If you disappeared tomorrow, who would look for you?
If you drove away from your life next week, who would wonder where you had gone?
Who would feel your absence keenly enough to question it? To keep questioning it?
How can no-one notice the space a child had left in the world?
Why wasn’t there a little girl’s face on our television every night, flanked by desperate family members determined to find her?
Then, three days ago, came the information that answered one small part of that question. The little girl’s mother was dead.
The one person who would – in a world where everything was in its place – never sleep until you were safe, was gone. Unable to her miss her, and unable to protect her.
We may never know how Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson and her little girl Khandalyce came to be more than 1000kms apart, discarded like so much rubbish in bleak, far-flung locations where they would lie undiscovered for years.
But we do know, at least, that there is not a mother somewhere, living with the absence of her child and holding it inside her.
Mothers miss their children. It was Karlie’s mum who was the only person to tell the police that the girls were gone.
No-one had seen 20-year-old Karlie since she and Khandalyce – the two-year-old daughter who had a favourite quilt, a pretty pink dress and a beautiful smile – were seen driving along a desert stretch of the Stuart Highway, south of Coober Pedy in November 2008.
It was a whole year later that Karlie’s mum, who hadn’t seen her daughter since she packed up and left Alice Springs to travel and work, filed a missing person’s report. Only nine days after that report was filed, Karlie’s mum contacted police to say she had heard from someone about her daughter. She was safe, but she didn’t want to talk to her.
Another year later, Karlie’s mum died, taken by illness. And then, there was no one left to look for Karlie and Khandalyce.
Not the little girl’s father. Not her extended family. Not co-workers or health professionals or teachers or friends.