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“Firstly,” Timmy began the support group meeting, “thank you to everyone who came last night. It is really important to come together, especially on anniversaries.”

“I really think that this should come from Lawrence,” Lorelai interjected.

Sighing softly, Timmy unfolded his arms and passed over the news bear to Lawrence.

“I echo Timmy’s sentiments,” Lawrence confirmed. “It was a strange night, but a good night, I think. Dad used to be the life of the party. Of course, he changed a lot in the last couple of years.”

I noticed that he was squeezing the news bear even tighter. Pressing my lips together, I thought of how different Lawrence’s story seemed to mine. I could feel a headache coming on, the sense of loss infecting every part of my body, no cells immune. The lights turned on overhead in the library seemed brighter than ever. Hot and cold flashed and flushed through me. For a moment, I felt woozy, like I was about to faint. I hastily reached for an orange and poppyseed muffin on the table, to bring my blood sugar up. Lawrence handed over the news bear to Aaron, sitting to his left.

“Thanks, mate.” Aaron rolled his lips. “I’ve had a pretty average week. It’s just tough, you know, at work. I’d love to do something else, anything else, but I can’t be picky.”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m sorry, I’m just being honest.”

My brows came together.

“We’re all here for you, Aaron,” Timmy assured. “Have you been able to speak with anyone at work about how you’re feeling?”

“No, I haven’t. I don’t want to come across as a whinger. First one in, first one out, all of that.”

I felt my phone vibrate within my bag and, a little distracted, tucked my hand in. Dimming my gaze towards the screen, I read Geoff’s message. I didn’t respond, though, because I didn’t want to give Aaron everything other than my full attention.

“I’d recommend you speak with your employers if you would like to make changes. Hopefully, they will be reasonable.”

The word was doing a fair bit of heavy lifting in that sentence. Aaron shrugged his shoulders. He and Timmy seemed to get along well enough, but I sensed he wasn’t going to take the advice. To bring the conversation to an abrupt end, Aaron handballed the news bear to Todd. He was in charge of the activity for the evening. Sometimes, though, we’d just talk, passing the news bear around, and we wouldn’t even get there. I sensed that this could turn out to be one of those evenings, especially because the food and drink was flowing. Debbie leaned over to the table. She plucked some cheese from the platter, much more easily now that the wheel had been cut. From Todd, Lorelai accepted the news bear.

“I don’t really feel like I have that much to say,” she admitted. “It’s just been a regular week. Maybe that’s actually a good thing.”

I received the news bear from Lorelai.

“Well, what have I been up to this week? Not much, really, just uni.”

“How’s that been going?”

I gave a manic smile.

“It’s been really busy.”

I didn’t want to elaborate more than that, considering how challenging it’s been. Albeit feeling like I was passing the buck, I handed Ella the news bear.

“I’ve received an offer to travel for work.”

The corners of her mouth upturned. I tried to keep an even expression.

“There’s a part of me which wants to take it and travel the world and never look back,” Ella admitted, “but maybe that’s exactly what Sadie did. I have no idea, and I really wish that I did.”

Her words were deeply relatable.

“On the other hand, maybe this is exactly what I need. Perhaps I’ll go over there and meet someone and the rest will be history.”

Ella gave the news bear to Debbie, who always smiled at it fondly. I sensed her maternal energy, always caring and warm.

“Have I mentioned before that my daughter’s getting married?” Debbie enquired.

“I hadn’t heard, that’s fantastic,” Noel gushed.

“Well, yes, Alana’s set a date for December. Her partner’s from Canberra so the wedding will be down there, on a Sunday. They could get the venue cheaper than on a Saturday, apparently.”

“That sounds lovely, Debbie,” Timmy praised.

“Yes, it is.”

With her update complete, she gave the news bear to Noel. He breathed out, not really sure what to say.

“Surely you think about having sex again,” Brigitta scoffed. “I do all the time.”

Redness bloomed in Noel’s cheeks. I would have preferred to sink into the carpet, but unfortunately I didn’t have that opportunity, so instead I tapped my fingertips together and stared at the floor, refusing to contribute to the conversation.

“I’m sorry, Noel,” Brigitta apologised. “That wasn’t really fair to you.”

“It’s alright, I promise,” Noel assured.

He shook his shoulders, like he was trying to remove a feeling from his body.

“I know this is the opposite of what you’d think of for a man, but I don’t think about it.”

“Does that trouble you?”

“Well, it’s not that I don’t think about it--.”

“But you’re not interested in a sexual relationship at this stage,” Timmy surmised.

“Yeah, I’d put it that way,” Noel agreed, still blushing like hell.

Soon enough, the support group meeting came to an end and I was looking forward to returning home. When I entered the house, I didn’t flick on any lights. I sat down on the edge of my bed. While I felt so tired, I couldn’t have been bothered getting changed. Despite all the study which could have been done, I lay down, in my clothes, and finally slept.


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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