Paper Daffodils

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Logline or Premise
Reunited by chance at a Seniors' Retreat in the stunning Lake District, two women rekindle their decades-old friendship. Through a series of madcap adventures spiced with sarcasm and banter, the two find themselves unexpectedly falling in love.
First 10 Pages


Is it possible for loneliness to become a personality trait? Rosie Bishop pondered this as she stared out the grimy kitchen window, idly fiddling with the spoon in her half-empty teacup. After so many years, it certainly felt like it could. It seemed to be the only emotion that kept her company anymore – that, and a seeping bitterness that coloured every waking moment.

With a sigh for her thoughts, she abandoned her cold tea and moved closer to the window, wrapping her arms around herself in a vain attempt at comfort. Beyond the glass, the claustrophobic winter sky spoke volumes, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that the world had a gaping hole in it. A shiver passed over her, and she dropped her gaze, only to have it arrested by a flash of yellow. She frowned, and stared; there along the dull verge, daffodils danced in defiance of the moody day. Bright and incorrigible, they kept up a cheerful waving in the stiff breeze outside, and Rosie tilted her head, reminded of something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Vaguely, she associated them with… something. Their liveliness transfixed her for a long moment, taking her back to memories she almost recalled, but at last, she shook her head, for the sentiment refused to bloom into true recollection. Her face puckered into a scowl. She didn’t care, anyway; she didn’t care about anything, anymore. The colours of life had long since faded into monotonous shades of grey, and the bright flowers were merely a callous reminder of that fact.

With a huff, she turned her back on the view and her aimless feet bore her down the hall, her footsteps echoed by the slow ticking of an antique clock as it kept incessant track of nothingmuch. Callous, the timepiece reminded her that she had nothing to do today – or any day – and she shuffled away to the other side of the house in a bid to escape its judgement.

She meandered through room after lifeless room, until she found herself standing in front of the bay windows in the parlour. There, unbidden, her gaze found another bunch of cheerful daffodils, and she paused again. Despite her melancholy, she marvelled at their audacity. Spring was a mere suggestion, winter still holding fast in the snap of brittle air, and yet, the undaunted daffodils unfurled their crowns. In tiny echo of their gallantry, the corners of her lips twitched into the ghost of a smile, and a strange warmth tugged at her. Indeed, they did remind her of someone, but she couldn’t quite pin down—

“Mum?” A call echoed through the house, dousing her musings.

The front door slammed, admitting a clatter of footsteps – more than one person, by the sounds of things – and Rosie’s tentative smile vanished.

“In here!” she snapped.

Beneath furrowing brows, her eyes lingered on the daffodils, but then she turned and stalked into the hall. Her daughter Mary appeared a heartbeat later, laden with shopping bags, and two boisterous children bounded in behind her.

“Mum, it’s freezing in here! Why haven’t you got the heating on? You know, at your age—”

“I don’t recall inviting you,” Rosie interrupted. She was only sixty-two, for God’s Sake.

Mary rolled her eyes. “It’s Tuesday, Mum – you told me to pop past on Tuesday.”

Rosie faltered for a brief moment. Was it really Tuesday already? Felt like a second since last Tuesday – and a lifetime. Composing herself, she growled, “I know. I just didn’t… realise the time.”

“Odd, seeing as you sit and stare at the clock all day,” Mary said, before wisely changing the subject. “Here – let me put these down – I brought you a few groceries. Boys, say hello to Grandma.”

“Hi, Grandma!” came the shrill chorus.

Rosie almost smiled, but then reminded herself she wasn’t in the mood. “Wipe your feet!” she barked as they skipped past her, and they exchanged impish grins as they whizzed around again to obey.

“So-rr-y, Grandma!” Tommy wiggled his eyebrows at her.

Nate snorted into his sleeve at the insincerity of his brother’s apology, and Rosie gave a resigned sigh as they scampered off. But it was all she could do to control the quirk of her lips – despite her persistent woe, their antics always managed to brighten her day.

“What have you got in there, then?” she snapped at Mary as she followed her into the kitchen to supervise the unpacking.

“All the usual, plus a few chocolates,” said Mary mildly. “And… I’ve got a surprise for you.”

She held out an envelope, and Rosie eyed it suspiciously before accepting it with long fingers. “What is it?”

Mary raised an eyebrow and waited for her to open it. Scowling, Rosie did so and pulled out a sleek brochure and a folded piece of paper neatly typed with provisional details.

“It’s a Retreat,” Mary prompted. “A week in the countryside.”

Rosie looked up from what she was reading. “For seniors?”

Mary allowed herself a long-suffering blink. “As in, over fifty-five. Come on, Mum, you’ve been holed up in this house for months, and you need to get out. It’s nothing fancy, just a nice relax in the Lake District – a little wine-tasting, walks in the woods, perhaps even a spot of fishing—”


“Look, just think about it, will you?” Mary’s gaze softened, and she came to cup her mother’s hands beneath her own. “I’m worried about you, Mum. I know the divorce hasn’t been easy for you, but it’s been over a year, and you’ve hardly set foot outside of this house. You’ve not checked in at the office, you seldom go shopping… Even I’ll admit that Dad was a bastard, but honestly, you need to stop wallowing. You’re a free woman, and it’s time you took your life back.”

Rosie spluttered, a veritable cascade of indignant protests burning on her tongue. But over Mary’s shoulder, the daffodils beyond the window caught her eye again, and she swallowed her bitter retort. After a moment, she huffed, “Fine. I’ll think about it.”

Mary’s tired face creased into a smile – the first one Rosie had seen cross her lips for a very long time, she realised. Something stirred deep within her numb heart, just for a second, and, gently, she squeezed Mary’s hands around the envelope.

“I’ll think about it,” she repeated, more softly. “I promise.”

Blinking rapidly, Mary gave a brisk nod and turned away before a tear could escape her. She inhaled deeply to compose herself and then yelled into the abyss of the house. “Boys! C’mon! Let’s go – we’ve a lot of errands to run!”

Rosie’s face fell. “You won’t… stay for a cuppa?”

Mary’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “I didn’t expect” – she cleared her throat – “I’d love to, Mum, but I’ve got to get Tommy to practice, and Nate’s got a play date.”

“Mu-um!” Nate complained, overhearing as he tumbled back into the kitchen. “It’s not a play date. Me and my mates are just hanging out.”

“That’s what I meant,” Mary said, ruffling his shaggy mane of blond hair.

He yelled and pushed her off, setting to furiously straightening it out again, and Rosie watched with soft affection. They were growing so fast – Nate was nearly nine already, Tommy ten. Real little lads, now.

“Yes, yes,” Rosie said, hiding the spark of disappointment behind a casually dismissive wave. “Of course. Next time, then. Thanks for bringing the shopping.”

Mary managed half a smile as she ushered the boys out, and her gaze fell to the papers still clutched in Rosie’s hand. “The Retreat’s in April, but I have to confirm by the end of this week.”

“I’ll think about it,” Rosie repeated once more, firmly setting the envelope and its contents down on the countertop.

Her daughter met her eye, noticed the stubborn glint, and sighed.

“Well,” she said, “let me know.” She pressed a kiss to Rosie’s wan cheek. “Bye, Mum.”

“Bye Grandma!” the boys shouted as they raced to the car.

Rosie leaned against the door frame, watching them wrestling along the way, both of them utterly undaunted by the icy drizzle. Mary glanced back as she made the driver’s side and offered a small wave as she ducked into the car. Rosie returned it, feeling strangely that more than just the winter was beginning to thaw. The car pulled away, turned out of the cul-de-sac, and disappeared from view, leaving her alone once more. With a sigh, she made to turn away, but from the verge, the daffodils caught her attention with a cheerful wave. She watched them dance in the damp breeze for a long moment, feeling again the tugging of vague, impalpable memories, and something sparked within her.

Maybe she would go on that trip, after all.


Two months later, Rosie found herself tailing Mary across the carpark of a quaint hotel, leaning into a biting wind and sincerely regretting her decision to come. As the breeze snarled her hair into knots, she pushed her hat more firmly down atop her head and growled at Mary, “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this!”

“It’s only the Lake District, Mum,” Mary said with a smile, and her blue eyes – Rosie’s eyes – held a hint of mischief. “It’s not another country.”

She tugged her mother’s small suitcase up the front steps of Greenside Inn before Rosie could protest further, and at the top, turned to admire the view. In the distance, the sun was beginning to set, painting the fresh, damp sky in pretty pastels.

Mary paused with a small, contented sigh. “Gosh, would you look at this place, Mum? It’s gorgeous!”

Rosie stalked up to stand next to her and narrowed her eyes as she looked out. “There’s a bloody coach coming, Mary,” she said, scowling at a vehicle heading up the drive. “Full of old people.”

“Bet none of them are as obnoxious as you,” Mary quipped, ducking into the reception.

Rosie spluttered and stormed after her, but found her already talking with the manager – a weaselly young man who introduced himself as Pip – and had to content herself with a dreadful glower. When Mary had finished showing him the booking confirmation, the pimply youth turned to Rosie with an insipid smile.

“Welcome to Greenside Inn, Mrs Smith.”

“It’s Bishop,” Rosie snapped. “Miss.”

“Very well, Miss Bishop.” His smile widened, just a touch, and she fought the urge to wipe it off his face. He signalled a redheaded young woman from nearby. “If you’ll follow Liz, here, she’ll show you to your room.”

Rosie glared daggers at her daughter, but Liz had already caught up her suitcase and was pulling away.

“Off you go!” Mary prompted.

“We’re going to have words about this when I get back!”

Mary smirked. “I’ve no doubt. But in the meantime, you’re here, so you might as well attempt to enjoy yourself.”

Fuming, Rosie vacillated on the spot, Liz drawing away with her personal belongings on one side, and her daughter turning for the door on the other. But Mary gave a jaunty wave and disappeared outside, and then there was nothing left for Rosie to do but follow her small, lonely suitcase down the hall towards the lift.

“You’re on the third floor, Miss Bishop,” Liz said brightly, pinging the button to summon the contraption.

Rosie swallowed as she followed her in; she’d rather have taken the stairs. But the ascent was smooth and uneventful, and the silver doors soon slid open to reveal a cosy passageway lined with large windows, that offered a commanding view of the Inn’s attendant lake. Liz continued the entire length of the hall, stopping at the very last room to slide a key card into the slot. She pushed the door open and stood back for Rosie to precede her, and then followed to deposit the suitcase.

“Your itinerary is on the fridge,” Liz said, “but the activities are optional. You are quite welcome to simply relax and take in the scenery. Your booking’s for the whole package, though, so you can take advantage of any of the activities on offer.” She tipped Rosie a jaunty smile and turned for the door. “Enjoy your stay, Miss Bishop. I’m sure your roommate will be along shortly.”

“My… what?” Rosie dropped the TV remote she’d been inspecting and spun around, but Liz was gone. The door clicked softly closed and Rosie found herself alone, and furious. This was not what she’d agreed to! The odd group activity she could put up with, because, if she were honest, she loved being out in the country, but a roommate? That wasn’t part of the deal! She pursed her lips to a thin white line. No, she wouldn’t have it; she’d march back downstairs, catch that weaselly manager Pip by the scruff of his neck, and demand a solitary room. Three thunderous steps took her to the exit and she snatched at the handle – but the door swung inward before she could touch it. It bounced off her toes, making her yelp, and she skittered backwards with a hiss. An extended second passed before a woman’s confused face popped around the door to see what the obstruction was, and Rosie steeled for a skirmish.

But an odd feeling of déjà vu accosted her, and she wavered. Equally perplexed, the other woman’s hazel eyes widened beneath a thick fringe of silver hair. She took Rosie’s measure, and then her eyebrows lifted high.

“Good God… Rosie?”

Recognition clanged through Rosie like a brass bell, and her jaw dropped. She stepped out of the way to let the door swing wide.


Amazed, Dawn Clermont shook her head, tossed her suitcase aside and swept to engulf Rosie in a hug. “What in the bloody hell are you doing here?!”

Rosie laughed – oh, the first time she’d laughed in so long! – and returned her fierce squeeze. “What am I doing here? I’d never take you for a ‘seniors retreat’ kind of girl!”

Dawn pulled back with a grin. “I’m not, usually, but I won a free holiday at bingo night so—”

“Bingo?” Rosie interrupted with a splutter. “Not bingo, Dawn!”

“Honestly!” Dawn laughed. “I started playing a couple of years ago, not long after Jack died. I joined a few other clubs too; a book club, a gardening club – a gin-making club…”

She smiled around the cheeky anecdote she’d tacked onto the end, but Rosie’s face had greyed. “Jack’s… dead?”

Dawn’s amusement faltered under the unexpected clarification. She squeezed her eyes shut and nodded unevenly, and Rosie gently wrapped her up into another hug.

“Oh, Dawn… I had no idea… I’m so sorry.”

Against her shoulder, Dawn sighed, “It’s all right, Rose. It’s been four years, but I still… miss him, you know?”

They stood for a long moment, until, at last, Dawn drew back to dab at a small tear. Rosie squeezed her hand in solidarity, and then ventured: “Tea?”

Dawn nodded. “Please. Milk—”

“Two sugars.” Rosie finished, smiling gently. “I know.”

Dawn managed a watery smile in return and settled onto the couch as Rosie busied herself at the small kitchenette. When she shortly held out a cup, Dawn reached gratefully for it and sipped deep, drawing fortitude from the sweet warmth.

“Thank you,” she murmured.

Rosie plopped down beside her and patted her arm. “Not much a good cuppa can’t solve.”

Wiping at her nose with a sleeve, Dawn gave a derisive huff. “Ridiculous, really – haven’t seen you in twenty years, and the first thing I do is burst into tears.”

“Mmm.” Rosie raised a judgemental eyebrow at her. “I know I’ve aged a little bit, but I must say I didn’t quite expect that reaction.”

Dawn snorted, almost spilling her tea. “God, I’ve missed you, Rose.”

Rosie sighed and leaned comfortably against her shoulder. “I’ve missed you too.”

“Really, how did it get to twenty bloody years…?”

“That’s life, I suppose. Spending too much time on trivial things, and not enough moments on those that matter.”

Dawn huffed in amusement. “And when did you become such a melancholic sage?”

“Round about the time Richard left me.”

“What!” Dawn cried, actually spilling her tea. “Shit.” She wiped the liquid from her lap half-heartedly as she stared at Rosie. “Richard left you?”

Rosie tilted her head with a wan smile. “Bloody did. Just over a year ago, now. Found himself a younger model.”

Dawn made a rude noise and thumped her half-empty cup down on the coffee table. “Poor bloody woman,” she exclaimed. “Well, to hell with Richard. I never liked the bastard anyway.”

“You introduced us,” Rosie reminded her mildly.

“Oh. Yes…. Shit, sorry.”

Their eyes met for a silent moment, and then they collapsed into laughter – real, raw, gut-wrenching laughter that persisted until tears flowed and neither could breathe.

At last, when Dawn had recovered enough to speak, she took Rosie’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “He didn’t bloody deserve you, Rose. I hope you know that.”

Rosie’s smile softened. “It’s not all bad, I suppose. I did get Mary out of it – and my beautiful boys.”

“Boys?” Dawn frowned. “What boys?”

Rosie laughed. “Tommy and Nate – Mary’s sons.”

Dawn sat perfectly still for a moment, processing – and then unleashed a crow of amusement. “You’re a granny?”

“You’re not so young yourself,” Rosie shot back.

“Yes, but Rose… you have grandchildren.”

“So do you, technically,” Rosie replied, raising an eyebrow in challenge. “Mary is your god-daughter, after all.”

“That’s hardly the same thing.”

“It counts.”

Dawn harrumphed, affronted. “It does not!”

Rosie smothered her amusement with her fingers pressed over her mouth, and Dawn glared at her, fighting a losing battle with her own quirking lips. Somehow, everything was funny. Their crumbling lives, their chance meeting, the state of their tedious affairs – all of it. So damned depressing all one could do was laugh it off. And they did, dissolving back into giggles, clutching at their ribs, holding on to that amusement as if it were a last, desperate lifeline.