The next seven hours were the craziest seven hours of my life.
So many different people came to talk to my parents, trying to explain everything. My parents, like me, could barely pay attention to a word of it. The only thing we could think about was Warren.
I had about a million questions flying around in my head, but none of them mattered as much as seeing my brother again. My mum asked everyone when we would be allowed to see him. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t brought to us straight away, but it was a lot more complicated than I assumed it would be.
Warren had been found in a small town in the south of England. Well, when I say he’d been found, he technically hadn’t been found by anyone. He’d called the police himself, apparently, after seeing his face on the newspaper. When the police tried to explain this, I didn’t understand a word of it. Did he not realise he was missing? Could he not remember his family? I was more confused than ever.
It was starting to get light outside when Janine walked into the waiting room at the police station.
“He’s almost here,” she told us. “He was taken to the station in the town where he was living, but they’re sending him here now.”
A wave of relief washed over me, as I’m sure it did my parents. They both rushed over to hug me and I found myself in a mum/dad sandwich. I looked over mum’s shoulder and caught sight of Janine’s expression. She’d been working on finding Warren for years, yet the smile on her face was strained. I had a feeling that things weren’t quite over and done with just yet.
I stepped away from my parents and they turned to look at Janine. I noticed mum’s face fall a little.
“What’s wrong?” mum asked her. “Has something happened to him?”
Janine shook her head. “Physically, he seems fine,” she assured us. “But it’s not as simple as it seems.” She sighed and sat down on one of the hard, plastic chairs in the waiting room. “Warren’s a little confused. Well, he’s completely baffled, actually. The police have arrested the woman who he has been living with. He thought that she was his aunt.”
Dad sat down, looking confused. “His aunt?”
“I don’t know all of the details yet, but that’s why we’ve been waiting here all evening,” Janine explained. “Warren has been trying to tell the police everything. The woman who took him told him that she was his aunt and that his parents had been in an accident. He was six years old and probably wasn’t in a place to question her.”
“Wait, so you’re telling me that some lunatic took my son and has been lying to him for ten years?” mum asked, her voice rising. “How has she done that? We had a nationwide search for him; his face was on every television in the country, every newspaper!”
Janine ran a hand through her hair. “Believe me; we’re trying to figure it out. What matters right now is that he’s safe and you’re going to see him soon. He can tell you everything he’s told the police.”
I was hit by a new kind of panic. I’d spent years worrying about never seeing Warren again. I even doubted that he was alive. Yet now, I was dreading seeing him. Was he going to remember us? Did he even want to see us?
Janine’s phone rang and she went outside the room to take the call. We could hear the mumbling of her voice but couldn’t make out what she was saying. I glanced over at my parents. Mum looked pale and was biting her lip whilst dad kept hold of her hand. The door opened and all of us turned to look at Janine.
“Sandra Garcia is the name of the woman who has been keeping Warren,” she said. “I assume you know nothing of her?” My parents shook their heads. “The police figured you wouldn’t. She had a son who would be around the same age as Warren, if he were still alive. He was hit by a car just two months before Warren went missing. The police think that Ms Garcia was suffering from some serious mental health issues after the loss of her son.”
“So she took mine?” mum asked through gritted teeth. The panic that was on her face just moments ago had now been replaced with rage.
“She told the police that Warren reminded her of her son, they looked similar, so—”
“So she stole our son and raised him as her own?” dad interrupted.
“We’ll know more with time, of course,” Janine reminded us. “But right now, that’s all she’s told the police.”
“So when will Warren get here?” mum asked, looking nervous.
“He’ll be here within an hour.” Janine glanced around the room before looking at mum again. “There’s something else you should probably know. He doesn’t go by the name of Warren. Ms Garcia raised him with the name Oscar, which was her son’s name.”
The look on my parents’ faces mirrored how I felt. All this time he’d been living an apparently normal life with a different name and a woman he thought was family. It was so unbelievable, it was almost laughable.
Janine gave us a final sympathetic smile before leaving us alone in the room to wait for Warren, or Oscar, as he was apparently now known as.
I fiddled nervously with a fraying thread on the sleeve of my jumper. I didn’t know what to think. Was he going to feel like a complete stranger? He was my brother but I didn’t actually know him, not really. Would he want to know me?
I became very aware of how tried I was. We’d been awake the entire night, waiting for news. I rested my head on the back of the chair, my mind swirling with constant questions. Sleep wouldn’t have come even if I’d wanted it to.
We must have been sitting there in silence for twenty or so minutes when the door opened again and Janine appearance in the room once more. We knew what she was going to tell us before the words left her lips.