Mum began reversing out of the garage this morning. I was sitting in the passenger seat with my backpack at my feet. Lizzie, Dani and Bella were packed into the back seat, after we’d offered them a lift. As she passed the hedge, her mobile phone rang. Mum pressed the button on the steering wheel to answer it through the handsfree.
“Hello Natalie,” she said. “I’m just on my way to work. I’ve got Nina with me and Lizzie, my niece, and two of their friends.”
“My grandfather’s been hit by a car,” Natalie revealed. “He’s being taken to hospital, we’re not sure which one just yet, Grandmother’s waiting for them to call back before Mum goes to pick her up and take her there.”
“Oh dear, oh dear.” Mum sighed. “I’ll just drop the girls off at uni, and then I’ll come to the hospital when you know.”
I felt like I was going to vomit. The day of Mitchell’s disappearance kept running through my mind. I could see Geoff’s face, covered in rain. We drove to uni in silence, where Mum dropped us off. The four of us dispersed so that we could attend our respective classes. I slipped into the lecture theatre. Finding somewhere to sit down up the back, I doubted that I would take much in. As Roberta came into the room, I could faintly hear a Harry Styles song playing. She turned on the screen and booted up her slideshow. The topic for this lecture of Contemporary History would be Australian politics in the 1990s.
“Thanks for joining us today,” Roberta welcomed.
She switched from the title slide.
“Have you ever heard of the Kirribilli Agreement?”
I raised my hand, because I had.
“Nina, tell us more about it.”
“Well, it was between Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Apparently, Keating said he wouldn’t challenge.”
“Um, no, that’s not quite right. Does anyone else know?”
I swallowed, sinking back into my seat. One of the other students, who’d also put their hand up, knew the right answer. He explained the true story, something about a planned transfer of power, but I wasn’t really listening to him. My cheeks burned, and I craved a drink of water. We broke up into small groups to discuss it further. The ache in my gut produced verbal diarrhoea.
“It seems incredible to think that that’s not that long ago,” I remarked. “It’s only about five years or so before my brother was born.”
A part of me expected I’d get asked about Mitchell. I wasn’t, though, and the rest of the lecture passed without incident. Afterwards, I was eager to get back home. I returned to an empty house and tried to study for the rest of the day, before eventually, at sunset, scrummaging up some chicken and salad on a tortilla to eat. I rummaged through the fridge, looking for some sort of sauce or dressing to have with it. Fetching a bottle of peri-peri dressing, I just happened to check the expiry date. March 2013 – alright, I’d need to find a plan B. Despite that, I placed the bottle back into the fridge. I just settled upon aioli, and packed my wrap together to eat it. Following dinner, I packed the plates and cutlery haphazardly into the dishwasher. Others might have opinions about how it should be sorted, but I do not. Once the dishwasher was full, I put it on, job done. Making dinner seemed to take it out of me. I was able to get into bed when I was startled by my phone.
“Hi, Mum, how are you going?”
“I’m alright. They’ve settled Grandpa Percy into a ward,” she told me. “Would you mind coming up to Natalie and Greg’s?”
“I’ll see you soon.”
I left in the car and drove up to Castle Hill, where I helped Mum put together some dinner. We served up the food to Greg, Natalie and Geoff, who were exhausted after a long day helping out their family. Mum finally turned to me.
“You look exhausted.”
“Would you like to have a lie-down?”
I curled up on the lounge. The day had been more taxing than I intended.
“Did you spend the day at the hospital?”
“Natalie did, I was in and out.”
I nodded, resting my forearm against my brow. The others ate, while I rested. At some stage, I must have fallen asleep, then awoke with a startle to the sound of rain. I padded over and noticed a note, that Mum had let me sleep while she returned home to Dad. I figured that I would be staying at the Devereux house, richer for the love of two families, rather than one. Late at night, my face was illuminated by the glow of my phone. When it actually rang, it frightened the life out of me. I answered the call, heart thumping, hoping that Greg, Natalie and Geoff, all sleeping upstairs, wouldn’t be woken up by the sound, as I hadn’t taken myself off to bed in the spare room yet.
“Hello, Nina?” a deep voice greeted me.
His tone was questioning. I wetted my cracked lips with my tongue.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “This is Nina del Reyan speaking.”
It didn’t sound like Mitchell’s voice, but maybe I was just too scared to ask. As it turned out, it was a telemarketer, so I hung up.
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'.