Home > Only Daughter

Only Daughter
Author: Anna Snoekstra




I sit in an interview room with my face down, holding my coat tightly around myself. It’s cold in here. I’ve been waiting for almost an hour, but I’m not worried. I imagine what a stir I’ve caused on the other side of that mirror. They’re probably calling in the missing persons unit, looking up photographs of Rebecca and painstakingly comparing them to me. That should be enough to convince them; the likeness is uncanny.

I saw it months ago. I was wrapped up with Peter, a little bundle of warmth. Usually I got teary when I was hungover and just spent the day hiding in my room listening to sad music. It was different with him. We woke up at noon and sat on the couch all day eating pizza and smoking cigarettes until we started feeling better. That was back when I thought my parents’ money didn’t matter and all I needed was love.

We were watching some stupid show called Wanted. They were talking about a string of grisly murders at a place called Holden Valley Aged Care in Melbourne and I started looking for the remote. Butchered grannies were definitely a mood killer. Just as I went to change the channel, the next story began and a photograph came up on the screen. She had my nose, my eyes, my copper-coloured hair. Even my freckles.

“Rebecca Winter finished her late shift at McDonald’s, in the inner south Canberra suburb of Manuka, on the seventeenth of January 2003,” a man said in a dramatic voice over the photograph, “but somewhere between her bus stop and home she disappeared, never to be seen again.”

“Holy shit, is that you?” Peter said.

The girl’s parents appeared, saying their daughter had been missing for over a decade but they still had hope. The mother looked like she was about to cry. Another photograph: Rebecca Winter wearing a bright green dress, her arm slung around another teenage girl, this one with blonde hair. For a foolish moment, I tried to remember if I had ever owned a dress like that.

A family portrait: the parents looking thirty years younger, two grinning brothers and Rebecca in the middle. Idyllic. They may as well have had a white picket fence in the background.

“Fuck, do you think that’s your long-lost twin or what?”

“Yeah, you wish!”

We’d started joking about Peter’s gross twin fantasies and he forgot about it pretty soon. Nothing stuck around long in Peter’s mind.

I try to remember every detail I can from the show. She was from Canberra, a teenager, maybe fifteen or sixteen at the time she went missing. In some ways, I was lucky the side of my face was bruised and swollen. It masked the subtle differences that distinguished us. I’ll be well and truly gone by the time the bruising fades. I only need to buy myself enough time to get me out of the station, to the airport maybe. For a moment my mind wanders to what I would do after that. Call Dad? I hadn’t spoken to him since I left. I had picked up a pay phone a few times, even punched in his mobile number. But then the sickening sound of soft weight crashing against metal would fill my head and I’d hang up with shaking hands. He wouldn’t want to talk to me.

The door opens and the female cop peeks in and smiles at me.

“This won’t take too much longer. Can I get you something to eat?”

“Yes, please.”

The slight embarrassment in her voice, the way she looks at me and then quickly averts her eyes.

I had them.

She brings me a box of piping-hot noodles from the takeaway next door. They’re oily and a bit slimy, but I’ve never enjoyed a meal so much. Eventually, a detective comes into the room. He puts a file on the table and pulls out a chair. He looks brutish, with a thick neck and small eyes. I can tell by the way he sits down that my best chance with him is ego. He seems to be trying to take up as much space as possible, his arm resting on the chair next to him, his legs wide open. He smiles across the table.

“I’m sorry this is taking so long.”

“That’s okay,” I say, wide eyes, small voice. I turn my face slightly, to make sure he’s looking at the bruised side.

“We’re going to bring you to the hospital soon, okay?”

“I’m not hurt. I just want to go home.”

“It’s procedure. We’ve been calling your parents, but so far there’s been no answer.”

I imagine the phone ringing in Rebecca Winter’s empty house. That was probably for the best; her parents would just complicate things. The detective takes my silence as disappointment.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get a hold of them soon. They’ll need to come here to make the identification. Then you can go home together.”

That’s the last thing I need, to be called out as a fraud in front of a room full of cops. My confidence starts to slip. I need to turn this around.

I speak into my lap. “I want to go home more than anything.”

“I know. It won’t be too much longer.” His voice is like a pat on the head. “Did you enjoy those?” He looks at the empty noodle box.

“They were really nice. Everyone has been so amazing,” I say, keeping with the timid-victim act.

He opens the manila folder. It’s Rebecca Winter’s file. Interview time. My eyes scan the first page.

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Rebecca.” I keep my eyes down.

“And where have you been all this time, Rebecca?” he says, leaning in to hear me.

“I don’t know,” I whisper. “I was so scared.”

“Was there anyone else there? Anyone else held with you?”

“No. Only me.”

He leans in closer, until his face is only inches from mine.

“You saved me,” I say, looking him right in the eyes. “Thank you.”

I can see his chest swell. Canberra is only three hours from here. I just need to push a little harder. Now that he’s feeling like the big man, he won’t be able to say no. It’s my only chance to get out of here.

“Please, will you let me go home?”

“We really need to interview you and take you to the hospital to be examined. It’s important.”

“Can we do that in Canberra?”

I let the tears start falling then. Men hate seeing girls cry. It makes them uncomfortable for some reason.

“You’ll be transported back to Canberra soon, but there is a procedure we need to follow first, okay?”

“But you’re the boss here, aren’t you? If you say I can go they have to do what you say. I just want to see my mom.”

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