The squirrel that was posing for my camera was a little too friendly. I wasn’t expecting it to try and crawl into my lap. Was that normal for squirrels?
At least I got a few good pictures out of it though. Once my little friend had gone on his way, I strolled over to the lake to photograph the ducks, which were definitely less willing to work with me. They kept turning around and swimming away whenever I pressed the shutter button.
It was amazing how relaxing photography could be. Sitting there in the sun, with my camera, almost made me forget the personal storm cloud that was waiting to rain down on me. I knew I couldn’t stay here all day. I knew I’d eventually have to go home and read the article that the newspaper had published today.
It turned out I didn’t have to wait until I was home to see the article. As I was walking past the corner shop, just outside of the park, I found myself staring into the eyes of Warren’s six year old self. When my parents had told me that an article would be running, I hadn’t expected front page news on a national newspaper.
Part of me wanted to run into the shop and buy the paper, but a bigger part of me wanted to walk past it, oblivious, pretending I’d never seen it. But I knew I couldn’t pretend. After a minute of hesitation, I went inside the shop. I purchased a copy and instead of heading home, I went back to a bench just outside the park. I found myself feeling nauseous as I flicked to the page that told the story of my brother’s disappearance.
My eyes immediately focused on the pictures on the page. They were family pictures from when I was a toddler. Mum was holding me in her arms and Warren was sitting on a swing, his dark brown curls falling across his forehead. Seeing how happy and carefree he looked, just a child having fun, brought a lump to my throat. I couldn’t help but wonder what he would look like now, if he were alive.
If he were alive. That was what I thought. I couldn’t help it. Whilst my parents convinced themselves that he was alive and well somewhere, I hated myself for considering the more likely option. As much as I wanted to believe that Warren was alive, I feared that he wasn’t. Not knowing was made each day so unbearable. I wished that I could know for certain, so I could grief properly, rather than feeling guilty for it.
I read the article. It wasn’t any different from the previous ones apart from the new statement from my parents. They gave a new telephone number for anyone who thought they might know anything. They always gave numbers. People always called. But they never had the right information.
There were a couple of more recent pictures of my parents and I. I wondered if any of my fellow classmates had parents who read this paper. Would anyone find my picture? I hoped not.
I sighed before closing the newspaper. Spotting a bin nearby, I threw it away. I didn’t want it hanging around the house, another reminder of yet another failed attempt to find my brother.
I already felt exhausted by the time I got home and it was barely 2pm. I found my parents in the lounge with Janine, the detective who had been working with my parents since the very start of Warren’s case. I’d grown up having her around a lot. She was similar to family in some ways. She was standing up to leave as I entered the room.
“I’ll let you know straight away if hear anything, of course,” she told my parents. She said a quick goodbye to me before she left.
We were lucky to have Janine. Even when we moved town, she was still willing to travel in order to help my parents. They’d told me this morning that she had been the one to suggest a re-launch of the search campaign.
“I saw the story,” I said to my parents as I sat down on the chair opposite the sofa. “I…I hope something turns up from it.” That was all I could think of to say.
We all sat there in silence for a while, not knowing what to do. Eventually I went upstairs to my room, shutting the door behind me. I felt emotionally drained. Were the press going to start contacting my family again for statements and updates like they used to? What good would it actually do? Would all of this attention actually help in the search for Warren? We’d been here before and got nowhere.
I threw myself down onto my bed, only intending to stay there for a moment. But I must have fallen asleep, because I found myself being woken up by my dad sometime later.
“Willow!” he called as he shook my shoulder. I sat up, startled. “The police…they think they’ve found Warren.”