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Faithful

Updated: May 27, 2022

Finally, today there was news from Perth. Four days ago, the decision was made that a Caesarean would be performed on the labouring elephant cow. They moved the other elephant away, where she couldn’t see. I think that everyone knew, before anything had happened, the feeling of watching something in slow motion before it unfolds. The calf is a little girl. She has been named Pertama. Pertama will be hand-raised by keepers. There’s no guarantee she will survive. I stepped outside with a heavy heart. Even though it’s the joyous occasion of Maryam and Ricky’s wedding day, I needed to clear my head. I ambled around outside on the property for a little while, before Mum came to find me.


“The elephant died.”


“Oh, the baby. That’s so sad.”


“Did she?”


“I’m sorry?”


“The baby elephant, in Perth, was born four days ago. They had to do a C-section, the cow died, the mother didn’t make it.”


I shook my head with sadness.


“There wasn’t anything else they could do, I guess.”


“I suppose you already heard.”


“Yes, from Charlotte. Did you hear anything else about the baby?”


“No, I haven’t.”


Finally, my heartrate could slow down to something of a normal rhythm.


“They named her Pertama, the little calf.”


“That’s beautiful.” Mum handed me my phone. “Maryam’s sent you a text message.”


“Thanks.”


I unlocked the phone and checked it.


The wedding photographer’s cancelled. Anyone know anyone who can take some happy snaps last min?


I called Gemma from school, the only person who came to mind. Following Mum back to the house, I really hoped that she would pick up.


“Hello, Gemma Davenport speaking.”


“Hey, Gemma, listen, it’s Jumilah Fioray, from school.”


“Hi, Jumilah. It’s a good time for you to call, actually, I’m just waiting around for my car being serviced.”


“Oh.”


“What’s the matter?”


“One of my friends from work, she’s getting married today.”


“That’s lovely.”


“Their wedding photographer cancelled. Would you possibly be able to do the job?”


“Sure, I’ll try my best to.”


Once Gemma was locked in, I called Maryam and told her the proposal.


“Oh, I love you, Jumilah. That would be brilliant. Can she come to my place as soon as she can?”


“Yeah, her car’s in for service, so Tallulah can drive her.”


“Tallulah is a legend. She can come to the wedding, definitely.”


“That would be so lovely, thank you.”


Thing was, I hadn’t actually checked with Tallulah.


“Oh, Jumilah, that’s the last thing Maryam would want,” she remarked in response to the news.


“Well, it’s alright, hopefully. Gemma from school has said that she’d do it.”


“That’s great.”


“It is, except that her car’s in for service at the moment, so I was wondering if you could drive her?”


“Well, I’m not doing anything else today.”


“Great, great, that’s great, Maryam said that you can come to the wedding as well, you’re a champion.”


“It’s fine, I’ll come to yours and get you first, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”


Once we ended the call, I jumped in the shower and washed myself as quickly as I could, before getting dressed. By the time I’d slapped a bit of makeup on my face, Tallulah had arrived.


“Thank you, thank you so much,” I gushed. “I’ll direct you to the car service place.”


I brought up the directions on my phone as Tallulah backed out of the driveway.


“It’s not far from here.”


I started to explain the way to the car service place to Tallulah and she followed. We turned right at the end of the road, onto the highway towards Sorell.


“The baby elephant was born, in Perth, but they had to do a C-section and the mother died.”


“Oh, that’s awful. Are they going to handrear the calf?”


“Yeah, apparently, she’s going really well, considering.”


“Well, that’s at least some good news.”


“Also, Frank got arrested, last night at work.”


“For sleeping with Sloane?”


“Yeah. I didn’t say anything, like I was going to, but then the police turned up at work.”


“Can’t say he didn’t have it coming.”


“I’m so glad that you weren’t at work today.”


“There are other people who work at the café, it’s not just me.”


“I realise that.”


Tallulah arrived at the car service place and parked. Gemma ran through the rain towards us, slipping into the back seat.


“Thank you so much for doing this,” I gushed.


“It’s alright, we’ll just have to pop home to get my gear.”


Not long after we arrived at Gemma’s house, where she burst from the car and ran through the rain.


“I’ll sit in the back.”


We got back into the car. Tallulah started driving to Maryam’s family home. On the way, I did my hair. I could feel my heart beating so fast, tiny explosions going off inside my ribs two-and-a-half times every second. Even though she’s a safe driver, I wanted to shout at Tallulah to stop the car. Instead, I decided to talk incessantly.


“They named her Pertama, the baby elephant.”


“Oh, at Perth Zoo?” Gemma clarified. “I saw that online, that’s so sad that the mother died.”


We arrived at Maryam’s family home, with Gemma and her camera in tow. Lucy let us into the house. We raced down the hallway, Gemma lugging her camera equipment. Bridesmaids were everywhere, and the glowing bride was just finishing getting changed into her dress.


“This is Gemma, she’ll take your wedding photos.”


“Oh, you’re a lifesaver, thank you,” Maryam gushed. “Thank you, Jumilah.”


Gemma started setting up her camera equipment, doing it effortlessly amidst snapping pictures of the bridesmaids. I couldn’t help but smile. We’re adults now – Gemma’s a photographer, Tallulah’s going to be a vet, and we will make this zoo work. Hawa pulled up the zipper of Maryam’s gown.


“You look absolutely beautiful. I’ll see you at the wedding.”


Tallulah and I departed. We drove to Clarence Uniting Church, then parked and scurried through the rain to enter. After strolling down the aisle, I came across a candle, ready for lighting. A beautiful display of roses, greenery and carnations blossomed from the back of the altar, what would have been at the top of the arch, the backdrop to an outdoor ceremony.


“It’s absolutely beautiful.”


I turned to my right, to see Sloane standing beside me, wearing a cream-coloured dress with rainbow stripes.


“Yes,” I agreed with her. “They’ve done such a good job at short notice.”


Sloane rubbed her belly.


“Are you feeling alright?”


Sloane shot me a look, cocking one eyebrow.


“Actually, it’s not that bad,” she assured.


We found somewhere to sit down, with Tallulah. The blokes arrived and milled around, impatient. I offered a smile to Patrick. He beckoned me over, so I got up from my seat. We didn’t have long before a sense of anticipation hummed over the church. The bridesmaids, and Maryam, had arrived. I returned to my seat, as the harpist played. The wedding got underway, bridesmaids walking down the aisle to the music. Maryam, on her father’s arm, reached Ricky before the minister, flanked by their bridal party.


“Welcome to the wedding of Ricky and Maryam. We are gathered here today on muwinina country and acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty over this land was never ceded. On this land, Aboriginal people have been living and loving one another since creation.”


They looked so happy, squeezing each other’s hands. As Maryam and Ricky said their vows, I looked at Patrick, then at Sloane, then back to Patrick. I couldn’t help but beam, too. Ricky turned to the ring bearer. They fist bumped, prompting a smattering of laughter from the guests, then the little boy handed over the ring. Ricky slid it down Maryam’s finger.


“With this ring, I wed you. With all that I am and all that I have, I honour you. May God allow us to grow in love together.”


“Ricky, I accept this ring as a symbol of our marriage. May Allah allow us to grow in love together.”


Maryam slid a wide, gold wedding band onto Ricky’s finger.


“With this ring, I wed you. With all that I am and all that I have, I honour you. May Allah allow us to grow in love together.”


“Maryam, I accept this ring as a symbol of our marriage. May God enable us to grow in love together.”


Light flooded in through the stained-glass windows, even though it still rained heavily. In time for the readings and the message, Ricky, Maryam and the bridal party took an opportunity to sit down and rest. I started to feel a little light-headed, but said nothing. Instead I pressed my back into the wooden pew and listened to the Quran and the Bible. The big moment was still coming. Ricky took Maryam’s hand. They stood, as did Lucy, who ensured that not a thread of the bride’s gown was out of place. My heart beat faster within my chest.


“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.”


The flowergirls fidgeted, but we were almost at the best part. Maryam beamed. Ricky wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in for a passionate kiss. We rose to our feet, cheering and clapping. Once Maryam and Ricky finally parted for air, they rushed down the aisle. I didn’t stagger, I didn’t fall. The harpist played a jaunty tune, which I didn’t recognise, but appreciated – I presumed Ricky had chosen it. They giggled as they paused by the door, so as to not run out into the rain. Music played loudly in the church, then Maryam and Ricky returned to sign their marriage documents. Once the certificate had been sealed to make everything official, the bride, groom and wedding party posed, so that we could snap photos of our own. Light refreshments were hosted at the church after the ceremony. Sloane found a seat in the corner, not wanting to be on her feet.


“I’m going to do an afternoon tea run.”


“That would be perfect, thank you.”


I returned to Sloane, handing over to her the cup of peppermint tea.


“Thanks, Jumilah.”


Sloane took a small sip.


“Did I tell you that the baby’s a girl?”


“No, you didn’t. That’s exciting.”


“I’m surprised that Patrick didn’t mention it.”


I didn’t really know what to say.


“It was very good of him to still come with me to the ultrasound. He didn’t have to, not after--.”


“You told him he was the father when he wasn’t?”


“Yes,” Sloane confirmed with a sigh.


Giving a nod of my head, I found myself eyeing off the food, which must have been prepared at the last moment.


“I suppose that you’d like to know why I told Patrick he was the father, why I lied.”


“Well, I had been wondering, but I understand now. Patrick’s a good guy and you were in a difficult situation. Honestly, I can’t blame you. I mean, Patrick cares about you and that baby as if he was actually the father.”


“When Frank and Mary were going to adopt the baby, I was happy with that,” Sloane explained, slowly rubbing circles into her belly. “She would be with her father and her brothers and sisters. She’d have a good woman as her mother.”


“She has a good woman as her mother.”


Sloane cocked one eyebrow, as I gasped almost inaudibly, for I’d said the quiet part out loud.


“Look, I’m sorry, Sloane, I don’t pretend that I know anything about this situation and what you’re going through.”


“It’s not a situation I’m going through.”


“What that doesn’t explain, though, is why you told Patrick he was the father.”


“Everybody’s acting like he raped me. I loved him, I love him. Getting pregnant was never part of the plan, I’m not some homewrecking gold digger. I felt special when I was around him and I know that’s probably grooming, but it feels real, it felt real.”


“Does Mary know about this?”


Sloane shook her head, eyes closed.


“Of course not.”


Sloane opened her eyes again and looked straight at me.


“And I don’t plan to tell her.”


Sloane sighed heavily.


“I think it would be helpful if you spoke to a psychologist, have you done that?”


“No, I haven’t, I can’t afford that.”


“Alright, I’ve got cake and slice.”


All of a sudden, Tallulah was in front of us, carrying plates. I looked at her to convey that she’d interrupted something, but her expression only faltered a little.


“Yes, please, thank you, cake.” Sloane accepted one plate. “Thank you, Tallulah.”


I knew that my best friend and I weren’t going to get a moment alone to debrief. Therefore, I accepted some cake and slice and ate afternoon tea, while Maryam and Ricky made their way around. They were able to give us a brief hug, before needing to move onto the next group of guests. Once the church ladies started packing away, we took our cue to thank them, then depart. We stepped out of the church to cloudy skies, but to see that the rain had ceased. The wide arch of a rainbow stretched across the sky. Tallulah and I offered that we could drive Sloane to the reception.


“Thank you,” she said in a profuse tone, as she yanked her seatbelt across her chest and baby bump and fastened it. “I’m sure Mary will appreciate not being bothered again.”


“It’s alright,” Tallulah promised.


I snapped a photo of the rainbow out the window of the car. Tallulah drove in silence. I was too tired to make conversation. Gemma had gotten her own lift with the bridal party, to fulfil her duties as the photographer.


“They’ve had a beautiful day, in the end,” Sloane pointed out.


I glanced in the rear-vision mirror. She sat in the back seat, looking out the window. When we arrived, Tallulah drove down the tree-lined driveway towards the carpark at the reception venue. After she parked, we got out of the car and walked towards the building. The tables were decorated with flowers, and the battery-operated tealight candles which Maryam bought from work. I took a seat at the table which had been assigned to the work friends. After a moment I didn’t realise what I was sitting around for just yet, so I got back up and strolled across the venue. I picked up a lemonade from the bar. Now that I’m eighteen, I might have gotten an alcoholic drink, but Maryam and Ricky opted for a dry wedding owing to her family’s faith. Dinner was served, an alternate menu. I had the stuffed mushrooms and tomatoes with quinoa. Not only was it beautiful on the plate, it tasted delicious. Once I finished eating, I noticed Maryam and Ricky across the room. They had stood from where they’d been sitting at the bridal table and made their way to the wedding cake, announced by the MC. Maryam and Ricky plunged a knife into the cake.


“Alright, we’ve got to go again,” she murmured.


They cut again, to make a slice. Maryam slid out the slither of cake and fed it to Ricky.


“Now it’s your turn.”


Ricky made another slide, which he carefully placed before Maryam’s lips. She took it from him, her rings glinting under the lights. Ricky carefully set down the knife next to the cake. Once the first two slices had been consumed and photographs taken, the cake was whisked away. Even though I felt pretty full of dinner thus far, I still had a craving for wedding cake.


“Our bride and groom will now have their first dance.”


Maryam and Ricky walked out to the centre of the dancefloor. I glanced at Patrick and he met my gaze, allowing me to offer him a smile of confidence. Right as the music commenced, I could feel my phone vibrate within my bag against my leg. I waited for a second ring. It didn’t come, so I presumed it was just a text message. Maybe it was Mum and Dad, perhaps there was news I needed to attend to. Still, I tried to push those thoughts away. After the first dance, the rest of the guests were welcomed onto the dancefloor. I took the opportunity to finally check my phone. It could have been news from Nanek, but it wasn’t, just a spam text about the election.


“May I have this dance?” Patrick requested.


“Of course.”


Patrick took my hand as I rose to my feet, joining the wedding guests swaying on the dance floor as we held each other close. Over his shoulder, I could see Sloane sitting at the table, alone. She sipped from a champagne flute of lemonade. Patrick and I danced around in a circle, so that I wasn’t facing her anymore, because I couldn’t face her.


“We should go out on another date sometime,” he suggested, “and do this properly.”


“Alright,” I agreed, as Patrick dipped me. “Where should we go?”


He shrugged his shoulders.


“I don’t know. Anywhere.”


“You’re a good dancer.”


We kept dancing until they called the unmarried ladies together to throw the bouquet. Maryam had a good throwing arm on her as she tossed the bouquet over her shoulder. I tried to keep my arms down, because I didn’t want to be a walking cliché. A moment passed like the click of a finger. When I focused again, the bouquet was in Tallulah’s hands. Her eyes bulged as she turned to me.


“I, I,” Tallulah stammered.


She passed the bouquet to me.


“Well, wouldn’t you look at that?” Brooke remarked. “The bouquet has spoken – twice.”


Gemma was taking photos, then she put her camera away.


“Call the Mercury, it’s time for Tassie cricket’s wedding of the century,” she remarked.


“How do you know about that?”


“Darling, everyone knows about that,” Gemma insisted.


Heading back to our table, we indulged with creaming sodas. By the time we finished our drinks, the wedding guests were urged to form a guard of honour. We raised our hands to make a tunnel. Maryam and Ricky rushed underneath, then kissed, making their way to the car. Patrick ambled over to my side.


“What a day, hey,” he said, sounding elated but exhausted.


“Are you right to get home? We’ve got an extra spot in Tallulah’s car if you’d like to come with us.”


“I haven’t had anything to drink, I promise,” Patrick asserted, his speech a little slurred with exhaustion.


“That’s alright, I believe you,” I assured, “but Tallulah’s still driving.”


“OK.”


We walked out to the car.


“Oh, is Sloane coming with us?” Patrick wanted to know.


“Well, Tallulah and I drove her here, so unless she’s left already, we probably should offer her a lift.”


She felt across her chest.


“And I’ve left my bag inside. I’ll go back in and get it and look for Sloane.”


Tallulah scurried back inside. We couldn’t get into the car without the keys, but we didn’t have to wait long. Tallulah returned and unlocked the car.


“I got my bag, but I couldn’t find Sloane.”


“I’ll ring her,” Patrick offered.


He did, but there was no answer.


“I’ll go back inside,” Tallulah offered.


Patrick nodded, then opened the passenger seat door and sat down. He grabbed the front of my dress and pulled me towards the car. With a gasp, I raised one hand to my forehead so that it wouldn’t slam into the doorframe.


“Oh, sorry, I’m being a bit rough,” Patrick blurted out.


He let go of me.


“I promise I’m not tipsy.”


“Don’t worry, I believe you.”


“Thanks.”


“Besides, even if you’re not tipsy, you’re tired tipsy.”


“What?”


I glanced back to the venue.


“And Sloane and Tallulah are coming, so let’s pull ourselves together. Let’s both get into the car and go home and get some sleep.”


“Alright.”


I slipped into the back seat. Once Tallulah and Sloane were in the car, we were able to leave.


“Frank’s been remanded in custody,” Sloane conveyed, without feeling. “There will be a bail hearing next week.”


I tried to just stare out the window. Despite my exhaustion, a smile came onto my lips, because this had been a beautiful wedding day.


 

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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