Matthew and Luke arrived home from school at four thirty in the afternoon to find their father sitting at the kitchen table with an empty coffee cup.
‘What are you doing here, Dad?’ Matthew asked.
‘You OK, Dad? You look upset.’ There was no hiding anything from Luke, he was almost as perceptive as his mother when it came to reading Paul’s emotions. Luke sat down opposite his father, while Matthew turned into the pantry to find something to eat.
‘I don’t know how to say this, but your mother seems to have disappeared.’
‘What?’ Matthew was out of the pantry and standing in the kitchen with a packet of biscuits in his hands. ‘What do you mean?’
‘She didn’t turn up at school this morning, she hasn’t called me and I haven’t been able to find out where she is.’
‘Did you call her?’ asked Matthew as he sat down next to his brother.
‘Yeah, but all I get is her voice mail.’
‘Did you check to see she didn’t leave her phone home?’ Luke looked at him hopefully.
‘I’ve checked every spot I could think of. All of her hand bags, the bedroom, out by the computer, in the lounge. I’ve even called her number while I’ve been here waiting. Nothing. That phone is not in this house.’
‘Did you ring Nonna? Mum tells her everything.’
‘She was one of the first people I called. She hasn’t heard from her either.’
‘I hope nothing has happened to her, Dad. I mean, it’s not like Mum not to let us know where she is. She’s always insisting I call home whenever I’m out. She makes me take my phone even if I’m just going down to the shops.’
Matthew started unwrapping the biscuits.
‘So what do we do now?’ asked Luke. ‘Do we need to call the police?’
‘I’ve already been to the police station. I’ll need to call them if your mother doesn’t come home tonight. When I spoke to them today, to Sergeant Wood...’
‘What, Maggie Wood’s mum?’ asked Matthew.
‘Who’s Maggie Wood?’
‘She’s a girl at school. Her mum’s a sergeant over at the police station.’
‘Come to think of it, she did mention her daughter was in your class. Anyway, what I wanted to say was she told me most people that go missing usually just turn up again. Who knows, your mother might have simply needed some time out. She looked pretty stressed this morning when she was leaving for school. I wish she’d just call.’
They sat looking at each other. Matthew took three biscuits and handed the packet to Luke.
‘You may as well change out of your uniforms and get started on your homework. I need to think about what we’re going to have for dinner. We can all have a laugh when she comes home, and Matthew, you can tell her off for not calling in.’
Looking out the back window, Paul noticed the forest of pot plants Josie kept on the back veranda and remembered he’d promised to water them. ‘I’m going out to water the pot plants.’
The boys ate their biscuits and made themselves a cup of coffee before moving off to their rooms to change and start on their homework.
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