Tamsin walked into her kitchen past a framed photograph of a sea bird flying over a cliff; a postcard sent by her son just over three months ago but it signaled far more than a holiday by the sea.
In the kitchen she retrieved a large tin hidden at the back of a cupboard, the contents of which she emptied on the table. Over the next hour she methodically put them in order, each one sent a month apart, with only occasional omissions. She now had exactly 162 of them representing the 15 years since her son had disappeared. The postcards were the only, tantalising, reminders of him or his continued existence. Each one depicted an animal of some sort, supposedly wild but somehow trapped in an unknown photographers lense. Some had the names of holiday locations from various places in southern Europe but most just contained a picture. On the back each one contained a Spanish stamp, Madrid postmark and the same words:
If I miss 1 I’m careless
If I miss 2 I’m thoughtless
If I miss 3 I’m dead
She removed the most recent one from her wall and added it to her collection. When she had started receiving them she had tried to find him. She informed the police but they couldn’t or didn’t do anything. She had even travelled to Madrid herself but nobody could help her. She spoke to her son’s fiance; they had argued, she said, but nothing particularly bad or unusual. He just hadn’t returned home one day. Soon she lost contact with the woman who should have been a daughter-in-law and her life changed to a new normal.
She looked again at the postcards and then returned them to the tin. That evening she buried them in the garden. She returned to her kitchen, knocking the dirt from her shoes as she entered the house and poured herself her first whiskey.