Rain teemed down my bedroom window, as I sat at my desk, the room only illuminated by my lamp. Hearing a car outside, I sensed that Dad was probably home from work. I took up and walked out of my bedroom, into the hallway. Opening the door, I stepped out onto the porch. Head bowed, Dad scurried up the front stairs, carrying his briefcase. We stepped back under the awning. I pecked Dad on the cheek.
“How was your day at the office?” I queried, opening the front door again.
“Oh, alright,” Dad answered in a glum tone.
We stepped back inside and I closed the door behind us.
“Where’s Greta?” Dad asked of Mum, looking around as he trudged down the hallway.
“She’s asleep,” I mentioned casually. “She’s had a really big day. I’m just making some dinner before going to the library.”
“Did you go to work this afternoon, Nina?” Dad wanted to know, drawing his eyebrows together.
“Yes,” I answered. “I’ve just ducked home quickly to put some tea on and do a bit of study.”
I didn’t mention Mum’s phone call. As soon as I could, I scurried back into the kitchen and opened the oven door, warmth blossoming up into my face. I took a quick step back, then took a deep breath. Covering my hands in a tea towel, I pulled the tray of chicken nuggets out of the oven. I placed it down on the bench, then shut the oven door.
“Would you like some chicken nuggets?” I asked.
I looked over my shoulder, but Dad was no longer there. Sighing softly, I also spotted the clock, at less than five minutes to seven. I bit my lip and rushed out of the kitchen. Ducking into the bedroom, I grabbed my handbag, checking that my keys, phone and wallet were already inside.
“I’m off, I’m late,” I called out to Dad. “See you later, bye.”
I rushed out the front door, into the pouring rain, and scampered down to the car on the lawn. Unlocking it, I slipped into the driver’s seat, then closed the door behind me. I pressed my foot down on the brake as I dropped my bag onto the passenger seat and fastened my seatbelt over my torso. After turning on the car, I reversed out of the driveway and began driving towards the library. The rain beat down on the car windscreen. As I leaned back in my seat, my mind flashed back to the night of Mitchell’s disappearance, when Mum and I had gone driving around the hospitals of the northern beaches, looking for Mitchell, wherever he might have been. Somehow, I parked the car and arrived at the library. I needed to unlock, for Timmy hadn’t arrived yet. After turning on the lights, I dawdled through the library. I flicked through a dusty old book in the religion section for a moment. Its thesis on understanding the book of Esther through the lens of trauma theory intrigues me, urging me to flick over the pages. When the automatic doors parted and Timmy turned up, I sprung back.
“Oh, hey,” I greeted him.
“Sorry, did I startle you?”
“No,” I assured, setting the book back on the shelf.
Both of us wandered over, to start setting up the chairs.
“How has your week been?”
“Oh, alright,” I answered. “How about yours?”
“Well,” Timmy responded with a laugh.
“Is that bad or is that good?”
“Well, a bit of both, to be honest.”
Timmy was being coy, and I didn’t know whether or not I liked it.
“Can I ask, how long have you been doing this for with the support group?” I wanted to know.
“Oh, just a bit over two years.”
Noel turned up before we could continue that conversation. We continued to engage pleasantries, as the others filed into the library. Eventually, we sat down, to commence the meeting.
“Zipporah’s not here this week, she’s away,” Timmy reported.
He didn’t explain why, not that she necessarily needed a reason. I found myself being a little bit worried about Zipporah. The news bear was handed to Noel.
“It’s been two years since Junia disappeared. Women in the neighbourhood still bring casseroles and lasagnes, every now and then. It’s really lovely of them.”
Tension rose within my body, filling my insides with fear.
“I don’t know how you deal with the waiting,” I admitted, as my eyes welled with tears. “It’s hard to believe that it’s been six weeks already.”
Brigitta passed me a tissue.
I took it and wiped my eyes, then blew my nose.
“Tell us something else,” Debbie urged.
I couldn’t think of what to say.
“I’m just taking things day by day.”
“At the end of the day, you’ve still got to have hope,” Noel assured. “I’m still hopeful, somehow.”
“I thought that things would be easier with a police officer in the family.”
“There are plenty of ways of finding answers which don’t involve the police,” Brigitta reminded.
“Do you, Timmy, do you, um, know where Zipporah is tonight?” Noel asked, changing the subject.
“As far as I’m aware, she’s just really, really tired,” Timmy answered. “I’m pleased for her that she’s decided to take a break, though, and not just push through and push through.”
“I think that she needs to learn to rest,” Ella mentioned. “We all have a tendency towards the opposite.”
“I’ve tried playing golf,” Todd noted. “There’s a lot of time to think out there on the course. I still don’t know if that’s good or bad.”
Outside, I could hear the heavy rain. I found myself fiddling with my watch band.
“Golfers are usually quite superstitious, aren’t they?” Zipporah commented.
“I think all sportspeople are a little bit superstitious, in some way or another,” Debbie reckoned. “You’ve got to have the right coffee or the right socks or whatever it is.”
“Brigitta’s the one with the most superstitions around here,” Lawrence remarked.
“Superstitions are no good,” Lorelai spoke up. “They don’t mean anything.”
She looked down at the floor, which prevented any sort of stoush with Brigitta, who continued to smile brightly as she was supplied with the news bear.
“I’m thinking of studying again. It’s something which I’ve wanted to do, but never been in the position to actually do it.”
“You can do it,” I urged. “At least you should go for it.”
“Thank you, Nina,” Brigitta replied. “With the kids being little, I didn’t have the chance.”
She breathed out.
“Now, everything’s different.”
“I reckon that would be a fantastic opportunity for you. I’m sure that we’ll all get right behind you. In fact--.”
Feeling a tickle in my throat, I reached for a drink of water.
“In fact, if there’s anything we can do to help, let us know,” Timmy finished my sentence for me.
“Thanks, Timmy,” she responded as I finally had a drink.
Brigitta handed the news bear on to Todd.
“Nothing much going on for me at the moment.”
He fiddled with the skin on the back of his hand, nibbling on the inside of his lip. I sensed that Todd was holding back. I found myself looking at Brigitta, albeit just as a force of habit. Maybe she would be able to get through to him, although perhaps it was no big deal to begin with. Todd gave the news bear to Noel.
“I have a question for you,” Clementine spoke up. “How did your date go?”
“You went on a date?”
“It wasn’t a date, it was a business dinner.”
“I’m in a very different position to a lot of other people here,” Brigitta noted. “I know, for sure, that my husband is dead. I’ve seen his body. It’s not for me to say how you should feel.”
“Can I ask you something?” She nodded to urge me to go on. “How did you feel before you found out that he’d died?”
Brigitta breathed out, her shoulders shifting.
“Truth be told, after a few weeks, I knew deep down that he was dead.”
The words seemed to hit us over the head, even though Brigitta’s relaxed expression implied that we weren’t meant to take them like that.
“I’m very open to being in another relationship. In fact, I’d quite like to have another relationship. I’d really love to have sex again.”
I sensed a blush creeping into my cheeks. More than one someone must have looked at Noel.
“Look, to be honest, I haven’t really thought about that side of things.”
I placed my glass back on the table. While the conversation continued, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mitchell. He used to have all these little inane topics he’d bring up, whenever we were watching something on TV and it started to get a little bit risqué. Eventually, Noel handed the news bear over to Dean.
“Oh, I’ll rest when I finish my to-do list,” he assured.
Some of the others flashed him wary smiles, but they didn’t disagree. Dean strikes me as something of an old-fashioned sort of man, although not in a bad way. He’s a good hard worker, and what has happened with his son must pain him. Dean passed the news bear on. Ella accepted it with a grin.
“I have just received a promotion at work.”
“That’s great news.”
The news bear arrived in Mick’s hands.
“Thanks, mate. Look, Dessie’s still growing up pretty fast. This morning, she told us that she wants to be either an astronaut or a bank teller when she grows up.”
“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a chemist, apparently,” Debbie admitted.
“I wanted to be a lawyer, like my father,” I confessed. “Something obviously changed there. Mitchell went into healthcare like Mum, so I thought I would do what Dad did.”
We finished off sharing for the meeting.
“Alright, what are we going to do now?”
“Well, I brought the wafflemaker,” Noel mentioned. “I know that we’ve talked about it in the past.”
He glimpsed his watch.
“Yeah, I’d be down for some waffles,” Todd agreed.
I went and fetched an extension cord. When I returned, the group had erupted into laughter, as Clementine shook the waffle mix.
“Am I the only adult in the room?” Dean remarked.
“Hardly,” Clementine responded with a cocked eyebrow, then poured out the mix in the maker.
Once we were full of waffles, it was time to drag our bellies home.
“You know, you don’t have to close the library,” Timmy mentioned. “I’ve been doing it for a long time before you started to.”
I felt a little taken aback, although I didn’t admit that.
“It’s fine, I don’t mind.”
I breathed out audibly.
“What is your story, anyway, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Like, why am I here?”
“Yeah, that’s what I was trying to ask,” I confirmed, “if that’s not too personal.”
“No, it’s not, I’ll tell you. My brother died in a car accident.”
I didn’t gush to tell Timmy I was so sorry. I’d learned better than to pity him.
“Well, I’d better head off,” Timmy farewelled, before I got the chance to say anything. “Take care, Nina.”
I walked back to my car, and lingered while Timmy returned to his. He gave me a last wave, then got into the car. I watched as Timmy drove away, then pressed the unlock button on my car key. Somehow I felt disappointed as I slipped into the cabin, feeling a pang of desire in my gut which I knew to be misplaced.
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'.