Ellen’s in the kitchen buttering toast when Daisy comes down bleary-eyed at half past nine.

“You could have woken me, Mum.”

“Deirdre! How nice. Would you like some toast?”

“No thanks, I’ll just have coffee.” Daisy stuffs a filter paper into the coffee percolator, putters around with a cloth for a bit, then takes her steaming mug to the back door and leans against the peeling doorframe to survey the sad state of the garden.

The brick paths are question marks half-hidden beneath leggy branches of last year’s lavender; the clay rope-edging now organic hillocks of moss. The forsythia, untrimmed and hopeful, is about to radiate a yellow sunrise into the gloomy corner down by the shed. The area of planting nearest to the house, the herb bed, is looking sickly. She calls through the doorway to her mother,

“Hey, Mum, the forsythia’s nearly out.”

“Is it? That’s early,” Ellen says, her voice coming distantly from the kitchen.

“Not really, Mum. It’s March.”

“March? Don’t be silly…” Ellen comes to the door, hands Daisy a slice of toast. “Would you like marmalade on it?”

“Oh… you made me toast?”

“Of course. You always have toast. Do you want marmalade on it?”

“Oh, why not? Thanks.” She watches her mother’s stooped back disappear into the house, suddenly aware of a gnawing emptiness in her stomach. Maybe Mother does know best, she thinks as she stands shivering in her T-shirt, her hands clamped round the warm mug.

Last night’s downpour has freshened up the air. Daisy breathes it in. The sun’s starting to filter through diminishing thick cotton clouds, bringing a hint of gauzy warmth to the sheltered walled garden. It’s going to be a fine day.

Ellen passes Daisy her toast and they sit down together on the bench. She points to the gravel bed.

“I don’t know what’s got into my herbs there. See them? They don’t look too happy.”

“Well, they’re only just coming into growth, Mum. But it might help if you stopped peeing on them.”

“What! … I do not.”

“I saw you, Mum. I don’t think it’s good for the plants.”

“I don’t know what you think you saw. The idea!”

“If you say so,” Daisy says. She’s about to say more but swallows it down and crunches into her toast.

Ellen sniffed. “I don’t know where you get your ideas, Deirdre. Anyway, urine is meant to be good for the garden. Men pee on their compost heaps. I’ve read about it.”

“Oh, well, they’ll probably pick up now spring’s on its way.” Daisy gets up and strolls over to an evergreen shrub densely patterned with dappled green and yellow leaves; bends to lift a low branch. “There’s snowdrops under here.”

“Elaeagnus Pungens Maculata. My sunshine bush,” Ellen says, taking a sip of her coffee. “A glorious shrub.”

Extract, Daisychains of Silence, chapter five.

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