December 31st dawns bright and clear, another perfect day in Sunset Valley. Now that I think of it, what is weather? Berjes and I worked hard to get the backyard looking great and we’ve even themed it to blue and white, just a little. I wanted to ask everyone to wear it but that idea got shot down. As I survey the yard, I’m pleased with what I see. Beautifully decorated, Berjes making drinks, the boys playing carefully in their formal wear, all we need is guests and here they come!
Snapshots from the night
Troy and Kaitlin arrive
Jack would rather play with the pirate ship than talk to adults
Berjes mixes a strong drink
Troy and Berjes goofing around on the dance floor
The kids gathered around feeling awkward. Some more than others, Jeremy.
The buffet is open
Monika (Berjes’ sister) entertaining the masses
Cousin Oliver in his finest attire…
Ignoring Cousin Oliver, a family tradition
Maybe it’s time to cut back on the drinks?
Carter handing Lee a script
The screenwriter and director trying to convince Lee to be the scorewriter
Happy New Year!
Adam sneaking up on Lee
Bean entertaining Jack, Troy and Jess
The sun’s already brightening the sky by the time we manage to send the last of our guests home, in cabs of course. The yard is in rough shape and Berjes and I are exhausted but Bean and Jack are exhilarated, playing a game of tag in their pyjamas as the cleaning begins. Dirty plates and glasses are piled high, napkins litter the ground and the radio broke about two hours ago and is emitting a shrill sound despite being turned off. Even with the boys laughter filling the yard, I can hear that damned sound. Even from indoors. I’m contemplating whether it’s worth getting it fixed or not when I hear a shout from the back of the yard. “Jack?! JACK?? DAD! MOM!”The note of hysteria in his voice raises the hair along my arms and neck and without thinking twice I drop the stack of plates and leap over the shards of glass as I rush towards my son. Berjes is right ahead of me, the garbage he was collecting strewn on the ground as we run.“H-He was here and then… A shadow… I didn’t… I don’t…” A deep breath. “We were playing tag and I was It and I was chasing him and he was here and then there was a shadow, like a person but really dark and really fast and it ran to Jack and then ran off and Jack was gone. The shadow took Jack!” All I hear is “Jack is gone, Jack is gone, Jack is gone” it’s pounding in my head and through my veins. “Jack is gone, Jack is gone, Jack is gone” my knees give out beneath me before Berjes can catch me.Is that heartbroken wail, that sound of pure anguish, coming from me? Tears stream from my eyes so fast that they’re soaking my dress and blurring my vision. I’m vaguely aware of Berjes guiding Bean and I into the kitchen before running outside to search for our missing son. I call everyone, the neighbours, our friends and family, but no one answers the phone, it’s too early on New Years Day and we spent all night feeding them Nectar. Half an hour later Berjes walks into the kitchen, his cell phone is pressed to his ear and he mouths the word ‘police’ to me. My heart falls.
“Sunset Valley Emergency Services, which service do you require? Fire, police, or ambulance?”
“Police. My… Our son…”
“Your son, sir?” I hear, despite not being on the phone and there’s something in the dispatcher’s voice…
“Our son. He’s missing. Kidnapped, we think. Jack Clarke. He’s 11 years old. Blond hair, gold eyes, abo-”
“Kidnapped? Just a moment please, sir.” The voice becomes muffled as the dispatcher pulls her microphone from her ear, but that doesn’t stop me from hearing “Lieutenant? I think there’s been another one. You should hear this…”