It should have been sunny the day the house was sold, but the rain dripped down pattering the leaves of the big maple tree in the yard, the one that Amanda yearned to climb, soaking into the lawn that was overrun with moss. Linda stood in front of the big window that looked out into the backyard and the dark forest behind it, as the real estate agent talked at her. Linda hadn't been out to the very back of the yard in six years. Her face was placid, relaxed, but her eyes pierced into the unspecified green gloom.
The real estate agent said some that required a reply. Linda nodded, breaking her gaze. The real estate agent smiled, and they said their goodbyes for the day. He collected his papers and Linda showed him out. She walked back to the window, and stood there again, entranced. She wrapped her cardigan around her even tighter. She brushed a stray hair from her face. Then she walked to the back door and put on her boots and a light anorak. She went out the door and crossed the lawn. As she passed the maple she ran her fingers across its wet bark. It was cold but had a calming presences. It felt like a sentinel, and like it wanted to say something, but thought the best response was silence. She reminded herself it was just a tree.
She reached the back of the yard. There was tall grass at the edge of the lawn, and leaf litter and ferns beyond. She looked down at the line she couldn't cross, then stepped over it. There was no change, no overwhelming horror, though the air somehow was cooler and slightly more fragrant with the rot of the forest floor. Linda touched the outer branches of the ragged pine trees, prickly but not threatening. She moved carefully, feeling her path with her feet, avoiding the wet stones. She descended the steep slope into the ravine, holding onto saplings and branches. She slipped once in the mud but righted herself.
After a few minutes she was at the bottom and standing ankle deep in a little stream. She understood the appeal the stream would have for a child. There was even the remnants of a little handmade dam a few yards upstream. Maybe the neighbor kids came to play here too. She looked downstream and found the rock where Amanda was found, twisted. Dead. She had never seen it, but knew the description of it as if she had spent an entire lifetime there, standing next to it. She walked over to the rock, through the burbling water. She squatted down, her knees creaking. She reached out and stroked the mossy top if it. Cold. Slippery. Smooth. Sharp.
She swallowed hard. The tears she expected did not come. She was glad to be in that place, only once, before forever leaving the house and that town.