I had a restless night’s sleep. When I heard the front door click shut, as Mum and Dad left for work, I stopped trying to rest. I got up, ate some cereal in front of the television, then switched it off to jump in the shower. I’m not at work, this is meant to be a restful day. After getting out of the shower, I chose the first dress in my wardrobe to wear. I’d gotten myself ready for Tallulah to arrive, then checked my watch and realised I was early, so decided to play the Indonesian Wordle. I played KONDE as the first word, which had been the answer the other day.
The N in the middle through me a little. After staring at my phone for a little while, I guessed SENJA.
Just as I got the answer, I could hear Tallulah’s car outside. Leaving the house, I made sure that the front door was locked behind me. I got into the passenger side of Tallulah’s car with a smile on my face.
“Today is going to be a good day,” I insisted.
I smiled at Tallulah as I fastened my seatbelt, while she turned around to drive into town.
“Can I ask what happened yesterday, with your grandmother’s sanctuary?”
“They called off the sting. Nanek saw a tiger with cubs. She couldn’t risk them, so they never made the call.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Tallulah responded, “but I’m glad the cubs are safe.”
I didn’t want to break down again, like I had in front of Mum.
“So, tell me everything about your new job. I never really asked you properly about it.”
While I knew I was deflecting, it felt altruistic.
“The waitressing is largely similar, but it seems like a lovely place to work.”
“I’m really glad.”
“There’s a game Saturday night, would you like to come? I would be working until about seven or eight o’clock, and then after dinner I could come and sit with you.”
“That sounds lovely, I reckon that I could come in after work.”
I smiled, feeling optimistic. We still hadn’t mentioned the reason for our outing. I wanted to leave that with Tallulah, considering how nervous she’d felt the other day, and I didn’t blame her. The pressure must have been building on her, too. Within the car I felt a little overheated. Apparently it’s going to be sunny this morning, and then maybe rain later on.
“There’s someone new at work, Mbeli, she used to work at Sandy Bay. She and her husband just bought and moved into a property east of Orielton, they’re close enough that they know about our rezoning application.”
“So what does she think about it?”
“Well, I don’t know. I didn’t ask, I didn’t want to pry.”
“Is there a reason which says that you can’t talk to her about it?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Well then, I reckon you should. You’ve got to get on the front foot.”
I burst out laughing.
“You’ve worked at the cricket café one day--.”
“Well, two days, and you’re already using cricket metaphors.”
Tallulah’s expression suddenly shifted.
“Jumilah, can you check in my bag--?”
“Sure.” I leaned over into the back to haul it onto my lap.
“I just can’t remember if I actually put in my birth certificate, I’ll need that.”
Shifting the items around, my heart started to beat faster.
“I don’t think that it’s here.”
“That’s alright, we’ll just have to drop in home and collect it.”
Tallulah turned off the highway to make a detour through Bellerive. The light towers at the oval are easily the tallest thing around. When we arrived at Tallulah’s house in Tranmere, she parked out the front. I decided to stretch my legs and get out too, so she made sure to lock the car behind us. Tallulah scurried up the front steps of the house. I lingered on the porch while she unlocked the front door.
“I thought this was where I left it.”
Tallulah reappeared, birth certificate in hand, then locked the door behind her. Once we got back in the car, she drove to the west, crossing the Derwent River via the Tasman Bridge. The waters underneath us sparkled in the sun. My smile faltered when I thought that I could see smoke in the distance.
“Do you reckon that’s a fire?”
I could hear sirens faintly, which accelerated my heartrate but still made me feel oddly calm.
“Someone else’s problem.”
Today is about Tallulah. She found somewhere to park, near the clinic.
“I feel queasy.”
“Are you ready?”
“I don’t think--.”
We got out of the car, making sure to lock it behind us. Tallulah led me over to the clinic. Thankfully, this time we’d remembered to bring her birth certificate. Tallulah took a deep breath, which served as permission for me to open the clinic door. When we entered, there were couples sitting in the waiting room. I noticed one woman, on her own, and thought about Tallulah’s own mother nineteen years ago.
“How can I help you?”
Tallulah approached the counter, while I stayed just a step behind.
“Hello, I was conceived here, and I’ve recently turned eighteen and would like to access information about my biological father.”
Tallulah offered up her birth certificate, which the receptionist accepted.
“And I’ve got my driver’s licence, too.”
Tallulah fetched it from her purse, as another woman slipped out from a side door.
“Jenny, could you please take Tallulah here through to the records room? She’s seeking the records of her biological father, she’s just turned eighteen.”
Jenny led us into the side room, and before too long she located a file, which she handed over to Tallulah.
The two of us left the clinic in a hurry. We found ourselves wandering around in the University Rose Gardens, under bright sunshine.
“My biological father’s name is James Christopher Mackenzie. He was born the twelfth of November, 1982.”
“He’s another November baby.”
“This is really lovely here.”
We walked around for a little bit longer, but Tallulah still seemed dazed.
“Let’s have some lunch,” she suddenly decided, with renewed enthusiasm.
We found a café nearby and sat down at a table outside. I scanned my eyes down the menu.
“We could walk along the beach near my place later, if you like.”
“That sounds lovely.”
“Are there any more shows planned for Bushmint Lovechild?”
I shook my head, while scooping up some of the coleslaw on my plate with my fork.
“No, I don’t think so, but Patrick’s going to get back in touch with that golf club in Launceston.”
“So he’s really thinking big.”
We ordered lunch, and we ate, both of us needing chips after the morning we’d had.
“Is it weird for you to be just sitting and eating and relaxing at a café, rather than working?”
“Maybe a little bit, but not really. Is it weird for you to do grocery shopping?”
“I don’t do it that often, but it sort of is. I always feel like I need to go quickly.”
Tallulah took a sip from her milkshake, then retrieved the documents from her bag again. She seemed to be staring at her biological father’s name. Even when the waitress came to the table to take our plates, Tallulah didn’t shift until she was gone again.
“Are you OK? What would you like to do now?”
We went and paid, then left the café. As Tallulah and I walked back to the car, I noticed dark clouds brewing in the east. After lunch, I felt exhausted, and was grateful not to be the one driving home. We headed back over the Tasman Bridge. As we crossed the Derwent River, rain started to pelt down onto Tallulah’s windscreen.
“There goes our nice beach walk,” she lamented, so instead we just headed back to her house, by which time the precipitation had set in.
After Tallulah parked in the driveway, we rushed for shelter. We stepped inside the front door, just as thunder rumbled loudly overhead. A shudder went through me, and I reached out to grip Tallulah’s arm tightly.
“Are you alright, Jumilah?”
“You’ll be alright. It’s just a thunderstorm.”
Tallulah placed her arm around my shoulders and guided me towards the lounge.
“Tell me about something.”
We sat down.
“I’m starting uni on Monday. Now, you tell me something.”
“Well, we’re still planning to have a zoo.”
I began to feel calmer, and at some stage we moved into the kitchen to make tea, then returned.
“Reuben’s been really helpful. He went to uni with Mum and Dad and he works at Melbourne Zoo now. He’s organised everything with the animals, with Nanek.”
“That’s good to have someone in the know in your corner.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“They’ve gotten me involved in the primate TAG meetings on Mondays. I enjoy it, I enjoy learning about how all the breeding programs work. Eventually I suppose they’ll tell me that I really shouldn’t be coming anymore.”
“Hopefully you’ll have your own place up and running before it comes to that.”
“I hope so. There are just so many steps. Half of them don’t even have anything to do with animals. First there’s the rezoning, then if that’s successful we need to design enclosures and get planning permission and build them. I don’t know if all of this is worth it. What I do know is, even if they catch the poachers, the animals are staying in Australia.”
“For quarantine reasons?”
“Essentially, and I know it sounds bad, but a lot of money has gone into rescuing them. They’re not going to turn around and send them back.”
“Which is a shame, but it’s how things are.”
We finished our cups of tea, and Tallulah reached for mine so that I wouldn’t rest it precariously on the arm of the lounge.
While Tallulah was taking the teacups back into the kitchen, Dad called.
“Are you at home at the moment?”
“No, I’m at Tallulah’s place.”
“When were you thinking of coming home?”
“Oh, not long.”
I didn’t mention that I’d panicked over the thunder. Even though I need to, I also need to just make the appointment.
“We can swing by and pick you up on the way through. That’ll save her the drive to Sorell and back.”
“Alright, see you soon.” We ended the call.
I walked back to Tallulah in the loungeroom.
“That was Dad, he and Mum are going to pick me up on their way home from work.”
It wasn’t long before they arrived. I bid my farewell to Tallulah, making sure that I had everything with me I’d brought, then rushed through the rain to hop into the car. Slightly to my surprise, it was the front passenger seat which was free.
“Thanks for picking me up.”
On rainy days, the lines between day and night seem to blur, and Dad’s headlights were on even though it was well before sunset. I travelled home in the front seat of my parents’ car, with Mum in the back.
“Dad, you know those irises on the kitchen bench.”
“They’re beautiful, love.”
“Yes. Patrick and I have--.”
I wasn’t sure of the right word.
“Been seeing each other.”
“I also should tell you that Patrick has a child with Sloane, at work.”
“It was a one-time thing, she’s giving the baby up for adoption.”
Dad flicked on his blinker and changed lanes.
“Did I tell you that Tallulah’s working at the café at Bellerive Oval now?”
“Yes, you did.”
I felt like I’d been caught out. When we arrived home, I was grateful that Mum tapped me on the shoulder and urged me to have a shower, while she and Dad prepared dinner. I did as I was told, having had a good day, but still felt like I was buzzing. By the time that I’d showered and gotten dressed into my pyjamas, Mum had prepared a delicious dinner. I sat down at the kitchen table, mixing my curry and rice. Even though Tallulah and I had gone out for lunch, I still ate quickly.
“Oh, tomorrow night, there’s a work dinner at the Midway Point Tavern.”
“That’s alright,” Mum replied, with a smile towards Dad. “We’ll have dinner for two in.”
After dinner, I checked my phone.
Hope you had a good day today. Would you like to go together to the work dinner tomorrow night? I could drive. P
I beamed at the text message from Patrick.
That would be great
Once I got into bed tonight, it certainly didn’t take me long to fall asleep. I could hear the rain again the roof, and couldn’t wait to dream.
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.