Lost But Not Forgotten

Willow was just five years old when it happened. After all those years, she had lost hope of ever seeing Warren again. She was starting to put her life back together, move on, just like her parents were trying to. But on the ten year anniversary of the day he went missing, a national newspaper republishes Warren’s story and all it takes is one phone call to change everything. [Short story for the SALVAGE writing competition]

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2. It's In The News

 

There is nothing more annoying than an alarm clock.

How dare it rudely wail at me whilst I’m trying to sleep? Dragging me from my dreams and forcing me out from under my cosy quilt cover.

I decided to sit up before the bed seduced me back to sleep. Turning off the alarm on my phone, I stood up and walked over to my window, peeking outside. The sun was shining for a change.

It took me a few moments to realise what day it was. That was one of the beautiful things about waking up, for a few blissful moments, everything is forgotten. Then it hits you. It all comes crashing down on you at once, like water breaking through a damn.

Today was the day.

Ten years.

It didn’t feel like ten years had passed, it felt like an entire lifetime had passed. It felt like we’d spent every day of our lives simply waiting. We’d learnt to live around it, act normal, put on a brave face. But it still felt like we were simply waiting, worrying.

I threw some clothes on and headed downstairs. There was silence in the kitchen when I walked through the doorway. Mum was staring into her coffee and dad was looking at his newspaper, his eyes not actually moving to show that he was reading any of it. They both looked up as I slid onto a chair.

“Morning,” mum said to me with a false cheeriness to her voice. “Breakfast?”

I shook my head. “I’m not hungry.”

“You have to eat something,” she insisted.

Dad shot me a sympathetic look. “She’ll eat when she’s hungry, Lisa.”

Mum opened her mouth to say something but thought better of it. With a sigh, she stood up and took her coffee mug over to the sink.

“I’m going to go down to the park today,” I spoke up. “Take my camera and try and get a few shots.”

I loved taking my camera to the park. I could always manage to get the squirrels to stay still long enough to get a good picture. Squirrels were easier to work with than humans, hence why I preferred wildlife photography.

I stood up to leave the kitchen when dad jumped up as well.

“Wait,” he called as I turned to walk away. “Before you go, we need to tell you something.” He glanced nervously at mum before looking back at me. “One of the newspapers is running a story on Warren.”

I hadn’t been expecting that one. I turned around to stare at my parents.

“Why?”

“You know why, Willow,” mum sighed. “It’s been ten years. That’s a really long time, sweetheart. We have to remind people in some way, show that we haven’t given up.”

For the first six years after Warren’s disappearance, my parents had launched a fresh appeal for information every time that day came around. However, when I turned 12 and was trying to settle into high school, my parents were wary about the attention thrown upon me each year. So we moved to a new town and had a fresh start. I was able to make friends with people who didn’t just see me as the girl whose brother was abducted. Of course, my parents never gave up trying to find Warren. It just wasn’t front page news once a year.

Having the story retold every year, even though it was helping to find information, caused a great deal of stress for my parents. Ever since the day Warren vanished, they’d blamed themselves. That fact wasn’t helped by some of the media who tried to suggest my parents weren’t paying close enough attention to their 7 year old son. Being just a five year old at the time, I don’t remember much of that day, but I do know I was the reason my parents turned their backs on Warren.

Just a few moments. That was all it took. I’d started making a fuss. I’d lost on a game of Hook-a-Duck and pestered for another turn. Then I started crying. I was just a child, a child who wanted to win a teddy bear. When they turned back around, Warren was gone. My dad searched around whilst my mum found the carnival organiser. Finding a child in the middle of a carnival is no easy task.

My parents assumed he’d been distracted by one of the stalls or sideshows. They assumed he’d just wandered off and that a carnival official would find him. But no one ever did. He’d vanished without a trace. There were various people who claimed to have seen him, but none of the information we were given led to us being one step closer to finding him.

Every day is a struggle. Not a week goes by when I don’t wonder what might have happened if I’d have just shut up that evening. I know my parents torture themselves with thoughts of how different things would have been if one of them had have kept an eye on him, but how can anyone predict what will happen if you lose concentration for just a moment? I tell them not to blame themselves as much as they tell me, but I know neither of us listens to the other.  

Seeing it in the news again is going to bring it all to the front of my mind once more, every memory as crushing as the next. The people I knew, the friends I’d made in this town, they were all about to find out my family’s history. Eyes were going to follow me around, whispers behind my back once again.

It won’t help me.

It won’t help my parents.

And I doubted it would help Warren.

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