Early this morning, I flipped open the phonebook. I flicked through the thin pages to find the number of the television station.
“You know,” Mum commented, standing in the doorway, “They’ve invented this thing called the Internet.”
“I know, I know,” I replied, “but I needed the bigger picture.”
“Is this something to do with Mitchell?”
“Yes,” I answered. “We need to get the media involved again. That’s how we could find him.”
“Darling, nothing came from the public appeal, as much as we would have loved it to.”
I nodded in Mum’s direction, like I was absentminded. When I made the phone call, she walked away. My heart thumped all the more within my chest. I followed the prompts, knowing Mum loved Mitchell just as much as me, if not more. Finally, I got onto a real person to speak with, which was what I wanted.
“Hello, it’s Nina del Reyan calling.”
I waited a beat, to see if they recognised my name.
“Hello, Nina, how are you?”
Her inflection indicated that she eventually had.
“I’m going OK.” The response was natural, but I needed to temper it. “I wanted to speak with you about further opportunities to raise awareness about my brother’s case.”
A pause followed, and I thought I could hear a dripping tap.
“You’ve already had a public appeal, haven’t you?”
“Yes. I’ve spoken with Olive Brennan--.”
“Recently? I must have missed that.”
“Not recently on television. I’ve been--.”
I swallowed. For a moment I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I could have been about to throw up.
“Are you still there, Nina?”
Whatever they decided, I would accept.
“Look, we wouldn’t be opposed to having you come in. The only thing would be, it would be on a broader panel show.”
“I mean, I would be keen to do that. I’m aware of other issues, too. I’ve been to climate change rallies before, I know a little bit about the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”
“Oh, of course.”
She provided me with details for a potential appearance.
“Yes, I would be able to do that,” I assured. “Just, um, tell me the time and--.”
I paused, realising she already had, but she mentioned the information again.
“Did you get all of that?”
I hadn’t, but I nodded instinctively. Luckily, she couldn’t see that over the phone. I thought Mum might have been watching me. Turned out she wasn’t there. I could hear my pulse racing, which might have contributed to my confusion.
“You know, do you know Ashton Fernando’s family?”
“No, I don’t, I thought that they were in Western Australia.”
“His parents live there, but Ashton’s been living in Sydney. We’ve been in contact with his girlfriend, Sofia. I wondered if you wanted to meet her.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.”
Sofia’s phone number was passed on to me. When I finished on the phone, I felt a little dazed. I walked through the house and located Mum.
“Ashton Fernando’s girlfriend lives in Sydney. I’ve got her phone number.”
“Right,” Mum replied, looking a little dazed.
“Anyway, I’m going to go and get in the shower before the funeral.”
Mum kissed me on the temple. Heading into the bathroom, I stripped off my clothes, dumping them on the floor and getting into the shower. As the hot water scorched over my arms and back, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and picture Hudson’s face. It interspersed with Mitchell’s so frequently that I forced myself to switch off the water. I stepped out of the shower and wrapped myself in a towel, migrating through the house to my bedroom, to dry myself off. While my hair dripped a little, I chose a black dress, floor-length and simple linen fabric, sleeveless, but I covered my arms with a jacket. I farewelled Mum with a hug, then headed out to the car. There, a text message came up on my phone, about the get-together the support group would be having later that day. I sighed.
I’m really sorry I can’t make it; I texted back.
I didn’t explain why, even though I knew they’d be supportive. I placed my phone away, fastened my seatbelt, then started to drive to the funeral. Once there, I found a parking place. I steadily pulled up the handbrake and turned off the ignition. As I got out of the car, my body shook. My brow furrowed as I closed the door with a thud, locking it behind me. I approached the building in which the funeral would be held. The only thing I could do was hug the people I saw and recognised. There was silence within the chapel, Hudson’s eyes following us around the room. Breaking his gaze, I rummaged around in my bag for the handkerchief I was sure I’d brought, knowing I’d need it. Cameron stepped out to officiate the service. I didn’t realise that he knew Hudson. Perhaps Cameron had just been chosen as the local, young minister.
“We are gathered here today to remember the life of Hudson Woods--.”
I heard footsteps coming down the aisle.
“To grieve his loss, his life taken away from us so early.”
Already, I could see Maya’s shoulder shaking. I wanted to go to her, to help her. Cynthia started to stir, and I felt terrible for Faith, because she wouldn’t have had much choice other than to bring her. I could feel my chest tightening, eyes welling with tears. I hoped that someone would put their arm around me, although this tragic occasion – none of it - revolved around me. Pallbearers rose from their seats, to carry Hudson from the room. One by one, the rows stood, to follow. As we walked out from the chapel, the sun burst out from behind the clouds. I shielded my face with the funeral booklet. Following the service would be the burial, in accordance with his parents’ wishes. I didn’t know whether he would have expressed views of his own, about the end of his life. We hadn’t even been that close, but the finality of his death clawed at my stomach. The grave had been dug, the coffin strung up. It was lowered slowly into the earth, as the priest, not Cameron, presided over the service. Was he Catholic? I didn’t know. When I closed my eyes, all I could think about was not Hudson, but Mitchell. For a filthy second, I craved the ceremony of a burial.
“We commit Hudson’s body to the earth.”
His mother stepped out first, guided by his stepfather, to throw dirt into the grave. Finally, we could head to the wake. I noticed Hudson’s mother again, sitting at a table in the inside part of the café, with her husband beside her. Once I’d known their names, but I couldn’t quite remember. All I knew was that he wasn’t Hudson’s father, and there was a younger stepbrother. Finally, the sun went down, pink and orange twirling.
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'.