My alarm blared this morning. I rolled over and turned it off, then closed my eyes again. After a moment’s peace, I remembered again. Six months had passed. It had been six months without Mitchell. I breathed out slowly, then threw back the covers and sat up. Swinging my legs around, I touched my bare feet to the floor. I stood, then padded out of my bedroom and across the hallway into Mum and Dad’s room. Mum was snuggled up in bed, wrapped up in the doona. I crawled onto the bed and embraced her, remaining silent.
“Your father’s already gone to work,” Mum eventually mentioned.
“I love you,” I told Mum, almost pleading.
I cuddled her tighter.
“I love you too,” Mum replied, her voice quiet and solemn.
Once we were ready for the day, Mum dropped me off at the university on her way to work at the on-campus hospital.
“I’ll catch the bus or train home when I’m done,” I told her, before giving her a peck on the cheek.
“Alright,” Mum agreed. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I responded, then got out of the car and walked off through campus.
While walking down the stairs, I stumbled. Thankfully I gripped the railing and steadied myself. I didn’t fall, and continued onto my destination. I walked into the classroom for my evaluation session, all part of Learning and Teaching Week, in the mid-session break. Once my session was finished, I dropped into the administration building. The door to Rose’s office was already open, so I peeked my head inside. She glanced up and leaned back in her chair.
“Hello Nina,” Rose greeted. “Come in, take a seat, you can close the door if you wish, I don’t have any more appointments for the afternoon. There hasn’t been as much traffic because it’s Learning and Teaching Week and there are generally less people around. The peace and quiet is sort of nice.”
She briefly glimpsed towards her shaded office window. Concealing her smile, Rose looked back at me as I sat down in the chair on the other side of her desk.
“It’s alright,” I told her. “I don’t have any secrets to tell you right now. I want to keep you available if anybody else wants to come in and chat.”
“I was thinking about you this morning,” she revealed. “I was actually going to come and find you. It’s Mitchell’s six-month anniversary today, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is,” I confirmed, with a reserved demeanour.
“Take a seat, Nina.”
As I plopped into the chair, my chest felt heavy.
“I feel like I’m stuck in this limbo. Whether Mitchell is alive or dead, I have no idea. I don’t know what to feel.”
“However you’re responding is valid.”
I glanced towards Rose’s clock and she confirmed that she would be seeing one of her actual counselling clients shortly.
“Thank you for your time.”
I departed Rose’s office, closing the door behind me with a click. The last thing that I wanted to do during university break and on the six-month anniversary on Mitchell’s disappearance was go to a musical rehearsal. I was, after all, just a chorus member. I ended up catching the bus home, down the M2. What was the worst that they could do? In a perverse way, I felt a sense of freedom. If the worst thing had already happened to me, then what could I do to make the situation deteriorate? It wasn’t like they would actually kick me out of the musical. I was snuggled up in bed, watching television in the evening, when there was a knock at the door. The hallway light was switched on, because Mum was in the study, working at her computer. I sucked in a breath, then threw back the covers and stepped out of my bedroom. Mum moved forward and opened the heavy front door. Geoff and Brad were standing there, both in their police uniforms. I could feel a jolt of adrenaline pierce through my skull, pulsating at the base of my brain. Mum opened the screen door, so that there was nothing that separated us. Geoff’s dark blue eyes moved, unable to look at myself or Mum. Brad, however, had fixed his gaze onto us. I felt queasy as I led them down the hallway. I could hear thunder rumbling, a storm coming in.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this.”
I held my breath, rigid fingers clawing at the lounge cushion beneath me.
“Mitchell has now been missing for six months. This has ramifications for the police investigation into his disappearance. Nina, we are now having to discontinue the investigation. Mitchell’s case will be considered a long-term missing persons case. It’s what happens at this timeframe when there are no concrete leads.”
“This is ridiculous.”
I burst up from the lounge, running my hand through my hair.
Geoff’s tone was stern. Toes twisting on the wooden floorboards, I swivelled around to face them. I placed my palms together, as if in prayer, taking a breath through my nose.
“Thank you very much for coming, Senior Sergeant.” I intentionally spoke in the past tense. “You’ve been very helpful.”
I paced around the back room, with the lights turned off. It would have been dark, except that the hallway light had been left on. Geoff, however, was still, with a bemused and desperate expression on his face.
“Nina,” he pointed out, in a sorrowful tone, “this isn’t my fault.”
I shook my head, despondent.
“I’m not saying that it’s your fault,” I assured and, for a moment, Geoff breathed more easily. “All that I’m saying is that you should be doing something more about it. You should be looking into Mitchell’s case yourself, with what you can.”
“Nina,” Geoff interjected.
I paused, in word and action.
“Nina, I can’t do that,” Geoff insisted. “It’s not allowed. I’ve got work to do.”
“Mitchell is your work to do,” I yelled.
Geoff bristled, as tears welled in my eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I apologised, shaking my head, “but we can’t be together if we don’t agree about this. Mitchell is the most important person in my life--.”
“He was the most important person in both of our lives,” Geoff corrected.
I tilted my head to the side, eyebrows drawn together.
“Mitchell should be the most important person in both of our lives right now,” I insisted. “He should be here, right now.”
I gestured with one hand between Geoff and I.
“Nina,” he pleaded, wincing.
Finally, Geoff shuffled forward and tried to wrap me into an embrace.
“No,” I protested, pushing him away, then fleeing back up the stairs and down the hallway.
Behind me, Geoff sighed loudly, saying nothing. I rushed into my bedroom and slammed the door shut behind me. Jumping onto the bed, I buried my face into the doona.
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'.