The public appeal was to be aired on all television networks during the evening news. It was a little daunting, to be honest, that, at 6:30pm on a Thursday evening, the eyes of Australia would turn to me. I pulled open the wardrobe door after arriving home from university. Clothes hung from the coat-hangers, having been perfectly ironed by Mitchell. Rose, who I had asked to follow me home, stepped into the bedroom. She quietly sucked in a breath. I watched Rose closely as she absorbed this world. There were photographs of Mitchell everywhere, plastered over all the surfaces. The top of the mirror was covered with Mitchell’s drawings, coloured with pencils. There was a heart-shaped piece of paper reading ‘Jesus loves you’ in red glitter. Mitchell had made that. Rose, of course, wouldn’t know that. There was so much subtext that very few people could decipher. Rose had seen Mitchell’s image before. She’d seen him on posters, in images in frames on the walls of the hallway, all over the house, but in many ways, the shock on her face was understandable. I have lived eighteen years in this world. This is all I had ever known. I have known this story for eighteen years without knowing this plot-twist. In my mind, the life I had lived and the darkness I have been freshly plunged into are distinctively separate; this is transmission failure. Normal broadcasting will promptly resume; we are just waiting. It hadn’t all led up to this. We’d smiled and we’d loved and we’d laughed and we weren’t thinking about this, because we didn’t know. Every moment had to be separated from the after, because the after was always unknown. I reached up into the wardrobe, and pulled down a dark blue dress. Mitchell hadn’t sewn that for me so that I could wear in to plead to the nation to bring him back. He hadn’t ironed it and put in back in my wardrobe for that reason. Mitchell had made me this dress for my sixteenth birthday, because he had an elderly patient in palliative care who watched him sew, because it brought her immense joy. He had ironed it and put it back because I had worn it to my first day at university, when I had put it out to wash.
“Mitchell made me this dress,” I revealed.
I looked at Rose, and she left the room, so that I could change into it out of the clothes I had been wearing during the day. When the fabric touched against my skin, it felt comforting. The dress smelled just right, of fabric softener and of the warmth of my wardrobe. Once I was as ready as I could be, Rose left, then Mum drove me to the television headquarters.
“Thanks, Mum,” I told her, genuinely grateful.
I got out of the car and walked through the front doors. Mum parked, then she and Dad joined me in the foyer. The solemn-faced, blonde-haired, bright-eyed woman who greeted me at the television studios bore a familiar face.
“Hello,” I nervously greeted Olive Brennan, the host of the program, “I’m Nina del Reyan."
“Would you like your family with you while you speak?” Olive asked.
I shook my head, unwilling to meet her gaze.
“They would like to be able to watch, but they don’t want to be featured on camera,” I explained.
“That’s alright, that can be arranged, and they won’t have to sit with the audience if they don’t want to,” Olive outlined.
“They’d prefer that, thank you,” I told her.
“Alright, come through,” Olive informed us and we followed her down a narrow hallway.
She opened a white door right at the end. Olive held it ajar for us to scurry through. Chairs were set out over the carpet, peering onto a stage, like at a school assembly, with a podium and microphone, the blue and white of the police emblazoned on the wall behind.
“That’s where you’ll stand, if you’re comfortable,” Olive pointed towards it, and I took a deep breath.
I walked over to the podium and took behind it. The words would flow, as I spoke them almost unconsciously.
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'.