After hearing the doorbell, I walked down the hallway, opening the front door to reveal Rose standing on the other side, all rugged up considering that the weather had turned.
“Come in,” I encouraged, smiling.
I pulled open the screen door, stepping back towards the wall. Rose walked into the house.
“I don’t need a second invitation,” she assured. “Whatever you’re cooking, it smells absolutely lovely.”
“Thank you. I’m baking brownies.”
I offered Rose a cup of tea, then pulled all the options from the cupboard.
“What would you like?”
She surveyed the choices. Behind me, the oven timer beeped. While Rose selected a green rose flavour, I turned around.
“How has uni been so far?”
“Yeah, second year’s going alright. I’m in on Tuesday, in the mornings.”
I retrieved the brownies from the oven. Setting the tray onto a cooling rack, I leaned across and flicked on the jug.
“I like that,” I remarked. “Rose drinking green rose.”
I giggled. The jug boiled. I grasped a knife to slice the brownies, but they were a little too hot to the touch. Retrieving two mugs from the cupboard, I set them down and slotted in the teabags, green rose for Rose and lemon and ginger for me, the perfect balm for a dreary day.
“What do you have planned for the rest of the day?”
The jug boiled.
“I’m going to the footy tonight. Geoff and I went on Thursday night too, actually, we’re really getting into it. Aaron, from the support group, and Penelope, his fiancé, invited us. He’s a big Sharks fan.”
I poured the water into the two mugs. Bobbing teabags into the brews, I handed one over to Rose, freeing my hands so that I could finally chop the brownies. I listened to rain on the roof, feeling much more at peace than I would have anticipated, after the past year. We sat down at the kitchen table with our tea and brownies.
“Can I ask, how are things going with Geoff?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that we’re back together. It hasn’t changed the reason why we broke up in the first place, though. Mitchell is still missing. We’re not making any progress with the investigation and that hurts me.”
Rose nodded her head sympathetically.
“Is that something you would like to talk about?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Maybe. I’ve tried praying about it, from time to time.”
“What do you think you’ll do after uni?”
“It’s a four-year degree. At the moment, it’s hard for me to see what life is going to look like after that.”
Rose nodded her head.
“You’ve been a good friend to me. I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome. As long as you’re also getting the psychological support you need, I’m happy to be here for you.”
Once Rose left, I jumped in the shower, but didn’t wash my hair. Stepping out and returning to my bedroom, I dried myself. I got dressed, but couldn’t manage to fix my hair. Penelope had gifted me a beanie, so that covered up the grease, preparing me for Geoff’s arrival. He turned up shortly after and I made my way out to the car, slipping into the passenger seat.
“How was your day?”
“Yeah, good, Rose came over.”
“Hey, I wanted to ask you,” I raised, my heart thumping, “about Mitchell. I feel like we haven’t had any leads for a while about what might have happened.”
“I’m not using police resources.”
“I didn’t ask you to,” I insisted, the pitch of my voice rising.
“Oh, did I tell you? Ben has a new girlfriend.”
“No, you didn’t, that’s nice,” I responded. “Is she someone we know?”
“I don’t know her, but her name’s Ashleigh, she’s studying at Macquarie.”
Geoff took my hand as we joined the crowds. Music bleared from the speakers. Once our tickets were checked, Geoff and I moved through the stadium. We found the seats, slotting in beside Aaron and Penelope. I looked up the uni Facebook page, scrolling back to the photos from the swimming meet.
“Is this Ashleigh?”
I’d located a pic of the girl I’d raced against.
“Oh, I don’t know what she looks like.”
At halftime, Geoff and Aaron volunteered to fetch food. The cool breeze ruffled my pink hair. It poked out from underneath my blue, black and white knitted beanie. Geoff and Aaron squeezed between the stadium seats. Handing over chips and beer to Penelope and I, they sat back down.
I smiled at Geoff, then pressed a kiss to his cheek. I giggled at the light pink lip gloss mark I left. With the pad of my thumb, I wiped it off.
“Thanks, Nina,” Geoff replied, accepting a beer back from my hand.
He passed it back to Aaron beside him, which didn’t surprise me, because Geoff didn’t really drink, especially not away from home. Had he taken it up on a whim at the football, then I would have been surprised. I resisted the urge to take a sip myself. Staring up into the stars, I saw the beauty in the waiting, the hopeful expectation of dawn.
Abbey Sim is a candidate for Honours in Communications at the University of Technology Sydney. She lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Having started Huldah Media in 2021, Abbey desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.