The sun had just risen upon our landing in Sydney, so the sky was a sea of very pale, pastel blue. I stood in front of a floor-to-ceiling window. On the exterior was the tarmac, with a number of large aeroplanes lined up in a neat row. I gazed upon them, marveling at them, despite feeling overheated and exhausted.
“Thanks for sticking with me.”
I really should have been sick of the sight of an aeroplane by that point, and really I was, especially given that Sam would be leaving me. We passed through customs one by one, my head spinning.
I appreciated the gentleness to him.
“I’ve learned a lot from you.”
Sam laughed modestly.
“I’m glad that you found something interesting.”
He reached into his bag and fetched a business card.
“Here.” Sam pressed it into my hands. “If you’d ever like to learn more, or if your grandmother needs any assistance, call me. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll see what I can do.”
The promise, even uncosted, meant more than he could know.
Sitting on the plane I closed my eyes for some respite, the glass windows from the airport coming back to me. An image of a hippo appeared, the glass in my imagination not so much tall as long, snaking down a slope. Crystal clear blue water with giant river hippos and their calves wading along. I’d opened my eyes again, reminded of the small, foggy window to the domestic flight with rounded corners. I’d never dreamed of Africa before. Sure, it might have been on a bucket list, for one day far away in the future when we had more money and I’d worked out what to do with my life. I envied those who lived with certainty, unknowing that there was consistency in that itself. Therefore, I kept the thought in my mind, not expecting that I’d ever need it again.
This time, there wasn’t anyone sitting next to me. I would have been greedy to ask for another Sam, a nice person to calm me down and teach me things all the way. It didn’t make sense to me, how people could be so good and so bad. These were things I would come to learn. Once we were in the air, people started moving around, although I didn’t understand their urgency. The flight from Sydney to Hobart is less than two hours long. We could bear it, for that length of time.
My footsteps quickened as I began racing across the Hobart Airport tarmac. Men in high-visibility vests were directing me towards the terminal building, but I hardly needed their encouragement. My suitcase was bouncing along the warm concrete surface behind me as the automatic transparent doors got closer and closer. On the other side, I could make out the silhouettes of Mum and Dad. Upon stepping up under the awning, the doors parted for me and I fell through them into the arms of Mum.
“Oh Jumilah, I love you,” she breathed. “How we’ve both missed you so, so much”.
Dad embraced me from behind, sandwiching me between the bodies of my parents. He bowed his head and pressed a firm kiss to my unruly curls.
“We love you so, so much,” Dad echoed.
The three of us stood there, just out of the doorway, frozen in the moment, for what was probably less than a minute, but felt like forever. Finally, we broke away from one another, Dad stepping around so that I could view his face beside Mum’s, which was damp with tears. Mine, I noticed after a moment, was as well.
“I’m so sorry. We should have known that something would go wrong.”
Taking in a deep breath, I wrapped her into another hug.
“Everything’s going to be alright,” I promised Mum.
“I should be saying that to you,” she retorted.
We separated from our embrace and smiled at one another. Mum placed her arm around my shoulders and we began to walk off towards the exit of the terminal, with Dad following along also.
“Come along, Jumilah,” she encouraged. “Let’s go home and see what happens next”.
It was hopeful, but also representative of the helplessness we all experienced.
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.