The message

“Man admits to string of rapes in Manchester area.. “

Colin looks away from the newsfeed on the wall of the bus and down at his phone. He swipes at the pop-ups, just in case any messages have been smothered. Nothing.

A flashing ad on the back of the seat forces his gaze.

“Protect your family’s future with life insur..”

He shuts his eyes and tries to imagine positive energy radiating out of him and passing over to the hospital where James and Daisy are.

When he opens his eyes again, the bus is passing under the bridge. Discount offers reflecting on the river from its underside look strangely beautiful.

The bus joins onto the main road. Projections and billboards light it up.

“Trump orders airstrike on…”

“Twenty one dead as fire rampages…”

“40% off our range of carpets…”

Colin checks his phone again and banishes the pop-ups. Still nothing.

He turns his phone face down and looks at the back of his hand. Veins are popping. His knuckles are red. Perhaps he’s getting too old for these early starts.

As he steps off the bus in the centre, a message arrives. Colin opens it.

“It’s a girl! We are over the moon. All is well. Daisy is resting now. Lots of love xx”.

Colin looks up and for a moment the billboards blur, their vivid colours only serving to elevate this happiest of occasions.

Not in this family 

Gayle held the pot to her abdomen as she stood in the middle of the front garden.

“How about here, Sophie? What do you think?”

Sophie contorted her mouth and looked down at the gravel space that was plugged with tufts of grass. Then she shrugged.

“Okay.”

“I think this is a good spot,” added Gayle. “It’ll get plenty of light.” She bent down slowly, her hands trembling a little under the weight. She set the plant down and then straightened up. Only then did she realise she had broken a sweat across her forehead.

“Mum,” uttered Jane, by her side. “You should’ve just let me…”

Gayle hissed and backhanded the air as if preventing the words from ever arriving. Jane shrunk and Gayle returned her attention to Sophie.

“You must remember to water it everyday, especially when it’s hot. Then, one day it will grow into a bright, yellow sunflower.”

“Say thank you, Grandma,” murmured Jane.

“Thank you,” replied Sophie, twisting on the ball of her foot and breaking into a grin.

Gayle looked at her fresh, sun-blushed face and then to the gap in her lower front teeth, which Sophie tongued habitually as if it was the source of some new and delightful flavour.

Gayle smiled back, feeling satisfied. It seemed the spirit had merely skipped a generation.

“Well, it should brighten things up a bit,” said Jane, looking up at the pebbledash facade of the new house.

Suddenly, Gayle wanted to tell her how it meant so much more. How the flower was a symbol of hope, of a new beginning and soon, how it would be something to remember her by once the things growing inside her took hold.

But she didn’t, of course. It wasn’t the way. Not in this family. She could only give her doe-eyed daughter a hard look as she turned to her, side on.

“Cup of tea?” asked Jane.

“Thought you’d never ask.”