This morning, I dawdled down the hallway after waking up. When I arrived in the kitchen, Dad was leaning back against the bench, with the phone against his ear.
“Thank you, see you then, goodbye.”
Dad ended the call and placed the phone on the bench. He looked over to me.
“Good morning, Nina,” Dad greeted. “That was my mother just then on the phone. Obviously, it’s her birthday next Saturday, so we’ve planned to go over to their place for lunch on that day.”
I nodded and took one more step into the kitchen, towards the fridge.
“That sounds good,” I commented.
I opened the fridge and peered inside, then sighed and closed it again.
“What do you think that you might do today?” I asked Dad.
He shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t really know,” Dad admitted. “Somebody probably needs to go to the shops.”
Rather than going to the shops, I was dropped off at work at the library. I passed through the automatic doors and observed the regular weekend crew. Considering the storm I anticipated in the evening, I hoped for a quiet shift at work. It passed, thankfully, without incident, and I was able to return home. I pulled my blinds shut well before it was dark, so that I wouldn’t be able to see Geoff, Greg and Natalie when they arrived for dinner. While I knew that I was being petty, I just needed my own space. While I felt hungry, I hoped there would be leftovers. Natalie wouldn’t allow me to go without food, but perhaps she would defend her son’s honour over my stomach. I didn’t mind that I was missing the football. Rugby league wasn’t high on my list of interests. I started tidying within my bedroom, with the door shut. Except for the fact that I was worried about still being overheard, I wanted to talk to Mitchell, like a prayer. I knew the sound of Geoff’s footsteps. He must have been heading for the bathroom. It always made me feel a little awkward, listening to the splash against the toilet bowl and knowing exactly what the other person was doing. I heard a flush, then the tap, before Geoff returned to the loungeroom, just in time for a cheer to break out amongst the football-watching crowd. I couldn’t tell from the commotion whether it was Penrith or Souths.
“That was a good try,” Greg praised, his voice at times just a little too loud.
My stomach felt unsettled, rumbling with hunger. Breathing out, I knew I’d have to breach enemy lines. I opened my bedroom door with a click and padded out to the kitchen, under the pretence of collecting myself a drink of water. Once I’d poured it from the tap, I checked the footy score in the loungeroom. Both tries, as it turned out, had been scored by the Rabbitohs, the replay of the most recent showing it planted down between the posts. The goalposts lit up green and red as soon as the ball was expertly slotted between them. Channel Nine went to an ad break.
“Are you going to sit and watch with us for a little bit, Nina?” Natalie offered.
“Yeah, alright,” I agreed, although my heart thumped within my chest.
When play returned, the Souths attacked waited. Penrith went for a short kick-off, and somehow managed to regain the ball. One of the players raced down the field, slipping just before the try line. He landed awkwardly. As his body continued to move, he applied downward pressure on the ball. The crowd erupted, but the referee wasn’t so sure, referring the matter to his video assistant.
“I don’t think that was a double movement,” Dad declared, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s just momentum. That’s a word that’s too big for some footballers.”
The video referee spoke some jargon I didn’t understand, in an authoritative voice. When the television flashed back to the big screen, red cards formed the background to the verdict.
Some in the crowd booed.
“No try, well there you go.”
A man with a bleach blonde mohawk stood back, aloof. Clearly, he agreed with Dad.
“I just don’t know how you can reach that decision,” Phil Gould complained in commentary.
He continued to have a whinge, although I could see his point, albeit without much of an understanding of the rules of the game. The players argued with the referee for a little bit, before eventually getting back to work – after all, they’re paid enough for it. Another try – this one awarded – was scored soon after. The Penrith bloke managed to kick the goal, making the game a whole lot more interesting. Channel Nine went to an ad break, then returned in time for the next kick-off. The ball travelled short, as defenders rushed forward. One of them managed to jump and catch it, thin footy jumper rising up. He ran down the length of the field, pulled up on the line, but with the ball down.
“I reckon that’s a try anyway,” Greg insisted, folding his arms and recrossing his legs, while Natalie gazed at him.
“That was impressive.” Dad couldn’t stop himself from laughing, or biting his fingernails. “That was very, very impressive.”
The goal to convert was kicked from right in front. For a time that was briefly tense, the fizz seemed to have been taken back out of it. Of course, once the players saw the victory slipping away, tension started to build up in other ways, which led to punching and hair-pulling, as commentators didn’t know what to say. The player was given ten in the bin, walking off the field swearing to himself, even in front of the kids hanging over the barrier, waving their handmade signs.
“They were sending people off for that back when we were kids.”
The match finished shortly after.
“Well, that’s that.”
Natalie stood up from the lounge.
“Thank you very much for having us.”
“Oh, you’re welcome,” Mum responded, not looking at me.
Greg, Natalie and Geoff took some leftovers as they departed. Finally, they were gone again. I missed them; I missed Geoff, but I wouldn’t have let him know. Feeling icky within my gut, I went to bed.
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'.