Staying at Daisy's(8)By: Jill Mansell
Mervyn Tucker, whose wife was buried next to Steven, had left behind the aluminium bucket he used to water the plants on her plot. Borrowing it, Daisy sat down and pulled the envelope from the depths of her dark blue velvet coat. It wasn’t the most comfortable of buckets, but she preferred to sit. It seemed friendlier, somehow.
‘Hi, it’s me. I’ve got some news for you.’ As she spoke, it occurred to Daisy that anyone watching her now would think she’d gone mad. Perched on an upended tin bucket reading a letter to a pile of earth. Still, what did it matter? She was alone in the churchyard. Nobody could see or hear her. And this was a letter Steven should know about.
Blowing on her fingers to defrost them, her breath visible in the icy air, Daisy unfolded the first of the two sheets of paper contained in the envelope.
‘Right, well. This letter arrived today, from someone called Barney. You gave him one of your kidneys and the operation was a complete success. Imagine that! He’s twenty-five years old and you saved his life. Here, I’ll read it to you. It starts with "Dear Friend", because he doesn’t know my name. He had to give this letter to his transplant co-ordinator and she’s forwarded it to me – they have to do it this way, apparently, for security reasons. Anyway, he says: "Dear Friend, I hope you don’t mind me writing to you. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been, to make the decision you did at such a terrible time. But I so wanted to thank you for giving me a new life. Any words I choose will be inadequate – thank you has to be the understatement of the year. What else can I say? You are a wonderful person – I’m sure your husband was too – and I just hope that reading this letter will help in some small way as you begin to come to terms with your bereavement. You truly deserve to be happy again. I will always be grateful to you. If you feel able to write back, via my co-ordinator, I would love to hear from you. If not, I will of course understand. Thank you again, and my very best wishes, Barney."‘
Having finished reading aloud, Daisy brushed a strand of hair from her eyes and rested her hand on Steven’s white marble gravestone.
‘There, that’s it. Isn’t that a fantastic letter? One year ago today, you died and gave Barney his life back. You finally didsomething decent. And he sounds so sweet, don’t you think? I’ll definitely have to write back and thank him. I wonder how long it took him to think of what to say – oh, and he’s got nice handwriting too. Black ink on good quality cream paper, and no spelling mistakes. I’m so glad he didn’t do it on a word processor, that wouldn’t have been the same at all, I never—’
Daisy abruptly broke off, sensing movement at the periphery of her vision. Someone in a bright red jacket was standing by the lych gate, over to her left. Realising that she’d been spotted, but keen nevertheless not to be thought of as a complete nutcase, Daisy stayed where she was and kept quiet.
The raised metal rim round the base of the bucket was starting to dig into her bottom. She resisted the urge to wriggle in case she toppled off it.
Finally, because the person beside the lych gate wasn’t moving, Daisy turned her head and gazed directly at them. When she realised who it was, she nearly toppled off her bucket anyway.
Then again, it was the anniversary of Steven’s death. Maybe she shouldn’t be that surprised.
Recovering rapidly, Daisy called out, ‘It’s OK, you can come over.’
Puffa jacket – only this time she wasn’t wearing a Puffa – hesitated, then began to thread her way between the gravestones. The frosted grass crunched beneath her flat leather boots. She wore a scarlet fleece, white jeans, a bright green woolly scarf and blue knitted gloves. In her arms she carried a small cellophane-wrapped bunch of white roses.
Warily approaching Daisy, she said, ‘Look, sorry about this. I could go away and come back later, when—’
‘Don’t worry, I’ve pretty much finished here anyway. You can have my seat if you like.’ Easing her bottom off the bucket – ouch – Daisy stood up and gestured for the girl to take her place. Deeply curious, she smiled briefly and said, ‘I recognise you from the hospital. I’m Daisy.’