After my lecture had concluded, I dawdled out of the university and slipped into Natalie’s car.
“Thank you for picking me up,” I told her.
“No worries, Nina,” Natalie replied as I fastened my seatbelt and she drove away from the kerb. “How was your day?”
“Pretty good,” I answered. “How about you?”
“Yeah, my class went well,” Natalie supplied. “The Friday girls are really good, not too needy which is nice.”
She grinned as she curved onto the motorway.
“We’re going to Nanda and Grandpa’s house, aren’t we?” I sought confirmation.
“Yes,” Natalie agreed. “We’re having dinner there rather than at our place. It’s Nanda’s birthday today, she’s turning one-hundred-and-six.”
“They’ve both had a good innings,” I mentioned.
“Too right,” Natalie agreed with a grin. “I’m very lucky to still have both of my grandparents around, at least on my mother’s side of the family.”
“I must admit I don’t know that much about the McDonald side of your family,” I confessed.
“I’ve got a lot of relatives,” she said, “but you’ve got a lot of relatives too.”
I didn’t respond, instead thinking about what she’d said. Natalie and I arrived at the home of her grandparents, Nanda and Grandpa, in Northmead. She parked just down the street.
“I’ll allow the older folk the driveway,” Natalie commented, then switched off the ignition.
We both opened the doors and stepped out. Natalie locked the car behind her. We ambled through the chill to the house and down the driveway, where an unfamiliar car was already parked.
“Oh, Sandy must be here.”
We entered the house and, sure enough, Natalie’s older brother was inside with his young family. The kids seemed to have grown even more every single time I saw them. As a family, we ate dinner with Nanda, celebrating her birthday. Following the meal, Natalie and Greg offered to pack away, allowing us younger folk to chill. Somehow the kids ended up in another room, although I couldn’t hear a movie on.
“Thanks for hanging with me.” I smiled up at Geoff, when we were relaxing after dinner.
He took another sip from his bottle of pineapple and coconut mineral water and slung an arm around my shoulders, allowing me to snuggle into his side.
“No worries, Nina,” Geoff replied casually. “It’s my pleasure.”
I grinned. Three children rushed over.
“Hello,” Geoff greeted them enthusiastically. “How are you, Abe?”
“Pretty good,” Michael replied.
“And Ike and Izzie?” Geoff added.
“Good,” Ethan supplied.
“That’s good,” Geoff responded.
He flicked his glance over to me.
“Do you know my friend Nina?” Geoff asked.
I smiled at the children, Geoff’s three cousins, I was relatively confident. Michael bobbed his head.
“Nice to see you again,” I replied.
Uncle Sandy meandered over.
“Come on, say goodbye to Geoff and Nina, we’ve got to go home,” he announced.
Natalie’s older brother raised her eyes to Geoff and I.
“Thank you for occupying them,” he mentioned.
“No worries,” Geoff replied. “Your children are lovely.”
“Only in public,” Uncle Sandy grumbled jovially, scooping Isabella onto his hip.
He linked hands with Abe and Ike.
“See you later, Geoff,” Uncle Sandy farewelled.
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'.