Nate trudged up an incline of wild undergrowth. The snags and snarls of the rolling terrain appealed less to him than when he'd viewed it from the comfort of the back porch. Below the incline, a stream acted as his compass. He weaved in and out of blackberries and blueberries bushes, and trees of plums, figs, and peaches. All identifiable by the fruit they bore. Sometimes he wandered deep enough into the woods to lose sight of the brook, but the gurgling sound of water rushing across the rock-covered bottom helped him keep his bearing.
He took a moment to rest and thought of Hannah. According to her, it was common long ago for a large estate to have a private cemetery. They agreed that Nathan Freedman's final resting place probably lay somewhere on the property. Odds on finding the grave seemed slim, yet still worth the effort.
After breakfast, his grandparents had taken a trip into town for groceries, believing Nate would spend the morning reading in his room. Nate had watched their car pull around the bend then snuck down the secret staircase and out the backdoor.
He had no real hope of finding the cemetery today, but he could at least scout the area for the most favorable place to start a search. Still, he didn't want to chance missing something. With a stick he fashioned into a staff, he probed the ground for any remnants of a burial site. Vines growing thick enough to hide a fence, piles of rocks that resembled grave markers, or even rocks that looked like broken headstones. Nate investigated them all.
Two hours into the search, he came to a clearing where a gap in a growth of old trees resembled a yawning mouth. Under maples, oaks, and evergreens, a carpet of leaves and fallen branches littered the ground. Nate figured that this, a place where leveled land sprouted sparse undergrowth, would be the most logical place to find a burial site. The grove appeared deep and he would need some way to wander about without getting lost. Trees as large as these would probably muffle sounds from the stream.
Deciding not to press his luck, he turned and headed back to the farm before his grandparents came back. His cargo pants and long-sleeved shirt had done a good job protecting him against insect bites, thorny vines, and poison ivy. But he wished he had known there would be fruits and berries along the trail. He would have skipped stuffing two granola bars and an apple into his pockets that now knocked against his knees irritatingly when he walked. The day had heated enough to make him sweaty in the heavy clothes.
He reached the descent on the incline and balanced himself to take halting steps until he reached the banks of the brook where the path was better worn. The stream ran south, so going against its flow would take him home.
With his attention no longer so focused on the ground and finding things, Nate took in the beauty of the landscape and saw what he hadn't noticed on the way up. Like the sunlight that glinted off something on...