Erin Lockwood.

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Chapter 3: The Reunion.


Mia sits on the single wingback chair in the lounge’s corner. The shrilly howl of the teapot reaches its peak, and the rumbling cease.

Mrs Venus snaps to her feet. “That’s my cue.” She darts to the archway that leads to the kitchen and soon disappears out of sight.

The four remain and the strained silence stretches out between them all. Everyone studiously avoiding eye-contact, their gaze either cast to the abstract art that line the walls or down into their lap.

No-one says a word.

Eventually, Mrs Venus reappears with a large tray in her hands, and an English tea set placed on top of it. She nears the coffee table and carefully lays them beside the plate of cookies. The white porcelain teapot stands in the centre, surrounded by five white mugs ornate with floral designs.

She straightens and gestures to the refreshments, “please, help yourselves,” she offers.

No-one moves.

Mrs Venus’s gaze lowers. “I guess we should skip the pleasantries then,” she says and rotates to walk out through the archway that opens to the corridor, she disappears and shortly re-emerges with a framed picture in her hand.

She turns it around and displays a photo of all of them together, eight years ago.

“This is why I have called you here.” Her hand glide from left to right, to give everyone an unrestricted view. “My Keila is a bubbly girl, well-liked, and so she has many friends. But none like you. She cares for all her friends, but you four are on a pedestal even if she, herself, didn’t admit it.”

Mrs Venus gaze roves through the group with a sad smile, “she loved you all so much.” Her voice breaks and she looks up to hold in the tears. “After the incident with Erin, she thought I didn’t know but, she used to cry herself to sleep, every night, for weeks.” Her gaze levels and she places her other hand on her stomach.

“I don’t know what happened or what she saw—what you all saw, but she refused to tell me, even her therapist. After losing Erin, she lost the only people who shared her trauma, the only friends that could help her heal.”

Mrs Venus glances behind her and walks back to plop down on the edge of the second, wingback chair. “I’m so sorry, for whatever you all had to endure, so young. In the last few years, Keila was doing well, not depressed, for a while she seemed happy.”

“The last time I spoke with her, late Friday evening. She told me that she wanted to get back in shape, lose the holiday-weight, and get ready for track—or cross-country, either one, she’s so sporty it’s hard to keep up sometimes.”

She aimlessly stares off into the distance and lapses into a pained silence. The picture in her hand numbly drops to her lap.

“I—I thought she had gone for a night run—even Robert thought so too….” Her expression, crestfallen. “…. I thought I knew. When I woke up, she was still gone and when I went inside her room to check her laundry. There was her running gear, washed, crisp and untouched, all her running shoes still tucked away in the wardrobe.”

Her expression mutates into a dark look. “I know something bad must have happened to her, she wouldn’t just runaway—she was taken, or something horrible happened to her,” she says feverishly.

“Why do you think that we know something about it?”

Everyone looks up to stare at Aries.

He straightens, “sorry to disappoint you, Mrs V. But we haven’t spoken to Keila in years, we are the last people that you should be asking.”

“No!” She snaps. The outburst earns her a few wide-eyed looks and she clears her throat, then pivots her torso to look at Aries who sits across from her.

“No, son, that is where you are mistaken. You are the only ones that I can ask. The same thing happened to Erin, who was also friends with all of you, and now my Keila is gone. I’m not trying to accuse anyone—” she lifts her hands in surrender, “—I just want to know if what happened to Erin, relates to my baby’s disappearance?”

Opal swipes away a strand of her silky, ebony hair and tucks it behind her earlobe. “Mrs Venus, if we knew something, we would tell you or the police.”

She raises her forearm and checks her silver watch. “And I have to go, I have to practice for my upcoming recital.” She rises and approaches Mrs Venus.

“I hope you find her.” Opal walks past and Aries sprouts to his feet and walks a few steps before he halts. He swivels and strides over to the coffee table to pluck two peanut butter cookies and salutes Mrs Venus with one of them. He bites a chip off the one cookie and moves to exit the lounge.

Akin stands and clasps his hands behind his back. “My deepest apologies, Mrs Venus, but I have to go too. The season has barely begun, and coach already wants us back in training.”

Thankful that she was not the first to excuse herself. Mia ascends with her hands in her pockets, one hand clutching the car keys, ready to leave.

Shortly, the rest follow suit and Mrs Venus walks them out. She stands in the doorway and watches them leave. Akin is the only one who glances back at her and waves a polite farewell, and she waves at him back.

Mrs Venus steps back and closes the door. She turns and slips her hand into her back pocket and slides out her phone.

She calls a number and after a few short rings, “hi, Detective Russo, it’s me.”

“How was the reunion?”

She scoffs bitterly, “cold and tense. They didn’t crack, not even an inch. I genuinely believed you when they said that they might open up to me, but…. There is something that they’re hiding.”

“I know and I will find out, what exactly it is. I promise you.”

Her other hand wraps around her stomach and she turns her gaze to the ground, dubious.

“You really think that Erin’s disappearance is linked to Keila’s?” She asks.

“I’m certain of it. It’s the only thing that makes sense, I don’t find it a coincidence that the same people involved with Erin, were friends of Keila as well. My guess is that they might not be solely responsible, but they might know who is.”

Mrs Venus nods and lifts her gaze. “Do what you must, Detective: probe, search and arrest. I don’t care. Just find my daughter.”

“I will. And I will bring those responsible to justice.”


Mia returns home, she slogs inside and lamely shoves the door close. She removes her bag from her back and chucks it aside, then looks forward.

A house that was once a home. Now filled with the edges of the rooms, clinging to the shadows, and the sounds of ominous creaks that she has thoughtlessly learnt to tune out.

Mia’s gaze drifts beside her, to an oval-shaped mirror with an intricate border eddying grandly in its craft. The mirror reflects what once was, the only thing that remains is the remnants of her broken soul.

The agony of her unceasing loneliness, a slow poison to her innermost being. Mia tries to slough away the deepest crepuscule of her aggrieved heart. But there are only so many times that one can pick up the pieces, until, it’s best left shattered. To avoid the pain of having her heart ripped from her chest and watch it be torn before her.

That’s how she felt when her dad left.

That’s how she felt when Erin died.

And that is how she feels now that Keila is missing, and she might have an idea as to how. But to face that question, it requires an answer that she is far from ready to accept.

Sluggishly, Mia makes her way upstairs and to her room. She heads straight to the desk in front of her, positioned right under the skylight window.

She pulls open its only draw and sifts past the old study notes and revision past papers, to the frameless photo beneath.

Mia slips it out, the corners bent, and she smoothens it out with her thumbs, and she cannot help herself from smiling at the picture, that is a copy of the one that Keila has.

All of them huddled together, young and bright-eyed, so unburdened from the terrors of the real world. Her gaze slowly peruses over their euphoric expressions; Akin smiled brightly, his one arm wrapped around Opal’s neck, his other arm around Aries’s shoulder and his arm crossed over Akin’s. Opal laughing with her fingers curled around Akin’s wrist, her other hand holding Mia’s.

Mia’s eyebrow arch at the irony at the two ‘missing’ girls together in the photo. Both of Keila’s arms are entangled around Erin’s neck, their hands interlocked, resting on Erin’s chest.

Mia gazes down at the picture, reflective, unable to remember a time when she was that happy, or even smiling as much as she was in the photo.

Her gaze drawn to Keila, exhibiting her perfect smile.

Unable to look anymore, Mia slaps the photo on her desk and turns away from it.

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