This morning for Tallulah’s birthday, she came and picked me up.
I rushed into her arms for a hug, then we parted, getting into the car to drive west, where we left the vehicle at hers. We got coffees from Eastlands, then walked into the city, across the bridges. Arriving in the CBD, Tallulah and I walked into T2 and immediately started exploring.
“Oh my goodness, this is divine.”
Her eyes were glazed under the lights. A kid in a candy store, or a woman in a tea shop, Tallulah drunk in the options. I lingered nearby, searching for my own selections. Mum is a keen green tea drinker, and there seemed to be plenty of choices, like Green Rose, green tea mixed with rose petals. I thought about buying some, but we would already have plenty similar in the cupboard. Christmas is coming up, though, so the Green Rose could be Mum’s gift. Once Tallulah made her selection, I paid, the tea counting as a birthday present. With a cool breeze outside, we chose to head back. We took the next forty-five minutes or so walking back to Eastlands. Heads down and puffing, we didn’t speak much, knowing we’d have plenty of time to catch up over lunch. We arrived at the café and a waitress showed us to a table, out the front with a view of the road.
“This is nice.” Tallulah relaxed back into her seat. “It’s a lovely way to spend my birthday.”
“You’re welcome. I’m glad we got to do this together.”
I snapped a photo of Tallulah, which I posted to my Instagram story.
“When are the animals going to start arriving?”
“David and I have worked out a first of December date for the macaques. He’ll drive down with them.”
“That’s good of him. I suppose that works, because he’d have a truck and stuff.”
“Well, we are getting a truck.”
“You can take the girl out of the country,” she quipped.
“Do you know what you want?”
“Yep, I’ll have a mushroom burger.”
I nodded, heading up to order from the counter. Thankfully, our food arrived quickly. We chowed down on burgers, then toasted Tallulah’s birthday with our waters. She skulled the remainder of her drink.
“Oh, that was good.”
I giggled. We wandered back to Tallulah’s house. Heading inside, the two of us dumped ourselves onto the lounge, once she’d put her tea for her birthday away.
“I’m nineteen.” Tallulah shook her head, then looked at me. “Would you like to go back to yours now?”
I checked my watch.
“That would be great if we could.”
With a nod of Tallulah’s head, the two of us headed out to her car. We returned home in time for me to be able to join in the primate TAG meeting, as I couldn’t bear missing it.
“Come over,” I urged, beckoning her. “It’s OK.”
Tallulah shuffled her chair, so that she was in view of the camera.
“This is Tallulah, my magnificent vet friend.”
“Well, vet student friend.”
“Lovely to meet you, Tallulah,” Christine greeted.
The meeting got underway. Gilham commenced with an Acknowledgment of Country, a welcome addition, before handing back over to Christine.
“I did want to give the opportunity if there was anything we needed to organise for Acarda Zoo.”
“Thanks, Christine,” I spoke up.
“Jumilah, would it work for me to fly down with the tarsiers on December 1?” Sam offered.
I must have pulled a face.
“Is that not good?” Sam asked me. “We want to do everything we can to help you out.”
“It’s not bad, it’s just when the macaques will be arriving.”
“I won’t be there until the afternoon,” David mentioned.
“We can book the tarsiers on the first flight out of Sydney in the morning,” Sam assured.
“That sounds great then,” I agreed with a grin.
“Let’s move onto the member reports. Gilead Wildlife Sanctuary?”
“We had to perform a hysterectomy on one of our female orangs. Now she’s recovering, so it shouldn’t have too much of an impact. It’s just a shame that we won’t be able to breed from her again.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Sam responded. “Do you know what the cause of the uncontrolled bleeding was?”
“No, not at this stage,” Angelique admitted. “Once she’s more stable, we’ll run further investigations.”
“Monarto Safari Park?”
“One of our female chimpanzees gave birth late Friday night. Unfortunately, she didn’t survive.”
“Oh, that’s horrible, I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, it’s devastating. It’s hit our primate team really hard.”
I let out a breath.
“But, thankfully, the baby is thriving. We are supplement feeding, but trying to keep her with the group as much as possible.”
“We performed a vet check on Johari. She’s reproductively healthy, so we’re going to proceed with the artificial insemination, hopefully before the end of the year if we can – it’ll just depend on Johari’s cycles and selecting a donor.”
“Oh, there’s always something happening at Taronga Zoo.”
Sam smiled, indicating that he agreed. Finally, he sat forward in his chair, leaning his elbows on the desk.
“You know, I’m sure that you’ll learn all about that from tomorrow."
We farewelled each other, and the meeting ended.
“Would you like to go for a walk?” Tallulah offered.
“Yes, that would be lovely.”
We set off.
“It’s been a big year,” Tallulah reflected.
I took a deep breath, the same was true for both of us. Tallulah and I reached the top of the hill, spinning around.
“I always feel like the air’s cleaner up here,” she mentioned.
Seeing my friend grin meant a lot. For a time I feared I’d never see it again.
“Race you to the bottom?”
Tallulah and I sprinted, gaining momentum from the slope. When we finally pulled up, we were laughing, from deep within our bellies.
“I’d call that a dead heat.”
“Yeah, so would I,” Tallulah agreed.
I glanced over at the nocturnal house. We set up a little birthday party for Tallulah, and Gemma and her mum arrived to be part of it.
“Thank you so much for this.”
Tallulah gave me a hug.
Mum brought out a birthday cake – Tallulah’s favourite, chocolate mudcake. She slotted candles into the surface – nineteen, to be precise – then lit them one by one. We sung happy birthday. Tallulah pulled back her hair. She blew out the candles in one gush. We applauded, then Mum whisked the cake away. She carefully carried it inside the house. When Mum returned out the back, the cake had been compartmentalised into even slices. She handed them out on small plates.
“What did you wish for?” I asked, in between mouthfuls of cake.
“While you were blowing out your birthday candles.” I let out a laugh. “Don’t worry. You don’t have to tell me.”
Tallulah finished her spoonful of cake.
“Truth be told, I didn’t think of anything.”
She set her spoon on the plate.
“But if I was to wish for something now, I’d wish for peace, for evermore.”
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.