Page 16 of Daisy Darker

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“Shall we stop watching this?” asks Lily, reaching for the remote.

“No, wait,” I whisper as five-year-old Rose reappears in the shot.

She looks over her shoulder, then creeps nearer to the crib. We all seem to lean closer to the TV as little Rose leans down over the baby before checking over her shoulder one last time. We hang off her every word as she sings a sweet-sounding lullaby.

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.

Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don’t sing,

Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turns brass,

Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.

Hush, little baby, don’t you cry.

Sometimes we live, sometimes we die.

Five-year-old Rose reaches into her pocket and takes out what looks like a baby mouse. Baby mice are born hairless and pink. They are born blind and deaf and helpless. The creature squirms as Rose holds its tail between her fingers and dangles it over the crib before dropping it. The child inside—which I remember is me—starts to cry.

My sister rocks the crib and smiles, before raising a finger to her lips.“Shh.”Then Rose walks out of shot.

I feel as though everyone is staring at me, but I don’t know what to say. I’d just been born. It isn’t as though I can remember the incident or what happened next.

The tape ends abruptly, ejecting itself from the VHS player, andthe TV screen displays nothing except white noise. We all exchange glances and unspoken thoughts about what we just saw, but before anyone can say anything, we hear footsteps in the hall. The door to the lounge bursts open, and thirty-four-year-old Rose reappears in the doorway, as though we have just witnessed some twisted form of time travel. She looks wet and wild and angry, and we all stare at her.

“The boat has gone,” she says, sounding breathless. “The rope attaching it to the jetty looked like it had been deliberately cut. We’re all stuck here until the tide goes back out.”


October 31, 12:45 a.m.

less than six hours until low tide

Everyone stares at Rose.

“Why are you all looking at me like that?”

Lily smiles. “You just got caught.”

Rose takes a step back toward the door. “What?”

“Putting a baby mouse in Daisy’s crib the first day they brought her home!”

Rose exhales, shakes her head as though relieved.

“Rose was just a child. Children do strange things sometimes. There’s no need to drag up the past or upset anyone now. We have enough to deal with,” says Nancy.

“Yes, like a missing bloody boat,” says Conor, storming out.

I glance around the lounge and can see that everyone looks just as upset and exhausted as I feel. The fear and sadness in the room is like something solid and real, binding us together even though we might rather be apart. Our grief gives us something in common. They all had reasons to be upset with Nana—and not just becauseof the will; she could be a difficult woman to love sometimes. But I’m sure nobody in this family would have wished her dead.

“Rose is right, the boat is gone. It wasn’t even mine,” Conor says, reappearing in the doorway.

“Maybe you didn’t tie it to the jetty properly,” my dad says.

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