Two Can Keep a Secret(4)

The unopened package has the Hanes logo on the front, along with a picture of a smiling blond woman wearing a sports bra and underpants that come halfway up her waist. “Oh no.”

“Oh yes. Those are literally granny panties. Nana says she bought a couple sizes too small by mistake and forgot to return them. Now they’re yours.”

“Fantastic,” I mutter, swinging my legs out of bed. I’m wearing the T-shirt I had layered under my sweater yesterday, plus a rolled-up pair of Ezra’s sweatpants. When I learned I’d be moving to Echo Ridge, I went through my entire closet and ruthlessly donated anything I hadn’t worn in the past few months. I pared my wardrobe down so much that everything, except for a few coats and shoes that I shipped last week, fit into a single suitcase. At the time, it felt like I was bringing order and control to at least one small part of my life.

Now, of course, all it means is that I have nothing to wear.

I pick my phone up from the nightstand, checking for a luggage-related text or voice mail. But there’s nothing. “Why are you up so early?” I ask Ezra.

He shrugs. “It’s not that early. I’ve been walking around the neighborhood. It’s pretty. Very leafy. I posted a couple of Insta stories. And made a playlist.”

I fold my arms. “Not another Michael playlist.”

“No,” Ezra says defensively. “It’s a musical tribute to the Northeast. You’d be surprised how many songs have a New England state in the title.”

“Mm-hmm.” Ezra’s boyfriend, Michael, broke up with him preemptively the week before we left because, he said, “long-distance relationships don’t ever work.” Ezra tries to act like he doesn’t care, but he’s created some seriously emo playlists since it happened.

“Don’t judge.” Ezra’s eyes drift toward the bookcase, where In Cold Blood is lined up neatly next to my Ann Rule collection, Fatal Vision, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the rest of my true-crime books. They’re the only things I unpacked last night from the boxes stacked in one corner of the room. “We all have our coping mechanisms.”

He retreats to his room, and I gaze around the unfamiliar space I’ll be living in for the next four months. When we arrived last night, Nana told me that I’d be sleeping in Sadie’s old room. I was both eager and nervous opening the door, wondering what echoes of my mother I’d find inside. But I walked into a standard guest bedroom without a scrap of personality. The furniture is dark wood, the walls a pale eggshell. There’s not much in the way of decor except for lacy curtains, a plaid area rug, and a framed print of a lighthouse. Everything smells faintly of lemon Pledge and cedar. When I try to imagine Sadie here—fixing her hair in the cloudy mirror over the dresser or doing her homework at the old-fashioned desk—the images won’t come.

Ezra’s room is the same. There’s no hint that a teenage girl ever lived in either of them.

I drop to the floor beside my moving boxes and root around in the nearest one until I come across plastic-wrapped picture frames. The first one I unwrap is a photo of Ezra and me standing on Santa Monica Pier last year, a perfect sunset behind us. The setting is gorgeous, but it’s not a flattering picture of me. I wasn’t ready for the shot, and my tense expression doesn’t match Ezra’s wide grin. I kept it, though, because it reminded me of another photo.

That’s the second one I pull out—grainy and much older, of two identical teenage girls with long, curly hair like mine, dressed in ’90s grungewear. One of them is smiling brightly, the other looks annoyed. My mother and her twin sister, Sarah. They were seventeen then, seniors at Echo Ridge High like Ezra and I are about to be. A few weeks after the photo was taken, Sarah disappeared.

It’s been twenty-three years and no one knows what happened to her. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say that if anybody does know, they’re not telling.

I place the photos side by side on top of the bookcase, and think about Ezra’s words in the airport last night, after Andy overshared his origin story. What a weird thing to grow up with, though, huh? Knowing how easily you could’ve been the wrong twin.

Sadie never liked talking about Sarah, no matter how hungry I was for information. There weren’t any pictures of her around our apartment; I had to steal this one off the Internet. My true-crime kick started in earnest with Lacey’s death, but ever since I was old enough to understand what happened to Sarah, I was obsessed with her disappearance. It was the worst thing I could imagine, to have your twin go missing and never come back.

Sadie’s smile in the photo is as blinding as Ezra’s. She was a star back then—the popular homecoming queen, just like Lacey. And she’s been trying to be a star ever since. I don’t know if Sadie would have done better than a handful of walk-on roles if she’d had her twin cheering her on. I do know there’s no possible way she can feel complete. When you come into the world with another person, they’re as much a part of you as your heartbeat.

There are lots of reasons my mother got addicted to painkillers—a strained shoulder, a bad breakup, another lost role, moving to our crappiest apartment yet on her fortieth birthday—but I can’t help but think it all started with the loss of that serious-faced girl in the photo.

The doorbell rings, and I almost drop the picture. I completely forgot I was supposed to be getting ready to meet a police officer. I glance at the mirror over the dresser, wincing at my reflection. My hair looks like a wig, and all my anti-frizz products are in my missing suitcase. I pull my curls into a ponytail, then twist and turn the thick strands until I can knot the ends together into a low bun without needing an elastic. It’s one of the first hair tricks Sadie ever taught me. When I was little we’d stand at the double sink in our bathroom, me watching her in the mirror so I could copy the quick, deft motion of her hands.

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