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“The successful finalists are Callista Lucas and Nina del Reyan.”

My breath caught within my throat, as the audience started to applaud. Their clapping echoed in my ears, as Callista flashed me an encouraging grin. I glanced at her briefly, then returned my gaze to the adjudicator, like I couldn’t believe what she’d just said. Callista and I found ourselves walking back towards the bus stop together. My feet were aching after a long day.

“A bus strike, great,” Callista remarked, reading the notice on the pole. “I guess we’ll have to catch the train.”

We headed into the station and onto the platform. Thankfully, a train arrived shortly after. The doors parted and passengers stepped off. Callista and I entered the carriage and headed upstairs. I couldn’t believe we’d been successful. Beforehand, I thought it must have been a shot in the dark, and my shock kept me reserved most of the way back home. The train pulled back into Parramatta. Callista manually opened the door. We stepped out onto the station platform, lugging our bags containing empty lunch containers and our speeches. Mum was standing there, wearing a grim expression.

“What’s the matter?” I implored, embracing her.

“You know Robert Beauchamp?” Mum asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, separating from her, yet our hands were still linked. “He’s one of Mitchell’s friends.”

“His girlfriend, Bianca, she’s sick, it’s cancer.”

“Oh,” was all I could manage to say.

Mum offered to give Callista a lift. I wanted to send Geoff a text, to tell him about what had happened at Lofty Speaks, but I hesitated, because of the news.

“How did you go today?” Mum wanted to know.

“Good,” Callista answered.

“We both made it through.”

“That’s fantastic.”

I rubbed my eyes, then caught Mum’s smile in the rear-vision mirror.

“You’re in the musical too, Callista, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I’m playing Sandy.”

We dropped Callista off at her family home. From there, it was only a short drive back through the suburban streets. Rain speckled against the windscreen, as we pulled into the driveway.

“I am proud of you,” Mum assured me, then we got out of the car, locked it, and headed into the house.

“Thank you,” I eventually responded.

Dad returned home on the evening of Mum’s birthday with Chinese takeaway. She was lying down on the lounge room floor, her blonde hair spread out over a pillow.

“Hello, Leo,” Mum greeted Dad as he marched down the hallway.

When he approached us, Dad kneeled down and pressed a soft, loving kiss to Mum’s forehead.

“Happy Birthday, darling,” he said, “I brought home tea”.

“Thank you,” Mum responded, sitting up.

I helped her to her feet. We walked over and sat down on the lounge. Dad pulled the rectangular plastic containers out of the plastic bag. Once he had concluded, Mum loosely folded her arms and glared up at Dad.

“No lemon chicken?” she queried.

Dad’s lips softly parted.

“No,” he said, but could not bring himself to carry on.


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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