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.
“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?”
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.
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.”