I was lying on the floor in Geoff’s TV room. I stared up at the skylight, covered with flyscreen. Natalie padded into the room, carrying a chopping board holding a cake, smiling with sympathy. I propped myself up on my outstretched hands.
“Would you like some cake, Nina?” Natalie offered, prompting a nod from me.
She sat down beside me on the carpet and I took a slice of lemon cake.
“Thank you,” I mumbled as I took a bite.
“Are you going out tonight?” Natalie queried, eyeing my up and down.
“I’ve been invited out by Bella, one of the girls from uni,” I answered. “I got ready, but I’m not sure if I’ll go. I don’t know. I don’t feel like it.”
Natalie draped her arm around my shoulders.
“You know, it is up to you,” she insisted, “but keeping yourself locked away isn’t going to change anything at all. It’s alright to smile sometimes, Nina. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.”
I nodded, pressing my lips together, before taking another mouthful of cake. If I still wanted to go out now, I would need to go to the effort of fixing my lip gloss.
“When Angela died, my sister, well, we needed to be strong for Anthony, her boy,” Natalie divulged. “I had to keep living, because I had to be there for him. It wasn’t fair to drag him down by my grief. Look, that doesn’t apply to you, I know, but you don’t need to be a martyr, Nina.”
I let out a heavy sigh as Natalie snuggled into my cheek.
“I know that it’s incredibly hard, it’s incredibly hard on all of us,” she mentioned. “We’ll get there. You’ll get there. We’ll find it. It’ll be alright.”
Natalie brushed a kiss on my cheek.
“We love you, gorgeous girl,” she told me. “Would you like to pray with your old godmother?”
“I’d love that,” I admitted.
“I’ll start.” Natalie united her palms. “Gracious Heavenly Father, we pray for Nina, we pray that you will help her and guide her. We pray for Mitchell. We pray that you will keep him safe wherever he is, and that, wherever he is, we will see him again. Amen.”
“Amen,” I echoed.
“Dear Lord, we pray,” I pleaded. “We pray for Mitchell. Amen.”
We opened our eyes again.
“Thank you, Natalie.”
“My pleasure. Praise God.”
The thought of holy gratitude left a bad taste in my mouth, but it was difficult for it to linger for long, owing to Natalie’s kindness. I thanked her again before I left. While I told Natalie I was going to go home, by the time I was in the car, I had other ideas. I drove to the hospital where Mitchell worked. It was a sunny afternoon and, for lack of tissues, snot was pooling around my nostrils. As soon as I parked, gritting my teeth and ignoring the steep price, I climbed out of the car and walked around to the back, opening the boot and grabbing the box of tissues which Mitchell always kept there. I blew my nose, then let out a loud sigh.
“We usually say that people with head colds should just go to their GP, but I’ll make special exception for you,” a familiar friendly voice called out across the carpark.
I turned my head, on high alert. Richard was standing there, bearing his trademark grin, dressing in blue doctors’ scrubs.
“Hello, Richardl,” I greeted him. “How are you?”
“Well, considering,” he admitted. “How are you holding up, Nina?”
“I’ve been better,” I confessed. “I’ve got this awful cold now, which isn’t that great, it’s certainly not helping.”
“Medicate, medicate, medicate,” Richard urged, beginning to stroll away. “Things will get better once you get yourself better.”
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'.