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For Jed and Opal
4:31 a.m., September 11, 2002
Owl's Head, New York
It was the moonlight that woke me, I think. It was streaming through the window and dancing on my bed, staining my bright red quilt silver with its footprints.
I got out of bed and hurried to the window. The smooth wood floor was cold under my feet. The moon was smiling down on me, and on the waters of the lake about ten yards from the back door, and on a rowboat at the dock.
And at someone sitting in it. Lara. She was sitting in the stern, cloaked in a light blue blanket, staring into the distance...
It didn't take me long to leave my room and tip-toe down the hall to the back door. Dew clung to my feet as I ran through the grass, and above my bare head, the first maple leaves were beginning to turn yellow. I ran down the wooden dock and clambered into the rowboat beside her. Without a word, Lara reached over me and untied the boat from the dock. Then she put the oars in the oarlocks and we glided out onto the shimmering water.
I sat in the bow and watched her row. Pull lift splash, pull lift splash...We neared the middle of the lake and she set down the oars. Gently, like she didn't want to hurt them. I reached over the side of the boat and dragged my fingers through the water.
“It's been a year since they died.” Lara's voice sliced through the still world like a knife. I nodded silently. We just sat there for a while, not saying anything... The boat rocked back and forth. A light breeze tousled my hair.
“You may not remember this lake,” Lara said quietly, “but I do. I lived here for the first six years of my life. In that house over there. We moved to the city three months after you were born.”
I nodded again.
Lara swallowed hard. “I miss them so much.”
“I do too,” I said, “but after a while I realized that you have to stop believing they're gone. When you stop believing that, you'll find that they were standing in front of you all the time. You just have to look in the right places.”
Lara nodded slowly. “Where do you look?”
I shrugged. “Lot's of places. In the lake, in the song birds outside my window, in the sky. I've found them many times in the sky...”
Lara nodded again. Then she looked up.
Thousands of tiny pinpoints of light dotted the sky. The full moon shone in the middle of it all.
“Stars are such beautiful things,” Lara whispered, “so small and yet so powerful...”
I smiled at her. “I think you found them.”
Lara laughed and reached for the oars.
The haunting call of a loon echoed across the still water. The sun began to rise.