It started as an accident. Little Daisy Mae ran past seven houses, all the way from the local field, her arms full of sunny daffodils. A single flower flew out of her arms and landed on the driveway of Mrs. Pickens, who, at the time, sat in her porch rocking chair, reading.
Mrs. Pickens watched the giggling child run, her long auburn hair flying behind her, and smiled as the yellow daffodil settled on her driveway. She rose out of her chair, hobbled to the flower, and bent to pick it up, wincing at the popping of her hip.
The next day, Daisy Mae stepped out of her front door, holding her mother’s hand and bouncing with excitement from the much anticipated playground adventure.
“Look!” Her mother pointed at a flower on the welcome mat--a red tulip. There was a small note tucked under the corner of the mat.
“Can you read it?”
Daisy Mae glared at her mother. She was seven, thank you very much, and could read a chapter book faster than anyone else in her class. She seized the note and read, “To Daisy Mae. Thank you for gift. Here’s one in return. Yours, Mrs. Pickens.”
She looked back into the house, at the cabinet just inside the foyer. Her daffodils filled a bright green vase.
“Well, isn’t that lovely?” said Daisy Mae’s mother, smiling. She took the tulip and carefully tucked it into the vase, the bright red clashing wonderfully with the yellow.
Daisy Mae thought about Mrs. Pickens all the way to the park. She was a tiny woman, with wrinkled, leathery skin that reminded her of the elephants at the zoo. She always waved when Daisy Mae walked home from school, and sometimes she gave her a warm cookie.
Daisy Mae thought about the tulip while swinging from the monkey bars, while climbing the steps to the slides, while her mother pushed her on the swing.
Then, right as they were about to leave, Daisy Mae saw a flash of white by the entrance to the playground. She ran over, her mother close behind, and plucked a flower from the dirt around the sign.
“Careful, Daisy Mae,” her mother warned. “Some of the flowers planted around the neighborhood are there for decoration. I don’t think you’re supposed to pick these.”
Daisy Mae nodded solemnly.
Her mother bit her lip at Daisy Mae’s distraught expression. “Well, you can keep just this one.”
Daisy Mae smiled widely, clutching the flower to her chest.
“Do you know what that’s called, honey?”
Daisy Mae shook her head.
Her mother smiled. “A daisy.”
The next morning, Mrs. Pickens stretched in the morning sun, her joints groaning. She yawned and almost sat down in her rocking chair before noticing a bright white flower on the porch railing. She shuffled over and picked up a daisy, almost glowing in the sun. A note was pinned to the railing.
“A gift for you. Yours, Daisy Mae.”
Mrs. Pickens walked back into the house and into her kitchen. There, on the middle of the kitchen table, sat a blue vase holding a single yellow daffodil. Mrs. Pickens added the daisy and stepped back to admire her gifts.
And so it went for two weeks, Daisy Mae and Mrs. Pickens exchanging flowers and notes. Daisy Mae secretly stole the neighborhood flowers when her mother wasn’t looking. Mrs. Pickens wandered to the field where Daisy Mae had discovered the daffodils; flowers of all kinds sprouted in the overgrown grass, and Mrs. Pickens could stand there for hours, inhaling the floral scents with the sun on her face.
Then, one day, Daisy Mae eagerly opened her front door to find just the welcome mat waiting outside. No color. No note. She scurried around the porch, peering into every nook and cranny, but there wasn’t a flower in sight.
Daisy Mae peeked around the corner at Mrs. Pickens house. A small flash of blue told her that the flower she had placed the day before still lay on the porch rail. Frowning, Daisy Mae walked over to Mrs. Pickens house. Taking a deep breath, she knocked.
There was a shattering sound. Daisy Mae jumped and ran back to her house and rushed into the kitchen. Her mother stood at the sink, wearing yellow rubber gloves and sponging a large pot.
“What’s wrong, Daisy?” she asked urgently as Daisy Mae ran into the kitchen, shaking. She turned off the water and hung her rubber gloves on a hook in the wall.
Daisy Mae sniffed. “I think--I think there’s something wrong with Mrs. Pickens. I didn’t get a flower today.”
Her mother’s face softened. “She’s probably busy, honey.”
Daisy Mae shook her head. “I knocked on her door and there was...a crashing sound. It was loud. Really loud.”
Her mother looked toward the front door and frowned. “Stay here, honey.”
Daisy Mae watched her mother--cell phone in hand--hurry out the door. Sniffing, Daisy Mae followed, stopping on the driveway to watch. Her mother banged on the door, speaking loudly.
“Mrs. Pickens? Are you in there, Mrs. Pickens?”
There was another crashing sound, louder this time, and Daisy Mae squeaked. Her mother rattled the doorknob; when nothing happened, she walked to one of the windows and peered inside the house. Then she put her phone to her ear and started talking.
Daisy Mae sat on the curb, squeezing her knees into her chest and biting her lip. All she could look at was the blue flower on the porch railing. She wondered if it had wilted already.
Her mother walked back and sat down on the curb next to her. She wrapped an arm around Daisy Mae and pulled her tight. Daisy Mae sniffed and leaned into her mother’s soft side.
“I couldn’t see much, but I did see something broken on the floor. I called for help.”
Two minutes later, Daisy Mae jerked her head toward the faint sound of sirens. The sound grew louder and louder until an ambulance and a police car sped into the neighborhood.
“Stay here, honey,” said her mother, standing and rushing toward the newcomers.
Daisy Mae watched as her mother spoke with a policewoman, as the policewoman broke the door down, as the people inside the ambulance carried a cart into the house, as--fifteen minutes later--they came out with someone lying on top of the cart.
As the ambulance sped away, Daisy Mae’s mother hurried over to her daughter, who started to cry.
“She’s ok,” said her mother, wrapping her arms around Daisy Mae. “She just had a bad fall this morning. She’s ok.”
Her mother gently pushed her daughter away and knelt down so their eyes were level. She wiped Daisy Mae’s tears and gave her the warmest smile.
“She threw what she could reach--two cat bowls--to get our attention. If it wasn’t for you and your flowers, she might not have gotten help in time, honey. You saved her.”
When Mrs. Pickens opened her eyes the next morning, she didn’t notice the rough sheets of the hospital bed, or the nurse taking notes in the corner, or even the dull pain in her hip. She saw a flash of yellow and looked toward the sun, smiling at the bright daffodil lying across the windowsill.