Mum and Dad were eating croissants and drinking coffee on the back porch when I left for work. I kissed both of them on the head and bid farewell, wondering why they weren’t just still in bed considering that neither of them needed to be at work today. Walking out to my bike, I took a deep breath. Carefully, I rode, allowing the hill to carry me. I arrived at work still feeling a little tired. While I was excited to see Patrick, the first person I saw was Sloane, so I greeted her with a smile I was trying not to fake. I feel awkward around her. It’s not a date on Monday, Patrick and I are just having breakfast together. Still, I feel like I ought to tell Sloane, but I don’t really want to. When I returned to the staffroom at lunch, Kevin was sorting through the fridge. I ignored him and just needed to make myself a coffee.
“Please, people, you have to deal with this.”
Kevin removed a container of pasta salad.
“Sorry, that’s mine.” Lucy took it from him.
I had coffee for lunch, which did pick me up a bit, although when I started to feel a little shaky, I knew that I needed to actually have something to eat. Heading out into the store, I bought myself a quick-sale sandwich, which did the trick. I returned to the checkouts, opening up the same lane I had vacated before lunch. Patrick was in front of me, as he often is, although he was too busy serving customers to chat. A woman dressed all in black came through my lane.
“And how has your day been?” she asked me, amidst our small talk.
“Good, thanks,” I answered with a smile.
The woman looked into my eyes.
“No, how are you really?”
“Oh, a bit tired. Thank you for asking. Really, I’m alright.”
I finished putting through her groceries. She paid and left. It was weird, but very kind.
“Righto, I only want a few things.”
I scanned them through as quickly as I could. The man’s gruffness put a jolt through me, the adrenaline sustaining me for the rest of the shift and then my bike ride home. When I arrived home from work, Mum was sitting on the lounge, with a cup of tea.
“How was your day, Jumilah?”
“Yeah, alright. Glad to be home.”
Dad wandered out from the kitchen, with a tea towel over his shoulder.
“I was thinking that I might cook tonight,” Dad offered.
“That’s great,” I replied, “and Tallulah’s coming over, is that still cool?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. Do I take it that she’s having dinner with us too?”
“Look, I’m not sure,” I admitted.
I already felt like I might have said too much.
“But it would be good to have a bit extra if possible, thank you.”
I wasn’t sure whether Tallulah would want to have dinner with us, or whether she’d want my parents to not be able to hear the conversations we had.
“Sure,” Dad agreed, nodding his head.
He disappeared back into the kitchen.
“I was wanting to call Ibu now that you’re home, if you’ve got time before Tallulah comes over.”
“That would be great.”
We made the call. When Nanek answered, I told her about the wildlife carer course, because I didn’t think that I had updated her on that before. In the end, we talked for an hour or so. Luckily, we’re on a plan with cheap rates for overseas calls. It would be hard to be any other way with our loved ones living so far away. Once Tallulah arrived, Dad’s fafalel salad was almost ready to go. I poured drinks for all of us, before we sat down at the kitchen table. Tallulah ate dinner with Mum, Dad and I. After dinner, Mum offered to clean up.
“Let’s go outside,” I suggested, and we walked out the back door.
“Have you always had a trampoline?”
“No, Patrick dropped it off yesterday.”
“He gave you a trampoline?”
“Yeah. One blew across in the windstorm the other day, and then we had to give it back, so he brought one over off a council cleanup.”
“That’s quite sweet, actually.”
We found somewhere in the grass, to lay down and gaze up at the stars.
“Patrick told me that he’s the father of Sloane’s baby. They’re not together, it was a one-time thing. She’s going to give the baby up for adoption.”
“You know, it would be fantastic for playing golf out here. Have you ever tried?”
“No, I haven’t.” I shook my head with bemusement. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah. I’m so sorry, Jumilah, I don’t really know what to say. Can I ask--?”
“Do I have the hots for him?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
“And are you going to do anything about that?”
“Well, we’re having breakfast together on Monday morning.”
“Did he ask or you?”
I went silent, not sure what to say.
“Have you talked to Sloane about it?”
“No, I haven’t. I know that I should, but I don’t want to.”
While I wanted to go down to the trampoline to jump my nervous energy out, I didn’t suggest it.
“Mum asked me the other day what I might like to do for my birthday.”
“Would you like to go on a holiday?”
“Well, I just went on a holiday, I went to Ross and Launceston with Bushmint Lovechild last weekend.”
“Maybe we could just have a party then.”
“That would be nice.”
“But you didn’t come here to talk about that. Tell me about finding your biological father.”
“I haven’t actually found out anything yet, but I can get the information.”
“What would you like to know?”
“Well, I know that I’m allergic to penicillin, but not enough that they wouldn’t give it to me. I know that I have curly hair and Mum has straight.”
“It would be so strange to see his face and be able to see your face in him.”
“If you found out his name, would you want to meet him?”
“I guess so. There’s no guarantee that he even leaves nearby. He could, of course, but he might live anywhere in Tasmania, or on the mainland.”
All of a sudden, Tallulah sat up.
“He might not even be alive. I just don’t know. When I go to ask for the records, then hopefully I’ll find out.”
Tallulah sighed heavily.
“I probably should go home, Mum will be wondering where I am.”
“Have you been talking to her about this?” I asked, even though I felt a little hypocritical doing so.
It’s not like I talk to my parents about everything, either.
“I haven’t mentioned it yet, but I should, I know that I should.”
“That makes two of us keeping secrets.”
Tallulah reached for my hand, so that we could pull each other back to our feet.
“I don’t know what the right thing for either of us to do is.”
We started ambling back to the house.
“When are you going to look at the records?”
“Monday afternoon, I’m not working.”
“Would you like company?”
“Are you available?”
“Yes,” I confirmed, even though I technically have the TAG meeting at 1:30pm.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to be there until about 3:30. I could pick you up?”
“Let’s do that. I really want to support you.”
We returned home. I thought that Mum and Dad would have gone to bed, but instead they were watching television. He put down his glass of red wine, then turned down the volume as we came inside.
“I would like to have a birthday party, if that’s alright.”
“Well, we could make a little invitation. Do you want to organise it or would you like me to?”
The phone rang before I had the chance to answer. Dad got up.
“Adriano Fioray speaking.”
“That would be great if you could organise it, thank you.”
Dad was off the phone again before long.
“Just a telemarketer, don’t know why they’d be calling at this time on a Saturday night.”
I smiled, then saw Tallulah out.
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.