When we got into the car, the radio was playing. Mum turned it down.
“Sorry,” she apologised, although I didn’t really know why. “I’ve stopped listening to music.”
“That’s alright,” I replied hastily. “Do you know where you’re going?”
“Yes, I do,” she confirmed, and we didn’t speak for the rest of the journey.
Mum pulled up outside the church, just as the sun was setting. We piled out of the car as Greg and Natalie’s car parked beside us on the Beecroft street. Timmy emerged from the church hall.
“Hello, thank you for coming, Nina,” he greeted.
We embraced briefly.
“This should be a good night,” I commented. “It’s a time for hope and reflection, and hopefully not too much sadness.”
“Is anybody else here?” I asked.
Brigitta stepped out of the church hall.
“Yes, obviously,” I answered my own question. “How are you?”
“Good, thank you,” Brigitta replied.
She approached. Brigitta touched her fingertips to my shoulders and we kissed each other on the cheeks, before she stepped back. Sighing, she turned to my family.
“I suppose that you’re Nina’s parents,” Brigitta supposed, looking at Greg and Natalie.
“Actually,” I corrected, pointing at Mum and Dad, “these are my real parents. This is Greg and Natalie, my godparents, Geoff’s parents.”
“That’s alright, lovely to meet you all,” Brigitta responded. “I’m Brigitta from the support group. My husband Jerry went missing eleven years ago.”
Mum nodded solemnly.
“We’re all so sorry for your loss.”
She pressed her lips together.
“Thank you,” was all Brigitta could muster.
We fell silent. Another large car pulled into the church driveway, attracting our attention.
“That’s Dean’s family,” Brigitta observed.
She turned to my gathered relatives, who stood with blank expressions. I inched a little closer to Mum and subtly grabbed her hand.
“Dean’s son went missing,” I whispered.
Mum nodded, sighing with despair. Children piled out of the car, dressed in their Sunday best. Dean stepped out of the driver’s seat, then Quentin’s wife from the passenger side. Her wavy brown hair hung down beyond her shoulders. Coralie was dressed in a blue dress which sparkled in the setting sun. Looking over to us, her expression remained solemn.
“Hello, Nina,” Coralie greeted, narrowing her eyes a little to decipher which one of us was which.
“Hello, Coralie,” I responded, nodding my head slightly.
She rushed towards me, pulling us into a tight embrace. Coralie sighed loudly.
“You poor things,” she gushed. “You poor, poor things. We’ve been praying for you ever since Dean told us about your brother and your son. Mitchell, isn’t that his name?”
“Yes,” I confirmed as we finally broke apart.
“Tonight is supposed to be about celebration.”
Coralie glanced briefly over her shoulder. Her three children were rushing over to Brigitta, embracing her excitedly.
“Still, it’s so fresh for you,” Coralie continued. “We all understand if this is incredibly hard.”
Mick parked his old car by the kerb. Through the windscreen, I noticed that he’d also brought his family – his wife and daughter Desdemona. Coralie smiled just a little.
“Our children have almost grown up together over the last three years, it’s three years next month, since my husband went missing,” she outlined.
Mick stepped out of the vehicle, his tattooed arms tense. He ambled around the back of the car and up onto the kerb, nearby.
“Hello, Nina,” Mick greeted me, wrapping me into a tight hug and pressing a firm kiss to my cheek, which I attempted to mirror. “It’s good to see you again, yeah, really good.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “It’s good to see you too, Mick.”
I glanced around, trying to subtly look for his family. Mick had a partner and a daughter, from memory – a young daughter, younger than his sister had been. He pressed the backs of his clawed fingers against his opposite palm.
“This is Dessie, my beautiful daughter,” Mick introduced, “and Andi, my partner, Dessie's marvellous mum.”
I nodded. There was still a distinct New Zealand twang in his voice.
“It’s good to meet you,” I told them.
“Yeah,” Andi agreed. "Good to meet you too."
I looked to the side, searching for my family, to formally introduce Mick to them.
“Mum,” I spoke up. “This is Mick Elliott.”
He placed his arms around her, kissing her cheek.
“Lovely to meet you, Mrs del Reyan,” Mick greeted.
Mum’s eyes were wide, and she didn’t reply straight away. Finally, Mum smiled a little, just to be polite.
“Mick, didn’t Nina say?” she checked.
“Yep,” Mick confirmed, “and, before you ask, I’m from across the ditch. Well, I used to be.”
“How long have you lived in Australia for, Mick?” Dad wanted to know.
Mick shifted his weight between his feet.
“Coming up to ten years,” he replied. “I left as soon as I could, studying here and then meeting my lovely partner and never looking back.”
Personally, I couldn’t imagine that, leaving my home and the place where I had last since Mitchell. Yet, Mick’s life was different. It was much less pristine. Mick had suffered a lot more. There had been something going on with his family. I didn’t dare ask, because it was really none of my business. A slight smile creeping onto Mick’s lips, he glanced around the street.
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'.