I still remember that night. A memory that haunts me day in, day out. A memory that will never let our family be the same.
It was the porch light that first woke me up.
My bedroom was at the front of the house, and last summer, in a futile attempt to stop Jack and I from sneaking out, our father had installed one of those heavy duty lights, and I was positive that you could see our house from down the end of our street.
The light flooded into my room, creating shadowy patterns against my wall. As I sat up, it took me some time to register that it was so late at night. Or was it too early in the morning?
My alarm clock read 1:45am in big green numbers. Sliding out of my bed, I peered out of the window, confused at the sight of all the cars in our driveway. A pit formed in my stomach when I recognised the Rosewood County Police markings on the side of the vehicles.
It had been a cold, frosty February day, and the weatherman had threatened snow for the last few days. Nobody had listened, because in our small town of Rosewood snow had been threatening to leave its mark since November just past, without success. I was surprised to see little flakes floating around the night sky, settling softly on the brown ground.
I jumped out of bed, grabbing a hoodie off the back of my chair before racing down the staircase.
Every light in our house blazed bright. From the kitchen I could see various figures huddled around our table, their bodies creating long black shadows against the walls. My interest in who they are wanes as I see my parents through the open front door, standing out in the snow.
My bare feet crunched against the light covering of snow on the ground, causing my parents to turn around. My mother was in her pink dressing gown, and even in the dark I could see the tears glistening down her face. Next to her stood my father, his face hidden in the shadows of the night. He stood stoically next to a policeman, their voices rising and falling in the cold still air.
“What’s going on?” I asked, wrapping my arms around me. The grey hoodie, one of from Jack's collection of college jumpers, fell around my thighs, my striped pyjama bottoms not offering the same protection against the cool breeze. The cold snow-covered ground dug into the soles of my feet like a hundred shards of broken glass. The three adults in front of me turned at the sound of my voice, but didn’t speak. I repeated myself.
“What’s going on?”
“Go back to bed Meg,” my father said sternly, turning back to the officer. I looked at my mother, into her eyes. They spoke of the waves of emotion that could not be expressed by words. It was in her eyes I found the answer to the question that hovered on the tip of my tongue. I asked it anyway.
“Is it Jack? Is he okay?” There’s a lump in my throat I can’t get rid of. At the sound of Jack’s name, a strangled cry comes from my mother’s throat that she tries to cover up with her hand, but it’s too late, I’ve already heard.
I stepped closer to my parents, hoping that if I edged closer enough, I’d catch snippets of my father’s conversation. To my relief, I don’t have to eavesdrop. The police officer steps away from my father as he turns towards me and speaks the words I’ve been dreading to hear.
“Jack is missing.”