Daffodils – Part 7

I didn’t cry. Not then, anyway. I remember being put into a taxi, a reassuring hand on my shoulder. Someone placed my handbag on my lap and told the taxi driver where to take me.
‘We’re there love’ said the driver, jolting me from my thoughts.
I paid him, not waiting for the change and walked heavily up the path. I stopped when I saw the daffodils strewn across the doorstep, their petals crushed. I bent down to take a closer look.
‘How’s the young lady?’
I looked up to see Mr Lyons hovering awkwardly at the end of the drive. I don’t remember replying to him.
Over the next few days, the house was full of people coming and going. Food parcels were delivered and left uneaten. I think even my ex put in an appearance. He didn’t stay long. I remember signing lots of papers. People drove me from one place to another. The world outside rushed by, whereas mine had ceased to be. Somehow or another, I found myself standing at the front of St Mary’s church, beside my daughter’s tiny coffin. It seemed so wrong that this was the way things were. Apparently the church was full. I couldn’t tell you who was there.

Then the silence engulfed me. Everyone went back to their lives. My daughter had been mourned. I had nothing to return to. They told me to keep busy, so I continued to work in Mr Lyon’s shop. We weren’t busy. The few customers that came in did not really know what to say.

It was a month after the funeral, when I finally plucked up the courage to ask Mr Lyons what he had meant when I left the shop, the day Millie……… You see it had preyed on my mind. I don’t know why.
‘Mr Lyons, when I left the shop the day Millie got ill, you said that you hoped she’d be all right. It was as though you doubted it. Why?’ God, did I sound paranoid.
Mr Lyons brow creased. I knew that he would try and deny it.
‘Please don’t pretend that you didn’t mean anything by it. Just be straight with me. It’s something to do with the chapel isn’t it?’
He looked at me for a long time before he answered, as though he was trying to weigh up how to tell me.
‘Millie isn’t the first child to have been bewitched by the chapel. I know of at least two others. Neither of them lived.’
‘What do you mean?’ I gripped the counter.
‘Both children would visit there regularly. Their parents sometimes talked about it when they came into the shop. It seems as though the adults were not too enamoured with the place. One of the children, Sarah Butler was killed by a car. The other, Tom Salman, was mauled by a dog.’
The pit of my stomach stirred. Something was familiar, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.
‘It could just be a coincidence.’
‘Aye, it could. But one thing I have noticed. The day that your little lady died and the days the other two died, there were daffodils strewn nearby.’
It was then that the penny dropped and without another word I raced out of the shop towards the tiny chapel.
It began to pour with rain and the mud splattered up my trouser legs. The chapel looked so foreboding. I could not believe that I had ever found it to be charming. My skin was covered in goosebumps. My heart raced. I felt like I was going to vomit. It was as if my whole body was resisting going to that evil place. As I opened the gate, the wind caught it, ripping it from my hand and slamming it shut. I pushed it hard and battled my way into the graveyard. I staggered up the path towards the decaying stones, my eyes wincing against the bitter wind. And then I checked them one by one. The same way I had read them with Millie on our first visit. I found them. Sarah Barnley and then Thomas Barnley. Both died in the 1800s. Then I laughed, how ridiculous I was. So what if they had the same first names. These children had died years ago. But something nagged at me and I found myself counting the gravestones and it was when I did this that I noticed one that I had not seen before, nestled against the wall of the chapel. Perhaps I had missed it? I’m sure I would have noticed it before. The last time I had been there I had walked over there. I walked over it, feeling inexplicably nervous. It was decaying like the other stones. A small chip was missing from the top of it and the writing on it was barely legible. But it didn’t matter, I knew what I would find. I dusted away the moss with the palm of my hand and sank down on to the muddy grass as I deciphered the name at the top. ‘MILLIE’


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