Soft music played in the bar, Debra sat alone drinking a glass of Whiskey on the rocks. Keith Urban kept singing “But you’ll think of me, you’ll think of me…” And Debra could no longer hold her tears.
‘I can’t do this anymore Debra; you’ve changed so much.’ Samuel walked out of their Union Square apartment. Three weeks later, Debra was drinking at the Old New York bar, alone and devastated.
‘When I found out the Jacaranda tree in the Quad fell, I knew something bad was going to happen. Call me superstitious, but I just knew something terrible was going to happen.’ Aileen said to her colleague. ‘You didn’t get the grant, big deal! It happens to the best of us.’ Dr Carol Young said to Aileen.
The two colleagues were talking in the common room, drinking coffee and taking a break from their ongoing research. Something buzzed.
Aileen’s mobile phone vibrated inside her pocket. She took her phone out and looked at the screen. An unrecognisable number appeared in front of Aileen’s eyes. It seemed to be a foreign phone number. ‘Excuse me Carol, I should take this.’ Aileene apologised for the interruption and left the common room to find a more private area to have a conversation on her mobile phone. Her office was a bit far, so she decided to go towards the fire staircase.
‘Hello.’ ‘I’m over it. I can’t believe I even tried. There was no way I was going to get it.’ ‘Debra?’ ‘I’m such a fool you know, to think I was going to get first chair.’ ‘Oh honey! I’m sorry. I really thought you would get it.’ ‘Well I didn’t, and he left me too.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ ‘Samuel, he left.’ ‘What? Why would he leave you? You guys are so in love.’ ‘Well, not anymore!’ Debra said furious. ‘Honey, are you ok?’ ‘No, my boyfriend left me, and I lost the chance to be first chair in the New York philharmonic orchestra…’ Debra’s voice suddenly became difficult to hear. ‘Sweetie, I can’t hear you.’ ‘I think someone is about to get shot.’ ‘Debra!’ The phone call cut off.
‘Aileene, are you ok?’ Dr Dustin Foster asked Aileene whilst she walked down the hall. She didn’t answer, so Dr Foster followed her; she looked frightened and her face was pale. Aileene took her key out, attempted to open her office’s door but she didn’t have any luck; her hands were shaking. ’Let me get that for you.” Dr Foster said as he grabbed the key from Aileene’s hand. She didn’t say anything.
Aileen entered her office and simply stood in the middle of the small office space; she was in shock. ‘Aileene, sit down. I’m going to get you a glass of water and I’m going to come back; but please don’t leave your office.’ Dr Foster said softly and slowly, directing Aileen towards the sofa. Aileen sat down, shaking still; scared and quiet.
‘Here you go Aileen, have some water.’ Dr Foster returned passing Aileen a glass of water. She grabbed the glass mindlessly, she spilled water on her blouse. Dr Foster immediately passed her a couple of tissues he took from a tissues-box on the coffee table, but Aileen didn’t bother wiping off her blouse. ‘Aileen, you don’t look well. I think I should call someone.’ ‘I’m fine, Dustin.’ ‘What is going on? You’re pale.’ ‘Something happened to my sister.’ ‘Your sister who lives in New York?’ ‘Yes, I think she’s been shot.’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘I’m not a hundred percent sure, but she called me on the phone and she wasn’t well. She told me someone was about to get shot, and the phone cut off.’ ‘Have you tried calling her back?’ ‘No, I haven’t.’ ‘Then try calling her, she might be ok.’
‘Hello!’ a male voice answered Debra’s mobile phone. ‘Yes, hi; I think I’ve got the wrong number.’ ‘Are you related to a blonde woman. It says here you’re her sister.’ ‘Yes! Debra, that’s my sister. Is she ok? We were talking on the phone and she said someone was about to get shot, and I don’t know what happened after that.’ ‘Look, I honestly don’t know what happened either. There are a few bodies on the floor, but I can’t see your sister. I can see she’s a blonde woman from the photos saved here, but I don’t see her body.’ ‘That’s good news then, she’s ok; isn’t she?’ ‘We don’t know that madam.’ ‘What do you mean you don’t know? Who are you?’ Aileen asked frantically. ‘I’m Elliot Hutson, New York Police.’
‘I understand Aileen. You need to go, don’t worry about the research. We’ll keep you updated. And please let us know what’s going on with your sister.’ ‘Thank you so much Carol, I really appreciate this. I wouldn’t ask for time off if it wasn’t for my sister’s disappearance.’ Aileen left the psychology building, and walked towards the Quad, the infamous jacaranda tree missing. The eerie image of the missing jacaranda tree brought back Debra’s voice on the phone, depressed and then so scared. There was a time that Aileen and Debra stood together with that blossomed tree as background, both sisters so proud of each other, happy.
‘Dad, hurry up! Just press the middle button.’ ‘This one?’ ‘Yes!’ Both sisters shouted at their father as they posed in front of the camera on Aileen’s graduation day. ‘Aileene!’ Someone called out, brining Aileene back to the present time. She turned around to see Dr Foster walking right behind her. ‘Dustin, I’m so sorry I left without saying goodbye.’ ‘No need to apologise, I’m just glad to know you’re on your way to meet your sister.’ ‘I’m actually just… Never mind. I’m going home, to my parents place I haven’t spoken with them yet. I’m not sure what to tell them.’ ‘Off course, it must be difficult to share bad news.’ ‘It isn’t just that.’
‘Dad, she’s not in love.’ ‘She’s an embarrassment for me and the whole family, she’s not going to marry him and I don’t know what am I going to tell Justin.’ ‘Dad, how can you say that? Isn’t better that she doesn’t go through it?’ ‘She was meant to do what I told her to do.’ ‘Dad, this a different century.’ ‘Are you saying I’m too old.’ ‘No, I’m saying times have changed and that arrange marriages are obsolete. It’s ok if Debra doesn’t marry Koby, because she’s not in love with him.’ ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about. And this is the last time I want to hear about your sister.’ ‘She is your daughter no matter what she does and you know it.’ ‘I said enough.’
‘Mom? Dad? Aileen called out as she opened the door of her parents’ house. She walked towards the living room where there was no sign of her parents been at home. She entered the kitchen but there was no indication of her parents’ presence there either. As Aileene was about to leave the kitchen she hears a noise coming from the backyard. She opens the door and sees her mother gardening. ‘Mom!’ I’ve been calling you, and I’ve been looking for you everywhere, well just the living room and the kitchen but I thought…’ ‘Honey, I was just getting rid of these weeds. We pay the gardener but he never does a proper job.’ ‘Mom.’ ‘Yes dear.’ ‘Where’s dad?’ ‘He went to play golf with some of his old friends from Law school. What’s the matter dear?’ ‘Mom you need to sit down.’
‘Is she ok?’ ‘I don’t know mom.’ ‘But she must be alive.’ ‘I hope so.’ ‘Don’t tell your father.’ ‘What do you mean don’t tell? He needs to know.’ ‘No honey, he doesn’t.’ ‘Are you kidding me?’ ‘He’s not feeling well, he doesn’t need to know.’ ‘Fine.’ Aileene says frustrated with her mother’s attitude. Jacqueline Mallory is a very cautious woman, some would even say that she is controlling. Jacqueline married Augustine Mallory when she was twenty-seven years old. They met in the middle of a legal case Augustine’s Law firm dealt with. Jacqueline was working for the Sydney Morning Herald and she interviewed Augustine. It was love at first sight, or at least it was for Jacqueline.
‘Can you ask any of your friends in New York to help us find her?’ ‘I can try contacting a couple of people, but honey isn’t the police already doing their job?’ ‘Mother! Yes, but you have to call them now.’ Aileene said furious. Jacqueline and Augustine weren’t pleased with their daughter Debra’s decision to leave in the altar the son of their good friends Justin and Mikayla. Augustine hasn’t spoken to Debra since the day of the wedding five years ago, and Jacqueline only spoke with her on the phone on birthdays and Christmases, but she hasn’t visit Debra since she moved to New York three years ago, not even once.
‘You know what mom, I’m going to go. I’m going to find her on my own, I don’t need your help to find my sister. This is not the way to react to Debra’s disappearance.’ ‘But honey…’ ‘Stop, she’s your daughter for heaven’s sake. Could you and dad just accept she’s doing things differently?’ ‘Honey, you don’t understand.’ ‘No mom, to be honest I don’t understand. If you care about what other people say, then you’re not the intelligent woman I thought you were.’
Aileene left her parents place in the Northern Beaches, and drove off towards her fiancé Marc Reynolds’ place. Aileene has been engaged with Marc for the last three years. They haven’t been able to get married because Aileene’s PhD, and Marc’s fellowship have been the main priorities. ‘Honey I’m on my way to your apartment, I’ll see you tonight.’ Aileene said, leaving a message on Marc’s voice mailbox.
‘I promise to love you forever; I would never leave you because my life would not be the same without you.’ Marc said as he hugged Aileene, ‘I love you so much Marc!’ Aileene said hugging Marc tighter. ‘I can’t believe we’re engage, can you?’ ‘Not really, I thought you were going to say no.’ Marc and Aileene laughed.
Back on the road, as Aileene approached Point Street whilst she kept thinking of her fiancé, she also thought of organizing her trip to New York. ‘Hey baby, I didn’t expect you tonight. I thought you were going to stay until late writing in your office at Usyd.’ ‘My plans have changed.’ ‘I can see that.’ Marc said hanging his coat on a hook near the entrance corridor of his apartment. ‘Debra has disappeared.’ ‘Disappeared? Where has she gone to?’ ‘I don’t know, she’s gone. There was a shooting, and now we don’t know where she is…’ Aileene started sobbing.
‘Babe, I’m so sorry. Police will find her don’t worry.’ ‘I have to go.’ ‘What do you mean, you have to go? What about your research?’ ‘She’s my sister Marc.’ ‘I get that, but can’t you let others deal with it.’ ‘I have to find her, I can’t just sit around waiting.’ ‘And what are you supposed to do, join the police force and find her yourself?’ ‘If that’s what it takes.’ Aileen raised her voice.
‘You’ve been unreasonable, you can’t go by yourself to New York.’ ‘Are you coming with me then?’ ‘You know I can’t. I’ve got the fellowship.’ ‘Then I’m going on my own.’ Aileene resolved. ‘This has to stop Aileen, you’re always running to solve other people’s issues. What about us?’ Marc questioned Aileene’s actions judgementally. ‘You just said it, you’ve got the fellowship.’ ‘And you got a hundred things to do before us.’ ‘Don’t say it like that. You know I would get married, but…’ Aileene trailed off. ‘But you don’t want to.’ Marc suggested.
‘I love you Marc, but you know it hasn’t been easy. I didn’t get the grant you know. But you, you’ve got everything you ever wanted, including me.’ ‘Are you saying you don’t want me?’ ‘That’s not what I’m saying at all.’ Aileene caught a tear rolling on her cheek. ‘Then what exactly are you trying to say Aileene?’ ‘I’m saying, that perhaps we’re rushing.’ ‘Rushing? Aileene we’ve been engaged for four years, I’ve been waiting for you all this time and there has always been something else in your life stopping us.’
‘That’s no fair. We both agreed we would take our time.’ Aileen spoke softly holding back her tears. ‘I’m getting sick of been the one person you’ll get to later.’ Marc said frustrated. ‘You’re right, I shouldn’t be making you wait. Maybe it’s time. Good bye Marc.’ Aileene placed the pear shaped diamond engagement ring on a table, and walked out of Marc’s apartment. She drove off from Pyrmont.
‘Yes, I’d like a flight ticket to New York City.’ Aileen waited patiently on the phone whilst the travel agent searched a sit for her on the first plane she could go on to New York. ‘Midnight? Yes, that’s fine. I’ll take that and I’d like to pay with my credit card.’
Aileen packed the first outfits she found in her closet; three pairs of jeans, two jackets and five tops, and all her essentials. She grabbed a black dress with maroon spots, a pair of black boots and wore those items; she was ready to leave. A cab was waiting for her outside her Bondi apartment on Francis Street. It was nine pm, she did not want to leave the apartment any later, the more she waited the more anxious she was getting. She needed to do something right away to find her sister Debra, but sitting at home was not helping. Besides, she wanted to get away from Sydney, her parents and her now ex-fiancé.