It was with a heavy heart that I worked my way through the Sandersons that had spent the better part of their youth at Henfield Primary School. There was a whole brood of them- some related, others just sharing a relatively common name. James, Felicity, Veronica, Sandra, Jack, Noel, a lot of Kates, and many Peters. Finally. Cynthia. Occasionally I received a phone call from an ex-student or the parent of an ex-student, usually with an inspired idea for a 21st or wedding. Otherwise, the time capsules were returned to the ex-students themselves at the 20 year reunion- enough time would pass by then for there to be an appreciation of the insight into what their 10 or 11 year old selves could give them.
Cynthia’s mother had called grasping for something, anything, of her daughter. I knew who she was immediately when Mrs. Sanderson told me her daughter’s name. For the past year, her face, smiling with a hand proudly holding a medal that hung around her neck, had been plastered around railway stations, at local convenience stores and occasionally on the news in what has been shorter and shorter segments as time moves on and other missing persons, wars, government budgets and natural catastrophes compete for screen time. Not for Mrs. Sanderson though. Her grieving voice told me that the world and all its news had stopped for her and her husband the day Cynthia went missing. 17 years old, at another milestone in her life, having just finished high school and celebrating on the Gold Coast during Schoolies Week. No one knows what happened to her, or at least no one has come forward with what they know. All her mother wanted was one more piece of her little girl.
Opening the small box with Cynthia’s neat cursive writing warning, “Top Secret- do not touch!” I was touched by the earnestness in the hand cut love heart she’d painstakingly shaded with red pencil and in the tiniest writing, to cram as much as she could in, written all that she loved in life. Rain, sleepovers with Ally and Rebecca, riding my bike, mum’s chocolate cake, little athletics, practical jokes, the list went on. Next was a timeline all the students drew up with how they’d imagined their lives would be at 16, 18, 21, 30, by which time they’d receive their time capsule at the reunion. I gasped when I saw that Cynthia hadn’t written anything after 16: state champion 500 m sprint. Folding and unfolding the piece of paper, I thought about completing the rest and leaving in tact what little hope Mrs Sanderson had left.
Prompt from Writing 101 Day 16. Today’s Prompt: Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.