Staying at Daisy's(3)

By: Jill Mansell

‘What are you two talking about?’ Tara shimmied up to them in search of more wine. Drinking and partying was so much more fun than being a chambermaid, she couldn’t imagine why she wasn’t allowed to do it for a living. She’d make such a great It girl, if only she could have been christened Tinker Tonker-Parkinson. Fate was truly unfair.

‘Sex,’ Daisy announced with a wink. ‘And the fact that poor old Rocky here isn’t getting any.’

‘I didn’t say that. I didn’t say I wasn’t getting any,’ protested Rocky, who wasn’t. ‘I just offered Daisy the opportunity of a lifetime and she’s pretending not to be interested, going all prim on me, making out she doesn’t want to upset her husband.’

‘We’ve got a visitor.’ Tara nudged Daisy, drawing her attention to the police car moving slowly up the drive. Turning back to Rocky she said, ‘Opportunity of a lifetime? You? Oh dear, what a shame, now you’ll have to be arrested. The big scary policeman’s going to charge you with deception and fraud.’

‘On the other hand,’ Rocky jeered, ‘they could be here to arrest you for thinking you’re funny when you’re not.’

This was typical of the way Rocky and Tara carried on.

‘They can’t have come to complain about Dad’s bagpipes.’ Daisy was indignant. ‘He hasn’t even got them out yet.’

The panda car drew to a halt at the top of the drive. Through the French windows they watched Barry Foster, their local policeman, haul himself out and mutter a few words into his walkie-talkie. As he slammed the driver’s door shut and moved towards the entrance to the hotel, Daisy slid off her high stool. ‘I just hope he hasn’t come to arrest any of our guests.’

‘Unless it’s that one.’ Tara grimaced in the direction of the Geordie who only thought he could play the mouth organ.

‘Oh well, obviously,’ said Daisy with a grin. ‘He’s welcome to take Mr Harmonica.’

In Daisy’s office, Barry Foster pulled out a handkerchief and surreptitiously wiped his perspiring palms. Being the bearer of bad news was the thing he hated most about his job.

The green and gold wallpapered walls of the office appeared to be moving in and out. Daisy blinked slowly in an effort to get them to stay still.

‘Look, it must be some kind of mistake.’ She paused, licking dry lips. ‘Steven isn’t even in Bristol. He’s up in Glasgow, visiting his grandfather. He’s not due back until New Year’s Eve.’

Barry gave her a sympathetic look. He knew and liked Daisy. Knew Steven too.

‘I’m sorry, love. It was Steven’s car. His driving licence was in his wallet ... would you like a glass of water?’

‘No thanks.’ Daisy shook her head, aware of her heart pounding in her chest. The accident had happened on Siston Common, according to Barry. Less than ten miles away. Steven’s BMW had skidded on a patch of ice and smashed into a wall. But Barry was still looking uncomfortable, as if there was something else he hadn’t quite plucked up the courage to tell her yet.

Unless .. .

‘Oh God.’ Daisy swallowed hard. ‘Is he dead?’

‘No, no,’ Barry said hurriedly. ‘No, love, he’s not dead. It’s serious, like I said. Condition critical. But he’s still alive, I promise you that.’

Critical. With a head injury. Deeply unconscious.

‘So why are you ... ?’ Nodding at his hands, Daisy mimicked the agitated handkerchief-crushing movements. None of this made sense; Steven had phoned her last night from Glasgow and moaned about the weather up there. He had talked about buying tickets to see Glasgow Rangers play at home tomorrow. He was arranging for a plumber to come to his grandfather’s house to fix the broken thermostat on the boiler.

And no, he hadn’t told his grandfather about the other thing. Poor old fellow, he was eighty-three, didn’t he already have enough to cope with?

‘Daisy, I’m really sorry. Steven wasn’t alone in the car when it crashed.’

‘What?’ For a split second she thought he meant Steven had had his grandfather with him.

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