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I rolled onto my side. Nineteen. I breathed out, barely believing it. My chest didn’t feel any lighter. Faintly I thought I could smell smoke. I furrowed my brow then got out of bed. Walking out to the kitchen, I held onto the wall. I leaned forward and Mum turned around from where she was standing in front of the coffee machine, making one for Dad. She smiled and made her way over to me.

“Happy birthday, Nina.”

Mum pressed back my hair and kissed my forehead. Dad reached the kitchen. He kissed the back of my head and wished me happy birthday, too.

“I’m off to work, I’ll see you tonight.”

As we bid farewell to Dad, Mum proposed that she cook me a birthday breakfast. I agreed, although decided I wanted to get some exercise done first thing. Getting my heart pumping, in a good way, would hopefully benefit my body and soul. I set up my laptop on the kitchen table and pressed play on the video, rolling out the mat onto the floor while the YouTube ads played. Once it commenced, I crouched on all fours as directed. The tutorial led me through stretches and planks, and various other exercises which I just needed to replicate, as the names were unfamiliar. Once the Pilates workout was completed, I rolled onto my back, puffing. The smell of bacon from the kitchen made me queasy.

“Are you all finished now?”


Eventually, I hauled myself off the mat. Following breakfast, a birthday card came in the mail from Abuela, although I knew it had been written in Grandma’s cursive handwriting. I called her to say thank you, even though I needed to remember who I was. In the late afternoon, I changed. We drove up to Castle Hill, golden light streaming in through the car windows. In the Devereux living-dining room, Greg, Natalie, Geoff, Mum, Dad and I sat around the long wooden table in the evening. The golden summer light continued to seep in from the other side of the curtains, well past dinnertime. Natalie raised her fingertips from her knife and fork to her bare upper arms.

“Ooh, it’s getting a bit chilly with night rolling in,” she commented.

“Would you like me to turn off the air conditioner?” I offered.

We glanced around the table at the assembled diners, seeking a consensus.

“Yeah, that’d be great, thanks, Nina,” Natalie replied.

Pulling out my chair, I stood. With shaky steps, I padded across the carpet onto the tiles. Its surface was frozen underneath my bare feet. I pressed the red rubber power button on the air conditioning unit, which was fixed to the wall. It beeped to indicate that it was now switched off. I turned around to walk back to my seat and felt a flood of blood away from my head. I noticed that I was falling forward and my world around me was turning dark. Next I knew, I was lying down amid blackness. The surface beneath me was soft and comforting. My eyes opened and the world was fuzzy for a moment.

“Nina, you’re awake, how are you feeling?” Mum asked.

Her tone was concerned, gentle and tender as she softly patted my hair with the side of her hand.

“I’m alright,” I insisted, sitting up with a jolt. “What happened?”

“You fainted.”

“Some birthday,” I remarked.

Geoff drew circles with his fingertip around my ring finger. I found myself smiling, enjoying his comforting presence.

“You might want to go to the doctor tomorrow and get yourself checked out.”

I nodded my head. Natalie helped me into bed. I propped myself up onto my elbows. As I closed my eyes, Geoff pressed a kiss to my forehead. It was almost like the old days, almost like we were back together. Those had been fleeting weeks, but magical weeks. I opened my eyes again. Geoff was going away, heading to work.


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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