I wore a warm sweater my mother had made.  It was predominately blue, but had pink and purple designs.  Even so, I felt shivers run through me as we approached the old cemetery.  It was old, with some tombstones from the nineteenth century when the town was founded.  It no longer had a fence, but some of the plots were well kept by loving families.  Not all of the graves were so old, some were fairly recent.  At town meetings they would talk about building a new fence and gate, but nothing was ever done.

            We walked through slowly.  I was holding Hope’s hand and stayed close to her side, as if I expected something to jump out at me.  We headed towards the woods at the rear of the cemetery.  Here we would find the oak tree my brother had written about.

            “There it is,” Hope said, “But I don’t know what you hope to find.”

            I ran up to the large tree and sat down on the ground.  It was wet and muddy, so I kind of just knelt, resting my bottom on my heels and balancing.  I looked around, to see if I could guess what my brother had seen.

            “He wrote about a statue, remember?  He tried to stand up, and couldn’t.  Where is it?”

            “I don’t know.  Gwen, it’s cold and I’m tired.  We’re not going to find anything.  Can we please go?”  This was the first time I had ever heard impatience in Hope’s voice, but I knew that she was upset about my brother’s journal and probably uncomfortable in the graveyard.

            “There!”  I said, pointing behind her.  There was a statue of an angel on a grave, just beyond where she was standing.  I walked up to it.  Carved from marble, the angel was weatherworn, but it had wings.  “I bet that this is what he saw.  It has wings.”

            “Good, great.  Let’s go!  I think the rain is going to start again.”

            “Okay, I’m coming.”  I said.  I looked back at the tree.  It occurred to me that it was pretty far away, so I wasn’t sure that it was possible to see the statue from the tree during a storm, but what other explanation was there?

For a while we left the journals alone.  I guess Hope was kind of depressed, because they were filled with pages where he mourned the loss of her friendship.  At some point in the autumn after she graduated, he outgrew his infatuation somehow, and it was clear that he recognized it for what it was, an unhealthy obsession.  He seemed to be filled with feelings of guilt and remorse over losing her as a friend, and he blamed himself.  She said that all of it contained signs of the same thing that brought on his obsession in the first place, his lack of self-esteem.

            “He never saw in himself what all of us loved.  He was so smart and talented, and caring.  But he still saw what the bullies saw in grade school, someone who was different.  Just because they believed that different was to be hated doesn’t mean it always has to be.  Different can mean special, too, and Ethan was special.”  She said once, exasperated by reading page after page of his self-deprecating journals.

            We watched his movies instead.  In the characters of the movies I could honestly see my brother.  Superman cared about everyone, and tried to save everybody all the time, and that was Ethan.  The impatient, irrepressible Luke Skywalker of the first two Star Wars movies seemed a lot like Ethan, who hated to wait for anything.  He dreamed of big adventures all the time, and Hope said that his imagination always had the best of him.  That was why he made the King Arthur game and wrote so many stories.

            “It’s escapism.  He had this creative, imaginative mind and felt like the world hated him, so he would make worlds of his own.  I think he was hoping to make the world a better place someday, and in the meantime was living in one of his own.”  She said.

            We watched Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, which was already one of my favourites.  Knowing that my brother liked it too made it even better.  Hope actually cried, and then explained why.  She guessed that my brother loved its message, that, no matter how ugly the outside of a person is, the inside is what counts.

            “He wanted someone to see him and love him, like Belle loved Beast.  It’s sad, because his depression and lack of self-respect are all that kept people from seeing him as lovable.  If he could just see himself, other people would, too!”

            She had been reading his books, too, the ones on his shelves.  She’d tell me a bit about them, but said I’d understand better when I was older and could read them for myself.  She did say that most of them were about quests, like the Lord of the Rings and the Dark Tower series.   He seemed to like the idea of a hero or a group of companions searching for something.

            “I guess he always wanted that kind of adventure for himself.”  Hope said.  “So he had them by reading.” 

After she’d been with us for a few weeks, Hope took me out to the pond.

            “I have to go back to my school for a few weeks, I have a few more exams to write.  I came here as soon as classes were done, and stayed as long as I could, but I can’t stay anymore.”

            I almost burst into tears, and hugged her to prevent them.

            “You’re coming back, right?”  I asked.

            “Of course I am.  As soon as I’m done.  I’ll probably stay at my parent’s house, but it’s only ten or fifteen minutes to walk there.  We have all summer, except when I’m working.”

            She hugged me.  “I want you to keep the journals for me, take care of them until I get back.”

            The next day she left.  I never saw her again.

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