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CW: Transphobia, violence.

I walked out the front of the house, gazing up through the fine jacaranda leaves. Across the street were bare-leaved trees, with a backing of vivid pink clouds amidst the grey sky. I breathed out steadily, a little cold. Eventually, a car motored down the street. I knew that Geoff would be home from work soon. While being in Castle Hill was my own kind of holiday, the cold got to me, so I returned indoors. I passed through the house into the bedroom, with two beds, so that I could share with Mitchell. Was he overseas? Had he died? I asked these questions like they were prayers. The room around me hardened, like it was turning into a film set. I held memories in my hands like grains of sand, sodden but slipping from my grasp. In my shoulders I could feel the time, hear the echo of soft footsteps coming down that carpeted hallway from behind me – ‘Hey, dinner’s ready’. I turned around, not to see a tall, dark-haired man, but a shorter figure.

“Alright, thanks.”

I froze at the sight of Geoff’s puffy eyes.

“Yeah, OK, thanks.”

I followed him back out of the bedroom, the redness of his face etched into my memory. Natalie wrapped Geoff into a tight hug.

“It’s OK, I’m OK.”

I would have wanted to give him a hug like that, too, but I didn’t. It felt strange to be just the four of us. In the past, Mum and Dad had been around as well, or Mitchell had stayed with me too. It was the three of them as a family, and then me, the island, no matter the welcome that was extended. Natalie pressed a kiss to her son’s slightly damp, blonde hair.

“Come on, let’s have dinner. Hopefully you’ll feel a little bit better then.”

Geoff found a seat at the kitchen table.

“We got the callout to a house, from a trans guy. His, um, father had come back. Ben, I think, called for backup straight away, because he was pretty badly beaten. We called the ambos as well, somebody did.”

Dinner was placed in front of us.

“There was so much blood.”

Geoff shook his head. Natalie rested one of her hands on his shoulder.

“I held him. That was my duty, I think, just to hold onto him, until the ambos arrived.”

He started to tuck into his quiche.

“I just don’t know how someone does that to their own kid.”

There was nothing I could say. I gently touched my hand to Geoff’s for a moment, then we ate in near silence. I couldn’t have done his work. We had the television turned down low, but noticed an advertisement for fingertip covers.

“Oh, those things were silly,” Greg grumbled. “I didn’t even realise they still sold them.”

Geoff snorted a laugh. I looked at him, against my better judgment. After dinner, Natalie served ice cream.

“What would we like to do?” she asked while we ate. “We could play cards. We’re able to do whatever you want to, really.”

“We could play Trouble.”

Geoff’s eyebrows wagged. I grinned. Once finished her dessert, Natalie stood to fetch the battered box, getting out the game of Trouble. The game quickly descended into ridiculousness. I loved pressing them the button in the centre of the board, to make the dice leap, then fall, to determine how many moves each player would make in their turn. I yawned.

“Alright, I think we can call it a night for now,” Greg decided, bringing the game to a close and dutifully packing the board and the pieces away.

I trudged into the spare room, where I would be spending the night. There, I changed into my pyjamas. I got into bed for a little bit, flicking through Instagram absentmindedly, constantly tapping on my phone to like posts. The light and television remained on. Ironically, I was too tired to get up and turn them off, even though they were potentially impeding me from actually sleeping.

“Room for one more?”

I placed down my phone atop the table between the beds and looked into the doorway. Geoff finally wore a smile. He held up a packet of biscuits.

“Actually, two more,” Natalie corrected, poking her head in the doorway.

Geoff, Natalie, and I ate chocolate biscuits on my bed until the late hours of the night. There was an action movie in French, which was heaps more entertaining because we only had half a clue of what was going on. The three of us were laughing loudly at the implausibility of the attractive hero ending up with only a scratch on his nose after being blown up and falling off a building. A news update came on, with a pretty, solemn-faced woman reading the headlines.

“And now, in breaking news, a nineteen-year-old Australian man has disappeared while holidaying in Sri Lanka.” My eyes shot towards the television, and I gulped loudly, then coughed to dislodge the chocolate biscuit stuck in my throat. “Local authorities are investigating.”

They showed his photo – olive-skinned and young, with dark, scruffy hair.

“Ashton Fernando’s heartbroken family are desperate for answers.”


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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