Why.

The wooden cross loomed through the windshield as we turned onto the rural street. Surrounded by balloons, candles, and teddy bears, its bright colors belied a dark secret.

But that’s why we came here.

Thin green branches snaked across the inscrutable path…. I hadn’t expected thorns.
Yet they scratched at my bare arms, then my fingers, which were slapping away the voracious mosquitoes…who would willingly come out here?

We picked our way across the mud and weeds, past orange tags tied to trees and bushes. I paused once to stare blankly at discarded blue rubber gloves in the brush. The tiny trail opened into a clearing…was this it?

Instinctively, we hushed and stared at the stamped-down, hardened ground. I strained my senses for a hint of you, but any trace that might have once been there had been excised by searchers and police. I shuddered, remembering how I’d heard that the volunteers had found you by smell…how long had you been out there?

And then in a rush, all the other questions came: Had you suffered? Had you been frightened? Did you call out for help? What happened? Who is responsible for the grisly scene that warranted that wooden cross?

As we slowly extricated ourselves from the overgrowth, we built hypotheses. But as we followed each one to its conclusion, inevitably, a piece would fall away, and the whole construction would crumble. Every theory had holes; no explanation held water.

Back on the pavement, I shielded my eyes against the Texas sun and surveyed the landscape. Suburban homes, green lawns, washed cars…A place where neighbors were neighbors. How had your absence gone unnoticed? So many claimed to have seen you walking, as you always liked to, up and down that very street…did it not seem odd to them when your trips stopped? How had your body decomposed, undiscovered, for a month in a woods so small it took us ten minutes to walk the length of it? Why were we able to? Wasn’t this a crime scene?

Everyone here mourns you, yet no one knows you. For if they did, they would know the girl who survived. They would know how you weathered all the rain life threw down on you, and they would never believe that you suddenly succumbed and walked into the storm.

Like we know.

But that’s why we came here.

We brought with us everyone who loved you, laughed with you, cried with you, and misses you. We’re all here. And we’re not going anywhere.

Until we all know the truth, we will stay. As long as it takes. You are NOT a faceless urchin, lost in the woods. A nameless example of arbitrary evil. You are a redhead, a bassist, a giggler, a teenaged child of Christ, and you ARE:

Abigail.