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When I woke up this morning, I felt a little disorientated, until I woke up and remembered, my chest feeling heavy. My head ached from the night before. I could hear rain on the roof, which thankfully hadn’t come on the wedding day. Pressing my lips together, I breathed in through my nose, then knew that I needed to call Lizzie and get up. First thing first it allowed me to stay in bed. My heartrate felt a little accelerated.

“Hey. Are you good to go?”

“I’ll come and get you. Is that alright?”

“Yeah, sure. Then we can get McDonald’s breakfast on the way back to Sydney.”

The plan was agreed upon. I packed up at my accommodation. Feeling a little jittery that I would fail to check out in time, I was glad to hand the keys over and get on the road towards collecting my cousin in Bungendore. Taylor Swift was playing through Spotify when I pulled up outside the address. I narrowed my eyes as Lizzie got into the passenger seat. Truth be told I was surveying her for signs of sex, not that I was sure what I was looking for, considering that she would have showered and dressed for the drive back to Sydney.

“Are you going OK? Have you planned another time to see Tommy?”

Lizzie fastened her seatbelt as she rolled her eyes.

“It was just a bit of fun. He’s not going to be coming for Christmas lunch with my family.”

“Right. So he’s not your boyfriend.”

“I didn’t say that.”

Instead of guessing, I decided to leave it be. We set off for our first destination – Goulburn McDonald’s. I found myself paying attention to the browned-off countryside. Lizzie fiddled with the car sound system knobs, to turn up and down the music, depending on how much she liked the song. Finally, we arrived at McDonald’s. I parked the car, opened the door, and stood, enjoying the opportunity to stretch my legs. While Lizzie went to the bathroom, I ordered our breakfast. We then returned to the car and I breathed out.

“I’m sorry if I upset you.”

“It’s alright. Of course, I want to be good.”

Lizzie gave an exasperated sigh.

“I know that. You don’t have to worry about that.”

I caught Lizzie’s gaze in the mirror. After departing Goulburn, we were driving into a rainstorm. The haze swept through the rolling hills. Given that I needed to concentrate on the road ahead of me, our conversation died down. I turned on the windscreen wipers to shimmy back and forth across the glass pane. She slept for most of the way back to Sydney, preventing our further conversation. Stomach grumbling and back in the city, I slowed as I flicked on the blinker, then, when the road was clear, turned right into Lizzie’s street. It felt like a whirlwind trip and I was very ready to be home.

“Thank you for driving me. I’ll see you around.”

I thought about going in with Lizzie, but decided against it. She emerged from the passenger side. I waved goodbye, making sure that Lizzie and her luggage were safely back into the house before driving away. It was only a short drive back home – less than ten minutes – but I did need to cross the traffic on Old Windsor Road before I could return to the safety of the suburban streets. I pulled up in the driveway, breathing out. In the car by myself, I felt alone, so forced myself to drag my body out from the cabin. I headed into the house to have a bit of a rest before leaving again. Rain threatened on the night of the Christmas carols concert, but luckily there had been a shade shelter built a few years prior. I weaved through the crowd to locate Mum.

“Hello sweetheart, thanks for coming.”

“It’s alright. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Oh, not really. Just enjoy the show.”

I nodded, finding somewhere to sit down. Generally I enjoyed Christmas carols, and it would have been uncharitable to find the sick kids singing them depressing. They received a standing ovation after every track. The concert settled into a rhythm which continued until intermission. Most of the tracks after the break bore familiar lyrics. By the time it ended, I was ready to go home and escape from the bittersweetness of Christmas without my brother. Finally, we returned to the safety of the car. It was there that the pressure of the occasion finally burst through, Mum breaking down in tears, then trying to pull herself together so that we could drive home.

“I’m really proud of you,” I told Mum, rubbing circles into her back between her shoulder blades. “This is hard enough for me. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you.”

On the way home, we headed through the McDonald’s drive-thru. A sundae felt like an important ritual.


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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