Thanks to silverduck for editing!
"I never had that in my childhood, someone you could always trust."
Daisy is five years old, and she's peering down the lane in front of the small cottage she must call home. Her Uncle has been out in the fields since dawn and her Aunt has walked to the village to run some errands, but it isn't for them that Daisy has wakened early and skipped breakfast to wait for. Eliza told her last night that they'd had a letter from Daisy's mother, that she was done with the work that made her leave, and she was coming back to fetch her.
"And she'll be coming tomorrow morning, Daisy! You had better go out and wait for her, else she'll think you don't love her anymore and turn right back around."
As she waits, she tries to picture the face she can barely remember, but her memory is so murky, and her young mind can't think too deeply for too long before she is distracted by the butterflies that won't stop fluttering nearby. Daisy starts to chase after them and thinks that she just might like to be a butterfly herself. She could fly away whenever she became too bothersome, and she'd be so much prettier than she is now that everyone would love her.
Her short legs dash about as she tries to catch the little things, giggling and playing and forgetting why she's even there. She's become quite tired before Eliza's warning comes back to her, and quickly runs back to the front of the house. She's breathless and sweaty, and her dark hair is all mussed. She worries that her mother won't like to be greeted by such a wild creature. Her stomach is growling and she's been waiting for hours and hours, and she decides that she can watch by the window while she cleans up and has something to eat.
It's been a disappointing morning and her mouth is set in a pout as she marches up the steps to the front door. Her little hand grasps the knob, but when she tries to turn it she's surprised to see that the door has been locked. She leans over to look through the window and finds her cousins staring back at her, malice in their minds and mischief in their smiles. She pleads with them to let her in, but instead Eliza sticks out her tongue and says something to Peter that makes him roar with laughter.
This isn't the first time that Daisy's been locked out, so she simply sits on the porch to wait till their fancy changes. As the minutes and hours tick by, she's starting to suspect that perhaps her mother is not coming after all, and it's only a cruel trick to make her skip breakfast and keep her outside when she had ought to be doing her chores. Her little heart swells and her eyes fill with tears, because she knows that no one is coming to fetch her, and she won't be leaving this place after all.
Her cousins have long since left the window (without unlocking the door), and Daisy begins to wonder why it is that people lie. She doesn't understand why Eliza must make up stories. She doesn't see why people can't simply tell the truth always. The nature of lies and the ones who tell them are beyond her comprehension now, so she gives up these complex thoughts, and instead thinks that, if she could, she should like to be a butterfly.
Daisy is nine years old, and she's scrubbing the floor as fast as she can. Although it wasn't her that had spilled the cider, she is the one who cowers feebly over the sticky puddle while her Aunt stands fuming above her. She's going on and on about what a troublesome child Daisy is, and if she'd only be the smallest bit grateful that they took in such a trying waif of a girl, then she wouldn't have to be nearly so hard on her.
Daisy mostly agrees, and does her best to stay silent and stop her trembling while her small hands wipe the rest of the mess off the floor. Her face still smarts where her Aunt had boxed her ears, and she thinks that it's rather unfair that she got blamed for Peter's mistake. But Daisy's quiet protestations had fallen on deaf ears when his mother had asked who spilled the costly drink, and he pointed his finger at her.
"It was Daisy, mum, she done it! You know how clumsy she is, how she's always knocking down everything. Such a fool of a girl!"
This isn't the first time that Daisy has been blamed for something she didn't do, so she only mutters out pitiful apologies to try and quell her Aunt's anger. Daisy's reluctant guardian never had any trouble believing the worst of her charge, and the numerous complaints, the sacrifice and the burden that caring for Daisy has placed on her own large family, slip once again from her mouth like a well practiced speech.
By the end Daisy is hardly listening. Even if the familiar words were not long seared into her memory, the pulsing in her ears and ache in her head drown out even the loudest admonitions. At last her Aunt leaves her to finish cleaning up in solitude and silence, and a few swelling tears that she can no longer contain seep out of the corners of her eyes. Her knees are red and her hands are raw, but she doesn't dare slow down. Daisy isn't a brave girl, and the thought of further punishment, even in the absence of its executor, is enough to ensure that her hands won't stop till the floor gleams.
The quiet shuffle of her rag as it sweeps across the floor in steady rhythm is the only sound left in the empty kitchen. It isn't much longer before she's finished, and she stands up and dusts herself off. She wonders idly if she'll ever outgrow this nervous fear that seems to paralyze her. She tries to exchange that fear with anger, but the truth is that although Peter's lie has hurt her, she understands why he did it. She can understand doing whatever it takes not to be named the guilty, not to be the object of wrath. There is a piercing dread that grips her and holds her captive in those moments when the stern face of authority bears down on her like a plunging gavel, and she knows that were she in Peter's shoes, she would have gladly done the same.
The idea of wrong and right, lie and truth, don't enter her mind as she ponders these things. In her world she knows only punishment and pain, escape and relief. The means to those ends are only that, and she considers them far less important than avoiding a thrashing and getting a fair share at supper. It's not a perfect world, and certainly not a fair world, but it's the one she has no choice but to live in for a little longer yet, until she'll have the chance to fly away.
Daisy is thirteen years old, and she's doing her best to smile charmingly. She knows she's grown into a gawkish girl, all long limbs and big feet, but for some reason Mr. Avery still thinks her as pretty as her namesake, so she gives him a toothy grin and laughs not insincerely when he tells her of his baby grandson's latest antics. She's always rather enjoyed the pleasant gentleman's conversation and talks amiably on, but her naturally guileless face masks the deceit of her true intentions, and she doesn't wait too long before she comes to the point.
"I wanted to ask if you could come with me over there, on the other side of the lane? Just for a moment. I've lost my bracelet, the one my mother gave me. Could you help me look for it in the grass?"
Mr. Avery has always been very kind to Daisy, and she knows that he won't refuse her request. As she expected, his brown and wrinkled face smiles and he willingly leaves his fruit stand and follows her to the out of the way spot. They bend over in the long grass like swaying reeds, searching for the bracelet that Daisy hadn't even put on that morning. He never suspects it's all a ruse, that Daisy is only a distraction, and that while she leads him away Henry Rodwick will steal away to his unattended wares to pilfer some of his produce.
They'd planned it out hours before, while Daisy walked beside the older boy with their hands entwined. After the act was accomplished they would meet behind Mr. Morton's barn to split the spoils and bask in their ingenuity. Daisy hadn't immediately agreed to play accomplice when Henry had first approached her with his scheme, but the fire in his eyes that emanated down to the quiet warmth of his arm around her shoulder had melted away her resolve, and she felt powerless to refuse.
When she thinks enough time has passed for Henry to have made it safely away, she ends the charade. She laughs and titters and explains to Mr. Avery that she just remembered she hadn't put the bracelet on after all and it must be stowed away back home. He doesn't blink an eye at her admission, or think twice at her motives. Most people don't know it, but Daisy is fully aware that she isn't known for her sharp mind, and she feels a little clever at using her weaknesses to her advantage. Mr. Avery is far from cross at the lost time, and simply smiles and makes his farewells, before heading back across the lane to his stand.
This isn't the first time Daisy's been a pawn in another's evil game, so she ably pushes the slight pang in her conscience away as she hurries away to meet Henry. She spots him as she comes around to the back of the barn, and when she plops down beside him, she decides that Mr. Avery can well afford a few lost pieces of fruit in exchange for this moment, this closeness, with the desire of her heart.
She sees in Henry a quality of nature that she knows she'll never merit or posses, yet as they chat together and eat their ill gotten gains, and when he looks at her with those big brown eyes, it's like he's cast a line straight to her heart. It's only small talk and the fruit isn't even very good, but it's as though he's sharing with her just a small measure of himself, and she feels almost special.
She thinks of the brown caterpillar that emerges so beautifully from its cocoon, and it's as though her own lanky form is cracking under his gaze. But before she can complete her transformation he finishes his meal and abruptly stands to leave, and Daisy's left the plain and awkward foundling once again.
While she looks at the leftover fruit in her hands, her mind drifts to kind Mr. Avery, and a creeping remorse begins to overtake her. With Henry gone, without the light of his presence to sustain her, she's starting to doubt whether his short attentions were worth the trouble. If they were worth the shame and loneliness she now feels as sits by herself behind a smelly old barn.
Daisy is sixteen years old, and she's sitting quietly in the servant's hall while she picks at her fingernails. It's a nervous habit from her youth that she's often tried to break, but tonight her mind is too full to notice the relapse. There's a gnawing guilt inside of her that won't subside as she replays her earlier words over and over in her head.
"I may have seen him coming out the cellar."
She rises from her seat and tries to distract herself by shelling some nuts for next weeks baking, but her normally flighty mind has settled onto one distressing strain of thought. Mr. Bates, who had never done her an ounce of harm. Jobless. Friendless. Homeless. Cast out of Downton for a crime he did not commit, a crime she helped accuse him of.
She conjures the image of Thomas hoping she can melt away these thoughts that have frozen her mind, but instead of the usual warmth she is used to feeling there is only a numbing cold. The once comforting face does nothing to settle her, and before she realizes it, the dark hair has morphed to light, and the handsome smile to a boyish grin.
It was William's words that have made her uneasy this night. There were no lies in his house. She had been used to thinking William in all things inferior: neither charming or graceful, or even very smart. Thomas has all those qualities in spades, but Daisy is starting to see that within the cracks of his polished veneer there is also unkindness and selfishness. A quiet suspicion is growing increasingly louder; it's telling her that Thomas has used her, that it's Henry and Peter and Eliza all over again.
All this revolves around her mind as the idle chatter of the servant's hall slowly subsides. When the last of them has gone and Daisy is left alone in silence, she sits down once again. She can see her whole life before her eyes; a series of misfortunes strung together with a chain that she's let hold her captive. In her past there has been deception, and cruelty, and exploitation. But most of all there has been herself, bound to her shortcomings, and unwilling to challenge them.
For Daisy has always believed that she's stupid at worst, scatter brained at best; that she's clumsy and inattentive and a source of trouble for others; that she's weak willed and easily led. She's let those beliefs keep her small and mute, let them hold her prisoner for so long that she's forgotten even the desire to break free and spread her wings. She doesn't want to cower in her prison any longer. She wants to throw off the fetters of her past and make her way as the woman she ought to be.
Daisy is no longer a child now, and she's standing outside the door of Mr. Carson's pantry.
She doesn't know what lies on the other side of the wooden divide. Maybe she will lose her job. Possibly she will lose her home. Perhaps she will be demoted, back to the scullery for the next ten years. The consequences play out before her, frighten her, but do not deter her.
She steps forward, hand poised in front of the door, and feels the shackles of sixteen years beginning to slip from her wrists.
A deep voice that beckons her in.
She walks inside to Mr. Carson's pantry. She's chided, reproached for her intrusion, but now is not the time for trembling.
"I told you something that wasn't true."