A sudden weather change had everyone on edge; Charlotte coped, managing her time and emotions by copying her sister’s pattern. She hoped the routine Eliza kept would share its clues, and Charlotte would find her. The mission, documented in a journal, failed to share its secrets. Emilie wondered if the young detective was on to something, the cliche of “walking a mile” in another’s life; perhaps they should have started here.
Undeterred by storms, Emilie and Sparky took regular jogs through Newcrest; she prayed her daughter was somewhere safe, warm, the idea Eliza huddled under a bridge, scared, or slept rough on the streets made her mouth bitter and chest tight. At home, Sparky attached himself to his new pack leader, a replacement for Eliza. He followed Emilie, watching her clean, cook and shower; her tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes a permanent feature. Emilie knew he wanted to understand, be a comfort through long days; it was her time to release. The hard part was the pretence; to keep normalcy for Charlotte and Patrick, masking the pain with smiles and food, whatever it took to get through the night.
Patrick looked to Eliza for guidance; it had been her influence that made him accept the leadership of her social group; thinking back, he wondered if she planned to leave years ago. His thirteenth birthday would be difficult; friends were weird, with both him and Charlotte. She opted to ditch that friend in favour of another, but Patrick felt different. Due to his shyness, he relied on Eliza, the grounding force, who pushed him to speak and take risks. Eliza had gone, so was that confidence; how could he go to High School without her? The other problem was Charlotte; she enjoyed teasing him, Eliza had been the referee, keeping her in check, the youngest sister’s behaviour bordered on mean. Throw in the tension in his parents, the hushed conversation of what comes next; Patrick wanted to cancel the celebration.
Emilie forced the routine, three square meals, sleep schedule, she focused on what she could control, snapping at the insignificant things when Charlotte stole a bite of Patrick’s cake or Rylan made a noise during her quiet moment of days reflection. The idea Eliza would stay lost was unbearable; Patrick had to ask, how do they move on with the unknown? She forced a smile, holding the tears; Rylan, no anger, he sank, head bowed; there would be a whole in their world, but they would find a way to live with the absence. This would be their life, nothing would fill the gap, with joyous occasions marred with guilt, and any happiness a reminder.
The cake looked delicious; there would be plenty of leftovers, the two friends that showed were there because of Charlotte and the pirate ship. For all the tormenting Charlotte enjoyed dishing her brother, his birthday was something that should be good. Patrick watched the candles, the flickering light, wax melting, the “Happy Birthday” tune sung. Rylan nudged him, a wish, blow the flames, they were waiting to eat cake. His son continued staring, what was the point, wishing to see his sister remained unfulfilled, Patrick stepped outside leaving Emilie to remove the candle and serve.
If you are affected by this story https://www.missingpeople.org.uk/about-the-charity supports people left behind by their loved one and a way for the missing to reach out or get advice.