I stepped onto the hockey field, with the grand final just seconds away from commencing. My heart was thudding within my chest, because I didn’t want to be the one to ruin it now, through not being fast enough. Rose glanced over to me and smiled. I smiled back, then we found positions. The referee from Cherrybrook blew the whistle, and we thudded down the field. One of the Baulkham Hills’ players hit the ball in our direction. Finn intercepted it and smashed it back towards them, towards Rose. She dribbled the ball across the cropped grass, then whacked it towards Brentin. I held back, in apprehension, although I thought that I was technically a midfielder. Brentin missed the ball, the other team attempting to seize the opportunity. I didn’t hear what Rose said. Blood rushing through my ears, I ran forward, hockey stuck outstretched. Somehow it just caught the ball, causing it to ricochet away from the opposing player. This was just enough room for Rose to intercept. She ran the ball down the field, where it was blocked by the goalkeeper. It was tipped over the sideline. Almost, we were so close to scoring. Thankfully we would have another chance through a corner. On this occasion, we missed once again. I wasn’t a player responsible for scoring the goals. I thought that the time was running out when the ball went back to the other team. Rose rushed down the field. She intercepted the ball as it raced across the grass. My legs pumped, even though there was little I could do to assist, while my stomach was churning. Rose clattered the ball past the goalkeeper’s outstretched leg, thumping into the back of the goal. If she hadn’t scored, I might have thrown up from anxiety. We got ourselves a bit carried away, although on the sideline, Mr Lane urged calm. There was still plenty of time left in the match for our lead to be taken away from us, including an anxious half-time. I shoved lolly snakes into my mouth, washing them down with a squirt from my drink bottle before returning to the field. The ball bounced up into a midfielder’s face from the other team. Everyone winced, freezing at the same time. Somehow it managed only to graze against his cheek, so he didn’t have to leave the field.
“Good to know it won’t ruin my modelling career,” he remarked.
“You didn’t have one to begin with, trust me,” Brentin bit back.
“What did you just say to me?”
Brentin bumped chests with the midfielder. Somehow the ref didn’t send either of them off, and we were able to get on with the match. The one-nil scoreline allowed us to defend, defend, defend, until the final whistle. We collapsed into each other’s arms. I was laughing and crying at the same time. My chest felt tight, although I knew that Mitchell’s presence was with me. We finally parted, shaking hands with the other team. Once we were off the field, I grabbed my phone out of my bag and called Mum.
“How did you go, sweetie?”
I stepped away from the noise of the celebrations.
“We won, we won, I can’t believe we won.”
“Oh, that’s great, I’m so pleased.”
Our call ended soon after.
We snapped a team selfie, still covered in sweat. After the photo, we parted, laughing.
“Alright, who’s up for the pub?”
Agreement was unanimous. Still in my shinpads, I reached for my kitbag. We wandered off to the cars while a group of schoolkids took over our field. I fetched my car keys, unable to remove my smile from my lips. Brentin tooted his horn as he drove away from the hockey field. He could be quite the larrikin, which seemed like a bit of a euphemism for something worse. Even though I wouldn’t be able to drink as I needed to drive to work, I was still looking forward to celebrating at the pub. When I pulled up the car, my phone started ringing. I grunted, then retrieved it from the glovebox, almost tempted not to answer. Peering up through the windscreen, Brentin walked into the pub, his gait already ginger. I emerged from the car with my phone and my little bag in hand, the air a little chilly in the shade of the red-brick pub we’d picked. Finally, I answered, as I shut the door behind me.
“Hey,” Geoff greeted me, almost with a pleading tone. “How did you go in hockey?”
“We won, we won, we won,” I divulged, as I merrily walked along the street.
I turned around and made sure that the car was locked behind me. Heading inside, I dropped into a chair at the pub, chilled glass of apple cider in hand.
“Enjoy, Nina,” Rose commended. “You deserve it, because you played so well today.”
I giggled modestly, then took a sip.
“Thanks, Rose,” I replied. “I think that the credit’s all yours, though. Your goal was excellent.”
I glanced up as Finn ambled over. He was carrying a round metal tray. Finn placed down the drinks, handing the round around to each of us.
“Thanks, cheers,” came the chorus from the merry victorious team.
Winning hockey, as it turned out, felt very, very good. Unfortunately, I still needed to work.
“I’ll drop you off,” Rose offered, picking up her jacket from the bar stool. “You’ve already had enough for your Ps.”
Even though I didn’t want to admit it, I’d chosen to drink, anyway. Therefore, I accepted her offer. Rose seemed to sparkle, despite the sporting match she’d just played and won and the liquor she’d consumed. She still would have been under the limit for her full licence. On the way across to the library, I did the maths. Someone else would have to come and collect my car, which did make me feel a little bit embarrassed. By the time I arrived at work, I was rushing. Really, there hadn’t been time to stop off at the pub for a few celebratory drinks, but it did mean that I arrived at the library on a high.
“We won!” I announced excitedly to Spencer.
Beaming, he rushed out from behind the counter. Spencer wrapped me into a hug and we joyfully spun around.
“Congratulations!” he gushed. “And you said that you couldn’t play sport, hey?”
We stepped apart.
“Well, I didn’t really do much,” I admitted. “We won one-nil.”
“That’s excellent,” Spencer commended, nonetheless. “Did you score the goal?”
“No,” I confirmed, shaking my head with a laugh. “Rose, my counsellor, scored it.”
“Well, next year.”
I bid Spencer farewell, then worked for the rest of the afternoon. The mood was even more solemn than usual when the support group members started filing into the library. As soon as Jamie arrived, Timmy hugged him. I pressed my lips together, unsure of what to do, or what was happening.
“It’s exactly one year today since his father was found,” Debbie whispered in my ear.
I breathed in, then gave a single nod. Jamie and Timmy broke apart.
“My mum and sister are here too tonight,” he mentioned. “They’re just parking the car. We all need to be together, tonight.”
“You didn’t have to come if you needed family time,” Timmy permitted.
“Yes, thanks mate, I understand,” he responded. “You guys are part of this as well. I need to be with you as well, because you all know what we’ve been through.”
We listened throughout the rest of the meeting, and before long it was after 10pm. I walked out of the library and looked up at the stars. It’s always quiet at this time of the night. We had won the hockey, and I grinned, curving my lips to suppress the emptiness. Mitchell would have been so proud of me. I didn’t even need to ask him. I returned home from the support group meeting to a bouquet of lilies.
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'.