“She would have loved them, wouldn’t she?”
Kirsten glanced nonchalantly at the cerise pink roses her father pointed out. Biting her lip, she picked up the rusty fork, and began to turn over the soil. She stared intently at the trench of crumbling dirt, determined not to see her father’s heartbroken expression.
“Bright pink! Couldn’t ever see the attraction with such a colour, myself.” David smiled, half-heartedly, willing his daughter to mirror his response with a giggle. He studied her vacant face, as she placed a bulb in the centre of the hole. Her once beautiful blue eyes were now impassive, underlined by a dark purple rim.
Kirsten looked at the bulb, so fragile and delicate. She piled the nearby heap of earth on top, until the white object in the ground was covered by the heavy mound.
“Amazing to think that it’ll bloom into a daffodil by March” David spoke awkwardly, trying to read Kirsten’s thoughts. He almost jumped in fright, as she turned to look at him, with large eyes. Finally a response. She looked as though she had had a revelation of some kind.
Kirsten lumped the soil on to the next corm heavily , determined to completely submerse this one. She really hoped it wouldn’t surface again, but knew that it would have to at some time. And as her father had said, this time it would sprout up to become beautiful flower, leaving behind its former ugly little bulb.
“It’s good to plant new seeds.” David explained, knowing now that he wasn’t only talking to himself. “Each little plant shows us that new life must continue. As the old plants disintegrate, they live on in the seedlings they have produced.”
Kirsten knew her father wasn’t merely giving a biology lesson. She yanked vigorously on the roots of a wizened, dried up weed. No matter how hard she hauled, the yellow shoots remained firmly embedded in the ground.
“Need a hand?” David offered, as he picked up a hoe lying on the gravel. He was unsure whether to take the silence as a 'yes', 'no', or 'I’m not really listening to you'. Nevertheless, he leaned over, digging the hoe in deep to reach the roots. Eventually, after much straining, the roots lost their grip. As he cheered, he noticed a small smile appear on Kirsten’s face.
“Well, I do think it was a bit of teamwork, really.” He panted. “I mean you did all the hard work to start with.” He paused, tears welling in his eyes. He longed to embrace his only child, but she was staring into the distance. Sheepishly, he put an arm around her. “We need to work together.” He whispered. “We can’t do it on our own. And I think we can make it all the way through with the help of someone else.” He raised his eyes, to look at the azure sky.
Kirsten made no attempt to pull away from her father’s arms. However, a low, soft wailing sound distracted, and frightened her from his hold. She looked up to find her father reflecting a similar shock. It was only then that she realized the noise was escaping from her own lips, yet coming from somewhere deep within.
David pulled his daughter closer, and wrapped both arms around her tightly as she cried. It was the first time he had heard the teenager make any sound since that fatal day she had found her mother lying face down in the street.
“Maybe I could have done something sooner, and she would have been alright.” she gasped between sobs.
It was David’s turn to be silent, as the awful events swirled viciously through his mind, a nausea overwhelming him. He knew there was nothing either of them could have done after the six stab wounds had penetrated Lucy’s body.
At last he spoke “It was her time, Kirsten. There was nothing we could do.”
Kirsten contemplated David’s words silently, then took his hand. “ I’m glad I’ve both fathers to help me through.” Her voice trembled slightly. “It’s been good digging up old roots.”
She led him slowly to the memorial garden plaque.
In Memory of Lucy Ryan
And all those who have suffered as a consequence of violence.
Dedicated to finding peace in our streets.
As father and daughter observed the year old words etched in stone, they knew that a growing sense of peace was engraving itself upon their hearts, writing over their helpless grief.
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