The good thing about living on such a large property is that it’s a fantastic place to run. This morning I went for a jog, which I don’t normally do, but exercise and sweat proved to be a balm. When I returned home, I thought that Mum and Dad would have left for work already, but instead I located them in the kitchen.
“I’ve got that work dinner tonight,” I mentioned, between sips from a cold glass of water.
“Ring us when you need us to pick you up.”
“It’s fine. Patrick’s going to drive me.”
“Sweet, that’s lovely,” Mum replied, then she and Dad raced out the door.
I left not long after, riding my bike to work. While I went to the front of the centre like I’d become accustomed to, the bike rack was gone. I gave a wry laugh, then walked through the loading dock where, sure enough, the bike rack had been returned to its original location. As I chained up my bike, I hoped that it would still be there at the end of the day.
“Someone needs to tell Frank that the bike rack’s been moved,” I announced as I entered the staffroom.
“Oh, Frank’s not in today.”
“I thought that he usually worked Fridays.”
“He’s rostered on Saturday this week. He’ll be at the pub tonight.”
“Frank’s the boss, right?” Mbeli checked.
“Yeah, Store Manager.”
Kevin slipped out of the staff men’s toilets.
“Waste of space, if you ask me.”
“Well, lucky no-one,” Caleb began, but Kevin was gone before he could finish, “asked you.”
It had already been somewhat of an eventful morning. Chris folded up the newspaper and pressed it across the table.
“Can I get some help, please?” Lucy requested, popping her head in. “There’s a detergent spill in Aisle Seven.”
We departed the staffroom and got to work. Cleaning up the detergent was certainly sticky business, suds developing when we applied moisture, but it wasn’t a particularly long task. On my way to the checkout, I glanced to the right and noticed that the meat section was running a little empty. Perhaps the truck had not yet arrived. Yet, I had other responsibilities, to serve customers and pack groceries. We were short-staffed, so I wasn’t afforded a lunch break and stayed on my feet right until the afternoon, when I returned to the staffroom and grabbed my bag as quickly as I could.
“Alright, I’m off. See you at the pub.”
I departed out the back door of the staffroom. Thankfully my bike was still there. The ride was a little taxing, owing to the heat. When I returned home from work, I heated up the leftovers from last night, then took it into bed to eat so that I could have a little bit of a rest. Even though I was going out, I couldn’t hold out that long. Around the time I finished my food, Patrick dropped over to our place, after school. I led him through into the kitchen, after kissing him hello.
“What do you think our couple name would be?” Patrick asked.
“That means we’re a couple.”
He opened the fridge.
“Do you think we’re not?”
“We’ve been out once.”
“And we’ve pashed, lots.”
“Have you mentioned anything to Sloane yet?”
Patrick shook his head.
“You really need to,” I insisted, but then regretted my tone. “We really need to, if we’re going to be arriving at this dinner together tonight.”
Patrick and I sat down on the lounge, to brainstorm.
“Do you know how she’s getting there?”
“No, I don’t. We don’t really talk about that everyday stuff.”
“Will you be right to go soon?”
“I’m just going to have a shower first, if that’s alright.”
“Can I join you?”
“No,” I playfully insisted, wagging my finger as I departed the kitchen.
I knew that Patrick’s gaze was trailing down my back, as I headed for the shower. While I could have washed my hair, I decided against it. I can do that another day. After a quick shower, I got dressed into a sparkly black dress. I toyed with the idea of wearing heels, but settled on sensible flats. Once I was dressed, I ducked back into the bathroom, to slap a bit of makeup on. I hoisted my hair up into something of a messy bun, to hide the grease. There was a confident smile on my lips, when I walked out to Patrick.
“You look beautiful.”
I twirled around.
“Oh, your grandmother called, while you were in the shower.”
“Nanek or Nonna?”
“The one I met, Nanek. We talked about you, and we talked about macaques.”
Patrick held up his palms.
“I didn’t say anything. All I said was that you would ring her back as soon as you could.”
While I called Nanek back, Patrick went into the loungeroom to get changed. I rocked back and forth on the balls of my feet with nerves, catching glimpses. Patrick smiled, his placement intentional. When Nanek answered, she told me that she’d been speaking with a lovely young man. I diverted, asking her about the macaques. The troop will be sent to Launceston on Tuesday, so another visit will have to be in order. Once Patrick and I got into the car, we kissed on the lips before fastening our seatbelts. Rain sprinkled lightly on the windscreen.
“This is going to be a good night,” I declared.
I tugged my seatbelt across my chest, while Patrick turned the car around. When we arrived at the tavern, we found the table, where Frank, Sloane and Ricky were sitting already.
“Hi,” I greeted them, sitting down opposite Ricky.
“Do you want to go and get yourself a drink? Maryam’s at the bar.”
“What do you want?” I asked Patrick. “My shout.”
“A ginger beer, please.”
“Go and find Maryam and tell her, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to go to the bar.”
I found Maryam and flagged her attention, so that she could add Patrick and my drinks.
“Thanks.” I accompanied her back to the table. “I’ll transfer you the money.”
“Thanks, Jumilah. I’ve just got to go to the bathroom.”
“So do I.”
Thankfully the women’s toilets were clear. We went into separate stalls and closed the doors. Maryam finished first, and I could hear her washing her hands while I flushed the toilet and opened the door. I emerged from the stall, preoccupied with washing my own hands and drying them. Maryam held the door open for me to pass through, and I noticed her finger glinting.
“That is an absolutely beautiful ring,” I gushed.
My eyes bulged. Maryam wore the three-stone ring on her left hand, not her right. We looked at each other.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Maryam took my hand.
“Come with me, I’ll tell you everything.”
I nodded, and she pulled me back into the toilets.
“Ricky proposed,” Maryam announced, flashing her left hand, “last night. We’re getting married.”
“That’s wonderful,” I gushed. “Look, I suspected you and Ricky, but I didn’t know for sure--.”
“That’s alright. It’s only been three weeks.”
“And you’re engaged.” I was trying to not sound so surprised. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you. We’re really happy.”
It might have just been the harsh lights in the tavern bathroom, but Maryam seemed to be glowing.
“We’re going in tomorrow morning to lodge the paperwork, to get married in five weeks.”
I must have had alarm blaring from my face.
“It’s sudden, I know, but my parents found out about the relationship, so we need to move fast.”
“Alright, well that’s great news.”
“Actually, can I ask you something, Jumilah? We haven’t said anything to everyone at work yet.”
“Your secret’s safe with me.”
“Good. We’ll announce tonight.”
When Maryam and I emerged from the bathroom, Frank was holding Patrick against a wall.
“Hey!” I called out, rushing over to them. “Let’s just calm down.”
Begrudgingly, Frank let Patrick go and walked away.
“What was all that about?”
“I’m sorry, Jumilah, let’s get out of here.”
I took Patrick by the hand and left the tavern, even though I’d wanted to stay and hang with my workmates.
“What happened, Patrick?” I asked, once we were out in the carpark. “Was he hassling you?”
“He’s just been all over Sloane. Did you know that she’s moved in with them?”
“No, I didn’t. Did her family kick her out?”
Patrick sat down on a log serving as a barrier in the carpark, taking a breath to calm himself down.
“Yes, they did. I told Mum about the pregnancy. She said Sloane could move in.”
After sitting down beside him, I gently rubbed Patrick’s back.
“We need to go back in there, we need to get her.” He burst to his feet.
I returned my arm to my side, more calmly.
“Listen, Patrick, let’s just go back home.”
I stalked after him through the carpark.
“It’s not reasonable for you to expect Sloane to leave with you if she’s living with Frank.”
Patrick turned around angrily.
“I’m sorry, Jumilah, but he can’t--.”
His hands were shaking, chest quaking. Within my bag, I felt my phone vibrate.
“It’ll be OK.”
I quickly checked, noticing a message from Luke.
“Luke can have us over for dinner, let’s not worry about a silly work dinner. Let me talk to Sloane.”
Patrick started sobbing, hiding his head in his hands.
“I can’t protect her,” he cried, “and I can’t protect the baby. What should I do?”
“Come with me, Sloane will be alright. She’s with the others, they won’t let anything happen to her.”
I thought of Maryam and Ricky and their happy news, hoping their announcement remained unspoiled. Patrick was convinced, and we never ended up getting to Luke’s. Instead he had calmed down enough to drive home.
“I never answered you before, when we were talking about our couple name.”
“That’s alright,” he assured me. “We’ll have plenty of time to think about it.”
Patrick pulled into the driveway.
“Would you like to come in?”
“No, thanks. I’ll be fine.”
I kissed him on the lips, then got out of the car. Once I got back inside, I snuggled into bed and flicked through my camera roll. Mum appeared in the doorway to my room.
“Did you have a good time?”
“Sort of. We didn’t stay at the tavern for long, there was drama.”
“Is everything alright, Jumilah?”
“Yeah, just stuff with Patrick and Frank. They haven’t really been getting on, so it seems.”
My phone vibrated within my hand, with a message from Tallulah: How was your work dinner at the pub?
I’d tell her, but the story isn’t easily explained.
“Is there anything that you want to talk to me about?” Mum wanted to know.
“It’s alright,” I assured, even though I feel like it’s anything but.
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.