Sara was smiling. Chatting openly. Even laughing. The Sara I’d lost five years ago was back. I watched her toss her golden braids and look me in the eye as she told me the history behind this funny-named town of Yreka. The little girl, this sister of mine, had grown up almost into a lady.
I nodded at all the right times—hopefully—but my mind was on those years we’d lost after our parents had died. We’d been put in different foster homes. Separated not only in body, but in heart, too. But not any more. No, I’d changed that with one impulsive action and here we were together again.
“It’s not pronounced like eureka.” She dumped syrup onto her lunch of breakfast pancakes. “It’s actually why-REEK-ah.”
“Why reek-ah? Because I need a shower-ah.”
I got an eye roll for that. And an almost-giggle. I liked the giggles.
Just then her expression changed. She was looking behind me. “Sanders.” The way she said my name made my heart stop. I turned, but all I saw was an empty table with a newspaper, fluttering in the breeze from the diner door.
As I was turning back, the door opened again and in the flapping pages I saw a glimpse of a black and white face. My face.
I scooted out of the booth. It seemed an exceptionally long bench. Each step I took across the yellow linoleum floor carried a beat, no no no no no. I didn’t look at the newspaper, just picked it up. I walked past my previous seat and slid right in next to my sister.
We opened it together, flipping pages, each normal news article bringing a tiny bit of relief. Maybe... maybe it hadn’t actually been— but no. There it was. Under the bold heading “Have You Seen These Missing Children?” there were two black and white photos of us, side by side just like we sat now.
Sanders Blackwin, 17, last seen in Brawley, CA. It was a bad picture of me. I was scowling and looked almost mean. Sara Blackwin, 12, last seen in Brawley, CA. That one was several years old, with her perky pigtails looking much darker in ink than the near-white they were in real life.
Sara gripped my arm. All hint of the smiling girl from a few moments ago was gone. She was pulling down, back into herself. “Sanders,” her voice was so soft I could hardly hear it. “I can’t go back there.” Her fingers drifted to her cheek, wrapping protectively around the deep purple bruise that marred it.
I pulled her tight. “Sara, I won’t let us get separated again, and I won’t let them take you back there. No matter what happens, we’ll stay together, okay?”
She took a shuddering breath and I felt her head move in a nod.
I rested my chin on her hair and knew one thing in my heart. No matter what that newspaper said, we weren’t missing. We’d found our own eureka moment here in Yreka. We’d found family.
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