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This isn’t right. I know it’s not. Why are we here in this old church? Ethan wouldn’t want it. He would want to be outside. We should be outside. Why are they making him miserable? This is wrong. I’m sorry Ethan, I’m so sorry.
I walked down the aisle, but not for my wedding, not for the happy occasion, but for a funeral. I couldn’t picture myself at this moment. It was the saddest day of my life. My happy ending didn’t turn out like I thought it would. My best friend was waiting at the end of the aisle. But he wasn’t smiling, not with any happiness, not with any life. When I first looked into Ethan’s deep blue eyes I got a special feeling that tingled inside of me. The different shades of blue and green put my fears behind me so that my body was filled with comfort. From that moment on I knew there was something special between Ethan and I. Something I never shared with any of my other friends. Something that told me no matter what we could get through anything together.
The years went by and we were still the best of friends. We swam in the pond, fed the animals, and lay in the meadow that was in the forest. The forest was for Ethan and I. No one else knew. They would never know all the hours we spent there. It was our secret, our trees, ours. We traveled to the forest every day after school. We went through the winding path with the newly bloomed flowers on either side. We came to the forest trees, their branches spread as wide as an eagle’s wingspan. They made me feel small as they towered over our heads. The spots of sunlight glimmered through the trees, the entrance to our place where only Ethan, the trees, other animals and I could go. Then he would go home and I would be left alone, just like I am now, alone. I would whisper goodbye to him every time he left. I close my eyes and remember the very day he came into my life.
I was a small 5 year old with big dreams. I was up in my room painting like any other morning. The paints would fly off the page. The vibrant colors created an illusion in my mind. My room was filled with my paintings, stacked high in many monumental piles. I had been painting a bouquet of flowers when I heard the beep from the moving truck. I jumped sending my paint brush through my canvas. I groaned with frustration. I climbed up to my windowsill and saw the new neighbors. Excited to have someone to play with I raced to get ready. School had come and I climbed on the bus like I had so many other times. Reading, Writing, and Math seemed to drag on and on. I thought art would never come. But once it did it passed the time. My teacher would just stare at my work in amazement; she couldn’t believe the work I had done. I was proud of my work. That’s the only thing I had ever felt proud of. The only thing I could really understand. After school I wandered into the forest and sat by the stream. I lay back into the lushes grass. I heard the water as it trickles down the stream creating new paths avoiding the big rocks. The sun shown down reminding me fall is coming to an end. The leaves dance through the air until they landed safely to the soft ground. Everything was so peaceful… then I heard a cry. I ran to the sound and found a boy about my age with his foot cut.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” he explained.
“Let me help you,” I whispered. So I gathered some plants that I’ve seen my father use when he was hurt in the forest. I rinse the cut and place the herbs on. Then I created a cast for him. I place my jacket around his foot and tie it securely. I never got a chance to see his face. I think he was hiding the tears. As soon as looked into his eyes and I felt happy inside. As he hobbled along with me by his side he said in a hushed voice, “Ethan.”
“Um what?” I asked curiously.
“My name is Ethan.”
“Oh hi, I’m Kara.”
He smiled then said, “I can go from here, thanks for your help.”
“Yeah sure,” I mumbled.
The dark music continues to play and I remember I am not 5 anymore, I am not with Ethan, I am alone. I look around me and see the depression in everyone’s eyes. I watch as the tears roll down their faces then I feel the salty liquid hit the corner of my lip. I close my eyes hoping this is all a bad dream but I know it’s not; all I see is Ethan’s face.
I take myself back to when we are only 9 years old…
“Ethan! Ethaaaaaaan!!!” I holler at the top of my lungs.
“Ok I give up you win! Just come out!” I call.
“Aghhhhhhhhhhh,” I screech as I stumble backwards. Ethan snickers and I slap his shoulder. “Not funny.”
“Yeah it was. You should have seen the look on your face. Look I even got a picture,” he chuckles.
“Oh wow you have proof that you scared me, congrats,” I say sarcastically.
“Haha. Hey you know my birthday is today,” Ethan exclaims.
“I know I know,” I say as I snatch the picture from his hands. “This will be perfect for your gift,” say as I reach behind the tree and grab a box. It was decorated front to back with my paintings.
“Wow Kara I love it,” he says in amazement.
“Wait there’s more…” I open the box. The pictures and the leaves and the paintings were overlapping creating an unimaginable image. I place the picture inside the middle of the box. We exchange smiles and then there is a long silence.
“Kara?” Ethan asks.
“Yeah,” I reply.
“I have an idea for one of your paintings. You know how you did that one it went um oh yeah it went Hug Laugh Smile Love and you did all those symbols around the words?”
“Of course I love that one.”
“Promise me this, make millions on that painting but add something you know I would say. Make a painting for me that says Hug Harder Laugh Louder Smile Bigger Love Longer.”
“I promise.” Then I flash forward to reality.
He died January 28th 2006. Two days until it would be his 15th birthday. Two days until he would receive my next gift. Two days two days two days. It took one accident, one car, one life.
At 14 years old we lost focus in everything else. We didn’t do our homework instead we talked. We didn’t pay attention in class instead we passed notes. We didn’t take the bus home so we could walk together.
The day of his death was like any other day. We got out of school at 2:30. We met at the same oak tree. At the same time a semi truck set off to downtown Spokane for a delivery. We walked until we came to the intersection of Crestline Street and Wellesley Avenue. The truck cruised down Crestline with the music up too high. He had been drinking. The beer cans lied on the floor. His eyes were bloodshot, his breath reeked, and his clothes were soaked in the liquid. As the streetlight turned red to tell the cars to stop we crossed the street. Once we had gotten to the other side I realized my 14 carat gold bracelet had fallen off.
“Look! It’s in the street” I shouted.
“Don’t worry I can get it,” Ethan said in his calm voice.
As Ethan bent down to grab the bracelet the semi truck neared. That truck was the one car. Ethan was the one life. And the impact of the truck as it hit Ethan was the accident. I looked at Ethan, and then the truck and I knew what had happened. I felt like someone was out to punish me. I didn’t know why. I lost my balance and fell over barely able to breathe. I crawled over to the accident. I breathe heavily trying to get air into my lungs. I felt my heart. It was still beating, but without any purpose. I had no purpose now that Ethan is gone. The pain fills my lungs I can hardly move then I see Ethan lying on the pavement, dead. One accident, one car, one life.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I scream. Everyone in the church turns toward me. I run to Ethan’s closed casket. I try to push him off the table so I can drag him to the woods. “Help, help someone help me! Get him out of here! He wants out!” I see the tears in Ethan’s mom’s eyes. I watch her husband hold her close. “Help, you don’t understand, he told me he wanted to be outside, we have to go outside. That’s where he wants to be, that’s where he needs to be!”
Now my father grabs my wrist, “Honey let’s sit down now.”
“No! No!” I yell. I jerk myself from his grip and bolt down the aisle. I run hard all the way to his house. I sprint up the stairs to his room and dig through his stuff until I found what I was looking for. I now make my way to the woods. I stripped the bracelet from my pale arm and placed it in the box that had been on his dresser. I ran my fingers over the picture Ethan took the day of his 10th birthday. I couldn’t help but smile. I dug my newly painted pink nails into the soil and created a hole. I buried his box into the unforgiving world under the tree where I had met Ethan. On the tree I carved:
K + E
“Hug Harder, Laugh Louder, Smile Bigger, Love Longer”
Then I whispered for the last time, “Goodbye.”