“Benjamin!” Laudina finally said, her voice filled with anger. “Did you really listen to what you just said?”
“Of course I did. Look, Laudina, the wedding is just six weeks away. There is a lot we have to plan before then. Things have been rather slow this week.”
“What do you expect, Benjamin?!” her voice had gotten louder. “My sister is missing, in case you have forgotten!”
“I know that, Laudina. That’s why I said you should get another maid-of-honour. You have several friends so that should not be too hard.”
Gerald could not believe his ears. He wondered what was making it so difficult for Benjamin to understand the situation. Laudina was quiet for a few seconds. When she spoke again, there were tears in her eyes.
“Benjamin, since Petrina got missing, you have been anything but supportive. You have not once come by to see how I am dealing with the issue. Then when you do come, it is to tell me to replace my sister. I’m disappointed in you.”
Now Benjamin looked like he was getting angry.
What right does he have to be angry? Gerald thought.
“Look, Laudina.” Benjamin said. “Do not get me wrong. All I’m proposing is a new maid-of-honour. Not a new sister.”
“And do you suppose my wedding is as important to me as finding my sister?” Laudina questioned as she dried her eyes with her handkerchief. “Do you honestly think I can go all out and be a bride while my sister is still missing?”
“But, Laudina, you can’t postpone…”
“You know what? Gerald and I have to catch up with my mum so we can make it to the police station in good time. When I find my sister and I am ready for a wedding, I would let you know. Until then,” she paused to take off her engagement ring. “You can keep this as well.” She placed the ring in his hand.
“Laudina, what is this supposed to mean?”
“I would hear nothing more from you, young man.” She turned to Gerald. “I think we have a report to make at the police station.”
Benjamin, obviously stunned by what had just happened was motionless. Gerald glanced at him, carefully avoiding eye-contact and then quickly followed after Laudina who had already left the scene. He was at par with her shortly and wondered whether he should say anything to her; the silence was indeed very uncomfortable. He decided against speaking and began thinking once again about everything that had happened within that week. Petrina’s sudden disappearance was one thing he simply could not understand. He had gone over the last days they were together several times in his mind and he still could not figure out any point where she hinted taking an unannounced vacation. There also was the probability of her being attacked or kidnapped but somehow, he could not bring himself to consider that option. It was true that it was so unlike Petrina to ever think of running away, let alone actually taking that step. However, he did not want to think that she was in some kind of trouble. His mind went back to her call that evening.
She sounded very safe but very scared.
“We had better walk faster if we want to catch up with mum.” Laudina said quietly, jerking Gerald’s mind out of his thoughts.
“Okay.” He replied taking larger strides.
He thought about the Bannermans. Laudina and her mum were very worried about Petrina. The shop which they operated together had been closed for the entire week. They had spent most of their days together on the porch hoping that they would find a clue to where Petrina was. Another thing that they worried about was Mr. Bannerman and little Harry. Petrina’s dad and her brother Harry had taken a trip to South Africa and were expected back in the country by the following week. Laudina and her mum had carefully ensured that the Bannerman gentlemen knew nothing about the disappearance of Petrina. They had decided to come up with excuses about her absence from home anytime they called. Somehow, Mr. Bannerman had believed each time he was told and he had also made no enquiry about why her phone was off.
It can work for a week. But not more than that.
That was a truth both women could not run away from. From what he had gathered from Laudina, Mr. Bannerman had called just twice that week. Covering the issue twice was not too difficult. But a third time would surely be challenging.
“What happened to you both? Do you want the kidnappers to be with my daughter forever?” Mrs. Bannerman asked when they finally caught up with her.
Gerald and Laudina exchanged a glance.
Kidnappers? Could it be? They seemed to be asking each other.
Would Petrina be found soon enough? Keep reading.