The woman behind the counter in a snake skin patterned sari doesn’t look at Daisy as she says, ‘Thirty rupee, madam, please.’
Daisy smiles anyway as she hands the money over in exchange for a fresh coconut with a straw stuck in the top. Nothing can stop her feeling good today.
On the shop’s rickety veranda she sits and watches bony cows and mangy dogs mill about. Down the street a harassed-looking woman bundles children into a tuk-tuk. Horns beep and the air is thick with dust and exhaust fumes from the constant stream of traffic going past.
Goodness still trickles through Daisy’s veins from the cold, sweet coconut water though. She can feel it. When she’d arrived at the retreat, only days after getting out of the hospital, her skin had been a dull and dirty yellow, showing the world what she was. A coward. Running and hiding in bottles of vodka until her liver nearly died.
When she’d woken up in the hospital the first thing she’d seen was a bunch of wilting sunflowers in a chipped jug on her bedside table. She’d blinked unsure of where, and when, she was. Then he appeared, sitting on a hard, plastic chair wearing his retro 80s t-shirt with the smiley acid house face, and faded jeans. What he’d been wearing that day.
‘Hey,’ he said.
He leaned forward, dropping the softest, gentlest kiss on her parched lips. ‘You’ve got to stop this now. It wasn’t your fault. Just an accident.’
Daisy sank back into sleep again. When she awoke he was gone, of course, as were the flowers. They were the ones he’d given her on their first date. The chipped blue jug the only thing she’d had to put them in. Wild young things didn’t own vases.
When she’d been released from the hospital, she booked the retreat and a flight leaving the very next day. Then she went to a florist and bought every sunflower they had and took them to his grave. She knelt in front of it, sprinkled the flowers all around. A splash of happy sunshine on a grey and gloomy day.
She ran her fingers over the inscription:
12th August 1972 – 2nd October 2016
Beloved husband of Daisy.
Taken too soon. We were all we had.
Daisy sobbed while she smiled then kissed her fingertips, pressing them against his name. ‘Hey you. I’m going to be okay now. Thank you.’
The last slurp of the coconut water through the straw pulls Daisy back from that dank English graveyard. She takes the empty coconut back into the shop and places it on the counter.
The woman ignores her again and doesn’t look up from her phone. Daisy shrugs and carries on her way. Maybe she’ll stay here. Nothing to go back for, after all, and the insurance money would go a lot further. A nice little place by the beach where she can live a quiet, healthy life. Yoga, walking, reading, painting. No booze and lots of delicious vegetarian food. It’s what Robbie would want for her.
Daisy kicks her flip-flops off and stuffs them in her bag when she reaches the track to the beach. The warm sand caresses her feet as she climbs up and over the small dune. Later it will be too hot to walk on. At the top the beach opens out before her. Just a handful of fishermen fixing their nets. The milky sea glinting softly in the sun.
Daisy walks right to the end of the row of sunbeds. Takes the one in the front row so that no matter how busy it might get later, she can feel like it’s just her, white-hot sky, ocean, and burning yellow sun.
She lies back and stares up into the dried palm fronds of the parasol, a smile on her face. She’s turned a corner. She closes her eyes, lets the shushing sound of the tiny waves fill her mind.
She doesn’t see the snake until it’s curling around her leg.
With a breathless little scream, Daisy kicks out. The snake rears back, then strikes at her leg one, two, three times. Before slinking away into the shade it had been seeking.
Daisy’s leg swells and reddens instantly.
‘Help,’ she calls.
But the snake has stolen her newfound strength.
She grabs for her bag, her phone. But her fingers won’t work.
Then she’s still. Her breath coming in shallow gasps as the sun beats down, slowly turning her body golden again.
AMANDA SAINT is the author of two novels, As If I Were A River and Remember Tomorrow. Her short fiction collection, Flashes Of Colour, is coming in 2020. Amanda founded Retreat West, providing writing competitions, courses and retreats, and Retreat West Books indie press publishes short fiction, novels and memoirs.
Image via Pixabay