My eyes were fixed on my exercise book. I was sitting at a dirty picnic table at the edge of the university quadrangle, on a sunny but chilly day.
“Hello Nina,” a familiar voice spoke.
I glanced up to view a pretty young woman standing there.
After a moment, I recognised that she’d been to my high school, but was a few years older. Her name was Tallulah and Mitchell had been in a team with her back at school, for a problem solving challenge at another university. She slipped herself onto the opposite bench seat attached to the table.
“I heard about Mitchell, your brother,” Tallulah mentioned. “I’m sorry for your . . .”
She pressed her lips together, her eyes trailing away.
“We’ve haven’t lost him,” I pointed out. “He’s missing. There’s a difference. He’s not dead. He’s coming back. We just don’t know when.”
Tallulah bobbed her head, appearing a little taken aback.
“Sorry,” I apologised, glancing away.
“No worries,” Tallulah reassured.
“Have you pulled out of the musical?” Tallulah answered.
“No.” I shook my head. “I’m coming to the rehearsal next week, when they start for the rest of us.”
“They actually started last week,” Tallulah corrected. “That’s why I thought that you had pulled out.”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise, I must have gotten the dates mixed up,” I apologised.
Tallulah gulped and took a little step back. I shuffled through the papers strewn over the table in front of me, eventually locating the list of rehearsal dates. Indeed, the first combined rehearsal had been held the week before. I glanced back up at Tallulah.
“I’ll be there this afternoon,” I promised.
“Thank you,” Tallulah replied. “We’re happy to have you.”
She turned on her toes. As Tallulah walked away, I watched her until she was out of sight. Then, I fetched my mobile phone out of my bag. I sent off a text message to Mum, partly informing her, partly asking for her permission. After that it was time for my lecture. I sat up the back and got out my laptop, but found myself Googling Mitchell’s name instead of concentrating. There were the articles about his disappearance, now at the top of the page. My heart thumped, echoing in my ears. Little of the content sunk in, especially once I started refreshing my mind of the lyrics from Grease, to distract me again. After my lecture had finished, I dawdled over to the university hall and tentatively entered. The cast members of the musical milling around in their regular clothes.
“Hello, Nina,” Louis walked over to me, a boy I’d gone to school with since primary school.
He waved, but he didn’t smile as he usually would have.
“Hey, I heard about your brother,” Louis mentioned.
“Everybody seems to have,” I replied.
I bit my lip.
“Sorry, that was a little mean in my tone,” I corrected myself, placing my hands on my hips.
“Sorry Nina, Lizzie has been posting things online, your cousin,” Louis revealed.
“At least she’s getting the word out there,” I remarked.
We fell silent as my gaze drifted away towards the floor.
“I also saw it on TV,” Louis added. “That was really brave on you to talk about it on TV.”
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'.