I woke up in the early hours of the morning. Rolling onto my side, I thought that it would have been close to the time of my alarm, but it wasn’t. I thought about the wildlife course. That didn’t help me in getting back to sleep. I went on my phone for a little while, and started filling out the application form. On a whim I submitted it, then received a phone call.
“Bad news, I’m afraid,” Claire apologised. “We think that Ratu’s had some sort of mini-stroke.”
“That’s terrible,” I responded, one hand rising to my mouth. “Can she recover?”
“We hope so, but she’s an old animal. Jumilah, I’m very sorry that I can’t promise a good outcome.”
“That’s alright, I know that you can only do what you can do.”
I rode my bike to work this morning, which provided me with a much-needed opportunity to clear my head. As I stepped into the staffroom, there was music playing.
“Are you trying to get some inspiration for the wedding?”
Maryam answered yes, Patrick answered no.
I dumped my bag.
“I’m on checkouts today, yeah?”
“You are,” Patrick confirmed, “and so am I.”
He followed me out of the staffroom and into the store. Patrick, Sloane and I ended up one, two, three in a row, serving customers. We were fairly busy, which didn’t leave any time for chatter, or much time to think about anything else other than scanning groceries and credit cards, and engaging in the pleasantries of small talk.
“Oh my goodness.”
Sloane gripped her belly.
“Are you alright?” Patrick asked.
“Yes,” Sloane confirmed, as she hiccupped, then laughed. “I just had a particularly violent hiccup.”
Patrick still seemed rattled. We all got back to work. As I served customers, I tried not to think about him, or either of them. That was somewhat challenging, when I was spending the whole time looking at Patrick’s back, as he looked at Sloane’s back. Somehow the time passed and I was able to take my break, encountering Maryam in the staffroom.
“How about coming with me to choose my wedding dress?”
“Sure, but don’t you have, like, a million bridesmaids to do that with you.”
“I don’t have a million bridesmaids, Jumilah, I have twelve, but yes, some of my bridesmaids would be coming with us, Lucy, for instance.”
Maryam gestured towards her, to make her point.
“I’m here to do whatever you need,” Lucy vowed.
“Well, help me choose a wedding venue in the meantime.”
Maryam splayed wedding magazines across the table, so that we could all have a look.
“Here’s one, Puddleduck Vineyard.” I pointed it out in the magazine. “North of Dulcot, not far from here.”
“Great, but a vineyard,” Maryam challenged. “My family is Muslim.”
“We need a secular, outdoor venue, where we can have an alcohol-free wedding. Getting married outdoors is kind of a beautiful compromise. It’s everyone’s place of worship.”
“Alright. We can work with that.”
“You’re family’s Indo, but you’re not Muslim, right?”
“Yeah, we’re Catholic on both sides. Dad’s side’s Italian, so obviously they’re Catholic and my grandparents were lived near a convent, so that’s how they converted. I’ve got some Muslim family members, though.”
I flicked over the page.
“What do your parents think about the wedding venue?”
“I think that it would be their preference that I marry a good Muslim man and have a nikkah like my sisters did, but other than that they’ve left it up to me.”
“Well, that’s not terrible.”
“I mean, Mum loves Ricky. It helps that he’s studying medicine.” Maryam reached for some of the chocolates in the middle of the table and prepared to stuff them into her mouth. “So, honestly, I can’t complain.”
“Maryam,” Kevin called out from the door.
She swivelled around with a grunt.
“You’re needed back at the Service Desk.”
Maryam grunted again, then got back to work. I decided to take the rest of my break outside. Walking down the stairs, I found Patrick breaking down the recycling.
“I’ve thought of a new way to break down these boxes,” he explained, then jumped vigorously on one to demonstrate.
“That seems kinda genius, actually.”
My chest felt tight, and I didn’t quite know what to say.
“I don’t know what Ricky’s doing for his bucks.”
“Great, but I don’t want to talk about that.”
“What, I thought chicks digged all of that stuff,” Patrick quipped, laughing too soon to give up the act.
“I’d like to talk about Sloane and giving the baby up for adoption to Frank.”
“And Mary, you know, she raves about Mary.”
“That’s a good thing, isn’t it? The baby will have a good mum.”
“Jumilah, the baby already has a good mum. Sloane and I would be great parents.”
“You’re still at school, you’re not together, you wouldn’t be together--.”
“My parents weren’t together, at least my child will have two parents.” Patrick continued to break down the boxes, with increasing vigour. “You sound like you want her to give the baby up for adoption.”
“Well, she’s seventeen--.”
“I’m seventeen, too.”
“I want the best outcome to happen. It’s not really my decision to make.”
“You’re a kind person, Jumilah.”
“I really mean it.”
Patrick kissed me on the lips.
“I love you,” I told him.
My heart thumped.
“I love you too.”
Lucy appeared, hanging out the back door.
“Hey, can you come back inside, please? The power’s gone out and we need a few extra hands.”
Patrick and I shoved the rest of the boxes hastily into the recycling bin, then scampered inside. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the power to come back on, making all of our lives easier. Once I rode home from work, I rushed straight inside. I went straight to the bathroom to make sure that I didn’t wet my pants. I’d just wanted to get home, although I really should have gone before I left work. After I relieved myself and washed my hands, I could finally greet Mum, Dad and Andrew.
“Hello, did you have a good day?”
“It was just a regular day,” Dad assured.
“We miss having you around, on a Sunday,” Mum mentioned.
“Well, I’m a big girl now, I’ve got to go to work.”
Mum cooked pumpkin soup for dinner. While I listened to it simmer on the stove, I sat with a cup of tea.
“We’ve ended up with so much pumpkin,” Mum noted with a laugh. “I promise you this is the last lot.”
“It’s fine, it’s nice,” I assured, sounding disinterested.
“Are you alright, Jumilah?"
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I insisted, and, once dinner was served, I made sure to eat.
I was thinking about Ratu, also. Patrick also was on my mind, because I enjoy our relationship, but Sloane makes things complicated, and I can’t exactly blame a seventeen-year-old pregnant girl. Thankfully, Mum’s a good cook. The option was available to bury myself in food and that could make me feel better than thinking about everything. I startled when the phone rang, rushing from the table to answer it. Patiently and stoically, I nodded my head while Claire updated me.
“Thank you for letting me know,” I responded, then returned to my family to pass on the bad news.
Pushing my hair back from my face, I sighed heavily.
“I think that we might have to say goodbye,” I conceded.
The wind howled outside, the back door slamming shut. Mum got up quietly to go and ensure that everything was secured.
“Is that your decision to make?”
“No, it’s not. It should be Nanek’s decision.”
“I know that your mother has been trying to call her.”
“So where is Nanek now?”
“I’m not sure. She’ll be fine.”
Mum returned inside.
“Everything’s OK out there, it’s just a bit windy.”
It was raining heavily against the roof as I nodded off to sleep. I think that was the only reason I was able to rest at all.
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.