There developed over the next several days a routine of my eating breakfast with Hope and then heading off to school for the day, coming home in the afternoon and having dinner and then going off to bed.  Hope would help Mother and Grandma around the house.  She glided into our family effortlessly, becoming one of us in no time.  One would almost think she’d always been there.  Little did I realize that she almost had been, once upon a time.

            When the weekend came we ate breakfast together as usual, only this time we both went outside together, taking a long walk through the pastures.  The air had that fresh coolness of early spring, that sweet smell that seems a harbinger of the rains that precede the flowers.  The sun was climbing in the sky, occasionally disappearing behind grey clouds that hung in the sky.  Those clouds seemed heavy, as if they were about to let loose their burden and drop it from the sky.

            “It looks like rain.”  I said, pointing.

            “Those clouds have been there all week, Gwen.  It hasn’t rained yet, not since I got here.  What makes you think it will?”  Hope asked.  She didn’t sound at all condescending about my idea like some big people could.  Instead it seemed as if she thought that she could learn something from me.

            “Smell the air.  There’s this kind of wetness to it.  Eth…uh, my big brother told me about that.”  I quieted quickly, realizing that I had almost said his name, an unforgivable sin in our home lately.  Hope seemed just as sensitive about it as everyone else, even though she was newest to the house.

            She stopped and stared at the clouds for a moment, as if consulting them.  Whatever was said in that silent conversation I’ll never know, but something changed.  She seemed to shrug, then she turned to me.

            “You know, it’s alright to talk about him with me.  About Ethan.” She spoke his name aloud, the first I had heard it from anyone else in months.  It seemed hard for her to say, but once she did it was like a great weight had been lifted.

            “I know it’s sad,” She continued, “but I think that’s why we need to talk about it…to get it out, so it doesn’t eat us up inside.”

            I nodded and then put my tiny hand in hers.  I started walking again, forcing her to come with me. 

            “Where are we going?”  She asked laughingly as I hurried, my tiny little legs scampering along.  She had to walk briskly to keep pace, despite her longer legs. 

            “I want to show you something.  It’s a place I know.  We can talk there.”

            We must have seemed quite the pair on that cloudy spring morning, a tiny girl of six with long dark hair blowing carelessly in the wind as I guided us through the pastures, she a young woman with flowing golden tresses being led by the hand like a child.

            I led her through trees and we emerged by the pond.  An old fort built of rocks, lumber and logs was close at hand.  I had discovered it a few weeks before while exploring.

            “Isn’t it great?”  I asked, looking at Hope with a smile, expecting her to love it as much as I did.

            Upon her face was a look of total shock.  It seemed as if the place had struck a chord in her memories, like my brother’s room had, only this seemed a happier remembrance.

            “I can’t believe it…” Her voice was almost a whisper, but it was filled with a childlike joy.  “You found it.”

            “What?  What did we find?”  I asked, wondering why it seemed like such a big deal to her.

            “It’s from a game we played.”  She explained, going closer to the fort and surveying it, looking at every detail.  “Camelot, the Lady of the Lake…  I was the Lady, and this was my fairy palace.  We were young, just a few years older than you.”

            “That sounds like fun!”  I exclaimed.  “Who was Arthur?”

            “Our friend, Neal.  He was my age, a year older than your brother.  He led us, but Ethan created the game.  It was all his idea.”  She had sat down upon a moss-covered stone inside the fort, and was looking about with eyes as wide as saucers. 

            “Tell me about it.  I want to hear everything!”  I said, eager for stories about my brother and sister, but also curious about the game.

            “Well, back then this was your grandparents’ farm, it was before your granddad died and left it to your father.  Ethan and Genevieve were staying with them for the summer while your mom and dad went to Europe.” Hope began, spinning a story of her childhood as we sat.

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Next Chapter:  Continue Gwen’s story

or, read about the Camelot Summer in The Companions