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I carefully packed the book that I needed to take home to fix into my bag, then ambled over to the stack of chairs to unpack them into a circle. The library was peace on a darkened night, with the lights on, and nobody else there. Then, the serenity was interrupted a little by the buzz of the parting of the automatic doors and the patter of footsteps on the blue carpet, but those noises themselves were still rather nice.

“Hello Nina,” Timmy greeted me.

I placed down the chair I was holding, then glanced up at him.

“How are you?” Timmy asked.

“Well, thanks,” I answered. “You?”

“Yeah, same old, same old,” Timmy replied.

Without a further word, he started to help me unpacking the chairs. Working together, we quickly formed a circle, of sorts, crowding the available space in the library, as we did every Wednesday night. As Timmy and I waited, the automatic doors of the library parted. Sofia and Ashton, hand in hand, entered.


Timmy rose to his feet. He strode over, with me following after, and firmly shook Ashton’s hand.

“Great to meet you, mate,” Timmy greeted him.

“Ash, this is Timmy, who runs the support group,” Sofia introduced.

I stepped into place beside Timmy.

“And, of course, you’ve already met Nina,” Sofia pointed out.

Ashton smiled at me, then nodded.

“We’ve put out an extra chair for you,” I mentioned, maybe just for something to say.

Ashton grinned, bobbing his head again.

“Thank you, Nina,” he replied.

There was something comforting about his sweet accent, that felt like the world was righting itself again. I kept my eyes on Ashton, studying his olive skin, dark brown eyes and wavy, slightly unruly, hair. He seemed a little stunned, as the rest of the group arrived. Perhaps it was little wonder, although I couldn’t bring myself to look away, from the joy his presence brought. Once we were all sitting down, Timmy handed the news bear to Sofia first, before even providing his own update. Ashton gently stroked its soft fur.

“Obviously, my news is sort of obvious,” Sofia mentioned. “My lovely boyfriend Ashton is no longer missing.”

A round of applause broke out. Some of us were more enthuasiastic than others, with some expressions only a mask of joy. For me, I was overjoyed – it was happily clear to me that hope was abundant. For Noel, Clementine and Debbie, an involuntary sense of a pang of jealousy wouldn’t have been hard, whereas Bandile would have understood exactly what Sofia was, wonderfully, experiencing. I glanced over to Brigitta, sunk back in her chair. She reached for the wineglass under her seat. Brigitta slipped off the chair and onto her knees. She grasped the bottle of wine, which Noel had brought, and poured herself an almost full glass, then pushed herself back onto the chair. I let out a soft sigh, then compelled myself to look away from Brigitta, and back to Sofia and Ashton.

“I see a counsellor,” I spoke up. “Personally, I find it very helpful. Her name is Rose and she’s just the uni counsellor, well, she’s not just the uni counsellor, she’s great, I mean--.”

I stopped myself, sensing that I was rambling. To calm myself, I breathed out.

“Yes, if you’d like to see a counsellor, I’d recommend it.”

“I definitely think it would be a good idea, for both of us.” Sofia’s eyes didn’t leave Ashton. “Both together and separately. We’ve both been through a lot.”

“You have,” Timmy confirmed, unfolding his arms before looking around the group. “All of you have, and are, going through a lot.”

I glanced down at my fingernails, a little chipped and misshapen. Eventually, we continued passing around the news bear. I received it.

“I’ve had a regular week, I suppose,” I outlined. “Yesterday, I went to a funeral for one of Geoff’s relatives. Uncle Patrick was his great-uncle, I think.”

“You’re back at uni, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I have been for a few weeks.”

“How’s that going?”

“Yeah, it’s going alright. It feels just a little less full-on than last semester.”

I passed the news bear onto Rod. He would have had some experience to share in relation to Ashton’s return.

“Thanks, Nina. Listen, mate, we’re just glad to have you back. We’re glad to meet you, more like it. You did the right thing.”

The gathering came to an end.

“You know, you don’t have to stay,” I mentioned to Timmy, as he was packing away the chairs with me, while the others departed. “I’m able to lock up now.”

“It’s alright. I kind of like it.”

While I didn’t quite understand, I nodded. This was part of Timmy’s work, which I had to keep in mind – he likely felt an over-realised sense of responsibility over the group. I was fond of him, but I didn’t have romantic feelings for him – those in my life were reserved for someone in particular. He was never far from my mind, nor my heart. As I got back into the car, I responded to a text from Geoff. After that, I returned home from the support group meeting, hungry for dinner given I’d barely eaten anything. The first thing I found in the cupboard were some chocolate bars. I figured that Mum must have brought them home from the hospital, perhaps as some sort of fundraising drive. As I scoffed the chocolate, I could feel my heartrate rising, maybe from the lack of oxygen as I stopped breathing while I chewed. When I finally drew breath again, I realised that my phone was buzzing in my bag. I fetched it out and finally answered the call, from Geoff. My heart thumped at the thought of hearing his voice.

“How are you going?” Geoff wanted to know. “Are you busy tonight?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a little bit of work to do before I can go to bed tonight,” I told him, “but really, nothing to whinge about.”

“You work hard, Nina. I hope you can get some rest, too.”

“Thank you.”

Geoff’s presence was electric, and yet I didn’t know what to say to him. He’d been the one to ring, so maybe it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to leave a bit of silence, rather than bringing up what had happened at the support group meeting.

“Listen, I’ve just finished at work, though. Can I come over and hang for a little bit?”

“Of course.”

I couldn’t believe the words were slipping from my lips. Until Geoff arrived, I pottered around the kitchen, pretending to clean, then finally got to answer the front door.

“Hey.” My eyes must have glossed over. “Come in, come in. Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Geoff assured.

He stepped over the threshold, into the house.

“Would you like something to eat or something?” I offered.

“That would be lovely, thank you,” Geoff accepted. “Sarge let me knock off early, it’s been a big day.”

He rolled his lips. I prepared cheese toasties for us both.

“Well, look, I’ve got some stuff from work. It’s just down the back.”

“Well, don’t let me stop you.”

We padded down the back.

“I’m more than happy to help.” Geoff removed his leather jacket and sat down on the lounge beside me, so that we could eat our toasties. “Whatever you need.”

I was sitting in the back room of the house, as it approached midnight. My mobile phone was placed on the coffee table. Open in front of me was a children’s picture book, the pages strewn across the table. A three-year-old had had a major tantrum while I was working in the library that afternoon, and had ripped apart the book, scattering paper everywhere. Once his very apologetic mother had removed him from the building, I had collected up the pages and been tasked to take them home to fix them.

“Oh, that poor parent,” Geoff had said when I’d told him. “That would be so embarrassing."

I reached across and picked up one piece of the book, a tale about a missing teddy bear. The pages felt smooth underneath my fingertips. If only missing people could be located so easily with the same sort of happy ending. I’d lost myself in a daze.


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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