Engagement

Updated: Mar 23

“Would you like me to drive you to your appointment?”


“Thanks, Mum. It’s alright though, I can ride my bike. I wouldn’t expect you to miss work.”


Mum kissed me on the cheek.


“I love you,” she promised.


As Mum and Dad left for work, I rode down to the doctor’s surgery. I chained my bike up, then checked in at the counter and sat down for a moment in the waiting room.


“Jumilah Fioray.”


I rose to my feet and walked over, slipping through the doorway.


“Hello, Jumilah, how can I help you today?”


“I would like to be able to see a psychologist, because I’ve been having panic attacks.”


“Alright.”


The doctor brought up a form on her computer.


“I’m going to go through a checklist with you called the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Score. Is that alright with you?”


“Yes,” I agreed, with a nod of my head.


“I’m going to read out a statement.”


I nodded.


“You’ll have to tell me whether it’s true for you all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, a little of the time or none of the time.”


“Alright.”


“About how often do you feel tired for no good reason?”


“Some of the time.”


“About how often do you feel nervous?”


“Most of the time.”


“About how often do you feel so nervous that nothing could calm you down?”


“Some of the time.”


“About how often do you feel hopeless?”


“A little of the time.”


“About how often did you feel restless or fidgety?”


“Some of the time.”


“About how often did you feel so restless that you could not sit still?”


“A little of the time.”


About how often did you feel depressed?”


“A little of the time.”


“About how often do you feel that everything is an effort?”


“Some of the time.”


“About how often do you feel so sad that nothing could cheer you up?”


“A little of the time.”


“About how often do you feel worthless?”


“A little of the time.”


I breathed out.


“Well, your score’s twenty-one.”


“Is that good?”


“It’s actually only just above normal.”


“But I--.”


“I notice that you feel quite nervous, and you’ve reported panic attacks.”


“When I hear a loud noise, I just--.” Maybe I’d answered the questions too leniently. “My grandfather was murdered.”


“From this, we’re able to draw up a Mental Health Plan and I can refer you for six sessions with a psychologist. These will be subsidised by Medicare. We have a psychologist here on site, but I’ll give you some other contact details as well, in case you need them.”


The doctor printed off all the information to send me on my way. Once I left the clinic, I checked my phone and noticed a missed call from Tallulah, so I returned the call.


“Hey, sorry that I missed your call, I was just in my doctor’s appointment,” I noted when she picked up.


“I’m really proud of you for going.”


“Thank you.”


“Listen, how are you getting home?”


“I rode my bike.”


“I’ll come and pick you up. I’d like to spend some time together, to look for my biological father.”


While I was waiting for Tallulah to arrive, Patrick called.


“Hey. Is everything alright?”


“Yeah, I have a free period. I just thought I’d call you. Everything’s fine with Sloane. She’s all settled in. She’ll be back at school tomorrow. Hopefully she’ll be back at work on the weekend."


“Patrick, I’ve got to ask you, do you still have feelings for her?”


“Jumilah, being with Sloane is not an option.”


“Are you sure?”


My heart was beating faster and I couldn’t help but feel insecure.


“Yes, Jumilah, I’m sure. Are you going OK? I’m really sorry if I upset you.”


“Yeah, I’m fine. I’ve just finished at the doctor.”


“Like, a counsellor?”


“No, but I’ve got the referral now.”


“That’s good.”


“Look, I’ve got a question for you. What do you want to do when you finish school?”


“I’m sorry, I’ve got to go. The bell just went.”


We ended the call. I noticed Tallulah’s car approaching. When she pulled up, I got into the passenger seat, fastening my seatbelt as she drove away.


“I did some digging on Facebook about my biological father.”


“And?”


“His name is quite common. I don’t think I found the actual guy.”


“Well, I’m sorry to hear that.”


“I must apologise, I am coopting your research skills.”


“I’ve got research skills?”


“Well, two lots of research skills are better than one, I’m supposing.”


Tallulah turned onto the highway.


“How did your appointment go?”


“Good, I’ve got a referral for the psychologist and there’s one just there at the medical centre who hopefully I’ll be able to see.”


“I’m really pleased to hear.”


“I didn’t get the appointment when I was there, though, I probably should ring up.”


“You can have some privacy when you get to my place, if you like.”


“Actually, if you don’t mind, I’m happy to just call now.”


“Yeah, that’s fine.”


I called the doctor’s surgery back.


“Hello,” I greeted the receptionist. “Sorry, I’m Jumilah Fioray.”


“You were just here, weren’t you? Did you leave something behind?”


“No, not as far as I’m aware. I have a mental health plan, I would like to make a psych appointment.”


“Alright, I have Thursday the tenth at 9am, would you like that?”


“Yes, that would be great, thank you.”


I confirmed my particulars, and the appointment was booked.


“I’m really pleased that you’re doing this, Jumilah. I hope that it’ll be good for you.”


We arrived back at Tallulah’s place and went inside.


“Would you like a cup of tea?”


“Yes, I would love one, but we do have a job to do.”


“I think that I would feel better doing that with a cup of tea.”


Tallulah made cups of tea for us both. We sat down at the computer to research her biological father. Tallulah searched ‘James Mackenzie’ on Facebook. This illustrated her point, that there are far too many of them. We needed to find a way in which to whittle down these people to potentially locate the one, or at least a smaller pool.


“Maybe he doesn’t go by James. There are plenty of other names – Jim, Jimmy, Jamie.”


Tallulah stabbed at her keyboard, typing ‘Jamie Mackenzie’ into Facebook. A profile came up – a man with curls, who looked to be around forty years old. When Tallulah clicked on his name, his birthdate popped up – matching her biological father’s.


“So, he lives in Melbourne.” Tallulah sat back in her chair. “My biological father lives in Melbourne now.”


“And he has a little girl. You have a sister.”


“I probably have a sister,” Tallulah qualified, her voice thin.


“She certainly looks like him,” I noted, “and she really looks like you, too.”


I leaned closer.


“You could send him a message, if you’d like,” I suggested. “All you’d have to say is, I’m Tallulah, I’m your daughter.”


Indeed, she sent that message.


“What am I going to do now?”


I wasn’t entirely sure whether Tallulah was actually seeking an answer.


“I’d like to go to Melbourne, and meet him, if I can. Would you come with me?”


“If you’d like me to.”


“I would like you to, please.”


“Alright, we can make that work.”


I did have ulterior motives for wanting to go to Melbourne, too, although I couldn’t tell if Tallulah was in the headspace to realise that.


“What does it feel like to have a sister?”


“Well, I maybe have a sister.”


A message popped up on the screen.


Hi Tallulah. I’m Jamie. You look so much like Eliza. She’s my daughter, she’s five.


“I have a sister,” Tallulah murmured, and I thought that she might have been about to cry.


We decided that I would head home, to give her space to clear her head before her mother gets home. I hope that she’s going to tell her everything, although it’s not my place to demand that of her, because we all carry secrets. Looking out the window, I could see clouds brewing over the river, not that it would bother us. I was on my way back home with Tallulah when Maryam called.


“Please don’t tell me you’re going to ask me to work,” I greeted her. “Not that I don’t like work, but--.”


“I get your point.”


“Thank you.”


“We’re having engagement drinks at the Midway Point Tavern tonight. You’re welcome to come, we announced to some people at work today and we’ll tell the others tonight. Can you make sure that Patrick and Sloane come?”


“Yeah, of course, not that I’m in charge of them.”


“You’re dating Patrick, aren’t you, and Sloane is gestating for Patrick.”


I couldn’t help but laugh.


“Well, both of those things are correct. I did want to ask you something, though.”


My heart started beating even faster.


“Yeah, sure, anything.”


“When was Bonnie’s farewell party?”


“It was the end of November, I think.”


“I thought so.”


My phone started buzzing.


“Sorry, that’s Patrick, I’ll call you back.”


“No need, see you tonight.”


“Bye.”


I ended one call and answered the other.


“Hey, how’s things going?”


“I never answered your question this morning.”


“That’s OK. We can talk about it tonight. Maryam’s invited the three of us to her and Ricky’s engagement drinks at the tavern. As in, you and me and Sloane.”


“Cool. I can come and pick you up, if you’d like.”


“That would be great. Best boyfriend ever.”


“Well, I try my best. Boyfriend, hey?”


“Do you like it?”


“It’s certainly got a good ring to it.”


“I think so too.”


We ended the call.


“Have you ever wanted siblings?" Tallulah asked me.


“I did when I was little, I really did. Eventually, I guess, I accepted it. How about you?”


“I always knew Mum would be one and done, because of our story.”


Tallulah pulled into the driveway.


“I’m sorry that we didn’t really get to talk much on the way back.”


“That’s alright. You were on the phone with your boyfriend.”


I knew that I was blushing.


“Well, today’s been a big day. I hope that you can take good care of yourself.”


“I’ll be fine,” Tallulah promised. “I’ll drive carefully and I’ll make sure to tell Mum everything when she gets home.”


I got out of the car. When I entered the house, Uwak Andrew was sitting at the kitchen table, thumbing through the newspaper.


“Hello,” I greeted him. “Look, there’s something I want to mention.”


I wasn’t sure what possessed me, as I sat down at the table.


“Patrick, my boyfriend, his, um, last partner is pregnant, but she’s giving the baby up for adoption to our boss and his wife, who already have six kids.”


“Have they never heard of contraception?”


“I think that they’re Catholic.”


“Right. Well, I suppose that we are too, technically.”


“Technically,” I agreed.


I took a breath in thought.


“Well, I reckon I’m going to go and have a shower. Make myself pretty before going out.”


I departed to do just that, dressing myself in a snazzy black dress. Picking out two pairs of earrings, I couldn’t choose between them. I tried both of them, but still unsatisfied, I waltzed out to the loungeroom and asked for Uwak Andrew’s feedback. He gave a laugh.


“Just because I’m gay do you think it means that I know about earrings?”


I pulled a face.


“The pink sparkly ones,” Uwak Andrew concluded. “I like the pop of colour.”


“Thank you. I knew that you’d know.”


I slotted the chosen earrings through my lobes. Mum and Dad had arrived home from work. I walked out to the kitchen to help Mum unpack the dishwasher.


“Maryam and Ricky are having engagement drinks at the Midway Point Tavern tonight. Patrick’s going to pick me up and take me, if that’s fine with you.”


“That’s alright,” Mum assured me. “Your uncle and your father and I have plenty to talk about anyway.”


“It would be lovely for Uwak to move to Australia,” I noted. “Being able to spend more time with him and getting to know him more, I think that I would really, really appreciate that.”


Mum closed the dishwasher.


“How was your doctor’s appointment this morning?”


“Yeah, it went well, apparently I’m almost normal.”


“Almost?”


“Well, my mental health score wasn’t that bad, but I do have a psychologist appointment.”


It was raining heavily when Patrick’s car pulled into the driveway. Sloane was already sitting in the passenger seat, so I slipped into the back.


“Thanks for coming to get me.”


“No problem.”


Even in the inclement weather, it was still only about a ten-minute drive. Patrick, Sloane and I arrived at the tavern. My heart was beating a little fast, desperately hoping this occasion would run more smoothly than the last time we’d been. I found the table where the others were sitting and slipped my jacket over the back of a chair to reserve my seat.


“Maryam’s taking out bride stress on that dartboard,” Ricky pointed out.


“And how’s your groom stress going?”


“Alright. I suppose that it will all hit me eventually, but I think that I’m just in the honeymoon phase for now.”


“I’m going to go and say hello to your bride.”


I approached Maryam before the dartboard, a viewer rather than a participant of the throwing-pointy-things game.


“How is your wedding planning going?”


“I never knew how many things there were to do.”


“What have you achieved so far?”


“Well, I’ve chosen my bridal party.”


“May I ask who you’ve chosen?”


“I’m having Hawa, my older sister, as a Matron of Honour, if she’ll say yes.” Maryam chucked a dart at the dartboard.


Despite the tension she was experiencing, she still had pretty good aim.


“Amzura, my brother’s wife, we’re actually really good friends.”


Maryam threw another dart, which landed on the bullseye.


“Well done.”


“Thank you. I have five more sisters, and I would like to have all of them as bridesmaids, to smooth things over."


"So that’s seven bridesmaids so far.”


“Yeah, and then Ricky’s got four sisters – Willow, Hazel, Brooke and Lily.”


“So that’s eleven?”


“Yes, and then I couldn’t not have Lucy, so that’s twelve all up. My hens is definitely getting organised.”


“Yes, it certainly is.”


“I’m thinking red for the bridesmaids.”


“Nice.”


“Although I have no idea how I’m going to get that many people organised.”


Maryam threw her final dart.


“We’re going tomorrow to sort out all the paperwork, so that legally, everything will be formalised. In order to get married on the twenty-sixth it needs to be done tomorrow.”


Maryam approached the dartboard. She plucked the darts from the board, a job well done. When I returned to the table, Mbeli and her husband had arrived.


“Everyone, this is Elton. Elton, this is everyone – Ricky and Patrick and Jumilah and Sloane and Caleb and Chris.”


Mbeli gestured towards Maryam.


“And this is Maryam, our blushing, bride-to-be.”


“Or at the very least our very wired bride-to-be.”


I got a little distracted by my phone, while those who could went to the bar. Ricky bought me a lemonade, foregoing the plastic straw.


“Thank you.”


I fetched a five-dollar note from my purse.


“Thanks,” Ricky said as I handed it over to him.


Patrick dropped into the chair beside me.


“I’ve spoken with the golf club in Launceston. They’re interested in having Bushmint Lovechild perform again.”


“Nice,” Ricky chimed in.


“We haven’t discussed dates yet, but we’ll make sure to accommodate the wedding weekend.”


“You’d better, we want Bushmint Lovechild to perform. Sure, you might have to do without your bass guitarist for some of it, but--.”


“Mate, we would be honoured, that would be great, thank you.”


“It’s my pleasure to ask. Besides, it’s great to have another wedding decision made.”


“Count us in.”


Patrick and Ricky shook hands across the table.


“You’ll be fantastic,” I praised, knowing that I must have been giving him dreamy eyes.


Somebody must have ordered pizzas for the table.


“I thought you said this was pesto pizza,” Sloane remarked.


“It is,” I confirmed, after taking a bite. “It’s pesto pizza with the pesto on the inside of the pizza, under the cheese.”


“That’s genius.”


We sat around the table for a while as everyone ate, before dispersing again.


“That was lovely pizza, thank you. Let me know how much money you’d like for it.”


“Thank you, but it’s our treat. We appreciate you coming and celebrating with us.”


“Thank you. Well, thanks for getting married, I guess.”


I kept an eye on Sloane, who’d made her way over to the dartboard. Maryam was teaching her how to throw straight.


“Listen, are you alright about what’s happening with Sloane?”


“What, that you drive her places?”


“Yeah, that, and just in general. Sloane’s living with Frank and Mary and they’re adopting the baby.”


“Patrick, it doesn’t matter what I think.”


My phone beeped again within my bag.


“Did I tell you that I’ve decided that I would like to do the wildlife course?”


“Really?”


Patrick cleared his throat, then swallowed hard.


“Yes.”


Patrick seemed to go quiet, looking across the tavern at Sloane, who’d finally landed a dart.


“I wouldn’t necessarily have to go away, and if I did for a little while, I’d come back.”


“Could you do it in Launceston?”


“Possibly. I need to actually look it up.”


“You’ve got your phone with you, don’t you?”


Patrick took one of the last two slices of pizza off the serving board.


“Yeah.”


“Well, get it out and look up that course you want to do.”


I retrieved my phone just as everyone gathered around.


“We’re here today for the nuptials of Maryam and Ricky,” Caleb declared.


“Well, not that quickly,” Ricky chided.


Caleb winked.


“Speak for yourself,” he retorted. “While the speed of this decision and the impending nuptials might have caught some of us off-guard, we’re really very happy for you both. To Maryam and Ricky!”


We charged our glasses.


“To Maryam and Ricky!”


I took a celebratory sip from my lemonade. After the toast, the bartender was starting to passive-aggressively spin a tea-towel in his hands, so we collected up our things and decided that it would be best to head off home. We filed towards the door as a group, waving our thanks to the staff on the way out.


“Also, I hate to say this, but I would prefer if we didn’t mention tonight at work,” Maryam noted.


“Obviously, I didn’t invite Frank and Kevin.”


“Well, sorry, I must be the tattletale.” Sloane raised her hand. “I’m living with Frank at the moment. He and his wife, Mary, have been very kind to me after what happened with my family.”


I noticed Patrick’s arm creep around her.


“I’ve got to say that I told them where I was going, so that they would know where I am.”


“Look, that’s fair enough, Sloane, thanks for being honest.”


We bid our farewells and got back into the cars. Following the fading signs, we all did our best to drive away as quietly as possible. Sometimes that’s a little bit hard with Patrick’s car, there’s a bit of an annoying rattling sound at the back which should have worried me more than it did.


“Patrick,” I spoke up. “What’s that rattling noise?”


“Oh, that’s just the thing you put up for shade on your windscreen. If you move it then it won’t rattle, but I’ve just grown to ignore it by now.”


I twisted around to pull the shade down and stow it at my feet.


“That’s better,” I remarked – or at least I hoped it would be true.


“Performing at the wedding, hey? That’s big shoes to fill,” Sloane remarked.


“You know, Ricky hadn’t mentioned that before tonight.”


“I’m sure that you’ll be superb. You were wonderful at the wedding in Launceston.”


“Do you know what you’ll be performing?”


“No idea.”


Patrick flicked on his blinker.


“I rather that Maryam and Ricky will tell us what they’d like.”


“That’s a solid plan,” Sloane responded. “Is anyone doing anything other than work on the weekend?”


“I’m doing a wildlife carer course on Saturday.”


“Nice. Did you figure it out already?”


“No, it’s the one which will let me care for injured or orphaned wildlife. I still haven’t looked it up.”


Surely I couldn’t put it off for much longer. I retrieved my phone from my bag and searched for the name of the course that Mum and Reuben had told me. Sure enough, the first result which popped up was a student handbook. I opened the PDF, with a photograph of meerkats on the cover. My heartbeat accelerated as I confirmed that the course could be done via correspondence, but there did need to be four weeks of practical experience.


“Which can be completed at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Melbourne Zoo, or Perth Zoo.”


“And that’s where you can do the course.”


“Yeah, well, I can do it by correspondence, which is good, but then I’ll have to go to one of those places for four weeks of practical experience, to complete the course.”


“Well, you’ve got friends, don’t you?”


“Yeah, I know Sam at Taronga, and Mum and Dad’s friend Reuben in Melbourne, and he’s put me in touch with some keepers in Perth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”


This is something I can’t help but do, talk down the chances of success. I couldn’t help but skip through to the end, where the handbook addressed fees. There would be no point in getting my hopes up unnecessarily. Sums ran through my head to try and see whether the course would be affordable to complete.


“I miss school sometimes, but not that much. There’s plenty else out there in the world.”


“Lucky, I have an extra year before I have to worry about that.”


Patrick dropped me off, then he was going to take Sloane home to Frank and Mary’s property.


“Thanks for the lift.”


I didn’t kiss him goodbye. As I went inside, Patrick and Sloane drove away. I went inside to find Mum, Dad and Uwak Andrew still sitting on the lounge, watching TV.


“Hey, how was your night?” Mum greeted me.


“It was really lovely.”


“That’s good.”


“I’m just going to go and jump in the shower, then we can have a proper chat once I’ve changed into my jammies.”


“Just make sure that you get yourself a fresh towel.”


“Of course.”


I passed by the linen cupboard on the way to the bathroom. Fetching a towel, I had a quick shower. When I returned to my bedroom, I got dressed and checked my phone, noticing a few messages. David texted me photos of the macaque troop, settling into their new exhibit. The tarsiers, too, have arrived safely in Sydney, according to Sam.


I’ve got it all sorted for my prac; Tallulah texted. It starts on 2nd May and you can come too if it works with your work.


I beamed.


That would be great! I can ask for close shifts during that time.


There were a million other things which I could have mentioned to her, too.


Dad suggested that I work on the election.


I remembered that I hadn’t gone back into the bathroom to wipe down the floor. After dropping my phone on my bed, I took the towel in. After that, I meandered out to the loungeroom to eventually talk to my family.


“Tallulah’s sorted out that I can do work experience at the vet at Dodges Ferry.”


“You sound disappointed.”


“I’m not, it’s great. Tallulah’s being very good to me.”


I knew I couldn’t keep a secret.


“If I do my prac at Dodges Ferry, then I won’t have to go to Sydney or Melbourne or Perth.”


“I didn’t think that you wanted to leave Hobart. If you wanted to leave Hobart, you could just do the course in Sydney or Melbourne, not that I can tell you want to do.”


“Well, I don’t want to leave Hobart forever, but it’s four weeks. I could do four weeks, to see what working in a zoo is like.”


“How long is the prac with Tallulah?”


“It’s two weeks.”


“Well, as far as I’ve heard, that wouldn’t be enough for the wildlife course. You would still have the opportunity to go to a zoo. Jumilah, I want all of your dreams to come true. If that means that you have to go to the mainland for a little while, or a long while, I support you.”


“Thank you. I love you, Mum.”


I sat down to watch TV for a little while. It’s nice to be able to take my mind off everything else that’s happening in my life – Patrick and Sloane, and the zoo, and what I’m going to do with work now and in the future. When I returned to my bedroom eventually, there was a fresh message waiting for me from Tallulah.


You’ve got your wildlife carer course on Saturday, am I remembering that right?


Yeah


Can I come over after?


That would be lovely


I didn’t bother checking with Mum and Dad.


“Have you played the Wordle yet?”


“No, I haven’t.” I sat up in bed.


Uwak walked into the room.


“Do you want to play it together?”


“Alright,” I agreed, taking my phone from the charger and opening the website.


I lay back against the pillow, so that I couldn’t see Uwak Andrew’s screen. BAPAK was the first word that I tried, because UWAK isn’t a five-letter word.


🟨⬜⬜⬜⬜


Right, that wasn’t really helpful at all. Sometimes it’s better when you get nothing. I tried SERBI for my second word, a bit left-field, but one which allowed me to try additional consonants and vowels.


⬜🟩🟨🟨⬜


Right. Now I’m getting somewhere. I couldn’t help but scan Uwak Andrew’s expression. He beamed.


“Got it in two, I am a genius.”


“Don’t get too much of a swelled head.”


I decided to guess REBON, perhaps against my better judgment.


🟨🟩🟩⬜⬜


The R could have been in either of the last two spots, but I figured it would be the final letter.


🟩🟩🟩⬜🟩


I couldn’t help but smile, because I would just have to tinker with the vowel.


🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩


“Got it. Finally.”


I showed him the screen of my phone.


“Five’s not too bad. I usually get it faster, obviously, but as long as you’re not panicking.”


“If you say so.”


“So what did you do?”


Uwak Andrew flashed me his phone, beaming.


“Mawar, then lebur, you’re very clever.”


“Well, I’ve been practicing.”


“How can you practise?”


“I stay up until midnight then knock off both languages.”


“Well, I can do the Wordle in three languages.” I laughed. “Maybe that means that I should be better at it than I am.”


“I’m proud of you, Jumilah. I’ve always been so proud of you.”


“Thank you, Uwak Andrew.”


“Alright. Time for both of us to go to sleep.”


Uwak kissed me on the forehead goodnight, then left the room. I lay down with my head on the pillow.


 

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.