The small girl sat shivering on the wet ground, her legs tucked up underneath her chin, as the icy rain ran down her face, mixing with salty tears. At her back was a weeping willow, gnarled and bent with age, its silvery leaves swishing in the chill wind, forming a curtain between her and the world she did not want to face. Overhead the cool grey sky mirrored her mood, crying with her, sorrowful of her loss. The thin black mourning gown she wore clung to her thin form, drenched from the weather. How could it be? She thought despairingly, How could Grandmother have left me here, all alone?

She lifted her head and shouted for her grandmother to hear, "You were the only one who loved me and the only one I loved!"

A weary voice seemed to drift through the moist air. "But I do love you child, and I always will. Just look around you, at my garden. My flowers listen to your every word, and that willow has always been a friend to those in need. The garden, Mae, the garden will take care of you."

Those had been her grandmother's last words to her before the old woman closed her eyes in eternal rest. Again and again Mae heard them, trying to shape her grandmother from her words, but always finding herself alone. She remembered that fateful day, for Grandmother had been sick for months and the doctors had finally given up. Mae had sat beside the old woman, holding her tough, withered hand gently and telling her stories that Grandmother had taught her. The girl had waited, trying so hard not to cry, for her grandmother's sake, but it was in Grandmother's final moments that Mae lost control, and then when Grandmother had spoken so lovingly. The words played over and over in her mind.

Sniffling, Mae stepped through the hanging cover of the willow, out into her grandmother's garden. A muddy path wound down to a dip in the garden that was filled with water, a puddle mirroring the bleak sky above, rippling from the rain. She knelt beside it, showing no regard for her now-ruined dress, and peered into it, observing her distorted reflection. The face of a girl no more than ten years old looked back at her, framed by dark, wet shoulder-length curls. The face with two hesitant, black eyes, filled with sorrow and slightly puffy from crying, a nose with a sprinkling of freckles, and a large, down-turned mouth arranged upon it. The face also bore the faint birthmark she knew so well, the one shaped like a star on her cheekbone, the one her grandmother had always kissed when tucking her in at night.

Standing up, Mae made her way through the pitiful garden to the once-white picket fence and looked out over the empty field where her grandmother's grave was visible through the subsiding drizzle. A dark, gloomy mound, standing alone. Just as she was standing alone in the garden. "Grandmother, you said the garden would take care of me, but I'm alone. I'm still alone and no gathering of plants is going to bring you back..."