Sting

This morning when I woke up, I felt anxious, too anxious to consider getting out of bed. I figured that I could knock off all three Wordles first. After yesterday, I guessed MAWAR as my first word.


⬜⬜⬜🟩⬜


While that wasn’t majorly helpful, I quickly put down INDAH as my second guess.


⬜🟨🟨🟩⬜


OK, I figured the N was probably at the end of the word. That would put the D at the start of the word.


🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩

🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩


After cycling through DEKAN and DEPAN, the answer turned out to be DELAN. I checked the time and concluded that I ought to get up. There wouldn’t be time to do another puzzle, if I wanted to have a hope at getting to work on time without having to pedal furiously the whole way down the hill. Mum wants me to be gentle with myself. I wish that Nanek could be with us. When I went out to the kitchen there was a note left for me on the bench. Mum had written it, telling me that she loved me in Bahasa. There was also the phone number for our GP: To make an appointment for a mental health plan. I’ll call/text you if I hear anything from Ibu.


I wanted to talk to her, even though I knew that she would be at work, so I rode into Sorell. At least if I was at work, then I wouldn’t be able to get carried away. The ride to work wasn’t long, and I chained my bike up out the front before walking around to the staff entrance. Truth be told, I’ve started to get used to the new position for the bike rack. Heading into the staffroom, I smiled in greeting to a woman in her green uniform whom I didn’t recognise.


“Hi, do you work here regularly?”


“Yeah, I do, I’m Jumilah Fioray.”


“Nice to meet you, my name is Mbeli Chigumbura. I normally work at Sandy Bay, but I’m moving house, so I asked if I could fill in here, because this is closer.”


“Well, it’s great to have you. Have you found a place for your bag?”


“I just put in there in the corner, if that’s alright.”


“Yeah, that’s fine, we’re pretty casual.”


Before the store opened, we needed to unpack another delivery of eggs which arrived in the loading dock. My heart was thudding the whole task, considering what happened last time. I'd never ended up ringing Mum. When the supermarket opened, I got to work at one of the checkouts, with Mbeli servicing the lane behind me.


“It should be much the same,” I noted, “but let me know if you have any questions.”


“Thanks, Jumilah.”


Nonetheless, as I started serving customers, I found that my mind was far away. The hours, therefore, passed more quickly than I expected them they would. When I returned to the staffroom for a quick break for lunch, my lips felt dry. I smothered them with lip balm which I retrieved from my bag. Thankfully someone had bought a large tray of chocolate chip cookies on quick sale, leaving them on the bench for us to eat in a hurry. I flicked through Instagram while eating a few biscuits, hoping the sugar hit would get me through.


“You mentioned that you’ve moved from Sandy Bay this morning, whereabouts are you living now?”


“My husband and I bought a little property just east of Orielton.”


“Nice. We might practically be neighbours.”


“Yours isn’t the property applying for rezoning, is it?”


“Actually, it is.”


“There you go. Well, good to meet a neighbour.”


As much as I was tempted to ask Mbeli what she thinks about the rezoning, I didn’t feel it to be my place.


“Oh, there’s a staff dinner tomorrow night at the Midway Point Tavern if you’re not working,” I mentioned.


I gestured towards the flyer Frank had posted.


“That sounds great.”


“Well, I can’t promise you that we’re all wonderful, but it would be nice for you to get to know the team.”


“I’m looking forward to it.”


I got back to work, serving a few customers at the checkout. All of a sudden, the fire alarm sounded. I hadn’t heard anything about another drill. As fire warden, my responsibility is to ensure that the staff evacuate safely from the building, so I closed my checkout. A customer with a full trolley approached to ask me what was going on.


“I’m not sure, sorry, but we need to evacuate.”


I made sure that the tills were secured and shepherded shoppers out of the store.


“Sorry, you’ll have to leave your trolleys,” I noted, which didn’t impress them.


Eventually we were let back into the store, close to the end of my shift. I made sure that the tills were unlocked. In between customers a body pressed up against me, from behind, and I screamed. Maryam snapped around at the checkout next to me to see what had happened.


“Good work during the evacuation,” Frank praised, stepping into my peripheral vision. “You did well.”


“Thank you.”


Once Frank was gone, Maryam discretely closed her checkout and walked over to mine.


“Are you alright?”


“Yeah,” I assured with a smile. “I’m fine.”


Maryam nodded skeptically, but we got back to work. When I returned to the staffroom, I was still feeling shaken as I noticed a missed call from Mum.


“Do you know what happened with the fire alarm?” Caleb asked, although I was distracted.


“Yeah, I’m sorry, I don’t know.” I called Mum back, pacing around in a circle as the phone rang out.


“Hello, you’ve called Catherine Fioray. Sorry I can’t take your call, please leave a message.”


The phone beeped loudly.


“Hi, Mum, just returning your call.”


I left the message, then realised that Mum had provided a voicemail after all.


“Hi, darling, haven’t heard from Ibu I’m sorry, but Bruce from the council called and said we’ll have the next meeting with the council on Monday morning.”


I could have told Caleb about what is going on, but the two of us aren’t really personally that close, so I didn’t go into it.


“I’d better head off home.”


I fetched my bag and swung the strap over my shoulder.


“It’s been nice to meet you, Mbeli,” I farewelled with a smile.


I walked out through the store, returning to the bike rack to ride home. All I could focus on was the next step, the next cycle of my wheels. I returned home and checked the letterbox, then stashed my bike and helmet under the house. Not long after I got inside, Tallulah called.


“I’m so sorry, we never got the chance to talk properly yesterday about your first day.”


“That’s alright.”


“How was your first day?”


“It was really good, actually. The people are nice, the view’s good out the kitchen window.”


“Were you back there today?”


“Yeah. I’ve got the day off tomorrow, though. They play a one-day game there on Saturday.”


“Cool.”


“Are you working tomorrow?”


“No.”


“Would you like to go back into the clinic and try again?”


“Yes, I can do that.”


“Fantastic, I’ll come and pick you up about ten o’clock.”


“I’ll see you then.”


Just after I got off the phone with Tallulah, Patrick called. I was feeling very popular.


“Hello.”


“Hi.”


“I’ve just been on the phone to Tallulah.”


“Sorry, did I interrupt you?”


“No, we were finished anyway.”


“I’m sorry, Jumilah, I’ve got to go. That’s Sloane calling.”


“All good, talk to you--.”


The phone call ended.


“Later.”


Disappointment pooled in the pit of my stomach, followed by guilt. I needed to distract myself, so I went onto the website for the wildlife carer course, booking in Mum, Dad and I to do the course with Carol on Saturday week. I’m not working then, so it’s a good fit. While I felt exhausted, I also was too buzzed to have a nap. I thought about calling the council, to see if there were any updates on the rezoning application. In the end it would have been after work hours, anyway, so I just lay on the lounge and watched TV. I need to ring the doctor too, to make the appointment to get my mental health care plan, but that also can wait until tomorrow. Mum and Dad arrived home from work.


“How was your day?”


“Well, there was a fire evacuation.”


“Oh, was there an actual fire at the mall?”


“No, I don’t think so. I don’t really know what happened, to be honest.”


While I would have liked to have something to eat, Mum was already getting out ingredients to cook dinner. My feet were already sore from a long day standing at work. I must have flashed Mum a tired smile.


“Would you like to go and have a shower?” she suggested.


“Yes,” I agreed with a tired smile. “That sounds like a great idea.”


I departed the kitchen, but caught the doorframe on the way out.


“The wildlife carer course, I booked all three of us in for Saturday week.”


“That’s wonderful. Thank you, Jumilah.”


“No worries,” I replied, then headed to the bathroom to have a shower.


It’s always nice to wash off the day. I didn’t need to wash my hair or shave though, so I was out and dried off before too long. Once I got dressed, I put on some music, like Patrick did. After being at work all day, my feet were sore, and an uneasiness remained within my frame. I turned on the fan and lay down on my bed. For a moment I closed my eyes. The cool swirling of the air made me feel slightly more at peace. It was nice to take a moment to myself, before getting up and turning off the fan on the way through the house. We ate dinner on the lounge, in front of the evening news. Mum had made fettucine carbonara, which is one of my favourites, at least giving me somewhat of an appetite to eat a small serving. After dinner, the home phone rang. Dad answered it, and we surmised from his greeting and the speed at which he retreated to another room that it was Nonno calling.


“Jumilah, are the irises on the kitchen bench from Patrick?”


“Yes,” I confirmed. “They are.”


“And you had breakfast out with him on Monday morning, on Valentine’s Day.”


“Yes, we did, although that wasn’t quite intentional.”


“Did you just run into him in town and both feel hungry?”


“No, we planned the breakfast. He asked me, when he brought the trampoline over the other day. I was concerned about the situation with Sloane, of course, but he’s assured me that there’s nothing more between them.”


My phone started to ring.


“Is that him?”


“Yes, it is,” I confirmed, checking the screen.


Mum stood up.


“Well, you’d better answer it.”


I smiled thankfully towards Mum, answering the call as I walked out onto the back porch and slid the door shut behind me.


“Hi, Patrick.”


“Sorry for taking a while to call back.”


“That’s alright. Is Sloane alright?”


“Not really, but she’s physically OK.”


When I checked over my shoulder through the door, Mum was returning to the lounge with a cup of tea.


“I’m sorry to hear that.”


“You know that it was just Mum and I growing up, don’t you?”


“Yeah.”


“When I was young, Dad nicked off, we didn’t have contact with him for years.”


“I’m sorry, I didn’t know that part.”


“For a long time, I thought he was no great loss. I found him on Facebook, though, and it turns out that he lives in Launceston. I’d love to be able to meet him again, to actually get to have a proper relationship with my father.”


“If you booked more shows with Bushmint Lovechild in Launceston, that would be one way of getting to spend more time there without having to make a big deal of it. What do you reckon the golf club would say?”


“I hope they would say yes.”


“Well, there’s your answer. At least part of your answer.”


“Thank you.”


We ended the call and I headed back inside.


“So, what did Patrick have to say?” Mum wanted to know.


I ran my fingers through my hair coyly.


“I’m sorry, Jumilah, you weren’t going to get off that easily.”


“What do you want to know? Sure, I haven’t been forthcoming, but I’m not meaning to keep secrets.”


Mum stroked her fingers through my hair.


“He was actually telling me about his long-lost father, apparently he lives in Launceston.”


“You must think that your family’s so boring,” Mum quipped, but I could only shrug my shoulders.


“I am glad that I’ve told you. When I have a secret inside of me I feel like I’m going to explode. Mind you these days I always feel like I’m going to explode.”


“Jumilah, I hate to say this, but if Patrick starts putting any pressure on you, you need to make your own decisions.”


“I know. He doesn’t. We’ve kissed, but we haven’t done anything more than that.”


“Maybe it’s sexist to say this, but he’s a young man, who has been with a girl before.”


“Patrick and Sloane had a one-night stand, that was the first time for both of them.”


“How do you know that it was the first time for her?”


“Well, I don’t know. We’re not that close, I wouldn’t ask her. It’s none of my business, really, who she’s been with.”


“Do you want to sleep with him?”


“Well, he’s cute, but--.”


“You don’t think that you’re ready?”


I nodded my head, although my cheeks burned to be talking about this. Mum smiled.


“I can remember those days.”


No matter how awkward or embarrassed I felt, I’m grateful for Mum’s wisdom, from the life she’s led.


“You can make your own decisions, but--.

Mum sighed, waving her hands around, as if she was trying to find her phrasing.


“If you need to use that doctor’s appointment for contraception as well--.”


“Thanks, Mum,” I responded, “but I don’t think we’re at that stage yet.”


“But you know what happened to Sloane when--.”


Before Mum could finish that sentence, her phone rang. We both startled, then stared at it for a moment, as we recognised that Nanek was calling. Mum answered, but put her on speaker so we both could hear. Nanek first promised that they’re all safe and well, but I could sense exhaustion in her voice. She announced that the sting was off, at least for today. The tiger came back, this time with cubs. For once, Nanek’s voice sounded a bit lighter. They couldn’t risk it. Nobody is sure what will happen next. The call to the poachers by the undercover police was never made, meaning that Nanek – and the tiger and her cubs – ought to be safe for now. They will try again, some other time, and that concluded the phone call. I didn’t know what to do with my face, lips flapping as I took deep breaths. All day I have been building up towards an outcome.


“I’m not sure if I can keep doing this for much longer,” I admitted, fretting. “I just need to know that Nanek is safe, I’m so sorry.”


Mum rubbed my back, as I started to cry.


“I feel like it’s too late. Kakek is dead, the animals are being moved around in Australia. It’s over anyway.”


Mum gripped my hands tightly.


“Catching the poachers still matters. It would still make the rainforest safer and bring some sort of justice.”


Mum kissed my head.


“Maybe you should go to bed and get some sleep.”


“That’s a good idea,” I agreed.


After bidding Mum goodnight, I made my way into my bedroom. I got into bed and snuggled under the sheet. Today has been a varied and eventful day. Finally, I am ready 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.


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