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by Cath Barton

Dog roses, there were, in the day. Bertie said we would pick the roses for our wedding, but even then I knew the petals would fall before we got home.

“And anyway,” I said, with an audacity now long gone, “why would I marry a stupid boy like you?”

I knew it would hurt him, even at nine I knew, and I didn’t care. Just flounced off.

“Daisy,” he called after me in a weak voice. “Daisy, come back.”

I didn’t turn. I ran home and when Mother asked where my cousin Bertie was I said he had fallen in the lake. There was such a fuss. They went looking, Father and the men from the farm, but they couldn’t find him anywhere. I saw their torches shining on the water. I felt sorry then that I’d told that lie, but it was too late.

In the morning they discovered him sleeping on the grain sacks in the barn, and Mother wept. Now I know it was from relief, but then, at nine, I didn’t understand. Didn’t know that the damage had been done.

Bertie never came to stay again. There were still roses in the hedgerows in those years of my childhood. I picked the petals to make perfume, lining up jam jars on the kitchen window sill. It turned murky and sour in time. Mother wept again when the boys went to war. I still didn’t understand, didn’t know the half of it, even at fifteen.

And when the telegrams started arriving Mother cried every day. After that were no more roses, just the twinning hops in the hedgerows, rough to my fingers. And no boys at all, no-one for any of us to marry. After that.

Cath Barton is an English writer who lives in Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which will be published on September 27 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. Read more about her writing at https://cathbarton.com/. On Twitter she’s @CathBarton1.