Mattie leaned back against the rough bricks and smiled warmly at the children. They scampered freely around small groups of visitors who set up charming little picnics across the well-manicured lawn. Young Amos knocked over a woman's tea, the brown liquid seeping into the grass.
"There's still some left," she laughed as she righted the paper cup. "I don't know how I spilled it." Her husband laughed with her, popping a bite of a cucumber sandwich into his mouth and chewing amiably.
The Black boy, unseen for his dark skin in life, remained unseen in death. And yet, on this day, the ghosts that frolicked in the yard were being seen in ways Mattie never thought possible.
A young woman, tight curls and determined eyes, stepped up to the microphone and began to recite her verse. A poem of struggle and loss and triumph and more loss. How far we've come, Mattie thought, looking at the mix of Black and white folk, and some folks she could not place, all sitting in metal chairs or lounging in the grass, listening to the poetry together. No master. No mistress. No servant. No slave.
"It's better," in a rustle of skirts, Elizabeth settled next to Mattie.
Mattie, no longer enslaved, and Elizabeth, no longer an enslaver, had found true peace and reconciliation only in death. The poet spoke of war and the fight that did not end with peace, not for the living. Not yet anyway.
"Much suffering still, child." Mattie shook her head, lips pursed. "But it is better."
Another poet spoke of the house that served as his backdrop. A mansion, sprawling and beautiful. The former home of white men who mattered and Black men who did not. The poet spoke of pain, physical and emotional. And of healing. Of stories untold and people finally being named.
"They talk about you now," Elizabeth observed.
"And you," Mattie returned.
They talked about the Black people and the women who owned them. They talked about Black people whose lives, after all this time, were starting to matter. A bit of hope for ghosts like Mattie. And lot of anguish for ghosts like Elizabeth.
Elizabeth reached out for Mattie's hand. "Does Bede know, I wonder."
"Yes," Mattie answered with absolute certainty. "I'll bet she helped make this happen."
Tears welled in Elizabeth's eyes. Mattie smiled. They locked hands in a solidarity they could only experience as the ghosts that they were.