When I arrived home from university, I could hear somebody pottering around in the kitchen while I walked down the hallway. To my surprise, however, it was not Mum or Dad home early from work, which wouldn’t have been that unexpected. This afternoon was a rare Wednesday when I wasn’t rostered on at work.
Natalie spun around.
“Nina, I’m sorry. Your mum was stressed out about the house not being clean, so I thought that I would pop over and help.”
“Oh, that’s so kind of you. I’m sure that Mum will really appreciate it.”
“It’s the least that I can do.”
“Thank you. Look, I’m not working this afternoon. I was just going to chill out.”
Wandering back down the hallway, I checked my emails.
MacU Grease auditions; read the subject line of the first unread message.
I entered my bedroom, sitting down on the end of my bed while my pulse bounced through my body.
Dear Nina; I read. Your audition will be held on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
My mind glazed over a little bit as I read the details. Luckily the time and location would fit in with work, and my hockey debut that afternoon. I walked back out to the kitchen, to tell Natalie.
“I’ve gotten an audition for the musical at uni, they’re putting on Grease.”
“You’ll be perfect, Nina.”
“I mean, I don’t want to get my expectations too high. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who are absolutely great who’ll try out for this musical. It’s nice that I’ve gotten an audition, but I might not get in.”
Natalie flashed me a sympathetic smile. With that, I headed back to my bedroom, albeit slowly. Outside my doorway is a wall of black and white photos, in different sized frames. Mostly it’s where we keep the older family photos, of generations gone by. Mitchell and I are on there, only once. I decided not to linger there, getting back to study for the rest of the afternoon. Eventually, I was sitting in my bedroom in the dark, save for my lamp switched on over my desk, working on a university assignment. There was a light on in the study, I could tell. More so, I noticed when the source of light disappeared, attracting my attention as Natalie stepped into the doorway.
“I’m going to head off home, get tea ready,” she announced. “Are you alright?”
“Yes,” I confirmed, with a nod of my head. “Mum or Dad will be back home soon and I’m out tonight, anyway, at the support group.”
Natalie leaned back against the door.
“How is that going, the support group?” she wanted to know.
“It’s going alright,” I answered. “Of course, I wish that I didn’t have to go.”
“Yeah,” Natalie agreed, with a sad smile.
“In saying that,” I pointed out, “there are people there after the fact.”
Natalie’s eyebrows rose.
“People whose family members came back?” she enquired.
“Well, in Rod’s case,” I answered, “but he had two missing relatives, his nephew and his fiancée.”
“That’s so sad,” Natalie commented, sighing softly as she pushed herself off the door and ran her fingers through her bob.
“It is,” I confirmed.
“Was it connected?” Natalie wanted to know.
“Kind of,” I answered. “His nephew, Dave, went missing and then Gracie, who was Dave’s fiancée, went to look for him and that’s when she went missing.”
“It is. Then, Dave came back. Now, he’s dating someone else.”
“So, it’s a pickle.”
“It would be,” Natalie agreed. “Are you sure that you’re alright?”
Natalie finally departed. Between the slats of the blinds, I faintly could see the lights of her car, until they vanished. For a moment, I listened to the silence. I expected footsteps, for some reason. I glanced at my watch, concluding it was time to leave. It’d been nice having the afternoon off. After sending a quick text to Mum and Dad, I headed off to the library in the car. I arrived, parked, then got ready for the others to turn up, which they swiftly did, sitting down and getting underway.
“I could have Mothers’ Day with my little girl again this year,” Lorelai mentioned at the meeting, but her voice was still solemn, and I assumed that there had sadly been no breakthrough. “The days are running out though.”
She pressed her lips together and shook her head.
“Am I a mother without a child?” Lorelai implored, glancing up at us.
My heart throbbed. I willed myself to keep looking at Lorelai. As well, however, I did not want to stare.
“Of course, you are,” Timmy answered, which I didn’t think was a particularly helpful response, until he continued on. “No matter what happens, you will always be a mother, Lorelai.”
Some of the others nodded, so I did as well, before leaning back in my plastic chair. As my bottom lip crept in between my teeth, I couldn’t help but think of Mum and how much I longed to be cradled by her. She longed to cradle Mitchell even more. Mothers’ Day was approaching, and it would have been Mitchell who was prepared, with just the right things to say. I loved my mother so much that I didn’t know how exactly to express it. For the meanwhile, I was all she had left, except for shadows.
“What are you doing on Sunday?” Brigitta asked gently. “We’re all here for you, Lorelai. This is one of your hardest days. If you need any of our support, we’ll be there.”
“We’re going over to my sister’s house, so I don’t have to worry about cleaning the house,” Lorelai answered. “She’s got a little girl and she’s quite heavily pregnant with her second. I don’t want to see them. Well, I want to see Sarah, my older sister, but not pregnant Sarah.”
She laughed, incredulously and darkly, as tears bloomed in her eyes. Rod grabbed the box of tissues off the shelf and passed them to her. Brigitta ceased them and plucked out a few tissues, individually handing them back.
Lorelai smiled feebly. She dabbed at the edges of her eyes with the side of the tissue.
“When we were little, we didn’t live together,” Lorelai recalled. “Sarah’s mother was Dad’s first wife, they got divorced when Sarah was three years old, and then later Dad met Mum and got married and my other sister and I were born.”
I nodded my head, trying to maintain an even expression.
“Since we’ve grown up, we’ve become close. It’s not like I don’t want to see her.”
Lorelai sighed heavily, pushing back some strands of hair from her forehead.
“But, you know, it’s my birthday on Saturday.”
She offered something of a smile, but it didn’t last long.
“Marcus wants me to be celebrated. I can’t argue with that. How can I argue with that?”
“Is there something special you’d like to do?” I suggested.
I wanted to add ‘just the two of you’, but I wondered whether that would just accentuate the sense of loss, that they couldn’t be a family of three. Lorelai shrugged her shoulders.
“I don’t really know.”
“Alright, let’s have a party for you.”
From there, the decision was made – determined to make blessing from tragedy.
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'.