When I arrived at the hockey field, the earlier game had already commenced. Figures in green and gold, from the Baulkham Hills and Cherrybrook teams, rushed around. The referee from Cherrybrook waited by the side of the field, wearing the same clothes as always. She was dressed in a purple shirt and pink shorts, both made from stretchy fabric, with a whistle around her neck on a looped piece of string and an expression of concentration on her face. Undoubtedly, the referee, whose name I didn’t even know, would be rostered on to our match. I ambled over towards Rose, who was drinking from a pink drink bottle.
“Hi,” I greeted her.
Rose glanced sidewards at me.
“Hello Nina,” she replied.
“Is Mr Lane here yet?” I queried.
“Yep,” Rose answered, pointing over to our coach, standing further down the sideline.
I glanced over and spotted him. Mr Lane spoke to us about strategy on occasion, but usually trusted us once we got out on the field, to follow Rose’s directions and play to the best of our ability. I thought about checking which position I was going to play, but before I got the chance, it was time to head out onto the field. We commenced the match. Rose swatted the ball down the field, for the opposition to intercept, the player taking it awkwardly. The ball ricocheted up and struck him in a delicate part of the body. I took a step back. Many of us hid our faces, trying not to laugh. Thankfully, we managed to get away with a tight victory. After the match, I didn’t have long to celebrate, because I needed to leave for work. Getting back into the car, I briefly checked my phone, noticing a message from Geoff.
Hope hockey went well.
I left him on read, then dropped my phone back into my bag. Fastening my seatbelt, I switched on the ignition. Thankfully it was only a short drive over to the library. I walked inside and greeted Spencer, but I was heading for the staffroom.
“I’ll just be a second, I’ve just got to get changed.”
I slipped into the staffroom, making sure to lock the door behind me.
“Are you off to play golf again this afternoon, Spencer?” I queried once I was changed and sidled up beside him, behind the counter.
“No, in fact I’m off cycling,” he answered.
“That sounds good,” I commented, even though cycling really wasn’t for me, because I had actually never learned to ride a bike without training wheels.
“Yes, it should be, and on that note, I’ll be off,” Spencer mentioned, ducking into the staffroom.
After a minute or so, he stepped back out. Spencer’s bag was slung over his shoulder.
“See you later, Nina,” he farewelled with a wave.
I waved back, as Spencer passed through the automatic doors. He eventually disappeared across the street and into the carpark, where most of us parked our cars when the spots outside the library were filled. I then turned my attention to the pile of books which had accumulated in the returns box. Sorting them, I escorted them back to their shelves, which consumed the afternoon. After dark, the members of the support group filed in. We sat down in a circle like we usually did. I looked around at the familiar faces. If I’d seen them at the shops before, I never would have guessed their secrets. Had I crossed paths with some of them prior to meeting them? Possibly, although I could never know for sure.
“It’s nineteen years on Friday week since Jason went missing,” Debbie revealed at the meeting.
She stated it somewhat matter-of-factly, then laughed. I bit my lip, unsure what to do or say, or where to look.
“Nineteen whole years.” Debbie shook her head, which was common here. “That’s a whole lifetime.”
“That is longer than I’ve been alive,” I pointed out, then an embarrassed blush crept across my cheeks. “Sorry, I wasn’t born until December 2003.”
I shook my head too, then looked earnestly at Debbie.
“I’m so sorry,” I spluttered. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Don’t worry, Nina,” Debbie insisted.
I feel a little more relieved.
“It’s the truth,” Debbie pointed out. “It has been a really long time.”
The time I had spent waiting for Mitchell now didn’t seem as long.
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'.