We were frantically racing around the house this morning. Dad was already late for work, and we’d already burned two slices of toast, while all three of us scrambled to get out the door. Mum had already left, and Dad was walking away to join her, when the phone rang loudly. I sighed, but decided to answer it after I recognised the number as being Bruce’s.
“Hello, Jumilah Fioray speaking,” I greeted.
“Hello Jumilah, happy Tuesday morning,” Bruce’s tone was cheery.
“Same to you, Bruce,” I told him.
“We’ve got some good news for you,” Bruce announced. “Are your parents there?”
“No, they’re not, they’ve just gone to work.” I chose against lying, although I was tempted.
“Look, you’re nearly eighteen, aren’t you?” Bruce asked.
“Please tell me,” I begged.
“We believe that your property is suitable for rezoning, so we can proceed with the process,” Bruce revealed. “If there are no community objections, then there is a strong possibility that we will agree”.
“That’s really good to hear, thank you,” I gushed. “I appreciate it, Bruce."
“No worries, it’s my job,” Bruce insisted.
“Have you received any public objections?” I queried.
“We can’t tell you that just yet, I’m afraid.”
“No, I understand, it’s good that we’re one step closer. Thank you for letting me know, Bruce, I really appreciate it.”
“No worries. Talk soon.”
We ended the call and I got to work.
“Good morning,” I greeted as I entered the staffroom.
“Hi, Jumilah,” Lucy responded. “You seem cheery.”
“Thank you,” I replied, practically bouncy, with a spring in my step – which may have just been anxiety.
Lucy finished her cereal, then we got to work. A delivery had come in, and we needed to restock. I breathed out and commentated in my mind as I shifted boxes. At least toilet paper is relatively light and – almost – impossible to destroy. Once that was done and the store opened, I filled the morning working on the checkout, which went more quickly that I was expecting that it would. At lunchtime, Lucy was decorating the staffroom.
“I know that Valentine’s Day’s come and gone, but that’s why the decorations were so cheap.”
Lucy hoisted pink and red streamers over the rafters.
“Besides, today is Chinese Valentine’s Day. It’s the end of Lunar New Year.”
I fetched my lunch from the fridge and sat down at the table to start eating. On top of my appetite, I was eager to check my phone, to see if there were any updates about the white-cheeked gibbons being transported to their new home in Dubbo. Before I could, however, Frank marched into the staffroom.
“Good afternoon, ladies.”
I nodded my head in greeting.
“On Friday night, we’re having a staff dinner at the Midway Point Tavern.” Frank pinned a notice to the board. “All welcome, if you’re not working.”
“OK, now that he’s gone.” Lucy came and sat down, leaning close to me. “There’s something that I want to ask you.”
“Are you going to ask me about Patrick?”
“Well, yes. Am I that obvious?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry, you are.”
I really didn’t know how much to say.
“Jumilah, isn’t he the father of Sloane’s baby?”
“Yes, he is, but they’re not together, and she’s giving the baby up for adoption, that’s her decision.”
“I’d better get back to work. Are you all good?”
“Yes,” I assured with a smile, so Lucy slipped back out of the staffroom.
Consulting Reuben’s list, I sent a text to Charlotte from Perth and Claire from Dubbo. My anxiety and curiosity about the white-handed gibbons was getting the better of me.
Hi, it’s Jumilah Fioray. My grandmother is Jelita Sitompul and I was just wondering how the white-handed gibbon move is going today? No rush to get back to me, thanks.
I stared at my phone for a moment, but it was unlikely that they would answer me straight away. Instead I did some Googling about the wildlife carer courses, and found one we could register for. I walked back into the store, to return to work at the checkouts. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a door to one of the storerooms opening, and Ricky and Maryam spilled out. I couldn’t exactly go over to them and say something. Suspicion seeped into my mind and I couldn’t get it out, noticing the looks on their faces. They didn’t seem to spot me. Therefore, I got back to work at the checkout, with Maryam eventually coming back to a few down from me. We were too far away to talk to each other, not that I would have mentioned anything when we were in front of customers. Maybe they were just completing a task together, and I would have looked the fool. Once my shift came to an end, I collected my bag, then walked through the mall. Out the front of the florist, a bucket was filled with half-price roses, obviously leftover after Valentine’s Day. I thought of the white-handed gibbons again, especially Mawar, whose name means ‘rose’. There was a smile on my lips as I strode out through the doors, to the bike rack. I rode home from work, then messaged Tallulah.
Hope you had a good first day! Let me know if you want to catch up or go into town xxxx
I hadn’t been home long when there was a knock at the door, which turned out to be Patrick, with flowers in hand.
“Lucy mentioned that today is Chinese Valentine’s Day, so because we weren’t making a fuss of it yesterday, I thought I would make up for it today.”
Patrick handed me the bouquet of irises.
“They are absolutely beautiful, thank you.”
My heart thumped, and I knew that I was blushing.
“Mum and Dad aren’t home from work yet, would you like to come in?”
“That would be great, thanks.”
Patrick followed me into the house.
“I’ll have to find a vase for these.”
I found one in the cupboard, and placed the irises into it, with water in the bottom.
“How did your TAG meeting go yesterday?”
“Yeah, really well, thanks.”
I snapped a photo of the irises.
I turned around to Patrick, who was smiling.
“What’s going on in your life?”
“Tomorrow, there’s a sting going on at my grandparents’ sanctuary. The police have set it up to catch the poachers, who killed Kakek.”
My phone beeped on the kitchen bench. I raced over to it, to find a message from Charlotte.
Hi Jumilah, nice to hear from you. Gibbons left us no problems.
“Do you have any pictures of your grandparents?”
I flicked off my messages, then the sinking feeling intensified.
“I’m not sure if I have any photos of my grandfather on my phone.”
There would have been photos in the albums, which I could find in the study. I flicked on the kettle and got two mugs out.
“Do you mind if I talk about Sloane?”
“I think that she’s finding the pregnancy difficult, on top of school and everything.”
“It must be incredibly tough,” I agreed, heart thumping. “She’s pregnant, she’s sixteen.”
I took a breath.
“Patrick, it’s not my place to tell you what to do, but--.”
“Actually, I wouldn’t mind your advice, if you happen to have any.”
The kettle boiled, and I poured cups of tea for us both. Patrick put on some music. We shifted onto the lounge with our cups of tea, placed on coasters on the armrests. My heart raced, this time in a good way, as we shifted closer to each other. I’m still getting used to kissing a boy. Uncertainty pokes at me like a bull hook, but I enjoy being in Patrick’s arms. He pulled back, to ensure I was enjoying myself. We were distracted when I heard my phone from the kitchen.
“Sorry,” I apologised, breaking away. “It might be news about the gibbons.”
I got up and walked into the kitchen, leaving Patrick on the lounge to drink his cup of tea. There was a text message, but instead from Mum, saying she and Dad were on their way.
“My parents are on their way home.”
Patrick lingered for a moment.
“Would you like me to go?”
Patrick kissed me on the forehead, then left. I felt a little guilty, so decided to start preparing dinner in the hope of settling my stomach. By the time that Mum and Dad did arrive home, I could place bowls of spaghetti on the table for us to start eating.
“Would you like the bad news or the good news?”
“The bad news then the good news, please,” Dad decided, before taking a mouthful of his spaghetti.
“Well, the bad news is that the council can’t tell us if there have been any public objections to the rezoning application.”
“And the good news?” Mum wanted to know.
“The good news is that our property has been deemed suitable. Bruce called this morning.”
“That’s great news.”
“We’re one step closer. One very small step closer.”
“Did he say if there’s anything else we have to do?”
“Not for the moment. I gather that, if there are community objections, we might have to engage with them.”
“Considering what Gavin said the other day, it’s not out of the question that there will be objections to the rezoning.”
“Would our neighbours get told why we want to do this?”
“I’m not sure,” I answered, “but it’s worthwhile being transparent.”
“I agree,” Mum affirmed. “I’m nervous, but I agree.”
We continued eating our spaghetti.
“Also, I wanted to ask you about the wildlife carer course.”
“I found one that’s being held on a Saturday if that’s helpful. I’ll make sure that I have the day off work.”
“That would be great. Book us in.”
After dinner, Tallulah called. I wandered out the back so that we could chat in privacy.
“I told Mum about wanting to access information about my biological father.”
“And what did she say?”
“She’s supportive, but it must be hard for you. Until now, we’ve only had each other.”
When I heard thunder, and saw lightning flash in the distance, I decided to head back in.
“I’m sorry, I’ll have to let you go. Claire’s calling from Dubbo.”
I ended one call and accepted the other.
“Hello, Claire, it’s Jumilah Fioray.”
“Hi, Jumilah. Sorry for taking my time to get back to you.”
“That’s alright. How did it go?”
“The gibbons arrived safely from Perth. We have them in our quarantine area for now and the vets will check them tomorrow morning. Then, all being well, we’ll move them onto their island where they’ll go on exhibit in the zoo.”
“Thank you, Claire. I really appreciate you letting me know.”
Opening the back door, I slipped inside. Claire promised that she would call again once she had more news. Mum was sitting on the lounge, watching television and drinking a cup of tea. We ended the call, and I went to sit down.
“That was Claire, the gibbons have arrived safety in Dubbo.”
“That’s good news,” Mum replied with a smile. “I’ve just been speaking with Ibu, everything is prepared for tomorrow.”
The mere thought made my heart race, even more than it already was.
“I suppose she’ll let us know.”
“Yes,” Mum confirmed. “She will.”
I could tell that she wanted to promise me that everything will be alright, but we both know that she can’t. Despite feeling exhausted, I couldn’t sleep once I got into bed. Playing the Wordle in Italian probably wasn’t going to achieve much, particularly with my scrambled brain, but at least it would kill time. I tried BUFFA as my first word.
That didn’t get me too far, but I figured that the A, the only confirmed letter, was quite possibly in second position. I chose PASTI, to get another vowel.
OK, that was reasonably fruitful. I went with PARLO next, again to seek out if there were any more vowels in the word.
With that, I guessed PANNO.
I was pleased that that was the correct answer. The satisfaction was enough to compel me to put my phone down and finally drift off to sleep.
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.