Updated: Jun 21, 2022
When I woke up, Mum was already enjoying a cup of tea on the porch. Sunlight shone on her face. Mum smiled as I kissed her on the head.
“Good morning,” I greeted her. “I’m going with Maryam today to choose her wedding dress, she’s going to pick me up.”
I pulled over a chair and sat down next to Mum.
“That sounds lovely,” she commented, then her brow furrowed. “Isn’t she the one with a million bridesmaids?”
“Yes, she is, but she wanted some outside advice, I think.”
I leaned forward a little, not really wanting to pry.
“Well, that’s lovely,” Mum praised.
Maryam lives to the east of Sorell, so my place isn’t that far out of her way. She already had Lucy in the car when she swung by to pick me up.
“Thanks for the lift,” I said as I got into the car.
“You’re welcome,” Maryam replied, while she backed out of the driveway. “Thank you for coming.”
The road was clear, so she was able to drive off straight away. I figured that we’d be heading into the city for the bridal boutique.
“I don’t wear hijab, but my sisters do. It’s not been a calling which I’ve experienced. Now, with getting married to Ricky--.”
“It’s another barrier between you?”
Maryam turned right onto the highway.
“At the end of the day, it’s considered haram for me to marry a non-Muslim man. I would love to have a nikkah because that’s what I’ve grown up with, but I don’t think that’s going to happen, and I’ve made peace with that. We will have a beautiful inter-faith ceremony.”
In the backseat, Lucy snapped selfies.
“You will have a wonderful wedding,” I assured. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“Thank you, so am I,” Maryam agreed.
“Do you have dramas with religion in your family?”
“Not really,” I answered. “We just have dramas in my family full-stop.”
The fact that I said that out loud shocked me. I hadn’t admitted it to a friend before.
“What sort of dramas?”
I tried to laugh it off.
“We’ve all got dramas, Jumilah.”
“I’ve always seen my grandparents as these magnificent wildlife conservationists, and it turns out my murdered grandfather was so insufferable my mother moved countries to get away from him.”
“Right,” Maryam responded. “That is drama.”
“I only found this out in the last week. Turns out I’ll have quite a bit to discuss with my psychologist next time.”
“Yeah, I’ve got to say that you do.” Maryam flicked on her blinker. “Where’s your psych?”
“I see Jenine Donohoo at the medical centre.”
“Is she good?”
“Yeah, I think she’s been alright. It’s a new thing, but a necessary thing.”
We arrived in the city and found a parking spot.
“I just wanted to check, who from work is invited to the wedding?”
“The Bushmint Lovechild guys, you, Sloane--.”
“And me,” Lucy confirmed.
We got out of the car, which Maryam walked behind us. Once we ambled down the street, we approached the bridal boutique, with strappy dresses in the windows. Lucy opened the door, holding it ajar so that the bevy of women could enter. I thanked her. A shop attendant approached Maryam. I knew that I needed to stay in the background. The bridal boutique was filled with bright white light, lace and tulle and satin and sparkles and beads.
“What are you looking for from your gown?”
“Well, I would prefer floor-length and long sleeves. I would like to make sure that the neckline is high enough.” Maryam gestured, but there was little feeling in her words. “A lightweight fabric would be great.”
“I’m sure we can work with that.”
The shop attendant scampered off to find dresses off the racks.
“Are we allowed to help?” Lucy wanted to know.
“Of course, just only pick a handful each.”
The rest of the bridesmaids arrived, including Maryam and Ricky’s sisters.
“Would any of you ladies like a glass of wine?”
Maryam death-stared towards her and indicated a firm no.
The shop attendant’s smile barely skipped a beat. As she started to collect dresses, the bridesmaids dispersed, making their own selections. I lingered.
“Have you not been struck with inspiration yet?” Lucy asked.
“I just don’t think it’s my place.”
“Maryam invited you along. I think that means you’re allowed to have some fun.”
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know why Maryam had invited me. I supposed it was out of the goodness of her heart.
“Maryam, you need to try on this one,” Brooke insisted.
She handed over a dress to the bride. Hawa, the shop assistant and Maryam herself pulled other gowns. As she took all of them into the fitting rooms, we took a moment to sit down. Maryam walked out in the first dress. I gasped softly, for she was a vision in a pure white tulle gown with capped sleeves, and beads on the bodice.
“Sis, that’s not your gown,” Hawa insisted, so the bride trudged back to try on the next.
While Maryam was in the fitting rooms, another shop assistant supplied us with glasses of water, which was gratefully received. I took a sip of my beverage, just as she stepped out in satin, an A-line gown with long sleeves.
“You look beautiful, Maryam,” Hawa gushed. “I don’t think you have to keep looking.”
She through back her glass of water with a vigour which made me grateful she doesn’t drink alcohol.
“You look stunning, Maryam,” Brooke qualified, “but you can’t buy the second one you try on. You’re allowed to have fun today.”
Therefore, Maryam returned to the dressing rooms.
“What more could she want?” Hawa complained.
“Hawa, Maryam’s the bride,” Amzura reminded. “It’s her decision.”
“Maryam makes decisions quickly,” Hawa remarked.
Maryam walked out in a gown with a gorgeous, long train, and covered buttons down her back. The entire dress was shrouded in thick lace.
“I love the train,” Hazel insisted, “but I can see it in your face. I don’t think it’s your dress. It’s up to you, though, it’s up to you.”
“It just feels a little bit--.”
Maryam bunched up the fabric of the skirt in her hands, then dropped it again.
“Yeah, I can see why you’d feel that way,” Brooke affirmed.
With that, Maryam waddled back to the dressing rooms.
“Hawa, if she wants to wear a revealing dress, she should wear a revealing dress,” Amzura insisted. “It doesn’t matter what we think.”
They were hushed by Maryam walking out of the dressing rooms, beaming and radiant.
“I think this is my wedding dress.”
“At least try on the second one again, before you make the decision,” Hawa advised.
“I really love this one.”
With that, Maryam got the gown over the line, allowing her to pay and us to leave. I knew that Tallulah would have been at work. Tasmania were playing in a qualifying one-day final and I found myself checking the score on my phone. Maryam and I arrived at work together as a matter of fact, to both work the close. We were laughing our heads off as we slipped through the back door into the staffroom. All of a sudden, there was an almighty thud. Maryam gripped my hand. I tried to breathe deeply, to ride through the feelings of shock and panic. The door opened and Frank kicked a cardboard box into the staffroom.
“That’s why I’m seeing a psychologist,” I murmured, “because that’s what happens to me.”
“Are you sure that you’re alright to work?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I assured. “I’ll be alright.”
I spoke in future tense. Taking shallow breath after breath, I made it through. This is what Kakek would have wanted for me. We scurried through the doorway. I don’t think I took a deep enough breath again until I reached the checkouts. When the first customer arrived, I offered them a warm smile. I wasn’t particularly in the mood for conversation, but I could at least be pleasant. Eventually, Frank called out to me, from the express checkout.
“Jumilah, could you please work on the customer service desk?”
I hadn’t noticed it was vacant. Nodding my head, I finished serving the customer I was up to, then closed my checkout. I scampered over to the service desk. All I needed to do was stand behind it, process the odd refund, and sell the odd packet of cigarettes, something I’m still not quite used to doing. I timed my arrival in the staffroom perfectly for the arrival of dinner, just as plates were being passed around. They weren’t the ideal vessel for curry and dosas, but we’d make do. Some bottles of ginger beer had been on quick sale, so we were really living in luxury. Maryam marched in and grabbed one, then removed the cap.
“Do you think that I’m becoming a bridezilla?”
“No, of course not.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Maryam apologised to Sloane, who was sitting at the table minding her own business.
“It’s OK. Totally, it’s fine. Keep going, keep talking. Just because I’m barefoot and pregnant, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear about your wedding.”
“Good, thank you, because I need to talk about it.”
Maryam paced around the staffroom.
“I have a wedding dress. That’s good.”
“Yes, it is good,” I confirmed. “That’s very good. It’s progress. You’re a wonderful bride.”
“Alright, I think we should all get back to work,” Frank insisted, reading a newspaper at the table.
I found myself agreeing with him, departing the staffroom with the others. The rest of my shift was relatively uneventful. At the end of the night, my feet felt sore as I closed my checkout. I made sure that the cash was moved to the safe, then I walked to the staffroom. Eager to get back home, I flung my bag over my shoulder and went to exit. Out on the landing, I happened upon Sloane, sitting there.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” Sloane answered, although she sounded unconvinced. “I’d love a drink of water, though.”
“Coming right up.”
Slipping back into the staffroom, I acted as requested, then returned. I sat down next to Sloane, on the top step. We were underneath a clear and starry sky. I handed over to Sloane a glass of water.
“Thanks,” she replied, then took a sip. “I need this.”
Sloane breathed out, shakily.
“Maryam’s not pregnant, I’d know if she was.”
“Alright,” I replied, because I hadn’t asked anything which that could have been the answer to.
“I mean, nobody’s saying it but I bet that everyone’s thinking it, when you think that they’re getting married so quickly.”
My phone beeped, a message from Mum to say she’d arrived.
“Is that your lift?”
“Yeah, yeah, it is.”
“You can go home now if you want.”
“Are you sure you’ll be alright?”
“Yeah, of course, I’ll be fine. I’ll finish my water, then I’ll go home. Thanks, Jumilah.”
I bid Sloane farewell, then I departed with my bag to go home for the night. I got into Mum’s car.
“Thanks for coming to get me,” I said as I fastened my seatbelt. “I’ve had a good day, but I’m really, really tired now.”
“Fair enough,” Mum replied. “Did Maryam find a dress?”
“Yes, yes, she did, which is good.”
We arrived back home. Mum made cups of tea, chamomile to be calming. We sat on the lounge together while we drank them.
“Can I take yours?” Mum queried once I’d taken my final sip.
“Thank you.” I handed over the mug. “Goodnight.”
“Sweet dreams, Jumilah.”
I got into bed and soon after, fell asleep.
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.