Staying at Daisy's(10)

By: Jill Mansell

‘Look at it,’ Daisy said simply. ‘This is why Steven wanted to stay with me. He enjoyed the lifestyle too much.’ She didn’t add that Steven had never been much of a one for slumming it. Or for working his fingers to the bone.

‘The trouble is,’ Mel frowned, ‘you can say anything you like about him now and he can’t answer back.’

‘Oh, come on, think it through! If Steven had really wanted to leave me, why didn’t he?’ Impatiently, Daisy swept back her long dark hair. ‘I couldn’t stop him, could I? He was an adult. It wasn’t as if I could tie him up and shove him in the cellar!’

Unexpectedly, Mel said, ‘Would you have given him the twenty thousand pounds?’

Daisy shrugged. ‘I suppose so. He was still my husband. I could hardly say, gosh, cancer, how horrid, but I’m sorry I can’t actually spare the cash right now, I’d really set my heart on a new car.’

Mel, her gaze unwavering, said, ‘Did you love him?’ Considering they were virtual strangers, thought Daisy, they were having an astonishingly frank conversation.

She shook her head. ‘Not at the end, no.’

‘So why are you here, visiting his grave?’ Mel’s tone was faintly challenging. ‘I saw you talking to him just now.’

Daisy’s fingers brushed against the letter in her pocket. But first she had a few more questions of her own.

‘I’ll tell you in a minute. Did you love Steven?’

Mel shot her a pitying look. ‘Of course I did. Otherwise why would I be here now? And I brought him some flowers.’ Her grey eyes glittered as she added pointedly, ‘Which is more than you’ve ever done.’

‘Ever done? So you’ve been here before?’ It was on the tip of Daisy’s tongue to say ‘Do you come here often?’

‘I visit every week. It’s allowed,’ Mel retorted with a flash of defiance. ‘You can’t stop me.’

‘I didn’t say I was going to stop you.’ Heavens, she was touchy! ‘In a weird way, it’s nice to know he has a visitor. How old are you?’ Swiftly, Daisy changed the subject. See? I can ask personal questions too.

‘Twenty-six,’ Mel said stiffly.

Hmm, older than she looked, then. With that schoolgirl fringe and neat little mouth, Daisy had guessed twenty-one or -two.

‘So you were twenty-five when you got involved with somebody else’s husband. No qualms about that?’

Mel’s hands were as red as her nose as she clumsily began to arrange the roses in the stone vase. The frost from the grass was melting into the knees of her white jeans.

‘I felt sorry for him. He said he was trapped in a loveless marriage – which was true – and that you were, well ...’

‘Let me guess. The bitch from hell?’ That figured, thought Daisy. She could picture it clearly in her mind, nobody could lie or charm their way through life more convincingly than Steven. ‘Actually, I’m not. I’m really nice. Not that I’d expect you to believe that, but I am.’

Mel looked up. ‘You did do one nice thing. Telling the nurse at the hospital to let me into the intensive care unit. That meant so much to me. I couldn’t believe you’d done that.’

Daisy smiled briefly. ‘Ah well, there you go. Like I said, I’m actually a fantastically lovely person.’

Mel, too tense to smile back, said, ‘That was something else Steven told me, that you were full of yourself. Hardly the shrinking violet type, he said.’

‘Shrinking violets can’t run hotels. Speaking of which, I should be getting back.’ Checking her watch, and at the same _ time noticing Mel check it out – yes, it was a Cartier and no, it wasn’t a fake – Daisy said, ‘Before I go, there’s something you might like to see.’

Mel took the envelope and shook out the two sheets of paper. , Her fingers clearly numb with cold, she unfolded them and began to read, first the explanatory letter from the co-ordinator, then the one from Barney.

She only read the first few lines of the second letter. Not bothering to carry on to the end, she stuffed them back into the envelope and thrust the whole lot into Daisy’s hand.

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