This morning I went to work, because I’d been rostered on. I felt sick to my stomach as I rode my bike, unable to reconcile the peacefulness of the land with the blood shed in this place. This is Country, lutruwita, and I am thankful to the muwinina peoples for caring for this beautiful land since time immemorial. After a number of hours at work, Maryam convinced me to take fifteen minutes for lunch, so I sat on the back steps to soak in some sun. Ever grateful for her kindness, I scoffed my food while scrolling through my phone. With a mouthful of sandwich, I mumbled a greeting, when Patrick emerged from the back door.
“Do you mind if I sit with you?”
“Of course not, take a seat.”
I shuffled over, so that Patrick could sit down next to me on the top step.
“Thanks. I just can’t stand being in there.”
“Are you going OK?” I checked.
Patrick shrugged his shoulder and unwrapped his lunch.
“I’m a little upset about what’s happening with Sloane.”
“Oh, that’s right, you wouldn’t know.”
Patrick took a bite from his wrap. I continued looking at him, my mind racing.
“Well, you’ve got to tell me now.”
“Alright,” Patrick conceded as he finished chewing. “Everyone else knows.”
I could hear my heart thumping.
“Sloane’s pregnant. That was the news that Kevin posted in the group chat. He found the pregnancy test and worked out it was hers and he told everyone.”
“That’s terrible of him.”
“Yeah. I feel so bad for her.”
We sat in silence, eating our lunch. I wanted to open up to Patrick, because of the kindness which he’s been showing me. Nobody at work knew the truth about Kakek. They needed to, not for their sake but for mine, and I sensed that the conversation about Sloane wasn’t going any further.
“I never told you how my grandfather died, did I?”
Patrick shook his head.
“He was shot, he was murdered.”
“I’m so sorry, Jumilah. I didn’t know.”
“That’s alright. I never told you.”
We sat in silence, before I checked my watch and concluded that I needed to go back inside to allow Maryam her lunch break.
“You right if I go back to work?”
“Yeah, sure,” Patrick agreed.
I stood up and made my way towards the door.
“I’m sorry about your grandfather.”
Still, there was a heavy feeling in my stomach which lasted throughout the day. So, when I returned home, I was in a mood. I bounced down the hallway like a lion chasing down prey. I’d promised Mum that I would make dinner, so I dumped my bag down on the kitchen island and fetched some vegetables, as Mum emerged from the loungeroom with a welcoming smile on her face.
“You know how I said that Sloane from work had news.”
“So, it turns out she’s pregnant.”
I rather aggressively chopped a tomato.
“Oh. Is that bad?”
“No. Well, I don’t know, we’re not close. She’s younger than me, but the thing is that someone, Kevin, found out, and he put it in our group chat.”
“That’s not very nice of him.”
“I feel so bad for her. I’m just feeling like I need to do something.”
“There’s probably not much that you could do.”
After I’d finished making a simple dinner of pasta and marinara sauce, we went to the kitchen table and ate.
“I did want to talk to you about your work. You don’t have to work at the supermarket forever.”
“Good, because I wasn’t planning on it, but it’s a good job for now, and we’ll need savings if we’re going to have animals here.”
“Well, you are right about that.”
We continued eating our dinner. Afterwards, I sat down at the computer, to make the donations of my wages as I planned. If I’m going to earn penalty rates and I don’t strictly need the extra money, then it may as well go to a cause. I put through the donation, then ambled into the kitchen. Mum and Dad were doing the dishes, so I helped them for a bit.
Later in the night, I lay in the long, dry, brown grass, staring up at the never-ending dark expanse of night sky, speckled with twinkling stars. They looked like fairy lights. My fingers smoothed over the blades of grass, sometimes scratchy, sometimes smooth – searching for answers about what comes next. I took a deep breath and soaked in the silence, like it or not. There needs to be serenity in this. Far away from the house, out in the paddocks, I can’t hear the road. Then again, there’s not usually that much traffic anyway, especially not at this time of the night, whatever time it would have been. I pulled myself up to be sitting up, my lower back feeling the pinch. I’d need to go back home, if I didn’t want to sleep out under the stars.
The idea’s attractive, but impractical. I curled my legs around and pressed the bare soles of my feet to the grass. Pushing off like a diving swimmer with my left hand, I stood. Once upright, I twisted around to face the house and walk back home. Mum is right, I could walk away from my job. Of course, not right away. When I returned to the house, Mum had walked out to the back step, with the phone.
“I’ve just been on the phone with Reuben. He was telling me about these courses which you can do, in studying animal care. If you want to of course, but I think you should look into it.”
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.