Daisy stared at the message as it appeared on the screen, cutting through the morning with a knife: “I’m engaged !!” She started typing out a reply then deleted it. She tried again. Deleted again. It was a shock to Daisy because an engagement meant not only a wedding, but also that they would not be getting back together at some vague date in the future as she had always imagined they would. Her phone vibrated again, and Daisy read: “We’re getting married when I graduate!!” That was good. This meant she had a year and a half to wait at least.
At first Daisy felt betrayed. Her head was heavy. When she left her house that morning to meet Luke for coffee, he could tell something was bothering her. She drank her latte in a daze and hardly listened to what he was saying, staring out the window feeling very introspective and sympathetic about everyone who walked past, thinking that love had so much hurt to deal out.
She told Luke about the engagement, but the anxiety stayed with her, and after a while she realised she was anxious about dying alone and then she felt even worse for harbouring such a mundane yet melodramatic fear. Daisy met Kacy through a mutual friend when they were seventeen, loved her for three years then lost her unwillfully as they began to grow apart; because with all the energy of youth, Daisy was always busy; because she neglected their relationship to pursue other things; because, loving her still, Kacy could not bear the hurt, the waiting and she began to see Daisy as selfish and unloving as she was inevitably drawn to dreams of a greater love, the kind she'd heard about in all her favourite songs.
Since Daisy’s only excuse was that she did love Kacy, she begged for her forgiveness, but their relationship splintered across the English Channel as Daisy departed to spend a semester abroad in France. She held onto these splinters in the form of journal entries, film photographs and a love for The Cure. What she clung to the hardest, however, was the hope that one day Kacy would come back to her, that somehow they were still meant to be together. An engagement shut the door on that hope.
It was a fine morning despite the cold, Daisy thought, as she walked back from the café. She ducked into a corner shop to look at the magazines. That always made her feel better. Magazine in hand, Daisy left the shop and looked up at the white sky. She heard a woman say that she wouldn’t be surprised if it snowed later. Then she heard another voice. Turning around sharply, she came face to face with Kacy and her fiancée.
“Oh my god, Daisy! How are you?"
Why wouldn’t they disappear? Why couldn’t they walk backwards, past the river, past the castle, until they blended into the shadowy white sky like ghosts?
“This is Rachel, my fiancée.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“Daisy, what have you been up to?”
“Not much.” Today, just this anguish. Visions of Rachel and Kacy together flashed before her – photos she’d seen on Facebook, their wedding, their future together, falling into taxis after nights out, sentences whispered under covers.
She remembered that Rachel was studying at Oxford and before that had gone to one of the most expensive all-girls schools in the country. She was not startlingly pretty like Kacy, but she was confident and charming. Daisy hated her for it.
Rachel was saying, “Are you free on Friday? We’re having our engagement party at my house and we’ll probably go out in town afterwards.”
“You should come," Kacy said before she had time to reply. "We need to catch up. We wanted to hire a venue for for it, but the prices were ridiculous and we wanted to invite a lot of people and Rachel’s house is big enough so we thought why not have it there? We should go for a coffee soon too. And there's another party next week you should come to."
Kacy’s friends had always resented Daisy. She made them uncomfortable because she was Kacy’s first girlfriend when all of them had boyfriends. They'd complained that Daisy’s presence had ruined the boy to girl ratio in the group.
She looked at the ground. Her heart beat fast. Sometimes she wished she had a calendar full of party invitations, but she couldn't imagine Kacy and Rachel always being there. She mumbled something about being busy on Friday.
“Aw that’s a shame,” said Rachel, and she sounded genuinely disappointed.
Daisy looked up at Kacy and their eyes met. For a moment, it was like they understood each other completely, as they had done when they were in love, in that all-consuming teenage first love. And Kacy could tell that Daisy was lying about being busy. She could always tell when she was lying, but she couldn’t always tell when she was telling the truth. If she could, and she knew she still loved her, why had she left and got engaged to someone else? But for a brief moment, beneath the white sky heavy with snow, the hypnotic infatuation from their first flushes of love returned. They had somehow read each other’s minds on that cold January day. Then Kacy looked away, taking Rachel’s hand in hers.
They said their goodbyes and Daisy walked home. She walked quickly at first, wanting to get as far away from them as she could. But once she felt certain they would not turn back, she turned and watched them walking hand and hand down the street. Daisy felt something wash over her.
She had things to do. She had to go home and take her dog for a walk.
For the rest of the day, Daisy thought about how nothing would ever be the same again. Kacy would get married and Daisy would grow old and cynical, never again experiencing the naive optimism of first love.
The two years she had spent with Kacy wove in and out of her mind. Those impossible memories of warm coffee in snug cafés; of walking together in the winter and wearing Kacy’s gloves; of the frantic, desperate conversations they had once they realised their relationship was ending.
Lying awake that night, Daisy listened to the sound of sirens in the distance and the screams of foxes in alleyways. She slept poorly, drifting in and out of confusing dreams, wondering how she could have acted differently to keep Kacy in her life, painfully dissecting everything that went wrong. Then she decided to go to the engagement party after all. She needed to see her again.
Rachel’s house was as extravagant as Daisy had imagined it would be. It made her uncomfortable. She felt like a stain against the upholstery. Daisy picked up a glass of champagne. She was early and didn’t recognise anyone. She tried not to imagine what Kacy and Rachel were off doing in one of the endless rooms in this big house.
An older man was the only person standing nearby. He approached Daisy and introduced himself but she didn’t catch his name.
“You here for Kacy or for Rachel?” he asked.
“Kacy,” Daisy said.
“I’m Rachel’s cousin. How do you know Kacy?”
“We used to go to school together," she lied.
“Ah, another old school friend.”
If only that was all they had been. She reached for another glass of champagne as the tray passed her.
“Making the most of the free drinks,” Rachel’s cousin commented.
Daisy didn’t say anything.
“All Rachel’s friends drink too much,” said the cousin. “I guess I did too when I was your age. Are you at uni?”
“Yes. At the moment,” Daisy said.
"Nice. Beautiful cathedral."
Daisy looked up anxiously as more people entered the room. She felt out of place. Her outfit was too dull and misshapen. The material was cheap and scratchy. She worried that everyone could tell. Rachel’s school friends had just arrived. Daisy could tell because they seemed comfortable in their wealth. She watched how it made them shiny and self-assured. When Kacy and Rachel entered the room behind them, the other guests crowded round. Kacy looked tired. She was swept into the crowd.
As the tray of drinks passed by again, Daisy took one and drank it quickly. She could see people starting to get happily tipsy, but the booze was just making her depressed. She watched the other guests who probably drank expensive champagne every day and she wondered whether if she had more money she would care about love as much as she did.
Daisy kept drinking until she started to feel the anxiety melt away, replaced with cautious confidence. When a song came on that she knew Kacy liked, she walked over.
Kacy looked captivating, and Daisy’s closeness to her now made her clumsy and nervous. She stumbled through her words. It seemed for a second as though there was nothing more to say. She wanted to remind Kacy of the time they'd kissed to this song in a pub in Bethnal Green, but the idea was terrible and would ruin the party.
Instead, she smiled painfully until Rachel was approached by a friend who distracted her attention away from Kacy and Daisy.
“I’m really glad you decided to come tonight,” Kacy said. “I mean it. I thought you might stay away, but I didn’t want you to. I want us to be friends. I want you and Rachel to get on. She’s really great.”
“Last night, I fantasised about stabbing Rachel over and over again,” is what Daisy would have said if she were being honest. Instead, she smiled and said, “She seems really nice. You two make a great couple.” She paused, then added quietly, “I just can’t forget about us, you know?"
As she said this, her voice broke and Kacy looked behind her as someone had shouted her name. She didn’t hear what Daisy said. When she turned back, she saw Daisy's pained expression and her heart jumped a beat like it had in town the other day.
“How do you feel about all this? Honestly,” Kacy said.
As soon it came out, she regretted saying it. The truth made her heart feel heavy. Kacy took a step back and looked at Daisy, smiling.
“You’re gonna be fine,” Kacy said, squeezing her shoulder.
They stared at each other for a long time until Rachel came back and put her arm around Kacy’s waist.
Daisy offered a half smile, a forced congratulations then told them that she had to leave. She picked up her coat on the way out and entered the damp night. The sleet on the road ahead was shimmering. Light snow was falling, lit up beneath yellow streetlights. It had snowed, but it wasn’t going to settle. It never did. The dream of waking up to a pure morning and a fresh start was always broken by depressing grey slush. As she walked along the street, Daisy watched snowflakes fall from the sky then die on the pavement. She looked up and noticed snowflakes clinging to her eyelashes. Then she heard footsteps behind her.
“I didn’t know what to do. I spoke to everyone about you, told them about how much I still care for you, but I didn’t tell Rachel and I know I was right not to. Because I’m over you now. I’m sorry but I am. And one morning you’ll wake up and realise that you don’t think about me like that anymore either.”
Daisy shook her head, turning around now.
“We weren’t for each other. You need your independence and I’m too clingy for you. I need to be with someone like Rachel.”
“What about the other day? I know you felt it too,” Daisy said, helplessly. “Why did you come out here to tell me now if you don’t care?”
“I felt bad for you,” Kacy sighed. “Everything’s decided. I can’t change anything now even if I wanted to. I love Rachel and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. Yesterday I got all down thinking about the past and it reminded me of how I used to feel about you. It was nostalgia. That’s all.”
“Get back to your party,” Daisy said, snow and tears mixing on her face.
Kacy touched Daisy’ cheek. She wiped the snow away then brushed her fingers over her lips like they used to do in those moments that felt like they would last forever.
Kacy pressed her lips gently against Daisy’s. Daisy closed her eyes and felt her heart lift. She kept her eyes closed and when she opened them, she could see the condensation from her breath in front of her and Kacy behind it like a ghost, walking back to the party, back to her new life, and Daisy knew once and for all that for all her wishing and all her loving, she was no longer a part of it.