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Scared

This evening, I braided my hair, desperately trying to remember how Mitchell had done it for so many years throughout my childhood. Dad had given me free reign of choice while Mum was away with the girls in Shoal Bay. I felt uncomfortable receiving all the say, because usually I had to share with Mitchell. He never pushed his weight around, it wasn’t like that. All it was, was that he was older, so had already established patterns. Securing my hair with an elastic, I thought that it was a pretty good effort on my part. Dad and I left the house, venturing out into the cold. We drove up to Castle Hill and settled upon a restaurant for dinner.

 

“Let’s take a selfie,” I urged. “We can send it to Mum.”


I extended my arm and smiled, compelling Dad to do the same while I snapped the picture, then reviewed it. To make it Instagram worthy, I changed the light settings a little, bringing out our faces in contrast to the background, then texted it to Mum. I checked the chat for the support group.


“Can you put your phone away, please, Nina, just for five seconds?”


I placed it face down on the table.


“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you. That wasn’t fair.”

 

I didn’t know what to say. My phone would have offered less dour company. Dad placed both thumbs together, like in the position of a one-digit prayer. A waitress collected our orders.


“You know,” I spoke up, while we were waiting for our meals to arrive, “Timmy is quite good at helping us talk through things. You’re always welcome to come to the support group.”

 

I felt like I was proselytising. Dad gave a nod.


“You know, apparently today’s the anniversary of Australia getting into the World Cup.”


“Oh, I remember that.” A smile finally came onto Dad’s lips. “A massive deal was made of it. I thought that it was a bit much, personally, a beat-up about nothing.”

 

“It all came down to the goalkeeper, didn’t it?”


I knew that it did, because it was one of those bizarre pieces of information I retained. Asking the question, though, gave the opportunity to educate. We chatted about soccer for a little while until our food was placed down on the table. That dulled the conversation. There was a busker playing near the fountain, and he wasn’t half-bad, even though I would have felt a little embarrassed to throw a few coins into his empty guitar case. While tucking into my pasta, I burned the inside of my mouth a little, which was par for the course for me. At the conclusion of the meal, Dad and I pressed our dishes into the middle of the table. A waitress quickly collected them, and we assured her that we’d enjoyed the meal. Dad paid for both of us, then we departed the restaurant. Just as we were walking away, my phone vibrated against my palm. I couldn’t help but check it. One message was quickly followed by another. I thought that I was going to be exchanging memes with Geoff. Flicking through his words, though, my expression fell. I felt scared for my friend and what he had revealed about the state of his mind after the events of his day at work.

 

“Um, could we please drop by Geoff’s place on the way home?” I requested.


I flashed Dad the screen of my phone. He squinted, because he wouldn’t have had time to focus on the words. I realised pretty quickly that showing him the messages was a bad idea. I desperately hoped Geoff would be alright. Thankfully, Dad agreed. I knew that being a police officer wasn’t an easy job. Was it made even harder because of Mitchell’s disappearance? I couldn’t say for sure. Dad and I didn’t speak on the short trip back from Castle Hill. I sensed that he might have just wanted to get out of there, but loved me enough to go along with my wishes.  

Dad finally pulled up the car. My heart thumped as we dropped in at the Devereux home. I sensed that Dad didn’t really want to be there. Natalie was Mum’s friend, something which was becoming increasingly apparent to me. She was the one who let me into the house, with a supportive smile on her face.

 

“Thanks for coming.”


I walked inside, to find Geoff in the TV room. I sat down on an ottoman nearby, reaching an arm around his shoulders.


“Are you good, mate?”

 

Geoff took a laboured breath. I sensed he didn’t know what to say.


“I think that you had a panic attack.”


“Really? I’m not sure whether it was--.”


“Haven’t you had some sort of training with the police?”

 

“Yeah, we have.”


“What did they tell you to do?”


Geoff shook his head like he didn’t know the answer, which possibly meant that he couldn’t recall. I noticed Greg sidling up to Dad.

 

“Are you missing Greta already?”


Dad startled. I watched it splash across his face, like he didn’t understand the premise of the question.


“Yes, it’ll be good when she’s back.”

 

Geoff and I slipped away. It was good to have just the two of us, with a little bit of breathing space. While I wanted to kiss Geoff, I decided that it wasn’t the time. It would have been better just to chat, to hopefully help him to calm down a little bit. I wished that Rose would have been there, but at the same time, I enjoyed looking after Geoff.

 

“Do you remember when we used to go to the snake café?” I asked.


“Yeah.” Geoff finally smiled. “I’d love one now, to be honest.”


I was confident that a milkshake could be arranged, although I didn’t think it would come with a lolly snake.

 

“What’s the matter?” Geoff asked me as I shifted.


“I’m going to go and get us milkshakes.”


He didn’t argue. I walked through into the kitchen. There, I encountered Dad. An idea brewed in my mind.

 

“Hi, Dad,” I asked him. “Would you mind if I stayed here overnight? It might be nice for Geoff to have someone.”


“He has his parents.”


I was taken aback.

 

“It’s alright, Nina,” Dad reassured me, the bright golden light illuminating his face.


I reached out and took his hand in mine.


“Are you sure, Dad?” I queried. “Because I don’t want you to be alone if you don’t want to be."


“I wouldn’t tell you to stay here if I want you to come home,” Dad snapped.

 

“OK.”


I made milkshakes for Geoff and I, but I still had a bad taste in my mouth. The spare room was available for me to sleep in. When Dad departed, he bid me farewell with a small smile. We needed to rest. I listened to rain on the roof. I lay in bed, unable to sleep. Sure, I was thinking about Mitchell and Dad, but I was also thinking about Geoff. I knew he wasn’t far away, but that he’d be asleep, and he needed his sleep for work.


 

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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