Who: Susan Bones, Daisy Radford, and Henry Radford
Where: A meadow on the outskirts of town
When: 14 June 2001, afternoon
Daisy was about as happy as any six year old birthday girl could be. Her party was the best party ever! And her castle and unicorn cake was the best cake! She was certain because all of the other little girls from Miss Sepphora’s said that they wished it was their cake. But it wasn’t, it was Daisy’s. If she’d been a less kind little girl, she might have felt a bit smug about this but, as it was, she was just looking forward to sharing.
The party had been set up in a meadow just outside the village and Daisy had found herself a patch of her namesake flowers. She was currently sitting in the middle of them concentrating very hard on figuring out how such flimsy little things could be made into a crown.
Susan had helped Henry set up Daisy’s party, and was now making sure there were no tears or anything to spoil the special day, but thankfully it looked as though everything was going smoothly. The weather was lovely, and the children excited but not overly so. Susan spotted the birthday girl herself and decided to go over just to check everything was okay, as she wasn’t joining in the party games.
“Are you making yourself a daisy-chain necklace?” she enquired, dropping down to sit next to Daisy and smoothing out her skirt.
“A crown,” said Daisy, looking up and beaming at Susan with a grin that was missing a few teeth here and there. “So that I can be a Birthday Daisy Princess and match my castle cake.” She frowned mightily at the flowers in her lap. “Only they won’t stay together.”
She glanced up at Susan again and wondered if she knew how to make the daisies into a crown. Susan knew all sorts of important things like how to draw flowers and make bubble bath, after all.
Smiling at Daisy’s serious expression, Susan reached over and plucked two flowers from Daisy’s lap. “Watch carefully,” she said, holding the flowers so that Daisy could see what she was doing. “You need to choose ones with a nice thick stem, and use your thumbnail to make a little hole near the end, see? And then the stem of the next one goes through the hole, like so.”
She handed the two linked daisies back to the little girl, so that Daisy could inspect how it was done for herself.
Daisy examined the two linked flowers, scrunching up her nose and mouth in concentration. Once she was sure she understood, she picked up one of her own daisies and attempted the make a neat little hole with her fingernail like Susan had done.
She shredded the first two. The third, however, looked almost like Susan’s only the hole was quite a bit longer. “Like that?”
“Perfect!” Susan said, nodding in approval at Daisy’s attempt. “Now you can thread another daisy through that hole, but carefully, because it’s a little bit fiddly.” She folded her hands in her lap, watching Daisy out of the corner of her eye but being careful not to make a fuss about helping her. She understood instinctively that children needed to try things for themselves in order to learn, and Susan was happy to sit there patiently while Daisy got the hang of it.
When Daisy, sticking out her tongue to help with concentration, managed to thread the stem of her second flower through the hole in her first, she did expand the hole slightly, but not enough to shred the stem entirely.
“I did it!” she squealed happily, clapping her hands. Being careful not to drop or crush the flowers, she threw her arms around Susan’s middle and hugged her tightly. “Thank you!”
Susan let out a little “oof!” of surprised breath as Daisy’s hug hit her, then a pleased smile spread over her face. There was something so naturally charming about the little girl that Susan couldn’t help but respond to. She hugged Daisy back, bringing one hand up to briefly stroke her hair. “You’re welcome,” she replied. “Well done! You’ll soon be making daisy chains a mile long.
“But tell you what,” Susan added, gazing over Daisy’s head at the ongoing party, “if you’ll do me the honour of letting me be your handmaiden for the day, I’ll help you make a crown in super-quick time. Because you don’t want to miss out on the games and that wonderful cake of yours, do you?”
Daisy thought about this for a moment. She did want to make her own crown, but she would also like to have it quickly. And it would be no fun at all to let the other children enjoy her party and her cake without her. After a moment, she nodded decisively. “Yes, please!”
Around the time that Susan was settling the daisy chain crown on Daisy’s head, Henry came looking for them. He paused for a moment and smiled at the scene. Susan Bones was a lovely girl and she’d been invaluable help to him — he would have been at a complete loss in planning this party without her. He’d enjoyed her company far more than he had expected, he was often too insular to enjoy anyone’s company (besides Daisy’s) these days. Susan looked rather beautiful sitting in the sunshine with his daughter, he thought absently. Hell, with their auburn hair, Daisy could almost be Susan in miniature.
“Excuse me, Miss Bones,” he said, clearing his throat and stepping towards them. “I’m sorry to bother you and your friend, but have you, by any chance, seen my daughter?”
Daisy giggled and got to her feet. “I’m right here, Daddy!”
“You?” Henry asked, incredulously, looking Daisy up and down. “It cannae be! My Daisy is but a wee lassie and you are entirely too tall and grown-up to be her.”
“It’s me! I swear it is!”
Henry picked Daisy up and tipped her upside down as he continued to examine her suspiciously and she shrieked with laughter and clutched at her crown to make sure it didn’t fall off.
Susan put a hand to her mouth to hold in her own laughter, her eyes crinkling at the corners at the sight of Henry playing with his daughter. He clearly adored her. Susan hadn’t known what to think when a Hit Wizard had moved into town, but any man who was so devoted a father was a good person to have as a neighbour in her eyes.
Gracefully getting to her feet and brushing grass and petals off her skirt, Susan took a step towards the pair. “That happens to be the Birthday Princess you’re dangling upside down,” she pointed out mischievously. “I’m not at all sure it’s dignified.”
Tipping her head to one side, the better to look at Daisy’s steadily-turning-redder-by-the-minute face, she asked innocently, “Are you all right, Princess Daisy?”
“Yes, except the king has captured me! He’s being very naughty!”
“Oh my,” said Henry, looking aghast. “We cannae have a naughty king. That just won’t do. I suppose I’ll have to put her down, then.”
He did so, making sure Daisy had her footing and wouldn’t stumble before letting her go. He studied her again carefully, rubbing his chin. Then he leaned conspiratorially towards Susan. “Now, you’re sure that this is my birthday girl?”
Susan nodded seriously. “Oh yes. If you look very carefully, I believe you can just make out the pattern of freckles on her nose. It’s a dead giveaway. They form the shape of a unicorn.” The corner of her mouth twitched at this outrageous lie, and she had to bite her lip to stop herself from laughing out loud.
Daisy gasped in delighted and her hands flew to her nose as if her little fingers could find the freckles. She had a unicorn on her nose?! How had she never noticed! Oh, she couldn’t wait to find it and tell all of her friends!
“Hmm.” Henry leaned down, very close to Daisy and examined her freckles. And then he smiled. “Oh, yes, you’re quite right, Miss Bones. I see it now. Hello, Daisy.”
“I’m glad I’ve got you both here, you know,” he said, straightening and digging into his pocket. “Because I’ve got a birthday gift that I think the Birthday Princess ought to open with Miss Bones present.”
Daisy bounced up and down on her toes as her father resized the long package wrapped in sparkly pink paper with lots of ribbons. “Oh, what is it? What is it?”
“You’ll have to open it and see, lassie, won’t you?” He handed the gift over and then marveled as Daisy plopped down on her bottom and paper and ribbons began to fly. It never ceased to amaze him how quickly his pretty little daughter could wreak destruction if there was a present to be had on the other side.
“Oh!” Daisy exclaimed as she pulled the top from the box, her face lighting up. “My pink parasol! Two pink parasols! One for me and one for Susan! You remembered!” She got to her feet and threw herself into her father’s arms. “Thank you, Daddy!!”
Henry smiled a bit sheepishly at Susan as his daughter attempted to throttle him with the enthusiasm of her hug. “It was the least I could do, Daisy. Miss Bones is the one who made your party so special, after all.”
Susan found herself blushing, and looked down at her feet, suddenly shy. “It was my pleasure,” she said honestly. “I loved every minute of planning this party. I feel like I should thank you for letting me have so much fun with it all.” And truly, she had let her imagination run wild in creating themed party games and food, putting her creative flair to good use. Susan had discovered long ago that it was nice to do things for other people, and Daisy and Henry seemed so deserving of her help that it had been a delight to come to their aid.
“Let’s have a look at this parasol, then,” Susan said, taking the one that Daisy handed her and opening it up. “Oh, it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed, twirling it round. “This will be sure to keep the sun off my head. Thank you very much, Daisy, Mr Radford.” In truth, she suspected she was about fifteen years too old to get away with parading around with it in public, but she wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop her. It really was the most adorable parasol she’d ever seen.
Having set Daisy down and helped her to open her own parasol, Henry was free to watch Susan’s antics with a small smile. She really was lovely. She looked quite striking with the pink parasol for all that it should have looked a bit ridiculous.
“I’m glad you like it,” he said. “Your help really was invaluable and we can’t thank you enough, can we, Daisy?”
Daisy tore her attention away from her parasol long enough to shake her head. “Nope!”
As his daughter went back to her parasol twirling, Henry scrubbed a hand back through his hair. “You know, I think you’d better call me Henry. No more of this Mr Radford business. We’re old friends now, are we not?”
“I should think so,” Susan agreed. Although it should have felt a bit odd to start thinking of Mr Radford as just plain Henry, Susan was surprised at how natural it seemed. Well, she reasoned, planning a birthday party probably did bond two people together. “You may call me Susan,” she added, resisting the strange urge to shake his hand.
“Now, how about we go and cut into this marvellous cake of yours, Daisy?” she asked, keen to change the subject before she did something silly like laughing for no reason. “I’m sure it tastes as delicious as it looks.”
“Okay!” Daisy said, attention torn from her parasol at the prospect of sugar. Still holding her prized possession tightly in one hand, she used her free hand to latch onto Susan and tug her in the direction of the food.
Henry just chuckled, shaking his head as he followed after them.