Day 20: I'm Not a Stranger

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He swallows a reply and nods. 

“Okay. Check out the Resort and Marina. They’re decent. But it might be difficult to find a room right now — Waterfire starts a week from today.” 

“Waterfire?” 

“A local festival. Basically, we put bonfires on the river — about 80 total — and there are fire tenders who show up and make sure they stay lit. Everyone shows up, there’s music and the scent of the wood burning is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.” 

I tilt my head. 

“Sounds ritualistic.” 

He smiles, “it’s something that’s for sure. The crowds get bigger every year.” 

I punch in the information for the Resort and Marina in my phone and find they have availability, but it’s limited. A timer starts ticking at the top of the browser and I realize I only have two minutes to book this room that now, according to their built in countdown, is their only vacancy. 

Shit. 

I point toward my bag resting on the chair across from the coffee table.

“Could you hand me my bag? I need to reserve this room before it disappears out from under me and I’m left bunking with a stranger.” 

He looks offended for a few seconds before reaching for the strap and handing it to me. 

“I’m not a stranger,” he mutters under his breath.

“I wasn’t talking about you,” I respond, giving him a smile as I take my bag from his hand and reach for my wallet. I’m not paying attention to what I’m throwing out of the bag in order to get my card, and within minutes I have the room secure. I breathe a sigh of relief and glance up at Jasper triumphantly. My victory is short lived. He’s no longer thinking about my slight jab of staying with a stranger over him or whether or not I’ll get the room. He’s looking at a piece of paper, his face white. His lips shrink into a thin line and he shakes his head slightly, his eyes wrinkling at the corners in concern. 

“Jasper.” 

He looks at me and hands over the note. It doesn’t take long for me to recognize the handwriting. My fingers start shaking as I read. 

 

You know I can’t tell you where Juniper is — but she’s safe and sound. I bet you can’t find her. 

 

“He was here.” I twist my head around the living room, expecting something to give me some type of clue. I look at Jasper, already up and rummaging through the mess left behind by the forensics team. 

“He was here,” I repeat, looking at the note and then back at my bag. “He put this in my bag. He was…” the tears start falling then and Jasper turns back toward me and is by my side in an instant. He gathers me in his arms and places his hand behind me head, pulling me close. 

“I know,” he whispers. “I know.” 

This whole time, I didn’t understand. I knew Juniper was alive because I felt her like I always do right beneath my ribcage. And then the notes started showing up and I thought maybe it was just some stupid prank her students were pulling but now I’m not so sure. Even then it didn’t make sense why they would do something so asinine. 

Now I’m beginning to see the severity of her not being here next to me.

Now I know that I have to find my sister. 

If I don’t find her, now I know he’ll kill her.

Posted on April 23, 2018 .

Days 13-16: Emotional Balance of Writing and Living

Last Thursday I crossed the 10k mark in the story — novel? — I'm writing. I really don't know what it is, to be honest. I'm just trying to keep my head above water and my hands open. 

Untethered to the process.

The last time I dove into a project, my why was a driving force. 

I have to know my why, I thought. Knowing my why will get me through those days I just can't force myself to sit in front of the page and do anything. 

I've changed a lot since then. Mostly, I don't need a why anymore. 

I'm also keenly aware of the emotional baggage of balancing writing a story and living a life. 

When I wrote the first draft of EVERY SHATTERED THING, I wrote until I couldn't write anymore. Literally. Russ and I went through something profoundly personal and emotional and I lost my words. I didn't recognize the warning signs to slow down, breathe deep, let the story out at its own pace.

This past week has been excruciating. 

Details aren't important. What's important is that my emotions are keyed to 11 on a scale of 1-10, and I know this because the tears are lodging themselves in my throat right now and if I were speaking instead of writing, I would be crying.

So seven days ago I crossed 10,000 words, and now I am resting at 12,737.

I thought I would have more by now, but I don't, and that's okay. I am fiercely loyal and protective over my emotions right now, and allowing myself (for the first time, really) listen to what my body and soul needs. This looks like peaking into the manuscript, developing a paragraph or two, and then shutting my laptop in favor of chatting with a friend who knows my soul or reading words I know will inspire. 

The upside: we're only 16 days in a 100 day project. I haven't said this yet, but I can't shake by the end of the 100 days, I will have completed my fifth book. In order to do this in the rhythm and pace and surprises I'm experiencing this time around, I'm allowing my creativity as much space as she needs. It's invigorating. It feels a lot like finding myself all over again.

And because I would never offer nothing of what I'm working on, here's a quote that's been written and tweaked and perfected since I last shared: 

There are moments in life where you experience something in technicolor. Everything around turns luminescent, a built in bokeh effect around the moment. Finding out my mother died is filed under this category.
So is finding out my sister is missing.
— Lavender.

 

 

Posted on April 19, 2018 .

Day 12: Don't Worry. I've seen Psycho

No, you didn't miss day 11. I spent the day reading the manuscript and getting into the heads of Lavender and Juniper. Here's the next piece of the story: 

It takes the team less than an hour to pick apart every square inch of Juniper’s house before they find something. Her house doesn’t even look like her house anymore. Cushions are upended, the large ottoman that was in the corner with the pile of blankets has been turned on its side and is resting against the wall, light fixtures are torn apart and hanging loosely from the ceilings, even her mattress has been pulled and tossed aside so they could take apart the bed frame and look inside the metal pieces. They aren’t even done. I should probably be worried about Juniper, and I still am, but the only thought I can focus on is this is going to take forever to clean. 

“It looks like a camera of some sort,” the guy says when he finds it. I suddenly feel very dizzy. 

Hidden in plain sight, within her diffuser. Whenever it turned on, so did the camera. Even more terrifying: it had range of the entire home. Her bedroom. The living room. The kitchen. If he was capable of rigging a diffuser to look like a camera, he was capable of a lot of things, the team tells me. I might be sick. 

“Oh,” I don’t have any other words. 

“You should probably stay somewhere else — maybe find a hotel until we can be certain there isn’t anything else lingering here.” 

I stare ahead, unable to process. If he was watching Juniper, does that mean he is watching me? I take a deep breath, trying to focus on the specialist in front of me.

“You think…you think there’s more?” 

The guy drops the diffuser into a container and looks back at me with an empty gaze. 

“If there’s one, there’s always more.” 

I fall into the couch behind me and feel Jasper’s hand rest on my back. 

“I have an extra room if you…”

“No.” My response is shorter than I mean it to be but let’s be real. My hands are the shape of a prayer between my legs. I can still feel them shaking. Or maybe that’s my entire body. I can’t even tell anymore. I push my tongue up against my teeth and breathe. I’m shaken, but not desperate.

“Sorry. I just…” I look at him, barely able to hold his gaze. “I need my space I think. I’ll just get a hotel.” 

Jasper has his lower lip in between his forefinger and thumb and I’ve spent enough time with him these past 36 hours I already know it means he’s thinking about how to try and word something. 

“Are you sure?” 

I reach for my phone on table in front of me. 

“I’m positive,” I say. I punch in our location and get more than a few options for hotels. “You can help me find a decent place to stay though,” I offer an olive branch — albeit a weak one. “I’ve seen Psycho. Last thing I need is a sketchy hotel where the owner has his dead mom stashed somewhere.”

Posted on April 14, 2018 .

Day 10: Ready or Not

Visiting for the first time? You can start with day one here

I follow Jasper down the trail, or I guess I should say up — it leads to the cliffs nearby, winding up and down along the coast. The sun creates a warmth that counters the wind that brushes cool against my skin. I take a deep inhale, noticing the difference of how the Atlantic caresses the shore. I’m used to the break and tumble of the Pacific, a different kind of grace that crashes against cliffs and creates new landscapes from its existence. I can see why Juniper chose this place. A small grin escapes the weariness of my expression and I let the muscles in my shoulders relax. 

Right here — right now — I am okay. I am doing what I know to do, what Juniper would be doing for me if roles were reversed. She always lectures me about not taking breaks. I run too hard, she tells me — that I can’t run from my ghosts forever. The hard part? I’m really good at doing it. And she was really good at seeing. 

“Come see me,” she would say. “You have vacation stored up. I know you do.” 

I always said no. I was too busy, too focused, too distracted by filling my schedule to run from the hurt. 

I don’t want to admit it, but I really needed to get out and breathe the fresh air. 

“I need to ask you something,” I say. “It might be awkward.”

Jasper reaches for a stone in front of him and throws it off the side of the cliff, watching it bounce until it disappears. 

“I’m a native in the country of Awkward. Give it your best shot.” 

A laugh escapes from my lips and my hands reach up to gather the hair on my neck in a pile on the top of my head. With one finger, I grip the rubber band around my wrist, pull it off, and wrap it around my untamed hair. 

I’m delaying the inevitable. I sigh and close my eyes, really not looking forward to this conversation but also really needing to know. 

“I’m trying to figure out why you’re invested here.” 

Jasper falters and widens his eyes for a brief moment before creating a rhythm with his steps all over again. His lips curve down briefly before nodding. 

“I guess that makes sense.” 

I keep walking, avoiding his gaze. 

“It’s just, Juniper never mentioned you.” I put my hand up and brush against his sleeve in embarrassment. “I mean, no offense. I’m not saying you don’t mean anything to her. She doesn’t tell me everything — clearly — because I didn’t know she was getting notes or being harassed? stalked? by a student. Or I guess we don’t know if it’s a student, huh? Anyways…” 

I’m rambling. 

Jasper wipes his cheek with the back of his hand and smiles. “Lavender. It’s fine.” He places his hand around mine and squeezes it before letting go. I try to ignore the heat he leaves behind. 

“Juniper and I were close. She helped me through a really tough break up right around the time her and Simon were beginning to have difficulties.” 

He sniffs. 

“I guess you can say we were each other’s lifeboat.” He squints and looks ahead, continuing to walk. His pauses more to accommodate for the steeper incline. “We weren’t romantically involved, if that’s what you’re asking.” 

I blush again and suck in a lip, unsure of how to respond. I settle for “oh,” suddenly wanting to disappear from the awkwardness I’m feeling. 

“But,” Jasper raises his hand and separates his fingers in a frustrated push against the air around him. “She really is one of my closest friends here.” He shrugs. “She’s family to me.” 

I look up at him then, studying his profile and how the words fall off his lips. He looks me in the eye and runs his fingers through his hair, trying to find the words. We’ve both stopped on the trail and we’re facing each other, the sun beginning to make its descent on the horizon. I can see the gold around us taking over.

 “If you’re family,” Jasper says, his voice dropping an octave. I pretend I don’t hear the emotion behind the shift. “I’m going to do whatever I need. If you’re family, I’m going to fight for you until I find a reason not to — so….” 

He leaves his thought hanging and I turn away from him, fighting my own thoughts creating a thunderstorm of emotions. My phone vibrates and I pull it out of my pocket, my heart shaking again.

Will I ever stop wondering if it’s you? 

My throat tightens and I choke out a hello. 

It’s Detective Dan. 

“What’s wrong?” He immediately launches into the third degree. He must hear the tone of my voice. 

“I-I’m fine.” I shake my head quickly and dig one of my fingernails into the meaty part of my flesh. I should probably stop lying about how I’m doing, but I also can’t find it in me to care.

Dan makes a noncommittal grunt and says something under his breath that I can’t hear. It’s probably for the best. 

“Okay. Well. The forensics team is on their way, and they’ll need you there in case they have any questions,” he waits a beat. “Are you still home?” 

I look at Jasper and motion for us to walk back toward the house and he nods in understanding. 

“Yeah. Yeah we’re here. We’ll be here.” 

And I hang up, not knowing what else to say. For the second time in a week, strangers will comb through my sister’s things. Will they find anything? I tap my phone against the palm of my hand, a tattoo of emotional angst and nervous energy. 

We’re silent the rest of the way home, the sounds of the ocean becoming the soundtrack to each of our thoughts, lost in the never-ending question of how someone could just cease to exist, and how her disappearance continually pushes us together, whether we’re ready for it or not.

Posted on April 12, 2018 .

Day 9: Are You Watching Me?

Visiting for the first time? You can start with day one here

Once he walks out the door, I watch him until he gets into his car and pulls out of the driveway. He’s on the phone, most likely with the forensics team. They’ll be here within a few hours and they’ll probably want me present. Which is basically opposite of perfect since right now I want to run. 

Away from this mess. 
Away from the fear. 
Away from this persistent thought that Juniper is in real danger, and I can do nothing to stop it. To save her. 

My thoughts are racing. I walk back to the bedroom, placing the note back underneath the seal, behind the curtain. I let my fingers linger for a moment, imagining this person watching me right now. 

Are you watching me? 

I focus my gaze outside and only see sand dunes, nearby cliffs, crashing waves, and seagulls. If he is, he knows there’s something waiting for him. And if I understand his thought process like I think I do, he won’t be able to hesitate coming to check what it is. I consider finding a security system, complete with cameras, but know it would be a ridiculous investment — especially if he’s watching. I watch enough crime shows to understand they work nothing like the real system. Which is why I question Dan’s motives about 98% of the time.

“He doesn’t have the greatest bedside manner.” I pivot. For a moment, I forgot Jasper was still here. He scratches his chin, the stubble having grown considerably since yesterday. 

I sigh and shake my head slightly. “I don’t know what I was expecting when I first called the police about Juniper missing, but it’s not this. I can’t keep up. It’s like emotional whiplash. I cover my face with my hands and collapse on a nearby chair. 

“Want to go for a walk?” 

I look up. 

He sticks his hands in his pockets and juts his chin toward the window, “there’s a trail right around the corner that curves the shoreline.”

“Yeah,” I say, not mentioning Juniper’s walks along that trail when we would talk on the phone. I’m pretty sure I could find my way around it just by memories of our conversations. I pull at my ear, a nervous tic, and roll my shoulders. 

“Sure. Why not. I could use a distraction.” And then I blush. Because obviously, this distraction has nothing to do with the views of nature.

.::.

I’ve been waiting since the black of dawn for her to find the note. I almost give up when I look at my watch and realize it’s nearly noon. 

Will she ever wake up? 

And then she does, and so does my heart.

When she opens the curtain and starts the stretches that look like a variation of some sort of yoga, I fight from running to her — she looks so much like Juniper and I know she’ll be excited to see me. But I don’t. I wait. It’s not time — not yet. 

So I just sit there, mesmerized. She stretches her arms above her head, a small smile on her lips, and her shirt lifts just above the hem of the shorts that barely cover the lacy underwear I know is underneath. 

God. She is so beautiful. 

How is it possible to stumble across perfection twice?

Then she finds the note. My heart rate triples. Her hands fly up to her mouth and I break into a grin. She loves it! I knew she would. She walks away for a moment and I lose sight of her and I think about checking the other views — the monitors I set up in another room. Something keeps me planted though, and I’m so glad I listen because there she is again and this time? This time she’s placing something back under the window! Juniper never did this!  

Is that a note? For me? My breath catches and tears threaten to fall. 

I knew she understood me. Wait until I tell Juniper. 

My fingers itch to wrap around the paper, to read words she’s crafted for my eyes. I move to make my way over, to snatch the piece of paper meant for me, but I wait too long because soon I see the detective walk toward the window and take it. 

I hiss. That’s mine! I shove my fist in my mouth to keep from screaming. The anger pulses underneath my skin and I claw at a scab on my wrist, a scratch from Juniper, until it turns bloody again. 

Lavender should have known. She should have known not to call them. I close my eyes and shake my head violently.

They’ll ruin everything.

I know this because Jasper, the prick with those pansy looking shorts, almost ruined my chance. He will never know he’s the reason Juniper is safe with me now. I saw the way she was on his radar, the way he always appeared at the most inopportune moments. I know men like him — the other side to this coin of my personality. I saw them at the coffee shop and the way he would look at her hands, wanting to reach out and grab them. And I knew, because he lacks the courage I would ultimately show, nothing would ever happen. 

But then he threw my note away — the one where I let Juniper know how much I loved that blue sweater she was thinking about wearing that morning. He broke my heart, and lied to her about me. Asked her if she was okay — like the note was something dangerous or a reason to be afraid. I wrinkle my lips in disgust remembering that moment.

I saw her reaction. Saw how scared she was of him.

So I knew I had to do something. I had to claim her for myself.

Jasper was never right for her. Quoting poetry and waxing philosophical about this screenplay he’s working on at night. Juniper was so bored. It’s like he didn’t even know her. 

But I do. I know her better than anyone. 

I know she gets mad when people don’t listen to her. I know she dreams of a life that is hers alone and has nothing to do with her twin, as much as they love each other, Juniper craves the identity of being her own person. You have to find yourself, she always says. You have to find yourself in order to know what you’re meant to do with this life. 

She never knew that every time she said that, I became more and more sure that what I’m meant to do in this life had everything to do with her.

I know this because up until I rescued her, she never looked at me. She never had any idea that the reason my heart beats is because I imagine the moment I will feel her heart beat against mine. 

I smile to myself. I think about yesterday, the way she fought me, biting at my shoulder and screaming until she was hoarse. I wasn’t even doing anything. I was giving her water. But it’s what gave me the idea to start watching Lavender.  I sniff at the memory, feeling the excitement of the chase rise all over again. The detective is leaving the house now, and I lean forward as he shakes the gravel pulling out of the driveway. A motion in the bedroom catches my attention and I see Lavender put the note back under the window. 

That’s right, my love. Fight for me and I will fight for you. 

Lavender and Juniper, sugar and spice. 

Soon I will have everything nice. 

A curious obsession indeed.

Posted on April 11, 2018 .

Day 8: Passing Notes

Visiting for the first time? You can start with day one here

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My hands fly to my mouth in shock, the note falling to the floor. My breath comes in short gasps as I reach for my phone to text Dan. I remember Jasper’s number scrawled on the to-go box from dinner and I make my way into the kitchen while typing out a message. 

Got another note. This time for me. 

That should do it. 

I send the same message to Jasper, my hands still shaking but my initial fear and surprise has turned into a boiling anger. Within minutes I have responses from both Dan and Jasper that they’re on their way. Dan already knows the address, but I send it to Jasper since I’m assuming he’s never been here before. While I wait, I pace back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. At any other moment, I would be admiring the interior design of the architecture and the way Juniper’s style has permeated every single space. A massive leather couch is the centerpiece of the room, resting on top of two stacked rugs thrown criss-cross on top of each other. The walls are filled with large-print photographs and wall hangings, and if you look close enough, you can see the rhythm Juniper used to create the flow of the gallery. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a mental x/y slope to complete the look, making sure the spacing was perfectly even. I pause for a moment in front of a picture of us two back in San Jose. I remember this. We’d just graduated Brown were on our way to Stanford. She went for Education — Learning Design and Technology specifically, and I got in for International Policy Studies. 

She finished the program. I…did not. Mostly because of Jack. I feel a sting of something akin to regret and wonder and swallow it down before I make myself start questioning every single moment of my recent history. The years after this photo were not the greatest for me. 

But this photo — this photo brings back good memories. 

We’re on the beach, arms draped over each other. We’re at a bonfire, our legs resting on the sand, our skin glistening from a day in the sun. Our mouths are hanging open and we’re looking at each other laughing. After this photo was caught, Juniper leaned in and rested her head on my shoulder. I feel the space next to me quiver from her absence and I close my eyes. 

Juniper. Help me out here. Where are you? 

I snap my eyes open and look toward the window in the living room. I think I hear a car driving, but I see them pass the house and know it isn’t Jasper or Dan. I grip my phone and begin tapping the bottom against my open palm. I start pacing and thinking about what I know.

  1. The person sending the notes knows where Juniper lives. 
  2. The person is probably a student, given what Jasper saw. 
  3. The person wrote a note after she disappeared, leaving it for her (us?) on her whiteboard.
  4. They also know we’re looking for her. 
  5. They’re following me. 

An idea begins to form in my my head and before I can talk myself out of it, I grab a sheet of paper and start writing. I step back for a moment, reading over what I wrote. 

Where is she? 

I fold it identical to the first note and walk back to the window, putting it on the opposite side. If they’re following me as closely as I think they are, I might as well say hello. I hear someone at the door and peek my head around the corner to see Jasper’s head in the window. He sees me and waves. I wave back and make my way to the front door, letting him in and noticing Dan pulling up right behind him. He gets out of his car and throws Jasper a look as he buttons his jacket. 

“Jasper,” he says, walking in and brushing past him to get inside. “When you texted me,” Dan says catching my gaze. “I didn’t know it was going to be a party.” 

I turn my head and watch his retreating figure, wondering if he was always this cordial. I look back at Jasper, who has a confused look on his face. 

“Hi,” he whispers. 

“Hi.” I respond. 

We twist our lips to keep from laughing and he walks past me into the living room. He turns to face me. “Are you okay?” 

I nod, and it feels like I’m breathing for the first time since I found the note.

“Not really,” my eyes dart around still, trying to find something I don’t even know exists. “But I do feel better now that y’all are here.” 

“Where’s the note?” Dan asks, looking around and oblivious to my conversation with Jasper. Every once in a while he’ll pick something up randomly, looking underneath it. 

“Well. Not under the flower vase.” I laugh, walking to the folded piece of paper on the counter. I hand it to him and he looks at it. 

“If he’s following you,” Dan says, “then he more than likely has this place bugged in some way.”
I feel stupid for laughing, for thinking he was looking for another note in random places. Juniper’s house? Bugged? 

“For real?” I spit out, suddenly uneasy. It’s not that I’ve had conversations I wouldn’t want others to know about, I haven’t really had any time to do anything other than collapse into bed after searching for Juniper all day. But the thought of someone tapping into this space to watch or hear what was going on at all times has me….spooked. Spooked and angry all over again. Jasper sits on the couch, crossing his legs and spreading his arms across the backend of the cushion. He’s wearing cut off jeans today that hit right above his knee. His t-shirt has the moon phases stacked on top of each other. When he spreads his arms, the muscles flex and I see that tattoo on his forearm take on a life of its own.

“How would someone have access to this place? And if it’s bugged, how long do you think it’s been going on?” 

He looks at Dan and waits for an answer. I force my eyes to bounce from his legs back to focusing on Dan. 

“Well. I’m not saying it’s a definite.” He looks at both of us while putting the note in a plastic bag he brought inside with him. “If we do find anything here, which we’ll need to probably come back and do a more thorough search,” he looks directly at me and I nod agreement, “then we’re talking about someone with a lot more maturity and depth than we initially thought.” 

“You mean didn’t think,” I add. “Because you thought she killed herself. Remember?” 

Dan chews on his cheek and avoids my gaze. 

“Missing person cases are….complicated,” he turns away from me and walks to the bedroom. I roll my eyes in frustration. 

“Are you always this pleasant to talk to?” I call out and he grumbles a response before appearing back in the door frame, holding my note. 

“What the hell is this?” 

I shrug. 

“Am I going to get in trouble for passing notes?” 

Jasper laughs and I find his eyes across the room. 

“Lavender. This is an investigation, not a joke.” 

My head pops up to face Dan and I look him square in the eyes, all of the fire and frustration of the past week built into my gaze. He blinks and looks away. 

“I know this isn’t a fucking joke, Dan. This is my sister. And you need to trust and believe that I will do whatever necessary to find her. Even if it means getting to know this person who is now taking it upon himself to leave us notes.”

Dan sighs. 

“Just….just be careful, Lavender.” He sets the note down on the counter and takes his phone out of his pocket. “I’m calling in our forensics team. They’ll be out here later today to look deeper into what we might have missed the first time around, okay?” 

I nod and grab the paper, stuffing it into the back pocket of my shorts, my pulse still racing from Dan’s admonishment.

Posted on April 10, 2018 .

Day 7: Sun Salutations

It was always Juniper who got me through breakups in high school and college. We would turn on something breathtakingly weepy and sit on the couch, tissues and chocolate and vodka and ice cream and an assortment of junk food between us, and we’d cry and laugh and eat until we were punch drunk on both food and alcohol.

“Mourn him tonight,” she would say. “Celebrate tomorrow.” 

And we would. We always did. And it always worked.

Thanks for the reminder, I think to myself. 

When I finally convince myself to get out from under the covers, I’m surprised by how frigid the air feels. It has a sharpness to it, like when you put your hand in the freezer for ice and cut your finger on the edges. I walk to the window, grabbing my phone face down on one of the pillows below, and check for damages. The screen is still intact. Good. 

I look outside and watch the seagulls dive bomb the water, looking for food. The waves are almost still. Even the ocean is still hibernating while the last tendrils of winter hang on for as long as possible and the April sun tries to push out any last remnants of frost. I stretch for a moment, allowing my body to produce its own version of sun salutation. Only then, as I’m bending down to grab my toes, do I see the folded piece of paper stuck underneath the window. 

I pause, my back parallel to the floor. Snapping back up to attention, I push the curtains aside and pull the window open, grabbing the paper before it flies away with the wind. At first, I think it’s Juniper’s doing. Maybe her screen was uneven, maybe she put it under there on purpose to keep the window shut. Our mom would do similar things growing up in our small apartment. But this paper is too new. I can tell by the lack of crease in the fold. 

By the time my fingers work to unfold the note, my hands are shaking. I stretch the paper and notice a picture of Jasper and me, taken through the window at the Mediterranean restaurant. What? How in the world…this was just last night. 

But then I know. Without a doubt, I know where this note comes from. I feel my knees weaken and I reach behind me for the bed, easing myself down on the mattress.

My eyes fall to the words written underneath and my blood turns frozen. 

Stop looking. You won’t find her.

Posted on April 9, 2018 .

Day 6: Jack with an Ordinary Name

Visiting for the first time? You can start with day one here

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I wake up to the sound of my phone. I nearly fall of the bed trying to disconnect it from the charger. I have that heart-racing-from-being-woken-up-suddenly feeling and I take a shaky breath before answering. 

“Juniper?”

The line goes silent. 

“Hello?”

“Um. Hi. Sorry, Lavender. It’s Jack.” 

I move the phone away from my ear for a moment so I can tap it against my forehead in frustration. It’s Jack. My ex.

“Oh. Hi.” 

“…did I wake you?”

“Yeah. I uh…I thought you might be someone else.” 

Translation:  I really wish I wouldn’t have answered this call. 

“Sorry about waking you,” I can hear the noise of the street and I know he’s walking into work. I check the time on the clock hanging on the wall and raise an eyebrow. 

Noon. I can’t remember the last time I slept this late.

“Well it’s happened so…what do you need?” 

He pauses at my tone and I roll my head, stretching my neck and feeling the muscles waking up. I can’t hold on to his feelings right now. 

“Jack?”

“Yeah. Uh. Sorry. I was just checking in with the proposal for Stephanie from IronClad. I know everything is happening with your sister, but do you have it?” 

“Stephanie should have the edits in her inbox. I sent the mock-up to her yesterday.” 

“Oh.”

I roll my eyes. 

It’s suddenly clear that Jack calling doesn’t have anything to do with Stephanie from IronClad missing her project. I lean my head against the wall behind me and massage my face with my hands. Relentless. He was relentless. 

The worst of it? He never wanted to call me when we were together. For three years, I was the one chasing him. And then he decided he wanted to chase Chloe, and that was that. Juniper was ready to fly out and go Carrie Underwood on his ass, but Chloe ended up turning him down and since then, he’s been trying to rectify his mistake. 

Relentlessly.

“Jack.” 

“Yeah?” 

“I need you to not call me anymore.” 

“You’re on my team, Enny.”

My lips curl in disgust. God I hate that nickname. It doesn’t even make sense. 

He lets out a small laugh like he can’t believe he’s even having to explain. “I just wanted to get an update to make sure we’re on track.”

“Stephanie is taken care of — next time there’s email. Or getting someone else to call and check in with the status of the proposal. Anyone but you, Jack.”

“Ouch.”
“Yeah, well. Apparently you didn’t get the hint the last few times. You broke up with me, remember? You can’t keep doing this. And please….stop calling me Enny. That’s not my name.” 

“Whatever, Lavender.” I heard him swipe in to the office and knew he’d be getting off soon. He might be trying to fix what he did with me, but that didn’t change the fact that he also wanted Chloe to know he was still interested if she ever changed her mind. And chatting with me on the phone would not fit that profile. 

“I need to go.” 

“Yeah. Sure. Thanks for keeping me updated on the profile. I’ll need you to send those edits as soon as possible. We’re already running late and Stephanie isn’t the most patient person to work with here.” 

I shake my head. Unbelievable. 

“Tell Chloe hi, will you?” 

I hang up on him and throw my phone across the room, waiting for the satisfying thunk of it hitting throw pillows agains the wall. I bury my head in one of the pillows and scream. And then, out of nowhere, Juniper’s voice fills my head. 

“It must be his name. It’s so…ordinary.” 

And then I laugh.

Posted on April 8, 2018 .

Day 5: A Lesson in Distractions

Visiting for the first time? You can read day one here

My stomach is still moving topsy turvy when we get to the restaurant so I opt for grape leaves and pita chips instead of the falafel I was initially craving. We find a booth and I collapse against the leather backing. I don’t even know if I will be able to finish this food. I’m not even hungry anymore.

I am just so. unbelievably. tired. 

I finger a pita chip and dip it into the hummus, tasting the salt against my lips when I take a bite. Something ignites inside and I remember the hunger, my insides slowly settling from being spooked at the school. What remains is the constant nagging in the back of my brain. 

Who was it? Who was following us?

The more I eat, the stronger I feel. The more present I feel. I begin to notice the heaviness of my limbs and how much it takes to simply exist in the moment. I need a break, but there is no such thing. Not now. The emotional weight I’ve been carrying since Juniper disappearing is finally taking its toll. The only thing I want to do is crawl into bed and fall asleep forever. Instead, I blink against the heaviness of my eyelids and try to focus on Jasper. I begin to notice him for the first time. The way his hair curls into a Q on the right side of his forehead, the muscles in his shoulders flexing and contracting when he rearranges himself in the booth, the way his tongue reaches for his food before his mouth does.

No. 

I choke on some rice and take a swig of ice water. 

He looks up, startled. He moves to reach for me then decides not to, his hand hanging in mid air before dropping by his plate.

“You okay?”

Not here. Not now. Focus, Lavender.

I nod and hold up a finger, motioning for him to wait while I chug down my distraction. 

“Wrong pipe,” I sputter before I take another sip. He nods, satisfied. 

The last thing I need is to feel any sort of curiosity or attraction toward Jasper. I sigh, content that I’m not going to cough any more, and place my hands in my lap, tangling my fingers together in an attempt to make them behave because what I really want to do is reach for that curl against his forehead.

“So how close are you and Juniper?” 

There. A safe topic. Remembering Juniper. 

He takes a bite of his tabouleh. “We’ve definitely gotten closer since the beginning of this year. With her teaching Pre-Cal and Statistics, we see each other more. We didn’t see each other nearly as much last year when she was working with the sophomores.”

“What do you teach?” 

“AP Literature.” 

I blink. He laughs. 

“I know. I don’t look like your standard English teacher.” 

He doesn’t. Although, I don’t have much to measure against. I look at what he’s wearing: skinny grey jeans, a black fitted turtleneck, and a jean jacket rolled with precision. 

“I admit. When I think of English teachers I think of cardigans and loafers. Maybe, if they’re forward-thinking, an occasional tattoo based on literature.” 

Jasper laughs, and I notice the way his face wrinkles around his eyes, framing the sea of green. I feel a jolt of electricity  — a reminder — you are sitting with this man because your sister is gone. And yet, I feel pulled to know more. 

He twists his arm to show me the skin under his elbow. Written in type-like font is the word timschel. 

“Thou mayest,” I whisper. 

He nods. “One of my favorite books. I guess I fit your forward thinking stereotype.”

I manage a smile.

“At least it’s not Vonnegut. Then you’d just be cliché.” 

He spreads his hands wide in surrender. “So it goes.”

Seems a little too close to home, given the circumstances. Plus I can’t really remember if he ended up being a good guy or not. His name was interesting, though — I remember that. 

Ezra. 

I don’t mention the only reference I have of male English teachers comes from a TV show where the character is brooding, handsome, suspicious, and very much involved with one of his students.

“What made you decide to teach English?” I ask. 

“What made your sister decide on math?” 

I hate when people answer a question with a question, but I give him this one. I breathe for a moment before answering. 

“Curiosity,” I manage. “Curiosity and an insatiable desire to help.”
He wipes his mouth with a napkin. “I can see that. She’s always finding ways to get the students move involved with the content. Senior year is hard — especially spring semester. All signs point to graduation and the malaise sets in deep.” He tilts his head dismissively. “But we were the same, right? At least I was — I couldn’t wait to graduate and get the hell out of town.” 

“Did you study English in college?” 

“Literature and Creative Writing,” he answers. “If I could do anything, I would be writing screenplays. And I dabble in it a little on the side. My grading stacks multiply like bunnies though so I don’t get as much time as I would hope.” 

“And there’s chess,” I point out. 

He works his tongue around an incisor, rolling his eyes. 

“Prime example of the newbie being dropped into clubs no one wants to take responsibility over — your sister found herself a sponsor for Pokemon loyalists last fall. Did she tell you that? It nearly drove her insane. I thought for sure she would take Steve or Scott or whatever his name was up on his offer to join his company.” 

I laugh and then pause. 

“Simon asked her to join his company?” 

He stops mid chew. “She didn’t tell you? I think it’s why they ended up breaking it off initially.  He never got over her unwillingness to leave the school.” 

I look out the window. Juniper had mentioned nothing about Simon offering her a role at his company, but she had said plenty about how proud he was of the capital gained for his tiny start up — within six months he would be the CEO of a company that went from ten employees to over 200. 

“She’s one of those people who wouldn’t be able to take what she’s good at and make a fortune, like working in finance or something for a massive corporate company. Even a smaller company, like Simon’s, would be like pushing an ice pick into her brain. She wouldn’t last.” I take a strand of my hair and wrap it around my finger, remembering conversations I had with Juniper about her decision to go into teaching. 

“Her teaching math was more about the students than it was about the subject matter, really. She could have taught anything. She chose this because she’s one of the few people who find it intriguing.” My lips turn upward and a small laugh escapes me and I think about her sitting on the couch, watching Stand and Deliver wrapped in a blanket with tears running down her cheeks.

“She wanted to be her very own version of Jaime Escalante.”

“Wanted?” Jasper asks, tentatively. 

My heart stops. 

“Wants,” I whisper. “She wants to be her own version of Jaime Escalante.” My fingers hover above my lips, afraid of what might come out if i’m not careful.

 “I need sleep.” 

Jasper turns around and grabs a to-go box from the table of supplies behind our booth. Grabbing my unused fork, he begins taking my food and packing it up. 

“What are you doing?” I look at him in shock. 

He points at me with the fork. “You’re done. You’re going back to Juniper’s place. You’re going to walk through the door, put this in the fridge, and collapse into bed.” He focuses again on packing the food before taking another look at me. “I’ve known you for like two hours and I can see it plain as day.” 

I gape. Literally. Gape. My mouth flies open and I have no words. I watch as he pulls a pin out of his pocket and writes something on the box before handing it to me. 

When I look down, I see his number and a note. 

“In case you need anything,” he mumbles, his ears turning red around the edges. 

“Thanks,” I croak. I’m blushing now. I feel the heat creep its way across my cheeks and temples and I make a quick escape, not even saying goodbye. I feel like a middle schooler, and I’m suddenly angry at how adorable Jasper acted when he gave me his phone number. I throw my bag and the box of food in the passenger seat, nearly knocking both over into the floorboard. I don’t even care. By that point the anger has dissipated into exhaustion and I’m fighting to stay awake as I drive the route back to Juniper’s cottage by the sea, hoping against all logic that she’ll be waiting for me when I get there.

Posted on April 7, 2018 .

Day 4: At Least it's Not Vonnegut.

Visiting for the first time? You can read day one here

“Do we have a case again, detective?” I ask. 

He looks again at the note and then back at me. 

“Yeah. Yeah we have a case. I’ll get my guys to look into this as soon as possible. I’ll let you know if I need anything else.” And then he dismisses us. Turns away and walks out the door, already on the phone, the note in a plastic evidence bag he brought in case we found anything. 

I close my eyes in relief. Finally. Something substantial. I don’t even know if it’s worth anything, if it’s truly a lead, but it’s something. 

No one warns you about the crazy-making urgency of looking for a loved one who has disappeared. It’s only been a few days and still I am convinced Juniper will walk around the corner any moment, frustrated that we’re in her space and questioning why we’re freaking out about her brief vacation. 

“I told you I was leaving,” she would look at me in that way of hers, where suddenly I wonder if we really did share the same space — the same everything — for nearly 22 years. 

“Oh.” I would remember a conversation with clarity and then flush with embarrassment. “You’re right. I forgot.” I’d wave my hand, a can you believe me? type of gesture, and laugh it off. 

That’s just a twisted sort of fantasy though, a way my heart is handling this separation that feels more like an amputation. A make believe world filled with stories of pretend. I do not know how to exist in this world without my sister taking up space next to me and so I am creating one where she is still here. Still present. Still bossing the hell out of everyone around her and making me feel less like her identical twin and more like the forgotten and annoying little sister.

 I rest my hands on my hips and roll my shoulders, feeling the knots constrict and separate. My stomach growls, a low murmur that grows exponentially. I grimace, realizing I haven’t had anything to eat since the banana I grabbed from Juniper’s kitchen. 

I open my eyes and notice Jasper watching me from his perch against one of the desks. 

“I was planning on grabbing some Mediterranean for dinner if you want to join. There’s a decent place off Thayer St.” He shrugs and keeps his face nonchalant. 

I think for a moment before nodding. 

“Yeah. Yeah food sounds amazing, actually. Do you mind if I follow you? I’ll just leave from there and head back to Newport.” 

We make our way down the hall, and I feel like someone is watching us. I turn around, expecting to see someone following behind, but only catch a brief shadow disappear around the corner by Juniper’s door. I frown, craning my neck to see if I can catch any other movement. 

Nothing. 

“Everything okay?” Jasper’s voice cuts through the silence and I can feel his breath on the back of my neck. I didn’t realize he was so close and I jump. 

“Sorry,” he says, stepping back.

“No. It’s fine. I’m just…I thought I saw something. It’s nothing.” 

But it’s not nothing. I know it like I know the hairs still standing at attention on my neck and the way my insides bounce against each other, threatening a gag reflex. I try to stay calm and keep my hands from shaking, but it doesn’t work. My nails leave indentations against the palms of my hands and I can feel a sheen of sweat gathering on my upper lip. I glance behind me again as we walk through the door outside, but there’s nothing to prove what I know. 

Someone is watching us. 

I just wish I knew who.

My stomach is still moving topsy turvy when we get to the restaurant so I opt for grape leaves and pita chips instead of the falafel I was initially craving. We find a booth and I collapse against the leather backing. I don’t even know if I will be able to finish this food. I’m not even hungry anymore.

I am just so. unbelievably. tired. 

The emotional weight I’ve been carrying since Juniper disappearing is finally taking its toll. The only thing I want to do is crawl into bed and fall asleep forever. Instead, I blink against the heaviness of my eyelids and try to focus on Jasper. 

“So how close are you and Juniper?” 

He takes a bite of his tabouleh. “We’ve definitely gotten closer since the beginning of this year. With her teaching Pre-Cal and Statistics, we see each other more. We didn’t see each other nearly as much last year when she was working with the sophomores.”

“What do you teach?” 

“AP Literature.” 

I blink. He laughs. 

“I know. I don’t look like your standard English teacher.” 

He doesn’t. Although, I don’t have much to measure against. 

“I admit. When I think of English teachers I think of cardigans and loafers. Maybe, if they’re forward-thinking, an occasional tattoo based on literature.” 

I don’t mention that the only reference I have of male English teachers comes from a TV show where the character is brooding, handsome, suspicious, and very much involved with one of his students. 

Seems a little too close to home, given the circumstances. Plus I can’t really remember if he ended up being a good guy or not. His name was interesting, though — I remember that. 

Ezra. 

Jasper laughs, and I notice the way his face wrinkles around his eyes, framing the sea of green. I feel a jolt of electricity  — a reminder — you are sitting with this man because your sister is gone. And yet, I feel pulled to know more. 

He lifts the sleeve of his shirt to show me his forearm. Written in type-like font is the word timschel. 

“Thou mayest,” I whisper. 

He nods. “I guess I fit your forward thinking stereotype.”

I manage a smile.

“At least it’s not Vonnegut. Then you’d just be cliché.”

Posted on April 6, 2018 .

Day 3: I'll Find You

Visiting for the first time? You can start with day one here

project.jpg

“Okay.” Dan rubs his temple. “Okay. This looks like something we can at least check.” His brow wrinkles. “Jasper, do you know this student?”
He shakes his head. 

“I think I would know him if I saw him but when I say I walked in on the tail end of the conversation, I mean I wasn’t really paying attention to who she was talking with — it was only after everything happened that I thought it might be important.”

“Well. Two notes is something to consider, but not necessarily cause for opening up an entire investigation. If we found others, though — a reasonable trace that points to a relationship or something between the two…”

I bristle. 

“My sister wasn’t involved with a student.” 

“I didn’t say that.”

“Well get it out of your head, and think of other possibilities. Juniper is a lot of things, but not someone who would get romantically involved with a minor.” 

“I can vouch for her too,” Jasper says. “The conversation might have been awkward and weird, but it was not romantic. Looking back on it, Juniper was obviously comfortable and relieved when I walked through her door.” 

Dan studies him. 

“Whatever it was, it’s worth looking at — I agree — I just don’t think we’re looking at a sordid relationship here. She has a boyfriend.” 

“Had,” I correct. Jasper looks at me in surprise. I offer a small smile. “They broke up again right before she disappeared. He was one of the first people I spoke with when I got here.” 

He nods in understanding. 

“Oh.” I whisper, something else clicking into place.

I stand up and read for my bag resting against the chair. Dan takes another look at the two notes side by side and places both back in the file on his desk. He looks up when I stand up suddenly and widens his eyes, expectant.  

“I think I know the first place to look,” I say. 

Jasper folds his hands in front of him and leans back in his chair to see me. 

“It’s 5pm. School just got out. And my sister has a whiteboard full of notes. If the mystery student left her another note, it would be there.” I start walking out the door. “You can come if you want or not, but I’m headed to her classroom. There’s about 100 notes to look through and I’m betting this kid left something.” 

.::.

They both decide to come. Dan reschedules his meeting with the district attorney and Jasper says he needs to go back to campus anyway for the Chess Club. I try to refrain from making any jokes about him being the sponsor for a game of strategy. 

When we walk into her classroom, I pause for a moment, overwhelmed with the sense of Juniper that permeates the space. There’s her diplomas — a BS from Brown University and the M.Ed. she received from Stanford. Next to it is a bulletin board full of pictures of her travels — Paris, Hawaii, the Alaskan cruise we took two years ago. We loved it so much we decided to extend our stay and turned the second half of the cruise into an Alaskan vacation. Memories come quickly. Her wanting to read in the hotel, watching the snow fall while I wanted to hike, the quirky locals, the grizzly that roamed into the street as we were trying to make our way to the airport. I fight from grabbing the pictures for myself and focus on the notes left for her. 

It doesn’t take long to find what we’re looking for - within minutes I hear Dan mutter under his breath, trying to get to a note in behind two others sprayed with some kind of pink glitter. 

“This is going to be all over me by the time we leave, isn’t it?” He asks, wiping his hands on his jacket. 

I laugh. 

“Make sure and tell Tracey I appreciate you being able to visit some of the more nefarious places in town.” I mimic an explosion with my hands. “You look like a glitter bomb exploded all over you.” 

He scowls and reaches again for gloves waiting for him on the desk and then the note that caught his attention. Jasper and I lean in, trying to get a good look at what captured his attention. 

“It was the only one I saw in all caps. Made me think of those other notes.” He pulls it off the wall with his plastic gloves and lowers it for us to see. 

Don’t worry. I’ll find you.

I suck in a breath. 

“Damn,” Jasper whispers. 

Dan slaps the note against his hand. 

“Do we have a case again, detective?” I ask. 

He looks again at the note and then back at me. 

“Yeah. Yeah we have a case. I’ll get my guys to look into this as soon as possible.” 

I close my eyes in relief, the weight leaving my shoulders for the first time all day.

Posted on April 5, 2018 .

Day 2: Conflict of Interest

Visiting for the first time? You can read day one here

Dan doesn’t look happy to see us when we walk back into his office.

“I thought you were losing my card.” I feel my shoulders stiffen and shoot him a sarcastic smirk. 

“Good to see you again, Dan.” 

I take one of the seats in the corner and wait for Jasper to start talking. 

“We ran into each other as she was walking out,” Jasper explains. “I thought she was Juniper and…”

“…did you need me for something?” Dan interrupts. “I hate to be short but I have a meeting with the district attorney.” He takes a look at his watch. He looks bored and we haven’t even said anything yet. Jasper tenses and I clear my throat.

“And maybe you remember me saying that I am not leaving until I find my sister,” I say, pulling my feet underneath me and getting comfortable. I spread my hands out wide and grin widely. “Surprise! This means you get to deal with me until we really figure out what happened.” I flick a finger toward Jasper. “He also had something he wanted to tell you and I wanted to be here.” 

Dan glances at me before rolling his eyes and turning his attention to Jasper. I study the two men, noticing a vibration of energy that rolls between them. There’s a familiarity here I don’t understand. Both men are avoiding the other’s gaze with laser like precision.

“As you know, I worked - work - with Juniper at Sacred Heart.” 

“That’s right,” Dan says. “We questioned a lot of her coworkers. Nothing came up. In fact, according to our report, no one really knew her. She stayed to herself, never got involved, left early on occasion….”

“…that’s not entirely true.” It’s Jasper’s turn to interrupt. “I knew her. We were - are - friends. I don’t think she would have hurt herself.” He pauses. “And you didn’t talk with me when you asked around at the school. She was quiet, sure. But she was new — and you know the teachers at the school. They’re tight. They’re not the easiest group to get acclimated with once you join staff. It took your wife how long once she got a position? I remember conversations we had where she struggled to feel as though she belonged.”  

Dan’s neck goes red and my eyes go wide. Ah. That explains the tension in the room. These two know each other. And based on his reaction, Dan didn’t really want me finding out that his wife works at the school where Juniper teaches.

“Your wife works at Sacred Heart?” 

Dan sniffs and stands, putting his hands in his pockets and glancing out the window. He doesn’t even acknowledge my question. He’s so done with this conversation. With this investigation. Any second now he’s going to walk around his desk and open the door to his office, inviting us to leave. He looks at Jasper. 

“Wait.” I hold out my hand, demanding attention. Something isn’t adding up for me. Jasper and Dan know each other, because Jasper and Dan’s wife work together? At the same school Juniper is a teacher? There has to be a conflict of interest here. I zero in on Dan.

“Your wife works with my sister, and now Jasper is saying that the investigation at Sacred Heart might not have been as complete as you initially told me.” I look at him with suspicion. "Did you just speak with your wife about this? You told me you exhausted all avenues of possibility. You told me you spoke with everyone who ever interacted with Juniper.” I jut my chin at Jasper. “He knows her. Why didn’t you speak with him?” 

Dan adjusts his tie and sits against his desk, nearly knocking over his coffee. He grimaces and stands up straight. “There’s a lot there, Lavender. Yes, my wife Tracey does work at Sacred Heart but she’s not in the same department as your sister. She’s Dean of Students.” 

“Well that’s convenient,” I mutter. 

Dan ignores my comment and continues. 

“We visited the school. We focused our attention on those who might have been in contact with her the most.” He waves his hand dismissively. “But I didn’t get much more out of the teachers to change my mind about what I believe happened to your sister.” He studies Jasper. “Unless you have something relevant.”

“I do.” He leans forward in his chair and rests his elbows on his knees. “I overheard a conversation a few weeks ago. It was between Juniper and a student.” 

Dan leans against his filing cabinet and crosses his arms. “I would assume teachers speak with their students all the time. What was different about this conversation?” 

“They were talking about the capstone project due next week — him asking for an extension and Juniper refusing. They’ve had the entire year to work on this and we always get the stragglers at the end who want an exception. But then he said something I thought was strange. I walked in on the tail end of his comment so I don’t have the full context, but I wanted to share just in case.” He goes quiet for a second and turns to look at me, “he told her she couldn’t ignore him forever.” 

I frown. “What does that mean? She was talking with him. Why would he think she was ignoring him?” 

“I don’t know. She ended the conversation pretty quickly after that because she saw me walk in the door.” 

Dan sighs. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll keep in touch if I have any other questions.” 

Jasper slaps his thighs and leans back into his chair like he’s just getting settled in rather than preparing to leave.

“Well, there’s more to the story. Before Juniper ended the conversation and walked away, he slipped a note into the pages of the book she was holding.” He pulls something out of his pocket and drops it on Dan’s desk. It’s a folded piece of paper. I jump from my seat and grab it before Dan can get his hands on it.

 

I liked the blue sweater better. 

 

My blood runs cold before I can even understand the implications. Dan reaches for it and I move my hand away from his. “No. You don’t get this.” 

He holds out his hand. “If it’s evidence, yes, I do.” 

I take a deep breath and hesitantly pass it over, watching Dan’s reaction. He’s so stoic and I feel my face heat up with anger. 

I look at Jasper. 

“Did you take this?” 

He shakes his head. “She found it. We were at a coffee shop later that night working on some stuff for the gala and she pulled it out and read it — freaked out — asked me to get rid of it and ran to the bathroom. When she came back to the table she wasn’t wearing her sweater anymore. It was just the button up underneath.” 

“Was it blue?” I ask.

“No. It was red,” Jasper says. I remember because I asked her about it. She brushed it off as nothing, but she couldn’t finish the meeting. Her hands were shaking the entire time, she was distracted, kept looking around like she was expecting someone. She left early.” 

I sink back down into the chair. 

“Dan….do you have the other note? The note that you found in Juniper's car?” 

He looks at me for a moment before responding. 

“I don’t. But I have a picture of it.” He turns to open up a drawer in his filing cabinet. After a few moments, he pulls out a folder and rummages through it before finding what he’s looking for — a single piece of paper with the picture of the note photocopied on top of it.

“You guys don’t use digital files?” I ask, surprised.

“Oh we do. This was just easier to find — the file name on my computer would be something innocuous and confusing.” 

I reach for the paper and study the note. 

 

I can’t take it anymore. 

 

A stone lodges itself in my throat as I start making connections. It may be nothing, but at the very least I’ve effectively thrown this note out as a possible suicide decree. I hold the paper up for Dan to see. He leans forward and squints to see what I see. I point to the picture and then to the note in his hand.

“Same handwriting. This student was writing my sister notes.”

Posted on April 4, 2018 .

Day 1: Vanishing Act

I don't know why she did it. No one does. All I know is that one moment Juniper Reese existed, and the next she vanished into thin air. 

How does someone just...disappear?

I don't know what scientific explanation there is for what happens when identical twins are separated by death, but I imagine it has something to do with your molecular structure shifting into second gear. If I listen hard enough, I can still hear the second beat to the rhythm of my heart. I know Juniper is still alive because I feel her.

And yet, there aren’t any witnesses. The police can’t find anyone with any information. Her coworkers have no idea where she could be, her students are leaving pictures and cards taped on her white board in her classroom. I flew in to Providence three days ago and stood in front of her desk, fingering the notes, getting to know this piece of my sister I've never met. I retraced her steps to her cottage within steps of the ocean, pilfered through her documents and belongings, opened up mail and sat on her porch, watching the waves crash over each other. I was lost. I had no idea where to look or where to go. Our entire life, Juniper was the practical one. She purposefully chose Providence because of it's location and distance. 

"I need my own identity," she had told me.

And now I had no idea who she was and where she would go. 

Then out of nowhere, not even a week after she stopped returning my calls, everyone decides they're done. To them, Juniper is gone. But I know different. 

I would know if something happened to her....wouldn't I? 

I'm thinking about all of this as I'm sitting across from the detective in charge of the case. He's just listed all of the reasons why they're closing down the investigation and I can't do anything but laugh. 

“You okay, miss?” The detective circles a toothpick around his tongue and raises an eyebrow. His name is Dan. Such an ordinary name. My mother's voice echoes in my memory and I remember Juniper and I sitting on either side of her on the bed eating ice cream out of the carton. 

"Don't ever trust a man with an ordinary name, girls. He'll be so bored by the ordinary he'll purposefully shake up his life and create chaos on a whim." 

I fight a smile from the memory, suddenly aware why I've felt so resistant to Dan since meeting him. I cross my legs and shrug. “I’m fine. But Juniper isn’t dead.” 

"There was the note." 

I shake my head.

"That could mean anything. It’s not even her handwriting. I'm telling you. She's not dead." I tap his desk with my finger for emphasis. I can't believe they're still referencing the note stashed in between two books in the passenger seat of her car. 

I can’t take it anymore. 

That’s all it said. 

He sighs out of frustration, lifting his hands in surrender. 

“Do you know where she is?” 

“I’m her twin, not a psychic.” I shoot back. How many times had they asked me that question? How many times had I answered? At first I thought I knew. I gave suggestions. 

Check her ex. They were currently taking a break in an on again / off again relationship, but maybe they were hooking up again. 

Check her favorite spot to find quiet - the trail next to her house. More than once I called her and heard the crashing of the waves as she walked the perimeter and vented about her coworkers, her diet, her ex who was now her boyfriend again.

Check her laptop. Maybe she decided to take a last minute trip somewhere. She’d been talking about Morocco since we were ten. Maybe there? 

I ran out of places, and realized Juniper didn’t want to be found. 

“Did she have anyone who would have wanted her gone?” They asked. I couldn’t answer them. Juniper told me everything, at least I think she did, but what if there was someone in her life I didn’t know about — someone she needed to get away from? It had been over ten years since we shared space so completely that I knew everything about her. 

And so here I was, in the middle of a town I knew nothing about, my life on hold while I try to find my sister who apparently wanted to escape hers. 

“Is it normal to give up so soon? It’s been...six days?” 

Dan leans back in his chair, folding his hands across his chest. “When there are no leads, when we find the missing person’s shoes by the bay, when we find a note implying suicide in their car, when no one else can tell us anything different, then yes. We typically close the case.”

I’m shaking my head. 

“No. No. She didn’t kill herself. She’s still out there.” 

Dan looks at me and grimaces. “I don’t know what to say. I know this is hard.” He spreads his hands wide, “there’s really nothing else for us to investigate.” 

"Well it's been a real treat working with you, Detective." I say, rolling my eyes. 

He throws the toothpick in the nearby trash can and lets the chair pop forward, his elbows resting on his desk. 

"Are you headed back to San Jose?" 

I laugh. 

"No. I'm not leaving until I find my sister."

"You have my card."

I turn and walk out the door, "yep. And I'll make sure to lose it." 

I walk outside and pull my jacket closer to guard against the wind, running right into a chest that smells of sandalwood and smoke. 

"Oh. Gosh. Sorry." I mutter, maneuvering away from him and to my rental car. I feel a hand wrap around my wrist and I freeze.

"Juniper?" It's a whisper I almost miss, but my heart starts slowing down from the rush of adrenaline from being grabbed. I turn and look at the face that belongs to the chest and smile. 

"No. Not Juniper. I'm her twin, Lavender." I pause. "Did you know her?"

He stands there blinking for a moment and remembers his hand around my wrist. He lets go and his face grows red. 

"I'm so sorry. I thought..."

"We're identical twins. It's common. Don't worry about it." I brush the hair out of my eyes and squint against the setting sun. 

"You look...so much like her." 

"I mean, if we're getting technical, she looks like me. I'm two minutes older. And I still don't know your name." 

He shakes his head, "right. It's Jasper. I'm...clearly not in my right mind. I was headed to speak with the detective about something and then I saw you and thought I was looking at a ghost."

"You needed to tell the detective something?" 

"Yeah. It was about an interaction I saw between Juniper and one of her students. I thought maybe — possibly — it would help in some way." 

I open the door behind us and motion for him to go first. 

"Weren't you leaving?" He asks. 

"No. Not if there's something we can do to get this case open again." 

He walks through the door and turns around, a confused look on his face. "Did you say your name was Lavender?" 

"Yeah. Lavender Reese. Why?"

"And your twin's name was Juniper?"

"Her name is Juniper. And yes. Our mom had a thing with names." 

He nods like that's all he needs to know, and I say nothing else. 

Jasper. I think following him back through the hallway leading to Dan's office. Jasper is an interesting name. 

Posted on April 3, 2018 .