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  • Writer's pictureNicole Jorge


They said Laurie wasn’t disappeared so much as displaced. Nobody knew what to make of it. She kept turning up, see. John David swears he saw her once walking the treeline at the edge of his property, but she was gone by the time he made it there. And our old teacher Miss Woods was parked on the corner of Vance and Cherry in the rain when Laurie just crossed the street to her left, gone behind the pharmacy when Miss Woods recovered enough from her shock to follow. The craziest sighting was the time she showed up on the Taylor family’s deer stand camera out smack dab in the middle of the woods. She was barefoot in the same nightgown she’d been wearing the last time we saw her. She didn’t look scared or upset. Even the deer in the frame with her appeared totally unconcerned. Laurie was clutching Nana’s shawl, the one that was hung up the back of one of the dining chairs when she got lost.

I guess “got lost” is a strange way to put it. But what else could you say? There was no sign of breaking and entering. It didn’t help that Laurie had formed a habit of wandering off in those last days at home. Sleepwalking, Mama called it, wandering the neighborhood until dawn. It didn’t matter that the doors had been locked, the burglar alarm active. It was like she’d just teleported outside to turn up drowsy on the back step in the morning.

Until the day she didn’t turn up.

Some people figured she’d wandered into a ditch or been hit by a car. Others thought she’d been easy pickings for some passing pervert. The janitor at the elementary school glimpsed her through a classroom window only to find the room empty by the time he opened the door. The Norbert family’s security camera caught her quietly crossing their yard, unlatching their back gate, and leaving it open behind her as she made her way into the woods.

That was about when our parents decided it was time to move out into the city. I think if Laurie had properly vanished, maybe we would’ve stayed. They could’ve held onto hope that she might turn up someday, whether dead or escaped from some sinister captor. I think it was harder for them knowing she was just sort of around. Some people thought she was a ghost. I believe my parents just reached the point where they didn’t know. Like they were happier without the truth.

The thing about the city is that it never sleeps. We traded one kind of nocturnal ruckus for another - cicadas for car engines, the hooting of owls for drunken shouting, the crashing of animals through the brush for wailing ambulance sirens. Our new place was smaller than our old home. It should’ve been easier for us all to keep track of each other. But these days it seems like we’re never in the same place at the same time. There’s an alley back behind the building that stretches on and on, dirty asphalt lit from above smelling of other peoples’ food. Sometimes I walk there. Some nights I can’t sleep. I think about Laurie when I slip unnoticed out the back to wander. I wonder if she felt like me, detached, like a stranger in her own home. I wonder if someone or something called to her like the alley calls to me. Every night I walk farther, and I wonder if the day will come that I don’t make it back home in time for sunrise. I wonder what our parents will think.

But most of all, I wonder…where will I go?

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