Violet was what is politely described as a disturbed child. She barely stopped crying until the age of three, when instead she started shrieking with the intensity of an overfilled steam kettle long forgotten on the hob. She continued to throw her toys out of the cot well after she outgrew it.

A rotund little girl, with a solid trunk and stiff brown hair that sat on her head like a dollop of crusting gravy, she repelled any shows of affection by stiffening her body and launching whatever missile was to hand in the direction of the unfortunate person who had tried to befriend her. Over the years, her mother had been hit by plastic plates, beakers, mangled dolls, little-girl shoes, headless teddies and a multitude of other objects. The antics had prompted her mum’s brother, her uncle Tony, to say that they’d left out a letter when they named that child – they should have christened her ‘Violent’.

When she was four, hoping a pet might have a soothing effect, her mother brought home a fluffy white kitten. But Violet had just pulled its tail and attacked it with the torso of her one remaining doll. She liked it when he screeched in pain. Soon the kitten ran away. His beautiful snowy fur grew dirty and matted and his character became as vicious as that of his former mistress.

Violet’s parents searched for advice online. They tried staying calm. They tried not to give in to their daughter’s tantrums and aggressive behaviour. They tried to ‘catch Violet being good’ to reward any positive behaviour (the problem was there never was any), and they tried to help her express what she was feeling in words (she never did). Eventually, they’d taken Violet to their GP. Dr Sadiq referred them to the local hospital where Violet was tested for ADHD, Autism and other forms of neurodiversity, but the specialists could find nothing untoward. They said they’d just have to wait and see if things improved when Violet started school.

They didn’t. Violet just threw her rulers and rubbers around the room and stabbed the desk with her compass. The teachers shrugged their shoulders and privately said that her name actually had two letters too many. Violet, in their opinion, was simply ‘Vile’.

Poor old Violet. The one thing nobody had considered was her diet. They hadn’t noticed that every meal made the child’s tummy bloat, or stopped to wonder whether her violent moods might be caused by blood sugar spikes. In fact, her parents’ (and the school’s) menu of meat, veg, potatoes and stodgy puddings was awful for Violet, but as a child she knew no better. She thought it was normal for her belly to ache and her energy levels to rise and fall with the force of a yo-yo possessed by demons. She had no reason to question anything.

In the Spring Term a new teacher arrived at school. Mrs Golding was as sunny in disposition as Violet was stormy. When she asked the children to tell her their names, the ugly way the little girl shouted hers gave her an idea. To her compassionate ears, it had sounded like a cry for help.

The next day Mrs Golding came in with a box full of wild flowers. Pink clover, peachy roses, golden marigolds, orange nasturtiums, blue borage, red tulips, multicolour pansies and delicate violets. “OK, children,” she said. “Who can tell me what all these flowers have in common?”

The children took turns tasting the edible flowers. Emily Edwards said the borages tasted like honey and cucumber. Peter Smith said the nasturtiums were like pepper. Susan Small said the Meadow Cress was sweet like sugar. Tyrone Campbell said the marigolds were like lemon spice. Josephine Tapper said the rose buds had a funny texture and didn’t taste of anything. Mrs Golding laughed. “It’s your turn now,” she said to Violet. “What will Violet think of the violets?”

Violet picked up one of the little flowers and turned it between her fingers. It seemed strange that such a pretty little thing could have the same name as her. The bright green heart-shaped leaves were furry on her fingers, and the flowers had five petals, three on the bottom and two on top. The smell was very faint – bittersweet and powdery. Violet popped a handful into her mouth and chewed. The leaves were slimy on her tongue, and the flowers were sweet. And when she swallowed it was like the knot in her tummy loosened and the tension in her mind and body eased.

“Violets are a magical plant,” Mrs Golding was saying. They can cure headaches and tension, and help you digest your food. They even support your heart, like a kind friend. You can eat them when you’re sad and they’ll help you feel better.”

She smiled gently at Violet. After all, she should know.

As a child, Rose Golding had been as timid and anxious as Violet was rough and tough. Her high-achieving parents were impatient with her, and it had taken the intervention of their gardener, a wise old woman called Mrs Morton, to sort her out. One summer holiday, Mrs Morton had coaxed the little girl into the garden and told her that the roses could make her braver. She’d pulled off a few petals and brought them into the kitchen where she made them both a pot of tea. Every morning for the rest of the holidays, she’d told Rose stories of the flower fairies over a pot of Rosy Lee, and when Rose returned to school she wasn’t anxious any more. She was as brave as Iris Morton had promised.

Now it was Rose’s turn. She smiled down at Violet who was still contentedly chewing. It felt good to be passing the favour on.