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They’d asked us to come in early for work this morning, so I did as I was told. My chest did feel a little tight, uncertain about what we might be about to be told, as the staff gathered in the staffroom. Had someone died? Perhaps that was an overly dramatic explanation for the gathering. I glanced around, but everyone I knew personally was accounted for, so I breathed out.

“Frank was involved in an incident at the prison. He’s been injured and he is being assessed by the prison hospital.”

Before Maryam could divulge further, Sloane broke free from the staffroom, into the rain. I decided, amidst the uncertainty, that I would follow her. I ventured out into the loading dock with an umbrella large enough for both of us. Sloane was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, knees bent, head down and hands in her lap. Gripping the railing, I carefully walked down towards her, at first keeping my distance. I took a breath and continued, sitting down next to Sloane, so that the umbrella could cover us both. Not saying anything, I waited, giving her the space. Finally, Sloane leaned against me.

“I really should have seen this coming.”

Sloane pulled back from me, looking over her shoulder and up the stairs. I heard the faint whistle of a bird, eerily breaking through the consistent drip of the rain against the umbrella.

“A nice guy like him was never going to last long in prison.”

I hadn’t entertained the possibility of Frank dying. Was that really what Sloane was so worried about? I didn’t want to make assumptions, but neither was I inclined to ask. We listened to the rain. I wanted to retreat. To leave Sloane on her own, though, would feel like surrender.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have burst out like that.”

“It’s alright.”

“I’d like to talk to Patrick.”

I didn’t flinch. Leaving the umbrella with Sloane, I returned inside. Patrick was the first to react to the creaking of the door hinges. He and Sloane were younger than the others of us who’d formed friendships while working together at Woolworths – and I had to make peace with the previous nature of their relationship.

“Does she want to speak to me?”

To me that seemed like a silly question. This, however, would have been rude to point out to Patrick. It was a difficult situation to be in.

“I think it would be for the best,” I admitted.

Patrick followed me. On the way back out, I reached for Kakek’s cross. I said a silent prayer for Sloane. Hopefully speaking with Patrick would be a help. I didn’t feel that it was appropriate for me to linger and listen into their conversation. Therefore, I returned to the staffroom, where I waited for a short time before he poked his head back in.

“Jumilah, I’m just going to take Sloane home,” Patrick murmured. “Somebody else will have to cover us at least until I can get back.”

“Yeah, of course, take as long as you need. We’ll be fine here.”

He offered me an understanding nod, blinking. Patrick slipped out the door. I swallowed hard. While I wanted to cry, too, I needed to get back to work. While passing through groceries, I found my mind wandering. I tried to finish each customer’s order with a smile as they went on their way. It was the least that I could do, from a customer service perspective, even though my mind was elsewhere. Finally, my shift came to a close. I was keen to return to the staffroom and be reunited with my phone. It gave me the chance to check whether anything had happened with my parents, or if there was any zoo updates which I needed to keep up with, but thankfully there were no problems for me to deal with. For a rare moment, I was afforded respite.

“I’m so ready to go home,” I remarked, reaching for my bag.

The back door to the staffroom opened with a click.

“Oh, Patrick.”

“You know, you didn’t have to come back here after you took Sloane home,” Lucy told him.

“It’s OK,” he assured. “I’d said that I’d work the evening shift.”


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.

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