The next year I found a note at the grave site that said “we will be here when you are ready”.
For the next three years nothing changed, I would go home in the summer and spend a lot of nights laying between their graves and meet John every fall and spend the winters down south.
The next year I found a note that told me that my parents had passed away. It didn’t say how but it didn’t need too.
That fall I was waiting at the normal spot that I would meet John at but after waiting for over two weeks I left and went to the trading post. After giving my furs to the trader he asked if I had heard about John, shaking my head no he told me that they heard that he was found in his camp. It seemed he had die in his sleep and they just found out last night.
That was the night that The General told his story.
After that I lost track of time or maybe I just didn’t want to know.
Every summer I got home there was always a note and the girl was always there along with the older lady. As the years passed the girl was growing and the other lady seemed to slow down.
One summer I that I was home there were a lot of helicopters flying around one day and the next day. I had to move from one of my normal trapping spots three valleys over because there were a lot of people there. I was hunting in the valley on the other side of home when I saw a girl waving as a helicopter flew over head. I knew that they could not see her as she was in the trees.
After the helicopter had passed I could hear her crying. I stood up from my hunting blind and started walking to the girl. When she saw me I don’t know if she was more scared of me or the fact that she was lost.
Now I had not cut my hair or beard in a long time and I didn’t wear normal clothes, what I wore I make from the animals that I killed. I was told I looked like the guys from a movie about mountain men. Now I had not really talked to anyone since I left those many years ago and even less since John had passed away.
The girl was wearing what I knew was Girl Scout clothes that was easy to see. Before she could run I told her I only wanted to help her find her way home.
I had stopped walking to her and she just looked at me. I told her that there was a town just over the ridge and if she followed me I would show her.
I turned and slowly started walking home. At first I didn’t hear her move and I was wondering if I was going to have to go into town to tell someone where she was but after a little bit I could hear her following me.
After I topped the ridge and started down the girl started to move faster, I turn and when I did she almost fell down trying to stop. I told her not to run as she might fall or run over the many drop-off that are hidden up here. After that I started back down the hill.
Once I got to appoint that there was a well used trail I stopped and moved to the side. I told her if she followed the path it would take her to the town and help but I warned her again not to run.
As I moved off to the side and back up the hill she started down. I followed her most of the way but stayed hidden so as not to scare her.
That night there was a note thanking me for helping to bring the girl home and again telling me that when I was ready to come home they will be there.
I left shortly after that because people started coming up into the area, mostly police and guys with guns.
The next summer I was just coming back from fishing when I heard a noise. Now living in the woods this long I could tell what noise belong to what animal and where and how far away it was. I knew that this was a person and I was almost to the top of the ridge when I heard it. As I looked over the ridge I saw a girl standing looking around.
When she said I know you’re here somewhere I just want to thank you for helping me last year and to tell you something someone asked to pass along if I ever saw you again. When you’re ready come home.
I watch as she went back down the hill towards the town. I did not see her again all summer and no one else came up. I spent the rest of the summer at home and most nights laying between Amy and Emily trying to remember them.
That winter was a hard one the cold hit even down where I normally went so I think I was a little late getting back home because when I got there, there were two notes. The first one was the same that has been left every year and the second one asking if everything was ok.
The next Sunday I saw what looked like two ladies going to the graves and then one of them kneeled down then stood up fast and waved.
It was about halfway through summer when I came over the ridge and saw a girl sitting on a log. She surprised me because I had not heard her.
I must have made a noise because she turned before I could move and slip away. She stood and said “I knew you were back”. I looked at her and she looked familiar. She giggled and said “you don’t remember, two years ago I got lost and you helped me home”.
I just nodded yes and she said “last year I came up here one time to thank you but didn’t know if you heard but I couldn’t come back because my mom found out and grounded me”.
I think it was the first time that I laughed in many years. She said “oh you think it is funny that I come up here to thank you and get in trouble”. I shook my head no and sat down right where I was.
She looked at me and said “I know you can talk because you did before. Why don’t you now”.
I looked at her and asked her what her name was, she smiled and said “Paula what’s yours”. It actually took a second to remember and I told her Charles. She laughed and asked “what did you forget your own name”. When I lowered my head she said she was sorry.
She then asked me how long had I been living in the mountains, I told her I didn’t know and that I didn’t even know what year it was.
She didn’t tell me what year it was but she did talk about when she got lost. She was out hiking with the Girl Scouts when she went looking for something that her aunt has always said was up here. Then she got lost and only being 13, almost 14 and alone in the woods for the first time she was scared. Then she giggled and said I had scared her even more at first but then she remembered something and them it was ok.
Now I never asked a question the whole time she was talking, one because I haven’t talked to anyone in a few years and second seeing her there just smiling and not scared like before just made me feel good.
When she stood up and said she needed to get back to town before she gets in trouble again. I stood up and told her that I was glad she was safe.
She smiled and said “I’ll try to get back up next week but if I didn’t see you again thanks for being there for me”.
After Paula left there was something that keep bugging me about her but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
She did make it back up the mountain one more time just before fall started and we again talked. Well she talked and I mostly listen. But before she left I told her I was going to be leaving soon because of the weather so she should not come back up the mountain. She asked if I was planning to come back again next year. I told her yes I would be coming back every summer as long as I could.
After I said that she had a small frown but I didn’t say anything.
After saying my goodbyes to Amy and Emily I left for the winter three days later.
I had only been home for three days and it was Monday, but I only knew this because I watch as two ladies walked to the graves and one of them waved the day before. When I walked over the ridge to check the grave yard I saw Paula sitting in the same spot that I did last year. I did not even recognize her till she spoke. Now if my memory was correct she was she was 13 almost 14 and that would make her 16 almost 17.
I again sat down where I was and listen to her talk about last year, school, and her friends. Finely she looked at me and said “Tell me what you did all winter long.”
I sat there looking at her for a bit, the last person I said more than yes to was her and that was last year. So I figured I would start there and after I said that she stood up and slowly walked over to where I was and sat down in front of me and said “I really want to know what you did”.
So I told her everything but going to the grave yard and saying goodbye to Amy and Emily. When I was done she smiled and said that wasn’t so bad was it.
I laughed and said no. I also saw it would soon be getting dark. I told her this and she said yes and that she needed to be getting home.
Two days later I was just looking at the grave yard in the morning when I saw Paula coming up the path that I had led her down three years ago and as I watched her something just felt so familiar. It was like I had watched her walk a hundred times before.
I moved to where I was the other day and sat down to wait, as she was walking up the path she saw me and said good I don’t have to wait haft a day for you to show up.
I looked at her as she sat down in front of me she said that she had waited Monday for over five hours for me to show up.
We talked all day, mostly she did but she asked me a lot of question and I answered them.
Over the rest of the summer I saw Paula every Monday and Thursday. Some days we would talk and others I would show her around the mountains. She would even bring up a picnic basket once a week and would leave me the leftovers. Mostly bread and jams. When school started up she could only come up on Saturdays.
Fall was coming and the weather was getting colder and I told her I was going to have to leave soon, she asked if I was sure and I told her yes. She asked if I could wait till after next Saturday because she had a dance Friday and she wanted to tell me all about it. Now I knew that she didn’t have a father at home and I felt sad for her.
I had already stayed a week longer then I should have but I didn’t tell her this. So I told her that I would.
That next week I got everything ready to leave on Sunday.
Paula was there early Saturday morning and she told me all about the dance. I knew that she didn’t have a boyfriend to take her because she told me that the person she liked didn’t know it.
She stayed all day, we eat the lunch that she brought and she made me take the two jars of jams that she brought. When I could tell that it was getting time for her to be heading home I told her so.
As she was getting up she said “I hope you come back next year”. I told her me to. That night I said my goodbye to Amy and Emily.
I almost didn’t make it over one of the passes because leaving late and the snow came early. When I made it to the trading post The General said he was wondering if I had tried to stay up north or got stuck in the snow. One thing I have learned about The General was he really did care about most of us.
When I looked at him and said it was close, the snow in the pass was already deep. He had a shocked look then laughed and said “that was the most I have ever heard you say at one time”. Then he yelled round of drinks on him.
Winter seemed extra long this year and before heading to the pass I stopped to sell the furs that I had and pick up some supplies. The General came over and he said I see you’re back to your old self. I just nodded.
He put his hand on my shoulder and said it was nice knowing you and walked away. Now I had heard him say this to a few people and they never showed back up. Most of them were found a few years later in one of their camps or I should say what was left of them, others were never heard from again.
Now I heard some of the old guys talking about a late snow coming and they were staying a few extra days but I wasn’t. The weather was already getting to hot for me so I headed out.
I had just made it over the pass when the snow started but I made it so I started my way north.
When I got home it was almost dark so I put my gear down and made my way to the grave yard. Again there were two notes the first was the same as always but the second. It said “I can’t wait for you to come home so I can see you. Paula”.
Now it had been a long day with me pushing to get home. As I got back to my gear I held the two notes thinking about the one Paula had left and I just didn’t understand it.
It was real late before I was in bed and fell asleep.
I woke to the sound of the church bells and quickly ran over to see a lady running to the graves and an older lady following. Before the older lady even got to the grave I saw the one that had ran to the grave start waving. But this time she didn’t turn around like before waving to the hills all around the church, she was waving in my direction only. As I watched I saw her hug the older lady then run to the parking area.
I watch the older lady go to the graves and sit down. Even with the weak scope I had I could tell she was talking to Amy’s grave.
She sat there a long time and I all most missed the first sounds of someone come up the trail. I got up and moved so I could see both the grave yard and the trail the best I could.
It was easy to see the white coming up the path and I knew it was Paula. She must have been the person at the graves and I’m sure the other was Amy’s mom.
It took me a minute or two to move to the spot I would sit at last year. I was sitting there about five minutes before I saw the white dress through the woods but when I saw her I thought that I was seeing a ghost. It looked like Amy running through the woods.
I was so in shock when I heard Paula yell “I knew you would be back”. The problem was it was coming from someone that looked like Amy.
She sat right in front of me and took my hands but I guess it was then she saw my face or what you could see of it. She took my hands and kissed them just like Amy use to do. She started to tell me how worried she was because two days after I had left they got a heavy snow and she knew that I only stayed that extra week because she had asked me too.
After she said this it was the first time that I saw her take a breath. She asked me if I was ok and I shook my head no.
I asked “Amy” and she shook her head no then said “Paula”. We just sat there looking at each other for a bit with her holding my hands.
Finely she said let’s take a walk. As she got up she let go of one of my hands and helped me up. As she started to walk up to the ridge she still held my hand. We walked for most of the day not saying much.
I wasn’t paying much attention as to where we were going or where we were at because I just let her led me where she wanted to go. I just watched her smiling the whole time.
When she stopped and turned around facing me she said this is where you found me. I looked around and saw that we were in the valley that I found her in and when I looked back to her she leaned in and gave me a kiss on my cheek and said thank you.
What I saw in her eyes I had not seen in many years but I knew what it was. Love, but before I could say anything she spun around giggling and pulled me up to the ridge.
When we got to the top she told me that she only had one more week of school then we can spend the summer together.
We didn’t say another word till we got to the main trail leading back down to the town. When she turned and looked at me and I could see she was a little worried when she asked if I was going to be here next Saturday.
When I nodded yes, the smile that she had all day returned and for the first time all day she let go of my hand and started down the trail.
As I sat down at my camp I realized I had not eaten all day. So as I started to fix something to eat I started to think everything over.
I was sure that the girl that I have watch all these years putting flower on Amy’s and Emily’s graves was Paula. She must be one of her cousin’s daughter. Did she really look like Amy or has it really been that long that I forgot what Amy looked like and was just hoping it was her.
No I was not hoping it was Amy, I was glad that it was Paula, I had missed her all last winter, our walks and talks that we had. But the kiss and the look that she had confused me. It took a bit to remember how old she was. She was 17 if I was correct and would be turning 18 June 5th.
Then I wonder if it was really love that I saw or was it the fact that she knew I stayed late last year and she was worried that I might not have made it to the south. Add that to the fact that we were standing in almost the same spot that I found her four years ago.
That had to be it, I had seen myself at the trading post right before I left. What beautiful young girl would be in love with someone that looked like me? Plus I had to be almost forty or more. I must be more like a father to her as I know she has never had one. Then there is the way I live that has to be exciding to some people and I know she loves the woods with as many walks we took in them last year.
After eating and cleaning up I waited till it got dark and made my way down to the grave yard. For the first time I talked to them. I told them how much I missed them and hoped that they were ok. I told them what I had been doing, about Trapper John, The General and about Paula. I didn’t hear or see anyone till I felt a hand on my shoulder.
It was Amy’s mom. She slowly sat down next to me and just held my hand. She sat there with me a long time.
Finely she said I miss them too. With that she stood up and before she turned she said “when you’re ready we will be here” then walked out of the grave yard.
I don’t know if it was her or someone else but I could feel someone watching me as I laid down between their graves. I didn’t hear who it was leave but I felt them leave after awhile.
It took me all week to get my camp setup because of all the things that happen. I almost didn’t remember it was Saturday when I woke up and when I did I started to clean everything up.
I didn’t know why but I cleaned everything and some things twice. I even made a broom to sweep off the rock that I camped on.
I was so busy that I didn’t even hear Paula come up and walk into my camp. I had just finished sweeping when she asked if I was expecting someone special.
I turned around and there stood Paula in a dress that made her look even more beautiful. She had her hair done up and even had a little makeup on. In one hand she had a picnic basket and in the other she was holding a pair of white sandals. The sandals went with the dress she had on, a lot better than the tennis shoes she was wearing.
She walked over to me and handed me the basket and then took my other hand. She started to led me out of the camp saying I know that you worked hard at cleaning up but last Sunday you took me for a walk so today I’m taking you for one.
Now I said I know what I look like and what I wear. I would not fit in with anywhere she would take me with what she was wearing.
I haven’t had a hair cut since before the accident and only got my beard cut twice a year and that’s only a trim. I’m not dirty, I wash every day but I smell like a fire all the time. Then there is the fact that the only town I have step foot in was here and I only did that at night.
I guess I had stopped while I was thinking because when I looked around we hadn’t even made it out of the camp yet.
Paula was looking at me with a smile and asked if I trusted her. I could say she was the only one that I did. I shook my head yes and she started to led me down towards the town. As we got to the last turn off on the path that you could take before getting to town she took this and pulled me along.
I knew that this path would take us to the small lake at the end of town but what I didn’t know there was a branch off of that would take us to the far end and there was a small clearing just back from the lake.
Once we got there she turn and said see our own little picnic spot. Now you could still see the lake through the trees and hear kids in the park at the other end of the lake but we were alone.
She took the basket from me and pulled out a blanket and spread it out then slipped off her tennis shoes and sat down on the blanket and patted next to her as she laid back. I took off my moccasins and sat down next to her.
She told me to lay down as she pulled me next to her. As I laid down she said she wanted to tell me something. So I rolled to my side to look at her as she did the same.