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Thankful

Having finished uni for the semester meant that I was home during the day. This left me ample time online. There were plenty of jobs which I could have been doing, rather than spending time on the Internet chasing down leads. I remember watching a show back in the day, about missing persons. A teenage girl had met a boy on Bebo and disappeared when she went off to meet him. I found myself wondering about what had happened to her. Was she alive? Did she did? Would her family have ever seen her again? I leaned back in my chair, feeling despondent. Having Geoff in the police force usually would have felt like a blessing. I opened my top drawer and fetched my stress ball, a foam ball Mitchell had been given as a freebie. Tossing it up into the air and catching it a few times, my lips curved into a small smile. I remembered being five years old, when Mitchell taught me how to catch. We had stood on opposite sides of my bedroom, with the blinds open to the setting sun on the other side of the window. My bittersweet smile eventually felt. Through the window, I watched the trees sway. I dreamed about going overseas. Coldness was over me, gaining no warmth through the window. Walking out to the kitchen, I opened the first cupboard. A box of painkillers fell out onto my feet, having been inappropriately stacked into the basket affixed to the inside of the door. I popped a tablet, washing it down, not that it could alleviate the cause of the thud. Hopefully it would at least improve my outlook. I shoved the box back inside and shut the door, even though I could hear Dad’s voice. He’d grumble about it being left on the shelf. Dad-in-my-head had a point, so I placed the box of Panadol back where it belonged. Next, I would fetch a snack. I rummaged through the tins to find the Milo. Surely we would still have some. Finally I tracked down the tin. My heels creaked as I pulled it down, light in my hands. I retrieved a spoon. Squeezing off the lid, I scooped some of what was left into a mug with milk, and heated it up.


As I watched the microwave swirl, I sensed the Panadol was kicking in. The microwave beeped. I pressed the button, the door popping open and allowing me to grasp the handle of the mug, painfully hot to the touch. With haste I walked it into my bedroom. Once the Milo had cooled down enough, I sipped it, savouring the warmth until it was all gone. I thought about us getting a pet. When we were little, we’d had goldfish, as did Geoff, but Mum and Dad didn’t like anything more demanding. I would have liked another sort of pet, to walk, cuddle and love, even though I appreciated our fish and my memories of them. Even without a cat or a dog, the floor was covered in fluff. I did the vacuuming, then needed a lie-down. As my hands flailed, I heard a motorbike backfire down the street. With a start, I sat up. The vacuum cleaner remained in the hallway, so I coiled up the hose and stashed the whole thing back into its spot beside the washing machine. As I returned to my bedroom, I heard the drone of my phone ringing, vibrating against the doona. Faceplanting on the bed, I grasped it, smiling. I slid the tip of my finger across the screen, placing my phone against my ear as I answered.


“Hey, Natalie, how are you?” I greeted her warmly.


She’d always been like a second mum to me.


“I know that you’re on uni break,” Natalie mentioned, “but would you like to come with me to the hospital? We can pick up your mum from work when we’re finished.”


“Yeah, alright,” I agreed. “That’d be great.”


“Well, good, I’ll pick you up about three o’clock.”


“See you then.”


We ended the call. I checked my watch. Three o’clock in Natalie time could have meant anything from half past two onwards. Therefore, I decided to pop my phone and wallet into a bag, then rest for the remainder of the time. Upon hearing the car, I sat up and grabbed my bag. I made sure the back door was locked. Scampering out the front, Natalie parked her RAV4. I pulled the front door shut behind me. Walking down the steps and the driveway, I stepped up into the car. As I fastened my seatbelt across my chest, Mitchell flashed through my mind. On the journey, Natalie gave me time to speak. I glanced over to her, a solitaire engagement ring alongside her wedding band on her left hand.


“Thanks for doing this,” was all I could reward her patience with.


“That’s alright,” Natalie replied, then we finally arrived.


As it wasn’t quite time for Mum to finish her shift, Natalie and I popped into the hospital café. She bought two donuts each for us – two cinnamon, one iced caramel and one iced strawberry.


“I’m not trying to get you on a sugar high for your mother--.”


“Don’t worry, I love this.”


I grinned towards Natalie.


“Do you want the caramel or the strawberry?”


“The strawberry, please, if that’s alright.”


I noticed two women walking past. A similar pained look was scarred in their matching eyes. I ducked into the strawberry donut. For a moment, I thought of talking about Geoff, but the conflict of interest with Natalie soured my sweets. Mum wandered over.


“Hello there.”


“All set for tomorrow?” Natalie asked Mum as we ambled from the hospital.


“Not quite,” Mum replied. “Neither of us have packed.”


“That’s not unusual, though,” I pointed out. “I mean, usually the first one packed would be Mitchell. He pretty much always packed my bag for holidays, only not when we went to New Zealand. Mitchell wanted me to be able to say with confidence that I’d packed my own luggage.”


Mum sighed softly, prompting Natalie to slip an arm around her shoulders, as we trudged through the automatic doors and into the cold night. Just mentioning Mitchell plunged Mum into despair at his absence, yet I felt closer to him at every utterance of his name, like he would be lurking around the next corner.


“Whereabouts are you parked?” Mum queried.


“On the second top floor, the one under the roof.”


“It must have been busy today,” Mum responded. “Usually, I get into the one underneath that.”


I thought about how I’d need to talk to Dad again, about Zipporah and her daughter. As he and Mum were going away, I wanted an update for the support group meeting. It was important to me that Natalia would be able to stay with her mother. I was sure Zipporah would help me, if the roles were reversed.


“Give me your ticket, Natalie,” Mum requested. “Your parking’s covered.”


We drove out through the boom-gate.


“Thank you.”


“It’s the least I can do.”


 

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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