Retry

When I got to work this morning, I knew that Patrick had originally been rostered on. I hoped that I would see him. We needed to talk. Sloane had given birth, then I’d left for Adelaide. I’d come back and we’d gone out. Still, we didn’t get the opportunity to talk. I was confined all morning to working on the solitude of the service desk, selling cigarettes and handling returns. When it was finally time for my break, I raced back to the staffroom, already late for my break. Cutting through the soft drink aisle, a child toddled in the other direction. I tried to keep my distance from him, although I instinctively looked out to make sure there was a parent around. My eyes were away from him for a split-second, my gaze returning to find him on the floor.


“Hey, are you OK?”


The sobs answered my question. I crouched down to pick up the toddler. When I heard an adult scurry towards us from behind me, I hesitated. Thankfully the mother of the crying child was on the scene, to take his hand and start to keep going.


“You’ve got to treat him like he’s tough,” she told me. “If you panic, they panic. You don’t have kids, do you?”


“No, I don’t,” I confirmed. “That’s a long way off for me.”


“Enjoy your youth while it lasts.”


“I will.”


As I peeled myself away from mother and son, I thought of Patrick. He’s not a father to Sloane’s baby, not biologically and not as a stepfather, as they’re not together. Yet, I know Patrick stays over there. There’s a lot which you can glean from staffroom gossip, when everyone’s in each other’s pockets. Maybe I didn’t want to head back there after all. When I passed through the door, however, I changed my mind.


“Why is there a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese on the table?”


“They were on quick sale,” Sloane explained. “Would you like some?”


I fetched a bowl from the cupboard.


“Yes, please.”


I handed it to Sloane, who dished me up some pasta.


“Thank you.”


“Well, if you’re going to go out, it might as well be with mac and cheese.”


“I can’t argue with that.”


The macaroni and cheese burnt my tongue a little, but it was so delicious that I couldn’t really complain. Once I’d finished eating, I got back to work for the rest of my shift. At the end of the day, I rode home from work. My phone had almost run out of battery, so first thing when I got inside, I plugged it in. Mum and Dad had already eaten and he’d gone to bed. Without saying anything other than a warm greeting, she made sure to serve me up a bowl of dinner, to ensure I wouldn’t go hungry.


“I’m sorry that I was at work today, I should have been here helping you.”


“It’s perfectly fine,” Mum insisted, delivering me a bowl of tofu pad Thai and my phone off the charger. “Really, it’s good for us to get our hands dirty. We actually got a lot done, your father and I.”


I started to eat while I checked my messages.


Finally, I got a look at the Indian Rhinos. The keepers who accompanied them are meant to be going back to the US I believe, so hopefully they’ve imparted their wisdom.


What mighty fine animals; I replied to Charlotte, and indeed they are.


“I thought that you might have been going out tonight,” Mum mused.


“Patrick’s playing house with Sloane and the baby.”


“Oh, Jumilah.”


“It’s fine, it’s good of him. She’s still a teenager.”


“But he’s your boyfriend.”


Mum took my bowl.


“Thank you for that dinner, it was lovely.”


“You’re welcome.”


She got up to take our bowls to the kitchen.


“Are you alright, Mum?”


“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”


The future tense gave me cause for concern, but still, I stood up. I walked through into the kitchen, to help her out.


“It looks like the program’s going to turn out alright,” I noted, while helping Mum to pack the dishwasher. “I mean, of course it’s very early days with the Perth pair, but--.”


“You’re optimistic?” Mum presumed.


I grinned.


“You should call Charlotte, I reckon,” Mum suggested, then kissed me on the cheek.


I glanced towards the clock.


“She would certainly have clocked off for the day by now.”


Mum took the tea towel from my hands.


“Thank you,” I replied, then left the kitchen.


I called Charlotte, but she didn’t answer.


 

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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