Transition

Updated: Jun 23

There was just one more shift for me to get through before I was leaving for Adelaide. Eight hours of work and then I could be on a plane and out of here. I would be seeing Nanek, visiting the zoo, and being reunited with Medan and Georgia, as well as getting to see their baby in person for the very first time. When I arrived in the staffroom, Patrick sat at the table. His head was in his hands, his coffee in front of him untouched.


“What’s the matter?” I asked, as I dropped into a chair next to him.


My mind swirled with worry.


“I think that Bushmint Lovechild might be toast.”


“I’m sorry.”


“Thank you. Look, nothing is set in stone.”


“If you want to keep performing, I’m sure that we can work something out.”


“Yeah, look, I’ve got to get to work. We’ve both got to get to work.”


Patrick had been assigned to checkout 1, I was on checkout 7. We were far enough away from each other that we were in our own worlds. Sloane was on checkout 6, Stevie on checkout 5. It wasn’t the busiest of days, mercifully, in fact, it was a mostly ordinary morning.


“Jumilah, can you come over here, please?”


After I finished with the customer, I closed my checkout.


“Can you please look after the service desk for an hour, please? I need to tap out and the others are too young.”


“Of course.”


“Thank you.”


Maryam raised one hand to her mouth as she rushed off. I felt a little like I’d gotten the better end of the deal. When Maryam returned, I went back from the service desk to the checkout. Sloane had taken a break, meaning that Stevie’s queue was a mile long. Yet, she hadn’t come back.


“Jumilah, if you were meant to take a break, go and find her. Make sure she’s alright. We can close a checkout for five minutes. She’s pregnant, she’s probably just taking forever to walk back here.”


With a guilty chuckle, I agreed. I placed down the ‘Checkout closed’ sign. Ducking out from where I’d been working, I scurried through the store. I figured that Sloane would either be in the staffroom, or in the aisle that’s the most direct route. That was, in fact, where I found Sloane. It didn’t seem like an arduous task.


“Oh, hi, Jumilah, nice to see you.”


Sloane walked bow-legged, reaching across to the shelves to hold on.


“Are you alright?”


My eyes flicked from Sloane’s expression to the floor.


“Oh, oh!”


I reached towards the yellow folding wet floor sign, as Sloane gripped tightly on my other arm.


“Would you like me to take you to the hospital?”


“Yes, please,” she requested, and I nodded.


I placed my arm around Sloane’s back. Carefully, I led her out to the carpark.


“My car is the yellow one, here are my keys.”


Sloane fished them out of her pocket and handed them to me. In the sea of cars outside the mall, she managed to point hers out.


“How far apart are your contractions?”


“I don’t know.”


“Alright, let’s time them.”


“Well, I think that I’m having one now.”


I checked my watch, flicking from my heartrate to the time.


“Alright, it’s eleven fifty-two. Can you remember that?”


Sloane shook her head.


“No, I honestly don’t think so.”


“OK,” I assured, with a nod of my head exuding false confidence. “I’ll remember that for you.”


I unlocked Sloane’s car and carefully opened the passenger side door, helping her onto the seat.


“You in, you good?”


Sloane nodded, eyes closed. I closed the door, then scampered around the front of the car. No matter what, I needed to be calm. I slipped into the driver’s side and placed the key into the ignition, turning it to start the car. Breathing out, I closed the door and I fastened my seatbelt.


“Have you got your seatbelt on?”


“Yeah,” Sloane agreed, eyes closed.


“How long have you been in labour for?”


“I’ve been having contractions since last night.”


It wasn’t my job to judge, just to drive.


“Hang on,” Sloane spoke up.


“What?”


“We need to find Patrick; we need to tell him what’s happened.”


“Ah, that will have to wait. I’m sorry, we’re on our way now, to the hospital.”


I hated myself for that. Truth be told I hated all of it.


“I’m sorry,” I repeated, then all I could do was drive, drive, drive.


“Tell me something,” Sloane begged. “Distract me, tell me anything.”


“I’m going to Adelaide tomorrow.”


“Is that for a holiday or for a research trip or something?”


“Both, kind of, I guess,” I answered. “One of my grandmother’s siamangs had a baby. We’re going to see the baby.”


“That sounds nice,” Sloane responded, grunting and gripping her belly as another contraction came.


“Alright.” I flicked my eyes towards the car clock, taking a moment to find it. “That’s twelve-oh-seven.”


I smiled anxiously.


“That’s alright, that’s fifteen minutes apart, that’s plenty of time.”


“There was one in the middle,” Sloane admitted through gritted teeth.


“Alright,” I replied, trying to sound calm.


I just kept driving, considering making conversation a bad idea. Last time I’d been at the hospital, it had been when Mum had lost her baby.


“When was the last contraction?” I asked Sloane.


“Oh, I don’t know.” She scrunched up her face. “Maybe about ten minutes ago.”


That didn’t seem uniform enough in keeping with my rudimentary knowledge of childbirth, but I didn’t object. By the time we arrived at the hospital, Sloane’s contractions seemed sparse enough that she was able to walk in on her own.


“My name is Sloane Munroe. I’m having a baby.”


She swore under her breath as another contraction rippled through her body.


“Alright, Ms Munroe, we’ll move you through to a delivery suite.”


The kind woman seemed to be a nurse, and she went off to fetch a wheelchair.


“It’s alright, I don’t need one. I can walk?”


“Are you sure, Ms Munroe?”


“I’m fine.”


With that, I followed the nurse with my arm around Sloane’s shoulders. She took us up in the lift to the maternity ward and I think that I would have felt my heart beating faster, if it wasn’t for the fact that my pulse had been throbbing since I’d first encountered Sloane in the aisle at work. Once we were settled, I tried ringing Mary, then Patrick. I ran my hand through my hair while I went to voicemail after voicemail. Sloane screamed from deep within her lungs, writing and holding onto the top of the bed for dear life. I thought that she was about to pass out.


“He told me I was pretty,” Sloane stated, resting her wrist atop her forehead.


The midwife sat down at the foot of the bed. I stayed out of the way while Sloane spread her legs and removed her damp underwear, for an examination.


“You’re five centimetres dilated,” the midwife observed.


“Is that a lot?”


“Ah, it is and it isn’t,” the midwife answered. “It’s a lot considering that you’ve just come in. How long have you been having contractions for?”


“Oh, since last night. I thought that they were just Braxton Hicks.”


“Well, they weren't. They’re the real thing.”


Sloane turned to look at me.


“I think it’s best to ring Mary again,” she told me.


Nodding, I started making the call.


“Is Mary your partner?” the midwife wanted to know.


“No,” Sloane answered, “she’s--.”


She faltered while I listened to the phone ring out.


“I live with her,” Sloane explained.


“Hello, Mary, it’s Jumilah here, I work with Sloane.”


“If she comes, can you look after the kids, please?” she requested through gritted teeth.


I nodded my head, while telling Mary’s voicemail where we were.


“She didn’t answer.”


“I figured that.”


“Do you want me to go over there?”


“No.”


“Would you like some water?” I offered.


Sloane shook her head and reached for the sheet. She tried to pull it up underneath her.


“Alright, ring Patrick.”


“Is he the father of the baby?”


“No,” I answered, before Sloane had the chance to.


“He’s my boyfriend,” I supplied.


“I’m confused,” the midwife admitted.


“That’s alright, it’s really not--.”


“I don’t really need to know.”


Thankfully, when I made the call, Patrick answered.


“Hey,” I responded. “Look, Sloane’s gone into labour. She went into labour at work. I’m at the hospital with her.”


“Oh, goodness,” Patrick replied. “Does she want me to come?”


“Yes,” Sloane hollered.


“Roger that.” Patrick must have heard. “I’m on my way.”


Sloane and I waited for what felt like forever, until Patrick finally arrived and rushed into the room.


“I’m so glad you’re here,” I gushed.


I moved out of the way, so that Patrick could take my place beside the bed.


“Hey, thank you,” Sloane said to Patrick, then glared at the midwife. “Could I have the pain relief now?”


She administered an injection into a cannula on Sloane’s hand, but she couldn’t have an epidural.


“Look, there are too many cooks in this kitchen,” the midwife remarked. “Girlfriend, out, please.”

I left the delivery suite.


Letting a slow breath out, I sat down on one of the chairs outside. I figured that I could have just left, because Sloane would likely still be in labour for hours, but I also sensed that I owed her something, and wanted to see this one through. Feeling painfully lonely, I called Tallulah on autopilot. When she answered, I told her where I was, and explained the situation to that point.


“Can you come, please?” I requested, my voice thin. “I just need my friend.”


“Of course, I’ll be right there.”


We ended the call and I took the phone down from my ear. I cradled it in the palms of my hand, like it was a tiny baby, and listened to the ominous noises produced within the hospital. My phone rang, startling me. Even though I didn’t recognise the number, I answered the call to occupy my mind.


“Hello, Jumilah Fioray speaking.”


It was just a telemarketer and, as I hung up, I heard footsteps approaching from around the corner.


“Hey,” Tallulah greeted me, sitting down next to me.


“Thank you for coming.”


“It’s alright.” She gestured towards the closed door in front of us. “Is Sloane in there?”


“Yeah,” I confirmed. “Patrick and Mary are with her.”


“That’s good of them.”


“Yeah, it is.”


“It’s not like I can judge other people’s relationships.”


I sighed heavily.


“Look, I’m sorry, but everyone makes a big deal of this,” I spoke up. “Sure, it’s unconventional, but the poor girl’s in labour. I want to do whatever makes her feel better.”


“That’s fair enough, I’m not judging.”


As I listened to Sloane’s grunts, I pondered all which led her to this, and all which remained ahead.


“I’m going to Adelaide tomorrow.” I glanced towards my watch. “Well, the plan is for me to be going to Adelaide tomorrow.”


“You’ve got to go,” Tallulah insisted. “Do you think you won’t go?”


“No, I’m definitely going to go.”


Through the closed door, we could hear Sloane’s guttural screams.


“I’m so glad that’s not me,” I admitted.


“Same.”


I breathed out. There was silence, followed by the door opening.


“Sloane’s had the baby, a beautiful little girl.”


I rose to my feet and walked over to Patrick, hugging him tightly.


“I’m so proud of you,” I whispered.


I kissed Patrick on the cheek, then pulled back.


“Everything’s going to be alright,” I promised.


I heard Tallulah stand behind me.


“If I went and got coffees, would you like one?” she offered.


“Listen, they’ll have to take Sloane into a ward and the baby to get all her vaccinations and tests and stuff, so you go, I’ll stay at least until someone else gets here.”


“Alright, of course.”


I left with Tallulah. We’d walked down the hallway before she said anything.


“I didn’t expect that you would come with me.”


“Was I not supposed to?”


“I thought that you would want to spend some time with Patrick.”


“Maybe I just really want coffee.”


Tallulah and I found a café. We ordered three coffees, starting to drink ours, then she found somewhere to sit and wait. I located Patrick again, peering through the window looking into the nursery. Once he noticed my presence, I handed him over a coffee.


“It’s probably a little cold, I’m sorry.”


“No, it’s lovely, it’s perfect, thank you.” Patrick took a sip. “Thank you, Jumilah.”


“It’s alright.”


“I mean it, thank you for being there with Sloane today. I’m sure she appreciates you.”


“It’s the least I could do,” I assured. “She’s such a beautiful baby.”


“She takes after her mother.”


“Has a name been decided upon yet?”


“Yes. Her name is Joanna Mary Grace Munroe.”


“She has Sloane’s surname, and your mother’s name as a middle name.”


“Yeah.”


“So, is Sloane going to keep her now?”


“I’m not sure, but this poor kid didn’t deserve Frank’s name.”


“Would you like her to keep the baby?”


Patrick shrugged his shoulders.


“It’s never been my decision, and it’s especially not now.”


The weight of uncertainty hung thick in the air.


“In order to stay, to stay right here, I have to go, first. I have to go to Adelaide and see Nanek and then, then I have to go to Melbourne for my prac. If I don’t, then I won’t be able to complete the course.”


“Jumilah, of course you have to go.”


“I’ll come back.”


“Well, that’s the plan.”


“That’s the point, Patrick. Haven’t you been listening to what I just said?”


“No, I’m sorry, not really. I’m super tired. It’s been a really long day and I think that I’m a little bit over-emotional.”


“Would you like Tallulah to drive you home?”


“No, it’s fine, thank you. I’ll stay here, just in case.”


“Alright,” I agreed, and I kissed Patrick on the cheek to bid him farewell. “I’ll call you in the morning.”


I walked away. Leaving the hospital, I paid for Tallulah's parking. It was exorbitantly expensive, although the least that I could do. My mind felt cluttered as she drove me home. At least I’d gotten out of a day of work. She pulled into the driveway, then I walked into the house.


“I was wondering where you’d gotten to,” Mum remarked, when I made my way to the loungeroom.


“Oh.” I looked at my watch. “I didn’t even realise what time it was.”


“Are you alright, Jumilah?”


“Don’t panic, I’ve been at the hospital most of the day, actually.”


“Oh.”


“Sloane had the baby, a little girl – Joanna Mary Grace Munroe.”


“Oh, Jumilah.”


“Mother and baby are doing well, Patrick’s at the hospital with them. It’s good that Sloane’s got people in her corner.”


“Yes, it is,” Mum agreed, then she fetched me some dinner.


I ate quickly, thinking of the liminal space between life and death. Mum kissed me on the forehead, then I got up. I walked into the bathroom and cleaned my teeth, then put the toothbrush away and flicked off the light on my way out. Once I got into bed, I quickly fell asleep.


 

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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