That was when Diary's name last popped onto the screen of her mother's phone. The young woman, an academic celebrity in this West African country, had recorded a voice message for her 5-year-old sister: I miss you more! I love you so much.
Then no one could reach her.
"All I do is wait for her call," said Binta Sow, 40, lifting another tissue to her face. "The world has stopped."
Now millions of people are following the case, posting messages of support for Diary and her family from three continents. French police, working with Senegalese investigators, have widened their search to multiple cities but have remained tight-lipped. Authorities have alerted officials across the Schengen Area to her disappearance.
There is anguish in Senegal, where the president has called Diary a "rising star." Her first novel, a twisted love story, came out last year. She planned to pursue an engineering career. Her school, the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, is considered a launchpad to France's top science-focused universities.
Diary won a full-ride scholarship.
"She can do anything," said her uncle, Mahfouz Sarr. "She is so wise for her age. She has so much strength."
On the last evening they chatted, her mother said, Diary sounded excited. Classes were to resume the next morning.
She had spent much of her holiday break in her dorm room, reading books and ordering hamburgers. Diary isn’t one to go out much, Binta said. The coronavirus pandemic made socializing even less appealing.
New Year’s Eve was the exception. Diary traveled to Toulouse, France, to visit family friends, a mother and a daughter. They mostly sat around and caught up, Binta said.
Her mother recalled Diary sounding perfectly normal while describing the reunion. Upbeat. Nonchalant. She said she was back in her dorm room, preparing for the school day. (Investigators confirmed that she had keyed in.)
The daughter of a homemaker and a baker, Diary went to school with far richer kids. Did she face cliques? Bullies?
“My daughter would never care to even mention anything like that,” Binta said. “If someone doesn’t like her, she’d just walk away.”
Diary, naturally reserved, was known to keep her head down at school. She busied herself with reading and writing.
She had recently finished her second book, her mother said, and wanted to proofread it again before sending it to publishers. Her first, “Under the Face of an Angel,” had drawn acclaim in Senegal.
Internet sleuths had wondered: What about the pressure? What if she had simply run away from it all?
Binta couldn’t imagine that.
“My daughter is clear about what she will do and what she will not do,” the mother said. “She doesn’t fake it to impress anyone.”
Plus, she said, Diary is close with her family. She loved to bake birthday cakes with her father growing up in their village, Malicounda Bambara, about 50 miles southeast of the capital, Dakar. She grieved deeply when he died in April, her mother said, but focused on comforting her family.
At home, they keep her bed made with a blanket covered in red hearts. Her bookshelf is still crammed full. Her initials (D.S.) are etched into the wood.
Diary normally rang her mother on the weekends — weekdays are for studying — but quickly replied to WhatsApp voice messages from her 5-year-old sister, Amy Colle.
“I miss you. I love you,” the little girl said Jan. 3. “When are you coming home?”
“My love, I miss you more,” Diary had replied on WhatsApp. “I love you so much.”
She promised to come home for summer break.
Every message Binta sent after that went unopened, according to the read receipts.
A day later, Diary’s school reported her missing.
Nothing about the disappearance makes sense, her mother said. Diary was supposed to be safe in Paris. So many students dream of studying there.
“I’m putting it all on God,” Binta said.
Diary’s mother said she is thankful for the outpouring of love, the neighbors dropping off envelopes of cash — a traditional gesture of support during a tragedy.
On Wednesday, her living room filled with unexpected visitors. There was the village mayor, a local lawmaker, an entourage of people wearing T-shirts featuring Diary’s face. They gathered below Diary’s framed scholastic awards.
Everyone turned their palms up and prayed for answers.
Binta’s phone, resting on her lap, kept lighting up.
Not her daughter. Not her daughter.