I woke up, running a hand through my hair as my eyes adjusted to the light. Patrick rolled over.
“How did you sleep?”
I reached for my phone. For a bit I scrolled through Instagram, then glanced up. Maryam sauntered in from the next tent over, which she’d been sharing with Ricky. The singlet top she wore clung to her baby bump. I thought that Maryam looked radiant, even though she probably didn’t feel that way. I noticed she clutched papers in her hand.
“Are you alright?”
Maryam dropped the book against the sleeping bag. I didn’t understand what had happened.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” Maryam rubbed her belly. “Are you any good with sudokus?”
I picked up the open book and focused on the numbers.
“Yeah, I’ll give it a go.”
I needed to take my medication again, so I rummaged through my bag. First I found my phone charger, even though I wouldn’t have been able to plug it in anywhere other than in the car. I reached over to check my battery percentage. Once I took my tablet, I scanned the page, adding a 2 to one of the boxes, in pencil.
“I should have seen that.”
“It’s alright. It can be a team effort.”
I recalled doing sudokus in primary school. Maryam grimaced.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” she assured. “You get used to these things once you’re pregnant.”
Sloane entered the tent. She held Joey against her shoulder.
“What’s the matter?” Patrick asked.
I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but I didn’t say anything. If Patrick felt like he needed to explain, then that could be his responsibility.
“Oh, nothing, good morning.”
Sloane narrowed her gaze. It didn’t seem like the ideal situation, but I sensed that it would turn out fine. If baby Joey had survived a night in a tent, then we could all breathe easier. At least I felt better now I’d had my medication. Maryam rubbed her belly. Ricky slung an arm around her shoulders.
“I probably should get dressed.”
While I thought about offering to make ourselves scarce, really Maryam would need to return to her tent to fetch her clothes.
“I used to have an innie,” she explained, “but pregnancy does these things to you.”
“Tell me about it,” Sloane quipped, giving the baby to Patrick for a cuddle.
This was now a sacred thing they shared. Did I feel jealous of that? It wasn’t like I wanted to be pregnant to compensate. Patrick handed Joey back to Sloane. The drinks started to come out. This time we were sharing in hot chocolates, rather than alcohol, as we would soon need to drive home. The phone reception was patchy, which made me feel a little anxious. At least it stopped me from checking my emails for the hundredth time.
“Are you alright?” Patrick checked.
“Yeah,” I replied, then we returned our attention to the conversation.
“Well, what’s something that most people don’t know about you?”
There was potential for a serious or frivolous answer.
“I’ve still never read Harry Potter,” Maryam admitted.
“Do you reckon that you’d go and read it now?” Sloane wanted to know, while rubbing sunscreen onto her legs.
“I don’t think so. I’m a grown woman now.”
Ricky reentered the tent. Maryam breathed out, like she was discerning how to choose her words. My mind was racing, although I knew that I wouldn’t be able to speak for her. I sensed that it would have been due to her upbringing and her family’s faith. Patrick started to pack up, so I found myself sitting further forward.
“We should get home now.”
I helped to pack up the tents, ensuring that no trace of us was left behind. We got into the cars. It had been worthwhile having Sloane come on this trip, to include her in the group and take her mind off what was happening with Frank. Patrick drove. Sloane and baby Joey were strapped into the back. I took a deep breath. Driving from Cradle Mountain back to the eastern outskirts of Hobart would probably take most of what was remaining of the day. Patrick tapped his thumbs on the steering wheel to the rhythm of the music, then glanced at me.
“Are you alright, Jumilah?” he checked.
“Yeah,” I agreed, but my hands were still on the dashboard.
Patrick slowed, which I appreciated. As we continued the journey, I felt less queasy.
“Do you think that we could see a koala?” Sloane wanted to know.
“I don’t know if there are any koalas, actually.” My brow furrowed in thought. “I don’t remember seeing any in Launceston.”
Taking a deep breath, I tried to relax into our journey. I watched the bushland go by through the side mirror.
“I remember going to Sea World once when I was a kid,” Sloane mentioned, as she looked out the window and twisted her hair around her finger. “It was good, I think. We went on the monorail. I wonder if they still have that.”
“Yeah, I’m not sure,” I answered. “I think that it might have closed.”
They seemed to be less popular, inside of zoos and out. I tried to think whether I’d ever ridden on a monorail, but probably not. Having never been scared of heights, I thought it would be fun, even though I didn’t plan on installing one at Acarda Zoo.
“So, how is the zoo going?”
“Well, we’re getting ready for the inspection.”
I got out my phone to check my emails, but we didn’t have any signal at that point in the journey.
“Patrick mentioned that you’re going to have baby animals.”
“Yeah, we’re having the young siamang come across from Adelaide.”
“Yeah, especially because they’re wild born.”
“We’re really mindful of not having inbreeding,” I outlined, “but that’s easier said than done.”
“Inbreeding’s like fathers and daughters and brothers and sisters, isn’t it?”
I slightly wound down the window. While I wanted to feel a little bit of breeze on my face, I closed it again once I’d gotten the rush of cool.
“New founders are really valuable. Obviously, we don’t take animals from the wild anymore. That is a good thing for conservation, but it does make things more challenging for zoo populations.”
I realised that I was slipping into professional speak, which may have been less interesting for Sloane. Therefore, I swallowed.
“Do you feel like you need to stop?”
“Yeah, it might be worth it,” Sloane agreed. “This one would appreciate it.”
We stopped briefly in Ross to stretch our legs. Sloane wandered away to settle Joey. This left Patrick and I to chat.
“Are you going alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, honestly,” I assured him.
We eventually got back into the car, with one destination – Sorell. I had reached the point in our travels when I was eager to be home. It seemed that Sloane was keen to continue the conversation.
“So, are you going to release any animals into the jungle.”
“It would be good to be able to release tigers back into the wild,” I assured, “but there’s got to be wild to release them into. The exact same thing is true here.”
I noticed her nodding sombrely. We returned home to McDonald’s, where Mum picked me up. I bid farewell to Maryam, her baby bump definitely popping. We would be gathering again for her baby shower, next weekend. I hoped and prayed that the birth would go smoothly when the time came.
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.