The message came through to our work group chat. I didn’t know the context behind the message, so I left it on read and got up, moved off into the bathroom to get dressed ready to fly home. Mum needs to return to work, so our time with Nanek is short-lived, until there are further developments.
If I don’t think, I can get through the day. Andrew gave me some of Kakek’s books to take with me, to shove into my suitcase. He assured me that they would come in handy, if I followed through with my plans. We talk about them all the time now, which makes me anxious. Andrew decided that he would drive us to the airport, on his way back home, and to see Rashida. Mum and I said goodbye, then made our way through the airport. We didn’t have to wait too long to get on the plane, but it seemed to spend an age on the tarmac. Finally, it started to motor along the runway. I’ve caught a lot of flights in the last little while, going back and forth from Sumatra and the Cocos Keeling Islands and Sydney, and of course home to Hobart, Tasmania. There were three flights in this trip. This should be the last time. We should be able to return to normal life now, even though the situation is anything but.
“You would have to house tarsiers in a special, indoor exhibit, wouldn’t you?”
Mum nodded her head. She seemed a little sleepy.
“Well, in most places in Australia you probably would, because there’s not the heat nor humidity.”
“In Tasmania you definitely would,” I noted.
Mum nodded again.
I kept my musings to myself, to allow her to sleep. Mum did nod off, not even being interrupted when the flight attendant came around with food and drinks. I accepted an orange juice and a biscuit with thanks. While I ate, I stared out the window.
“Are you alright?” Mum asked when she came to.
I had finished my food and drink by then, the empty cup crushed to throw out.
“Yeah, yeah,” I assured. “Are you OK?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Mum promised me. “How much longer until we land?”
“Still another few hours, I think,” I answered, looking ahead to the front of the plane, where a screen showed our flight path.
This flight is always much longer than I think it’s going to be. I needed to stave off the exhaustion, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to keep myself going until Hobart.
“Do you want to have something to eat?”
I held up the empty cup. Mum nodded her head, getting the point without me having to say anything. She obviously needed more sleep, because she drifted off again, giving me more time to think. I really don’t want to get my hopes up. My eyes flicked up to the lights above our seats.
“Would you like me to take that for you?” the flight attendant offered, tempering the volume of her voice as she realised that Mum was sleeping, but she stirred.
I handed over the empty cup.
“Thanks,” I whispered, and the flight attendant moved on, smile plastered on.
I considered getting up, maybe going to the bathroom or even just going for a walk. That would have required pushing past Mum. Instead I stayed in my seat, knowing that there was still about an hour and a half remaining until I would be able to get off the plane and stretch my legs, if not for good, at least until the next flight. I looked out the window, with blue-grey cloud out in the distance. Our seats were over the wing, coloured with the tint of the airline’s branding. There is something peaceful about floating through the light sky. I love being up with the clouds, and I imagined what it would be like to walk amongst them. It would be beautiful, but it never could be. The flight attendants stowed away their trays. There must not have been that much longer until the plane would be landing, so I settled in. I could wait – and Mum could asleep – until we returned to the ground. An announcement came over the PA system. Mum stirred, woken up by the voice, but I must admit that I was a little bit grateful that I wouldn’t have to wake her up myself. Some of the other passengers started to get twitchy, as the plane started its descent. I could feel the rushing of the plane, and I wondered what it would be like to open the window.
“Are we nearly there?” Mum asked.
The flight attendants took their own seats. Thankfully the plane landed without incident. There was only a short turnaround after landing in Singapore, before we boarded our flight for Sydney, where we were planning on staying the night. The adrenaline wore off once I was on the plane. A following seven hours felt like a very long time. I didn’t need to pay too much attention to the safety demonstration. I’ve been on enough flights lately almost know it off my hand. Besides, I don’t really need to be focusing on catastrophe, not right now. I don’t need to know about what might go wrong. The fate of our flight was, and would be, out of my hands. All I could do, once the plane was in the air, was drift off to sleep, with Mum patting my curls.
“Oh, sorry,” I apologised when I came to, waking up with a start.
A flight attendant was coming along the aisle, clattering the tray with food and drinks on each level. I checked out the window, endless blue which gave nothing away. We were moving forward in time, so eventually I knew that it was going to get dark.
“Are you going alright?”
“Yes, I’ve had my sleep.”
What I didn’t take into account was that clouds would develop, as the plane hurtled through the sky. My eyes bulged at the sight of a lightning strike. Instinctively I reached for Mum’s hand. She drew circles at the base of the thumb, while we flew through the storm. I sunk my body into the chair, reaffirming what I’d considered before, that there wasn’t anything I could do. Enough time had passed, that we couldn’t have been that far away from Sydney.
“Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. Unfortunately this inclement weather is preventing our landing in Sydney. We will be having to land in Brisbane and stay there overnight.”
An annoyed grunt went around the plane cabin. I exhaled. The cabin crew seemed to be somewhat frantic, which didn’t make me feel any more at ease. Finally they assured us that there was nothing wrong, but owing to the storm we’d lost time, and wouldn’t be making it to Sydney before curfew. This made me feel more at ease while the plane started its bumpy journey to solid ground. Once the plane was safely on the tarmac, the other passengers were itching to get out of their seats. They could be in all the hurry that they liked. While sitting on the tarmac, we were allowed to turn our phones off aeroplane mode. I could see puddles on the ground outside, but I didn’t think that it was actually raining.
The flight attendants went around. They handed out slips of paper with the details of the airport hotel written on them, where we would be able to stay for the night, a mercy I appreciated greatly. Mum and I held back, still, while others were in a hurry to leave. Eventually we got off the plane and moved through the terminal. We only had carry-on bags, meaning that we didn’t have to bother with the carousels. Being diverted to Brisbane was annoying, but they gave us somewhere to stay. With our bags under our arms, Mum and I walked across to the hotel and slipped through the automatic doors into the foyer. We smiled, with gratitude and exhauston, to the receptionist.
“Hello, we’re from the Singapore flight. Catherine Fioray, and Jumilah Fioray.”
The receptionist checked some lists in front of her, then handed over a keycard. We thanked her, then walked over to make our way up to our room. This seemed like a fancy place, with a golden hue in the building thanks to the pendant lights hanging from the ceiling. Mum and I were the only ones in the lift, as it carried us up to our room for the night. When the doors burst open, we spilled out. We dragged ourselves and our bags along the hallway to room 213, where Mum slotted the key card in to unlock the door. We stumbled through the door, grateful for the two made beds which awaited us. I dumped my bag at the foot of the first one that I came across, then fell onto it. Mum called the place where we were meant to be staying in Sydney, to let them know that we wouldn’t be coming.
“Oh, thank you, that would be great,” she spoke into the phone, as I took my shoes off and hopped into bed. “I’m actually not sure what’s happening with our flights, so I might have to call you back, I’m sorry.”
Mum ended the call, explaining to me how they’d offered to transfer our night to tomorrow night.
“Oh, that would be good,” I replied.
“I’ve just got to work out what’s happening with our flight to Hobart. That’s still booked for tomorrow, so there might not be much that we can do, I’m sorry.”
When I’m with Mum, I like the adventure of travelling. I don’t know if I could do it by myself for any great length of time, but that’s not what’s on the cards, at least for now. We’re – eventually – returning to Hobart, where I will go back to work at Sorell Woolworths. We will go back to our normal lives and then we will figure out what is going to happen from there.
“Right, thank you, that’s great.”
Mum ended the call with the airline, spinning around from where she was sitting on the bed.
“Well, that’s good news. The airline is going to sort us out for a flight to Sydney in the morning, and then we’re able to put back our next leg to Hobart until the following day. That works with your work, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, that’s fine,” I agreed.
“I’ll ring back the place in Sydney, to tell them we will take the extra night’s accommodation.”
Mum started dialling the number.
“Would you like me to turn the light off?”
“Thank you, that would be great.”
Mum got up and turned off the light, then kissed me on the forehead before returning to her bed. All tucked in, I could sleep again.
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.