General Fiction posted March 9, 2017

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She couldn't give up on the search for the missing girl.


by carey1

She wore her favorite red coat and looked at the well-worn footpath that stretched out before her. The sun was shining through the leaves as she set out on her journey. She's walked the path every morning, for the past fifteen years. She even walks it at night once in a while, just because she wants to; and she believes that no other reason is necessary. She always liked the spot, even as a child. She would stop and collect an unusual rock or a leaf. She loved the sounds of the woods. She could make out the bristling of small animals scurrying away as she passed by. She would hear chirping birds and pounding woodpeckers; then when she looked up to catch a glimpse they would take off, and small twigs would fall into her hair. Her laughter would break the otherwise enchanting noises of the forest.

Now it's been all those years ago since a girl called Clara Martin went missing, from this place. She always believed that Clara belonged to someone, a mother, father, a lover, someone cared, at least she hoped that someone cared. So, she helped with the search then and had been looking ever since. Even when everyone gave up, she just couldn't abandon hope.

Whenever the anniversary of the disappearance comes around, there are others walking the footpath as well. They chatter and laugh and take away the reverent silence that the area affords. They follow the trail Clara took that goes through Glennport Woods, around the lake and then comes out at the picnic grove on the other end. It is about five miles in all. Clara Martin was supposed to meet her friends at the end, and she was bringing the wine.

The reporters come to rehash the story of the girl who vanished without a trace, on her way to celebrating the autumnal equinox. They stick microphones and cameras in anyone's face who would be willing to take about the event.

"A puzzle, and such a sweet young girl," the mayor was quoted as saying.

He's real motive for coming is it good publicity, and he believes it shows his human side, which some people suspect he lacks.
Others come out of curiosity, or ghoulish inquisitiveness. But the rest of the year she walks alone, and that is fine, too, in fact, she prefers it.

Every day as she starts out she has hope that she will be successful in her quest for a sign, a clue, something, anything that might help in determining what happened to Clara Martin.
On a few occasions, there have been people who claim to have seen Clara, but only fleeting, out of the corner of their eyes, and too blurry to be sure.

One such witness was a boy named Harry Whitmore. He was telling the reporter about his experience; he claims he was on his way to the creek that runs through the woods to catch a frog as part of his science fair project.

"I could hear the frogs croakin' and callin' to each other, so I knew I was getting close. I didn't want to scare them away, so I started walkin' real slow and quiet. Then I felt a sudden coldness, and a chill went up my spine. I turned around real quick like, and there she was plain as day."
She stopped to listen, even though she had never seen anything, and she was here every day.

The homely boy stroked his chin and continued with his moment of fame, "Well, like I said I knew it was her."

The reporter interrupted, "And how's that, young man, how did you know it was her?"

"Why she was wearin' that bright red coat, the one she went missing in. Yep, it was her alright."

Hearing his words, she looked down at herself in her red coat, and everything came together.
The walk through the park, holding the bottle of wine, the two strangers, the tape across her mouth, the rope, the smell of the car trunk, the stink of their breaths, the pain, the darkness, the beginning of the walk on the footpath.

The truth was evident, the questions were answered, and her role was defined.

"I'm Clara Martin, and I haunt these woods," she whispered.

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