It didn’t get any easier with time. Maybe the wounds were still too fresh or she’d hoped for too much too soon, but she kept putting one foot in front of the other. It helped, having Sounder with her, the handle of his leash wound tightly around her right hand while her left had a loose grip around a bouquet of lilacs that she’d just picked up after taking her dog to the vet.
They were practically alone and it was a relief for her. The time she spent there was sacred to her in spite of how much it hurt and how empty she felt each time she left, once again realizing that Jenny couldn’t come with her.
“Hi,” she said softly as she reached her destination. Her tone was still the calm and soothing one she’d always used when she said the first words to Jenny in the morning as she woke up next to her. When she held her close, when one or both of them needed comfort. Her last words before they fell asleep. The way she’d spoken to her the last time they saw each other, at the studio…
She slowly bent down in front of the headstone, placing the flowers on top of it as neatly as she could before she sat down on the ground, looking down at her hands. “I… I need to talk to you,” she managed after a while. Tilting her head up a little, she let her gaze trace along the lines of the letters engraved on the stone without reading them. “I’m leaving town tonight, Sounder’s going with me and I don’t know how long we’ll be gone.”
As she said it, she realized it was true. She didn’t know how Miranda would react when she saw her again or if she’d even want her there – she wasn’t going to try to fool herself into thinking the possibility that she didn’t wasn’t there – but there were other cities than Pittsburgh. If her stay there would turn out to be a short one, she’d probably head to Oregon for a while to see Shay again. It had been too long since she last saw him, and talking to her brother on the phone just wasn’t the same thing. Besides, it would soon be his twelfth birthday. Either way, wherever she was going didn’t matter in the end. She was starting to realize she simply needed to get away for a while, and felt an inexplicable need to explain herself to Jenny because of it.
“I’m going to Pittsburgh,” she went on, swallowing. “There’s something about me that I never told you about, and I know I should have. It just never came up, but uh, I…” She wanted Jenny to know everything. To know her. Jenny had been so open to her about everything about her life, told her things she wouldn’t share with anyone, with the exception of Shane’s jacket and the letter from Molly that she’d hidden in the attic, but even that she found understandable and couldn’t hold it against her. In return, no one knew Shane better than Jenny had and still there were so many things she’d never told her. Important things that maybe would have changed a lot in her life if only Jenny had known about them, but she wasn’t going to torture herself once again with the what-ifs. She didn’t even know if Jenny could hear her now, but she wanted to believe that she could, so she went on.
“Jen… Shay and I…” She paused again and lifted her left hand, pinching the bridge of her nose and squeezing her eyes shut as she felt that familiar stinging feeling in them, trying to will the tears away without even knowing why they were coming in the first place. “It’s not just us,” she went on after a moment. “We have a sister who lives there. Her name’s Miranda and she’s… we’re twins.” Chuckling uneasily through the tears that were just beginning to trickle down her cheeks, she shook her head slowly. “She’s nothing like me at all, though. If you’d ever met her you would have known exactly what I mean. We look alike, but that’s about it. She’s a transplant surgeon and she’s just so unbelievably smart and selfless and I’m so proud of her.”
When she suddenly sniffled she startled Sounder who had been lying down on the grass next to her and he got up and climbed onto her lap. She smiled a little in spite of her tears and gently scratched the top of his head. “I know I should have told you,” she mumbled as a lump started to form in her throat, “but she and I don’t talk to each other and I guess… I guess I was just trying to forget.”
The morning sun shining down on her from a clear blue sky made her feel like it was mocking her for what she’d said. There was no such thing as forgetting something like that. In the daylight she had a chance of at least trying, but it all came back to haunt her as soon as she closed her eyes at night. There hadn’t been a single day since she’d been separated from her sister that she hadn’t thought about her. Wondering how she was feeling, if she was okay, sometimes if she was even alive. When she lost her mother had been one of the most difficult times of her life, but at least they had each other back then. Without Miranda, nothing was the same anymore, and after Jenny… She bit down on her bottom lip, struggling to hold back a sob. She couldn’t even finish that thought and instead tried to go on telling Jenny her story.
“See, I…” she continued, not sure where she’d left off. “Max helped me find her before the wedding. I hadn’t seen her for years, but when you talked me into going to Oregon I went to Pittsburgh and saw her too, that’s why I was gone for so long. We hadn’t talked since we were kids and uh…” Taking a deep breath, she lifted her hand and pulled her fingers through her hair as she sighed. “It didn’t turn out that well. It just seemed like I was making her uncomfortable… so I left. But none of that matters now. I think she needs me so I have to at least make sure she’s all right.”
“You know how they say some identical twins can somehow… just know what the other feels, even when they’re not together? We’ve been able to do that since we were little, even though we haven’t been talking, and even when we’re on opposite sides of the country.” She stopped as she realized she didn’t know for sure if Miranda still could, only that she did, but that was beside the point. “I – I can’t explain it, but that’s how it is. I know something isn’t all right with her right now, and this feeling isn’t gonna go away until I see with my own eyes that she’s okay.”
How she’d managed to stay calm enough to say all of that, she had no idea, but it was quickly becoming too much for her. The words she said were being replaced by images, memories, that flashed before her eyes and rang through her ears, faster than she could push them away again. Thoughts telling her that maybe if she’d done things differently, not kept so many secrets or tried to forget things she needed to remember, things wouldn’t have turned out the way they had.
“And I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you any of this,” she sobbed loudly, taking a breath that hitched in her throat. “But… It was the worst thing that had ever happened to me and – and if I said anything it would have just brought it all back up again.” She squeezed her eyes shut and struggled to breathe as the tears kept streaming down her cheeks. She couldn’t even think anymore, the words just seemed to come out of her on their own accord, and for the first time, she let them. “When they… separated us and decided we weren’t gonna see each other again, it felt like they cut right through me. But it was like, you know, when they take someone’s arm off; you can still feel the pain. And I felt it. I still feel it when she’s in pain and I’m not there with her, and I can’t fix it.”
“And then when I went there to see her, it was just so clear to me that she’s…she’s whole again. She healed and I didn’t. And I don’t want to be broken around her because it’s not fair to her. But I have to make sure she’s okay because it doesn’t feel like she is. That’s why I have to go.” After the last word she quickly covered her mouth with her hand as she felt the vile taste of vomit in her mouth, instinctively swallowing it before the sobs grew more violent and she covered her face in both hands. She soon heard Sounder whimpering in front of her and felt him licking her hands as if he tried to help her wipe away the tears and tell her things would be okay.
“Jen, I…” she said quietly, when she had calmed down enough to be able to speak again. “I really need to leave. Maybe it’s better this way.” Raising her hands to try to wipe away more of the tears that kept coming, she shook her head. “This place isn’t home anymore without you.”
“Even if I’m leaving too…” she added and placed her left hand over her heart, “I’ll still keep you here.”
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