I remember Dotty, my imaginary friend.
I mean I *actually* remember her. She had red hair and freckles, like me. I first met her when I was 5 years old, standing next to the roses behind the house.
She scared me something fierce; first because I hadn't expected to see another child in the backyard, and second because the right side of her face was mutilated by scar tissue from nose to hairline.
Her left eye was blue and full of laughter, her right eye was white and blind.
“Hi, I'm Dotty,” she said shyly, and held out her hand. I was a lonely child, so after a moment of hesitation, I replied.
“Hi,” I said, and shook her hand. I remember her palm was squishy and warm in my own child's fingers. “What's wrong with your face, Dotty?”
She and I played together a lot, on account there weren't children far in the woods where me and Mama lived. Just me doing homeschool and Mama watching TV.
We had money from before I was born, so Mama didn't need to work a job. After I finished my homework, Dotty always waited for me by the spindly rose bush. Mama told me she couldn't see Dotty.
But sometimes, I would catch Mama staring at that bush, and I would wonder.
Dotty stayed exactly the same age, which I suppose is normal for an imaginary friend. I got older, though.
Old enough to make friends, and old enough to learn that having an invisible friend is embarrassing.
I wanted to get rid of the roses but Mama wouldn't let me; said they were real special to someone important. Said it was real bad luck to pull them up. They gave me the willies.
When I was 19, Mama smashed her old navy Buick into a semi-truck. The deed to our property and trailer went to me, and the first thing I did after Mama's funeral was pull that rosebush up.
I bought a shovel and leather gloves to yank the flowers out, roots and all. I heard a sound like a little scream when I began. I ignored it.
But when I went to get at the roots, the shovel struck something hard.
I got down on my haunches and cleared away the soil, exposing a smooth yellow surface. More digging revealed a tiny skull, the cheekbone and eye socket crushed.
I near jumped out of my skin for fear at the voice. The blood drained from my body. It was Dotty, no more than three feet tall, standing by the uprooted rose bushes.
I got cold all over, and I began to stammer. Dotty shook her head.
“After all this time you finally found me, little sister. But you ain't gotta be scared of me. I always been nice to ya. Ain't me you got to worry about.”
And as she spoke there came a muffled bellowing from the ground.
She leaned forward and whispered, “It's Papa.”