An hour had passed since I had entered Nathan’s room and had found him missing. I and Vinnie sat on the couch not speaking a word. Millie had gone outside to dial the emergency number and contact the police and she was taking way too long. Vinnie was fidgeting with the sides of the magazine and looked like she would run away herself. I couldn’t talk to her. I didn’t want to blame the trip for this mishap and make her guilty about the whole thing. On the other hand, I had my own stuff to deal with.
How could she have easily said that I hadn’t helped Nathan enough? Everytime I’d asked him to slow down on the drinking, I would have been met with an annoyed glare or a yelling that asked me to mind my own business. If I tried talking to him when he was calm and sober, he would turn to denial, claiming it was not that big of a problem.
I should have probably gone ahead and looked up de-addiction centres but how could I have known things would spiral into this?
Maybe I should have guessed things could have gone wrong at some point?
I felt my head become heavy with the flood of thoughts that kept rushing in from every corner. I just wished Millie came back soon so I didn’t have to keep dealing with my inner feelings.
Ironically I remembered the day in the park when we were kids, probably in fourth or fifth grade. Nathan was seeking while I and Vinnie were hiding. It took him just a couple of minutes to find me but even after searching for hours together, Vinnie was nowhere to be found. The only thing Nathan was afraid of was losing to her. I’m not sure if we were dumb or all kids in general are too gullible to assume nothing could go wrong, but not once did it cross our mind, that things could have taken a turn for the worse. But thankfully that hadn’t been the case. We finally found Vinnie sleeping on a bench, three walking tracks away. It had been quite an effort trying to drag her sleepy ass all the way back home that day.
I sighed pushing away those memories to the dark shut corners of my mind, where they now belonged. Turning around, I looked at Vinnie again, who now had flipped the pages of the magazine so much that it looked like it would fall apart any minute. I tried to say something, right when Millie walked in.
“So, I gave them all the details. They’ve suggested us to keep looking for atleast one or two hours. But in case we want to file an FIR or a missing persons report, then we can do it right now.”
“What’s the difference?” I asked.
“Not much really.” Millie replied as she sat down opposite to me. “They usually file an FIR when they suspect some kind of foul play. A missing persons report is enough if you think that is not involved.”
“Um, so what do we do then?” Vinnie asked.
“Maybe we should search around the house for a while before jumping into conclusions. He couldn’t have gone far by foot, to be honest.” I replied.
“Not really. One of our bicycles are missing.” Vinnie said, rubbing her hands through her messy hair, clearly indicating that this situation was too much to handle for her.
“How are we going to tell his mother?” she asked, her voice slightly shaking now.
“Look, let’s not think about everything all at once, okay?” Millie said, resting her hand on her shoulders.
“Let’s do what Arav suggested for now. We’ll search all the nearby roads and the wild overgrowth of trees behind the house.”
“Do we have any clues as to why he could have done something like this?” I asked.
“Really?” Vinnie asked, not making an effort to hide her irritation.
I returned it with a tired expression.
“Okay, see.” Millie said holding her arms out between us, as if she were trying to stop us from beginning to fight again.
“I went through some of his mails that he’d left opened on his laptop. The most recent ones were from this client who cancelled their order. Maybe that’s what caused all this?”
“Wait, the mini mall project?” I asked.
“The one in Koramangala?”she asked back
“Yeah, that’s what he was working on.”
“Yeah, they cut him off.” Millie said.
“Are you kidding me? They cancelled it?” I asked again.
“Why, what’s wrong?” Vinnie asked
“Nathan had quite high expectations from how it would turn out. He kept saying it would give him a big break and expose him in the market for plenty more opportunities.” I answered.
The girls remained silent. Vinnie looked like she was going to burst out crying.
“I cant do this.” She said finally, her eyes strained. “I just can’t. I cant have another person I love, do this. Why-” her voice broke off as she suddenly got up with her palm covering her mouth. She ran off to the bathroom and closed the door shut.
After a few minutes, she stepped out, her face tear- stained. She wouldn’t talk about it and I didn’t want to ask. Millie gave her some water and we all sat in silence for five minutes. Then we got up to go in search of Nathan with our mobiles’ flashlights on and spare torches in the pockets of our jacket, locking the door behind us.
The wilderness behind the house yielded nothing. We had to be really careful not to step into any snakes or scorpions. After having covered as much ground as possible, we soon stepped out into the dimly lit road next to the house.
I faced the distant horizon, darkly stained by the gushing waves of the sea. We’d exhausted all our options and only one remained, and I hoped against hope we would succeed with that.
To be continued