Our car pulled up in the driveway of Uncle Carlos and Aunty June’s home. Above us, the deep green leaves of the tall, bare gumtrees rustled in the cool, strong wind. We opened our three doors and climbed out onto the sandy coloured pavers. The wind ruffled my hair, blowing pink strands in front of my face. An occasional droplet of rain fell beyond the gusts onto our skin. Dad walked around to the back of our vehicle. He popped open the boot and retrieved from it a white plastic washing basket. Dad slammed the boot and strolled towards the gate. Aunty June bore her customary Christmas cheer when she let us into her house. It was different than usual, in more ways than one. I understood why Geoff might have felt like he was being pulled in different directions. Normally our family would have spent Christmas Day with his. I kept glancing across at Mum. She was trying her best.
“Will you be back at uni in a few months, Nina?” Uncle Julio checked.
“Yeah, I’m moving into third-year next year.” I shook my head. “It’s all happened so quickly.”
Hayley walked into the room.
“Yeah, it’s been the same for me,” she confirmed. “Time flies.”
I nodded, then took a sip from my drink. Even though I was enjoying the time with my family, the whole time I wished Mitchell could have been there. I played with my cross necklace which had been a Christmas gift from my brother a few years ago. Sometimes when I prayed I tried to talk to Mitchell, even though I wasn’t sure whether or not it was heretical.
“Well, lunch is ready,” Aunty June announced from the doorway into the kitchen.
We served up from the makeshift buffet and sat down around the table.
“Well, Merry Christmas everyone,” Dad wished.
“Yeah, Merry Christmas,” Uncle Julio responded.
We were merrily celebrating something. I found myself checking my phone constantly, as if Mitchell would choose this occasion to make his dramatic return. I needed to come to terms with the probability that Mitchell was dead. It certainly wasn’t a cheery thought. A shiver went over me, despite the sticky Christmas day. I could hear a plane flying overhead as we exited Uncle Carlos and Aunty June’s house, heading back to the car with our Christmas presents in tow. We returned home, receiving a phone call shortly after. I was lying around out the back with Geoff, starting to think about dinner. The evening news was playing on the television. Dad ambled down the stairs with the phone pressed against his left ear.
“Yes, yes, I know it can be difficult sometimes, thank you for telling us, thank you for letting us know, thank you,” he spoke, “Thank you, goodbye."
Dad lowered the phone from his ear and pushed the small red rubber button to end the call. He sighed loudly, then looked up at Geoff and me lounging on the couch.
“Well, that was the person who was supposed to be renting the Port Macquarie house for the next week,” Dad explained. “They’ve cancelled the booking. Their children were apparently most ungrateful at Christmas time, so they’ve cancelled their holiday as punishment."
Geoff and I bobbed our heads in acknowledgement of the news. Dad wandered off, back down along the hallway to the study. I turned my head to look at Geoff.
“Let’s go,” I blurted out.
“Where?” Geoff asked me nonchalantly.
“To Port Macquarie,” I answered, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“What, just the two of us?” Geoff enquired.
I shifted myself across the blanket which covered the lounge, closer to him.
“Yeah,” I replied, “Just to get away, spend some time together, by ourselves."
Seductively, I placed my hand on Geoff’s shoulder.
“Just the two of us,” I sultrily hissed.
Geoff sighed softly, rolling his tongue and glancing away from me. I continued to lock my eyes on him in a pleading fashion.
“If our parents agree,” Geoff conceded. “It is their place, after all."
I scoffed, then presented a pout.
“Alright,” I agreed in a sulking voice.
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'.