Updated: Mar 20, 2022
This morning when I woke up, I could hear faint pattering around in the kitchen. I got out of bed and slipped my dressing gown over my pyjamas. Uwak pottered around, making himself a cup of coffee.
“Would you like one too?” he offered.
“Sure, yes, please.”
Uwak nodded and retrieved another mug from the cupboard.
“Nanek knows that you’re here, doesn’t she?”
“Of course, she does.”
Uwak finished making coffee.
“Would you like to go out into the sunshine to drink?”
“Yeah, that sounds lovely.”
I accepted my mug from Uwak Andrew. He followed me through the house, from the kitchen then across the loungeroom. I opened the back door, poking my toes out onto the porch. Considering that it’s almost the end of summer, I wouldn’t have expected it to be this hot still. I took a sip from the coffee which Uwak had made for me, which tasted delicious.
“Let’s sit down,” I urged, and we pulled up our chairs.
“I’ve spent years and years and years pretending.”
“I’m so sorry. I know that we’ve been separated by distance, but I do want to get to know you better, particularly if you’re going to move permanently to live in Hobart.”
“That’s what I’d like to do, but--.”
“You’re worried about Nanek?”
Uwak sighed heavily, then sipped his coffee.
“You’ve got a boyfriend too, or so I’ve heard.”
“I do,” I confirmed with a modest nod. “Patrick’s one of the guys I work with. He’s lovely.”
“How long has that been going on for?”
“Only a couple of weeks.”
“But you can’t stop smiling.”
“Well, he’s nice, it’s nice to have a boyfriend, it makes me feel grownup and special, I guess.”
“Speaking of.” I answered the call from Patrick. “Hey. What’s up?”
“Would you be able to cover my shift tonight, please? Sloane’s able to come home from the hospital.”
“Yes, sure, I can do that. Are you picking Sloane up?”
“Yeah, and taking her back to Frank’s house, which is like giving her over to the devil.”
“I know he’s hard to work with, but--.”
“I’ve got to work with him, because I need to have this job.”
“That’s fair enough. I’m so sorry, Patrick. It’s a really tricky situation. What would you like to happen, at the end of the day?”
“I’d like for Sloane to come and live with Mum and I. She’s happy to have her in the house, but Sloane, she says that she wants to stay with Frank and his family. She has been babysitting the kids apparently.”
“He has, like, five kids, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah, six, apparently. I know that she has a good heart.”
“What I’ve just found out is the reason why she wants to live with them is because they’ve agreed to adopt the baby. She wants him to have my baby.”
The frustration which Patrick’s voice was laced with broke my heart, in more ways than one.
“I’m sorry, Jumilah, I shouldn’t be bothering you with this. It’ll be fine.”
“It’s alright, Patrick. You can talk about it whenever you need to.”
“Thanks, Jumilah. Listen, I’m sorry, though, I’ve got to go. Mum said that I had to go to school today and it’s almost the end of recess. I’ll talk to you later.”
We ended the call.
“Are you alright, Jumilah?” Uwak Andrew checked, when I returned to him.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Kind of. The macaques are arriving in Launceston today. I wish that I could be there--.”
“Why aren’t you?”
I glanced sideways at Uwak Andrew, because it felt like an accusation.
“Well, I’m working now.”
“But you weren’t working before.”
Tallulah would have been at uni. I sent her a text, rather than calling her.
Hope you’re having a good day xx
I fretted about when, or whether, Tallulah would have the chance to respond. She’d answer me in her own time. In the meantime, I needed to get ready – have a shower, get changed and pack my bag. I did just that, then sat down on my bed. Once I brushed my hair, I walked back out to the kitchen. By that time Mum and Dad had returned home from work, so the car was available for me to leave. It was lovely to have Uwak Andrew there to drop me off to work, and generally having him around. Back when I was at school, I used to occasionally work the late shift. I don’t know how people do this regularly, especially after a long day at school. When I arrived in the staffroom, there was still a crossover of people, between the day shift and those who had just arrived, and Ricky seemed nervous.
“Just while you’re here, or most of you are here, we have an announcement to make.”
Ricky slung his arm around Maryam’s shoulders with pride.
“We’re getting married!” she gushed, flashing her left hand bearing her ruby ring.
“Oh my goodness,” Caleb responded. “Congratulations.”
“I mean, we’d say that we had no idea, but--,” Lucy chimed in.
She would have known, even without having to surmise.
“Have you set a date yet?” Chris wanted to know, before chucking a handful of Maltesers into his mouth.
“Yes, we have,” Maryam confirmed with a nod of her head. “We’re getting married on March 26.”
“That’s, uh, soon,” Chris responded.
“Well, congratulations. We’re all very happy for you.”
Ricky departed, but Maryam was working a double shift, to make some extra cash before the wedding.
“I’m thinking that Ricky and I should get a pet when we move in together. What sort of pet should we get?”
“How do you feel about Giant Burrowing Cockroaches?”
“Well, I’m certainly not opposed to them. They seem kind of cool.”
“That’s settled then. Giant Burrowing Cockroach it is.”
“I’ll have to figure a few things out first, but I’m sure that I can get Ricky over the line.”
“You could just get a dog.”
“We could, we could, Chris.”
I pinned my nametag onto my shirt.
“But we all have work to do in the meantime.”
We filed out of the staffroom. I got to work at the checkout closest to the customer service desk. I’ve never worked there, because that’s where they sell the cigarettes from, so you’ve got to be eighteen. Kevin worked the service desk for the close this afternoon and evening. As I served customers on the checkout, I thought about Uwak Andrew and his partner, and Sloane and her baby. She’s decided that Frank and Mary will adopt the baby. That’s all too complicated. I decided to distract myself with thoughts of Ricky and Maryam’s wedding instead. I was grateful when I returned to the staffroom for my break, that there were open pizza boxes on the table. Maryam stood at the sink, removing her engagement ring to wash her hands.
“I need a distraction from wedding stuff, literally any distraction. What’s happening in your world, Jumilah?”
Maryam slipped her ring back on and sat down.
“My uncle’s come to visit, my mum’s oldest brother.”
“Have you got a big family?”
“I do, but they’re mostly in Indonesia. There’s Andrew, he’s the oldest.”
“And he’s the one who has lobbed on your doorstep.”
“Yeah. Then Mum’s second, then two brothers and then two sisters.”
“So six kids altogether?”
“So how long is your uncle staying for?”
“Well, we don’t really know, we didn’t know that he was coming in the first place. Turns out that he’s gay and he wants to move to Hobart with his partner.”
“Did your family know about your uncle’s sexuality?”
“Well, I certainly didn’t until yesterday. If anyone did know, they definitely didn’t talk about it. No wonder Andrew turned down all the women Nanek used to throw at him.”
“Do you know how Sloane is going?”
“Yeah, she’s coming home from hospital today. She’s fine, the baby’s fine.”
“That’s good. Do they know what caused her to faint?”
“I think that she was just dehydrated. She’s got to have injections to help the baby.”
“Oh, like steroid shots for the baby’s lungs? That sounds like it’s pretty serious.”
“Yeah, no, it’s not like that. It’s something about the baby’s blood type.”
Frank walked out of his office, slamming the door shut behind him. I startled and, for a moment, I thought that I was going to hit the floor again, but I managed to breathe deeply and calm myself down. A slice of thin crust vegetarian assisted me just a little, in feeling ever so slightly more relaxed.
“I really wish he’d stop doing that,” I muttered.
Lucy came into the staffroom, posting a flyer on the noticeboard.
“Do you reckon that Frank would object to this?” she asked.
Lucy sat down and took a slice of pepperoni pizza.
“Well, it is an advertisement for another job.”
“It’s not a job, it’s a volunteer role. On the weekends when I’m not working, I clean up on Seven Mile Beach.”
“That’s where Luke lives, my cousin.”
“Oh, cool, you can pass the details onto him.”
“I will. Thanks, Lucy.”
Lucy finished her slice of pizza and then got back to work. I indulged in another piece of thin crust vegetarian, before doing the same. The checkouts feel lonelier when Patrick’s not there. By the time I checked my watch, it was just about to tick over to closing time. Once the customers were gone, I went through the motions of a close – a little rusty, but managed to get through, ensuring the cash was secured. Today’s Tuesday, and I know that the van from the bank comes on Wednesday morning. Customers distracted me from that train of thought, and I remained busy until the end of the shift. Maryam was packing up when I popped into the staffroom to grab my bag.
“Goodnight,” I farewelled, opening the back door.
“See you later.”
Dad picked me up from work, even though I’d been expecting Mum.
“Your mother is talking to Andrew. They’re sorting out what’s going to happen next. Andrew is pretty determined that he wants to stay here, to live in Australia.”
“Do you think that he’s going to be able to stay?”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, Jumilah. I’ve never been good at knowing these things.”
“Do you want Andrew to stay?”
“He’s your mother’s brother, I certainly wouldn’t object to having him around.”
Dad took a breath in thought.
“Listen, have you had any dinner?”
“Yeah, we ordered pizza to work. Maybe doing the close isn’t that bad after all.”
“Nice.” Dad flicked on his blinker and turned into our road. “Listen, I saw something today about jobs working on the election. Is that something you would be interested in?”
“Yeah, maybe,” I agreed, although I felt too tired to commit.
We arrived home and I went straight to bed. I texted Patrick, saying I hoped all was well. While I could have stayed awake for his reply, not long after my head hit the pillow, I must have fallen 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.