Offbeat

Mum, Dad and I were getting ready for work this morning, in the kitchen.


“Is there anything that I can help with?” I volunteered.


“Thanks, sweetheart,” Mum replied, turning and kissing me on the cheek. “I think I’ll be right though, I’m just making three sandwiches.”


She slapped bread against filling, then handed one over to me to put into my lunchbox.


“Thanks.”


I shoved it in.


“Nothing’s on tonight, is there?”


“Not that I know of,” Mum answered.


“What do you have a hot date?” Dad smirked.


Both Mum and I shot him a glare in unison.


“No, I don’t, but it’s Friday night, I’m seventeen--.”


I picked up my orange juice and took a sip.


“You never know what might be around the corner.”


With that, I finished my drink and departed for work, sandwich in hand. While riding to work, I thought more about the courses which Mum and Reuben were suggesting for me to apply for. It’s only about a ten-minute ride to work, and the way there is slightly downhill. I allowed myself to cruise, a slight smile coming onto my lips. The sun shone against my face and, for a brief moment, I felt like I might have been unstoppable.


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At work, I couldn’t help but feel suspicious when I was in the staffroom, dumping my bag. I decided to put the sandwich in the fridge, in the top compartment where other people don’t find your food. When I took my lunch break, I noticed that there was a missed call from Mum. This made me feel anxious, so it hardly mattered that the sandwich was still there. I didn’t even get it out of the fridge, calling Mum back instead. She answered just as I passed out the back door onto the landing.


“What’s the matter?” I demanded.


“Sorry to call you at work,” Mum apologised, “but Ibu told me that the police were looking for a statement from you.”


I leaned back against the door.


“You don’t need to worry about it. Ibu is speaking with them, we can organise a time for them to call you.”


“Alright.”


I ran my hand over my hair.


“Are you having your lunch break?”


“Yeah.”


“Go and have your sandwich. I’ll talk to you tonight.”


We ended the call and I headed back inside. I needed to get back to work, to return to the checkouts. Without even eating, I did just that, despite Patrick trying to tell me that it was fine.



Upon finishing my shift, I didn’t have an offer to spend the evening – not until I looked at my phone and saw that there was a text message from Tallulah. I stepped out the back door and sat down on the top step.


Would you like to go into the city for ice cream again tonight?


There was a part of me which did want to go. I didn’t feel like I would have the energy.


Sorry Tallulah; I apologised in my text message back. Not tonight.


I didn’t promise maybe another night, because I didn’t want to make promises I couldn’t keep. The guilt rose within my chest. I blinked, nothing else I could do. Once I felt like I had the strength again, I dropped my phone into my bag and headed for the bike racks. Frustration bubbled up within me as I fiddled with the lock, before breathing out and calming myself down to get it unlocked. I placed my helmet on, fastening it under my chin, before getting on my bike and puffing up the hill home. When I arrived and walked in the front door, Mum was talking on the phone to Nanek. I lingered in the doorway between the kitchen and the loungeroom. Mum told Nanek that she loves her, then they ended the call.


“Hello,” she called out. “Didn’t find anything to do out tonight after all.”


“Well, Tallulah invited me out for ice cream in the city.”


“That’s nice. What time is she picking you up?”


“I’d told Tallulah that I wouldn’t be coming.”


“Why not?”


I shrugged my shoulders, trying not to make it seem like a big deal.


“It’s just that I didn’t know if I would be up to it. I don’t want to be dragging her down all the time.”


“Jumilah, Tallulah is a good friend to you, isn’t she?”


“Yes, she is,” I confirmed.


“You should go, if you would like to,” Mum permitted. “Ring Tallulah back. I’m sure that she wouldn’t mind taking you into town.”


I sighed heavily. I didn’t really know what to do, so I reached for my phone and decided that I would text Tallulah back, rather than ringing.


T, is it not too late to decide to have ice cream with you tonight anyway?


“Jumilah, did what I told you today knock you about?” Mum wanted to know.


“Yeah, it did,” I admitted, bluntly. “I was at work and I needed to concentrate on that. There wasn’t anything I could do about what you told me.”


“I’m sorry.”


My phone dinged, which distracted me.


Of course not, I’ll be at yours in half an hour xx


“Tallulah is going to come and pick me up,” I told Mum, while still looking at my phone.


“That’s good,” Mum praised. “You’ll have a good time. I’m sorry.”


“It’s alright,” I promised. “Do you want me to call Nanek before I leave?”


“No, it’s fine. I told her that you would talk to her tomorrow, don’t put pressure on yourself. Do you want to have a shower?”


“I’ve got half an hour, I’ll have a quick one.”


I left my phone and bag on the lounge, then wandered off into my bedroom.



I walked out the front door, to wait on the doorstep for Tallulah to arrive. The sun was going down

over the farmland. This has always been a beautiful place to live, even though it’s the opposite of the humid rainforest of Sumatra. There are some towering trees here, but gumtrees. I approached the side of the road when I saw Tallulah’s car approaching from the distance. She pulled over. I checked back and forth, but predictably nobody was coming. I scurried across the road and got in the passenger side, closing the door and fastening my seatbelt as she did a U-turn in our driveway.


“Thanks for coming to get me.”


“It’s alright. Thanks for changing your mind.”


“There’s just a lot on my mind at the moment.”


“Is it about your grandmother?”


“Sort of. The police want me to make a statement.”


Tallulah turned right.


“I will. Of course I will. I just feel like I have nothing to say. Like they wouldn’t understand, which is silly. I know that it’s really silly because they must deal with this all the time, but I don’t know what to say.”


Somehow I managed to stop myself.


“I’m sorry.”


“It’s alright.”


I knew that Tallulah needs to concentrate on the road.


“But we want to start our own animal sanctuary. Did I tell you that?”


“No, you didn’t. And are your parents supportive?” Tallulah wanted to know.


“Mum’s all in,” I answered, “but I’m not sure about Dad. He didn’t come with us to Sumatra when we took Nanek back.”


Tallulah checked over her shoulder to change lanes. Awaiting us would be the city, and an evening to take my mind off everything.

 

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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