Rose Fairfax

Rose Fairfax’s flat is the mirror image of Edith’s. It sits on the ground floor on the left of the once grand entrance of Elton Bank. She also sees the family of five as they make their final approach. She considers opening her window to see more but doesn’t know where she has hidden the window lock key.

Rose remembers how not too many years ago Edith’s husband George would have found it for her, but now there is no one to ask. Her two busy sons have been sucked south and left her to rely on a red button embedded in a necklace that irritates her collarbones. The red button can save her life but can’t change light bulbs or open windows.

A few weeks later she is disturbed by a tap on her window.

The man has salvaged a Morrison’s bag full of redundant flowers from council workmen clearing a border in a park three miles away. The man holds the carry-bag open and after a futile attempt to talk to the partially deaf Rose through double glazing, he uses gestures to display his intention of planting the wilting flowers on the grassy bank. Rose shakes her head which the man thinks means a lack of communication, rather than a dismissal of the man’s ideas. He shouts loudly telling Rose to open her window.

She continues to shake her head and undertakes her own mime, which the man interprets as meaning either she is unhappy with being shouted at, or that the bag of wilting flowers should be screwed up and thrown into the bin.

Rose’s head appears around the edge of the back door. She looks down at the ground and after ascertaining its dryness, for the very first time in twelve years, places her slippered foot onto what she has always called the back lawn.

“All the windows are locked,” she explains, “and I’ve lost the key.”

“Isn’t that a problem in this heat?” says Norman, who lives on the top floor.

“You can borrow my key,” says Kylie, the young woman from the second floor, “I never lock them anyhow. They’re too fiddly and I can’t even reach them.”

Rose is too worried by burglars to follow her example. Kylie explains that it’s only the small windows she leaves unlocked and everyone recognises that this is such a good idea, that they dispatch the tall man to unlock all the small windows in Rose’s flat.

It is only after Rose has been liberated from the oppression of stuffiness that the man asks her about his horticultural dilemma.

Rose recognises the flowers immediately and laughs at the coincidence. The flowers are primroses and although Rose hasn’t been called Primrose since she was a teenager, that’s still the name she would have on her passport if she ever got one.

“I never liked being Prim,” says Rose, unconsciously patting an imagined wayward strand of hair back into the tight restraints of her bun. It takes twenty minutes and two cups of tea before the man and woman admit defeat and agree that primness is a British concept they will need years to master.

Rose stands to leave. The oldest boy offers to return Kylie’s borrowed chair and the social worker visiting Kylie is so startled when the boy walks in through Kylie’s door without knocking, that she fails to notice how encouraging Kylie is and how respectfully the boy addresses her.

The tall man escorts Rose back to her door and then borrows her trowel to plant the primroses.