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?"
"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.