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The sky was already brooding as I drove the short journey from my place to the Devereux home in Castle Hill. I crossed Geoff in the driveway, as he was leaving to help out with the storm relief, even though he wasn’t supposed to be working.

“You’re a good man,” I promised.

Geoff leaned out of the car and kissed me on the head.

“I’ll see you later.”

As he drove away, I made sure that I was parked under the carport. Heading inside, Greg and Natalie were watching a morning news program, where the guests were discussing the referendum.

“Oh, most of my friends are supportive, pretty much every one which I’ve spoken to, actually. It’s a non-issue for us.”

“I always knew the younger generations had their heads screwed on,” Natalie remarked.

Outside, we heard a screech of tyres, followed by an almighty bang. The three of us rushed out the front door. Two cars were facing up the hill. We rushed towards the vehicle in front, as a woman emerged from the other one, unharmed. In the driver’s seat of the car which had been smashed into, Natalie and I approached a young man. He seemed to have bumped his head in the accident.

“Can you open the door?”

The handle initially seemed jammed. The car radio was still playing a Beatles track. I wiped tears away from my eyes, until Natalie gently urged me to step back. In that state, I knew I was no help. Greg made sure to dial triple zero. Thankfully, we were able to get the door open. Once the ambulance arrived, the paramedics were able to give the driver a green whistle for pain relief. His face flashed as Mitchell’s, although I didn’t say anything, not wanting the others to think that I was triggered. As the paramedics helped him out and into the ambulance, I noticed that he was wearing a wedding ring. We surveyed the street. Just as I returned to the kerb outside the Devereux home, I spotted a phone in the gutter, bending down to pick it up. I didn’t think that it would still work, but thankfully it fired up again once it had been dried out with a towel. Natalie allowed me to fetch some fresh clothes. I was very glad to be back inside, safe and dry.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright,” I assured, albeit in a tone which implied I hoped it to be true, more than it already was.

“Well, would you like something to eat?”

“That would be lovely, thank you.”

Natalie walked through into the pantry. Greg headed upstairs to make sure that the blinds were secure and they wouldn’t break the windows if they bashed against the house. I fiddled with my cross necklace, from Mitchell, as Natalie retrieved a tin of tomato soup – a staple with heart. Rain thudded against the roof of the carport.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“It’s alright. We just want to spend the time with you.”

I listened to the wind whirling. Having the support of Geoff’s family meant a lot to me, even as I reflected upon the impending disaster. Natalie prepared tomato soup and cups of tea.

“We’ll probably have to start thinking about Christmas sooner rather than later,” she remarked as she took a sip of her tea.

I took a deep breath.

“Oh, of course we’d like to come here for Christmas, if you’ll have us. We’ll probably go over to Aunty Melissa’s house on Christmas Eve. That’s usually what Mum’s family has been doing.”

“Of course, we’d love to have you.”

I smiled. It wouldn’t feel like Christmas elsewhere.

“We still have plenty of time, but it’s good to figure it out. I’m sure that Mum and Dad would like that clarity. I’ll talk to them.”

Even though it was unconventional, our family had spent Christmas with the Devereuxs most years. Once I finished my tomato soup, I stood up and walked across the room. The photos on the buffet weren’t just of Geoff – there were plenty of Mitchell and I there, as well. Finally, I returned to the table. My legs had been sufficiently stretched. I sipped slowly at my tea. As Natalie started to pack away the table, I checked my phone.

“I think all the time about what could have happened to him,” I mused over my cup of tea. “You know, it’s coming up to eighteen months, it’ll be eighteen months on Tuesday.”

That was also the first anniversary of when Geoff and I had broken up. While I was glad we were back together, a sense of muscle memory made me anxious. Could our relationship stand the test of time? Natalie finally turned on the television. A man had been killed in Rouse Hill. The news showed ambulances and police having arrived at the scene, so I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not Geoff was among them. I knew that he saw devastation as part of his work, as much as it made my heart ache for him. Just after the story concluded, the television zapped off, along with the lights.

“Well, that’ll be the power.” Greg stood. “I’ll go out to the fuse box, just to make sure it’s not just us.”

He headed outside. About five minutes later, Greg returned to the house.

“There are powerlines down at the end of the street,” he mentioned, “so I suppose that it will be a little while before it’s fixed.”

Therefore, Natalie fetched the candles from the buffet. She set them up in the middle of the dining table and lit them, one by one. Hopefully there would be some food for dinner, which wouldn’t require electricity to prepare. I started playing with my phone again. Wasting the battery, I knew, was a bad idea, because I couldn’t tell when I would be able to charge it again.

“What are you doing in the summer?” Greg wanted to know.

“No, I don’t think we’ve made any plans to go on holidays at this stage. Do you have anything planned?”

Natalie shook her head.

“We’ll probably go up to Shoal Bay, but nothing’s set in stone.”

I struggled to look too far ahead.

“Well, of course, I was kind of assuming that.”

I heard a car whooshing down the street.

“Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“Oh, not really. We need to go shopping at some stage, but not in this weather.”

“Lucky we still have wine,” Greg remarked, although Natalie wasn’t a drinker.

I was tempted to ask for a glass. Considering that a long night could have been ahead of us, I refrained from doing so. We busied ourselves with board games. I had just as much enjoyment trying to help Natalie win, while she was attempting to do the same for me. As it turned out, this allowed Greg to carve through the middle and seize the victory. Natalie played with her engagement ring. It was a solitaire with a gold band and seemed to never leave her finger. I wanted to tell Natalie that I felt like she was a second mother to me, but I didn’t know how to express that without her feeling like I was talking down my own mother. Therefore, I stayed quiet. Finally, the electricity came back on and we found ourselves watching a nature documentary. Shortly after, I heard tyres roll in. When Geoff stepped through the front door, I curled my arm around his neck.

“I’m so glad you’re back.”


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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