“Hi Dad!” Laudina said as cheerfully as possible.
“Hey, Laudy!” he answered with so much excitement. Then he lowered his voice. “Hope your mum is not around. I’m back and I want to surprise her with my arrival. Could you create an excuse and drive up to the airport?”
“Hey, everything okay, dear? Hope Benji is not being naughty.” He laughed.
How do I tell a man with so much cheer about what is happening? Laudina thought.
“I’d see you soon, dad.” She said, quickly wanting to end the call. “Bye!”
“See you, dear.”
She placed the phone in her pocket and turned to her mum and Gerald. “He’s back. He called to tell me to pick him from the airport.”
“What are we going to do?” Mrs. Bannerman asked with panic in her voice.
“Mum, at this point, we have no other choice than to break the news to him when we get there. He had wanted to surprise you with his arrival but I think we should all go to the airport. We need each other more than ever before.”
“I can’t go, Laudina,” Mrs. Bannerman said with tears in her eyes. “I can’t bear to see the pain on his face.”
“Mum, I think we should all go.”
“Oh, Laudina!” she put her shoulder on her daughter and began to cry.
The three walked quietly to the house where Laudina dashed in for the car keys after which they left for the airport. It was a quiet trip, save the noise from the sobs of Mrs. Bannerman. Laudina, as Gerald saw from the driving mirror looked very deep in thought as she did her best to focus on the road. Gerald himself was wondering what was going to happen at the airport. He had always been eager about getting to know Petrina’s family better and she had always calmed him down saying that the right time would come. Now, as he was beginning to get more involved in their affairs, he wondered if he liked this ‘right’ time. When they arrived, they saw Mr. Bannerman and Harry standing in front of the arrival lounge. Mr. Bannerman waved happily probably not realizing they had seen him already. Laudina parked the car right in front of them. He raised his eyebrow when he noticed Laudina was not alone but then began smiling again. He packed the luggage into the boot and entered the car with Harry.
“Hey, gentleman,” he said addressing Gerald as he usually did. “How is it?”
“Where is Pet? And why is everyone so quiet? Have I committed a crime by coming home earlier?” he laughed shortly. “Yolande, no smile for me?” he said tapping his wife’s head. The car remained silent. At that point, he seemed to observe that there was something wrong.
“Is everything okay?” he asked with eyes of concern. Laudina started the car suddenly becoming conscious of the fact that she had a limited waiting time where she had parked. The car remained silent despite the question Mr. Bannerman had asked.
“Hello? Is someone going to talk?”
“It’s Petrina…” Laudina started, but her voice trailed off.
“Petrina?” Mr. Bannerman exclaimed. “What about her?”
“Where is Petty?” Harry asked in a small voice.
“Mr. Bannerman,” Gerald said. “She’s…Petrina is missing.”
“Missing? What does that mean?”
Neither Laudina nor Mrs. Bannerman made an attempt to reply. Gerald realised he had to step in.
“Sir, she just disappeared. We have no idea where she is.”
“Disappeared? People do not just disappear like that. Where is she? You saw her yesterday, but didn’t see her today?”
“It was about a week ago…”
“A week?!” he screamed before Gerald could say anything more. “None of you have seen Petrina for a week? Yolande, tell me something. What are they saying?”
“Russell…” was all Mrs. Bannerman was able to say before she began crying.
“Yolande,” he reached for her hand. “What is happening?”
Gerald tried to calm Mr. Bannerman down as he told him all that had happened, ending with their latest trip to the police station.
“But that can’t be,” he said in almost a whisper as Gerald finished with his narration.
“It is, dad.” Laudina said as she brought the car to a halt in front of the house. Gerald really admired the strength of Laudina as she dealt with the issues at hand. Three-year old Harry was the first to jump out of the car.
“Petty!” he screamed as he ran towards the gate.
Everyone looked at each other obviously wondering how he would come to understand what was happening.
“Where is Petty?” he asked wide-eyed when he noticed that the gate was locked.
Would all questions ever be answered?