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 .