I never met my great-aunt Mary. She died in 1929 at the age of six when she caught a bad cold at her friend Rosie’s birthday party. They buried the girl in a blue dress beneath six feet of red clay dirt in hard winter. “Dig her up in 50 years and she’ll look the same as the day you put her in the ground,” the vault man Henry Rose told her parents as snowflakes bit their cheeks. My father dragged me to the graveyard when I was 16. I’d been to the graveyard plenty of times, but I just hung around by the fence and poked sticks in the dirt. He stuck some fake yellow tulips into the dry, cracked ground and said to me, “We wouldn’t be here if Mary lived, you know.” I looked around the graveyard with my hands jammed in my jean shorts, bored stiff. My phone buzzed, but I ignored it. Danny Kline kept texting me to hook up in his treehouse, but I told him no way. Jerk. He blew me off freshman year, now he just wanted a quickie because Rachel dumped him on Tuesday. I told him to go screw himself behind the dugout, and then call me back later. I didn’t pay any attention as my father kept talking, just spotted a little girl in a blue dress playing by an oak tree beside an unmarked stone. She lifted her head, brown curls dangling around her pretty face, and then disappeared. I stood there staring for a long time until my father told me we needed to get moving because the clouds looked like rain and the road turned to a sloppy mess. I spent the summer standing by the graveyard fence waiting for the little girl to come back. She never did.
Rebecca Buller is a native Oklahoman and a lover of the written word. She’s been published in the quarterly issue 84 of Burningword Literary Journal, October 2017, Star 82 Review, A3 Review & Press, and is a three-time Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition award winner.