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A single rose

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Roses were Rita's favourite flower, red ones and whenever Rita and Rose were together, Rose would get teased. Rita would often talk to her partner and father to three of her children about her bubbly friend but they had hardly met socially except at Christmas parties and at the school as she was a teaching assistant the same as Rita but in the reception class below Rita's youngest, Evie. Rose loved her friend talking about her four kids and the way she talked about Dave, she knew the two were made for each other. Rita was going for a teacher's job, she just had to pass her exams so two days before, Rita invited Rose and her boyfriend Mickey around after Dave suggested Rose may be able to help her study and they all had a barbecue, Mickey getting on easy with Dave after helping him to try and get a tent up for the kids but they abandoned it in favour of food unanimously.

Rita and Rose were talking, Rose was sat with young Evie on her lap, twisting her hair around. The young girl loved spending time with Rose as she always made a fuss over her and even though she wasn't in her class, Evie always called her Miss Tyler at school on her mother's insistence. Evie had just got up, asking her mother for something and Rita went back inside, Mickey was kicking a football around with the two boys and Dave had gone back to try to get the tent up so Rose crossed over and called his name.

''Hello Dave, having fun?''

Dave looked up from trying to slot the tent poles together as Rose parted the flaps and stepped inside.

''Oh hi Rose, not my idea of fun I'm afraid, I said the kids could play in it but it may be their bedtime before I get this finished. Any good at this sort of thing?''

Rose smiled. ''No, not me, lived on a council estate in London before I came to Glasgow, this is my first time so far away from home actually. Here, let me have a look.''

She picked up the instructions and saw where he was going wrong and smiled then she took it off him as he turned them around and they made more progress in ten minutes than he and Mickey had done all afternoon and they both laughed. Evie had gone to find Rose and ducked through the flap, colliding with Rose and knocking her into Dave and they all started laughing as Dave tried to stop Rose falling over. Rita had heard the laughing after seeing Evie disappearing into the tent and opened the flap, Rose was tickling the young girl for knocking her over.

''Oh here you all are, what are you laughing about?''

Evie stopped laughing long enough. ''I knocked Rose over and she fell into daddy and we all started laughing.'' She looked up at Rose, who had just stopped tickling her.

''Sorry, she just knocked me over, it was funny.''

Rita smiled, they were just friends all having a laugh together and took hold of Evie. Of course, the two boys had to come and have a look now the tent was up although it wasn't tied down properly and Dave said he must go see to the guy ropes and went to find Mickey. Rita's eldest daughter Lucy was pretending she wasn't interested as Dave called her over to help.

Rose had forgotten about the incident in the tent by the time she and Mickey got home. Dave had instinctively held out his arms to catch her as Evie ploughed into her and clearly neither of them thought anything about it at the time but two days later, all was normal and Rose had gone to her classroom where she was a teaching assistant, awaiting her exam results and Rita was about to take hers. The two woman had hugged and Rose wished her good luck as Rita left the staff room and she was leaving later that morning, being in a different class to Rose and had to cycle across town.

The children in Rita's class, including Evie all said goodbye to her as she left the classroom to put on her cycle helmet and hi-viz belt and collected her bike. She gave one last wave to her daughter as she wheeled it to the gate of the school.

While Rita had been getting ready to leave, Dave was across town setting up his studio for two young babies to have their photos taken and his assistant, Rita's other friend's daughter, was looking disinterested as usual. He really thought about replacing her but put up with her for his partner's sake. The two subjects of the photos were being placed by their parents but were both crying so Dave resorted to his hand puppet from a famous children's TV show to get their attention and suddenly, as he was about to snap the shutter on his camera, a strange feeling came over him.

At that exact second, Rita was crossing a section of road, the lights on her side being clearly green when a police car at the very last second came through a red light and put the siren on, colliding with Rita's bike, never giving her a chance. As she was thrown in the air, she called Dave's name, saying she loved him.

Back at the school, after police learned who she was and failing to reach Dave, Evie, Paul and Ewan were taken from their classes and Rose was called, being a family friend and they were all taken into the medical bay, Rose being informed what had happened. She was devastated but had to compose herself as the head teacher led her to where the children where.

''Rose, what happened?'' Paul asked, sitting by his younger sister.

''Let's just wait for your dad getting here, yeah?''

She was trying to be brave in front of her friend's children. She thought about Lucy, in another school but she supposed she should wait until Dave got there. Dave had been contacted and leaving his motorcycle, rushed by taxi to the school, walking in and seeing his kids and Rose, with her arm around Evie and looking at him.

''Dave, thank goodness you're here.''

''What's going on Rose? I got a call from the school to come and collect the kids.''

''Dave, we'd better go outside,'' Rose insisted, surprised he'd not been informed.

She tried to lead him out as Evie clung to her but he shook her off.

''No, tell me what's going on, where's Rita?''

The head teacher was keeping back, obviously thinking he should already know by now. Rose succeeded in getting him away from the children and the head thought it would be best coming from Rose.

''I'm sorry Dave, there was an accident, Rita was thrown from her bike, she's gone.''

''What? That's impossible, she's taking her exams.''

''Dave, she never got there. I'm gonna take the kids home, you need to get to the hospital, they'll be expecting you, give me your key. You can tell them when you get back.''

Dave was in a trance. ''Yes, ok, you take them back.''

''Dave, her sister's been informed, Anna and Robin, they'll meet you there. The police tried to ring you so they rang her instead. I'm so sorry.''

She turned to the three children who were all looking worried.

''Come on kids, I'm taking you home.''

''Why are you taking us home Rose?'' Evie asked, tugging at her jacket.

''Something's happened and your dad has to go somewhere so we'll go to your house and wait for him and Lucy.''

''What about mum?'' Ewan asked.

"It's ok, really, go with Rose, I'm going to see Lucy,'' Dave assured them.

After Rita's adoptive sister barged her way in, Rose decided it was time to leave. Lucy and Dave had got back from the hospital and Lucy had shut herself in her room, the two boys were arguing over the TV remote and Evie had made a mess pouring out some orange juice, which Rose had been cleaning up. The doorbell rang again and it was Mickey. Rose flung her arms around him and said she wanted to go home.

Two days later, Rose was feeling guilty about not seeing her friend's children so on Saturday morning, Mickey was working so Rose drove around and rang the doorbell. Anna, who had made herself at home let her in.

''Hello Rose, where have you been hiding?''

Anna didn't like Rita's friend very much, mainly because of her choice in boyfriend, a mechanic.

''I didn't want to get in the way, you must have had a lot to do. I came to see if there was anything I could do to help? Maybe help with the kids?''

''I've got it all organised, thanks all the same, unless you can do something with him?''

Rose looked in the living room to see Dave, unshaven and slouching in a chair, the two boys fighting over a toy. Rose liked nothing better than a challenge. She sorted the two boys out quickly and leaned behind Dave, putting her hands on his shoulders. He was wearing his jeans and a green striped shirt which Rose thought was rather tacky but he carried it well.

''Come on Dave, why don't we take the kids to the park?''

''What? How can I go to the park?''

''Easy, get your jacket, boys get your coats and your football, Evie, get your wellies on and your coat and we'll all go to the park. Where's Lucy?''

''She's at my mother's, she's staying the weekend,'' Anna called out.

Rose went to stand in front of Dave and grabbed his hands. ''Come on, that includes you and if you stay there, I'll get the kids to jump on you.''

The kids were scrambling to get ready and Anna looked relieved she was getting rid of them. Rose knew the woman was out of her depth but didn't want to interfere. The funeral was to be next week, after an informal inquest on Wednesday and Rose was taking the morning off to attend, representing the school as well. It would be opened and closed pending a Police enquiry so Rita could be buried.

After Rose dropped them all off again, forgoing being invited in by a rather giddy Evie, Rose called in again after lunch the following afternoon to find the place in uproar and Anna gone.

''Where's Anna?'' Rose asked after Dave let her in.

''I sent her home, she was driving me mad.''

Rose patted him on the shoulder and walked into a mess in the kitchen. She immediately took charge, getting the kids their late lunch and said she would go shopping the following evening and drop everything off. Dave was in no position to argue with her. So as promised, she made a shopping list before she left but the following morning, Dave was dropping Evie at her class when he bumped in to Rose.

''Hi, thanks for everything Rose but I really shouldn't impose on you.''

''Rubbish Dave, she was my friend, she loved those kids and I'm not gonna let them down. Rita said you and Anna didn't get along too well, so join the club, she doesn't like me either.''

Dave smiled and went off to work, not that he could concentrate on work. His sort of brother-in-law worked for a law firm so once the inquest was out of the way he was going to handle compensation for the family. Rose had got everything put away by the time Dave got back from the studio, Lucy had let her in after Dave had gone off to make the final arrangements for the funeral so Rose was playing with Evie when he got back but she soon left.

The inquest was hard, Lucy wanted to know what had happened but not much was said and it was the funeral the following day, Mickey was taking the day off to attend with Rose to pay his respects and they were going from the Tiler house. They were all getting ready to leave, Dave was supposed to be going with Anna, her mother, Lucy and Robin, they had decided not to use a funeral car, Rose was supposed to be taking the three younger children with them but when she and Mickey arrived, Dave was nowhere to be found.

''Ok kids, go with Mickey to my car and I'll go find your dad, ok?''

Mickey took them outside to join the others and Rose went to knock on what had been her friend's bedroom door.

''Dave, come on, it's almost time to go.''

She tried the door handle and found it opened, knocking as she did. Dave was sat with his head in his hands, tears in his eyes.

Rose sat beside him and put her arm around him. ''Come on Dave, you have to do this, for Rita and the kids, everyone's waiting downstairs.''

Dave turned to her. ''How can I go on Rose? Tell me.''

''I'll help you, we all will if you let us. Come on, get your jacket on, you haven't even shaved, what's wrong?''

''I can't go Rose, I know I can't, go tell them.''

''Oh no you don't, come on, come down with me, they're all in the cars and we have to set off soon or we'll be late.''

''What do I do Rose?''

''Ssh, it's ok, you won't feel this way forever you know.''

''You've been so good Rose, more understanding than that Anna, bossing me around.''

''Yeah, well she's family, they tend to do that.''

He looked at her as she stood up and tried to help him up, he cupped her face in his hand and pulled her down, burying his head in her neck as Rose kissed his cheek. Rose thought he was going to kiss her cheek but his lips caught hers for just a second and Rose found herself letting him. It felt sweet but Rose knew it was just their tears. They stared in each others eyes for what seemed longer than a few seconds, it was only just over a week since Rita had died. They heard Mickey shouting up the stairs and Rose pulled away as Dave went out, holding her back.

''Ok, I'm coming down.''

''Where's Rose, she came to find you.''

''Aye, she did, she's in the bathroom.''

He saw Mickey turn away and Rose crept out of the bedroom and into the bathroom, flushing the toilet and ran down the stairs, almost colliding with Dave again. What had just happened? They both wondered as Dave got in with the others and Rose into the front passenger seat of her car since Mickey had decided she was too upset to drive.

They both avoided each other afterwards, Rita's mother offering to let the kids stay overnight to give Dave some time on his own but Lucy wanted to go home. Dave asked Rose to stay a while and try to talk to Rita's eldest daughter after she dropped Mickey off home but Lucy was too upset as Dave made them some tea.

''I'm sorry about earlier Rose, I was upset.''

''I know, it's ok, we won't talk any more about it, ok?''

''Fine, ok, I mean we were both upset and I would not have gone if you hadn't come to find me.''

Rose smiled. ''Yeah, I know you wouldn't. Rita wouldn't want you to cry at her funeral. I loved the way everyone was given a single red rose to throw on the coffin, it was a lovely gesture, she would have liked that. She was always teasing me about my name.''

Dave managed a smile. ''She used to tell me. So how long have you and Mickey been together then?''

''It seems like forever, we grew up together, we just sort of got stuck with each other. Rita told me she met you when Lucy was little, you took photos of her.''

''Yes, she kept coming back saying they weren't right but then admitted it was because she fancied me.''

Rose knew she shouldn't be going down this particular road. Her phone rang and it was Mickey.

''Yeah, I'm coming home soon, I'm just making sure Lucy is ok, she's pretty upset and she didn't want to be with the others, she said they don't understand.''

She hung up and got off the chair, picking up hers and Dave's mugs. He grabbed her hand.

''I meant it Rose, thanks for everything you've done. Don't take this the wrong way but perhaps you'd best stay away for a while, Anna said something earlier, saying you were getting too close to us.''

''Do you agree?''

''I can't answer that, Evie already thinks the world of you, she would miss you.''

''Would you?''

Dave heard a noise on the stairs, afraid Lucy was listening in. ''I don't take much notice of Anna, you're a family friend.''

''Good, 'cos I'm gonna come round and help out for a few days, until you get back on your feet again. I'll bring them home and get their tea for a week, see how you get on.''

''Thanks Rose that means a lot.'' He took her hand.

''Maybe I should get going yeah?''

They both knew she should. So every night from the following one, Rose waited for the three children and took them back to their house, cleaned up and fed them so Dave could concentrate on his photography business, for which he was grateful but Rose was refusing to take money for groceries so he came in a week later and told her she took it or he wouldn't let her get any more.

''Dave, you can't force me to take your money you know, I do it because I want to, ok?''

''Just take it this once Rose, for goodness sake, don't argue over it, here.''

He thrust a few notes into her hand and she only took them because Evie was grinning at her. The young girl climbed on Rose's lap.

''Rose, can I have a cuddle? I miss my mum.''

''I think your dad needs one too but I get one first, yeah?''

The young girl was satisfied and moved to her dad. Then Evie said innocently, ''Dad, Rose needs a hug too'' and got off his lap and stood with her arms folded.

Dave got up and put his arms around Rose then moved away and Evie went off to play happily. Dave just smiled and went back to finishing his mug of coffee. Rose finally left, begrudgingly with Dave's money in her purse and vowed she would just use it to buy things for the kids. Another week went by, Mickey was getting jealous of Rose spending all her time at the Tiler house, not getting home until after seven when the kids had been settled in their rooms and she was sure Dave could cope with them but Mickey never said anything knowing Rita had been her best friend and if it was the other way around, Rita would have done exactly the same.

The following Friday afternoon though, Rose was called to the medical room and Evie had been sick. They had called Dave who said he was on his way but could Rose drive her home as he was on his bike and would meet them there. Rose took the poor girl home and laid her on the sofa with a blanket over her.

''Don't worry honey, you'll feel better soon. Are you missing your mum?''

Evie nodded then curled up and closed her eyes. Rose knew she should get back to school but Dave had got held up, he had run out of cash and was stuck at the petrol station when Rose got his call.

''I'm sorry Rose, I didn't know who to call, can you pay on your card and I'll get it back to you?''

He handed the phone to the cashier and Rose read her details out. Dave thanked her and said he would be back shortly. He hadn't said anything but he'd hardly taken any work since Rita's accident, not being able to concentrate and he had let his assistant go. He knew that Robin was trying to get the police to admit it was their fault and pay the compensation but what was that compared to her loss?

Dave hastily rang Rita's mother to see if the two boys and Lucy could stay with her for the weekend and went to drop them off, Rose getting him something to eat while he was out and giving Evie some soup. They sat in the kitchen talking quietly, Rose sending Mickey a message to say Evie was sick and she was making sure she was ok and would be home soon. Mickey replied saying he was going to play darts anyway and would be back later.

Dave had given up his football since Rita had been gone and Rose was trying to encourage him to take it up again.

''Why don't we all go to the local match on Sunday if Evie's better?''

''Aye, ok, the kids like going. We'll just wrap Evie up warmly and have a morning out. About you bailing me out Rose, thanks again.''

''Yeah well you should have thought about that before you tried giving me money for the groceries, shouldn't you? What are you going to do?''

''Get some more work, I fired my assistant, she was a liability, she was supposed to getting advertising sent out and all she did was update her internet profile, can you believe it?''

Rose smiled. ''Aw, poor Dave.''

''Yes, well, I talked to Robin, I have a meeting with him in the morning, he thinks I can get an interim payment on the compensation but he wants to talk to me about handing it over to a larger law firm, he said I'll get more.''

''Dave, let him, you can't look after four kids without any help, you need a full time nanny.''

''Are you volunteering your services?'' he joked.

''Forget it, I'm a teaching assistant, not a nanny. You could get one of those Swedish Au-Pairs to work for you.''

''No thanks, that I don't need. I'll start looking for someone older with plenty of experience.''

''I'll get you the number for Mary Poppins shall I?''

''Who's Mary Poppins?'' a small voice asked as Evie stood in the doorway, rubbing her eyes.

''Rose will tell you all about her when she takes you to bed and tells you a story, won't you Rose?''

Evie went straight for her. ''Will you carry me to bed?''

''You're to heavy for Rose, come here, I'll take you and if you feel better on Sunday, we'll all go to the football match, ok?''

''Ok. Rose, tell me a story.''

Just after nine, Evie had fallen asleep and Rose tucked her up under the covers, Rose heard Dave come upstairs and Rose headed for the bathroom. He was standing in the bedroom doorway when she came out and they looked in on Evie.

''You're good with kids Rose, have you heard about your exams yet?''

''I should get the results soon. Rita so wanted to be a nursery teacher, she would have been good at it. I really should get back before Mickey gets out of the pub.''

''You must hardly see him these days, looking after us.''

''He understands.''

Dave made no attempt to move out of the way to let her out of Evie's room as she turned. She tried to get past him but he caught her arm and she brushed against him briefly. He moved away from the door, still holding onto her and closed it behind him, his bedroom door open just opposite. With his other arm, he slid it around her back and steered her towards it, backing her against the door frame. Rose looked into his sad brown eyes as she touched his cheek, Dave turning into it and found himself kissing her hand then up her arm.

Rose put one arm around his neck as he touched her cheek and then pulled her nearer. Before either of them could stop themselves, Dave was pressing his lips against hers as she kissed him back, steering her into the bedroom and closing the door softly.