Updated: Apr 2
I scrolled through search results on one of the library computers. Everybody around me were busily working on study and their assignments. They were following the rules, just as Mitchell would have, yet now I was breaking them on his behalf. I clicked on a social media page. When it loaded, I blinked at the images displayed, of so many missing people. Now, my brother Mitchell was among them, but it was not real, it could not be. He wasn’t one of them, because he would be back soon enough. Yet, curiosity overcame me, and I scrolled down the page.
Hills District, Sydney – Missing Persons Family and Friends Support Group every Wednesday 6:30pm at Baulkham Street library, convened by Timmy Clarke
There was a small image of him, and I recognised him as the man who came into the library just as I was closing, who ran a group here. I had seldom spoken with him, but I leaned back in my seat with the realisation that he was part of this same club, too. There would be no harm in staying on after closing hours. All I would need to do is call my parents to ensure that they were aware of my whereabouts, and then I could meet some people who could help me, hopefully. After I made the call, I put my phone back in my bag so that I could work the rest of my shift. It was chilly this evening when Timmy Clarke stepped in through the library doors.
“Am I here early?” he asked me.
“No, not exactly,” I responded. “I’m staying for your group tonight.”
Timmy’s face fell. I stepped out from behind the counter.
“My brother disappeared at Dee Why Beach last Saturday,” I told him. “I found this group online, I thought you might be able to help me.”
“Younger or older?” Timmy asked.
“Older,” I replied. “He’s nearly five years older.”
“We’ll have you,” he confirmed. “Have you had any leads?”
I shook my head. The others arrived, ordinary people filing into the library. Sitting on a plastic chair with the rest of them, I blinked, the lights seeming too bright.
“Hi, I’m Nina, I actually work here, but my brother went missing, last Saturday.”
Sixteen empathetic faces looked back at me.
“My name is Lorelai, my daughter Lily disappeared from a shopping centre, she was three years old at the time.”
I almost winced – clearly that story is worse than mine. That little girl’s been missing for longer than she’d been alive.
“It was my father who disappeared.” The man seemed middle-aged, ashed-faced. “He’d been losing his memory, he must have just wandered off. We found his body four weeks later.”
“My son went missing. He’d been having an affair, we found out. We never saw him or his lover again.”
Dean, the father’s name was, a grandfather-aged man, thumbed a tear away from his eye.
“We presume he’s happy. I hope that he’s alive.”
After a while of sharing time, the meeting came to an end. I checked my phone. A text awaited me from Geoff, asking me if I’d gone.
“So, will we see you back next week?”
“Well, hopefully not, but we’ll see.”
I returned home. My head felt like it was spinning from the weight of the sorrow, which bore down even heavier than the solidarity I experienced from the group. I snuggled in Mum and Dad’s bed, between them, with the television on.
“If he’s not back yet, you should come next week,” I suggested.
“Nina,” Dad spoke up.
“Just tell us about it,” Mum interjected, “How many people were there?”
“Seventeen,” I answered, “including Timmy, who ran the group. I’ve actually seen him coming into the library before at the end of the day of a Wednesday, but I didn’t know before I saw it online that that was the sort of group he read.”
Mum pressed a kiss to my temple.
“Did you mind that we didn’t come too?” she wanted to know.
“I didn’t mind,” I admitted. “I won’t be back next week, at least just to tell them what happened.”
Dad stayed silent, breathing in and wriggling closer. I shifted in the bed.
“What if?” Dad started saying.
I didn’t answer his question. I wouldn’t go back next week, because we’d find Mitchell by then.
“Were there any other parents?” Mum wanted to know. “Were there any other mothers?”
“Yes.” I nodded in confirmation. “One lady’s little girl went missing four days after Mothers’ Day.”
Mum gulped and hugged me tighter. The weight of her anxiety and grief squeezed me almost dry.
“How old was the little girl?” Mum questioned. “What happened to her?”
“She was three years old and they were at the shopping centre,” I answered.
In time with each other, Mum and I breathed a bit quicker. Dad reached over and grabbed our hands.
“I don’t want to know,” Mum began to wail. “I’m sorry, Nina, I can’t do that. I don’t want to know. I just want my little boy back now. I just want him back.”
Mitchell wasn’t a little boy, he was six foot five inches tall. Yet, we loved him so much. To Mum, Mitchell was just her little boy and she wanted him back. We all do, so desperately.
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'.