes.”
I readjusted Kakek’s cross around my neck.
“So, Jumilah, what keeps you busy?” Jared asked, and I realised that he was speaking to me.
“Oh, I’m working--.”
“Are you studying?”
“No, not at the moment, but I’m considering a wildlife course.”
“That’s cool,” Jared replied, then I noticed a light in his eyes. “Jumilah, that zoo, Sorell.”
“Yeah, we’ve got our land rezoned.”
“Oh, I thought that I’d heard your name before,” Jared noted.
“Well, yeah, I never expected to be famous.”
“You and me both, mate,” Jared replied. “Tell me about your family.”
“Well, I'm an only child--.”
“Yeah. Dad's Adriano and Mum's Catherine--.”
Thankfully, our food arrived, to save me from myself. The conversation, especially the sound of my loud voice, dimmed for a while as we ate.
“Is your dinner nice?” Jared asked me.
“It’s lovely, thank you.”
“You were talking about your family before,” Jared prompted.
“Oh, I was just rambling.
“It’s alright, I’d love to hear more,” Jared urged. “I’m sure that you already know plenty about me.”
I actually thought that came across as arrogant.
“My grandparents lived in the US for three months in between when my uncle and my mum were born.”
“Catherine was the name of a nun who lived at the convent next door to my parents when they were in San Diego. That’s where she got her name from.”
We finished our food, my Caesar salad delicious. I’d only tried tempeh once or twice before.
“You know, I still don’t quite know how they made this vegan,” Tallulah admitted, “but it was absolutely lovely.”
“Tallulah, how’s uni been going?” Vanessa asked.
“Yeah, it’s been really good so far.”
“Do you reckon that we could kick on?” Kyle suggested. “I’ve heard that Piggly Wiggly is a pretty good new bar, I reckon the girls would love it.”
Once we’d paid, we left the restaurant, deciding not to go to the bar after all. I found myself ambling along next to Jared, one of the other players on the cricket team.
“Tell me more about yourself, Jumilah,” he requested.
“Well, I’ve been friends with Tallulah since primary school. She used to live closer, before she and her mum moved.”
“So, where’s your neck of the woods?”
“Sorell. I live on a property with Mum and Dad.”
“And that’s where you’re planning on building the zoo?”
“Yeah,” I confirmed.
We returned to Kyle’s car, lingering somewhat awkwardly. I swallowed, not really knowing what to say next. Jared seemed nice enough. Still, his presence didn’t make me feel safer. I rocked back and forth on the balls of my feet. Hand twitching, I resisted the urge to play with my hair.
“Can I ask, is there someone special in your life?”
“I’ve got a boyfriend. Patrick’s a guy that I work with. He’s lovely.”
“Ah, all good. That’s good.”
We bid farewell to Jared. Don’t Stop Believing played softly, as Kyle drove me home. I found myself thinking about Patrick and the relationship we’ve fallen into. I’ve told him that I love him, and I do. Still, I wonder what comes next. It would be nice not to have the complication of Sloane’s pregnancy. I feel terrible for resenting a sixteen-year-old pregnant girl, particularly given that Patrick isn’t even the biological father of the baby, although whoever is, is a whole other question.
“Jumilah, your mum’s turning forty on Saturday, isn’t she?” Tallulah checked from the front seat.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “Would you like to come over for her dinner?”
“That would be lovely, thank you, as long as I’m not intruding.”
“No, not at all, it will be great to have you. We’re just having the family.”
“And does that include Patrick?”
“Well, I haven’t asked him yet, but Mum and Dad said I could. I need to text him.”
So, I did just that, before I would forget again. Kyle dropped me home.
“Thanks for the lift.”
Tallulah needed to get out from the front, so that I could emerge from the back. As I scampered up the steps, I fetched my keys from my bag. I unlocked the front door and waved goodbye. Kyle pulled out of the driveway as I entered the house. I could hear Mum and Dad talking, then they went quiet just before I bypassed the loungeroom. When I went to have a shower, Mum and Dad resumed their conversation. I dumped my bag in my bedroom, then entered the bathroom. Even though it felt a little bit wrong, I lingered, so that I could listen in to what they were saying.
“I mean, you’re only forty, that would still be relatively young, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah, but these things happen. It would certainly check a lot of boxes, why I’ve been feeling teary-eyed--.”
“I think there’s another explanation for that.”
My heart was beating faster. They must have been talking about Kakek. I decided that I may as well get in the shower, so I undressed, showered, then dried myself off.
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.