I am singing to Rose, as she lies looking up at me from her cot with her big blue eyes. Sam’s eyes.
“Look at her, Daisy. I still can’t believe it, we are someone’s mum and dad.”
“Let’s count her tiny fingers and toes again.”
Later, I’m getting into bed next to Sam’s warm body, when I hear Rose’s mobile, the faint melody of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I walk back into her room, then I realise I have no idea how the mobile has been switched on.
After nearly two years of trying, I was finally pregnant. One Sunday, I realised I was late. Sam ran down to Boots for the test. I thought it would be yet another false alarm, but the strip turned blue.
“Just tell me, Daisy, you’re killing me.”
“It’s positive, Sam, it’s fucking positive.”
Sam stared at me in disbelief. The eighteen-year-old boy who took me ice skating for our first date and made sure I didn’t fall. The twenty-four-year-old boy I saw graduate his medical degree with first class honours. The twenty-six-year-old boy who proposed to me in Rome and now, the thirty-three-year old man who was going to be the father of my child.
It was a Tuesday afternoon and I had been half-heartedly teaching my literature class, I don’t know why they call it morning sickness when it lasts all day long. I was heading home, when the phone rang.
“Daisy, I was hoping you might come over tonight.”
“Well, you didn’t give me any notice, Mum? I have marking to do,” I lied.
“I, I would really appreciate it, if you came.”
I knew instantly something wasn’t right. I had this feeling, like a rotting from the inside.
When I arrive at her house, she was sitting on her arm chair, looking her distinct mix of elegant and demure. She offered me tea, but I declined.
“Daisy chain, I’m afraid I’m not well.”
She hadn’t called me Daisy chain in years. Suddenly I was five again, sat on her knee while she brushed my hair.
“Just tell me, Mum.”
“I hate myself for doing this to you while you’re pregnant… I have lung cancer sweetheart, stage two. They told me yesterday.”
She was talking to me in the exact tone she did when my Dad died. I was nine and rosy-cheeked, just home from school. My Mum sat me on her knee and broke the news.
“Daisy chain, your Daddy has been in a terrible accident.”
After I heard cancer, I blacked out for a minute. You hear the word cancer and you automatically think death.
“I have already had the chemotherapy discussion with Doctor Ashton and I think I would like to pursue it.”
“Whatever you need, Mum.”
“I’m so sorry darling, this should be a happy time for you, it’s your turn to have some of the normal things in life, it’s just so unfair.”
Rose always sleeps with her teddy next to her in the cot. Then the other morning, I went in and there was no teddy. I tried not to overthink it, my natural reaction to everything, so I pushed it to the back of my mind and got on with my day.
I told myself that Rose’s mobile didn’t start playing on its own, that I didn’t keep hearing weird noises in the night, and that I must have just misplaced the teddy. It wasn’t until I was going to bed the following night and saw the teddy on my pillow, that I knew for sure those things weren’t true.
She died on a Saturday, but it wasn’t her that died. My Mum, Rose Dover, died a long time before her counterpart. The woman I saw die, in that cold hospital ward, was broken, defeated, hooked up to about a thousand machines.
“I can’t go yet, Daisy, I’m not done until I’ve met my grandchild.”
She told me this two days before she died. I was only five months pregnant. I prayed that night for the first time in my life; I went into the hospital chapel and asked God to give my Mum another four months. I pleaded with him.
Two days after the teddy incident, I see that Rose has kicked her blanket off, I put it back on and tuck her in. I am woken by her crying about half an hour later. I go back into her room and she has kicked the blanket off again. I settle her then decide to leave it off, she must be too warm. I go back to bed and then realise, I forgot to turn off her light. I return to her room and she is tucked in, pristinely, like a perfectly wrapped present.
The next day I decide I’ll take Rose for a stroll around the park and show her the ducks. I want to wear my sun dress my Mum bought me two summers ago. It is blue with daisies on.
“Daisies for my Daisy.”
She was so happy that day. We were out for afternoon tea for my birthday, just the two of us. We sat at a table outside in the sun, by the lake watching the boats go by. I find that sometimes a memory can feel like a dream: some moments so perfect they almost don’t seem real.
Before I get ready for the park, I have a shower, I’m thinking about where I last saw the dress. When I get out of the shower. I find that my daisy dress is laid out on my bed, waiting for me.
Its 3.17am and I wake Sam with a swift shake of his arm.
“Sorry to wake you but I was just walking past Rose’s room on my way back from the loo, and I could swear I heard a voice, like someone talking to her. So, I went in and nobody was there.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t just the baby monitor picking something up? I hear strange noises from it myself sometimes.”
“Well, to be honest Sam, this isn’t the first weird thing I’ve been noticing in the house.”
Sam’s eyes widen, and I can see he thinks I have really lost my mind. “What on earth are you talking about Daisy?”
“Sam, I know how this sounds but, I think it’s my Mum. I’ve been hearing and seeing and well, just feeling a lot of things and my gut tells me that it’s her and that she’s here to meet Rose.”
He looks at me like I’m the ghost.
“What kind of things?”
“Well, things like Rose’s mobile playing on its own. Weird noises in the night. Objects disappearing and reappearing, and Rose being tucked in by someone other than us. And then today the dress I wanted to wear was laid out for me on my bed, Sam, the dress my Mum bought me.”
“I’ve been thinking maybe you have some form of post-natal depression?”
“Sam, you are such a fucking cliché! You can’t just diagnose my feelings like I’m one of your patients, not everything is a disorder.”
“Daisy, isn’t it possible that you could have left the mobile playing by accident? That you could have simply been misplacing things? You could have tucked her in and forgot you did? You are exhausted, Daisy, you’re barely sleeping. Maybe you got up this morning and laid out your dress then forgot about it when you had a shower.”
My body feels limp, but I drag it up, so I can get away from him. I am defeated, I am losing a battle I didn’t want to fight.
“Forget it, forget I brought it up.”
I go and sleep in the spare room, and Sam doesn’t try to stop me.
We haven’t talked about it since. Sam isn’t the kind of man who likes to talk things out. Once in our twenties we were at a bar and a guy got really handsy with me. Sam, to my surprise, knocked him out. I had never seen him so much as have a cross word with someone before this. When we got home, I soaked his knuckles and asked if he wanted to talk about it. He said no, and we never discussed it again.
He is going to be home at five o’clock today. I am planning on making salmon for dinner and I need some things from the supermarket. I am just heading out of the front door with Rose, when I see a figure move in her bedroom window. Without thinking I scramble through the house, nearly falling up the stairs. I swing open Rose’s door and there is nothing there.
I look through the window and Mrs O’Neil, along with a few other neighbours, are huddled around Rose in her car seat that I left on the pavement. Then, Sam shows up.
I run outside, Sam looks as though he could erupt with fury.
“Daisy, what’s going on? Mrs O’Neil called me, she said you had left Rose on the street and ran in the house.”
Mrs O’Neil, or nosy Margaret, as we called her in happier days, is running her eyes over me with excitement masked as concern.
“I knocked on the door love, but you didn’t answer, then I tried to come in the house and see if you were okay, but the door was locked. I didn’t know what to do other than ring Sam.”
Sam is overly grateful towards her, in his text book people pleasing manner.
“Thanks for your help, Mrs O’Neil, I can assure you this won’t happen again.”
“No problem, Sam. I’m just glad everyone is okay.”
We walk through the door in silence. Sam takes Rose out of her car seat and holds her in his arms.
“Okay, Daisy, you need to explain to me what just happened.”
“I don’t know, Sam, I…”
“Do you realise how panicked I was? I was called at work to be informed that you left our five-month-old daughter alone on the pavement outside and locked yourself in the house. What were you thinking?”
“I didn’t mean to lock the door. I didn’t know I had. I thought I saw someone in Roses room, so I ran in, I don’t know Sam, I acted on instinct, I’m sorry.”
“Instinct, Daisy? Fucking instinct? Your instinct should be to keep your daughter safe not to leave her on the street like garbage.”
“Sam, please don’t.”
I can feel my eyes filling up with tears, stinging me, mocking me.
“I really don’t know what’s going on with you, Daisy, and I don’t know what else to suggest if you won’t accept you need help.”
“I don’t need help, Sam; if I’d been quicker, I would have seen her.”
Sam puts Rose down.
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing right now. I really thought what just happened might be the shock you needed to pull you out of this fucking insanity. But you just can’t see it.”
“What can’t I see, Sam?”
Sam looks completely drained; I almost feel like giving up as I can see what this is doing to him.
“That you are just a grieving, new mother who is struggling, and because you won’t get any help you are now letting our daughter pay the price. You are neglecting her.”
“I’m neglecting her? You’re never fucking here!”
“Jesus, Daisy, that’s below the belt.”
The sound of Sam leaving for work wakes me. He slept in Rose’s room last night. I hear the front door shut. There he goes, my perfect man, getting into his car to go and save lives and be perfect.
I feel the urge to hold my baby, to smell her head and feel the darkness escape me. I go to her room and stand over her cot. The cot is empty.
Rose is gone. They’re gone.