Updated: May 25, 2022
My heart thumped as I logged onto the meeting. I had to sit and wait for the host to start the meeting, finding myself checking my watch. Finally Mum and I were able to join. I scanned across the screen, at the names annotating the faces in the Zoom room.
“Welcome, I’m appreciative of the fact that we’ve got Jumilah and Catherine Fioray with us today,” Walter began.
He’s the director of Melbourne Zoo and soon to retire, meaning that Reuben will be taking over his position.
“I think to respect their time, I would like to consider that item, Item 4, first.”
There was a chorus of agreeable murmurs around the Zoom room, which did just a little to put my mind at rest.
“Jumilah and Catherine Fioray desire to open a zoo on their property in Tasmania.”
“That’s correct,” I confirmed.
“Their submissions were included in the meeting documents. You may or might not know this, but Catherine is the daughter of Jelita Sitompul, whose animals were evacuated from a Sumatran sanctuary.”
“This is why we want to do this.”
“Do you anticipate that the animals which were transferred to Australia will be moved to Hobart if the Fiorays are successful?”
“Well, that would be a decision for the relevant TAGs, I feel, the primate and carnivore TAGs.”
“I’ve been attending primate meetings.”
“I’d met Michael Sitompul and we all grieve his loss. My view is that, while there are administrative hurdles to cross in Tasmania, I do not desire to get in their way.”
“You wouldn’t have said that if you weren’t able to retire, Walter,” Bill piped up, making me anxious.
“I believe that it would be worthwhile if an interim plan was formed for the stocking of the Hobart applicant’s institution. This could be determined in consultation with the TAGs, with oversight from board directors. I would like to move this proposal. Is there a seconder?”
My heart felt like it was bouncing up and down in my throat.
“I would be happy to second the motion,” Don agreed.
“Thank you, Don as seconder. Would you be able to oversee the process, with Reuben’s assistance as he takes over my position on the board?”
“Yes, I would be agreeable to that.”
Following the meeting, notes were sent through. I scanned over the minutes as I received a calendar invite. Don was inviting Reuben and I to a meeting on Monday morning, before the primate TAG meeting. I clicked to accept the invitation, heart thumping. On Monday, I will go back to the psychologist, then attend another meeting. I didn’t have long to dwell on the thought, as I needed to have a shower and get changed into my work clothes. As I was working the close, Mum offered to drive me and pick me up again after the shift was over. When I arrived at work, Maryam was in the staffroom getting ready, pinning her work badge onto her shirt.
“Shouldn’t you be off doing bride things?”
“I’m perfectly fine being at work. It’s a good distraction.”
Maryam ate some chocolate, then got to work. I was also on the checkouts, although too far away from her to be able to chat. When I headed back to the staffroom during my break, Frank was at the table.
I had to credit him for something, that he remembered my name.
There were some biscuits on the counter. I was tempted to take one – inevitably somebody buys whatever’s on quick sale and it’s considered fair game for everyone.
“Are you happy here?”
I swivelled around, just as I was reaching for my drink bottle.
“Yes, thank you.”
I took a sip, then stored it again and got back to work.
“That was quick,” Maryam remarked.
“Yeah, it was,” I confirmed, then got back to work for the rest of the afternoon.
I returned to the staffroom at the end of my shift.
“My goodness, I’m tired,” I remarked with a yawn.
I ran through in my mind what I needed to do before I could leave – fetch my bag, remove my name badge, glance around the staffroom. Nothing had been left behind. I noticed Sloane sitting at the table, gripping her belly and grimacing.
“Are you feeling alright?”
“Yeah,” Sloane insisted, albeit with a grimace. “I’m just having a few Braxton Hicks. They’ll pass soon enough.”
When Sloane looked at my concerned expression, she laughed.
“Sorry, I sometimes forget that not every teenager knows about pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions are ones you have earlier in the pregnancy, they’re a bit painful but they’re harmless.”
I sat down beside her.
“What, are you pregnant?”
“No,” I answered incredulously. “Of course, I’m not.”
I took a breath.
“My mother is, though.”
Now that Sloane knows a secret of mine, I couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable.
“Alright,” I chided. “You’ve got to tell me something from deep and dark inside you.”
Sloane thoughtfully combed her fingers through her hair, other hand resting on her belly.
“I’ve told Patrick who the real father of the baby is. He didn’t take it well.”
“Who is it?” I asked jovially. “Frank or something?”
Sloane’s steely expression told me all that I needed to know. My grin faltered before I swallowed hard, heart thumping, realising just how close to the bone I’d cut.
“Please, Jumilah, please don’t tell anyone.”
“It’s alright, it’s alright.”
“I should go, my mum’s picking me up. Are you right to get home tonight?”
“Yeah, I drove to work today. See you tomorrow.”
As soon as I got into Mum’s car, the weight of the secrecy bore down onto me.
“How was your shift?” she asked, as I fastened my seatbelt which gave her permission to pull away from the kerb.
Mum drove through the carpark.
“How was your shift?”
“Yeah, alright. Sloane, um, she told me who the father of her baby is. It’s Frank, our boss, the one who’s married.”
“She’s only sixteen, isn’t she?”
“Jumilah, that’s illegal. The age of consent is seventeen in Tasmania when one of the people is more than two years older than the other. Is Sloane going to the police?”
“I don’t know, I don’t think so. We never were exactly close. In fact this whole thing has made us closer, in a weird sort of way.”
“Does Patrick know?”
“I think he suspected, but I don’t think so. Really, I don’t know.”
I looked at Mum.
“Do you want me to call the police?”
She turned left into our road.
“No, not tonight.”
“I don’t want Sloane to hate me.”
Mum pulled into our driveway.
“I’m the mum, you’re not. Don’t worry about Sloane hating you, we’ll sort this out.”
“I know that we should go to the police.”
“Also, I have something else to tell you,” Mum mentioned. “I went to the council this afternoon, after I dropped you off at work. I’m not sure how much I achieved, I didn’t get to speak with Bruce, but I submitted the plans. They said he’d call once he reviewed them.”
“That’s great news,” I responded with a smile. “I’ll have to have another look at them.”
Mum started to get out of the car.
“So, what are we going to do about Sloane and Frank?”
“For now, we’ll go inside and go to sleep. Tomorrow, we will figure it out.”
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.