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Finally, I’d gotten around to a doctor’s appointment. I threw my clothes on this morning, having not given myself enough time to ride my bike.

“Mum, do you mind if I take the car?” I asked while putting my shoes and socks on. “I haven’t left enough time to ride to my doctor’s appointment.”

“As a matter of fact, I can drive you.”

Somehow, I felt relaxed in the car on the way. I wondered whether it was the placebo effect of just booking and turning up to the appointment in the first place. Still, I really tried hard to concentrate on what I saw out the window. Mum parked outside the clinic.

“Would you like me to come inside?”

“No, it’ll be alright. You could go and get yourself a coffee though, if you want to, or do some grocery shopping, or something.”

“Alright, I might just do that.”

I emerged from the car and approached the medical centre, pressing open the door with my forearm. As I approached the counter, I felt a little queasy, although it must have just been nerves. The receptionist glanced up at me with a smile.

“Hello, I’ve got an appointment for Jumilah Fioray.”

The receptionist glimpsed her computer screen.

“Yes, thanks for coming, just head through there to wait.”


I walked over to the waiting area and sat down. Opposite was the closed door to my psychologist’s office.

“Jumilah Fioray.”

My name was called from behind me. I rose to my feet and walked over to the GP. She held the door ajar, then closed it behind me once I’d entered.


“It’s alright, take a seat.”

I found myself listening into the noises I could hear, from outside the room.

“What have you come to see me for today?”

“My psychologist has spoken to me about going on medication for my PTSD. I think that I’d like to do that.”

“Thanks for letting me know.”

The doctor brought something up on her screen. I couldn’t help myself but sneak a peek, given that it likely related to my own mental health.

“We’ll do a K10.”

“I’ve already gone through this. The psychologist did it.”

“That’s alright, it’s good to do it again.”


I didn’t really want to.

“About how often did you feel tired out for no good reason?”

I knew the drill, despite Jenine insisting on rattling off the options.

“Some of the time.”

“About how often do you feel nervous?”

“Some of the time.”

“About how often did you feel so nervous that nothing could calm you down?”

“A little of the time.”

“About how often did you feel hopeless?”

“Some of the time. More often if I watch the news.”

“About how often do you feel restless or fidgety?”

“Some of the time. I feel like I can’t drop off to sleep, then I do.”

“About how often did you feel so restless you could not sit still?”

I laughed.

“Probably all the time. I’m always busy, I’m always on the go.”

“About how often do you feel depressed?”

“Oh, sometimes.”

I shook my head.

“On one hand, I’d do anything to change things, but on the other, I’m really excited about the zoo. It makes me feel guilty.”

Jenine narrowed her gaze a little.

“That’s an interesting observation,” she remarked.

I thought that she might have been about to psychoanalyse me again.


I could feel my heart thumping. It felt like she was about to deliver a verdict.

“I’m going to give you a prescription, just for ten milligrams at this stage. We can increase the dosage down the track if you feel it’s not having enough of an effect.”


“Now, there are some side effects. You might experience a bit of a dry mouth in the beginning.”

“That’s OK.”

“You’ll have to go to the chemist to fill the prescription.”

She handed me the piece of paper.

“Thank you.”

“No trouble. Is there anything else which I can do for you?”

“No, that’s all good, thank you.”

We both rose to our feet and made our way towards the door, so that she could let me out. I walked through the doctors’ surgery, approaching the counter and paying for my consultation.

We left the doctor and got back into the car. Mum started driving back home. Being an overcast day, I glanced out the window. I could have gone and gotten my tablets, but I didn’t. Perhaps that was just my own sense of avoidance, not wanting to feel like I was the problem. It’s difficult to separate having a problem from being the problem, yourself.

“Would you like to have a haircut at some stage?”

“Maybe, I haven’t really thought about it.”

When I returned home, I joined the TAG meeting.

“Welcome, we’ll move straight into reports today. Adelaide Zoo?”

“One of our male Bolivian Squirrel Monkeys died last week. He was one of the brothers meant to be transferred into breeding placements in the next couple of weeks.”

“So, who gets the remaining monkey?” I wanted to know.

“Well, that would be the studbook keeper’s recommendation,” Bill answered, “if we had one.”

“That’s something we need to deal with,” Reuben noted, “but we’ll sort this out first. Which group of females is most in need of breeding? That’s how I would make the decision in the short term, at least.”

“There’s the Darling Downs group and the Wellington group.”

“Darling Downs is closer to Adelaide; Wellington’s females have been without a male for a while.”

“Wellington’s females are well-represented; Darling Downs imported their group.”

“But Darling Downs bred most recently.”

“We should have a squirrel monkey discussion,” Gerard advised.

“We did do this about a month ago,” Bill pointed out, but nobody listened to him.

“Currently, we don’t have squirrel monkeys, and we don’t have plans for them, at least as far as I’m aware,” Claire mentioned. “They breed at Taronga in the city. Sam would know more about them, obviously.”

“Yes, we’ve got a good breeding group.”

“Well, you know, if I recall correctly, you’ve bred twice with those bloodlines. We could start again with entirely new males. That’s the plan for Auckland Zoo,” Gerard pointed out. “It assists with the cohesion of our troop while preventing inbreeding.”

This seemed to have become yet another discussion about the squirrel monkey program.

“The males at Taronga, are they related to the females at Wellington or Darling Downs?”

“They’re related to the females at Wellington, but not the females at Darling Downs.”

I could see the cogs turning over in Raffa’s brain.

“That’s solve our problem, I think.”

“Perfect,” Christine agreed with a grin. “Adelaide Zoo?”

“We’ve chosen a name for our baby De Brazza’s Guenon. He’s a male and he’s named Mbu.”

“That’s lovely,” Christine responded. “For the committee for the De Brazza’s program, we can organise for you to give a report to the rest of us at a future meeting.”

“We’ll have to actually organise a meeting first.”

“Fair enough,” Christine responded with a smile. “Let me know once you’ve met.”

“There’s not actually a rush,” Reuben assured. “I’m sure that we’ll find the time once there is the occasion for a meeting.”

“Is there anything else, Don?” Christine checked.

“Yes, the plans are in place for our tamarin transfers to Melbourne next month. They’ll take our cotton-tops, per Reuben’s recommendation, so that the exhibits can be demolished.”

Christine nodded her head.

“Auckland Zoo?”

“We’ve spoken with Barcelona and the studbook coordinators regarding the importation of those two orang females. They can arrive as soon as next week and then enter a month’s quarantine. I’m meeting this evening to make sure that everything is sorted.”

“You seem to have everything under control, then,” Bill remarked.

“Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary?”

“Nothing to report this week.”

“Hamilton Zoo?”

“We’re looking to import Hamadryas Baboon.”

“That’s great,” Reuben chimed in, as the coordinator for that species’ breeding program. “Would you like me to organise transfers from within the region, or importing from outside?”

“What do you reckon?” Tessa asked him.

“Well, we’ve contracepted our females. To move on some younger animals would allow future breeding. Perth, I believe, are planning on phasing out the species. There could be an opportunity for a transfer there, if you’re not wedded to the idea of needing a breeding group to start off with.”

“I’ve got more to say on that later on,” Bill noted.

“Right, fair enough,” Christine responded. “Hunter Valley Zoo?”

“Our young female cotton-top tamarins will soon be sexually mature. It would be ideal if they could be transferred out. I know that we could put them on contraception, but in my view, that’s not the best option.”

I found myself zoning out.

“Hang on a minute, aren’t our animals related to your animals?” Gerard pointed out.

There was an awkward silence, which I almost broke by laughing.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right.” Raffa laughed. “Of course, we’ll sort something out.”

“Melbourne Zoo?”

“We performed health checks on both emperor tamarins. Thankfully, they’re still fighting fit.”

I recalled the emperor tamarins I’d seen at Tasmania Zoo. They were such cute little monkeys, with white moustaches. I sat back in my seat.

“Reuben, I’ve got a question for you,” Bill spoke up. “What are your plans regarding baboons?”

“Our baboon exhibit really isn’t that old. We wouldn’t be seeking to phase them out of our collection, not at this stage.”

“Mogo Wildlife Park?”

“Nothing to report this meeting.”

“Monarto Safari Park?”

“I wanted to ask who will be going to take over the ruffed lemur studbook now.”

Scanning my brain, I tried to recall where it was currently coordinated from.

“Funnily enough, I was thinking about the same question,” Reuben admitted, even though he hadn’t voiced it previously.

“We’ve been one of the main breeders of ruffed lemur,” Julie pointed out.

“I think it would be reasonable to transfer the studbook to Mogo Wildlife Park, under Julie’s leadership,” Christine advised.

The proposal was put to a vote, and the decision unanimously made. I felt happy for Julie, who would thrive in the role.

“Perth Zoo?”

“I’m sorry to report that one of our female baboons is in quite ill health at the moment.”

“That’s not good news,” Raffa responded.

“In more positive news, we have two pregnant orangutans.”

“Taronga Western Plains Zoo?”

“I did want to check in about the future of our siamang holdings,” Claire mentioned. “Obviously, our pair is post-reproductive now, they won’t be bred from again.”

“Well, we don’t have a studbook keeper at the moment,” Reuben reminded.

I was still thinking about the pregnant orangutans.

“Could you please run me through the islands you’ve got at the moment?” Christine requested.

“We have three islands near the entrance, for ring-tailed and ruffed lemurs, and spider monkeys. On the other side of the zoo, we house the gibbons, as well as the siamangs and another group of ring-taileds.”

“Would you be able to form a new group out of your ring-taileds?”

“Yes, we do have unrelated young males and females,” Claire answered. “At this stage, we wouldn’t have the exhibit space to pair them. Perhaps it would be best if a new holder came onboard for that troop.”

“This is a very common species within the region. There are nineteen holders in Australia.”

“And, still, there’s further interest,” Christine pointed out.

“Who wants lemurs?”

“We would be interested in housing lemurs, very interested,” Angelique spoke up.

“Claire, I did have a question for you about Dubbo’s plans for chimpanzees?” Blessing wanted to know.

“Look, personally, I wouldn’t be opposed. The only considerations would be whether we’ve got an appropriate space for the development of an exhibit, and whether there’s a need within the region.”

That seemed to be a fair enough, albeit open-ended, response.

“Alright, my turn. I’ve been in so many meetings lately, working on our masterplan development.”

“Any goss you can share?” Tessa enquired.

“Well, broadly, we’re planning on diversifying the collection. The choices will be made in relation to which species are more endangered within each subtaxon.”

“Right,” Gerard replied.

To me, that sounded a bit like jargon.

“From a primate perspective, we’re planning on reacquiring Hamadryas Baboon.” Christine presented something of a nervous smile. “Sorry, I’m just dropping that one on you, Reuben.”

“That’s alright,” he assured, with a laugh. “We’ll figure it out.”

“Thank you.”

“Any other surprises for me?”

“Oh, not really,” Christine assured. “We have a long-term commitment to white-cheeked gibbon.”

“We really do need to have a proper look at our gibbon programs,” Sam proposed.

“Well, I was planning for us to discuss that later,” Christine admitted. “I’ll schedule it in for a future meeting.”

“Thank you.”

“Anything else?”

“I’d speak with you later on about sun bears,” Sam mentioned.

“Yes, thank you, we can stay on once the meeting concludes and make any plans we need to as necessary about that.”

Christine took a sip from her glass of water from offscreen.

“Is there any general business to report?”

My heart thumped within my chest.

“I guess I would like to give a little update,” I admitted.

“Yes, of course.”

“We’re working on getting our animal facilities constructed as soon as possible, as well as our people facilities.”

“That’s great, thank you, Jumilah.”

After the TAG meeting, I made myself a cup of tea, to drink out the back. Normally I’d have a coffee, but I felt like tea today. A smile came onto my lips as I walked outside, steam rising from the surface. I sat down and took a breath. One day this land will be filled with animals. My heart beat faster at the thought. I turned up to work the close feeling a little giddy, but trusting that I would be able to remain upright for long enough to get through the hours at the checkout.

“Are you going alright, Jumilah?”

I nodded towards Patrick, but I needed to serve a customer.

Focusing on the items as I scanned them through kept me on task. I worked for several hours before Patrick and I found ourselves walking back to the staffroom together to take our breaks.

“I was wondering, if you don’t mind, if you could come and help build the zoo exhibits.”

“Jumilah, it’s not a big deal. I’m not working, I can come.”

“Thank you.”

We climbed the stairs and entered the staffroom. Sloane was sitting at the table, unable to fit her pregnant stomach underneath anymore.

“You look like you’re heading to pop,” Lucy commented.

“I still have six weeks left, if you had believe it,” Sloane told us, rubbing circles in her belly. “Still, it’s flown by.”

“Are you right to get home tonight?” Patrick checked.

“Yeah, I drove, but thank you,” Sloane replied. “See you later.”


Sloane departed, leaving Patrick and I. I stepped closer, not sure what to say. We linked hands.



“It’s not long until your birthday,” I pointed out. “The big eighteen – do you have any plans?”

“No, I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest.”

“Would you like to have a party?”

“Oh, maybe, but probably not,” Patrick answered, with a shrug of his shoulders.

Something seemed like it was up, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

“I just haven’t really had that many birthday parties. Mum never had the money for it, growing up.”

I nodded my head, remembering our farm days. The stability of my parents being in full-time work had changed our financial situation for the better.

“We probably should get back to work.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

We did just that, although I felt a little uncomfortable. Somehow I managed to get through the rest of my shift, without anything dramatic occurring. When I was leaving work, I noticed that the chemist wasn’t shut yet. Rushing in there, I approached the counter in order to get my prescription filled.

“I’d just like to fill a script, I’ve got it here.”

The pharmacist took the script and filled it, getting that errand ticked off the list. Once I arrived home, I got into the shower, to wash off the long day. Thinking of the environment, I tried to keep it brief, switching off the water and stepping out. I dried myself off and changed into pyjamas. Around my neck, I fastened Kakek’s cross, a necklace I’d grown fond of wearing. I walked out to the kitchen, where Mum had prepared dinner. She placed down a bowl of food on the table in front of me.

“Oh, thank you, I really appreciate this.”

“It’s no trouble, how was your day at work?”


I took my first mouthful of dinner.

“You know, I was talking to Patrick today, about his birthday.”

“When’s that?”

“End of this month,” I answered. “June twenty-fifth.”

“And is that his eighteenth?” Dad checked.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “He’s not that much younger than me.”

“I thought so, but your eighteenth’s a big deal. Is he going to have a party like you did?”

“That’s what we were talking about. He doesn’t think so.”

“That’s just not some people’s scene,” Dad noted. “I’m sure he’ll be celebrated in his own way.”

Patrick’s birthday would be the day we returned from Adelaide. I felt a little hamstrung to improve things. While I love a fuss made of me, Patrick doesn’t have to feel the same. Just as I finished eating, my phone rang.

“It’s alright, answer it. I can clean up.”

“Thank you.”

I answered the phone, wandering into my bedroom so that I could talk to Tallulah in private.

“Hey, how are you going?” I enquired, a little fearful of the answer.

“Yeah, I’m alright.”

I sat down on my bed.

“I’ve been thinking about Kyle. I’m so glad I didn’t sleep with him. I know that sounds silly.”

“It’s not silly,” I assured.

“Depending on what happens, I hope that I never have to see his face again.”

Tallulah and I eventually finished on the phone. I considered going back out to the loungeroom. Faintly I could hear the TV, so I figured Mum and Dad weren’t in bed yet. A sense of exhaustion overcame me, so I didn’t bother. I knew Tallulah’s distress was weighing me down, so I could do with the sleep. When I lay down in bed, I found myself scrolling through Instagram. Gemma had posted her latest snaps. I double-tapped the post to like it. There was no more that I could do for the day. I put down my phone and, somehow, drifted off to sleep.


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 desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.

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