Becca and Danielle Taylor hated the way people looked at them, but after four years, they had grown used to it. Becca dragged her feet down the hallway on the last day before winter break of her senior year would officially begin. Students grew chatty, all impatient and excited for the final bell to ring, except Becca. Winter breaks weren’t the same at her house without her parents. Dread evoked every time she had to help Danielle decorate their house, in Edgewater, NJ, which was much too big for the two of them alone. Decorating meant hanging only two stockings, not four anymore. Memories that blossomed from that time of year made it impossible for her to forget what had happened. It was the beginning of December when the officer knocked on their front door, bearing the bad news that James and Adriana Taylor were heading north over the bridge that crossed the Hudson River, when the car skid on a patch of ice, plunging the car into the water. Becca was fourteen years old, while Danielle was merely ten.
Danielle entered their house on Wickery Lane, with Becca trailing behind after locking her car.
“I’m so glad we have two weeks off from school! Do you want a snack? I’m going to make popcorn then watch a movie,” Danielle called while heading toward the kitchen, flipping her silky long blonde hair over her shoulder.
“Yeah, make me a bag, I’ll join you.” Becca replied, then plopped herself onto the dark burgundy couch. Danielle strolled in, hopped onto the couch beside her sister, then shoved her hand into the large bowl in her lap.
“Hungry? Feel free to save me some, fat ass!” Becca teased, causing her sister to stick out her tongue in response. Both girls laughed together. If anyone peered into their window, they would conclude that the girls were twins. Although they were four years apart, Danielle looked like a miniature version of her older sister. Probably because, being a teenager, she mimicked her sister with everything. Blonde hair that trailed to their waists, and striking green eyes that could be seen from miles away, were two traits they had in common that made them identical.
“Why do I have to work over break? It’s not a break if I still have work,” Becca groaned.
“Yeah, cause asking people if they want a cheeseburger or chicken fingers is so difficult,” mocked Danielle, tossing another handful of popcorn into her mouth..
“You have no idea how difficult people can be. It’s terrible.”
“That’s true, I’m going to work in retail once I get a job. That seems pretty simple, right?” Becca nodded and turned her head toward the TV. When the movie finished, Becca climbed into the driver’s seat of her Mazda, waved at her sister through the window, then headed to work.
After a torturous dinner shift, she flung open the door of their house, acknowledging that it was already unlocked. She didn’t think twice about it, and then called out for Danielle. When all she heard was the echo of her own voice, she walked upstairs to see if her sister was sleeping.
“Danielle, are you home?” “Dani?” she called multiple times, repeatedly getting no response. Becca grabbed her cell phone and dialed her sister’s number, assuming one of her friends picked her up and she forgot to tell Becca. Danielle’s ringtone flooded into her ears, and she trailed toward the sound that led her back to the living room. Panic struck her once she saw her sister’s phone sitting on the couch, without her sister in sight.
“She would never go anywhere without her cell phone,” Becca said through the telephone. “She’s a teenager, she is obsessed with the thing. She couldn’t have left the house willingly! Could you please help me?” She begged, desperately, to the police officer on the line.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to help you at the moment. A person must be unaccounted for, for at least twenty-four hours before we declare a missing person search.” Dissatisfied with this reply, she slammed the phone down in anger, and paced across the room as she dialed Danielle’s friends. None of them could tell Becca of Danielle’s whereabouts. Her heart raced and tears flowed down her face. Once dizziness overwhelmed her, she forced herself to lie down, leaning her head on the small throw pillow. She cried, “I can’t lose her, she’s all I have left! She wouldn’t have left me!” She repeated these words again until she dozed into a deep sleep.