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Captured by Mr. Wild: Chapter 2

Daisy

Present Day

    Atlantic Airways,” the cheerful flight attendant says in a singsong voice as I deplane.

I give her the best smile I can manage as I adjust my bag strap on my shoulder and head up the jetway toward the terminal.

It’s been ten years since I flew into LAX airport. In some ways, it’s changed. But in others, it’s still the same. People are still rushing around, barely looking at their fellow passengers as they race to get to the head of the immigration line. It suits me, though. Being invisible is the best possible thing I can be right now.

I sigh as the line moves along slowly until I’m almost at the front. The guy in front of me mutters something under his breath about not having all day as he stares at a lady standing at the nearest immigration desk. I peer round him to get a better look. She’s elderly and seems sweet, looking about the same age my aunt would be now if she were still here. My heart squeezes at the thought.

I watch as she chats to the immigration officer, and he tips his head back and laughs. He hands her back her passport, and she reaches into her handbag and produces a shiny foil-wrapped candy, placing it on the desk as she waves bye to him.

The impatient man gets called to another desk and then the officer with the candy looks up and catches my eye.

“Over here, miss.” He raises his hand and beckons me over.

“Thank you.” I hand him my passport, and he opens it to the photo page as he looks up.

“New hair?” He raises a brow.

I run my hand around the back of my head self-consciously. “I fancied a change.”

He nods before motioning to the fingerprint scanner. I place my hand on the glass and find myself staring at the bright pink candy by his computer monitor as he processes me and stamps my passport. It looks so out of place here, surrounded by gray. It’s like a wildflower growing in the middle of a concrete path.

Exposed.

Alone.

“Have a pleasant stay.” He smiles as he hands back my passport.

I head over to the baggage carousel and wait for my case, wondering whether this trip was a good idea. It seemed like it when I booked my last-minute ticket—when I had no other choice.

I wrap my arms around myself and watch the bags go round. Mine will probably be last, knowing my luck.

“You look like you could do with a little sugar pick me up.”

I turn to find the sweet old lady from the immigration line standing next to me. Her eyes are twinkling as she holds out a bag of bright pink candies.

“No, really, I’m fine.” I shake my head. “Thank you, though.”

“Take one anyway. You may want it later.” She smiles as she takes one out of the bag and presses it into my palm.

Despite myself, I smile. “Thanks.” I nod and then take a breath. “I’m Dai—I mean, I’m Dee.”

She grins. “Nice to meet you, Dee. I’m Vera.”

“Are you over here for a holiday” I ask politely when I realize she’s still looking at me.

“Yes.” Her face lights up. “I’m here to visit my granddaughter. She runs her own business.” Vera beams at me, her voice full of pride.

“That sounds wonderful.” I smile back before glancing back to the baggage carousel. I can see my bag coming around and step forward to grab it before it passes. As I drag it off, the handle snaps.

“What?” My shoulders sag as I dump my old, battered suitcase on the floor in front of me.

A gentle hand pats my forearm. “Never mind, love. It’s easily fixed.”

“Thank you,” I whisper and then look up into the kind eyes of Vera as my chest tightens. “My aunt bought it for me, for all my visits. That was before she… before she…” I take a deep breath. “I’m here to sort her house out. It’s been rented out for a long time. But my parents want to sell it now.”

I don’t know why I’m telling her all this—a woman I’ve just met. But she’s so kind. She has the sort of eyes you know hold a thousand stories and link to a huge heart. I can’t stop the words falling from my lips.

“I’m really nervous about going there again. Now, she’s not there anymore.”

Vera looks at me, her eyes taking on a warmth and understanding.

“It’s tough, love. But remember, things are just things. The real memories stay with you forever. In here.” She pats a hand against her chest.

I swear I could wrap my arms around this sweet lady and collapse in a heap on the floor right now from all her kindness.

She smiles at me and then turns to the carousel, taking a step closer and leaning forward.

“Is that one yours?” I follow her gaze to a shiny silver case.

“That’s the one.”

I step around her and lift it off, placing it on the floor and pulling up the extendable handle for her.

“Oh, you are a gem. Thank you.” She places her hand on top of mine.

“It’s no problem.” I look down and a frown crosses my face as I notice the dry skin around her knuckles—red fissures running between them where it’s cracked.

“Oh.” She pulls her hand away as she follows my gaze. “It’s the dry air on the plane. Wreaks havoc on my skin. I don’t know how those flight attendants stay looking so young and fresh. I feel like a dried-up prune after one flight.” She chuckles.

“Here, I’ve got something you can try.” I reach into my bag and pull out a small silver tin. “It’s a hand balm. Its chief ingredient is cocoa butter, so it’s very moisturising. But it’s also got lavender and calendula in, so it’s soothing as well.”

I hand Vera the tin and she unscrews the lid and lifts it to her nose.

“It smells wonderful.” She dabs some across the backs of her hands and rubs it in. “Thank you, Dee.” She holds the tin out to me.

“No, you can keep it. I’ve got more.”

Vera nods with gratitude and then looks at the daisy sticker on top of the tin before slipping it inside her handbag.

“That’s so kind of you. You’ve made an old woman’s day.”

“So, where are you staying?” I ask as we begin the walk toward customs.

“Hope Cove. That’s where my granddaughter’s business is. I’m staying with her at her house. Right on the beach it is, lucky thing.” Vera lets out a wistful sigh as we walk out into the main terminal, toward the exit. “How about you, love? Where’s this house that holds so many fond memories of yours?”

I swallow as I look back at her. My mind transports back to my aunt’s house when I was seventeen years old.

Bring those chamomile flowers in, Daisy. And those elderflowers. We’re going to try a new recipe.

“It’s, um, it’s actually in Hope Cove,” I say, forcing myself back into the present.

“Well, isn’t that handy? You can share my cab! My granddaughter insisted on booking one.” She rolls her eyes and continues before I have the chance to tell her that’s kind, but unnecessary.

“I told her, I may be old, but I’m not incapable of getting my own cab at the airport.” She tuts good-naturedly. “She wanted to come herself, but she’s a staff member down at work. She works so hard.” Vera sighs to herself. ‘You young women. Conquering the world, you are. Just remember to look after yourselves along the way.”

She stops and points at a man who’s waving in our direction.

“Oh, good. There’s John. I’m glad they sent him this time.” She lowers her voice as if sharing a secret with me. “The last driver I got liked to sing along to the radio.” She frowns. “He had a voice only his mother could love.”

I open my mouth to take my chance to decline her offer of a lift again, but she strides off ahead.

“Come on, love,” she calls, turning around to smile at me. “We’ll drop you off first.”


I wrap my hands around my mug and inhale the scent from the fresh chamomile flower tea I’m nursing. It was one of the first things I did after Vera dropped me off here—dump my bag in the hallway and head straight out to the garden to pick the flowers, so I could steep them, just the way my aunt used to when I stayed here.

She loved her garden.

One requirement we gave to letting out the house was that the tenants allowed for a gardener to visit weekly. I’m so glad Mum and Dad gave in when I pushed for it. This was my aunt’s sanctuary. Her oasis.

And for as long as I can make it last, now it’s mine.

I gaze around at the flower beds and raised planters, spilling over with flowering bushes in a rainbow of colors. Butterflies and bees buzz around in the warm summer air from plant to plant, investigating the legacy she left behind in the earth.

I take a sip of my tea and smile as warmth spreads through my chest. I already feel calmer, my shoulders less tense, just by being back here again.

The sound of a dog barking in the distance draws my attention out across the small lake at the bottom of the garden. I used to love sitting just here, on these weathered porch steps, staring out across the water. It’s close enough to see the deer and fox, which would come and drink from the water’s edge over there at dusk. There used to be an old, empty house there, but it looks as though someone has bought it in the decade since I was last here. Now there’s a smart honey-colored house occupying the spot. I guess a lot has changed since my last visit.

My back clicks as I stand up and stretch. I really should get an early night. The flight from London has wiped me out.

I turn and look up at the house. It looks the same as it always did. Faded white boards, old drafty windows my aunt would always have opened wide so that the breeze could blow through, bringing in the scent from her beloved flower and herb beds.

There are so many happy memories within these walls.

I wrap one arm around myself as I lift my mug to my lips with the other. I didn’t have to come. The realtor could have easily aired the property out since the last tenants left, and arranged for a fresh coat of paint and tidy up, ready to sell. Only I couldn’t allow myself to not come back.

Just once more.

And given what happened back home, my parents were more than happy about it. It’s for the best, they said. It will be good for me, they think.

I forgot what anything good feels like, a long time ago.


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