Chapter 1: Before.
Mum had been on the phone for almost an hour now, and I could hear her sniffling quietly. Who was on the phone was beyond me, I just knew that whatever news she had heard was extremely devastating. I was too scared to bother her, to ask what had happened, to know how I could help.
I was sat on the stairs, simply listening in on her quiet sobs. She thought I was asleep, as it was at least ten in the night by now, making it certainly past my bedtime.
Though, what made things even stranger was the fact that my sister, Elizabeth, hadn’t returned home yet. Sure, she’s eighteen and can go out partying whenever she wants, but she’d normally call mum... or me, and say goodnight, at least. The thought was unsettling. Had something happened to her? Maybe she’s just stuck in traffic from her work as a journalist...
“Mummy...?” I had whispered, finally rising from the stairs.
Evidently, I caught her off guard, as she jumped. She was sat on the sofa, and immediately got up when she saw me. Almost silently, I had heard her whisper to someone on the phone, “I need to go”.
Soon after, a fresh wave of tears welled up in her eyes as she rushed over to me. Her arms tightly enfolded me in her embrace, while she sobbed into my shoulder, having knelt down.
“Oh, baby...” She choked through muffled sobs.
“Mummy, what happened...?” I mumbled, standing straight as a rod. My default reaction to her being upset made me upset.
She hadn’t responded, though, and I was left guessing. Assuming the worst.
It had felt like hours until my mum finally replied, giving me a tight squeeze, before taking ahold of my shoulders and leaning back. She remained down at my level, sniffling softly.
“Baby... it’s... it’s your sister...” Her voice cracked multiple times as she said that, and my heart sunk. I knew it... Eliza never would have remained quiet... I had felt it in my bones. For a ten-year-old girl, I was intelligent enough to figure out what had happened for myself, and I didn’t know how to react. How do you react to your sister having gone missing?
After what felt like hours, my mum had explained what she knew. Elizabeth had gone out with some friends at around six, and hadn’t been seen since.
“Mummy... we need to look for her...” I had replied with, and her response was simply a mumble, before she dropped onto the floor.
“Mummy? Mummy, get up!” I had shook her shoulders for a few minutes, tears gushing down my already wet cheeks. “Mummy, stop playing games! It’s not funny anymore!” Her eyes had rolled into the back of her head, and she was completely out of it.
She never responded, so I had ended up calling an ambulance in haste.
They arrived within about an hour, quickly moving my mum out of the house and to the hospital. I had rode in the back, holding her hand, while my head was fuzzy and unclear. How could this have happened? What had happened? What was going to happen? Were the many thoughts going through my mind at the time.
When we had arrived at the hospital, she was rushed off to the resuscitation room. I had no idea what they were doing in there, because I was left in the waiting room with the receptionist, boredly tapping away at her keyboard.
It had been empty at that hour, and I persisted to go up to the counter, asking where my mum was. She had replied with the same “she’ll be back soon”, although she didn’t look entirely convinced by what she had been saying.
When the doctors had returned from the room, they looked solemn and disappointed. That was never a good sign. Once they approached and knelt before my seat, hesitant to give me the news that I was already expecting. It wasn’t easy to hear, however, and I had broken down once they told me that my mum had died from a heart attack.
A heart attack... right after my own sister had been announced missing...
My body felt empty and didn’t react immediately. I was left sitting there, wanting to cry and yet couldn’t. I knew what I needed to do, and I didn’t have time to dwell.
I had to find my sister.