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This afternoon, I was sitting in the university library, studying. I heard footsteps. Glancing up, I noticed Robert stepping towards the table, with Bianca clutching his arm. Her skin was pale, but she bore a warm smile.


“Hello,” Bianca greeted.


She squinted in thought.


“Nina, is it?” Bianca queried.


I nodded once in confirmation.


“I thought so, Mitchell’s younger sister.” Bianca looked concerned, but I tried not to.


She gingerly lowered herself onto a chair on the other side of the table.


“Have you heard any news?” Bianca queried.


I shook my head.


“It would be six months on Monday,” I mentioned.


Bianca pressed her lips together momentarily. Later, I strolled from the university, laden down my books. I stumbled across the campus to the hospital carpark, where I opened the passenger door and hauled myself into Mum’s car. She was waiting there in the driver’s seat, ready to drive back home. I dumped my books and my bag at my feet, then relaxed back into the seat. Mum held my head in her hand and pressed a kiss to my temple.


“You’re done for the term.” We both breathed out. “Your classes are over and you have two weeks off now to relax and get better for what’s ahead.”


“I’m still going in for a few lectures next week,” I pointed out.


“Oh, do you?” Mum enquired.


“Yeah,” I confirmed. “We need to catch up some.”


“Right,” Mum replied, sounding a bit surprised.


“I saw Robert and Bianca at the library.”


“Oh, how did she look?”


“A bit pale, but we didn’t talk long. In fact, we mostly talked about Mitchell.”


“The poor girl,” Mum remarked, shaking her head. “That poor, poor girl.”


When we arrived home, she pulled up in the driveway. We briefly ducked inside, allowing Mum time to change for dinner and for us to collect Dad, then we travelled back through the traffic to Greg and Natalie’s place in Castle Hill for our regular Friday night. After parking under the carport, the three of us let ourselves into the house, walking through to the kitchen to greet Greg and Natalie.


“I saw Bianca today, Robert’s girlfriend, at uni. She’s been diagnosed with cancer,” I admitted, even though I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to say.


“Your mother told me,” Natalie responded. “What’s her prognosis?”


“I’m not sure,” I answered, “but I think it’s pretty serious, just from talking with Simon, her brother.”


When I heard the screen door open, I rose to my feet. I padded across the tiles in Greg and Natalie’s kitchen and embraced Geoff, pressing a kiss to his soft lips.


“Hello,” I greeted him, keeping an arm around his shoulders. “How was your day?”


“Same old, same old,” Geoff answered.


He removed his black police cap and hung it up on its hook, on the wall above the fish tank. A few large orange goldfish swam around in the water.


“Nothing too dramatic?”


“No.”


“That’s good.”


We headed back through to where the others were finishing off cooking dinner.


“Is there anything I can do to help?”


“I’m alright, thanks. It’s nearly ready.”


I nodded. Natalie served dinner. She poured me a glass of golden pash, to complement my chicken and potatoes.


“Robert and Bianca, how long have they been together?” Greg enquired.


“I’m not totally sure,” I answered.


Mitchell would have known.


“I actually saw them at Juliet and Jacob Winter’s wedding. It’s a small world.”


“Sure is.”


Greg hoed into his crumbed chicken, although Natalie’s brow furrowed. She eventually started eating, but must have been troubled.


“What do you think? Do you reckon it would be helpful for you to reach out and speak with her?”


“It doesn’t matter whether or not it would be helpful for me. It’s about what assists Bianca.”


I couldn’t disagree. We finished our main course, which was followed by dessert. By that point it was well and truly dark outside. Natalie cleared the table. We didn’t migrate to the TV room. Dad yawned and checked his watch.


“Do you want to head off, Leo?”


Dad seemed a little startled. Mum’s lips parted, as if she was about to speak on his behalf.


“Actually, I would like to go home.”


My face felt hot underneath the lights. Dad rubbed his eyes, almost seeming embarrassed, the exhaustion from the week and his life palpable. I turned to Geoff, then back to my parents.


“Do you mind if I stay over?” I requested.


Mum and Dad glanced at each other, then looked back to me.


“Yes, of course you can,” Mum permitted.


I tried not to beam, even though excitement ran through me.


“Thank you.”


We walked out onto the front porch, to wave Mum and Dad off as they reversed out of the driveway. Once the car disappeared, we returned inside. I glanced over Geoff’s shoulder. Something on the floor caught my attention. We parted. I crouched down.


“What’s the matter?”


“Oh, I thought I could see something weird on the floor.”


I picked up dark-coloured rubber.


“Oh, I know what that is,” Geoff mentioned. “It’s the coating from the back of the TV remote. Lately it’s started coming off.”


“Right.”


I threw it out in the kitchen, tiles cool underneath my feet. For a moment I could myself transfixed by the window, my own reflection amidst the night.


“I wish that Mitchell could be here.”


“Yeah, I know you do,” Geoff agreed, then kissed my hair.


“Do you want to go to bed soon?”


“Yeah.”


We headed down the carpeted hallway. I cleaned my teeth in the ensuite of the downstairs bedroom. Geoff lingered, a faithful presence. I got into bed, Geoff following me, albeit on top of the covers I tucked myself under. The smile didn’t leave my lips. As I drifted off to sleep, Geoff was stroking my hair softly. He’d have to go back to his own bed eventually, but there was nowhere else that I would rather be.


 

The younger sister of missing Sydney man Mitchell del Reyan, Nina del Reyan lives on Dharug land in western Sydney. She has recently commenced a teaching degree at Macquarie University. Nina loves her family and friends and is deeply committed to finding answers and justice for the families of missing people.


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'.


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