Epilogue: The Grave on the Hill
They all stood silently around the grave. Candice, the little ones, Ray, Pierrot, Nemmy, Wuffy, Paulina. Stood around the grey slab sticking into the desert floor, the one with the single white flower on the ground before it. The one painted with the words—Johne Atticus Hawthorne—on its front.
"Ve have all gathered here today to speak some vords about a great man," Ray said, pausing to take a breath. "I, myself, did not knov him very vell, barely knev him at all. So vhat can I say about him? I have but one thing I can say about Johne." The great bird straightened his monocle. "He vas a man vho kept his promises."
The bird trudged away, Pierrot stepping forward into his place.
"Johne," Pierrot started, "where do I begin? He was stronger than even Pierrot and that's an impossible task in itself! He was brave and kind and everything else that makes up a hero. He'll always be a hero. And he will never be forgotten. Never by Pierrot."
Pierrot walked over to Nemmy, Wuffy kicking the sand where he stood.
"I don't know what to say," Wuffy said. "I...I don't. But it's all right now, Johne made sure it was. And I'm grateful for that."
The doll slipped away, Paulina standing by the grave, running her hand along it.
"You would have made the best husband," she said with a smile on her face. "But it's okay. You aren't really gone...you'll always be with us. If you ever change your mind, I'm always waiting. Just be sure to get to me before someone else does. Goodbye, Johne, and thank you for taking me out of that house. You weren't my hero, but you saved me anyways."
Paulina walked along, kicking a rock off over the cliff, and Nemmy stumbled over to the grave, her bunny in hand.
"For you," she said, laying the stainless white thing to the ground. "Bye, Johne."
Nemmy silently returned to Pierrot's side, and Candice stood staring at the grave. Her dress fluttered about in the wind, the wounds on her bandaged hands stinging with the biting breeze, golden sand creeping into her hair. Ray gave everyone there a stern look, all of them quietly slipping away to leave her alone.
She stepped closer to the grave and smiled. She reached her finger down along his name, spelling it out. She knelt beside it, silent for a moment, before standing up.
"Are you okay?" a voice said from behind, laying a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm fine," she said, giving him a smile. "I'll give you some time alone. See you at home, okay?"
She put her hands on the sides of his face, giving him a quick kiss on the forehead. She walked away waving, stooping down next to the little ones and patting their heads, yelling out to the younger ones not to wander. He waved until she was out of sight before taking his focus down to the grave.
His hand gripped tightly its top, kneeling down on one knee before it. He shook his head slowly, eyes warm, a smile on his face.
"I don't know what to say here, so I won't take much of your time." He let out a deep sigh. "Remember how you always loved questions? How you could never get them out of your head? Well, I found one of the answers for you...thought you might like to hear it." His face leaned in close to the grave, his voice quiet. "Far enough."
Whisper rose up from the grave, giving it one final goodbye before turning his head in Candice's direction. He walked along with a spring in his step, a smile beaming on his face as he felt himself filled with the beauty of the great wide world surrounding him. The sky was a magnificent blue, the wind singing to him to run with it. It felt like a day to lie down and muse over the pictures in the clouds. It was the most wonderful idea. The perfect way to spend a perfect afternoon. But no, not yet. Not yet as he ran up beside Candice and the little ones, as he placed an arm about her shoulders.
He had to go home first.
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