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I waited at the university library until the call from Geoff, to announce that he had arrived to drive us north for Lizzie’s birthday weekend away. My attention wasn’t fully drawn to my books. After all, I was particularly excited about the trip and I knew that studying could wait. The north coast beckoned.

“Hi,” a friendly voice greeted.

I looked up to notice Waleed standing there, holding a heavy engineering textbook.

“May I sit with you for a while?” he requested.

“Of course,” I agreed, patting the seat beside me, then shifting over a little so that Waleed could sit down.

“Thanks,” he uttered.

“No worries,” I insisted.

Waleed placed down his textbook. He flipped it open and began reading, leaning forward a little to get a better look. I expected that Waleed would want to talk. My eyes darted towards the clock. I wasn’t supposed to have my phone on in the library.

“How are you?” I enquired.

“Yeah, I’m good, I’m real good.”

I thought I could smell something sweet. Filled with distractions, I thought about asking Waleed about his cousin Jumilah’s upcoming wedding. I was thrilled that we’d been invited, although I suspected it would be a large celebration, so I didn’t feel guilty about taking the place away from someone else.

“How are you?” Waleed enquired.

“Yeah, I’m alright.” I checked my phone. “I’m getting away over the weekend, actually.”

“Oh, lovely.”

I wasn’t sure whether to mention it was for Lizzie’s birthday. Given it was in my hand and I would feel the vibration, I flicked my phone onto silent. Shortly after, the text message came through from Geoff.

“Well, that’s my ride,” I announced, rising to my feet.

“Catch you later,” Waleed farewelled with a smile and a wave.

I breathed out. Finally, I got the chance to leave the library. I was excited to get away for the weekend. It would be the first of two getaways in a row – the former for Lizzie’s birthday, then for Delilah’s hens party. Geoff collected Mum and I. We drove home to get Dad and the luggage, which was already packed. As we got into the car, I made sure to plug my phone in, because I didn’t like it to be running low on battery.

“All set?” Geoff checked.

“Yes,” I agreed, with a massive grin.

He pecked me on the lips. As Geoff pulled out of the driveway, I exhaled. I was trying to be relaxed. Uni, and the rest of my concerns, could take a back seat. Ten minutes later, the almost-birthday girl joined us in the car. Aunty Melissa waved us goodbye from the front porch.

“Oh, it’s a pity your mum couldn’t come with us,” Mum mentioned as Geoff drove away.

I sensed Lizzie didn’t feel the same way. She hadn’t been able to shake my parents, although I controlled the music, something which my cousin commented on – my choice of rock.

“Well, I do have pink hair.” I caught Lizzie’s gaze in the back, and laughed. “I’m full of surprises.”

We settled in for the road trip north. Geoff pulled into the carpark of the fast food restaurant at Thornleigh, the final stop before turning onto the highway and driving up north towards Port Macquarie. We climbed out of the car along with Mum, Dad and Lizzie, in the back seat. Tom parked a few places away from us, then stepped out of his vehicle with Callista, John, Sally and Robert.

“Howdy,” Geoff greeted with a wave, locking the car. “We’ll go in, yeah, and eat inside, for a bit of a break.”

“Sounds good,” Tom agreed.

As we scurried over the zebra crossing to the building, I noticed that he was carrying papers.

The automatic doors parted in front of us and the group of us stepped inside.

“There’s a booth over there,” Dad pointed out.

Some of us scampered over to claim it, whereas others queued up to order. We’d planned this trip for after the school holidays, but late on a Friday afternoon would always be busy.


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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