“Is it alright if I go out with Tallulah again today?” I asked Mum.
I’d come up behind her in the kitchen, while she spread Vegemite onto her toast. Mum twisted the yellow lid onto the jar. I stepped back, so she could spin around.
“Yeah, that would be fine,” she agreed. “Just make sure you ring Ibu at some stage.”
“Of course I will,” I promised, then flashed a cheeky grin. “Would you be able to drop me at Tallulah’s, possibly, if you’re still going into the wool shop today?”
I’d gotten Mum hook, line and sinker.
“How can I say no?” She smiled. “Get dressed, get ready, and you can come with me.”
Nodding my head firmly, I exited the kitchen, keen to get on with the rest of the day.
Mum dropped me off outside Tallulah’s house, as she stepped out the front door wearing her activewear. She smiled at me and offered a wave, before motoring down the front steps. It was a little cooler than I expected.
“Hello,” I greeted her, before Mum drove away down the street. “Thanks for the offer.”
“Do you mind if we head down to the beach?” I requested.
Tallulah only lives a few streets back from the shore.
“That sounds lovely.”
We ambled through the neighbourhood. Howrah Beach would be our destination.
“How’s work been?” Tallulah asked.
I sighed heavily.
“The actual work’s been fine, mostly.”
“There’s a bit of tension amongst the people I work with. Nothing to do with me.”
I knew that I’d said too much, because it’s not my place to tell Tallulah about Sloane’s pregnancy, even though she doesn’t know her. The poor girl’s already going through enough. A heavy cloud cover remained hanging over the Derwent River. Maybe we’d get rain, maybe we wouldn’t. When we stepped onto the sand, Tallulah and I paused to remove our shoes. I tried my best to exhale, because this was intended to be a relaxing, joyous day.
“You don’t want a swim, do you?”
I think for a moment, Tallulah might have thought that I was serious. Instead, I laughed, to prove that I manifestly wasn’t, although the goosebumps forming on my arms could have told her that already. The edges of the clouds started to glow. For a second, I wondered if that would be the end of the world. After getting to the other end of the beach, Tallulah and I walked back up to the road. At the tap, we rinsed the sand from our feet, then shook them dry. I laughed. The wind picked up while we beach-hopped to the north, towards Bellerive. My hair swirled around, and I regretted not tying it back, or bringing an elastic. After sampling a second beach, we passed the fish and chip shop and playground.
“Have you been going to the cricket much?”
Tallulah shook her head.
“Not this year.”
The light towers curved inwards. I thought that the back of the grandstand looked like a stylised iceberg, and wondered if that was intention or not. This end of the ground had been called the Antarctic end before, and I could tell why. We walked up the slope from the oval, heading in the direction of Eastlands.
“Would you like to grab a bite to eat?” I suggested.
“I would be happy with that,” Tallulah agreed. “That way if it rains, we’ve got somewhere inside to be for a little while.”
We walked through Bellerive. I followed Tallulah, because she’s the local. Sometimes I get lost, even though the Sorell shops are like this, where I work.
“Do you just want to go to Eastlands?” I checked.
“That sounds good,” Tallulah agreed.
The shopping centre came into view on the other side of the marina. I followed Tallulah around the curve and past a roundabout, then we crossed over to approach the restaurants on the other side of the carpark.
“What do you feel like?”
“This burger place looks ground.”
“I’m happy with that.”
We ambled inside. As Tallulah and I were shown to a table, the sky seemed to contrast, before bursting forth with heavy rain.
“I think that we made the right call.”
“Thank you,” Tallulah said to the waitress.
We hopped up onto the stools. I could already smell the veggie patties and sweet potato fries, and was more than happy to stay inside and eat with Tallulah while the rain came tumbling down outside.
“How was your meal?” the waitress asked.
By the time that we were finished eating, the storm had cleared and the light was starting to emerge again.
“Yes, it was lovely, thank you.”
We’d already paid, so we strolled outside.
“Do you reckon that we could walk all the way to the city from here?”
Tallulah flashed me a smile and wiggled an eyebrow.
“I reckon that we could try.”
We set off, Tasman Bridge in our sights.
Once we were on the other side of the bridge, I glanced back, to realise just how far we’d come. By that point, the sun shined brightly. We headed for the old Beaumaris Zoo site.
“Oh, I haven’t been here for ages,” I gushed, listening to my footsteps following after Tallulah’s as we cut from one path to the next.
Beating through the bushes, the ornate gates stood before us on the other side of the road. As nobody was coming, we passed across. The light caught the metal and glinted with beauty. Once there had been a zoo there, in what now seemed like a grassy bowl. I had considered Taronga steep, but the Beaumaris site is far from flat, either.
“Things would be so different if there was still a zoo here,” Tallulah commented.
“They would be,” I agreed, “but I think it’s for the best that things placed closed down. It’s not exactly large by modern standards.”
“Your zoo’s not going to have those problems, though.”
I stepped back, from where I had been peering through the gates.
“Certainly, I hope not. We have plenty of room.”
I couldn’t quite recall how big our property is, although it’s a number I’ll need to know as the rezoning process continues. The remaining exhibits are small, once holding leopards, birds, and the last-ever thylacine.
By the time pink clouds started to swirl above nipaluna, Tallulah and I were down at the pier, with ice cream. I marvelled in the sight, the pastels vivid over the silhouette of kunanyi and the surrounding hills. Tallulah’s mother picked us up, because she’d been out for dinner in the city. Both of us were more than grateful, because our heavy legs had done enough walking for the day. We really didn’t talk that much on the drive back out to my place, which was out of the way for them going home, by about half an hour. While I found the darkness of the car a little overwhelming, I breathed out.
“Jumilah, your grandfather died recently, I heard.
Despite all the years we’d been friends, she still, incorrectly, extended the vowel sound in the second syllable of my name.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
When we arrived home, I thanked Tallulah and her mother, then went inside. I made the call to Nanek, the muscles of my neck constricting as the phone rang. She answered and greeted me warmly. I told her that I would speak to the police about what happened. I only allowed myself a sentence at a time. My throat felt too tight for anything else. Nanek thanked me profusely and told me that I was brave, even though I don’t believe that. I thanked her, my voice thin. Nanek told me that she loved me, to the sun and back, over and over again. On Monday, a phone call will come through from the police department. I will speak with them. I’ll give my statement of what I know. That will, hopefully, somehow, contribute towards the investigation and confirm the identity of Kakek’s killers. Until then, there is nothing that I can do. Before that phone call, I must rest as much as I can.
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.