Everyone said that little Miss Marigold was a late talker.
For herself, Marigold didn't really understand what the big fuss was about it anyway. But then again, she didn't understand a lot of things.
"Jouet?" she'd asked reaching to share in the game George and Sybbie played with assorted toys on the grass.
"No, no, Marigold," Sybbie chastised, holding the wooden toy in front of the younger girl's gaze. "This is a horse! But we can all share him."
With a grin, she placed the toy in front of Marigold on the picnic blanket and patted him on the back. Nanny began cleaning up their sandwiches and George walked his soldier very nearby.
The younger girl did not pick up the offered equine, instead putting her thumb in her mouth and observing the others play.
"A shy one, and all. No doubt about it," Nanny said in hushed tones, during a visit downstairs. The maids and cooks had looked back and forth between she and chatty Master George and nodded in agreement.
"A day dreamer," so Donk would explain while playing board games with Sybbie on the floor. Granny Cora held Marigold close and said she had relations in America who had taken their time when they were small and so she could too.
"She is a dear, but perhaps our new ward is a bit slow in the head," she'd heard Lady (later Aunt) Mary say once not long after she came to the big house. Edith (later Mama) was away at London and she thought Marigold couldn't hear. Mr. Tom had tutted and she'd squeezed Teddy close.
If Marigold closed her eyes and held him tight enough, she could still smell the old smells from before.
It was harder and harder to remember.
Edith Mama would carry her around the grounds, which Marigold liked very much, as Nanny didn't snuggle or kiss her much when she picked her up. They would walk and Edith pointed out all the different flowers, speaking their names.
"Look a marigold, my darling," Edith said on one occasion, pointing to the bright flower that shared her very own name.
Marigold pressed her head against her caretaker's neck, taking in the flowers before closing her eyes. Edith Mama did not smell the same as Mummy had, but it was still nice and oddly familiar. She found she liked it more and more and Edith too, even though it was scary at first.
"Pretty..." Halting syllables whispered, but not ignored.
"Yes it is," her caretaker agreed, her excitement at the spoken word palpable, accompanied by a kiss and caress against Marigold's hair. "Just like you!"
Edith Mama nudged her gently meeting her gaze with a hesitant smile. Marigold looked up and smiled back.
The truth was Marigold listened well and understood much.
And she could speak, only sometimes the precise way of it all often alluded her. And things and people always seemed to be changing.
"Heh, Marigold! Heh," Georgie looking down from high above on Mr. Barrow's shoulder. He skipped to the girls side when his turn was up. "Heh-nry. After the wedding, Henry is to be my new Step-Papa."
"Henry with a Hay-ch," Sybbie added, not very helpfully, as she took her own turn.
Marigold was happy the older girl was back from far away, but she didn't understand that H was of particular trouble. She could not seem to get the shape of her lips quite right, no matter how hard she tried.
"Henri?" she tried, brow furrowed.
"Henry!" the older children both corrected, giggling.
"Come along children," Nanny appeared again, done with her errand, clucking at them affectionately. "I am sure Mr. Barrow is very busy."
Marigold's eyes filled with tears and she hung her head in a pout. She'd not yet had a turn and she so enjoyed when the tall butler carried her on his shoulders.
There was a time before when strong kind hands had picked her up on his shoulders every single day. Edith Mama would lift her but not as high. And she was at London again and very sad, so no one else would even try.
"But-" Marigold sniffed, looking up at the tall man and rounding her lips around the words. "My turn? Please?"
Mr. Barrow seemed pleased and knelt down to clasp her hand.
"I can manage, Nanny Coates," he added, lifting her to his back easily. "Miss Marigold has waited with no complaint for her turn and now she asks so nicely, I won't deny her."
In the night time, waking from a restless sleep, Marigold opened her eyes to find Edith Mama's face above her in the dark. Both gasped, frozen in surprise. Marigold scooted closer to the bars as Edith knelt closer and brushed a gentle hand across her forehead.
"I'm sorry to wake you my love," she whispered, eyes sad.
"You back?" Marigold asked, words obstructed by a yawn speaking around the thumb she'd slipped into her mouth. She blinked hard trying to keep her mother in view, despite the dark. She was tired but she liked having Edith Mama back.
"Yes, and now you must go to sleep," Edith explained, rising to leave the room.
They both froze when Georgie snorted. Both their gazes darted to other side of the room, afraid of waking him but he only turned over in his sleep. Marigold reach out to hold Edith Mama's hand.
The adult sighed and knelt again, "I missed you."
She drew tentative circles on the back of Marigold's hand. The little girl grew ever drowsier, but was determined to watch her mother for as long as possible, lest she go away again. One never knew when someone would leave not be seen again.
"I was thinking," Edith whispered after a long silence. "Perhaps you and I could go and live in London, just us two. Perhaps that is all we really need. We have the flat."
Marigold wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but her caretaker did spend a lot of time there. Being with Edith sounded nice. Like before, with Mummy all the day when there was so much less people. And smaller insides and more places to play outside. But Marigold didn't really didn't know what moving to a flat in London meant. It was all rather confusing.
"Stay?" she asked when her eyes could stay open no longer.
Edith Mama smiled and kissed her cheek, "I will stay until you fall asleep."
Marigold's eyes slipped shut and she had nothing more to say.