On the afternoon of Mitchell’s birthday, I tucked myself under the heavy covers. I heard the vibration of my phone, but didn’t check it. The cricket was on the television, but I wouldn’t have been able to recall the score. If someone had walked into the room, then I barely would have been able to tell them who was batting. Wriggling under the doona, I could feel my body getting heavier, desperate to have my brother back. I listened. It wasn’t Mitchell that I thought that I could hear, or that I was searching for. Flipping onto my other side, I spotted Geoff climbing the front steps. He disappeared beyond the window frame. Geoff let himself into the house, then strolled through into my bedroom.
“Rod’s just behind me, from your support group.”
I felt embarrassed to let him into the house, because for some reason, I believed that how I felt would be foreign to Rod. It was Mum, though, perhaps wanting to force me to be hospitable, that allowed him inside. Rod walked through into the doorway of my room.
“Do you mind if I come in?” he requested.
“Yeah, of course.”
Rod hesitated for a moment, then I realised the implication of what I’d actually said.
“Come in, Rod. It’s alright.”
He walked into the room and took up my desk chair. Mum followed him, sitting on the end of my bed. They provided me with the space, to speak if I wanted to, but I struggled to track down the words from deep within my soul. In their place, I let out a sob.
“I just feel so empty.”
Yet, my chest was tight. Rod’s phone rang. It startled me, although I tried not to show it. I thought about getting up, to go to the toilet.
“Sorry, I’ve got to take this, is that alright?” Rod checked.
He answered his phone and I noted a shadow cross his expression.
“Is he in hospital?”
My brow furrowed with concern.
“Oh, right, alright.” Rod wiped his nose. “I’m in Sydney. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
He finished the call, placing his phone down on the bed. I could feel my heart thumping within my chest, as I shifted somewhat awkwardly underneath the covers. Despite my frame being concealed, I felt so exposed.
“What’s the matter?”
“Dave has taken off to Tasmania. He was agitated on the plane, so they’ve retained him at the airport, but they don’t want to let him go.”
I drew back upon my reserves of concentration.
“I’ll go with you. I don’t want you to be on your own.”
While I thought Rod would object, he nodded.
“Thank you, Nina. I would really appreciate that.”
I booked my flight, wincing at the price. Mum drove us out, once I’d farewelled Geoff with a kiss. In the car on the way to the airport, we listened to pop music on FM radio, one of the commercial stations which Mitchell and I used to tune into when he drove me to work. Finally, she pulled into the kiss and drop zone and we emerged from the car with our little carry-on bags. Mum kissed me on the head, then let me go, so that I could follow Rod into the terminal and through security, towards our flight. We passed through without issue and headed straight for the boarding gate. I rubbed my hands together while we waited in the queue, before being let through to find our seats on the aircraft. The whole time on the plane I thought that I was about to throw up. When we finally arrived, there wasn’t time to be sick. I followed Rod out of the cabin. Inside the airport terminal, some buskers were yodelling, so I tossed a couple of coins into their open guitar case, prompting a nod and a smile of thanks. Once we passed through security, a staff member greeted us.
“I’m Rod, I’m Dave’s uncle,” he greeted him, firmly shaking his hand.
“Thank you for coming. Come through with me, please.”
The staff member led us into a room, where Dave was slumped in the corner. His face was stained with tears.
“Oh, mate. It’s OK.”
Rod gave Dave a big hug.
“I’m going to call Doreen, OK.”
He headed out of the room to make the call.
I nodded, although I felt a little awkward, not knowing or remembering she lived in Tasmania. Dave and I waited.
“Have you seen a doctor?”
He shook his head. I didn’t know what to say. What would I say to Mitchell in the same situation? Really, I just would have wanted to give him a hug. To do that would have felt awkward. Likewise would have been mentioned Veronica. Rod returned.
“Doreen said that she’d come and pick us up, take us home for the night,” he announced.
Once Rod received word, we thanked the airport staff again. He led Dave and I through the terminal and out to the carpark, where a woman waited. She must have been Doreen, because she let us into the car.
“Have you had anything to eat?”
“No,” Rod answered, after a while.
“I’m not sure if we’ve got anything at home, but we’ll make do.”
I noticed a few messages on my phone, from friends. The one from Lizzie was the text I chose to read and respond to, being Mitchell’s cousin as well as mine.
Mum and Dad would be home; I told her, but I’m in Tasmania
I didn’t elaborate, because I didn’t feel like it. The car slowed and then pulled to the right, into a driveway. Parking on the slope, we got out and followed Gracie’s mother, Doreen, in through the front door. The television was already playing and a small smile came onto my face. I thought about how Mum and Dad used to do the same when they went out, for the illusion of someone being home. Rod handed the remote over to Dave. While he flicked through the channels, we tucked into chocolate for dinner. The three of us leaned against each other, for all we could manage to do was breathe.
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 desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.